Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mister Gnosis-All & Miss Understanding

... omniscience? Which is what, exactly? a: infinite knowledge b: universal or complete learning or knowledge

Omniscient: 1: having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight : knowing all things : infinitely wise 2: possessed of universal or complete knowledge

Not sure if that's helpful. What do you mean, "infinite?" 1: being without limits of any kind : subject to no limitation or external determination 2: having no end : extending indefinitely : having no limit in power, capacity, knowledge, or excellence : immeasurably or inconceivably great

Seems to me we're entering an absurcular tautology here: omniscience is having infinite knowledge, and infinite is having no limit in knowledge, AKA omniscience.

And let's not get into "universal," or even "knowledge," because I believe we'd encounter a similar tautology, for if a truth isn't universal, it isn't true and therefore not proper knowledge.

Let us stipulate that God -- or O, rather -- is by definition "OMniscient." We could also turn this around and say "omniscient is O," since it is the only case -- even if hypothetical -- of omniscience.

Except we are also told that Jesus is "true God." If so, then he is "ʘmniscient." But how? How can a man be omniscient? We can affirm it, but can we understand it, even by analogy?

And if we can't, isn't it just nonsense? Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, for such "nonsense" can nevertheless serve the purpose of placing a border around thought, and let us know that beyond this border, no productive thought is possible. Like "zero" in math, we need a placeholder for nothing in order to think.

There are many such boundaries in Judaism, which no doubt contribute to their being such a freakishly productive people. For example, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Period. Issue settled. Move along. Get a job. Support your family. Don't waste your life in idle speculation about what comes "before" creation.

(The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo serves a similar purpose in Christian metaphysics, which one might say is meaningless in a meaningful way.)

So, again: how are we to understand how this applies to Jesus? In other words, if we say he is "omniscient," is this something we may actually "think about," or is it more a kind of pneumacognitive boundary to prevent us from wasting our time on unproductive speculation? Should we just say it's a "mystery," and leave it alone?

No doubt this is fine for most people, since most people are not metaphysicians or Raccoons. For the majority of believers it is more important what they "feel" than what they know, although it should be emphasized that in a normal person, feeling serves as a kind of very sophisticated and rapid-response knowing.

Revelation is addressed to the "average" mentality. So where does this leave those of us who are at the margins of normality? Is there no religion for us? Did God forget about us in his haste to fashion a revelation for mass consumption?

Oh, and before you even go there, no, this does not make us "elite" or "special." Rather, it simply and dispassionately acknowledges who we are. We could pretend to be otherwhos in order to "pass" in normal society, but as we mentioned a day or two ago, the "original sin" is pretending to be someone we are not.

A lot of mis- and disunderstanding might be avoided if our detractors could simply acknowledge that we do not run a blog for normals. As we speak, there are over 500 religious blogs that cater to normotic personalities, and are (naturally) more popular than ours. This is to be expected, as there is no shortage of nonbʘbs.

Back to our idle questions about the nature of Jesus' mentality. Schönborn asks, "Is the concept of 'omniscience' a meaningful concept at all?" If so, "what might represent its corresponding finite analogy in human consciousness?"

Is it Al Gore, the self-styled omniscient weatherman who drunkenly assures us that any opinion deviating from his is BULLSHIT!!! Is it the petulant and peevish know-it-all Obama, or is he just bluffing? No, because someone who pretends at omniscience is just infinitely stupid, or Ømniscient. That sort of unsettling Ømni-science is indeed settled.

Let's start with some basics. As Schönborn explains, "Omniscience cannot be the sum of all present, past, and future propositions." In other words, by its very nature, "One does not become omniscient" because "one cannot get from a finite to an infinite knowledge by a process of addition."

That may be helpful, because it suggests that omniscience is not so much the "content" as the "mode," so to speak. In fact, it can't really be the content, because (as deifined at the top) in the mode of the "infinite" there can be no boundary, no limitation, no determination, no distinction between knowledge and its knower.

Bob, that makes me a little uncomfortable, because you're beginning to sound like some kind of mush-headed non-dual mystic who reduces the world to an infinite blob of no-thingness.

Don't worry about that. We are not one of those. Nor are there any hidden fees in my saying so. One Cosmos will never grovel for your love offerings.

