Nagel & Birnbaum

June 20, 2014

LeraBlog: Checkmate


Philosophy & cosmic purpose

09 Jan, 2014
by Candice Reed in UNCATEGORIZED

Juxtaposing two philosophers: David Birnbaum & Thomas Nagel

Does Birnbaum’s Potentialism Theory solve Nagel’s grand quest?

Birnbaum (Mid-town Manhattan-based, born in 1950 in NY)

David Birnbaum’s three-part thesis Summa Metaphysica I, II and III (1988, 2005, and 2014), launched a new movement in cosmology – Potentialism Theory (see The theory entirely changes the way we think about the universe.

Birnbaum’s Potentialism Theory stands in sharp contrast to the 20th century’s dominant Randomness Atheistic Theory. 21st century Potentialism is a pro-scientific theory which offers a powerful and elegant cosmology.

Randomness Atheism declared – for well-over a hundred years – that the universe is decaying and degenerating and is thoroughly unsystematic, without plan or purpose.

Potentialism Theory discerns that the universe is alive and thriving in complexity and follows a consistent and inescapable path on the road to the endlessly extraordinary.

Birnbaum quite courageously introduces and coins three totally new fundamental terms to enable him to so to speak ‘crack the cosmic code’.

All three refer to dynamics hypothesized by him:

In Potentialism, Infinite Quest for Potential (Q4P) unstoppably pushes the cosmos forward via its mechanism of Complexification (C+) ever-onward towards a cosmic end goal-horizon, Extraordinariation (E+).

Thus, the shorthand notation of Birnbaum’s succinct proposed cosmic SuperLaw is:

Q4P > C+ > E+

The ‘problem’ with Birnbaum’s SuperLaw and its related metaphysics is that it apparently works on every level; from the super-macro to the super-micro – with no exceptions. No matter what piece of data – spanning cosmic history – is tested, the Birnbaum Potentialism SuperLaw smartly covers it.

The Big Bang? Covered.

The core thrust of Evolution? Covered.

The evolution of Consciousness and the aesthetic? Covered.

The path from exploding supernovas to Beethoven? Covered.

You name it? Covered.

No exceptions; no excuses; no asterisks.

Its ‘perfection’ – spanning the billions of years of intergalactic history – provokes Birnbaum’s intellectual opponents (in British academe in particular) to near-hysteria. They cannot challenge the theory’s elegance; they cannot challenge its originality; they cannot challenge its conciseness; and they cannot challenge its large-scale magnificence. They are left to sulk and just as though to ‘throw rocks at it’ – and hope it goes away. But it has not gone away since introduced by Ktav Publishing (NJ) via Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica I in 1988. Examined from many dozens of angles over several decades – globally – the theory has thus far proven bulletproof. See

Summa Metaphysica has been –

Per Summa Metaphysica theory, the universe strives endlessly towards more complex forms of expression in the direction of the perpetually extraordinary (E+).

Birnbaum’s intermediate concept is Complexification, Quest for Potential’s ‘handmaiden’ (or ‘enforcer’), directing the universe onwards towards E+; the universe increases in complexity through what Birnbaum calls Complexification (C+). This Complexification is, of course, fueled by the (infinite) Quest for Potential, the inherent force within everything in the universe

Remember the SuperLaw noted above, Q4P > C+ > E+

This C+ is proposed as Q4P’s ‘handmaiden’ – the intermediate-level cosmic drive towards greater complexity/sophistication/richness/integration/variety/wondrousness. In turn, according to Birnbaum this Complexification is the true driver of Evolution. Unlike such concepts as Darwinian survivalist-evolution though, Potential is not a shotgun – or ‘Random Walk’ – process of chaotic and mindless attempts at genetic or species survival; rather, Potential is guided directly by Complexification (C+) towards the universal pull towards Extraordinariation (E+).

