Thursday, August 18, 2016

What We Can’t Know & What We Can’t Not Know

Well, for starters, we can’t not know that there are things we can never know. All living beings know. Only man can know that he doesn’t know, and know that the latter category is inexhaustible. Thus, there is no permanent cure for curiosity; rather, the answer is the disease that kills it.

For Polanyi, there are “five indeterminacies to which he believed all our knowledge is subject and which must prevent our ever reaching complete objectivity and detachment” (Prosch). For example, reality “is always richer in its capacities to manifest itself in the future than we have grasped it to be in our explicit thought about it.” There is nothing we can do to make the surprise! go away.

For example, the most exhaustive account of physics nevertheless renders life completely inexplicable. Before 4 billion years ago, there was no biological life, only matter. No one could have predicted what was about to happen, i.e., the emergence of life, and with it, a theretofore inconceivable dimension of inwardness, awareness, experience. We can’t even say “inconceivable,” because there was no one to conceive or not conceive.

But just as climate change models cannot retrodict the past, nor can physics. Part of this has to do with complexity, as most systems — including the whole realm of biology — are too complex for physics to cope with.

Time out for Schuon: Whether we like it or not, we live surrounded by mysteries, which logically and existentially draw us towards transcendence. To put it another way, one thing our explanations can never explain is our transcendence — our transcendent ability to posit explanations.

Second, “The rules for deciding whether a discernible pattern in nature is due to chance… can never be rendered determinate.” We really can’t know where order ends and freedom begins. Take again the emergence of life. Most people who have thought about it realize it cannot have been random, because the number of finely tuned variables needed for that to occur approaches infinity. Is it therefore built into physics, something bound to happen? If so, then it only proves how little we know of physics, or about the deep laws governing the universe.

Time out for Schuon: When God is removed from the universe, it becomes a desert of rocks or ice; it is deprived of life and warmth, and every man who still has a sense of the integrally real refuses to admit that this should be reality…

This touches on Gödel, because man — as opposed to any computer — always transcends his own program, so to speak. This also goes to something Russell Kirk said to the effect that ideology is the opposite of conservatism, because the former is a closed system while conservatism is not only open to transcendence but is the tension between transcendence and immanence: it is the recognition of timelessly true principles from outside the universe, and the struggle to instantiate them herebelow, AKA “ thy will be done.”

Thus, To give oneself to God is to give God to the world. And If we want truth to live in us, we must live in it (Schuon).

Third, we do not necessarily “know on what grounds we hold our knowledge to be true.” This touches on what was said yesterday about the function of intuition and imagination. Any knowledge we render completely specific is an impoverished knowledge, or at least knowledge of a very simple system. I don’t know what I know or how I know it, and one of the purposes of blogging is to find out. Even so, I never really know why I know something of a higher order. I just know that it satisfies something in me, something that exists for that very purpose.

Time out for Schuon: It is a fact that man cannot find happiness within his own limits; his very nature condemns him to surpass himself, and in surpassing himself, to free himself. We're always searching for the teloscape that sees all the way to the end of things.

Fourth, “To focus on the subsidiaries in a scientific integration makes us lose sight of the vision formed by their integration.” The integration of subsidiaries is the meaning they point toward. Therefore, to reduce the vision to its components is to destroy the vision. If a pianist focuses on his fingers, he loses sight of musical truth he is trying to convey through them.

Which is why, ultimately, Only the science of the Absolute gives meaning and discipline to the science of the relative (Schuon). Science not only has no meaning outside God, it has no possibility, for the relative depends on the absolute, not vice versa.

Fifth, “we internalize that which we make function subsidiarily,” and “pour our body into it.” You might say we are incarnated, and that we specifically incarnate certain ideas and principles in order to see beyond them.

