Monday, October 21, 2013

Missing Link Discovered!

No time for a proper post. But perhaps enough time to toss out some controversial sentiments by Hartshorne, and start a fight.

Think about this, for example: "a knowledge coextensive with truth, does not imply the immutability of truth," especially if God's Prime Directive is creativity (infused with love). If so, then it seems there will always be more truth to love.

Having said that, I see a potential problem here, in that people can forget the essential, unchanging truths, and instead focus on the continuous novelty. Clearly, there must be a balance between the changing and the unchanging.

Interestingly, this perfectly comports with information theory, about which we were rambling a few weeks ago. Remember the distinction between high entropy and low entropy carriers? In order to permit high entropy, upside change, we must have stable low entropy carriers that are not subject to change.

Could it be that this is the secret of God's "two sides," i.e., perfect stability and perfect growth? Don't get hung up on the word "change"; rather, think perfect change.

"If there is genuine freedom or creativity, if consequently truths are to some extent new each moment, then to know all in advance or eternally is to know falsely, for there is no final totality of definite truths to be known; rather, additions to truth occur with every new act of creativity."

Here again, I could only endorse such a view with certain reservations, because there are absolute truths and there are contingent truths, and the latter can only be true in light of the former. If there is no absolute truth -- i.e., truth as such -- then there is no truth at all, and we couldn't even be having this diatribe.

One point emphasized by Hartshorne is that "sufficient cause" is a misused concept. We all understand the distinction between necessary and sufficient causes: necessary causes are those in the absence of which something cannot occur; while sufficient causes are those with which something may occur.

But sufficient causes are never sufficient to explain any phenomenon. Rather, there is always a degree of "wiggle room," of freedom, of creativity -- an x-factor that prevents us from reducing anything to its antecedents.

And when I say "anything," I mean everything, because for Hartshorne (as for Whitehead), reality is "psychical" through and through, so the greater creativity and freedom experienced by human beings extends all the way down -- most famously, to the quantum realm of fundamental indeterminacy.

Importantly, Hartshorne does not root human freedom in quantum indeterminacy, as some have attempted to do. Rather, the freedom is more fundamental than the physics; in other words, physics is the way it is because God is the way he is.

Another key point is that the necessary -- and this is touched upon on p. 72 of the Encirclopedia -- cannot come into existence, because coming into existence involves a transition from not existing to existing.

In fact, "transition" isn't quite the right word, because it implies too much continuity. In point of fact, for anything to come into existence, there is a radical discontinuity with the past.

Please think about that one for a moment, because it's Really Important. If something is necessary, we have to think of it as extended through time. Even though it may appear different at differing times, it is nonetheless fully itself, just extended in time in a deterministic way.

Therefore, any real creativity implies radical discontinuity. To express it another way, to the extent that creativity is real, then the cosmos is discontinuous. It makes leaps -- which goes totally against Darwinian dogma, even though the discontinuity is an easily confirmable fact, empirically, experientially, and metaphysically.

For example, the gap between ape and man is real -- just as are the gaps between matter and life, life and mind, mind and spirit -- and no "missing link" will ever explain it. There is indeed a God of the gaps, and in fact, in the absence of God, there would be no blessed gaps at all -- nor any freedom, any creativity, any love, any novelty -- nothing distinct from the preprogrammed past.

In fact, to say "distinct" is to say freedom, and therefore individuality.

And that just made me think of a spontaneous composition by the singular Charles Mingus called Myself When I Am Real.

Well, that's all the reality we have timelessness for today...

15 Comments:

Blogger ge said...

Was Mingus into Gurdjieff? [that title reminds of 'Life Is Real Only Then, When I Am']
-Added to my NYC brushes with the famed-related is a few hours of phone chats w/ CM's eponymous artist son, who when we at last met, thought I looked like Leary! [well after a few chats on the phone --he did most the talking--with this radical 'Makes Obama look like Limbaugh' genius-type one may well feel like one's tripping 25-lessly!]

10/21/2013 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

"...rather, think perfect change."

If you have a Perfect Being, our initial response would be that that One cannot change except to become less perfect.

Our comprehension of what this means is hindered by the fact that everything we know, including, of course, our own lives, has a beginning. God does not, nor an end. He is. He isn't becoming; He is "am-ing".

This is stretching my head too much on a busy day. But I think I could accept God expressing and, to some extent, externalizing who He is as "perfect change".

10/21/2013 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

While most people like to quote the last line of this passage, the beginning is more important:

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I've got a mental flag for Santayana, can't think of why at the moment, but this at least seems to fit right in.