In turn, E+ is a goal of the unfolding cosmos, a state of unimaginable Complexification. And when Potentialists say ‘unimaginable,’ they mean that literally – ‘unimaginable’ is actually a requirement for Extraordinariation. Think of it like trying to teach physics to a Neanderthal. Before you can teach physics itself there are fundamental, underlying concepts which must be known. Extraordinariation is so far past anything that has been experienced thus far, there is simply no frame of reference on which to build from.

To Potentialists, Extraordinariation is a horizon/goal to be approached, but never quite reached; it is beyond simple mechanical complexity. Extraordination represents the infinite goal of Complexification in every conceivable form. Theoretically unattainable, it is nevertheless by definition hyper-complex mechanically, emotively, rationally, spiritually…. The true Extraordinariation is inconceivable because (a) it is a goal/horizon and not an eventual reality, and (b) because we lack the capacity to understand such in any terms at this time – because the universe optimally iterates-forward infinitely.

Thus, per the theory, three separate, albeit inter-related, dynamics, Q4P, C+, E+, each give mutually-supportive ‘direction’ to the universe – across the entire span of cosmic history; meaning, not one dynamic, but three.

Hard-line Atheism

The Birnbaum Potentialism theory puts to lie hard-line Atheism’s immutable core tenet that there is no ‘direction’ whatsoever – in any shape, manner or form – to the Cosmic Order. Potentialism Theory renders their entire global movement instantly obsolete after a run of centuries.

Thus, no effort is spared by selected diehard zealots of hard-line Atheism in particular to engineer crass, juvenile, and ultimately in-vain gambits to delegitimize cosmologist/philosopher Birnbaum; typically the twisted gambits are fed into the media anonymously to preclude libel suits by the Birnbaum team.

Note that hard-line Atheism precludes the possibility of any design, direction, purpose to the universe, while mainstream (soft) Atheism typically ‘just’ precludes the possibility of the supernatural (Creationist God) as the agent of design. Thus, while Birnbaum’s Potentialism would be anathema to hard-line Atheism, it does not butt heads with mainstream (soft) Atheism; likewise it is consonant with Agnosticism or with Spiritualism or with Religion; the attack-dog group is several diehards from within the 1% sliver of the planet which is hard-line Atheist, but that 1 percent sliver controls many key and venerable British academic journals.

Nagel (NY)

(Downtown Manhattan-based, b. 1937 in Serbia)

Thomas Nagel holds degrees from Cornell, Oxford and Harvard. He has a PhD in philosophy and is a professor at New York University. Well-respected in his field and a notable author – Nagel has done a good deal of work on exploring human cognition and the place of intelligence in evolution. Nagel is the author of Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. The work was issued by Oxford University Press in September 2012. [In due course the major British press in 2013 would deploy Nagel’s work to support Birnbaum’s teleological argument of Potential.]

Nagel’s 2012 work dovetails with Birnbaum’s (1988, 2005 and 2014) Summa Metaphysica. One of Nagel’s most intense and controversial statements (2012) is that modern science alone – in its current incarnation (Randomness/Atheist schema aka the Materialist neo-Darwinian schema aka the Entrenched Orthodoxy ) – is a wholly inadequate tool to understand the entirety of the universe. Nagel lays out a careful argument for this assertion. Far from decrying modern science, he embraces it for all it can explain, and he reassures us that he is a proponent of science.

However, Nagel has a fundamental issue with currently-entrenched (neo-Darwinian) Randomness/Atheist academic dogma in that objective observation shows that Randomness/Atheism cannot fully encompass the complexity and dynamics of all phenomena in the universe; in particular consciousness.

[Birnbaum likes to challenge Randomness/Atheism with his own one-liner: From whence Beethoven?]

September 2012: Nagel argues that a new science will be necessary

Nagel expands upon the gap re: the emergence of consciousness. By extension, Nagel argues for the validity of such concepts as life, consciousness, reason, knowledge, and emotion – to be incorporated into any metaphysics. To Nagel, the “hard” sciences – as they currently stand – are wholly insufficient to explain the mechanics of subjective and ‘soft concepts’. Thus, Nagel argues that a new science will be necessary to articulate the totality of the universe – something that can quantify and explain these concepts as easily as physics and chemistry explain the material world. Moreover, Nagel explains that such a concept must be equally at home describing the physical world as well as the cognitive one – a unifying theory, if you will, for all that exists in the universe.

