A SCRIPTED INTERVIEW FOR JOURNEY IN BEING
Good morning, I’m JF. Our guest today is AM who’s going to talk about his new book. Welcome AM.
JF Tell us what your book is about. It seems as though it doesn’t fit a common category.
AM That’s right J but it is a mix of some common kinds of literature. It has a view of the universe—a philosophy. And the view shows an ideal and suggests a way of realizing that ideal. Perhaps what is unusual is the magnitude—the expanse—of the view and its mesh with action. A blurb on my website says it well—
“Develops a new view of individuals, civilization and the universe as limitless realization. Illustrates experimental approaches to a journey of transformation.”
I think it’s worth pointing out that though it can be placed into these categories it does not truly fit them. ‘Universe as limitless realization’ blurs the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. It does not merely do philosophy but fundamentally changes our conception of philosophy and a number of it’s traditional sub-disciplines—metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and ethics (values and our understanding of them). It presents no religion in the sense of something to believed or some way to live but shows how the knowledge and the way are essentially and eternally experimental (and may derive inspiration but not dogma from the traditions). And though I don’t emphasize the personal it is very much interwoven with a personal ‘travelogue’ in nature, ideas, and what we may call ‘spirit’.
JF That raises a lot of questions. But I’ll begin by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, A.
AM Thank you J. I grew up in India—my father a university professor, mother from Britain—a free spirit in my experience, one younger brother; college education in India and America prepared me for a career in teaching and research.
I’ll focus on what I think is unusual. I think passion lies at the center of it. It is not a comparison with others. I’m sure passion and intelligence are significant in all human life. Two things are significant. One is that passion has been the driver of the process and I think I may be a little unusual in the survival of passion over the years, in seeking it out, in following the usual paths but not sacrificing passion for them. Secondly, intelligence has channeled rather than controlled passion; passion dominates thinking and intellect. However, intellect has also been a passion and so the statement ‘passion dominates intellect’ does not mean neglect the practice and tradition of intellect; it means that intellect must be sought right to the root and has not ended up in mere import of principles.
Consequently I did not continue to pursue my career path and ended up in a variety of troubles (mostly intelligence and passion got me out of trouble—but there was once when I had to reach out). But you know that your weakness is your strength. It’s the same passion that fueled my search. I’ve always wanted to do things ‘my way’ even if that way was neither best nor even good. I’m not sure why but perhaps that is part of being passionate. And, when I did do things my way I persevered and persevered and… And my way, perhaps immature in the beginning, turned out to be fruitful—but this would not have happened if I had done things the conventional or standard way or if I had given up.
Importantly, I so passionately loved nature that I sought more and more and more—and this spilled over into philosophy and ideas which I loved anyway. And, yes I love people too. I sometimes wonder what is more beautiful—mountains, sunsets, forests, and wildlife or women and the love of a woman or friends and simple caring. I don’t have an answer. Nature was what I loved and ideas would show me the way from nature to the secrets of the universe. This set me on a path.
That path was very indirect—I had goals but always new goals were revealed, pathways abandoned but sometimes to be picked up again. I did not imagine the final outcome and perhaps I could not have. This is where the idea of a journey came from.
JF Tell us about your training—your education.
AM I did not enjoy my early education in India—there was very little in the way of cultivating careful thinking or passionate interest. There were exceptions—we had a year of very good history in eighth grade. In high school I had good teachers in physics, mathematics, literature, and ethics. I discovered I was good in science and mathematics; that I enjoyed passion in literature and poetry; that I was capable of precise expression; and the ‘ethics’ was an excuse for a Jesuit instructor to give as a very broad exposure to humanities, ethics, history, and general and political philosophy.
