Saving The Appearances: A Study in Idolatry - Synopsis - An Evolution of Phenomena Correlative To An Evolution of Consciousness

An Evolution of Phenomena Correlative To An Evolution of Consciousness

Barfield argues that if, as physics suggests, ordinary appearances—including for example colors, sounds, and smells—are a kind of subjective response of the human organism to an unknown underlying base of reality, and if what underlies our phenomena and is real independently of us is only what is suggested by science's experimental hypotheses of a subatomic world; if, that is, we must conclude that there is no such thing as unseen color, unheard sound, or unfelt solidity, because physics tells us the only thing existing independently of us is a subsensible or supersensible base symbolized in some detail by particle theory—then in that case other sciences besides physics, in particular those sciences that deal with the pre-human past, must be profoundly reconceived.

For example, the evolutionary biologist and the archaeologist talk about the pre-human, and even pre-life distant past as if color, sound, solidity, and a phenomenal world rather like that of modern Western humanity were all present even before the advent of life and consciousness, though physics tells us that all that is present in the absence of human beings or life is what can be described quantitatively by the particle theories of physics. Barfield emphasizes that contradiction between physics on the one hand, and on the other, sciences that offer an account of the earth before life and consciousness evolved. Barfield draws out the implications and argues we must learn to conceive of an evolution of phenomena that first begins at the point where life and consciousness manifest. The evolution of phenomena is correlative to the evolution of consciousness. Prior to the point where consciousness, and in particular human consciousness, comes into existence, we should not naively speak as if phenomena similar to our own existed.

It is critical to note that Barfield's thesis and intentions in the book, looked at in close enough detail, do not really commit him to accepting the view that all that is present independently of human awareness is what physics describes of a subatomic world. Rather, he is positioned to entertain his fundamental thesis when he merely allows that what "underlies" the phenomena is at least provisionally somewhat different from and other than the phenomena (this means, for example, that what "underlies" phenomena could include, in addition to the subatomic world, a non-physical, pre-physical, or spiritual world of "potentia"). Barfield's thesis also depends on recognizing, as virtually every form of cognitive science, psychology, and recent philosophy does recognize, that perception of a coherent phenomenal world of experience is to a great extent dependent on some kind of organizing activity working in or via the percipient. The activity in question is mostly unconscious, and is or resembles a kind of thinking.

When assuming the absence of human percipients (for example in the pre-human past), Barfield says we should no longer naively speak of the world as if phenomena like those of human beings were present. Yet archaeologists and evolutionary biologists still do so all the time, forgetting what physics has been telling us.

Read more about this topic:  Saving The Appearances: A Study In Idolatry, Synopsis

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