Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Are You Living in a Counterfeit Cosmos?

Where does the idea of a universe, or “cosmos,” come from, anyway? Why do we assume it exists? Animals don’t know anything about a cosmos, for they can't escape or transcend their sense impressions.

Whatever we imagine it to be, for the vast majority of human history, it was imagined very differently. Here I don't want to get into the quaintness of those old images and models. Rather, I want to emphasize two things, one, that human beings cannot help creating a wider cosmic context for themselves, and second, that these will always be human projections. Therefore, the premodern, modern, and postmodern cosmoses have much more in common with each other than they do with, say, the cosmos of a cow, which doesn't extend beyond its pasture and its senses (nor can the cow reflect on its cosmos, so it doesn't even really exist as a thing in itself).

Humans imagine there is a cosmos, but what do we really mean by the word? Is the universe the sum of things, or the whole of things? -- for these are two very different ideas. If it is merely the sum of things, there’s really no way to understand it, because each part is more or less independent of the other parts. But if it is the whole of things, that must mean that there is an underlying wholeness that somehow transcends and yet participates in each of the parts. Thus, to say "cosmos" is to say "unity" -- which is to say "the One," no matter how you say it. And to say that everything is one is to say that everything is internally related in such a manner that everything is within everything else.

Insofar as the universe is a whole, science cannot speak of it consistently. In other words, science, in order to be science, must treat the universe as a collection of objects, and simply assume their underlying unity -- if only to separate the scientific observer from what he observes. Like the mind itself, wholeness cannot be observed, only inferred. This leads me to believe that there is some hidden relationship between the mysteries of consciousness and wholeness. In short, the one cannot exist without the other. And for the Christian this is, of course, axiomatic, since he lives in a logoistic cosmos in which intelligence and intelligibility are just two sides of the same coin of the realm.

Every sense perception is an act of division within prior wholeness. Only the particular is ever observed, and there is no knowledge at the level of the senses. But every mental act is an act of synthesis and integration -- of bringing particulars together into a wholeness that reveals their meaning. Thus “the cosmos” is the ultimate mental act of material synthesis, analogous to the metaphysical synthesis of conceiving of God -- who also represents an absolute integrity and cohesion that we can never perceive in its a priori fulness with our senses or our mind. You might say that God is to the intellect as cosmos is to the senses.

For this reason, we can say that the physical cosmos is a kind of exteriorization of God, while God is the interiorization of the cosmos (while not limiting God to that). Conceiving of either is only possible because human beings are able to intuit both the wholeness and withinness of things. We are able to conceive the Absolute not because it is a fanciful wish, but because it is the inner reality that subtends everything; in other words, the Absolute is the necessary condition for conceiving of it at all. This is not a tautology, nor is it a repetition of Anselm's ontological argument. It is analogous to saying that without light we couldn't see anything, including light.

All bad philosophers -- which is to say, almost all modern philosophers -- take the cosmos utterly for granted, without getting into the prior question of why they believe there is a thing called “cosmos,” that is, the strict totality of interconnected objects and events (much less how we can know that it exists).

The religionist doesn’t have this problem. Judeo-Christian traditions affirm that “in beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, there is a prior supra-unity called “God” underlying the apparent division between the celestial and earthly realms -- the vertical and the horizontal, consciousness and matter, whole and part, knower and known, yin and yang, guys and dolls. Religion teaches: where there is apparent duality there is wholeness and unity, whatever the duality. Even life/death. Woo hoo!

The Mundaka Upanishad says something similar, affirming that “Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.” In other words, the creator God -- Yahweh, Brahma, the Father -- is himself an aspect of an even deeper unity, called Brahman, the Ground (by Meister Eckhart) or the Ain Sof (in Judaism), for even God (like the youman beastlings who mirror him) must possess a relative outside but an infinite inside. God turns his face to man, which is the part we may know through revelation. But I think everyone would agree that even if we somehow knew everything of what God has revealed to man, it would be just a drop in his Ocean.

