Friday, April 06, 2012

Tinkling into the Void

As I was saying yesterday before the conspiracy snatched the pencil out of my hand, "Same here. In my case, I -- " was puzzled by the most basic ontological distinction in the cosmos between subject and object -- specifically, how the I AM of the former relates to the IT IS of the latter. In no way could I understand how one could ever derive the I from the IT, unless it -- meaning I -- were somehow there with IT to begin with.

A casual and eventually thoroughgoing acquaintance with science and philosophy establishes the fact that most thinkers don't actually deal with the issue, but rather, simply stop asking questions at some point, thus violating the principle of sufficient reason, which says that any effect requires a cause adequate to account for it; which is a fancy way of saying that you can't get blood out of a turnip.

Another way of looking at this question is to say that before we look for an explanation, we have to first decide what would constitute one. Therefore, if you're following me, one not only has to have an idea of what would constitute truth, but this idea must lie outside or "above" the explanation itself.

This is where evolutionists and materialists in general run into so much trouble, eg: man is just another animal, animals are just the expression of selfish genes, and that's the truth. One of these statements is not like the others!

Bryan Magee has a good analysis of the problem in his fine biography of Schopenhauer:

"It is possible for us to pose some sort of Why? question with regard to anything. As Schopenhauer puts it: 'The validity of the principle of sufficient reason is so much involved in the form of consciousness that we simply cannot imagine anything objectively of which no 'why?' could be further demanded."

Now, the core of any discipline, whether science, philosophy, history, or law, revolves around this question of sufficient reason, of which there are different kinds. For example, physical causation is not the same as moral causation. If Al Gore defenestrates Keith Olbermann, and Olbermann falls on and kills a pedestrian below, we do not hold Olbermann responsible for the death. Yes, he is the direct material cause, but that is not a satisfactory moral account.

For Schopenhauer there are four main kinds of sufficient reason: the type of direct physical causation that occurs, say, between billiard balls; mathematical determination; logical entailment; and the sort of "motivated action" that can only arise from a free subject, or mind.

In each case, philosophical questions arise, but the first three categories are not nearly as problematic as the fourth. But even then, if you really want to be a noodge, you can ask a physicist, for example, "but what exactly is energy?", or "what is the cause of mathematics?" "[T]he scientist gestures in the direction of the philosopher," who then pretends to answer the question. The metaphysical theologian raises his hand and says "I know I know I know," but they refuse to pick him.

The bottom line is that "science is, in a serious sense of the term, occult, in that it explains everything else without itself being explained" (ibid). Ironically, this is one of the definitions of God, i.e., the uncaused cause.

Equally ironic is that, at the end of the day, after all the science has been, er, settled, "the mystery of the world as such would be as great at the end of the process as it had been at the beginning" (ibid). Why? That's why: because we can still ask why?

In lieu of the above, we could probably save a lot of time with a one word, all purpose protest: Gödel!, proving once again that you can't crack the cosmic egg without breaking out the umlaut.

For "the laws of logic, like the basic concepts of science, and the axioms and the rules of mathematics... must involve circularity, since they themselves generate the justification procedures in their universe of discourse" (ibid).

But interestingly, we all recognize the flaw in this approach when it comes to moral justification. Our whole legal system is -- or was, before liberals hijacked it -- built around the idea that we do not allow people to get away with crimes just because they felt morally justified in doing so.

This whole discussion hits rather close to home, because, as a forensic psychologist, I am routinely asked to give a precise opinion as to what "caused" a patient's "psychiatric injury."

The problem here is that there is an utter conflation between the kind of causation that applies to matter with the kind of causation that is adequate to explain mental events. In no way am I permitted to provide fully comprehensive explanations appropriate to the subject -- for example, the percentage of causation that may be attributed to man's fallen nature, or just the fact that life is hard, so deal with it. Rather, I must pretend that the all mental causes are as discrete and proximate as those in a game of billiards.

In any event, as Magee explains, "there is a point where natural science, and indeed every branch of knowledge, leaves things as they are" and "does not go beyond this point."

Looked at this way, the belief that the "big bang" ends the discussion of our origins is no better than the belief that the cosmos was caused by the god Witoto taking a leak into the void. Neither one satisfies me. I mean, I certainly prefer the former, but it's not as if it's a self-sufficent explanation.

