To Change: To last section of Change

 The implications of spatiomaterialism are ontologically necessary truths, but there are two kinds of necessary truths. They are all ontologically necessary for reason, because ontological philosophy is an argument about the world directed toward rational beings. But in addition to its theoretical function, reason has a practical function, and since its practical function cannot be entirely reduced to its theoretical function, there are necessary truths about what ought to be, as far as reason is concerned, that are not just truths about what is.

Ontological philosophy is a two step argument. First, it argues that spatiomaterialism is the best ontological explanation of the world, and then it uses spatiomaterialism to show what must be true in a spatiomaterial world. Such implications are ontologically necessary, but many are conditional, because they also depend on space and matter having the more specific essential natures that makes the basic laws of physics true and that give the universe a large scale structure of the kind it actually has. Conditionally necessary truths hold only in spatiomaterial worlds like ours. There are, as we have seen, many such truths about what is, most relevantly at this point, including all those about progressive evolution. On suitable planets, there is an evolutionary change that proceeds through a series of stage in the direction of natural perfection, with each stage being a gradual change in the direction of the natural perfection of organisms (or primary structures) of its kind. And since it is a (conditionally) necessary truth, evolution would unfold in basically the same way in any spatiomaterial world like ours.

Reason itself is, however, something that comes to exist in that grand process. A series of inevitable stages of biological evolution (by natural selection) leads to rational beings, and since spiritual animals contain within themselves cultural evolution (by rational selection), which eventually includes progress in natural science (sponsored, in part, by economic evolution through capitalist selection), reason eventually comes to understand how the world is whole. That is, as we have seen, what ontological philosophy contributes to cultural evolution at the philosophical stage in the wake of the failure of epistemological philosophy. Ontological philosophy is an argument about the wholeness of the world that is made to beings that exist necessarily in that world. Thus, rational beings eventually come to recognize their own nature and their place in the world, and since that self-understanding is itself part of the wholeness of the world, it plays a role in what happens in the world. “Ontological reason,” as I will call it, has work to do.

What reason comes to know about its nature, with the evolution of ontological philosophy, includes recognizing its own function as a behavior guidance system. Guiding behavior is the basic function of what evolves at every stage of biological evolution, and reason guides the behavior not only of individual subjects, but also of spiritual animals, the social level animals of which rational subjects are the parts. Its function as a behavior guidance system explains, as have seen, the difference between theoretical and practical reason.

Practical reason is as basic as theoretical reason. Indeed, the original function of arguments about the true is to enable reason to discover the good. Reason would not have evolved by natural selection if the cultural evolution of theoretical arguments by rational selection did not make it possible for reason to discover what is good for rational beings (that is, what contributes to their maximum holistic power, or natural perfection). Thus, in addition to its theoretical role, reason has a practical employment. Reason is something that acts in the world. That is why there is a difference between conclusions about what is and what ought to be among the necessary truths proved by ontological philosophy. 

With the evolution of ontological philosophy, therefore, reason understands its own nature as a behavior guidance system that evolves by reproductive causation, and it recognizes its place in the world. The function of reason is to guide the behavior of the most powerful organisms that come to exist in evolution, and so ontological reason comes to recognize itself as the most powerful being in the world. This self-understanding might even be called the outcome of evolution in a spatiomaterial world like ours, at least, so far, since it happens at the end of a series of inevitable evolutionary stages. But the advent of ontological philosophy is not the end of evolution. Its explanation of the wholeness of the world is merely the point at which reason discovers its own real nature and begins to assume its full power. And since reason has a practical, as well as a theoretical, function, it can be described as the point at which ontological reason (still evolving by rational selection) takes over from biological evolution and controls the course evolution.

Thus, the wholeness of the world is not merely that everything in the world and everything about the world is constituted by space and matter. Nor is it merely that its essential nature entails that a part of any spatiomaterial world like ours inevitably comes to understand its wholeness. It also includes how that understanding of its wholeness leads reason to act in a way that ultimately makes the world more "whole." That is the work of ontological reason.