Take, for instance, scientific observation of a Siberian Tiger. Science can glean much useful information about its properties – its size, its mass and its density, for instance. But this is a very imperfect and incomplete understanding of the object being studied. For a complete picture, subjective impressions are necessary – its boldness, its raw beauty, its apex position in the jungle, and, indeed, its grandeur. Without such subjective study, one cannot fully understand what the object is.

The Randomness/Atheists trash Nagel’s proposition

Nagel had devoted an entire book to basically one proposition:

Randomness/Atheism et al. cannot/ does not explain the emergence of consciousness.


(a) This proposition is quite self-evident, albeit politically incorrect in many rarefied academic scientific circles.

(b) This proposition is a quite-tangential attack on Randomness/Atheism. But it does knock a chink in the armor.

The reigning 20th century British-based academic hierarchy was/is hard-line atheistic; the global Atheist movement – a de facto apparently self-appointed support group of their fellow-traveler British academics – is politically hyper-aggressive, and often assumes an attack-dog posture vis à vis potential intellectual challengers. It typically uses its vehicle The Chronicle of Higher Education in its ad homenim attacks – and did same in Nagel‘s case in May 2013; It quite virulently trashed every aspect of Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos. The Chronicle’s favorite m.o. (modus operandi) is to ridicule intellectual opponents by selective quotes or misrepresentation.

Counterattack from Commentary Magazine – supporting Nagel

In response, in January 2014 a lead piece in Commentary Magazine ripped-apart the Chronicle attack on Nagel and the (Randomness/Atheist) group behind the attack. See The Closing of the Scientific Mind by Yale professor David Gelernter. (See also

Nagel and divinity

It should also be noted that Nagel is an atheist, albeit not a hard-line atheist. Nagel firmly believes in the existence of fundamental teleological systems – that is, that the universe moves with some inherent purpose. He is clear that he does not know what that elusive purpose/design is.

Mainstream atheist Nagel believes the classic definition of a divinity requires it to exist “outside” the system – a player external to the universe. To Nagel, whatever driving force is behind the universe must be intrinsic to the system itself. In other words, it must be a ‘natural dynamic’; it cannot be classic God; a ‘supernatural dynamic’ would not be acceptable.

An Answer to Nagel’s Request/Search Already Exists

Directly answering Nagel’s open (September 2012 via Mind & Cosmos) request, is Birmbaum’s already-published and actually widely-disseminated (since 1988) Theory of Potential. Birnbaum’s hypothesized eternal and infinite Quest for Potential dynamic advancing towards Extraordinariation fits all of Nagel’s (secular) criteria.

Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica Volume I, published in 1988, by the year 2012 had well-over 30,000 volumes in distribution (the current June 2014 figure is over 50,000); this Summa distribution is aside from usage as a Course Text at over a dozen institutions of higher learning globally. See SummaCourseText.

Indeed, in March 2012, Bard College (Upstate, NY) hosted a 3 ½ day international academic conference on Science & Religion, with the prime conference focus dedicated to Birnbaum’s paradigm-challenging Theory of Potential (see Neither at the Bard Conference, nor in the quarter-century subsequent to Summa I’s initial publication in 1988, has any flaw been discerned in the theory. The Birnbaum theory has been receiving massive coverage subsequent to the international conference, with over 80 articles focused on Summa Metaphysica in the past eighteen months alone (see

One of the greatest strengths of Potentialism Theory is its overarching (and pro-scientific) nature; it is at home explaining particle physics as it is explaining altruistic behavior in humans. Birnbaum elucidates that one central overarching (natural) dynamic drives the cosmic order – from the macro to the micro level; this drive affects both the physical and cognitive, the reasoning and emotive, the substantive and the ephemeral – the universal and infinite quest for Potential (see

The Quest for Potential is a pervasive, universal drive for the cosmos. Driving the cosmos and all under its embrace towards greater and greater levels of Complexity; this “Complexification” acts as an evolutionary force. Just as Darwinian mechanics explains a facet of life’s evolution, Potential is the super-set from which it flows – governing both the direction of evolution as well as providing the force behind such leaps that Darwinism alone cannot explain sufficiently – like reason and ethics.

