You Must Have a Whole In Your Head!
For among other things, science would be impossible if not for the whole in your head. This nonlocal whole is what guides and sponsors "the metaphysical quest for the reality of God," which -- like it or not -- is "the only support of that universal intelligibility which alone can satisfy man's inquiring mind and provide a solid basis for his actions."
In the absence of this whole, science becomes an ad hoc enterprise, a pile of debris with no unifying center, no genuine coherence, and no ultimate aim. It becomes all bricks with no mortar, an arch with no keystone, the Beatles with no Ringo.
I'm just going to flip through the book we're discussing, and note some of the things that arrested my attention.
Again, as mentioned yesterday, if it doesn't take off and become self-sustaining, it isn't science: "the invention and the progress of science are of one and the same nature." The phases of its progress "are but the replay of the original invention, a sequence of similar insights, and perhaps of efforts more or less equal."
Thus, "if the ancient Hindus and Chinese made no progress in astronomy, it was only because they did not invent it." To be sure, they had some of the elements of science, e.g., close observation of celestial phenomena, but other ingrained assumptions prevented the emergence of true science. The difference is as dramatic as that between a live baby and a stillbirth. Both are "infants," but only one goes on to grow and mature.
For Jaki, it is "not deism but Christian theism that served as a principal factor helping the scientific enterprise reach self-sustaining maturity." He gets into the metaphysical assumptions of cultures where science was stillborn, one of which is belief in cyclical time and eternal recurrence.
For example, in Hinduism there is the "treadmill of the yugas," which is clearly inconsistent with the irreversible time of the Christian West. Likewise, the ancient Greeks could not reconcile change and permanence: "if there was only change and nothing permanent," then "any explanation became meaningless." And "if change was only apparent," then "explanation was unnecessary."
Even -- or perhaps especially -- Plato developed the "dichotomy between a perfect world of ideas and a shadowy realm of matter," which placed science on the latter side, i.e., the study of derivative and deceptive shadows dancing on the walls of the cave. Aristotle followed by placing an ontological division between terrestrial and celestial matter, which again fails to apprehend the radical wholeness and unity that undergirds all of creation.
Jaki points out how common it is for even -- or again, perhaps especially! -- the man of genius to "be blinded by the logic of his initial presuppositions." Get those presuppositions wrong, and everything you build upon those assumptions will be wrong, regardless of your intellectual candlepower.
To jump ahead a bit, Jaki shows with example after example that a functional science must steer a middle course between a naive empiricism and dreamy idealism. This is why, ultimately, a science that denies either the vertical or the horizontal breaks down into metaphysical incoherence. To build a house you need bricks and mortar and effort and a blueprint.
So "science failed to become an open-ended avenue in the great ancient cultures just as their quest for the ultimate in intelligibility, which is the quest for God, failed to go convincingly beyond man's own self..."
In other words, in Eastern religions, the ultimate in intelligibility is the interior self, which, in a way, makes them very much compatible with the Kantianism that radically split the western world between noumena and phenomena. If reality and intelligibility are within, why waste one's life studying the ceaseless changes of maya-matter? Doing so only deepens the illusion and attachment to what has no reality, precisely.
All of this changes if the phenomenal world is not just an accidental byproduct of Brahman, but the intentional creation of a rational Creator who wishes to be known. Yes, the world is still contingent, but the contingency is shot through with intelligibility, not just deception and mystification.
Thus, Aquinas could affirm the Raccoon principle that "all knowing beings implicitly know God in any and every thing they know." If you really know what knowledge is, you know that it could only be anchored in the permanent, the absolute, and the eternal. Otherwise it is opinion, precisely, in a world where only opinion is possible. And to have "faith in opinion" makes no sense at all.
A second principle is of the utmost importance, and this is the very idea of a universe, for anyone who says "universe" says "God." No one has ever seen this thing called "universe," and no one ever will. Rather, it is the assumption of an internally related "totality of contingent but rationally coherent beings."
At every turn, the combination of contingency and intelligibility serves "as a pointer to an ultimate in intelligibility," which is ultimately "outside" the universe of space and time, and yet, mysteriously accessible to man's intellect. In the absence of this intimate connection, there is no reason in the world to believe that our knowledge is "true." Therefore, there is no objective knowledge at all. Rather, the world is just one big elite university humanities department.
Until the end of his life, Darwin was haunted by a particular thought, and well he should have been, for it is the logical corollary of his incoherent and nihilistic system: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?
The question answers itself, but only in someone with a modicum of philosophical consistency and intellectual honesty.
To be continued....