Thursday, October 31, 2013

Atheism: Getting Nowhere Fast

I suppose there are no less than three immediate sources of wonder, each of which being prior to and beyond any scientific explanation.

There is existence as such, i.e., a cosmos that cannot explain itself; consciousness, for which there isn't even a decent scientistic fairy tale; and all the superfluous spiritual joy connected with the whole transnatural dimension, e.g., love, truth, beauty, etc. -- or what Hart places under the heading of ananda-bliss.

For example, why is it such a literal joy for me to blog? What's up with that? Is it really reducible to some crude, anti-intellectual Darwinian explanation?

In other words, is the blog just a babe magnet in disguise? First of all, I already have a babe. Besides, if it is, then your own tyrannical Darwinism is no different, just another way to get chicks and tenure. If Darwinism is true, then we can at least stipulate that the pursuit of truth is a delusion, and get down to the real question of who's got the bigger blog.

But for a Darwinian to ask "who's got the more encompassing truth?" is like asking "who has the reddest genes?" Genes don't have color, nor do primates built of contingency have access to truth.

This makes me want to skip ahead to chapter five of The Experience of God, Bliss (Ananda). As with so much of the book, it covers the same essential territory as One Cosmos (in particular, section 3.1, The Big Bang of the Mental Universe, but other parts as well), albeit in a more sober, even borderline tenured way (bearing in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule that the sinmates run the looniversity bin).

Example?

Well, in my assessment of the Big Bang of human self-consciousness, I zero in on three strange factors: first, the idea that a supposedly material cosmos should have interiority at all. This is something that science can't even know of, much less explain.

In other words -- and this is an absurdity, but just go with it -- if one weren't already personally acquainted with consciousness, one could never know of it. That is, the most complete description of any physical object -- including a brain -- would reveal nothing of its interior, i.e., its subjectivity.

Which reminds me of the ultimate antinomies we've been discussing, one of which is subject-object. One reason we know materialism cannot possibly be true is that the "distance" between objective and subjective is truly absolute. No amount of mere quantity can give rise to qualities: you can't get here (inside) from there (outside).

Since there is no other way to shoehorn subjectivity into the cosmos, we begin with the principle that subject and object are complementary. However, of the two, which is the more encompassing, the more inclusive? The answer is obvious: the subject can include objects, as we all know by way of personal experience, being that the soul is the form of the body. If this weren't the case, I couldn't be invisibly commanding my object -- my body -- to be typing this sentence.

Now, this doesn't mean that God is merely the form of the cosmos. However, it also doesn't mean that God isn't the form of the cosmos, since the cosmos is indeed logocentric right down to the ground, and the logos is always "with" God. You can lʘʘk it up.

Onto the second factor (the first being interiority): this is the profound mystery of intersubjectivity. It is one thing for there to exist intelligent bits of matter. I mean, it's still miraculous (intelligence being intrinsically transcendent and therefore supernatural), but it's another thing entirely for this intelligence to gain access to other intelligences, and for one's own intelligence to be accessible to other intelligences.

In short, human beings aren't just intelligent, but rather, members of one another. We retain our individuality, and yet, this individuality means nothing if it isn't plugged into the intersubjective grid. You could say that this intersubjectivity makes (among other things) love possible.

Or, you could turn the cosmos right-side up and say that Love is what makes intersubjectivity possible. This is the Raccoon doctrine -- that the intersubjectivity of the Trinity is mirrored in the herebelow in the form of love, charity, self-sacrifice, humility, etc., each of which Darwinism is incapable of explaining in a nonself-beclowning manner.

Instead of the two factors I have described, Hart focuses in on intentionality, which, it seems to me, describes the same phenomena from a slightly different angle. Intentionality is "a kind of agency, directed toward an end. We could never know the world from a purely receptive position." Rather, "To know anything, the mind must be actively disposed toward things outside itself..." (Hart).

In other words -- or better, in symbols -- we could say that the mind is inherently (↑), always reaching beyond itself toward a transcendent end that we call O. Thus, (↑) is oriented to a reality that surpasses the material world. In so doing, it comes "to know the endless diversity of particular things within the embrace of a more general and abstract yearning for knowledge of truth as such, and by way of an aboriginal inclination of the mind toward reality as a comprehensible whole" (ibid.).

