Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Your Call: TransCosmic Plenitude or Infrahuman Nihilism

Before continuing in our effort to develop an objective definition of spiritual normality -- and therefore pathology -- I want to address an objection raised by a troll; not his objection, mind you, since that would require gifts he doesn't possess -- but the plagiarized sentiments of a John Wilkins, who is of the belief that "science is not a metaphysical system of thought," but rather, "deals precisely with objective experience. Personal views of scientists do not define the results of scientific work."

This reflects the philosophically untutored perspective of a naive and pre-critical scientism that doesn't trouble itself with looking beneath the phenomena, or thinking about thinking, or considering the sorts of assumptions that are built into science (and without which science cannot function).

For to say that science "deals precisely with objective experience" is to affirm something that cannot possibly be true. In order to say it, one must have no idea what the words "objective" and "experience" mean.

Science, by its very nature, deals with things that are relative and therefore contingent. In other words, it deals with the way things are, but it doesn't pretend that the way things are is the only way they could be.

There is nothing studied by science that couldn't be otherwise. Indeed, change one little variable in one of those helpful equations governing the big bang, and neither we nor the cosmos as we know it would be here.

Likewise, to paraphrase Stephen Gould, if one little inconvenient mudslide had occurred back in the days of the Burgess Shale bio-explosion, the wholly contingent evolutionary line leading to us might have been broken.

Indeed, we can all be traced to a common mother, Ms. Mitochondrial Eve, and according to Nicholas Wade, it is possible that we are related to as few as 5,000 people who were wandering around in North Africa 50,000 years ago. If they hadn't been extra-careful about wearing their sweaters in the cold or not running around with scissors, who knows?

The point is, from the perspective of science, the emergence of man is a freakishly unlikely accident. Remember, Darwin purloined and redefined the word "evolution" -- which had an entirely different meaning prior to that -- and applied this theretofore respectable term to the meaningless and contingent process he thought he had discerned in nature.

Even leaving that aside, it is naive in the extreme to suggest that man may penetrate to the objective realm on the plane of phenomena. How could this ever be?

As we have discussed in the past, man is always limited by what Schuon calls four "infirmities." To summarize, we are "creature, not Creator," which is to say, "manifestation and not Principle or Being." Or, just say we are contingent and not necessary or absolute.

Second, we are men, and all this implies, situated somewhere between absolute and relative, God and animal -- somewhat like a terrestrial angel or a celestial ape.

Third, we are all different, which is to say, individual, and there can be no science of the utterly unique and unrepeatable.

This is a critical point, because as far as science is concerned, our essential differences must be entirely contingent, just a result of nature tossing the genetic dice. Suffice it to say that this is not a sufficient reason to account for the miracle of individuality. Well, individual jerks, maybe. But not anyone you'd want to know.

Lastly, there are human differences that are indeed contingent and not essential or providential. These include negative things such as mind parasites that result from the exigencies of childhood, but also the accidental aspects of culture, language, and history. In order to exist at all, we must surely exist in a particular time and a particular place.

Elsewhere Schuon summarizes the accidents of existence as world, life, body, and soul; or more abstractly, "space, time, matter, desire."

The purpose of metaphysics is to get beneath these accidents, precisely, and hence to a realm of true objectivity and therefore perennial truth (even though, at the same time, we must insist that existence, life, and intelligence especially represent a continuous reminder, or breakthrough, of the miraculous).

Now, what do we mean by objectivity? It must be a stance uncontaminated by contingency, passion, or perspective, for starters. There is contingent science -- or the science of contingency -- and there is the "science of the Absolute," which is none other than metaphysics.

Thus, objectivity begins with the soph-evident existence of the Absolute, which is what confers value and meaning upon human existence, which is to say, intelligence (for humans are a kind of incarnation of the logos, which is what it means to be "in the image of the Absolute").

You might say that humans are "subjectivized intelligence," in that there is surely evidence of objective intelligence in the cosmos prior to our arrival, e.g., DNA or the laws of physics. One needn't say "intelligent design." Rather, just intelligence will do the trick, so long as we know what intelligence is.

As Schuon points out, "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing." What he means by this is that man's own intelligence demands a sufficient reason, and this reason is the Absolute. Remove the Absolute, and nothing makes sense, or can make sense, except in a wholly contingent and therefore senseless manner. This is why we insist: God or Nothing, TransCosmic Plenitude or Infrahuman Nihilism.

This same human intelligence "testifies irrecusably to a purely spiritual First Cause, to a Unity infinitely central but containing all things, to an Essence at once immanent and transcendent." Around these parts we simply call this O, AKA Unity Central.

Another helpful wise crack by Schuon: "To claim that knowledge as such can only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute."

And if that crack provokes a guffah-ha! experience in you, you're well on the way to being cured of your existential infirmities.

To be continued....

14 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Over at Just Thomism, there's an analogy that seems fitting here:

"Consider a man who wanted to paint the entire universe..."

4/25/2012 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Godel's point was that we may know truths that cannot be specified logically, not that we are condemned to relativity. For to even know this is to partake of absoluteness, even if we cannot be the Absolute.