10/21/2013 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Here again, I could only endorse such a view with certain reservations, because there are absolute truths and there are contingent truths, and the latter can only be true in light of the former. If there is no absolute truth -- i.e., truth as such -- then there is no truth at all, and we couldn't even be having this diatribe.

...

Therefore, any real creativity implies radical discontinuity. To express it another way, to the extent that creativity is real, then the cosmos is discontinuous.


This is the kind of idea that just begs for some illustrative examples to aid in understanding.

On the one hand, "simple" growth comes to mind, for instance seed to tree, or the difference between a single fertilized egg and a fully-grown elephant. But then throw in creativity, and it becomes more like the difference between a collection of paint, brushes and wet plaster and the Sistine Chapel.

In both cases, the latter state can't happen without the former, but in the case of a painting there is a discontinuity unbridgeable except by a creative agent.

10/21/2013 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Further, inasmuch as Truth comes into play, the Sistine Chapel is not a necessary result of the media used to create it - that is, even put to their intended use there's no guarantee that the paints will convey anything more than a giant, muddy mess.

That said, it seems like the analogy is missing something important...

10/21/2013 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.
- Anais Nin

10/21/2013 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

I pull away for a weekend and miss a lot of thinkin' posts.

Personally, I put ontology ahead of epistemology when it comes to God. Just a function of reading St. Thomas, I guess.

to know all in advance or eternally is to know falsely, for there is no final totality of definite truths to be known; rather, additions to truth occur with every new act of creativity

Sounds reasonable. I love this bit:

Importantly, Hartshorne does not root human freedom in quantum indeterminacy, as some have attempted to do. [ cf. Deleuze! ] Rather, the freedom is more fundamental than the physics; in other words, physics is the way it is because God is the way he is.

Ah tant pis, you use zees word "God," so you must be a danger to zee paradis socialiste. To ze guillotine, monsieur!

to the extent that creativity is real, then the cosmos is discontinuous

This might make it easier for people to gape in wonder at the discontinuous universe, rather than at God.

Bob, maybe I missed too much over the weekend, but I wonder how Hartshorne & Co. would respond to these:

a) knowledge is logically anterior to being;
b) God can be irrational and capricious like "Allah";
c) teleological talk is nonsensical in a universe that is radically discontinuous.

I mean, I'm very sympathetic, but I'm puzzled.

10/21/2013 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

God can be irrational and capricious like "Allah"

That's a good question.

How would I know if He acted irrationally? How would I be able to figure that out? In the material world, I can generally tell what is rational and what isn't. But when we move outside of the natural to the supernatural, what then? Miracles are possible. Do they defy logic or simply follow a higher logic?

10/21/2013 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

--a) knowledge is logically anterior to being;

No, because becoming takes priority, so you can't know it before it becomes. Again, what comes into being is not reducible to its necessary and sufficient causes, although it includes them.

b) God can be irrational and capricious like "Allah";

No!

c) teleological talk is nonsensical in a universe that is radically discontinuous.

Again no, because God "lures" existence in a certain direction, just not in a deterministic way. God lures existence toward truth, love, beauty, etc. That's why I call him the Great Attractor. I suppose some people favor the divine stick, but I prefer the attraction of the carrot at the end of time.

I'm sure each of these issues will come up again as we proceed.

And Julie:

"to the extent that creativity is real, then the cosmos is discontinuous."

Again, creativity implies an ontological leap, since the emergent new phenomenon cannot be reduced to, or explained by, its antecedents. If it can be so reduced, then it is not creative, just a prolongation of the past.

Again, I'm sure this will come up again. Todays post was rather concentrated if not slightly gnomic.

10/21/2013 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re miracles -- not sure it is possible or even desirable to understand miracles as anything other than miraculous. Seems to me that by definition they would defy any attempt to confine them to a system. I would regard them as "vertical irruptions," and they are certainly discontinuous, but that's about all I can say in the space of a comment...

10/21/2013 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Reminds me of something I've said before: the cosmos is discontinuous from the bottom up, but continuous from the top down...

10/21/2013 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Despite Gould's overly-scientism stance, I always liked his phrase "punctuated equilibrium" in regards to discontinuity.

10/21/2013 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good example -- since he was a paleontologist and not a biologist, he was able to appreciate the obvious empirical discontinuity of the fossil record, which defies the continuity predicted by Darwinian doctrine.

10/21/2013 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's like, "who you gonna believe, Darwinian dogma or your lyin' eyes?"

10/21/2013 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

This was just amazingly beautiful. Start to finish.

10/21/2013 06:53:00 PM  

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