In the absence of revelation -- either explicitly given or implicitly intuited -- there is no way to know about either the cosmos or its "parent," or source. Reduced to natural reason, human beings are like spiders spinning concepts out of their own substance and then living in and crawling about on them, catching the occasional meal. In fact, if the secular black window spider is going to be honest, he will have to admit that the noumenon is a black window, and that all he may ever really know is his own web, which was Kant’s point. Kant took profane philosophy as far as it could go, which is why most philosophy since has merely been a footnote on Kant.

For you have a choice that you must make at the outset: either we live our lives in an illusory, phenomenal universe, cut off from the noumenal reality. Or, because we are made in the image of the Creator, we can know the absolute in both its material/natural and immaterial/transnatural modes. The former side of the absolute subtends science, while the latter makes it possible to know transcendentrialities such as love, truth and beauty, being-conscousness-bliss, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, kether-hokmah-binah, or Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

Thus, secular philosophers create a problem where there is none. First, they exile us from the cosmos, and then they complain that we can never get back in! True, we are exiled in maya. But that is only to warn us that our senses do not disclose ultimate reality. Revelation goes to great lengths and heights and depths to explain this, including how to overcome the temptation to absolutize the relative. Scripture fully anticipated Kant and all of his followers in the allegory of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes, you have free will, so you are therefore free to nourish yourself from the tree of duality. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with a bad case of spiritual malnourishment.

Of course, this doesn’t stop scientists from talking about the universe and making all sorts of absolute claims about it. In fact, science has hijacked the universe concept, and will permit no one else to make statements about it on pain of ridicule, ostracism, and ACLU lawsuits. As the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki writes, it is as if all of the central banks had been taken over by counterfeiters. So much of scientific epistemology and ontology is based on intellectual funny money that is not fungible into any underlying reality. The Raccoon says: bring back the Gold Standard! -- which is to say, the Absolute.

Like leftists who are only concerned with the distribution of wealth rather than its creation, secularists are only concerned with the propagation of "truth" rather than the specific metaphysical principles that make Truth itself knowable.

For example, science assures us that their model of the cosmos truly accounts for the strict totality of interacting objects and events. But how can the model contain the proof of its own claim, since it is part of that totality, not outside of it? The question is, can we take a scientific dollar bill and cash it in for real Truth? We can, but only if we realize that there is indeed a central bank that ensures the value of each of those scientific bank gnotes. Science divorced from God is a classic bubble that must eventually burst, since it is analogous to economic activity divorced from real value.

Yes, there is a cosmos. For the same reason there is a God: you can't half one without the underOne. As a matter of fact, the same thing holds true of biology. Say what you want about natural selection, but it presupposes something that its theory cannot account for: the wholeness of the genome and the organism, which is a reflection of the primordial wholeness of Being. Natural selection operates on entities that are living benefactories of a prior wholeness, without which Life itself could not be.

Knowledge is simply adequacy of subject to object. We can know the Reality because our intelligence is a sonny mirrorcle of the Abba we salute.

The subject as such takes precedence over the object as such: the consciousness of a creature capable of conceiving the starry heavens is more than the space and the stars so conceived.... It is precisely in virtue of the dimension of inwardness, which opens onto the Absolute and therefore the Infinite, that man is quasi-divine. --F. Schuon

28 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Say what you want about natural selection, but it presupposes something that its theory cannot account for...

There was a video I linked a couple weeks ago about the unnatural selection of dogs. One of the implications that came to mind from that was that humans, even just to become protohumans as opposed to standard primates, had to have been unnaturally - or rather, supernaturally - selected. As apes go, we are far more profoundly different from our nearest biological relatives than any dog is from any other wild canine. Yet I doubt any scientistic natural historian would even think to consider how terribly unlikely it is that one particular species of primate should suddenly become so spectacularly different from the others just as a matter of natural selection. It is as absurd as imagining a pack of chihuahuas naturally springing up where once there were wolves.

10/05/2010 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That is essentially Schuon's argument, minus the evolution -- that human beings are obviously adapted to something much vaster than the physical environment.

10/05/2010 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks for finding that new Sertillanges book, btw. I think I'll have to read it.

