Friday, March 21, 2014

Even God Can't be a Little Bit Pregnant

As we've discussed in the past, we are confronted with a number of irreducible complementarities -- we call them orthoparadoxes, but that term is probably getting stale -- such as time/eternity, form/substance/, male/female, wave/particle, individual/collective, subject/object, part/whole, I/thou, etc.

We can attempt to think beyond these by choosing one side over the other, but doing so always comes at the expense of sneaking in properties of the excluded term through the backdoor.

For example, if you really choose object over subject, then the conversation must stop then and there, because objects don't think or speak. Thus, to even acknowledge the bare existence of material objects is to simultaneously acknowledge the existence of subjects. Call it the Law of the Excluded... sibling or something.

Now, one of these complementarities has to be Absolute/Relative. As with the others, we can try to think beyond this orthoparadox, but doing so will simply generate paradox -- the bad kind.

I call a bad paradox any idea that negates itself or simply generates unthinkable absurdity.

Take, for example, determinacy/indeterminacy. To affirm the former over the latter is to affirm nothing, because the affirmed is simply the necessary. Only if there is contingency can we know the necessary. Likewise, if predestination is true, then we couldn't know it. (For similar reasons, if natural selection is the sufficient cause of man, man couldn't know it.)

Hartshorne asks a naughty theo-logical question, that is, "What is the basic logic of the assumption that relativity is primary, not absoluteness?"

Yes, there are passages in scripture suggesting the primacy of absoluteness, but there are also passages implying otherwise. Besides, Hartshorne is inquiring into the "basic logic," and perhaps the logic is necessary in order to sort out conflicting passages in scripture.

For example, if there is a passage suggesting the sun revolves around the earth, we can safely (and appropriately) ignore it, because it conflicts with observation and reason.

In a more general sense, is it helpful to conceptualize a Creator who gives us the precious gift of intelligence, only to ignore it in transmitting his most important communication to us? Why then do we have the intelligence, if it only gets in the way? Or, to what is the revelation addressed? To stupidity? Credulity? Fantasy?

Could be. But this places intelligent people in a bind, because then they are forced to choose between intellect and God.

Let's begin with some definitions of relative: "considered in relation or in proportion to something else"; "a being or object posited by virtue of its relations"; "having mutual relation with each other."

Now, do we arrive at relativity via absoluteness? Or rather, do we posit absoluteness based upon our familiarity and intimacy with relativity?

For Hartshorne -- and for me, for what it's worth -- it is clearly the latter: "The concept of the non-relative is parasitic on that of the relative. Given the concept of relatedness, we can then by negation (itself an example of relativity) arrive at that of non-relatedness."

In other words, in everyday life, we confront nothing but a concrete (not abstract) web of relations. To the extent that things can exist apart from the web, this is always an abstraction. There is "absolutely" nothing that is radically separate from anything else, which is why it should have come as no metaphysical surprise -- the surprise of physicists notwithstanding -- that the quantum realm should reveal itself to be a field, a web, a network, and not a world of externally related parts.

True, there is the famous wave/particle complementarity, but of the two, which must be primary? (And please note, to say "primary" is not to exclude the complementary term, for there is still relation.)

I would suggest that the field must be primary, just as, say, our body is primary over the cells of which it is constituted, even though both are necessary. A bunch of cells does not equal a body, nor is the cosmos a pile of atoms.

Now, being relative means that what something is -- i.e., its identity -- "depends for being what it is upon some relation to another."

I don't know about you, but I find it fascinating that Christianity posits a God of "absolute relation." In other words, there is no God "beyond" the mutual indwelling and roundabout relations of F↔S↔HS. What a strange idea!

And yet, in my opinion, it accords with basic logic in a way that "absolute absoluteness," so to speak, cannot. Rather, in my opinion, absolute-absoluteness (AA for short) -- in which all relativity is bleached out -- is absurd and paradoxical.