My undergraduate through PhD was in mechanical engineering, mathematics, and physics. Though I wasn’t passionate about engineering this education was very useful in exposure to science and mathematics. The attitude of the engineer has also been important. The engineer balances critical thinking with imagination, vision, and tinkering. Engineering is about outcomes and the engineer does not have the luxury of saying ‘if I can’t approach this problem with precision I will not do it at all’. Actually we can’t do that in mathematics or physics either; all is good provided that precision is introduced somewhere in the process. But education often gives us the impression that we shouldn’t think imprecise thoughts and this stifles imagination. One thing I find—and I’m not alone in this—is that at the edge of our process in the world imagination and criticism are not separable: they’re sometimes separable when we can get a vantage point from outside particular contexts but there is no getting outside the ‘total context’ which is the world (for example real criticism requires imagination in seeing then refining the critical modes).
I didn’t attend to my studies very well but spent much time hanging out with friends, following my interests—philosophy, logic, metaphysics; a university library afforded exposure to modern thought on these topics. My exposure took me close to the roots as understood in the twentieth century. These are not the ultimate roots that I have uncovered but, in addition to initial contact I also developed the idea that openness and tentativeness are essential in critical thinking.
I allow and pursue thought beyond boundaries defined by ‘criticism’. This may result—I’ve already said—in uncritical reflection. It is sometimes a poor imitation of recorded thought but sometimes truly goes beyond traditional boundaries of knowledge. Importantly the uncritical ideas, once had, can be corrected. And the process is incremental so that little increments can build up into something significant. But it’s not all incremental. There are also ‘big’ insights and large steps. The net process is an interaction of little and big steps—of imagination and criticism.
The exposure to humanities in high school was excellent but was more introduction to awareness than preparation for ideas and intellect. We had a semester or two of philosophy in college. All I remember from that is the comment, it was about 1965, that ‘philosophers today focus on the study of language’. My personal reading and thinking were broad but could not be considered an education in philosophy.
Later I wondered about advanced schoolwork in philosophy. I did not follow that path because I was happy to follow my passion. If I had gone to school I would not have made some of the mistakes I did make but then I would not have had an opportunity to incrementally correct my path. Even later I realized that studying philosophy at a university would be a bad idea—first, for the time it would take and, second, because the modern philosophical traditions impose certain constraints on thought that explicit censure the avenues that I have taken. If I had gone to school to study philosophy I would have likely made some good contacts and I do miss that.
Perhaps I’m lucky that despite or because of the lack of formal education, I’ve been able to develop and ultimate metaphysical understanding and program of ‘destiny’ or realization.
But it’s not that unusual. If you look a the history of ideas you find many individuals thinking within a ‘school’ or trend but these schools have origins. And the originators do sometimes come from outside the schools altogether.
JF Tell us in a nutshell, what that final outcome is.
AM What I said earlier—A new view of individuals, civilization and the universe as limitless realization. Illustrates experimental approaches to a journey of transformation.
JF How is it new and why is a new view needed?
AM The two main world views today are the secular and the religious. Some religions insist on dogma but we can’t generalize; Buddhism has a reasonable but incomplete cosmology; it eschews cosmology and focuses on ‘individual salvation’. Many religions have good insight into the human situation even where their cosmology dogma (this balances but does not negate institutional abuse; note that I do not think of ‘power’ as an abuse though I do think that the spread of misinformation and ‘priests’ using religion and people for personal gain are abuses). The secular is based in the idea that reality is defined by experience, especially science. In fact, the secular goes beyond that and projects science or common experience to the universe. But another projection is also consistent with experience. It is a view that everything that is possible obtains provided it violates neither fact (experience) nor reason (logic). This encompasses the secular and is provides a container for non-dogmatic and experimental religion (in its common connotations ‘religion’ is not the best word but I don’t think we have an appropriate traditional vocabulary for the new ideas). This is the view I have developed.
JF But how would you prove that.
AM The simplest proof I know is this. Imagine the universe is in a void state—there is nothing. But not only no material things, no space, no time, no laws of nature, no non-material things. I call this the Void (state). Suppose that a manifest universe never emerged from the Void. That would be a law. Suppose that some valid state (consistent with fact and reason) did not emerge. That would be a Law. But the Void is there anyway alongside the manifest universe. So all possibilities obtain—the universe and individuals are limitless.
JF But what does that mean? Does it mean just that all possibilities obtain—i.e., that whatever is consistent with fact and logic obtains?
