Friday, February 14, 2014

Knowledge and Experience

Not sure if a post will emerge from this maelstrom of activity, with simultaneous departures of son to school and mother-in-law to airport. A bit of a scramble. Trying to keep the melon on straight when all about me are losing theirs, and that sort of thing.

Yes, if you want to put it that way, I suppose you could say I'm not normal. Very easily overstimulated, you might say. Or, you could say I'm quite sufficiently stimulated all by myself, thank you. It's always a crowd in here.

I suspect that many Raccoons are of this reclusive nature, with nervous systems that crackle with energy and bristle with social awkwardness. Or in other words, eccentric. This would explain the... exclusive nature of my readership, because with the standard blog, one reader tells his friends, those friends tell their friends, and in a matter of months you have 100,000 readers.

Or maybe Raccoons are just adept at keeping the secret. Yeah, that's it. We tell only our imaginary friends.

Lately we've been discussing the Cosmic Fundamentals. Which brings up an interesting preliminary question, that is, is a priori knowledge possible? This question is central to the somewhat tedious book on Plato and Aristotle, as they answer it in different ways.

Plato is of course all about a priori knowledge, to the exclusion of experience. Similar to the wise guys of the east, he sees the world as ever-changing and therefore useless as a source of truth.

Rather, truth is somewhere to the north of human existence, in the form of transcendent ideas. Herebelow, for example, we only encounter instances of justice, but our task is to ascend to the level at which we can perceive the ideal of justice in all its purity.

The rub is that you can't do that until you're dead, which is why Socrates happily gulped down the hemlock. Although, like Jesus, he was murdered by the state, what a difference between the Passion and his absence thereof! Jesus asked that the cup be passed, while Socrates betrayed no ambivalence at all.

Unlike Plato, Aristotle begins with experience and works up inductively. He agrees that universals exist, but only in particulars. There is no abstract world of universals we can ascend to, and there is no world more "real" than this one.

Well, they're both wrong. Or half right. If I am not mistaken, Aristotle would agree that some knowledge is a priori, for example, the rules of logic, e.g., the principle of exclusion. Without the P of E, thought itself would be impossible, similar to how a rational economy is impossible in the absence of private property. In other words, to the extent that one is "thinking," it is (partly) because a thing is this and not that.

What about the existence of a Cosmos? Are there ideas that cannot not be in order for any cosmos to exist, or in order for there to exist conscious beings?

No, we are not exactly dealing with the Anthropic Cosmological Principle, which is somewhat of a tautology -- that is, that the laws we observe are conditioned by the fact that we exist. In other words, we shouldn't be surprised that things are the way they are, because if they weren't, we wouldn't be here. This principle cuts both ways, proving either that the cosmos is a huge conspiracy or an epic coincidence.

But Schuon takes a different tack. Weaving together both universal logic and our most intimate experience, he shows that the ultimate universal is indeed accessible to the particular, which is another way of saying that man is created in the image of God. Or, the latter expression is a more mythopoeic way of saying that man is conformed to the Absolute.

Let's begin with the Absolute. What is it? Schuon defines it as necessary reality. This implies an immediate corollary, that there exists possible or contingent reality. We know from experience that there is contingent reality -- things don't have to happen the way they do -- from which we may also deduce our own free will, which is a kind of shadow of necessity.

In other words, if we are free, then we can do this or we can do that. We can choose truth or falsehood, good or evil, truth or ugliness. This reminds me of the intimate relationship between truth and ignorance: we can only approach absolute truth because we are ultimately ignorant. Things are intelligible because intelligence is implicit within them, but we can never exhaust this intelligibility. To do so would be to become the Absolute.

Freedom would seem to imply a kind of "nothingness" within the heart of the Absolute, or a nothing-everything complementarity.

Well, I guess I couldn't transcend the maelstrom. We'll start over on Monday.

41 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

I suspect that many Raccoons are of this reclusive nature, with nervous systems that crackle with energy and bristle with social awkwardness.

I don't know what you're talking about. I haven't had an awkward social interaction in a couple of years at least. But maybe that's just because I don't get out much...

2/14/2014 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This would explain the... exclusive nature of my readership, because with the standard blog, one reader tells his friends, those friends tell their friends, and in a matter of months you have 100,000 readers.