And this drive or divine instinct or what have you is always bound up with faith (o), in that our psychopneumatic adventure is always sponsored by an implicit belief that existence is intelligible and that we may know it. And when we do know it, there is a kind of joy associated with it, i.e., ananda-bliss. This is why truth not only sounds right, but "feels good," so to speak. It tickles.

This marriage of mind and world is just like a... a marriage. "Consciousness," writes Hart, "enters into intimate communion with... the form of things," revealing "a natural orientation... toward the infinite horizon of intelligibility that is being itself."

Speaking of our cosmotextual orientation, just as there can be no such thing as "homosexual marriage," there can be no such thing as an intellectually consistent "atheist truth-seeker," since to seek truth is to orient oneself toward, and open oneself to, this transnatural ideal, or O. In short, "all knowledge involves an adventure of the mind beyond itself" (ibid.).

Atheists book their passage for the same cosmic adventure we do, except they throw the maps and compass out the window. This allows them to travel much faster than we do. But where's the fun in getting nowhere fast? We prefer to take our time, which is what this old but colorful bus is for. After all, to travel well is better than to arrive. Or in other words, I don't want to be God. I just want to know God.

BTW, I never got to the Third Thing, but we'll continue this trip tomorrow.

10 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

I am overwhelmed.

It must be frustrating to be seeking the truth that there can be no truth. You can almost hear God laughing about that one.

10/31/2013 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, in my experience the average atheist actually feels liberated; this is as good an illustration as any I can think of. Of course, that feeling of liberation only lasts so long as the atheist is content with mere materiality, since any quest for a godless truth can only lead one into nihilism, if one is a genuine seeker.

10/31/2013 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Funny, I was reading Pieper the other day and he says the same thing in only the way her can:

Philosophy does not become simpler by embracing the norm of Christian revelation. Instead, and this is an obvious claim on the part of a Christian, it becomes truer, more faithful to reality. What revealed truth brings to philosophical thinking is a creative and fruitful opposition. Christian philosophy sets a higher task for itself. Christian philosophizing di ffers, by having to withstand a force exceeding the realm of mere rational difficulties. Christian philosophy is more complicated because it does not permit itself to arrive at "illuminating" formulations through ignoring, selecting, or dropping certain areas of reality; and this is because, placed in a fruitful state of unease through its glimpse of revealed truth, it is compelled to think more spaciously and, above all, not to be content with the superficiality of any rationalistic harmony. Christian philosophy is different because of this splashing and foaming of the soul's breakers against the cliff of the divine Truth.

10/31/2013 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sort of how poetry forces the poet to grapple with non-obvious ways of expressing things.

10/31/2013 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, that is a good illustration. They'd better hope the salt doesn't lose its savor.

There's an interesting bit by Vox Day on Dark Matter. I was intrigued by Stickwick's comments on the significance of Dark Matter. It's not so much whether Stickwick is right, I just like the way he (or she) thinks.

10/31/2013 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Well, sonofagunderson:

http://wordonfire.org/trackback/51f07fd4-de19-43ee-a97c-8d9e4539eef2/Who-God-Is-and-Who-God-Is-Not--A-commentary-by-Fr--Barron.aspx

10/31/2013 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

My only reservation is that this idea of God is so radically abstract and remote that -- ironically -- it seems more like the "God of the philosophers" than the God of the Bible. Which is another reason why I prefer the process view, as it seems to me more able to reconcile these two perspectives.

10/31/2013 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Matter is the monkey of Mind

Mind is the meaning of Man

God's grinning Energy

11/01/2013 05:10:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

I 'Nook'd Hart's book the night before and just finished the intro. Not only is it a good and promising read so far, but the closing of the intro captures my own sense of things really well - I can't wait to see what he sees more clearly or differently!

11/01/2013 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

There are some good videos of him on YouTube. Watched a couple last night.

11/01/2013 07:16:00 AM  

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