AM Yes. But it also defines logic. It shows that logic must be experimental and open. Probably to show how logic must be experimental and what that means would be too diverting in a general conversation. It is not dependent on some pre-conceived logic or concept of logic. Here, we see how the new metaphysics revolutionizes and secures foundation of thought.
JF OK. But why do you think there are no laws in the Void. Surely our laws are universal. And why do you think that the Void exists anyway?
AM Universality of our laws is projection. Why do they exist—i.e., why do I see them as having Being? One of the reasons I use Being as basic is that it clarifies such issues. Being is whatever exists—it makes no distinction between point and pattern, matter or non-matter, thing or process or interaction or quality, or between ‘in space and time’ or not; and, if there are space and time then they too have Being. A law is a pattern and so it has Being. The universe is all Being; the Void is the absence of Being; and so the Void has no Laws. I’ve already explained why I think the Void exists and this is further shown by the fact that it is the complement of the universe.
However, you are quite right to question the existence of the void. There is no contradiction of fact or logic in taking it to exist and I’ve given strong reasons for its existence. I’ve come up with a number of proofs and variants (as well as heuristic arguments). These are excellent reasons to treat it as an action principle. However, some doubt remains. Regardless, the theory that results is consistent with what is valid in what we know and otherwise maximally permissible and is therefore the boundary of all science and realization.
But the best proof is the one outlined above. We start by assuming the universe in a void state. We then reflect on a manifest state. The void is already there alongside the manifest.
JF Thanks. Now some of the words you use ‘being’, ‘universe’ and so on are ambiguous. The philosopher Heidegger uses ‘being’ in ways that are quite mysterious—to me at least. And the universe seems to ‘change’ with new discoveries. Could you clarify?
AM Yes. Any word can have more than one (language) meaning. But when you develop a particular understanding, it’s usually important to fix the meanings of your key terms. I define being as that which exists. I define the universe as all being—so there cannot be multiple universes even though there can be multiple cosmoses. I define a law as a perceived pattern but a Law as the pattern itself. Does a Law have being? If the question were is a law part of the material cosmos we would not have a sure answer. However the Laws have Being. Clearly the concept of Being leverages the existence of the universe and Laws as Being. Then since, the universe is all being, it contains all Laws. I then define the void as the absence of being. Does the void exist? We have given strong arguments (and shown that the existence of the void entails no inconsistency with fact or reason). The universal metaphysics follows. Being is crucial; but the selection of fundamental concepts is also crucial. The definition of Being is so trivial that we might expect only trivial outcomes. But we find an immensely profound system. We wonder about how that is possible. When we realize that what we have defined is a program of discovery we realize that the outcome is not so unexpected after all. But we have found a container for it all. And we can also see from limitlessness that there can be no end to experience and fresh discovery (as long as our form is not unlimited). Further, though what we have found is a program it follows, a result of our traditions of logic and science, that the program is non-trivial in its progress so far—it is at least as ‘deep as human thought and experience’.
JF Are there multiple cosmoses?
AM Yes. It is implied by limitlessness. There is no limit to the variety of physical laws in the universe and each physical law is realized in endless cosmoses. Of course there are likely to be some limits and that knowledge is or will be part of emerging ‘logic’. There must be ghost cosmoses traveling through ours right now with no interaction now but that will interact at some ‘place’. You can let your imagination run wild; if its ‘logical’ it obtains.
JF How does this affect us?
AM I want to answer this question but it will take us from the metaphysics to its implication for civilization and human destiny. I would like to first day something about ‘epistemology’. Epistemology is study of knowledge, its uses and values, and how we develop confidence in knowledge—the question of showing validity.
The new metaphysics shows a vast and limitless universe. Not just multiple cosmoses but also a vast background of form in transaction with formlessness. This all is given. It shows where cause and conservation laws may come from. However, the crucial question of epistemology now becomes ‘how do I connect practical knowledge—day to day, science—with the metaphysical.
