Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Reality Real, or Just a Name?

We left off Friday with unKnown Friend's explanation of how Christianity in general and the Hermit in particular reconcile the three great antinomies with which any philosophy must grapple, the first one being idealism <---> realism.

The next antinomy is realism <---> nominalism -- which can be confusing, since this type of realism is the opposite of that discussed in Friday's post.

Recall that realism originally referred to the objective reality of abstract universals or platonic forms. But in the sense we will be discussing today, realism is closer to naturalism, since it denies objective reality to transcendent archetypes, and instead grants real existence only to particulars, otherwise known as nominalism.

As UF notes, a realist in the former sense sense of the term is an extreme idealist, e.g., Plato. For Plato, the idea is more real than the things of the world, which are just "copies." But for the nominalist, these so-called objective ideas are nothing more than words which have no independent reality.

Not to get too far ahead of oursophists, but this seemingly innocuous fork in the philosophical road eventually wends its way to deconstruction, multiculturalism, moral relativism,"positive liberties," "gay marriage," etc., the whole catastrophe.

For example, marriage is a natural right that exists prior to the state, and it is not for the state to invent or redefine the archetypes that make us human. Therefore, to promulgate the fantasy that members of the same sex can live in a state of marriage is a kind of barbaric assault on reality. It is mean-spirited, offensive, bigoted, and phobic of reality.

Any scientist who actually takes the trouble to think deeply is a philosophical realist. For example, there is no great mathematician who is not an explicit or implicit Platonist. G. H. Hardy, in his A Mathematician's Apology, wrote that "It would be difficult now to find an educated man quite insensitive to the aesthetic appeal of mathematics.... A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas."

If we consider the whole idea of creation -- i.e., the cosmos....

Wait, let's stop right there: the idea of the cosmos. For that is what it is: an idea. No one has ever seen the cosmos. But it is incorrect to say we just "assume" it exists. Rather, we know in our bones that it exists -- that is, the strict totality of all interacting objects and events, which is a shadow of the Absolute.

There is no part of reality that exists independently of this Absolute. The interior wholeness we see at every level of reality is simply a fractal reflection, or distant echo, of this Absolute. It is what accounts for the organicism of organisms, the nonlocality of locality, the unity of the human subject, and the inner coherence of science.

The realist (i.e., idealist) says that "the general is anterior to the particular" (deduction). The nominalist says that "the particular is anterior to the general" (induction).

Here again, we see how this plays out at the local level, with disastrous consequences. For example, for the left, the collective is more real than the individual, which is why liberals are untroubled by person A getting together with person B in order to appropriate the earnings of person C and give them to person D, so that person D will vote for, and grant more power to, persons A and B.

But the Founders knew that the individual was real and that this individuality was rooted in his liberty, which is the very means through which we become more real -- or realize our reality. It is this idea of liberty which is ultimately real, and which creates the possibility of real individuals (in other words, without liberty, our ideal "created" self will not be able to actualize in time; or, Image cannot embark upon the journey to Likeness).

But for the left, it is only in its concrete particulars that liberty is real, i.e, "positive liberties." In other words, liberty is not real unless the government somehow creates it and gives it to you in the form of cash, favors, and other valuable prizes. You might say that negative liberty preserves the ideal reality of liberty, whereas positive liberty ends in its negation.

For the nominalist, "truth, beauty and goodness do not exist for it as objective realities, and are only a matter of taste," that great leveler of the hierarchical cosmos. One cannot argue with a nominalist, because their first cognitive act is to dismantle the very cognitive scaffolding that makes higher thought possible.

In truth, we clearly need both, i.e., realism and nominalism: "We cannot dispense with realism if we attach any value to the existence of objective truth (science) and trans-subjective truth (religion)."

How to come up with a punchline for this yoke? It's easy, at least if one is lucky enough to have been born in Christendom: "The 'problem' of universals was resolved in the spiritual history of mankind by the fact of the Incarnation, where the fundamental universal of the world -- the Logos -- became Jesus Christ, who is the fundamental particular of the world."

Here, the universal of universals, the very principle of intelligibility, the Logos, became the particular of particulars, the very prototype of the personality, Jesus Christ.

In the words of Eckhart, "he who is devoted to justice is taken up by justice, seized by justice, becomes one with justice." And the just man "is free, and the closer he is to justice, the closer he is to freedom, and the more he is freedom itself."

Which is why for the Raccoon, spiritual knowledge is embodied knowledge or it is no knowledge at all, just nice sounding words.

