An Existential Perspective
1. The Omnipresence of Instrumentality
I do not know what Science means. This is purely in a static sense. But I do know what it is that I am referring to in the ontological sense and also in the linguistic sense. I shall take up the condition of the existence of Science from the position of the latter. Enough has been said about Science, so why broach the subject? Science seemingly needs a particular kind of outlook on which it thrives for its existence. One of the many features of Science is that it is a medium to describe reality and the facets of perception including perception itself. One of the many features of the scientific outlook is its neutrality for which it is celebrated. It is as one thinks, imperative that an outlook of neutrality would aid in seeing and perceiving objects as they are and not as they would be if colored by distortions. This presents a problem. What does one mean by ‘as it is’ or ‘as they are’? Well, it may be suggested that ‘as they are’ implies truth signified. If there are two objects, say a pen and a paper how do they relate to each other? Knowing fully well what the function of a pen is, you write on paper anything that you want to. This is how the two are related as conceptual functionality materialized in actuality. You can also suggest that if the pen had no ink nothing would materialize on paper. So whatever you wanted to do with the pen on paper remains in your head. To say it, does not concern you. If you fill the pen with ink you are bringing in another object without which nothing would materialize. Now the pen and paper are useless to each other without ink. If instead of the pen you have a pencil the situation would get even more complicated because you are bringing along with it led and eraser. What this suggests is that to see an object as it is or scribble or write what you want to would depend on the potency of the instruments without which nothing can be measured or observed.
When you wish to describe distant objects like planets or stars the instruments that you wish to use will be difficult to procure and further more they would be more complicated in their mechanisms and hence difficult to operate.
Even a simple feature like neutrality is hard to come by when looked at in this manner. Again we are talking about this perception when we imply that there are different manners of observation. I will not go into the nuances of manners of observation. Instead I will come back to the pen and the paper case and illustrate that there are so many contributing factors for the pen to be able to be instrumental in the activity of writing, drawing or doodling. When you observe this aspect of how a pen is made to relate to a paper, you cannot help notice how every entity that contributes to the activity is an instrument one way or the other. But then this omnipresence of instrumentality can falter when one of the elements becomes dysfunctional.
If you gift your friend with an antique jar then the jar has to be in good condition. He has to not only observe it but also relish it and his observation of it, shouldn’t he? If he has to thank you he has to be able to correspond with you, he has to be able to correspond with you for his thankfulness to reach you. To study all these processes one needs the outlook of neutrality that Science also needs. But neutrality is impervious to its own virtuosity. So, deliberating on it is just to gain access to an instrument and be part of an instrumentality that would complete an activity. You are not coming back to the case of the pen and paper because you might as well look up to the skies and study the clouds. It would be abysmal to harp on the relationship between two objects when there are more elements that warrant study. Then what does this lead to? – A perplexed state where you cannot help but acknowledge principles.
The observation, that entities are instrumental to an activity, is a principle of instrumentality. From neutrality we have moved to instrumentality. Bring the case of the pencil and paper; you are automatically bringing in lead and eraser. The pencil shares a tacit relationship with an eraser which is automatic and yes indeed science studies tacit relationships that are automatic. But what does it mean to be automatic? – To be as a result of being. This is a rather absurd definition because we know the existence of a clock. Suppose the clock in your room falls down and breaks then would time stop? It would not because time is independent of the clock as a phenomenon. It does not share any tacit relationship with this object. You relate to time through the clock which helps you gauge your schedules. Without the clock you still know there is time. You do not know what time it is. This is a case where time as a phenomenon is automatic but you are dropped from its pragmatic significance. If you have an appointment with a doctor two hours from the time your clock broke then you are at a loss pragmatically. The reason is that you are literally dropped by the carriage of time although you know that it will continue to move automatically. The question is the rate at which it would move. You also know at whose expense. This is a morbid case of losing touch with an instrument of measurement. See how it would alter your predicament. This is what being automatic is about- to be as a result of being.
If you notice this 'automaticity' of any phenomenon you would notice that the hold you have on this phenomenon is limited by your capacity to measure and derive significance from that phenomenon. Significance is a tricky issue and you must be spared its consequence and ambivalence. It is a consequence because you may not be able to keep up your appointment. It is ambivalence by virtue of it having dropped you from its carriage. It is not within the scope of this essay to enumerate the features of this carriage. Your access to the instrument is the key to measuring the object of observation. You may engage with it to perform an activity.
The bus may drop you somewhere or your flight may pick you up at a certain time. But that is irrelevant as long as your pragmatic purpose is served. We have yet another feature of the scientific outlook called pragmatism. The bus serves as an instrument of pragmatism. Reaching a particular place at a particular time helps you minimize the drifting away from an activity. If your dentist calls you to pull your tooth at a particular time and you miss the appointment. Your tooth will be spared but so will your toothache. A toothache is not worth living to die another day for. This is a context which has shrunk the framework of time to optimize the acting out of an activity. Crude as it may seem the measurement is only to enable an activity. By its accuracy and ability to measure it, it appears to prove that this approach is correct which is typical of pragmatism. The feature of pragmatism spearheads technology from a utilitarian stand point. A calendar is our way of measuring time. It is this feature of pragmatism that deters the existent from understanding what time really is.
I will explain how measurement is only a human way of measuring experience and not the only way of measuring it. Whatever science attempts to measure, define and understand be it an object, pattern or phenomenon is only a measurement of the predicament of the scientist. I will elucidate ‘the treadmill trap’ of the scientist in my next blog.