Monday, August 25, 2014

A Stranger on My Own Home Planet

Yes, remystification is a good thing. It is what the Raccoon strives for. However, this is to be sharply distinguished from mere mystification, which is either a sentimental or profit-driven erosion of distinctions rooted in magical thinking -- deepaking the chopra -- or a kind of cynical blocking of inquiry around a position that cannot be rationally defended -- political correctness.

Or as Chesterton said, "There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic."

Which is why Obama's defenders naturally call him a "pragmatist," of all things, the purpose being to throw a shroud of mystification over his dogmatism -- to blur, not clarify.

Chesterton also observed that "the main problem for philosophers" is how to reconcile -- or tolerate -- the following orthoparadox: how to "contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honor of being our own town?

"We need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable."

On that same fortuitous page we read that "All things grow more paradoxical as we approach the central truth." I know exactly what GK means, but again, mere paradox can be employed in the defense of mystification. In contrast, orthoparadoxy combines the utmost in clarity with the last weird in mystery: wonder and welcome, fascination and comfort, weirdness and security, strangers in our own hometown.

With that in mind, to what does the word God refer? Correct: it is a Mystery. But does this mean we can say nothing about God -- or that talk of God amounts to so much nothing? How then do we even have the word? We are not pneumababbling deconstructionists: we believe that words have referents in reality and that reality is intelligible in the form of words.

The problem, I suppose, is that God is the reality, so it is not possible to stand outside that reality in order to "refer" to it. Good point.

Still, we reject this as needless mystification: all wonder and no welcome. It is simultaneously too weird and not weird enough. Because what would be really weird is if creatures could have genuine insight into their Creator.

I will cut to the chase and say that I am entirely persuaded (with important modifications) by Harshorne's conception of God as not absolute, except insofar as he is absolute relativity. Furthermore, to posit God as absolute-absolute is to drain both God and world of all mystery, except in the annoying sense of "why does He bother?"

Because if God knows exactly how everything is going to play out, then there is no contingency: all is necessity, right down to the most infinitesimal decimal. This post, for example, was written before the foundation of the world. Which I would suggest is abject mystification, or in other words, grandiose cosmic bullshit.

What I don't quite get is how people in the Judeo-Christian stream would go for this conception, for revelation reveals some rather astonishing facts about God. There are many, but some of the critical ones are that he is person; that he is creator; that he is love; and that (for Christians) he is three. But the absolute in the philosophical sense could be none of these things.

What is also interesting is that the Christians most likely to embrace the notion of God as philosophical absolute are fundamentalists who are otherwise extremely wary about philosophical contamination of Christianity. But the idea of an unchanging Absolute is again a Greek import.

One of our teachstones is that man is the image and likeness of the Creator. The orthodox conception is that the image is analogous to the potential, whereas likeness is its actualization, i.e., theosis.

Now, if God is the unchanging absolute, this would imply that the best man would be the one who is likewise immutable, not subject to change or suffering, radically complete, an ainsoferable gnosis-all. First of all, that would be impossible, short of death. But even if possible, would it be admirable?

Besides, what is a person? Is a person without social relations even conceivable? No.

This is not to suggest that God is not absolute, because he is. But one of Hartshorne's excellent orthoparadoxes is not only that his relativity -- his capacity for real relationship -- is absolute, but that relativity both surpasses and includes his absoluteness -- just like any other person!

You might say that God's absoluteness is analogous to "character" in a human being. Character is what doesn't change, what endures over time despite changing circumstances. So to say, for example, that God is "good," or "love," or "creativity," is to refer to absoluteness, except converted into a dynamic verb instead of a static noun, so to speak.

Can love ever be static? Creativity? Knowledge? Speech? Life? I wouldn't even say that God is three so much as perpetually three-ing. And there is no unchanging noun behind or above this verbal dynamism, on pain of God not being a subjective Person-in-relation but an impersonal object.

Strangers on our own wondrous home planet:

16 Comments:

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Strange planet you got there.

8/25/2014 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe to us God is three, but to him only one, because of the physical laws he’s laid out? Spiritual relativity. Or dimensional relativity, or something really elegant to him but mysterious to us... Of course, can’t be scientifically proven or disproven. At least til my Spirit-O-Meter device is perfected. I heard the Vatican's got good people on it.