Potentialism Theory, on the other hand, explains these phenomena quite succinctly. To Potentialists, all the changes observed – the Complexifications in the universe – are just manifestations of the Quest for Infinite Potential as it strives towards Extraordinariation.


As to the concept of a divinity, Birnbaum takes a more middle of the road approach than Nagel – perhaps partially because of Nagel’s more narrow definition of divinity. To Nagel, God must be extrinsic to (outside of) the universe. But Potentialists define the sole creative force in the universe as Infinite Potential itself. Thus, if God does exist, he is a direct manifestation of Potential.

Far from removed from the system, to Potentialists, God, if such exists, is fundamentally entangled within the universe itself, pervasively and universally.

So, for the Potentialist, it is Potential at the core.

Is Infinite Potential indeed God?

Do we know where Infinite Potential ends – and God begins?

Are we ourselves integral to the Divine?

Is classic God the best interpretation our ancestors could discern for Infinite Quest for Potential?

Is Quest for Potential at the core of (possible) God?

Birnbaum might say that posing this cluster of questions frames-out the key parameters; and the individual has significant intellectual leeway to choose a path.

Birnbaum’s Potentialism Theory might also point out that one can legitimately be Buddhist inter-personally 24/7; Religious in one’s house of worship; a Naturalist in the meadow; a Spiritualist in the mountains and a Secularist in the chemistry lab. All are legitimate facets of the wondrous psyche of the sum product of Infinite Potential to-date: humans.

Thus, to Potentialists – God is an authentically viable philosophical option (repeat: option), just as Spirituality and Secularism or combinations thereof are all bona fide options.

Vis à vis Nagel, the Potentialism SuperLaw provides the missing teleological (purpose) model which Nagel has been searching for. The SuperLaw model governs the formation of thought, reason and altruism – just as easily as it governs energy and matter; it is the “blueprint”/road map of the universe; it is the holy grail of philosophy which Nagel (correctly and astutely) has been searching for.

In one stunningly (seemingly) simple and concise concept Birnbaum provides the answer to Nagel’s grand quest: Quest for Potential (via intermediate dynamic Complexification) drives the universe towards Extraordinariation: Symbolically, Q4P > C+ > E+.

And the emergence of Consciousness – like the emergence of Beethoven – is most definitely within the purview of Extraordinariation.

Potentialism Theory: The Summa series

Summa Metaphysica I: Religious Man: God and Evil (Ktav, November 1988);
Summa Metaphysica II: Spiritual Man: God and Good (New Paradigm Matrix, March 2005);
Summa Metaphysica III: Secular Man: The Transcendent Dynamic (New Paradigm Matrix, January 2014).

Potentialism Theory: Dovetailing: MIT & NYU

Recent hi-level academic works dovetailing with Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential (see include the following:

( We include the Nagel work noted above.)

Programming the Universe (Knopf, 2006) by Professor of Quantum Mechanics Seth Lloyd of MIT;
Mind & Cosmos (Oxford Press, 2012) by Professor of Philosophy & Law Thomas Nagel of NYU;
Our Mathematical Universe (Knopf, 2014) by Professor of Physics Max Tegmark of MIT.

Potentialism Theory: Paradigm Challenge

Via his revolutionary true theory of everything (see, Birnbaum has instigated a global paradigm challenge (see ParadigmChallenge). Literally, all fields of study are impacted.

David Birnbaum himself is known globally, as well, as the author or the editor-in-chief of several important series on history and spirituality. His New Paradigm Matrix platform has over 180 Thought Leaders under its aegis.




##For more focus in multiple languages on David Birnbaum's philosophy, cosmology and metaphysics, see

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