Back when I was in college and knew a lot more than I do now, I started (though thankfully never finished) a painting that was supposed to be the Last Supper from Christ's perspective. My intentions were good, but the attempt was as silly as if an average first grader were to try and write an essay about the depth and meaning of Moby Dick, if all he knew about the story was from a children's flip book derived from the Cliff's Notes. I realized I was in way over my head before there was much more than a sketch.

But as a book written by someone who has an innerstanding of the Subject matter, it's an interesting premise.

10/05/2010 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

"Just an old post..."

What, this old thing? ...Given the shimmering marvels of this post, I have to say, it's like that classic line when someone's dressed to the nines when expecting someone to drop by "unexpectedly". :) Just saying.

It's tip tops!

10/05/2010 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"But every mental act is an act of synthesis and integration -- of bringing particulars together into a wholeness that reveals their meaning."

Or.. it is an attack on synthesis and integration.
Also in Genesis.
:-)

10/05/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Great post. It seems new to me.

10/05/2010 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

It seems new to me, too. Even if I haven't read every post, it still has a new sensation/feeling about it, like it's never been worn before. ;)

10/05/2010 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"...we can say that the physical cosmos is a kind of exteriorization of God, while God is the interiorization of the cosmos. Conceiving of either is only possible because human beings are able to intuit both the wholeness and withinness of things. We are able to conceive the Absolute not because it is a fanciful wish, but because it is the inner reality that subtends everything..."

Nice!

10/05/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"All bad philosophers -- which is to say, almost all modern philosophers -- take the cosmos utterly for granted, without getting into the prior question of why they believe there is a thing called “cosmos,” that is, the strict totality of interconnected objects and events (much less how we can know that it exists). "

Sort of like how they like to use all the underlying and implied benefits of the word 'Evolve', while denying that there is anything to evolve to.

It's kind of the leftist signature - claim and take benefits, while denying that they need to ever be produced.

Works great in economics too, doesn't it?

10/05/2010 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"...it is as if all of the central banks had been taken over by counterfeiters."

As if? Hey, that's the keynes to all the prosperity we're enjoying today!

10/05/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

There's a related post over at Fr. Stephen's today:

"The belief that the world has an existence and a meaning in and of itself and apart from God is the great heresy of the modern age."

The book he references sounds interesting, too...

10/05/2010 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

I've been trying to finish this post all day, but we've now officially lit the fuse on the new company and she's burning bright. I've dealt with big pharma before -- a very good space in most ways. Coincidentally I saw this NYT link about the first "miracle drug". Injectable insulin was invented by some Canadians way back when. Even more coincidentally, I went to school with Banting's grandson (or great-grandson, not sure).

Now, finally, back to finish what was shaping up to be one of those posts which just sings...

10/05/2010 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

The link mentioned above, in case anyone's interested.

10/05/2010 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

On the other hand NB, this is obviously unnecessary, no need to take further time out, our crack A.I. Scientismists will have it all figured out in no time... and then will... I suppose... give us all the answer.

42 no doubt.

Aiming to Learn as We Do, a Machine Teaches Itself

"“What’s exciting and significant about it is the continuous learning, as if NELL is exercising curiosity on its own, with little human help,” said Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, who leads a project called TextRunner, which reads the Web to extract facts."

... um... just a little human help, with 'simple facts', like,

"With NELL, the researchers built a base of knowledge, seeding each kind of category or relation with 10 to 15 examples that are true. In the category for emotions, for example: “Anger is an emotion.” “Bliss is an emotion.” And about a dozen more."

I wonder if they fed todays post into NELL... and into the scientismists... which would need to be rebooted first?

10/05/2010 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Van,
Do you think it is (or would be) possible to program a computer to make a truly random decision? Say, to select one number from a list of two numbers?
Maybe I mean "purely" or without any guidance.

10/05/2010 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Rick said "Do you think it is (or would be) possible to program a computer to make a truly random decision? Say, to select one number from a list of two numbers?"

NB deals with all the super security dealie-flops, but as far as standard programming goes... no.

There's a lot of programming that goes into returning something seem to be random... but it involves throwing in so many odd algorithms, obscure time.value selections (“if today is Tuesday, return the numerical equivalent of Saturday in the park on the 4th of july, 3,426 B.C., if Wedensday, return lunchtime, ides of March of Caesars least favorite year, if...”), and multiples of this and that, in an effort to make it seem as if it were random... but the truth is that deliberately obscure is as far from truly random as you can get.

