An extension of the scientific idea of what can be known
In these books, I have tried to show that there are sharable areas of human experience which lie beyond the areas presently touched by science. I have set myself the task of trying to raise these new matters — the deeper issues which mechanistic science has not so far dealt with — to the level of knowledge we are used to, from having a culture based on science.
The experiments and kinds of observation which I have proposed are of a new kind, not so far contemplated by science. They have to do with our interior world, with what we experience when we are exposed to different phenomena. But, though unfamiliar, they are still experiments. They appeal to experience. And for this reason, they create a new kind of knowledge that people can share.
This new world of reliable knowledge which is then opened goes well beyond the knowledge available to present-day scientific experiments. It allows us to build, collectively, a new picture of the world in which we apply the very high standard first created by Descartes and his colleagues about the year 1600 A.D., but also now going beyond the purely mechanistic into those matters of wholeness, feeling, and experience, which let us make sense of our life in our built world.
This is valuable because it is based on the same high standard as science, but in a new realm of social existence. We only allow ourselves to claim we really know something if that “something” is sharable — in principle — even if it is in the realm we call feeling or experienced wholeness. That is the breakthrough I may perhaps have made. If I am right, the world of science has been extended. I have simply found a way of taking the scientific standard of shared knowledge based on common observation, and extended this idea so that it covers inner realities, not only outer ones. In that process, we discover that the world which we can know — truly know — is a much vaster and more complex one than was understood in the earlier days of purely mechanistic science which lasted from about 1600 A.D. to about 2000 A.D.
I can see how this appears as a “breakthrough” to a scientist mostly grounded in physics and mathematics. But what about those sciences that have been exploring human perception and consciousness? Alexander’s theory is amazingly coherent if confined to physics, which I think is also its greatest weakness. In a positive sense, that creates huge opportunity for cognitive scientists to run with Alexander’s ideas and put them on an even better foundation grounded in psychology.