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S. Gerdjikov, Philosophy of Relativity

ID III.1.r2


Sergey Gerdjikov, Philosophy of Relativity, Sofia: Extrem, 2008. 749 pp.
- Maria Dimitrova (Sofa University)

This book, as the author himself points out, brings together two topics: 1) the virtual and 2) relativity. Adding the virtual to the study of relativity gives a different perspective to philosophical analysis. It extends the classical range of issues under research and, at the same time, provides a new direction and a new interpretation.
The category of relativity has been giving a hard time to philosophical absolutism since antiquity. In the age of post-modernity, this category has been neither neglected nor underestimated, but rather occupies a prominent place on the scene and has even stepped into the limelight. This book draws a strict distinction between the sober approach to relativity and a relativism incapable of seeing the limits of relativity.
The virtual is defined in relation to the real and is said to include all artifacts. The virtual does not live—it is not born and does not die; like Plato’s ideas, it is a pure form with no matter; the virtual determines the life form—the real is formless and senseless without the virtual. The real is the life process within which we are born, live, and die. We cannot be born, live, and die in a computer simulation, but always “here-and-now.” This is the moment of speaking from where we can only virtually return to the past or travel into the future. This is one of the main characteristics of the real—its time is irreversible unlike virtual time. On the screen, we can see how a broken glass, whose parts are dispersed, is restored to its original state and the spilled liquid pours back into it; but this is possible only as a computer simulation, by reversing the reel, etc., and not as a process developing in real time where past and future are not interchangeable. The link between the real and the virtual is not symmetrical and reciprocal. The virtual itself is an aspect—a very important aspect—of the real life process. It is imaginative, conceptualizable, ideological. The book argues that the sense of life is always a certain ideology. But although life overcomes any sense, it cannot be lived without sense. Let me quote in this context Ortega-y-Gasset who claims that we think in the world of ideas while in the world of reality, we abide. Gerdjikov stresses that we cannot live without thinking nor can we think without living, but these are not two independent, although interpenetrating, worlds because the virtual itself is a moment of the real life process. It is true that we have to pay attention to the fact that being a part of a process is especially important here. If we continue to follow Ortega, he will unfold for us this not simple connection between the world of ideas, of our thoughts, on the one hand, and the world of belief, on the other, where we abide being convinced of its real existence—beliefs are old ideas transformed into reality. If we translate Gerdjikov’s book into the language of Ortega, this would mean that when people start to credit the virtual they can begin to want to embody it in something.
If not transposed in time, the relations between the virtual and the real escape the clarity and strictness of philosophical analysis. Sergey Gerdjikov warns us in his book that if we take images, projections, words, concepts for reality itself, this is precisely the state of non-freedom. In order to be free we need to take into consideration that the virtual relates to the real as to its referent but cannot oust or replace it. According to Gerdjikov, life is what we experience as qualia, which we denote by signs. People live bodily in a real world, such is the human life process, not in a fictitious language world and its merely thought-bound signs. To virtual relations correspond real connected qualia. They are experienced personally; what others experience we understand thanks to what they have said and shown. Reality is not a certain world that exists outside and independently of the I. Nobody has ever perceived, thought or expressed an independently objective world. The world is not an object in front of us to which we relate, but rather is identical with our life, with our experience of the world. The human form of life is based on the fact that we all, though belonging to different languages and cultures, are human beings; bearing in mind the current education and awareness of our own regional differences, it would be better to speak about a global life process.
In order to survive on the planet, humankind has so far used local cultures and local ways of expressing life. People have received orientation and survived through different world descriptions. According Gerdjikov, what we need in the situation of globalization is to attain a human form that shows itself in spite of the relativity of the created artifacts, perspectives, and language systems. When the authentic human form of the life process is reached, things are shown independently of the universes created by us. Exactly this form we have to look for and learn to correlate with it. Correlation itself is identical with the humanness of the human mode of life. In order for them to be determined really and not only in our thoughts, the one and the other are correlated, but there is an instance which correlates them and this is the Third in relation to them. Seemingly, there is no pillar, but, actually, this state itself is the pillar. In the end, all possible language systems are correlated to the gravitational center of the human form, which itself is not a certain constant reality, but is virtually experienced as a process of fluxion. Life flows not as an indistinguishable current but as out-streaming forms, which are inter-determined and thus determine the living form that is the human world. The living form does not reflect like in a mirror the current of words; speech is not a process parallel to real life; it is only a shared moment within it as the virtual in general is. In our present moment, it is important to find a global sense for a future common life—including all cultures and forms of life. This sense goes beyond the thousand-year-old forms of Western and Eastern thought. Historically, different modes of the relationship virtual-real are registered as well as various descriptions of the world. However, a new form of becoming aware of these ethnocentric and absolutist-dogmatic forms of expression is necessary.
Within the framework of classical philosophy, this new culture of awareness could not develop. In the same way, quantum mechanics could not develop within the limits of classical physics. Similar processes of discovering relativity can be witnessed in the fields of linguistics, anthropology, and other sciences. The author emphasizes a significant deficiency: real relativity very often is not taken into account.
The first part of this voluminous text deals with the virtual and real relativity. The other four parts focus respectively on linguistic, logical, conceptual, and descriptive relativity.
Briefly speaking, the author sees a danger in the fact that the virtual world is fictitious, but taken for the real one. Only if one gives up taking the virtual for the real, that is, gives up covering reality with images, projections, simulations, words, concepts, descriptions, and schemes, will it be possible to speak about freedom. An optical illusion prevents us from seeing the interference of the virtual in life such as we experience it. The world is not in front of us but is identical with life itself. The virtual is not set against the world or above the world, but is in it; it is not an independent world, but exists as a virtual region of the real world. The whole difficulty faced by a sober attitude to these contradictions springs from the fact that the virtual-real relation is itself something virtual.
When the virtual and the real are not distinguished, a point of view is reached known from the history of philosophy as relativism. This position, according to Sergey Gerdjikov, is elevated to the rank of an all-embracing theory of post-modernity. The trouble is that the relativistic way of thinking not only eliminates science, that is, true knowledge, but does not value life either. Like the thrust, so the logic of this book defends the absolute value of life and we could define it as a new attempt to think in the tradition of the philosophy of life. Names traditionally associated with this paradigm like Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, the above-mentioned Ortega-y-Gasset, and so on are not the focus of the author; he prefers other philosophers and theoreticians such as Quine, Wittgenstein, Popper, Hempel, etc., who worked rather in the area of the philosophy of science and positivism. Yet Sergey Gerdjikov is driven to show that the narrow positivist frame can and should be overcome in looking for the global dimensions of the correlation between the real and the virtual.