Saturday, 30 May 2015

Reader's Question: Are you still interested by morphic resonance?


Reader's Question: "I am wondering about your thoughts on Rupert Sheldrake and his morphic resonance theory. It was something that you blogged about in the past that I haven't seen in awhile."

My Answer: I have stopped writing about this because I have lost interest in it -  and I lost interest in it when my Christianity became Mormon and my metaphysics pluralist. 

The peak of my interest in Sheldrake was after I had immersed myself in the work of Aquinas (from reading Ed Feser's book on the subject), had adopted a Scholastic philosophy, and was considering becoming a Roman Catholic (hoping and waiting for a group of the Anglican Ordinariate to emerge nearby). After that my interest had moved towards Eastern Orthodoxy and Platonism (via Seraphim Rose), and I got so far as becoming 'officially' a catechumin at a Russian Orthodox church.

Sheldrake's  metaphysical system fits well with this kind of classical theology - especially with Aristotelian-Thomism from which is is apparently derived. 

But when my spontaneous pluralism/ pragmatism again came to the fore, and I discovered that Mormon theology matched this perfectly, this led to a turn-around (and clarification) of my metaphysical assumptions - indeed a clarification of what metaphysics actually is, and how it differs from science. 

So - my conclusion was that Sheldrake is essentially a metaphysical philosopher (and a very good one!) but not a scientist; and therefore empirical research cannot either confirm or refute his ideas about morphic resonance. 

I was in touch with Sheldrake at this time, by e-mail and on friendly terms (he does seem to be a very pleasant chap!) but I was never able to be clear whether he accepted or agreed with my understanding - nor was I ever able to be clear whether he regarded 'forms' as coming from God, or being things that were 'just there' and built-into reality (this is left-out of the books); nor was I clear about how humans were supposed to be able to know what was a form, and what was not.

Anyway, having established to my own satisfaction that Sheldrake's ideas were derived from/ dependent on classical Aristotelian metaphysics - and that being metaphysical they were not 'testable' - and then my own metaphysical assumptions having changed towards William Jamesian/ Joseph Smithian pragmatism - naturally I lost interest in Sheldrake's work and ceased to read, think or write about it!



alexi de sadesky said...

Thanks for responding, Bruce.

I'm interested to know, are you off of his theory because you believe we are individuals that are not participating in a collective field? Rather we are individuals with connections but, more separate than Rupert asserts?

His theories regarding fields and memory strike me as being true. It is much closer to how I think most people experience memory. I guess I am just wondering why you find Mormon thought incompatible with his field theory?

Really enjoying the reader questions!

Bruce Charlton said...

@ads - I don't so much think that morphic resonance is incompatible with Mormon theology (because philosophers can 'fix' things and make them compatible - as with the classical philosophical explanations of the Holy Trinity).

But MR comes from a different philosophical tradition than Mormonism (in the sense that Mormon theology pre-dates but is in essence the same system as William Jamesian Pragmatism and Pluralism).

Classical metaphysics in Plato and Aristotle is mostly about forms; but pragmatism/ pluralism is not.

Damerei said...

Bruce, the problem I see with this is that the area of reality encompassed by the symbol "eidetic form" does not suddenly cease to exist.

If you see yourself in the tradition of pragmatism, what do you say to the fact that the most thorough expatiation on that philosophy is to be found in Peirce and his successor Whitehead? I doubt the latter - a great scientist without doubt - would agree that metaphysics and science are incompatible. His book Process and Reality is, along with the works of Eric Voegelin and Michael Polanyi, one of the best works establishing that scientific and philosophical meditations must ultimately cohere.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Demerie - Very simple, I am a William Jamesian pragmatist! - and not an adherent of Pierce or Whitehead, who seem very different to me.

But maybe you misunderstand my position, if you attribute to me the belief that "metaphysics and science are incompatible". I don't believe that. I believe that metaphysics and physics (or any other science) are at different levels, and that the metaphysics comes above the physics - frames the physics. That which frames, cannot be refuted by that which it frames.