Predicting the future of evolution. It might seem that what ontological reason does in the world ought to be counted among the necessary truths about what is, because cultural evolution, including its evolution, is a global regularity like the rest of evolution and, thus, can be predicted. As a behavior guidance system, reason pursues the good, and since goodness is contributing to natural perfection, what is good is a fact about the world. Thus, what reason does in the world can be predicted. That means that it is one of the necessary truths about what is in the world that reason discovers, which suggests that there is no need to distinguish from what is a set of necessary truths about what ought to be.

In a sense, it is true that what ontological reason does can be predicted, for it is inevitable. But it is not merely an ontologically necessary truth about what is in a spatiomaterial world like ours, because unlike earlier stages of evolution, what happens depends on ontologically necessary truths about what ought to be. That is, what makes those predictions about the future after the advent of ontological reason turn out to be true is that rational being do what is good, and so the only way to predict what will happen is to work out what ontological reason discovers about what ought to exist. That is not something that can be predicted by knowing what is good for rational beings in the sense of contributing to their natural perfection as rational beings.

After recapping the ontological explanation of the nature of goodness and considering more carefully why it seems that practical reason can be reduced to theoretical reason, I will explain why necessary truths about what ought to be are not entirely reducible to necessary truths about what is. Then I will take up the implications of spatiomaterialism about the goals that reason ought to pursue (in its individual self interest, its spiritual self interest, and its religious self interest).

Goodness. The nature of goodness is explained, as we have seen, by the progressiveness of evolution by reproductive causation. Not only does evolution have an inevitable beginning in a spatiomaterial world like ours, but it also involves change in the direction of natural perfection. And natural perfection has a structure that determines what is good.

Natural perfection. Setting reason aside for the moment, reproductive causation generates four different forms of natural perfection: the natural perfection of the organism, of the ecology, of life and of change itself. That is, they follow from the two main reproductive global regularities, gradual and revolutionary evolution.

Organism. At each stage of evolution, there are reproducing organisms (or primary structures) that start off simple, uniform and weak, and during the stage, they gradually become more complex, diverse and powerful, until each kind of organism is as powerful at controlling all the conditions that affect its reproduction as possible for primary structures of its kind. Such maximum holistic power is the natural perfection for organisms. It is an optimal part-whole relation in which no possible change in the parts will make the whole more powerful, though this maximum may be approached only asymptotically.

Ecology. But since maximum holistic power for organisms (i.e., primary structures) also involves their becoming more diverse, the direction of gradual change is also toward maximum holistic power for the ecology. It is a holistic power, because it is the power of all the organisms in the region. But the appropriate measure of the power that is maximized at the ecological level is different. As the organisms all become naturally perfect, the right kinds and varieties of organisms exist to consume as much of the available free energy to fuel reproductive cycles as possible. Making maximum use of the ultimate source of the power to do work in the region is the natural perfection for the ecology.

Life. But one stage of evolution can make another stage inevitable. When the organisms evolving at one stage have structures that can be organized as the several parts of an organism on higher levels of organization (that is, whose primary structures have higher levels of part-whole complexity), and when that makes it possible for the whole to control a range of relevant conditions that were previously out of reach, such a radical random variation begins a new stage of gradual evolution during which those organisms and the ecology they help make up (along with organisms from previous stages) become naturally perfect for their kinds. The succession of evolutionary stages uses the part-whole relation in space to expand the power of organisms, as primary structures generating reproductive cycles, to control what happens in the world, step by step, increasing the level of organization of the natural perfection involved. Hence, revolutionary evolution is in the direction of the natural perfection of life itself, or the very enterprise of controlling conditions in the world. Reproductive causation  makes the most of the spatial structure of the world by using the part-whole relation in space to increase the holistic power of organisms of all kinds to control what happens in the world.

Change. Finally, since evolution is progressive, there is even a natural perfection about the kind of change that is involved in evolution. Since evolution is a global regularity caused by how reproductive cycles add up in space as time passes, each moment during each stage of gradual evolution makes a necessary contribution to the increasing power of the organisms and the ecology at that stage. And since evolutionary stages are caused by levels of part-whole complexity in evolving structures, each stage makes an necessary contribution to the increasing power of life. Thus, by using each moment in the existence of the substances involved to increase the power of material structures to do work, reproductive causation gives change itself a kind of natural perfection. It makes the most out of the temporal nature of the world by using the succession of moments in which substances exist to increase the power of organisms to control what happens in the world. No moment is redundant or superfluous.