Schönborn goes on to point out that "negative [apophatic] theology" is a kind of unknowculation against our attempts to grasp what cannot be grasped with our finite minds, which "simply cannot imagine a total knowledge."

Unimaginable. Immarginable. Reminds me of Joyce's boundary-less and omnihilist text. Perhaps it can provide a clue or two.

"There is no agreement as to what Finnegans Wake is about, whether or not it is 'about' anything, or even whether it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, 'readable.'"

Now we're getting nowhere, and fast! An unreadable text that isn't about anything. And yet, "it is, perhaps, the single most intentionally crafted literary artifact that our culture has produced." But why would someone spend their life painstakingly crafting a meaningless text?

O, I don't know, except when I do. How and why does a meaningless cosmos make such sense to us? And doesn't any kind of real and universal knowledge necessarily partake of...

24 Comments:

Blogger John Lien said...

"Rather, it simply and dispassionately acknowledges who we are. We could pretend to be otherwhos in order to "pass" in normal society, but as we mentioned a day or two ago, the "original sin" is pretending to be someone we are not."

Would it surprise anyone that I prayed for a blog/commentariat that was Christo-centric but not "religious" in a typical sense?

Didn't actively search for it, just clicked through one of Bob's comments one day because he was being typically Bobish.

Praydirt!

8/10/2011 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

And doesn't any kind of real and universal knowledge necessarily partake of...

O, indeed.

I'm reminded of Master Blake's world in a grain of sand (though truly, I think "world" is far too small a word, for the whole universe is hidden therein). Which is to say, if one could have complete knowledge of so small and seemingly simple a thing, one would truly partake of omniscience. And yet, the more we know about any one particular grain of sand, the more mysterious it becomes; for every revelation a million truths are hiding, with only hints of their existence behind the veil of knowable structure.

Even so, if we only know the millionth or billionth part of what there is to know, we still partake of the infinite which, divided, is still infinite in all its parts.

So one could say, the difference between us and Christ is that we only partake of a portion of the infinite, whereas he necessarily partakes of (contains?) the whole.

Thus a crusty bit of bread and a droplet of wine do indeed suffice to bring one into communion with all.

8/10/2011 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Nicely done. It makes my day.

8/10/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Careful what you pray for, John.

8/10/2011 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

John - :)

Doesn't surprise me at all.

8/10/2011 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. -- 1 John 2:20

The marginal reading on that is "and you all know". But the point is that it is not what you know but Whom you know.

As Jesus said in John 5:19-20 --
Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel

8/10/2011 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@mushroom.

I ain't skeered.

8/10/2011 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Plato might have been right.

8/10/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sick: What if my child grows up a sane and productive conservative?

8/10/2011 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Wow, that article should come with a Surgeon General's warning label.

CAUTION: Reading this drivel could lower IQ as much as 100 points.

If you are a leftist, don't worry. There's no such thing as negative IQ.

8/10/2011 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Asstounding. I bet she'd be delighted, though, if her daughter grew up to be a gay communist.

Interesting - and rather pathetic, really - how her entire view of conservatism seems based on the fact that her father was a big meanie whose values didn't make room for her adolescent rebelliousness.

8/10/2011 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Well, the author will probably just have that one child. I think, eventually, we will out-reproduce them.

julie's comment nailed it.

8/10/2011 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

The first sentence in that article:
"At 12, Lizzie is a liberal like me."

(No offense 12 year olds)

8/10/2011 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Great post. Really like:
"That may be helpful, because it suggests that omniscience is not so much the "content" as the "mode," so to speak."

Mode is a great way to put it. And I think in the way you use it here allows for the "content" to change but never the "mode" to change. Maybe, as how the "unmoved mover" moves things but does not iteself move.
And, maybe similarly, God may never be surprised by outcome yet still be pleased or not (surprised) by how this or that person gets to this or that outcome.
In other words, God knows what always happens just not how or which "always" you will choose. I mean, the only "problem" I have with God knowing everything is how that would bear on His creature's freewill and their freely returned love; which "love" and "freewill" must in some way be "in His image" as well.

8/10/2011 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And another of childhood's icons becomes a front in the pride wars: Should Bert and Ernie Get Married?

*sigh*

At least PBS doesn't seem to be going with the idea, but it's really twisted that this is even an issue, for a host of reasons.

8/10/2011 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This is to be expected, as there is no shortage of nonbʘbs."