The most basic connection is this. The metaphysics shows what is possible—and that what is possible must be attained. Practical knowledge shows us some ways to begin the process. It grounds an incremental process—and therefore we do not need absolute precision (some precision is of course good). In this sense both metaphysics and practical knowledge have their own perfections and join. This is the ground level.
Are there more dovetailed joins. I have developed a number of ‘examples’, matter-space-time, mind, a study of what are called ‘abstract objects’ which shows that there is a more detailed interaction which, provided we do not get too far into particulars, shows one generic approach to perfect combinations of practical and metaphysical knowledge.
JF Great. Come back to how this affects us.
AM We too are limitless because the universe / Void which are limitless must as part of that limitlessness be able to confer limitlessness on us. But we strongly experience limits. It is therefore a project and a journey to realize our ultimate selves. Death is real but not absolute. It’s real nature makes it an opportunity—to realize and ‘leverage’ the finitude of this life toward the non-finite. In other words individual identity is (ultimately) ultimate identity.
Accepting and living our transience is a form of eternity.
There is another way in which we are affected. The knowledge revealed touches and enhances the quality of this life. Pain is unavoidable but is given meaning. This life is important in itself because meaning is ultimately not derived from the outside. It is also important as a platform to the limitless.
JF Interesting. You know A, you wouldn’t know this to look at me but I was good at logic in college. But it seemed dry. You’ve brought it to life. But I have a question. If you and I are both limitless we could each best the other in any contest. Is that not true?
AM Well you are so another person—an attractive human being—so I would hesitate to say my limitlessness could best yours. But the truth is better. We would express our limitless in becoming the same identity which ‘in the limit’ is the identity of the universe.
JF Thank you A for that compliment. I’d love to talk to you later. Here, we have a few minutes and I have another question that I suspect will interest listeners. You said that ‘living in transience can be a kind of eternity’. But your ideas suggest that there is a realization beyond transience and a way to achieve it.
AM Yes. The realization of the ultimate is literal. While our forms remain limited we only approach it. We are (currently) limited so we must be interested in the approach. My book details this. Death as we saw earlier is one motivation. The main features of the approach are as follows.
From limitlessness, our civilization is one of many. Civilization nurtures the individual and the individual is the source of creative realization. In this way civilization and ‘being’ populate and engulf the universe.
From limitlessness, this is temporary and repeats. But the ‘repetitions’ are infinitely varied. For limited form there is always a place beyond boredom.
Realization itself is always fresh. There are teachers—teachers are important as is cumulative knowledge—but no ultimate masters.
There are many resources in the tradition. Yoga, shamanism, science, psychoanalysis, religions… These are all ‘on the way’. They deserve ‘respect’ but to give them ultimate respect is decay. The way itself is ever opening up with experience and experiment. It’s inner or intrinsic—transformation of self: Yoga, meditation, travel, especially travel in nature—and external or instrumental—science as we practice it today, technology: transformation of the environment. These are not entirely distinct. We tend to emphasize the instrumental and discount the intrinsic. Other traditions have emphasized the intrinsic—taken steps to making it ‘science’ but so far humankind is at a beginning.
An ultimate resource is oneself—one’s community, one’s civilization. And your ‘self’ and civilization are places of experiment that carry forward into the—what? The universe, the void, and the beautiful fog. It’s a journey because we are always at the beginning—which means that we scratch at the surface with no idea where we will go but it is only by scratching that we go at all. I have a program of ideas and experimentation. It’s briefly described in the book but my site (http://www.horizons-2000.org) describes it in detail. I would encourage interested people to grow and follow their own path—they will probably benefit by learning from others with more experience but what will be most rewarding and what will further civilization is individual effort as part of communal effort.
One further thought. The process is incremental. The question arises how increments may be initiated. The ways (traditional and experimental) provide a framework and guide. To spark increment there are various activities that are ‘catalytic’: extreme action and situations, placing oneself in destabilizing situations that open up to ‘Being’—that open up openness and readiness for attitude and neural change. A next question is how to secure change. While the catalysts open by destabilizing, change is secured by stabilizing—building increment into the organism by practice and reason, into institution and culture; and by openness to outcomes and building on outcomes.