35 Comments:

Anonymous Professor Ablefor (Paraguay) said...

When dealing with reality, use physics, biology, and chemistry.

A smattering of psychology, sociology, and archaeology may be applied as well but only with the firm underpinning of those branches mentioned above.

Refrain from speculation on the unseen or the possible.

Time, space, gravity, and energy: Work with these and you will never lead yourself astray.

However you might get a tad bored but it can't be helped.

11/14/2011 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Hm. No, whatever the ideal is for trolling, you seem to be receding from it with anonymity. Why, it's been less than a week and you're already back in a boring rut.

Archetypally speaking, something along the lines of being a fool for god might be good here - but first, you'd actually have to be working with god. Then, you'd actually have to be funny. Or at least entertaining in some way.

Here's a clue: quit trying to dictate inanity. Nobody listens, and nobody cares. How about actually reading the posts, looking for a weak spot or a strong oppositional position. Hell, even a weak oppositional position so long as it's relevant. Of course, that would require that you actually understand, and would also require you to put into practice a bit of self-discipline and self-control.

A pity; you could be interesting and even helpful. As it is, you're just a snore.

11/14/2011 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

I was looking forward to your explanation of the second antinomy, because it's one I find difficult to grasp. You were slightly helpful (no shame in that; the third paragraph seems to say the second antinomy is not actually an antinomy, but a redundancy, though further on you do parse that quite well, and I get it, so thank you. Nominalist -> everything is a social construct, Marx is king, etc.), but you did confirm something that I had started to suspect, but hadn't really seen explicitly stated before: the word realism is used in two very different ways, which are nearly opposites. Which leads me to think that academic philosophy is even more of a racket than is apparent to one skeptical of academia's value in general, and reminds me that I should really learn German because that language has many excellent nouns that English lacks and tries to cover by reusing words, resulting in tremendous confusion. The word "weltschmerz" was the first thing that alerted me to this fact.

11/14/2011 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Unknown Friend said...

2. The antinomy "realism -- nominalism"

In this antinomy the term "realism" has nothing in common with the "realism" of the antinomy "realism -- idealism." Realism here signifies the school of occidental thought which attributes objective reality to general notions that are now usually described as "abstract" but which mediaeval philosophy designated "universalia" ("universals"). The current of occidental thought which denies the objective reality of universals and which admits reality only in "particulars" is that of nominalism.

11/14/2011 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"If we consider the whole idea of creation -- i.e., the cosmos....

Wait, let's stop right there: the idea of the cosmos. For that is what it is: an idea. No one has ever seen the cosmos. But it is incorrect to say we just "assume" it exists. Rather, we know in our bones that it exists -- that is, the strict totality of all interacting objects and events, which is a shadow of the Absolute."

Bingo. We are able to infer the existence of One whole from some of its many parts, because those parts do exist within the whole of which we are also a part of, and we know it. Reality exists. Everything that exists, exists as something - Identity is reality existing as some particular thing... within a given context; in our awareness of what reality exists as, we disclose our own awareness to ourselves - through realization of the truth of what is.

Only through that process can you hope to know what is true - Reality exists in Truth.
There is no coming to the Father, except through the Son.

The whole of reality exists through the context of the particulars it exists as.

"Here, the universal of universals, the very principle of intelligibility, the Logos, became the particular of particulars, the very prototype of the personality, Jesus Christ."

11/14/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

So the nominalist says there is no Rock, only rocks -- no Word, only words? How would you know anything about rocks in that world unless you looked at every rock that existed?

But it is incorrect to say we just "assume" it exists. Rather, we know in our bones that it exists -- that is, the strict totality of all interacting objects and events, which is a shadow of the Absolute.

You could even say it obviously exists. It can only be denied in the childish way that a toddler covers her eyes and claims she can't be seen -- to repeat something Bob told us some time back.

11/14/2011 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Well shucks, Mush - some of those rocks might be rock lobsters, and then where would we be? ;)

11/14/2011 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

A word about words. Our words come from our identifying what we perceive to be the commonalities of what reality exists as, and which we mentally label with a word - but the word is not the thing itself, it simply points to what is, was, and/or may yet be - and yet it does so because we have ourselves perceived at least some part of that in reality ourselves.

Through our senses, we perceive what reality exists as, as it is perceptible to us. Reality is not limited to our perceptions of what it exists as, and our perceptions of it are no less valid for their not perceiving the totality of what is - they simply are that portion of what is truly perceivable to us, of all that is.