An AA God, in whom relativity is denied, would, of course, be a changeless God. Thus, such a God would be neutral as to all alternatives and differences.

Interestingly, the radically un-judgmental God of the New Agers often approaches this ideal; for example, who are you to claim that God has an issue with homosexual marriage? Differences between the sexes are just human constructs, but in God there are no such distinctions, just absolute gooey oneness!

From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. The essence of God is birthing. --Meister Eckhart

Well, that's about it for today. To be continued...

47 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

An AA God, in whom relativity is denied, would, of course, be a changeless God.

And as such, how could there be any creation?

3/21/2014 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It certainly couldn't be creation as we use the term, as in novelty, surprise, and irreducibility to antecedents.

3/21/2014 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Incidentally, the reality of relatedness is one of the reasons I could never be a libertarian. Much of what they wish to allow, under the rubric of "who cares as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else," often has profound - and profoundly harmful - effects on other people, whether they realize it or not.

3/21/2014 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's right: libertarianism is just the mirror image of collectivism. What then is the correct approach? Unfortunately, the term "family values" has been so ridiculed by the left as to be useless, but conservative classical liberalism is founded on the primacy of the family, or of the intimate relations therein. The family is the real subjective WE, whereas the state can only enforce a counterfeit WE -- a top-down US, as it were.

Tocqueville was the first to observe that America revolved around other genuine WEs of civil society, but the state tries to displace all of these, since they are competing centers of power. The left is always anti-family and anti-civil society, hence their attack on everything from marriage to the Boy Scouts to school choice.

3/21/2014 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Most libertarians will undermine their philosophical underpinnings when pressed hard enough. Just like most relativists don't live like one, most libertarians will yield to some order to complement their lived freedom.

3/21/2014 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Even speaking of the day and the time itself we make reference to the movement of the sun around the Earth ('the sun rises', 'the sun sets') without ever needing to assume that in a more absolute context, this is really happening.

I think the balance between Essence and Energies captures the need for stability (non-change) and change in God; while he remains unchanging, his energies interact and 'change'. As the psalmist says, "This is a change in (or wrought by) God's right hand!" [Christians regard this as a prophecy of the Incarnation]

3/21/2014 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

The Buddhists are also in the ball park...

From Wikipedia:
According to Déchen & Ngak’chang:

The structure of Dzogchen teachings is always in groups of three – such as base, path and fruit – but although they are divided in this way their indivisibility is emphasised by symbols such as ga’kyil (dGa’ dKyil).

—Déchen & Ngak’chang, Dzogchen transmission of the non-dual state[2]

3/21/2014 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"But this places intelligent people in a bind, because then they are forced to choose between intellect and God." Only if they ignore what scripture teaches about our fallen nature, i.e. all areas of our being, body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions, etc., are touched by sin. (Rom 3, Ps 14, 53, etc.)

One of the purposes for the revealed truth of scripture is to test our untrustworthy fallen intellect. (Acts 17:11)

Full Reality is only visible by spiritual eyes gazing through scripture-colored glasses. The eyes are free, the glasses'll cost ya.

3/21/2014 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"Even God can't be a little bit pregnant."

Well, duh. He's a guy!

3/21/2014 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie & Gagdad, I thoroughly cooncur on capital "L" Libertarianism. One thing that most definitely could not survive their ideals, is Liberty itself.

3/21/2014 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"who cares as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else,"

h/t Julie

Honestly, I don't know more about the libertarian tribe than that motto. I don't know many in real life who say (out loud) that they're conservative; and none libertarian (it's no doubt this here Wild East CT territory to blame) You think it's easy?

Anywayz, about that libertarian motto -- if I hold it up against the template of the Good Samaritan parable, I get: FAIL. So that dog don't hunt for me.