JF Could you say something about the implications for our civilization as it is in the present?
AM Yes. What I’ve been talking about is part of the implication. But I think you are asking about implications for our culture.
JF Yes. What are the implications for the disciplines of knowledge as practiced in our universities and for religion. You’ve talked about the distant future that transcends death. What about the immediate future—the shape of the twenty first century.
AM I can’t say much about the twenty first century. I’m not a ‘futurist’ in the traditional sense. I suppose that this century will be conditioned by politics and economics as we see it emerging. Science and technology as we know them will be important—using them where we can do so with benefit, reigning them in where necessary. For the immediate future my thought may affect our attitudes more than directly affect what we do as civilization. I do think that there is potential for religious change.
Many non-religious people call themselves ‘spiritual’. I don’t think that there is an essential difference in motive. My view of the universe could be foundation for an experimental religions. A possible distinction between spirituality and religion is that the former is individual while the latter emphasizes cumulative and community experience. I don’t like the significance of spirituality when it is taken to refer to ‘another plane’; my world view shows that there is one interconnected world which, of course, we do conceptually divide into distinct regions.
For philosophy and metaphysics the concept of Being as I use it should be pivotal. It shows the way out of the error of prejudiced metaphysics (materialism, idealism, and so on). To designate something as all being is important; I call that something the universe. There are cosmological and metaphysical consequences—we talked about some of them earlier. Since the universe is all being, where we can mark out space-time it will be immanent in being at large but there may be localities where it is as-if a framework. Since the universe is all being it cannot have an external creator—it just ‘is’. There may be local gods of local creation. But self adaptation of a cosmos seems much more likely. How can we estimate the significance of local gods. The metaphysics requires an infinity of self-adapted cosmoses and an infinity of local god created ones. How can we compare the relative significance of god versus self-created cosmoses? Apparently, unless there is a way to label the infinities there can be no comparing. When there is a way it is likely the result of self-adaptation so it seems that local gods, though real in some places, are going to be far less significant than self-manifesting cosmological systems. But this all depends on the traditional notion of god as outside the universe, as all powerful, as good and so on. If we look at our experience rather than what our religions tell us about god we can ask ‘Where in our world do we see anything like god?’ The answer has to be ourselves. We come as close to being god-like as anything. No, I am not excluding other living creatures—our close-to-god-likeness is part of the movement of life emerging from a less complex background.
JF I read a similar idea on comparing infinities in David Deutsch’s book ‘The Beginning of Infinity’.
AM That’s where I got the idea from. Before I read about it I felt that self-adapted systems should be more stable and therefore more significant numerous than randomly emerging and artificial god creation as described in some myths. But I wasn’t quite sure until I read that book.
I’ve just meandered from philosophy and metaphysics to cosmology to the idea of ‘god’. I want to come back to metaphysics. An old notion of metaphysics is knowledge of things as they are—as distinct from science in which we permit approximation. If we want perfect knowledge, this idea of metaphysics would seem to be important. However concepts (knowledge) are not objects and so we doubt perfect knowledge; further sometimes there is obvious error or imperfection. We have concluded that no perfect knowledge is possible (or even meaningful because imperfection calls into question the existence of objects-as-known) and therefore our modern theories of knowledge tend to be pessimistic. Therefore, metaphysics as it used to be understood has become an abandoned cause. One new notion of metaphysics is that it is the study of abstract objects (contrast to science as the study of concrete objects). However, what we truly know about the question of perfection is that it is not inherent in the nature of knowledge; that there are clear cases of error; that our great sciences are wonderful but not perfect; that speculative metaphysical systems of the past have failed. I think that the correct conclusion is we cannot have detailed metaphysical knowledge of the entire universe (in our limited form) but not that we can have no metaphysical knowledge at all. Starting with a proper conception of being we’ve seen that being as such is perfectly known; therefore we know perfectly all being in its unity though not in its detail; and, from this apparently trivial start, we have developed a perfect, ultimate, universal metaphysics (in the sense of perfect knowledge). Clearly my metaphysics shows unification of the notions of ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’ object. We talked of identity: identity is an object and therefore while the details of identity remain obscure and interesting there is nothing mysterious about the fact of identity.