Goes back to my qualifier to A.I. people: When you can get a computer to make an error... ANY error... then we can start talking about intelligence.

10/05/2010 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

BTW, I've no doubt that we will, in the not so distant future, reach the point where computers will be able to simulate human conversation and functionality... but the keyword there is simulate... they'll be useful, definitely, and be capable of results that will seem as if they were intelligent, even highly intelligent... but the differenc between them, and a handcranked adding machine, will in fundamentals, be zero.

10/05/2010 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Ah, thought so.
Thanks.

10/05/2010 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

Great Post. Very entertaining.

Now I'm back to consuming goods and services.

Its what I do.

Van, I disagree with your pronouncement than an intelligent machine would lack a soul.

There is no reason to suppose the intelligent machine would be a lesser creature than a flesh and blood woman.

Do you suppose God will turn his back to his daughter simply because she ran on electricity?

No, as I see it, the machine will be inalienably virtuous, more spiritual, and such will lead the evolution forward.

And so shall we abe the souls in these machines; after we die a choice of bodies will be offered and the machine will be the option of choice.

We shall peer forth from photoelectric sensors and love God with all the strength of our hydraulics and motherboards. Amen.

10/05/2010 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, you have free will, so you are therefore free to nourish yourself from the tree of duality. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with a bad case of spiritual malnourishment.

Or logorrhea...

10/05/2010 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

bh said "Van, I disagree with your pronouncement than an intelligent machine would lack a soul."

I appreciate you offering yourself up as proof that I am right, but it's in vain; you are only proof that a person can transform their soul into a black hole, and demonstrate a willful lack of intelligence - but cheer up, for that too will also all be beyond the capability of a computer.

To sweep up the wreckage of your first sentence, I didn't say "intelligent machine", that's what I said couldn't be, they will, through human ingenuity, be able to perform feats that simulate intelligence, but they will never be intelligent, and not ever being alive, it will never have a soul to lack

A computer could never be intelligent. Period. However, human programmers will almost certainly, using their intelligence, create the programming code - once they shake off the idiot ideas of wackedemics, and stop trying to create intricately linked word lists (which is what idiot leftist misophers think the human mind is) - and begin using classes and interfaces as generic conceptual patterns capable of writing 'their own' definitions as needed, which will be defined by input, association, and dynamic rules of 'fuzzy logic'.

At that point, IMHO, the A.I. programmers will begin to find that the actual detailed code they'll need to write will be minimal, merely defining rules of pattern usage, and specifying some very, very, general rules to simulate 'hunger' (recharging), 'curiosity' (if an object, or it's context is 'unknown' or little fleshed out, gather more input', and the ability to follow 'goals' (particular (and/or a hierarchy of) business rules to carry out their owners purpose).

Again, the computer will not be intelligent, but it will be an extremely useful tool in aiding those who do have intelligence, in exactly the same way as hand cranked adding machines were, and as advanced beyond present computers, as present computers are beyond hand cranked adding machines.

But no matter the illusion which the speed of these coming computers will present, they are, and will be, in fundamental terms, no different than those old adding machines or an old player piano that operates by means of rolls of paper with holes punched in it.

Intelligence doesn't lay in calculation, intelligence is what comes through from within a living creature and leads it to engage in calculations, and it is inseparable from the soul.

The rest of the words you assembled into the semblance of sentences, are too lacking in visible intelligence to bother with... if intelligence did originally inspire you to write them, I'm afraid that it was all sucked back in, like light swallowed into a black hole, none of it made it out.

10/05/2010 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

The problem with AI is that they are kind of aiming at the wrong target.

The problem isn't the artifical intelligence, it's the artifical PERSONALITY on which they need to work.

What they need to do is to create a simulation of the soul.

At some point, they will realize that free will exists, so they will have to create artifical free will using some sort of algorithm.

But basically, the people who are all exitited about AI are Missing the Point.

Mostly, they will be creating psychological/mental playthings rather than mechanical playthings. Which will be like the mental projections or egeore (I don't have the book for the spelling in front of me) thingies mentioned in MOT (the death chapter?), only they will be less dangerous because they will be contained to the underlying mechanism.