3/22/2014 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The whole problem, according to Isaiah Berlin, is that "ends collide." As such, if you try to build your political philosophy around one end -- say, liberty -- you will fail to appreciate how this conflicts with other ends. As with history, there is no deductive system that can generate easy answers and apply to every case. I suppose this is what ideology attempts: to replace judgment with deduction.

3/22/2014 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Which is why conservatism is really at antipodes to libertarianism, since, for example, it respects the settled judgments of the culture instead of imposing some top-down novelty such as homosexual marriage or lady SEALs. It also adopts the tragic view of life, i.e., that the perfect is the enemy of the good, that any system involving human beings, of all people, is going to be problematic, that every policy involves trade-offs, that there are always unintended and unknowable bad consequences, etc.

3/22/2014 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Libertarians don't espouse liberty because their understanding of the world, of man, and of man's place in it has led them to realize that Liberty is what results from the proper organization of society. No, they begin with liberty, because they want liberty.

Libertarians begin with a concept that is the result of, to name just a few, Law, which results from an understanding of Govt, which results from an understanding of Ethics, which relies upon an understanding of logic, which relies upon an understanding of Epistemology, which results from an understanding of Metaphysics... but the Libertarian discards all of that, all of which is necessary to understand, live in, and apply, the concept of Liberty.

And they expect to attain it? And keep it?!

What they want is to be able to have what they want, because they feel like it and they don't want others to frustrate them in getting what they want. Hippies of the Right. What they'll find, if we're ever stupid enough to give them what they want, is that they'll arrive at a tyranny every bit as tyrannical as what the leftists seek, and very possibly more so.

3/22/2014 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, there can be no abstract thing called "liberty." Rather, it is only present in the concrete living of it, and therefore can only be artificially separated from all other values.

I remember reading that Americans had had the concrete experience of living liberty for 150 years before it was codified in the abstraction of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" contained in the Declaration. You can't just begin with the empty abstraction, because it will make no sense.

3/22/2014 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Seems to me that totalitarians always begin with those empty abstractions such as "social justice" or "equality."

3/22/2014 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

And then they flesh out those abstractions in such a way as to accomplish the exact opposite.

3/22/2014 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"...empty abstractions such as "social justice" or "equality."

Bob, you just reminded me of the movie we watched last night.
It was good for lolz!

CARNAGE

3/22/2014 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

I'm back!

3/22/2014 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Science confirms existence of ridicure.

3/23/2014 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Dougman! Nice to see you :)

Guffaha: yoga for the brain

3/23/2014 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is interesting. I'm always on the lookout for confirmation of the sacred hunches and dilettantric yoga, AKA uninformed speculation, in my book. Throughout chapter 2 I discuss the insufficiency of DNA alone to account for evolution, and why evolution must be progressive based upon the underlying cosmo-trialectical logic.

So, here's an essay that confirms some of those ideas vis-a-vis dissipative structures, attractors, and future causation. I skimmed it, but certain phrases jump out, such as how the existing paradigm is based on simple cases that are the exception, not the rule; how the attractor yields "very specific, but emergent, and therefore unpredictable" qualities; and how Life recruits what it needs to keep on truckin'.

3/23/2014 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Interesting article, though more than a bit over my head.

This was a recent find also, but I'm sorry if it was linked here earlier (I can't follow my own evolution of internet links -- I don't know how my selfish genes remember everything; without fail, no less). Anyway, interesting case, this Dr. Tour:

A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution

"… I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. I understand that if I take Nature’s tool kit, it could be much easier, because all the tools are already there, and I just mix it in the proportions, and I do it under these conditions, but ab initio is very, very hard.
I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you."

I believe he also makes the argument that evolution must happen on all levels simultaneously (and not just the macro) for there to be any evolution at all.

Berlinski lately points to another elephant in the room that no one even seems to have an explanation (if even an acknowledgement) for the "evolution" of the human person from single cell, to infant, to adult, to old age, to death. How do we account for this amazing, continuous transformation, right under our shnozes?

