I’m sure everyone has some sort of liberation story to tell. In my particular case, large parts of the journey into the promised land occurred between the front and back covers of a handful of books. I thought I’d share some of the recent waypoints on my journey with the world.
This particular phase of my journey arguably began in May 2006, when a friend lent me his copy of Donald M. MacKay’s “A Clockwork Image”. (I’ve heard rumours that the book may have been cited as inspiring some of the ideas in The Matrix.)
In terms of impact, I recall this book resolving some deadlocks in my mind. It helped my mind pull the memes out of the dark corner they were hiding in, and invite them on a friendly journey of mutual discovery. I’m sure there were many other ways the deadlock could have been resolved, but this book managed to do so in a peaceful fashion, laying good foundations for the rest of my journey. Other paths might simply have banished or destroyed the offending collection of memetic cogs, putting me on a rather different path than the one I followed, especially if this destruction was rather a banishment to the deeper recesses of my mind, where it would come to haunt me yet again, a few decades hence. A constructive path is so much healthier than a destructive one.
I’m sure I assimilated a lot of the material in my thinking, even if I cannot remember the details. So what exactly did I get out of this book? The first link I found on Google was a critique by a J.A. Cramer. I must say, I cannot agree with Mr Cramer (or whatever his title should be), on numerous points. His critique serves as a good refresher though. His intro describes the book as follows:
Donald M. MacKay in his book The Clockwork Image argues that determinism as a scientific hypothesis does not imply moral determinism, and that the conclusion that man is nothing but a complex machine is erroneous.
The book is in a way a kind of apologetic for religion. I cannot remember how much “Christian-content” it contained. In retrospect, I think this book served to lay the foundations for my understanding of the “non-overlapping magisteria” idea. It also likely served as the primary inspiration for my insistence that we experience free will on the Meh level, irrespective of what happens on the Lah level. Even if there were a deterministic “Lah”, we really don’t live or experience things on that level. Our vantage point is one that sees, experiences and feels free will.
The other significant meme I picked up, was a disdain for what MacKay labels “nothing-buttery”, otherwise known as reductionism. I think I have at times used some examples from the book, forgetting where they originally came from. The book likely contains the “car example”: You can understand each component of the car in a reductionistic fashion, how each component works, but that doesn’t really help you understand the concept of a “car”. The best way to really understand “car”, is to get in and drive. Claiming “a car is nothing but a collection of parts” is incorrect.
A book is much more than just ink on paper. And human existence/experience is more than just the machinery, more than just the Lah. (We live our lives in Meh, even while we attempt to understand Lah better.)
The original reason for blogging about this book was actually for “completeness”. I only remembered how fond I was of that book as I was writing this post. Back then, I felt this book was exactly what I was looking for. With my far-from-impartial recollection of the book, I can’t really make any recommendations as to who would be interested in reading it. I anyway suspect it is hard to find.
An explanation of my Meh and Lah terms: (Re?)Introducing Meh and Lah.