JF Interesting. Your metaphysics as you describe it seems powerful.
AM As one more example consider the famous ‘problem’ of why there is something rather than nothing. Heidegger called this the fundamental problem of metaphysics and it does indeed seem to be a mystery. We can explain the something that we see (to some extent) by finding patterns but seem to be unable to explain why it is there. The problem has recently become even more famous. Some physicists claim to be able to answer it from quantum theory applied to existence and properties what is called the ‘quantum vacuum’ and is a little like the void. However such answers are not true answers because they assume quantum theory and the quantum vacuum which are not true ‘nothings’. However, the metaphysics of my book answers this question with ease. Given the void, a manifest state must emerge.
The parallels between the void and the vacuum, between my metaphysics and quantum theory, and similarities between my cosmology and the ‘relative’ character of space and time strongly suggests that there is potential for interactive developments in metaphysics and science.
JF Still interesting. Can we go back to the notion of human-being-and-life as being on-the-way-to-god? Aren’t we also evil?
AM Yes but it is only in spiritual religion (the religion of another plane) that good and bad are separate. In this world they are bound together. It’s of course natural that from survival we should emphasize one over the other.
In the movement toward realization, we are the closest that anything we see comes to ‘god’.
Ethics, whatever it is and whatever it says, emerges along with us. It is not imposed from without—this is the most probable and most ‘stable’ scenario.
JF Say something about science, logic, and mathematics.
AM We’ve already talked of a new notion of ‘logic’ that encompasses the old disciplines of logic as well as science. I explained why logic must be empirical. But traditional logic is not empirical in the way science is. Science is empirical over (our perceptions of) the world. Logic must be empirical over our conceptions of the world. There again we see the unity of science and logic: perception is conception as I am using the term ‘concept’. Since the time of Francis Bacon we have come to see logical process as necessary ‘deduction’ and inference of scientific theories as projection or generalization or induction. But that distinction compares ‘apples and oranges’. We should be comparing logical deduction to deduction under a scientific theory (both necessary) and we should be comparing arriving at scientific theories with arriving at systems of logic (both empirical and inductive).
At root, since the universe has no limits, every logical concept must have an object. Since the variety is ever fresh for limited forms there can be no end to theories of science—especially of physics. No local physics projects to the universe. There is no detailed theory of everything (for limited forms).
All proper mathematics must have an object in the universe. Mathematical objects do not exist in a Platonic world they exist in this world. This raises the question of the future of mathematics. If our mathematics is a symbolic science of forms perhaps we will exhaust our ability to describe such forms. Describing the ‘chaos of the void’ in detail may be beyond our current ability. However, if that is the case then mathematics as we understand it will not be our instrument of realization. In this way mathematics is similar to science. But as part of realization the way we understand math and science may change and the changes may be in us as we transform to have greater capacities for representing and / or we may realize by immersion and participation.
JF Say something about the significance of the academic.
AM We think of the academic as ‘nerdy’. Certainly there is some tension between the academic and the everyday in all cultures. America, particularly, seems to emphasize the distinction. In school you are an athlete (jock), nerd, or peripheral. It wasn’t so extreme in India. Many cultures, especially Greece, emphasized excellence in all spheres combined in one individual.
The disciplines begin in experience and come back to experience. This is a source of America’s power. The extreme separation of the academic and the common runs the risk of all round decay. A criticism: the anti-nerd attitude has as one of its roots easy self-indulgence. Eschewing this involves perhaps some discomfort but is ultimately rewarding. I don’t want to say that the divide is altogether without significance. Much of the ethic of the ‘working person’ depends on it; and everyone—academic and non-academic—wants to think that their ‘world’ is real and significant. Still it’s ultimately divisive and is partly the result of intellectual exclusivity that lacks basis in the ‘true significance’ of intellect.