The nature of goodness. Natural perfection is an explanation of the nature of goodness, because natural perfection is an optimal part-whole relation. Though the part-whole relation is somewhat different in each form of natural perfection, in each case, parts of certain kinds are combined in certain ways and numbers to make the most out of the least. "The most" always has to do with the power of the whole to use free energy to control what happens in the world, and "the least" has to do with the number and simplicity of the parts.

Natural perfection is a property of the whole, and the corresponding property of the parts of such wholeness is goodness. Goodness is the property of contributing to the natural perfection of the whole of which it is part. But since there are different forms of natural perfection, there are different ways that that things can be good.

Organism. In the case of the organism, the parts are the structural causes that are bundled together to go through reproductive cycles as a whole, and things are good for the organism when they are involved in generating the non-reproductive structural effects that help give it the maximum power to control the conditions that affect its reproduction. Thus, certain kinds of traits are good for the organism because of their functions, that is, because of which relevant conditions they control. And certain kinds of behavior are good for the organism because of its goals, including, in the case of animals, animal behavior, whose goals involve behavior directed at other objects in space in order to control relevant conditions.

Ecology. In the case of the ecology, the parts are the organisms in the region, and things are good for the ecology when they help the organisms jointly consume as much as possible of the free energy available in the region as fuel for reproductive cycles. Each kind of organisms is good for the ecology because of the form of free energy it taps or the way in which it does so.

Life. In the case of life, the parts are the successive levels of part-whole complexity in the reproducing organisms that evolve at each stage of evolution, and things are good for life itself because they are involved in the evolution of another level of organization that helps life control as much as possible what happens in the world. Thus, certain levels of biological, neurological and forensic organization in evolving structures are good for life because each is necessary for life to evolve another range of powers and, thus, step by step, as much power to control conditions affecting reproduction as possible for living organisms.

Change. In the case of change itself, the parts are particular stages in the overall course of evolution and particular moments during each stage, and things are good for change itself when events unfold in a way that helps bring about the natural perfection organisms, ecology and life. Thus, even such events as organisms failing to reproduce because of scarcity and species becoming extinct because other species displace them from their ecological niche are good because that is how reproductive causation makes evolution progressive.

The unity of goodness. Though things are good in various ways, ultimately, they are all good in the same way, because there is a necessary overall structure to the various kinds of natural perfection to which they all contribute. Naturally perfect organisms are essential parts of naturally perfect ecologies, and stages of gradual evolution in the direction of such natural perfection are essential to the overall evolutionary change in the direction of the natural perfection of life. And all the events that occur in the course of evolution are essential to the natural perfection of change, since that is what makes evolution progressive.

It is true that what is good for one organism might be bad for another. The predator is bad for the prey. But since the natural perfection to which they both contribute is a single spatiotemporal whole with an overall structure, there is no ultimate conflict about whether something is good or bad. Everything good is good because it contributes to some form of natural perfection that is part of that overall structure. Thus, what is bad for the prey is good not only for the predator, but also for the ecology, and it is by contributing to the natural perfection of the ecology that the prey is good (and that what contributes to the natural perfection of the prey is good). There is no context in which contributing to natural perfection, or natural perfection itself, could turn out to be bad.

The apparent reducibility of practical to theoretical reason. Since what is good is a fact about the world, or an aspect of what is, it is something that theoretical reason knows at the ontological philosophical stage, for that includes knowledge of the nature of goodness. And since reason gives rational beings the autonomy to do the good because they believe that it is good, it should be possible to predict what ontological reason will ultimately do in the world.

To know the course of evolution, it is not necessary to know all the details about how it will happen, because it is a global regularity about what happens in whole regions of space. This holds for cultural evolution by rational selection as well. It is possible to know how culture will evolve without predicting all the details. That is, after all, how we know that the evolution of ontological philosophy is inevitable.

Even before reason discovers the nature of goodness, it is sometimes able to tell what is good, because rational imagination enables rational subjects to discern what is naturally perfect. Reason can see the uniqueness of the naturally perfect, because it stands out against the background of what all is possible. Thus, reason can tell, in principle, what is good for any organism, for the ecology, and for life itself. Even in the case of individual subjects and spiritual animals, where inherited desires have the function of picking out goals to be pursued, reason judges which actions are good by their contribution to the natural perfection of the whole of which they are part. Thus, it is possible to predict what reason will wind up believing and doing.