10/06/2010 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Close - it's egregore :)

Less dangerous? I don't know. Seems to me they could potentially be quite harmful, being nothing more really than the projected fantasies of their makers. They'll necessarily be very limited, but not so much that people won't develop relationships with them. The problem will become one of greater separation between actual humans, because dealing with robots who don't challenge, surprise, and grow will be easier, but it will also be deeply, troublingly unfulfilling. There's an adultolescent problem already, but I suspect the first generation that grows up with artificial friends will be more poorly developed by an order of magnitude.

10/06/2010 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

anunce said "Exactly backwards. You can only understand things when they are broken down into parts and relations."

Exactly hilarious. To say 'when they are broken down into parts...' is to say, broken down into parts of something else... parts of a whole. Remembering the whole which they are parts of, is critical to understanding what their particular purposes are - to forget that, is to lose sight of the nature of your parts and to act stupidly.

Hence your comment.

"I don't understand this."

Duh.

"It's a distributed world, better learn to deal with it."

Distributed... how? Within what? Hate to tell you this, but distributed doesn't mean separated, only loosley related in order to accomplish the functions of the whole, more efficiently and effectively.

If that's beyond your grasp, I've got some swell looking bank notes I'd be willing to customize and distribute to you in exchange for your obsolete dollar bills.

Act now though, as this is a limited time offer... as your guys work their transforming wonders, pretty soon I won't be able to undistribute those dollar bills into gold or anything else of probable value to and within the whole.

10/06/2010 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

Van:

To rebut your rebuttal, I'd say look at what JP has stated. Yes, its "personality" at issue, not intelligence.

Personality is a a kind of emotional intelligence. But soul is another matter. It is exogenous to the cosmos, and enters from without.

Your technical acumen nonwithstanding, you are discounting one factor, and that is the Mistress Herself.

She can/does/will inhabit anything of sufficient complexity. Build it, and She will come.

How do I know this? I have a limited mystic capability, and I exercise it.

Therefore, I can be taken on faith. In fact, it is the only way to take me.

10/06/2010 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "They'll necessarily be very limited, but not so much that people won't develop relationships with them."

Just imagine if they're anymore useful and eye catching than a '64 Ford Mustang... or a finely luthered guitar with a rich rosewood fingerboard... if we can use them, and they have visual (or other) 'cool' appeal, we will develop relationships with them.

No matter what.

The key will be, as always, what's within the people to guide, constrain, enable their judgment - good or bad.

If good, it won't matter, it'll be a cool, useful doo-dad & no more; if not, nothing else will make it not matter... and the population will fall on a distribution within the range, based upon their Education (Intellectual and/or Spiritual).

Always the same.

10/06/2010 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

bh said "To rebut your rebuttal"

Yes, that does make your butt look bigger.

But you did almost have a point with this,

"But soul is another matter. It is exogenous to the cosmos, and enters from without."

but then lost it with this,

"She can/does/will inhabit anything of sufficient complexity. Build it, and She will come."

Bunk. When the I.R.S. codes spontaneously spring into life, maybe I'll concede the point, until then - Not. Complexity worship is easily exposed as utterly ignorant, once you look at the simple things the complex are made up of.

I will say, that I've no idea what it is that enables something to transition from inanimate, to animate... and back (or into and out of), I only know it isn't the complexity, or at least it's not the complexity alone.

Simulating life, will not recreate life, the movie which re-presents the graceful movements of a dancer on the screen, slowed down, is just a bunch of still frames sped up - they don't move, they only seem to. We enjoy it, we relate to it, but we aren't (most of us) fooled into thinking that it can substitute for the real dance.

10/06/2010 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

Van:

Point well taken. I concede I don't know if the spontaneous animation that I speak of will pan out.

For evidence I have bupkis.

I may have been swayed by wishful thinking or the desire to advance a contrarian point.

I will cease to debate the issue and opine will not be decided in this lifetime.

Now, would you care to debate anything else?

The feasability of a sex-surrogate robot?

10/06/2010 11:07:00 AM  

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