3/23/2014 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The chemist is correct. I'm sure people don't appreciate how much their thinking is naively conditioned by the "vision" of evolution (among others), much in the same way medieval people were pre-critically conditioned by their own vision of things. Man cannot live without a vision of the whole. Or, man is the being who envisions the whole, i.e., the Cosmos.

3/23/2014 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But few possess 20/∞ vision, and more than a few suffer from cardiomyopia.

3/23/2014 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Funny you talking about Libertarians the other day.
Deuce over at The Libertarian just closed up his blog, 2164th.blogspot.com
Which gives me time to bug you over here :-)

3/23/2014 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We here are liberatorians. Big difference.

3/23/2014 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's me at the right, slacking off in my backyard liberatoreum in a mild state of egobliteration. You can almost see the time dilating.

3/23/2014 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Ha, I actually understood that one :-)

And I agree. The Libertarians just don't see Islam for the threat that it is.

3/23/2014 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Hi Julie!
How's that baby doing?
Probably not a baby anymore.
Are you still singing?

3/23/2014 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

My wife's maiden name is Liberatore.

Anywho, Fr. Barron on Cosmos.
He points out a few, not so small facts I'd hoped others would have also made..

3/23/2014 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Never mind the Cosmos, how do we account for this?

3/23/2014 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I know who McFarlane is, more or less, but am not familiar with Knight. Is it a case of doppelgangers or is it an evil twin scenario?

3/23/2014 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Hi Dougman - those are my little ones in the picture, but it's almost a year old now. The baby is practically a boy, and his little sister is nicknamed (on occasion) The Giant Baby, because she's growing even faster than he did; she's off the charts for height. Between the two of them, I only manage to sing in the living room or the car these days :)

3/23/2014 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Your link didn't work for me there Rick.

3/23/2014 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Two of them now! Congrats to you. It's been a long time since I've visited.
So you and Robinstarfiah haven't collaborated on anything since the first song from the raccoon playroom?

3/23/2014 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Nah; lack of innerest. Honestly, I think everyone's too busy anyway.

3/23/2014 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, Knight played Peter Brady many moons ago.

3/23/2014 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, that guy. Which still doesn't answer the doppelganger/ evil twin question...

3/23/2014 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I know I've never seen them in the same room together.

3/23/2014 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Yes, I can relate to being too busy.
Two teenagers and a twelve year old, two dogs,two cats, ...two mints in one....oh, sorry, commercial flashback.

3/23/2014 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Hey Dougman!

Rick, from Peter Brady to Seth McFarlane... while evolution might be difficult to explain, devolution seems to have been conclusively proven.

3/23/2014 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Howdy Van!
Still kickin trolls butts, leaving them in s puddle of their own "logic"? :-)

3/23/2014 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the macroevolution, and thinking of the leap from ape to man, I was reading the other day about how humans came to be naked. The explanation had to do with lice, which I suppose is fine as far as it goes, except that it really doesn't explain the situation at all.

It doesn't explain the hair of our heads, for one, and the way that it can keep growing and growing. It doesn't explain why a human body (at its best) is so beautiful to look at. Picture a hairless chimpanzee; would even the most radiantly healthy one would look even remotely lovely? Or picture any other hairless land mammal. They may be fascinating, but again they aren't beautiful. The only thing that comes close that I can think of are dolphins. Anyway, mere evolution doesn't account for how we look. If it did, there would be other animals from similar terrain with similar characteristics.

Anyone with eyes can see that there is something profoundly different about mankind, even without the trappings of human civilization. But again and again they insist that we are merely advanced animals.

3/23/2014 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, secular humanists are always animalists. In order to be a true humanist, one really has to be religious.

3/23/2014 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Our bodies are structured around phi. This does not appear to be the case with chimpanzees, which are uglier.

3/24/2014 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

So much good stuff.

3/24/2014 09:41:00 AM  

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