Or sheesh!kabobs.

What? Someone had to say it.

8/10/2011 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Revelation is addressed to the "average" mentality. So where does this leave those of us who are at the margins of normality? Is there no religion for us? Did God forget about us in his haste
to fashion a revelation for mass consumption?"


Well, there's revelation and there's revelation with Easter eggs so to speak.
Then there's the Easter clams who are not happy as regular clams because their goose is gettin' cooked...not to mythdiagnos the problem or compare eggs to clams.

I'll leave the mythdiagnosing to the Easter clam whisperers.
But there ain't no denying that there may be something extra in those revelations where there's a will and a Way.

Afterall, Raccoons are gnotorious for earnestly embracing the mystery while we munch Easter clams n' Easter beer.

It's a family tradition you might say. We just gotta try to gno more than the fist or second layer, we can't help it.

We're metaphysical detectives, private dicks, private ayes; only we ain't trying to solve any mysterie.
No, we're tryin' to experience timeless Mysteries of Biblical prOpOrtions. :^)

We may be oddballs and misfits but so were most of the characters we read about in the Bible...so are the saints n' mystics.

We just gotsta gno all we can know and we're willin' to pay the price...perhaps with coupons and when on special but that's prudent, or so I've heard.

Anyway, you get what you didn't pay for but it's nice to leave a generous tip.

8/10/2011 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

John Lien-

Praydirt is right! Now there's a love-O ready job right there. :^)

8/10/2011 11:22:00 PM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

OT, but if you did not know it, Spotify launches i the U.S. now. It's a great music service, and I know that at least some of you are quite big music lovers. I have been a paying user for quite a while now.

http://www.spotify.com

For now you need an invite to try it. I took the liberty to send one to Bob, if any raccoon want to try, just let me know your e-mail (post it right here or send me an email at kaffepaus@yahoo.se).

/Johan (the cosmo-catholic Swede)

8/11/2011 04:05:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Coming to a city near you: "The violent anarchy that has taken hold of British cities is the all-too-predictable outcome of a three-decade liberal experiment which tore up virtually every basic social value."

Europe is the canary in the coalmine, and yet, the oblivious left is still pushing to impose its dysfunctional values, e.g., redefining marriage. They cannot learn and they cannot be shamed. Like Islamists, they can only be defeated.

8/11/2011 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And Johan --

Thanks -- I'll check it out.

8/11/2011 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's official: Americans are permitted to riot if someone earns more than we do.

8/11/2011 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Oh, and before you even go there, no, this does not make us "elite" or "special." Rather, it simply and dispassionately acknowledges who we are. We could pretend to be otherwhos in order to "pass" in normal society, but as we mentioned a day or two ago, the "original sin" is pretending to be someone we are not."

Had a similar conversation with someone the other day, "Ooh, so you like to read Aristotle, does that mean you're smarter than everyone else?"

What do you do with that? Does someone's interest in finance make them smarter than everyone else? How about fly fishing? Auto mechanics? And before you say yes or no, I suggest you consider whether you are presently about to do some trading on the market, putting bait on your hook, or about to drive cross country - knowledge and love of truth aren't stand alone naked facts, the context matters, and you'd do better recognizing the relations between subjects and objects, than worrying about smarter, better or what's more normal.

Having more than a 'normal' interest in one topic or another, doesn't make someone smarter or better as a person, it means nothing more than that person is inclined, more than normal, towards that subject, and where their interest bears on what you're doing, they might have a perspective which 'normal' people don't, and it might be smarter to consider what they have to say when it does, rather than chiding them for not being normal, and risk losing the abnormal perspective they might be able to offer at abnormal times.

But I guess that's just not normal.

Ack.

8/11/2011 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"That may be helpful, because it suggests that omniscience is not so much the "content" as the "mode," so to speak. In fact, it can't really be the content, because (as deifined at the top) in the mode of the "infinite" there can be no boundary, no limitation, no determination, no distinction between knowledge and its knower."

When we touch the Truth, not a fact, but the truth that is true across time... might that be a clue perhaps?

Ever touch a 'hot' electrical wire? It's a bit of a shock, right? But if you lived to tell the tale, you know you only touched the tip of the current, the full charge would short circuit you.

Jack might have been more right than he knew "You want the truth? You can't handle the Truth!"

8/11/2011 07:19:00 AM  

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