My system dissolves this conceptual divide in an ultimate sense. It may help bridge the actual divide.
JF Could we summarize the theme of your book as ‘a new world view that shows the universe to be the greatest possible, that shows that our journey of realization is eternal and ever-fresh, and that has deep and defining implications for human knowledge’?
AM That sounds immodest. But it sounds rather like what I’ve being saying. The modest part is that it often seems to me that I’ve more stumbled upon rather than created my thought. And that I think it’s available to everyone; and the metaphysics implies that it has been discovered in repetition without end in the universe (and many of our cultures, especially the Upanishads of India and a variety of mystics have had insights into this metaphysics). Not that there aren’t many ‘loose ends’ that need to be tied up before full comprehension can be obtained.
JF I think that there are a lot of loose ends.
AM Yes. The treatment in my book is tighter and, I think, well founded. Still, there is scope to improve the foundation. There is perhaps another kind of loose end—implications to be worked out. In the direction of ‘depth’ the metaphysical system developed is complete; but in the direction of breadth and variety it shows that our knowledge must be ever open (as long as our form is limited).
JF Thanks for your time, A. I’d like to end by reminding the audience that ‘Journey in Being’ is out in bookstores across the universe and at Amazon.
AM Thanks for having me on your show J. Thank you to all listeners for your time and attention. You can find more detail than in the book at the Journey in Being website http://www.horizons-2000.org. One topic that we’ve hardly touched on is ‘mind and consciousness’. The metaphysics of my site leverages definitive treatments of fundamental issues that are generally regarded as truly problematic to puzzling. A topic that has been rather implicit here is what is called ‘theory of knowledge’ is explicit at the site. Clearly the metaphysics shows that we know a huge amount about the universe even though an infinity remains ever to be revealed. What I haven’t shown here—I’ve assumed it—is how this conceptual knowledge meshes with our actual experience and with ‘common’ knowledge including science. This is shown at my site and the treatment strengthens both metaphysics and science.
JF I enjoyed that.
AM I did too. Seems to me I always end up learning more than my listeners.
JF I’d like to continue our conversation.
AM Sure. Let’s have dinner. 7 PM?
Open ended versus closed and leading questions
How context shapes answers
Interviews and conversations
Good enough is better than perfect
Quick versus thorough; importance of keeping notes
To bring the ideas to a wide audience—especially a ‘non-technical’ audience.
To empower the audience (a) With a worldview and facility with the view, and (b) With an instrument of realization.
Permission to keep notes and record (may be before formal introduction)
The topic and perhaps goals
The ‘respondent’; why him or her
Generally, should not be too leading or closed in its definition
2. The Schedule
A schedule of questions—in outline and open versus detailed and carefully worded.
An interview may range from structured to unstructured. The choice depends on personalities, purposes, and places (context). The unstructured interview favors spontaneity and developing ideas in the interview itself—and in giving respondent and interviewer free reign in expressing ideas and questions. The structured interview favors targeted information. Of course you can use both—e.g. with a structured beginning and then opening up. Such combinations may be very effective.
Unstructured interviews need some kind of rhythm—after the general theme has been introduced. Some approaches to ‘rhythm’ are (a) Ask about key issues and then stories to illustrate them. (b) Ask for an evaluation of the key issues and the respondent’s opinions on them. (c) Ask about the respondents feelings about issues and events. Such approaches may be combined.
A summary of content—information and conclusions—for the audience and to give the respondent a chance to correct misunderstandings.
A summary is useful in defining conclusions. It may be effective to summarize at intermediate points.
4. The End
Anticipate any time limit that has been set and wrap up with (a) Thanks and appreciation (b) Follow up sources—literature, web, contact, further interviews, and (c) Respondent and interviewer information
Be open to continuing the interview beyond the set time if both parties have this interest. Be sensitive to audience time limit and provide an opportunity to disengage.
Planned and unplanned conversations have various ‘uses’. I want to be open to a conversation that turns into a situation that has the same potential as an interview.
Asking clear questions
Judging when to push with a line of questioning