Through our words we map the commonalities and particulars of what reality exists as, within given contexts. 'Rock', is an identification of the essentials common to all particular rocks. A Granite Rock, is a narrower set of commonalities, shared by all rocks that are Granite. This particular granite rock is identified by all of the myriad particulars which this particular rock exists as (including those I am not aware of), the totality of which it shares with no other, which includes the general concept, 'Rock', and the general concept 'Granite'; but it in no way excludes all of the particulars that are as yet unknown and unidentified about this particular rock, or of rocks in general.

It seems 'obvious', that all which we know that is true, is true because it exists, even those things which we do not normally think of as 'existing', those things which we cannot tangibly identify as easily as a rock, but which we do arrive at through our wider understanding of what is. Sweetness and Light and Love exist no less, because we may not be able to probe them with a pair of calipers - to the extent that our concepts and our words identify what is true, we are able to probe and know the truth of them.

Our concepts, and our words for them, are our tools for perceiving deeper than what our physical senses may be able to reveal to us... but they ultimately originate from what is real and true, no less than does my knowledge of this particular granite rock. The finer the distinctions they are able to make, the better the quality of perception which we may be capable of making through them. And of course, to the degree that they are indistinct, or in error, we potentially distance ourselves from the truth. If those errors remain undiscovered, or worse, ignored, yet are still used and built upon, we will find that our thoughts and ideas stray further and further from what is true, and we risk building the scaffolding for our soul into a Leaning Tower of Pisa.

In that sense, the child, with its few, general words, may very well perceive the truth far more clearly, than the adult with his many and much finer distinctions, which, clever as they may be, are false.

Careful of the philosophical German - a significant amount of it, though finely distinguished and even ornate, is disastrously error filled and Kant ever take you to the truth.

11/14/2011 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Bob sez:

"For the nominalist, "truth, beauty and goodness do not exist for it as objective realities, and are only a matter of taste," that great leveler of the hierarchical cosmos. One cannot argue with a nominalist, because their first cognitive act is to dismantle the very cognitive scaffolding that makes higher thought possible."

That part I'm getting. Tough subject, for me at least.

Good post, good comments! I have nothing to add but thanks.

Oh, I see UF has an ethernet connection. Cool!

11/14/2011 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

I don't doubt there philosophers had their faults, but I am willing to bet that they have two different words for the two meanings of realist here discussed. I know some German speakers, I'll make some inquiries.

"The whole of reality exists through the context of the particulars it exists as."

This requires some qualification or modification, which it looked like you realized later.

In general, I think that realists (the second kind) quickly reach the point of diminishing returns when arguing with nominalists. Reality is on our side. They have access to everything that we do. And yet they think we're crazy, have a false consciousness, or are sheeple. Clearly, saying "we know this" cuts no ice with them. The only hope is their cognitive dissonance reaching its natural frequency and shattering their view of the world. Pop epistemology is useless here, and professional epistemology only the slightest bit less so. As you weave wordy illustrations and analogies you continually bump into the problems with communicating without unshared premises. It's wasted effort. All that can be done is maintaining internal consistency and honesty on our end, and waiting for them to see the failures on theirs.

Dr. Charlton's post today goes nicely with RG's:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2011/11/acknowledgement-of-reality-what-would.html

(There seems to be a contradiction at the end, but I think he's on the same page.)

11/14/2011 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rock On. All that glitters is not Gary.

11/14/2011 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For example, marriage is a natural right that exists prior to the state, and it is not for the state to invent or redefine the archetypes that make us human. Therefore, to promulgate the fantasy that members of the same sex can live in a state of marriage is a kind of barbaric assault on reality. It is mean-spirited, offensive, bigoted, and phobic of reality.

Bet you don't much like white people marrying black folks, either. Can't have people choosing who they'd like to spend their lives with when it goes against your "archetypes", huh?

11/14/2011 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Guy who yells TROLL! said...

Anon sez:

Bet you don't much like white people marrying black folks, either.

TROLL!

11/14/2011 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Right, that Penn State defensive coordinator just wanted to marry a ten-year-old boy and was denied the opportunity.

You know, if you want to get into a battle of stupid analogies, we can do that, but the folks here are pretty heavily armed. You might want to get something besides a water pistol.

But first, maybe you could tell how your mother and her brother managed to get married.

11/14/2011 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

Well, on marriage, I don't see where an infertile hetero couple differs archetypally from a homo couple. No children are coming along in either case but they sure do like shtupping each other.