The last thread, I think they saw where I was headed and bailed on me. If spirit life begins at birth (to us), or never came to exist (to them), should we discuss legislation (or not) of the A-word? I’d school myself on the opinions here but I’m limited to google searches.

8/25/2014 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Can love ever be static?

My boy has recently gained an awareness of what the word "love" means. Now, many times a day, he'll spontaneously tell us, and often he almost sounds surprised, as though the emotion has suddenly welled up and must be expressed. Not static; more like being keyed in to the heartbeat of the cosmos.

8/25/2014 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Adiafora?

8/25/2014 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

What I don't quite get is how people in the Judeo-Christian stream would go for this conception, for revelation reveals some rather astonishing facts about God.

I don't know. My discussions seem to indicate that my fellow funkamentalists preach it more than believe it. We like to say "GOD IS IN CONTROL!" as though it is all set in concrete, but I think we understand it is more complicated than that. It's just hard for people with an IQ of 85 to express.

8/25/2014 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I don't mean that IQ remark as a knock. Even if you are not a spiritual or intellectual athlete, God loves you and wants to deliver you. God has to communicate to Himself to everybody from Einstein to Biden.

8/25/2014 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Friendship, affection, romance, charity - the four well known "types" of love. Love is given and I think often times it is the only way we think of love. But it is also received, and as such it allows someone else to give love. That's part of the deal - allowing yourself to be loved.

8/25/2014 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Anonymous said "The last thread, I think they saw where I was headed and bailed on me"

No one bailed on you, you failed to get off the ground or to follow along with either your questions or the replies given.

"I’d school myself on the opinions here but..."

If you want to be taken as being other than a troll, get a name. Doesn't have to be a real one, you can type it in manually, just pick one to identify yourself by.

"...should we discuss legislation (or not) of the A-word?"

Might want to figure out what life (pick one of your flavors) is, and what business legislation has with it, before throwing darts in the dark to determine what one should do to the other.

Just a suggestion.

8/25/2014 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Because if God knows exactly how everything is going to play out, then there is no contingency: all is necessity, right down to the most infinitesimal decimal. This post, for example, was written before the foundation of the world. Which I would suggest is abject mystification, or in other words, grandiose cosmic bullshit."

Bingo! You'd think it would be soph-explanatory... butt....

8/25/2014 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous nightfly said...

Those little tadpole shrimp from the video reminded me of trilobites. And that reminded me of Trilobyte Studios, well-known video game company in the heyday of PC, full-motion video (please insert disc 3), and their puzzle-filled horror games, 7th Guest and The 11th Hour.

Said company was eventually a victim of its own excesses, with subsequent games selling miserably; other companies surpassed them in the CD-ROM and FMV segment they helped create. Fossils form much more quickly in the digital age.

8/25/2014 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, they do. To paraphrase Sippican, five years is a century in internet years. But twenty years is more like a millenium. On the plus side, on the internet anything can be resurrected; looks like those games are available for download.

8/25/2014 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous neal said...

Omni anything and dumb luck would be something.

Maybe just lack of timing is something after all.

8/25/2014 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"On that same fortuitous page we read that "All things grow more paradoxical as we approach the central truth." I know exactly what GK means, but again, mere paradox can be employed in the defense of mystification. In contrast, orthoparadoxy combines the utmost in clarity with the last weird in mystery: wonder and welcome, fascination and comfort, weirdness and security, strangers in our own hometown."

Mysterious clarity and clarified mystery.
Nothin' like a good clarimystery,

8/25/2014 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Doncha mean strange planets?

On the one hand we has this planet:

“It’s often thought that modern animal groups arose fully formed during the Cambrian explosion. But evolution is a gradual process,” said Martin Smith of Cambridge."

From this I learned it is gradual except when it wasn't. And on the other planet we has:

"The Tadpole Shrimp is 200 million years old."

Ok, you convinced me. That's pretty gradual. What's Cambrian explosion mean again?

8/25/2014 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rick's remark reminds me of an engineer friend of mine who happened to be Chinese and who was frequently heard to say, "Looks good. Doesn't work."

8/26/2014 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or like the economist who says, "sure, it works in reality. But will it work in theory?"

8/26/2014 09:30:00 AM  

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