That, and you don't spend much time poking the hornets' nests. I was reading this guy's blog today - Vanderleun got me started over there - and I can kind of see why he gets so much attention. He barges into whatever topics are guaranteed to set people to shouting at each other, takes a stance, then advocates that people follow his lead. There's a strong element of "lowest common denominator" in the topics he chooses, and he doesn't mind kicking puppies to make a point.

You could do all of that, if it mattered, and I suspect you could even bring in close to those numbers. But the people who go there for sustenance are not the kind of people who could bear to sit through a discussion of Schuon or Joyce or Wodehouse or The Band.

I read Walsh's blog, because he does sometimes have something interesting to say, but he doesn't speak to me.

2/14/2014 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, if you want to put it that way, I suppose you could say I'm not normal. Very easily overstimulated, you might say. Or, you could say I'm quite sufficiently stimulated all by myself, thank you. It's always a crowd in here.

Ha - I was thinking something very similar this morning. Some days, it's awfully noisy inside my head.

2/14/2014 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Frightfully good job of remixing the Band live at the Academy, BTW. Really comes to life.

2/14/2014 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I must admit I don't think I've ever actually listened to them before. Remedying that now. First track is pretty good - thanks, Spotify!

2/14/2014 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

They can be a difficult band to get into. Superficially they look and sound like a bunch of hicks, but there is something musically esoteric about them. The best introduction by far would be the film of them directed by Scorsese, The Last Waltz. Definitely the best rock film ever, maybe tied with A Hard Days Night.

2/14/2014 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

In the meat space, I'm not nearly as awkward as I used to be, but it helps to be old and grizzled and wearing wraparound shades.

The weaponry might help, too.

2/14/2014 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Spotify is very nice. It's the only reason Windows 8 is still on my wife's desktop. Not that she couldn't use it with Linux, she just doesn't want to risk messing up her playlists.

2/14/2014 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Old and grizzled and wraparound shades? You must be Tony Joe.

2/14/2014 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"this reclusive nature, with nervous systems that crackle with energy and bristle with social awkwardness."

True, but not my fault. There are no 'coons up here in East Tonga.

And do we dig Vince Guaraldi?
I know one of us do.

2/14/2014 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I do have that hat.

2/14/2014 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Do you live in swamp and munch polk salad?

2/14/2014 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'll bet you know some wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' women.

2/14/2014 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Better Living Through Drugs

2/14/2014 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Yea, the Band were one of the best live units.
Caught Dylan & them in '74.
[Album 1 being the 'go-to' imo]
John Simon knew his knobs

2/14/2014 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"In other words, if we are free, then we can do this or we can do that. We can choose truth or falsehood, good or evil, truth or ugliness. This reminds me of the intimate relationship between truth and ignorance: we can only approach absolute truth because we are ultimately ignorant."

Yep, if we couldn't make mistakes, we couldn't be intelligent - might even say that if there's no risk, there can be no reward.

"Freedom would seem to imply a kind of "nothingness" within the heart of the Absolute, or a nothing-everything complementarity."

"♫ ♪ ♬ Freedom's just another word for, nothing-everything complementarity
Knowin' nuthin's the only way to approach the absolute truth...♬ ♪ ♫"

Sing it Janus!


ahem.

2/14/2014 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

http://www.purpleclover.com/video/2018-rare-mccartney-footage-makes-being-musical-genius-look-ridiculously-easy/

[you can almost forgive his politics seeing this...]

2/14/2014 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A brainless uber new age anti-Coon is running for congress in my district.

2/14/2014 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

How sad that my representative won't be Sandra Fluke.

2/14/2014 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, that's your district? Someone - I think it was Van (?) - linked to a big article about her in the comments here a week or two ago. She's creepy; you might actually be better off with Sandra Fluk...

2/14/2014 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's a strange place to live. Since everyone is educated, they're all properly indoctrinated. Meanwhile, every one of the contractors who has worked on the house for the past 10 months is a common sense conservative. We relate much more to them than to the neighbors. But the contractors tell us that we are the only clients who talk to them, offer snacks, make eye contact, etc. So much for liberal love of the working man.

2/14/2014 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I'll bet you know some wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' women.