The cure for nominalism is mysticism in any form, even Deepak form.

Ideas don't cut the mustard; the human being must have experience. There must be a sensory component or nothing doin'.

Therefore, the expansion of the senses to encompass both the general and the particular will heal the rift and eliminate the problem. It is already half-licked.

The Buddhists have an important contribution to make here. Let us contemplate loving-kindness.

11/14/2011 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

OT, my good buddy, look up archetype in the dictionary. That's how they differ. Male-male is not an archetype.

Also, I understand that some places on the internet, you might be able to find pictures of men and women without any clothes on, which could also help with your confusion. :)

11/14/2011 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

If it weren't for miscegenation, I couldn't be. Going by my extended family, sometimes it even results in some mighty purty human beings.

People can live with whoever they want, but calling two men or two women who live together and have sex "married" doesn't make it so. Nobody is saying they can't live as they please. Just that changing what they call their relationship cannot possibly change the reality.

11/14/2011 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

calling two men or two women who live together and have sex "married" doesn't make it so

Sure it does.

11/14/2011 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous A Einstein said...

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.

11/14/2011 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of limitless stupidity, some people take this whole raccoon thing way too far...

11/14/2011 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That is a rabid animal lover.

Or soon-to-be rabid.

11/14/2011 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

OT--- but just discovered the Strat Genius of 'em all!

11/14/2011 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@julie. As long as everyone is a consenting adult, and that appears to be the case, who are we to judge?

11/14/2011 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

:D
As long as she doesn't ask to be married to the pack, I guess there's not a lot I can say...

ge - thanks for the link. My boy approves. At the moment, it's about the only thing he approves of...

11/14/2011 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@ge Smooth and sweet! Although I'm a little cheesed at you because you pointed me to the Nilsson site and I watched the clip of Harry playing for Mrs. Muir in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and I woke up this morning singing "Without Her." (As an aside, my wife still swoons if you mention the Captain).

The internet, a two-edged sword it be.

wv: ableo <-- wasn't he the kid in The Point?

11/14/2011 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger horatio said...

Since marriage predates the state, how's about the state having zero to do with it. Holy matrimony is religious. The state cannot change that and has no place in the discussion.

11/14/2011 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

It's a nice idea. Unfortunately, so long as the government has a vested interest in personal property, inheritance issues and matters of child-rearing, I don't see that happening. For better and worse, too much of law and taxes relies on documentation and government sanction of marriage for the state to ever turn a blind eye.

11/14/2011 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

When we talk about getting the state under control -- which is what needs to happen -- I keep getting this tip-of-the-tongue feeling, as if there is something I ought to be able to say. I am honestly not sure what it is, but I think it has to do with creating a reality-based alternative. We should be able to do that. Washington is not that important and it is being run by idiots for the most part. The media is a bunch of people who look good on TV (now that Helen Thomas has retired) but have only the most passing of acquaintances with how the real world works.

The global financial system would have a better chance of surviving if every central banker and finance minister in the world suddenly suddenly developed total amnesia.

We can do this better than the "world leaders" -- not because we are individually more intelligent but because it is too vast a system to be managed by any one, any government or any group. Generally, all they do is screw things up, and if they would leave it alone, it would work itself out.

11/14/2011 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I am not going to retype that, but consider "suddenly suddenly" to mean "really right now all of the sudden all at once".

11/14/2011 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Words Fail
As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good---I use it because I have to, but I don't put any trust in it. We never understand each other. -Duchamp

Language's words can't capture Mind
Mind's ideas can't capture reality but they are all we've got.
Language is like a map which would be useless, absurd were it as large and true-to-scale as the territory it refers to...were there as many words as there are objects in the world words attempt to describe. amking for
a punderful state of affairs
I state

Is the greatest use of Hollywood spoofing Hollywood?
Language soars when its shortcomings, sores are exposed, ex poesy, apophasis preening-- the stammering poet, the wounded messenger, the impotent king, the soothsaying jester, the crucified Lord's tale writ in blood to be retold

11/15/2011 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

The attention given to gay marriage drives me to utter distraction. I am with Horatio, generally speaking. Besides the fact that the state's view of marriage is unrecognizable to anyone of a traditional bent, and so the battle is lost in spirit even if we insist on carrying on about the letter, let us consider some of Julie's objections.