Thus, when reason discovers how the world is whole and comes to understand its own nature and its own place in evolution, it will use its understanding of the nature of goodness to sharpen its perception of what is naturally perfect and, thereby, discover more accurately and completely what is good. Though it will still be a result of cultural evolution by rational selection, rational subjects will be better able to judge which arguments make their world view more coherent, because they will understand how everything in the world fits together as a whole and that will constrain their views on particular normative issues in ways that previously seemed impossible. The completeness of their understanding of the nature of the world is what enables reason to see which truths are necessary, including necessary truths about what is good. And since reason will recognize itself as having, in its practical employment as behavior guidance system, the function of doing what is good for rational beings, it will do whatever it discovers to be good for itself.

Thus, it seems that there is no basic difference between the implications of spatiomaterialism about what exists and what ought to exist. What ontological reason will do in the world is inevitable, like any stage of evolution, and thus, it is something that can be known by theoretical reason alone. Since practical reason does not play an essential role in explaining what reason ought to do, necessary truths about what ought to be can be reduced to necessary truths about what is.

The irreducibility of practical reason. Contrary to this impression, however, the necessary truths of practical reason about what ought to be cannot be eliminated in favor of necessary truths of theoretical reason about what is. There are two reasons, one superficial and the other more profound.

First, some of the goals that reason will pursue are optional. Reason gives subjects the capacity to do what is good because it is good, that is, simply because they believe that it is good, and as we have seen, that means that rational subjects can pursue goals in addition to those that control relevant conditions (that is, in addition to conditions that affect their own reproduction). These “optional goals” must already be good (by contributing to natural or artificial perfection in some way), but there is such a wide range of goals to choose from that it is not possible to predict which ones will be chosen. And since choosing them is what makes them  good for the rational subject, it is not possible to predict all of the goals that rational beings will pursue. It is also possible for spiritual animals to pursue optional goals. Thus, the future course of evolution is, in principle, not predictable.

Optional goals for rational beings are like aspects of biological evolution that are contingent. It is not possible to predict contingent aspects of evolution, because they are not essential to the global regularity caused ontologically by reproductive cycles and space. Indeed, it is not always easy to see, even in retrospect, what is inevitable about the course of biological evolution and what is not. Since optional goals are contingent, what reason does in pursuit of them is not predicable. Thus, if optional goals are as big a part of what ontological reason does as its power would suggest, much of the future course of evolution is not predictable, at least not on ontological grounds.

The pursuit of optional goals means that what reason does in the world is more like the creation of something beautiful, like a work of art, rather than something it discovers, like a truth about the world. There will be a perfection about it, but since it is an expression of a unique form of life, it will be a unique form of beauty.

Though ontological philosophy includes everything that reason can know about the nature of the world, the future course of evolution will depend on the optional goals it chooses to pursue, and thus, reason stands to its work in the world like each rational subject stands to his or her own Self.

Insofar as the future course of evolution is not predictable, it cannot be among the necessary truths of ontological philosophy about what is, and thus, practical reason cannot be reduced to theoretical reason.

Second, there is a more profound reason why practical reason cannot be reduced to theoretical reason. That is because reasoning about what ought to be may make the pursuit of certain goals inevitable for ontological reason, even though they cannot be predicted from what is good for reason as a behavior guidance system for individuals and spiritual animals. Doing what is good for the world as a whole is such a goal, and it may be a necessary truth about what is in a spatiomaterial world like ours that they are pursued. But it is an ontologically necessary truth about what is that can be known only by reasoning about what rational beings ought to do. Thus, we cannot know whether there are any such goals without following out all the practical implications of our ontological foundation.

Goals that would be of this kind are ordinarily called “religious,” because they come from the recognition that there is something that is worthy of worship. Such a religious interest may not be reducible to the individual or spiritual interest of rational beings, because it could depend on recognizing the existence of God. And if God is not necessarily a transcendent being, naturalism does not rule out the possibility of God's existence.

