Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Communing with Reality

So, ultimate reality is not characterized by substance -- as believed by materialists -- or by pure relation -- as maintained by Buddhists and some process philosophers -- but by the irreducible dynamic complementarity of substance-in-relation.

For as Clarke says, if we deny relation, then there is no way for the existent substance to manifest itself to other beings:

"There would be no way for anything else to know that it exists; it would make no difference at all to the rest of reality; practically speaking, it might just as well not be at all -- it would in fact be indistinguishable from non-being."

But we live in a totally interconnected cosmos in which everything is related to everything else, right down to the quantum level and back up to the metaphysical (i.e., Trinity). In short to be is to be related.

This first occurred to me in reading Whitehead, and it first occurred to Whitehead in the late 1910s, when he left mathematics for philosophy and began pondering the implications of recent discoveries in physics. I'm going to briefly hand the lectern over to Professor Wiki for a moment, while I search for a quote:

"In the notes of one his students for a 1927 class, Whitehead was quoted as saying: 'Every scientific man in order to preserve his reputation has to say he dislikes metaphysics. What he means is he dislikes having his metaphysics criticized.' In Whitehead's view, scientists and philosophers make metaphysical assumptions about how the universe works all the time, but such assumptions are not easily seen precisely because they remain unexamined and unquestioned."

Whitehead "argued that people need to continually re-imagine their basic assumptions about how the universe works if philosophy and science are to make any real progress, even if that progress remains permanently asymptotic. For this reason Whitehead regarded metaphysical investigations as essential to both good science and good philosophy.

"Perhaps foremost among what Whitehead considered faulty metaphysical assumptions was the Cartesian idea that reality is fundamentally constructed of bits of matter that exist totally independently of one another, which he rejected in favor of an event-based or 'process' ontology in which events are primary and are fundamentally interrelated and dependent on one another" (emphasis mine).

"He also argued that the most basic elements of reality can all be regarded as experiential, indeed that everything is constituted by its experience.... In this, he went against Descartes' separation of two different kinds of real existence, either exclusively material or else exclusively mental. Whitehead referred to his metaphysical system as 'philosophy of organism,' but it would become known more widely as 'process philosophy.'"

Back! Thank you, Professor. As you can see from what my colleague just said, there are several key principles, including the ideas that reality is organic, that subjectivity and experience are intrinsic to it, and that nothing is radically independent from anything else. While I am not a Whiteheadian per se, those are certainly three of my non-negotiable demands.

I never retrieved the quote I was looking for, but you get the picture. As Clarke says, "relationality is a primordial dimension of every real being, inseparable from its substantiality..."

What I would add is that this ontological openness applies both horizontally and vertically, i.e., with other local existents and with the very nonlocal source of local existence itself.

That would be another key Raccoon principle in addition to the three mentioned in the paragraph above. So we're up to four, including organicity, subjectivity, interdependence, and vertical/horizontal openness. Or really, one could reduce the four to organism, for every organism is characterized by subjectivity, dependence, and openness.

But in order for there to be organisms, we must ask the question: by virtue of what principle are organisms possible?

The most metaphysically simple and elegant answer is: Trinity. Without this principle, it is impossible to account for the most astonishing features of existence, up to and including the human mind.

If we try to look at it the other way around and begin with physics, well, physics has absolutely nothing interesting to say about Life or Mind, which operate at a right angle to it. Or, Life operates at a right angle, while Mind is like the "subjective angle" of Life, or Life turned toward the great interior horizon.

"All being," writes Clarke, has an "introverted" or "in-itself" dimension, and an "extroverted" or "towards-others" dimension. Or, as we say around here, man is truly I-AMphibious, or an I who is (like any other I) intrinsically related to a Thou (or to Thou-ness as such).

"To be, it turns out, means to-be-together. Being and community are inseparable." Communion is simply The Case: "Personal being, therefore, tends ultimately toward communion as its natural fulfillment" (ibid.).

And supernatural fulfillment: our "universal dynamism towards the Good turns into an innate implicit longing for personal union with the Infinite Good..." This whole cosmos is one "immense implicit aspiration towards the Divine."

That would be another Raccoon principle to add to the others.

8 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Along those lines, apparently water does some rather surprising things under certain circumstances. The way the atoms within the molecules interact with each other changes in a fundamental way; very interesting.

At every level, the dance of intersubjectivity reveals something about the nature of God.

4/26/2016 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

reality is organic, that subjectivity and experience are intrinsic to it, and that nothing is radically independent from anything else

There is parallel in the news media. No one can be perfectly objective, and I don't expect that from scientists or journalists or anyone else. Just tell me what the bias is up front. The trouble with too many is that they do not believe their metaphysic ought to be subject to challenge.

4/26/2016 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Allena-C said...

"But we live in a totally interconnected cosmos in which everything is related to everything else, right down to the quantum level and back up to the metaphysical (i.e., Trinity). In short to be is to be related."

I can relate. :)

4/26/2016 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Bob,
Your comment that physics has nothing interesting to say about life and mind is not quite true. Consider the observer problem in quantum mechanics, where the "wave function" only collapses into a specific real state when a conscious being makes a measurement or "sees" it. There is debate about this of course, but it seems to touch on your topic here quite well.

4/27/2016 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I strongly disagree that consciousness collapses the wave function. It's more like a baseball game: it's not a ball or strike until the umpire says so. But that doesn't mean the baseball was created by the consciousness of the umpire.

4/27/2016 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob thought: "I strongly disagree that consciousness collapses the wave function."

I thought I was the only one who thought this.
I disagree likewise, because,
I do not believe in magic.

4/27/2016 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

God gave us a reliable world to stand on, not a leaky pontoon bridge over a swamp.

4/27/2016 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"But we live in a totally interconnected cosmos in which everything is related to everything else, right down to the quantum level and back up to the metaphysical (i.e., Trinity). In short to be is to be related."

That echoes my shocking discovery of the universe. Wouldn't it be awesome if it were populated with even 1% of the population of those currently living around us?

Dare to dream.

4/27/2016 12:31:00 PM  

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