Regarding inheritance, I think increasing the amount of thought given to post-humus arrangements by making them less automatic would be salutary, and not just for notaries and associated professions. Modernity has placed astoundingly little concern on maintaining any relationship between marriage and parenting, and while I think this is terrible, we muddle on. I'm skeptical about how much marriage status affects taxes, but I'm not that knowledgeable about the subject. Still, I don't think tax incentives for marriage should count as any justification for government involvement, and if there is a penalty, well, I'll be REALLY angry.

One indirectly salutary effect of making marriage less official and more human and communal would be to clarify the health insurance muddle. The employer based model is terrible, but how the hell do you get off it without moving in the direction of single payer? I think one incremental step, independent of changing the tax benefits that come from the employer based system, would be to gradually make full family coverage a less common perk. As a market forms around high earning people with family members who don't have employment based insurance, people might begin to see the benefits of not being tied to their current job by fear of being uninsured and enter that market as well.

What makes me especially annoyed about all the gay marriage business is that in the last decade, "LGBT adoption rights" have been progressing under the radar. They do not reign unopposed across the fruited plain, but the number of states that have accepted them should be a scandal of much greater proportions than all this crap.

11/15/2011 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Gabe, you make a couple of good points but my legal concerns were not solely about taxes, even inheritance taxes. In cases where one has either no will or an insufficient will, the state still needs to intervene to decide how properties are distributed after death, for instance. Not to mention matters of divorce, domestic disputes, etc. etc. etc.

Lets face it, there has never existed a state that did not concern itself with marriage. Even though marriage as an archetype existed prior to the state, it is always in the interest of the state to recognize and regulate it legally. To do otherwise is to hamstring some of the most basic elements of the legal system.

The fact that we are so confused about it now is simply a result of the fact that relatively few people genuinely understand marriage and its role in a civilized society in this day and age.

11/15/2011 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Oh come on now, inertia is no excuse. Lose the statist blinders.

In the interest of the state... no kidding. But the state is not the people, and it's involvement in the institution has been corrosive (no fault divorce... what could go wrong?). I understand that absent official marriage, not having a will could cause some chaos in the event of dispute. If there is enough $ and bad will involved lead to dispute, marital status will not prevent acrimony and litigation (trust me on this). If there is not, what are they going to do, burn down the house and remaining assets and throw the living partner (or whatever term our the state prefers) into the street?

The point is, the state is sovereign, and will decide whatever is brought to it. We would prefer it stay out of places it doesn't need to be. Why are you so certain that automated rules centered on marriage result in fairer resolution than any other possible method of resolution? You could say with Burke that uncertainty dictates against change, but I gotta tell ya', I'm not seeing a lot of upside to the status quo, and things seem to be changing apace anyway.

All this doesn't even touch past abuses, such as bans on interracial marriages. Thankfully that one has been addressed.

So I say to hell with official marriage. This fight just makes us appear to be trying to tell people how to live. This is an unfair characterization. We pay for the institutions that are being used to legitimize something we believe is a fraud. We have given these institutions the right to act on our behalf in this regard, so when they bless something, we are implicitly doing the same. These are all cogent reasons for this fight. But the ratchet affect is real. We will lose this fight, not only through activist judges, but at the polls (eventually), so we must present an alternative. My alternative is to abandon official marriage, and demonstrate true marriage within the church. The official version will become a joke soon enough.

11/15/2011 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "Lets face it, there has never existed a state that did not concern itself with marriage."

Eh... not so, I don't think. Aside from providing a location for recording marriages, Govt had no role in marriage in America, prior to the mid(?) 1800's (with some regional exceptions - miscegenation being a prime excuse), in authorizing or regulating marriage.

There is nothing the govt needs to be involved with in marriage that it doesn't also have to do with any other contract dispute, and it is only on that account that it should ever be concerned, and not in the details of what is, or isn't, a marriage.

Everything govt 'helps', that is outside its pervue of upholding rights, it destroys.

Exceptions...? Anyone...?

wv:inilie
No, no lie, but of course I could be wrong. Especially with this medicine head I've got going on. Ugh.

11/15/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Perhaps you guys are correct. My understanding of history is decidedly shaky. I had in mind both Mosaic law and Roman civilization; to say that I'm fuzzy on the details of early American law is something of an understatement, though I understand it borrowed heavily from British common law.

To clarify, then:

I'm not saying I want the state involved, but frankly I don't see how it's possible to be otherwise at this point. In much the same way, I'd love to see a reasonable flat tax and a greatly simplified criminal code. I won't hold my breath for any of that. But I'd sure love to be wrong.

11/15/2011 10:07:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home