Though religious goals are pursued before the evolution of ontological philosophy, that earlier pursuit of religious goals is among the necessary truths of theoretical reason (about what is), because religious goals (and the beliefs about God on which they are predicated) can be predicted, as we have seen, by the function of religion at the rational spiritual stage (that is, as the attempt to provide an ultimate justification of the principles of practical arguments, including morality and submission to the group, which are part of rational culture). But that function does not require belief in God after ontological philosophy evolves, because its ontology entails, by way of the reproductive global regularities, an explanation of the nature of goodness that explains why rational subjects ought to be moral. Moral beliefs do not depend on God for their justification.

Similarly, at the philosophical spiritual stage, religious goals pursued as a result of the belief in a transcendent God (as part of epistemological philosophy) are necessary truths of theoretical reason, because they are a predictable part of its attempt to overcome the dichotomy between theoretical and practical reason. But ontological philosophy explains the nature of reason in a way that entails that dichotomy, and thus, it does not need God to overcome the dichotomy of facts and values.

Neither belief in God nor religious goals can be predicted by theoretical reason alone after ontological philosophy evolves, because they do not help maximize the power of reason to control relevant conditions. But it is nonetheless possible that its pursuit of religious goals is inevitable, because given what ontological reason knows about the world, it may realize that there is something that is worthy of worship and, thereby, know that it ought to pursue such goals. If so, those goals would be good for reason, and the pursuit of those goals would be the work of ontological reason in the world. That is how the wholeness of the world may include how reason makes the world more "whole"it would be otherwise.

Though this conclusion of practical reason would depend on what ontological philosophy implies about what is, it would be practical reason that leads ontological reason to take up this work in the world. To show the inevitability of the pursuit of religious goals, we would have to follow practical reason to its conclusions, and so practical reason could not be reduced to theoretical reason.

That is the sense in which reason is not merely the knower of what is, but also an agent that helps determine the future course of evolution. What it does would not be not determined in the way that everything is caused prior to the evolution of ontological philosophy, but would be an act of free will. And it would be a truly creative act.

The pursuit of religious goals, if they are pursued by ontological reason, are ontologically necessary in the end, and thus, they are indeed a necessary aspect of a spatiomaterial world like ours. But the way that ontological philosophy knows them is different from all the other necessary truths, because this necessary truth cannot be known without using practical reason at the ontological stage. But once it is known by way of practical reasoning, it is also known by theoretical reason. It is part of what is as well as what ought to be. It is just that theoretical reason is essentially reflective in the end, knowing about its own role as an agent in the world. This is, as we shall see, God's knowledge of himself as a person.

In order to discover whether reason has such a religious interest, therefore, we shall consider all the goals that reason ought to pursue in three steps, by considering the three practical interests that reason has (or may have) because of the nature of the beings that are rational. The first is the individual interest, which reason has because of its responsibility for pursuing the good of the individual as such. It is usually called “self interest.” The second is the spiritual interest, which comes from reason’s responsibility for guiding the behavior of the spiritual animal. And the third is the religious interest, because that is the traditional name for the interest that reason has when it pursues in the belief that there is something that is worthy of worship, that is, something of such exalted glory that reason ought to revere it and serve it, even beyond its own individual and spiritual interest.

These are interests that reason has in addition to its interest, as reason, in knowing the good, the true and the beautiful. The latter are rational interests, which contribute to the natural perfection of culture as a result of cultural evolution by rational selection. But the interests to be discussed here are practical interests, because they have to do with how reason guides the behavior of the beings whose behavior it controls. Which goals rational beings pursue depends on what is good for them, and that makes it a matter of practical reason.

Ultimately, they are all, of course, interests of the individual rational subject, if they are interests at all, because the subject, as an individual mind, is the ultimate agent of reason in its function of guiding behavior. The individual is the being who must ultimately judge what is good, true, and beautiful and, indeed, who must ultimately do what is good. Thus, they are all forms of "self interest," where the Self is understood as the four dimensional object that one constructs by how one leads one’s life, for they are interests that rational subjects must pursue as part of such a life.

With the evolution of ontological philosophy, therefore, reason recognizes itself as the inevitable outcome of evolutionary change in a spatiomaterial world like ours. Ontological reason recognizes itself as the most powerful being in the world. And reason recognizes itself as having the function of doing what is good for rational beings. Thus, the main question for practical reason is, “What are those goals?” It can be answered by determining what contributes to the natural perfection of rational beings.

To Self Interest