For example, where do all those elegant equations governing the big bang come from? Who knows, maybe Witoto tinkles them into the void.

Or maybe, just maybe, as reveiled in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, it was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo.


To be continued...

17 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

The problem here is that there is an utter conflation between the kind of causation that applies to matter with the kind of causation that is adequate to explain mental events.

Interesting about the demand for causal explanations. It's a very human demand, but unfortunately when applied to human behavior - among individuals and among groups - it is too-easily satisfied by simplistic explanations (he's depraved on account of he's deprived!) and scapegoating (George Zimmerman is a racist murderer!).

People say they want to know "why," but what they usually mean by that is that they want control - over a situation (for instance, the weather) or over a person or persons. They think that if they know "why" they can prevent bad things from happening. And of course, depending on what the bad thing is, quite often they're correct. It's the things that don't lend themselves to simple explanations and easy understanding that reduce seemingly intelligent people to superstition and ritual (for instance, the cult of climate change, or the belief that simply giving poor people the trappings of middle class will make them better people).

And of course, the greatest mystery of all is frequently written off with the most simplistic explanations available: there is no mystery, just facts that science hasn't uncovered yet.

4/06/2012 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Another way of looking at this question is to say that before we look for an explanation, we have to first decide what would constitute one. Therefore, if you're following me, one not only has to have an idea of what would constitute truth, but this idea must lie outside or "above" the explanation itself."
Racist!

I'm just cutting to the chase, after all, those of us who do ask those questions, and consistently follow them through, will be called racists by the proregressives. Sooo... why wait for willian? Why should he have all the fun?

Racist!

(Isn't it fun speaking without thinking?... well... ok, it's not... but... oh well, moving on.)

4/06/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In general, leftism is "end based" as opposed to principle based, which is why they don't need no steenking reasons, just power.

4/06/2012 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said "...they don't need no steenking reasons, just power."

Yep, just do what'll work for the moment, that's 'true' enough for them. Very pragmatic.

The fact that that means the abolition of Principle and Truth, no matter, in return you get Power!

Of course... that's all you get... for ever more fleeting moments... but... what the hey.

4/06/2012 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, they're positively apoplectic at the idea that some justices take constitutional principles seriously. In their upside down world, these are "judicial activists"!

4/06/2012 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"In lieu of the above, we could probably save a lot of time with a one word, all purpose protest: Gödel!, proving once again that you can't crack the cosmic egg without breaking out the umlaut."

Löl.

4/06/2012 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Ignore this -- I'm off on my own little tangent, just thinking.


The very concept of "discipline" implies limitations and known, defined boundaries. To acquire what we might call "disciplinary knowledge", we must "hide" a whole bunch of stuff from ourselves.

But if you do that well enough and cut your search area very small -- shooting a bow, arranging rocks, breathing -- it lets you look over the wall at the integrated whole -- or through the not-hole.

You wind up either enlightened or insane.

4/06/2012 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, it's called confusing the map with the territory, the menu with the meal, and equations with the cosmos.

4/06/2012 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

Whoa... good one, B0b.

Existence has a 'life' to it that no equation, discipline or map could ever have.

4/06/2012 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos of nothing, a bit of diversion: Text from Dog

4/06/2012 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

(Oops - didn't read very far down; there's a lot of f-bombs over there, if that sort of thing bothers anyone. Sorry. The one about the crisps cracked me up, though...)

4/06/2012 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

More OT -- via Zero Hedge The Face of Authoritarian Environmentalism.

Warning: The link contains graphic and/or disturbing imagery.

4/06/2012 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thank you, Julie. Language aside, that was hilarious.

4/06/2012 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yikes. I've noticed a whole set of memes popping up this week around that woman's visage, and they're all terrifying. I don't think the link is off-topic at all, though...

4/06/2012 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This is the mood I am in.

4/06/2012 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger chris m said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling warlike theses days.

Image is "Justice" with a sword:

http://www.featurepics.com/FI/Thumb300/20101111/Justice-Statue-1701437.jpg

4/07/2012 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mushroom, ha ha! That's one motivated raccoon! :^)

Happy Easter guys!

4/08/2012 05:38:00 AM  

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