4/25/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

As Schuon points out, "Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing." What he means by this is that man's own intelligence demands a sufficient reason, and this reason is the Absolute.

Yes, just so. Every other living creature on the planet is shaped by the circumstances in which it exists, even if the forces doing the shaping are mysterious. How could it not be so for humans, and particularly for human intelligence, as well? Especially given how often it concerns itself with things that have nothing to do with survival and procreation.

4/25/2012 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

For to even know this is to partake of absoluteness, even if we cannot be the Absolute.

I'm reminded again of the relation between sun and photosynthesizing plants. The plants are not the sun, yet neither are they separate from it, and their existence proclaims the sun's existence.

4/25/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This is all good.

I am always intrigued by the fact that various theories are formulated and seem reasonable given the existing limits of observation. Galileo changed the understanding of the solar system with an advancement in observational ability. The same was true of the microscope.

Scientifically speaking, if is as if we live inside a sphere which used to be pretty small but has expanded somewhat with improved instruments and methods. What we have found it the past was that we were rarely right about what we could not observe, even if we were generally on the right track.

Science should probably stick to what it can see and be happy.

4/25/2012 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

objective experience. Personal views of scientists do not define the results of scientific work

Except when it comes to global warming, climate change, &c.

Any pseudo-scientific justification of socialist policy is doubleplus good.

In this scientistic arena, skeptics and methodological rigorists need not apply.

4/25/2012 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"There is nothing studied by science that couldn't be otherwise. Indeed, change one little variable in one of those helpful equations governing the big bang, and neither we nor the cosmos as we know it would be here.

Likewise, to paraphrase Stephen Gould, if one little inconvenient mudslide had occurred back in the days of the Burgess Shale bio-explosion, the wholly contingent evolutionary line leading to us might have been broken."

This conflicts with my "human intelligence theory" that is to say "any planet upon which reaches a certain level of biological complexity will result in the emergence of human intelligence."

At the moment, I only have one sample, so it's not yet disproven.

I also expect that any human-type intelligences will essentially be "like us", meaning that Star Trek was mostly right. Except for the silicon-based life forms.

Also, I suspect that we will find methane breathers or something along those lines.

So the "human intelligence" in the universe will subsist within a certain developmental band, such as an atmosphere, plant life, animals, etc.

I'm simply applying the logic of the electrons filling orbitals in atoms to life filling "life orbitals" on planets.

As above, so below.

4/25/2012 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I think you could make a case that intelligent alien life is more likely in an intelligent cosmos than in a materialist one.

Niches are God's jigs and templates. I could easily believe that the jig of deep woods builds an ivory-billed woodpecker.

4/25/2012 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"Remove the Absolute, and nothing makes sense, or can make sense, except in a wholly contingent and therefore senseless manner."

And if there is no Absolute, why should we nekkid apes be bothered if nothing made sense? As long as we can reproduce and feed ourselves, who cares?

How come all our highest behaviors, thoughts, activities don't really help survival?

"This is why we insist: God or Nothing, TransCosmic Plenitude or Infrahuman Nihilism."

There really is no middle way, is there.

4/25/2012 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger yikes said...

The Chinese had much more knowledge than any European State, yet they could not translate such knowledge by model, or trial and error. It was part of the way they viewed the world. The West took the information and ran with it.

4/26/2012 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Another helpful wise crack by Schuon: "To claim that knowledge as such can only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute.""

Funny and True - always a winning combination!

4/26/2012 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"There is nothing studied by science that couldn't be otherwise. Indeed, change one little variable in one of those helpful equations governing the big bang, and neither we nor the cosmos as we know it would be here."

Absolutely agree with the first part, but I cringe at the later part - not at how it's used here, but that that is how it is used by professsors, to nudge students into thinking that it could be different, that everything is mere chance and happenstance, and so they shouldn't be silly enough to believe that anything such as Truth could actually exist.

But of course none of it could be otherwise, no single variable in what those equations measure, could in any way, shape or form, be different than they are, there is no 'if' or 'or', it is All One Cosmos.

Period.

4/26/2012 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"John Wilkins, who is of the belief that "science is not a metaphysical system of thought," but rather, "deals precisely with objective experience. Personal views of scientists do not define the results of scientific work.""

What is truly fascinating, and truly pity-full, is that in willians attempt to shuffle some words around and cover his plagiarism , he transblighted that into, in his words,

"The fact is, reality has nothing to do with human belief systems."

Such a confession of total corruption. In tomorrows post you note that

"it is impossible for a man to love lies and remain a proper man."

, what a horrible existence such a person not only clings to, but pursues.

4/26/2012 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Suffice it to say that this is not a sufficient reason to account for the miracle of individuality. Well, individual jerks, maybe. But not anyone you'd want to know."

Aye. Individual jerks are a dime a dozen.
And yet, they earnestly believe they are unique in spite of themselves.
They don't see their jerkness as a flaw but they no doubt wonder why no one wants to know them.

4/27/2012 12:20:00 AM  

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