Shore 'nough.

I have eaten polk and dug roots for sassafras tea. Poor people has poor ways.

2/14/2014 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

By the way, if you think of it, say a little prayer for American speed skater Emily Scott. She will be skating the short track 1500 meters Saturday morning between 4:00 and 7:00AM CDT. She's had some challenges in her life, and she's come a long way. I'm just asking the Lord to help her do her best.

2/14/2014 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the contractors, I can't imagine not making eye contact or just being generally decent to the people who take care of the stuff that makes modern life liveable, especially when they're there over a long stretch. I'll bet they did a spectacular job for you; people work harder and better when you treat them like human beings and not slave labor...

2/14/2014 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"It's a strange place to live. "

Well sure...surrounded by indoctrinated working class hating zombies is a pain, but surely you've had the chance to see them film "Psych" on location at least once, right?

2/14/2014 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Workers---
On day 1 I like to start a fat spliff and pass it to the nearest workman as I'm trying to hold in the smoke...

2/15/2014 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sometimes I think my reading is guided by the Holy Spirit or something. Just bumped into a couple of books that look fascinating, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ and How Judaism Became a Religion. Let's hope they don't disappoint.

2/15/2014 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One book I haven't ordered but looks mildly intriguing is The Big Lebowski and Philosophy: Keeping Your Mind Limber with Abiding Wisdom. Since it's a collection of essays, it's hard to imagine that many authors who have mastered the Profound and Funny dialectic.

2/15/2014 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I love the Big L, but sometimes find the cultic worship of the show a little bemusing. I don't know that the Profound and Funny can survive in the midst of such earnest devotion, but what do I know?

The reviews are amusing. But is reading it truly a zesty enterprise? I wonder...

2/15/2014 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That book about the Jewish Gospels does look intriguing. You'll have to let us know.

I've been to a synagogue a couple of times, for my niece and nephew's bat/r mitzvahs. It struck me, then, how much the Catholic Mass must have borrowed from Jewish worship. Obviously, they aren't there same but there's an undercurrent of familiarity where you can see how the one must have been in-formed by the other.

2/15/2014 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

And now, for something completely different:

A very special Valentines Day photo album. I wonder if this guy knows William?

2/15/2014 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

RE: The Jewish Gospels.

Would it be fair to say then, that the Raccoon engages in what might be called a Talmudic Christianity?

(Or similarly, perhaps a Socratic Christianity?).

2/16/2014 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Jack, that's an interesting question. Along those lines, I was surprised to read in Ratzinger's 'In the Beginning...' about sabbath years in the Talmud - that is, not only is every seventh day a meant to be a sabbath, but also every seventh year. And every 49th year (7 x 7) even moreso.

Anyway, it caught my eye because the significance of seven-year periods within a human life has been a topic of discussion here in the past; I had no idea it had any biblical significance.

2/16/2014 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know if it's Talmudic Christianity. More like Subgenius Christianity: the celestial path of least resistance.

The Cave and the Light is definitely picking up. Much more effective as a general survey of Western thought than a forced duality between Plato/boxers and Aristotle/briefs. The author is insanely erudite. Or else has a few research assistants.

2/16/2014 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Most importantly, he's doing the work Raccoons don't want to do.

2/16/2014 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

It is almost as if the POST postmodern takes us right back the beginning again. Or so it appears at times.

2/16/2014 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think that's generally true, i.e., to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time, as one of the first postmodern neotraditional retrofuturistic poets put it.

2/16/2014 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I told all my imaginary friends about OC. Not my fault they don't "get" it.

2/16/2014 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You need some new imaginary friends. I would demote them to hallucinations.

2/16/2014 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "Much more effective as a general survey of Western thought than a forced duality between Plato/boxers and Aristotle/briefs."

Agreed. I enjoyed the tour a lot, and, unlike others of the sort, "The dream of Reason" and a couple others, he noted how the interplay of Aristotle & Plato produced some of the West's best periods, rather than the stark caricatures that are usually pushed.

2/16/2014 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I think you are right, Bob. I got in with the wrong crowd of imaginary friends.
Sure, at first glance they may look cool but the heaviest thing they read is Howard The Duck, and that only gets you so far.

2/16/2014 10:26:00 PM  

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