Even more basically, we are logocentric, such that language penetrates us all the way to the ground; being steeped in language, we use its internalized symbols for the purposes of exteriorization and exploration. Our logosphere is a kind of ever-expanding universe; or not, depending on other factors. But there is always an element of personal, even intimate, involvement in our internalized judgments and commitments. Language can never be reduced to mere words, only the Word that is prior to it.

In the end, “there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence…” And “with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite” (Schuon).

And although the circle is "closed," it ceaselessly expands both exteriorly and interiorly, thus combining absoluteness with infinitude.

18 Comments:

Blogger Abdulmonem Othman said...

Illuminating. I feel at home. I am too old to seek attention. My purpose is to release myself from the label and find my humanity in its pure form and to work in that direction, like Shunoun searching for the common denominator that joins all human religious experiences or the heretical experiences,starting from the obvious premises that of one god,one cosmos ,one humanity and one earth in its air,water,fire and what it produces for our sustenance we share and to find the force behind all these magnificent signs including the human discoveries and revelations over the ages which have been expanded exponentially in our time only to face the truth of our operating system that neglects nothing. Few nights ago I was watching a lecture on you tube by a member of Ibn Arabi society speaking in the transcedance and immanence and the role of imagination in Ibn Arabi search for god. It seems. as Polanyi said that we start our journey in a certain dwelling only to break away from it seeking our unique path to him.

8/18/2016 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Polanyi didn't write much explicitly on the religious implications of his ideas, but others have. However, there is a chapter on it in his last book, Meaning, called Acceptance of Religion. Haven't read it in 30 years or so. Perhaps I should take another look to see if there's anything helpful...

8/18/2016 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm enjoying Levin's Why Race Matters so much, I just ordered his earlier book on Feminism -- for only a penny. And even if you reject his conclusions about genetics, the former is filled with other fascinating eviscerations of liberal pieties, pandering, canards, frauds, shakedowns, and illogic.

8/18/2016 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

It's definitely an interesting topic. Plus anything that eviscerates the left images for good entertainment.

8/18/2016 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh. Donald Trump and unvarnished white supremacists. I guess there is nothing too low for this blog. Now that Trump has hired an antisemite and Holocaust denier, I guess that's next on the agenda.

8/18/2016 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Being denounced as a hater by the Southern Poverty Law Center is like being called unconstitutional by the ACLU.

8/18/2016 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

It's worse. It's like being called racist by a Democrat.

8/18/2016 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

My apologies to you, Abdulmonem. This blog gets all sorts of folks trolling for attention, and your stream-of-consciousness style was fascinating in its exact echoing of Bob's posts. It was almost a glossolalia! I suppose we all feel that way when the AHA!! happens.

8/19/2016 03:26:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

La! The SPLC has stepped into the legal vacuum of a godless judiciary and set itself up as the sole arbiter and judge of the hearts of men. To bow to their opinions as a sacrosanct and unquestioned authority is to acknowledge one's personal insecurity about things hidden in one's own heart. The cowardly bigots hide behind SPLC in the same way Scott Adams says he's voting for Hillary: because he fears her power.

8/19/2016 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I see where Molyneux was called a white supremacist on Twitter for displaying the bell curve of IQs by race.

Lower IQ doesn't mean people can't be good, can't contribute to society, aren't loved by God, and don't deserve to be valued as fellow humans. It does mean they tend to make poor choices in some cases and are in greater need of stable families and guidance from institutions like the Church.

What has happened is that government programs and policies, with all of their unknown unknowns and unintended consequences, have enabled and enhanced destruction of family integrity and stability (across all races) while the media and popular culture have vehemently and relentlessly attacked Christianity and Christian values. The consequence is that fatherless children who need more help and guidance are getting less, resulting in a downward spiral -- maybe a deadly spiral.

8/19/2016 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Exactly, and well said. A refusal to acknowledge the reality of differences in IQ can only result in policies geared to "help" the less gifted that actually do just the opposite. We have forgotten that "all men are created equal" means not that we are all the same, nor ought we be all the same, but rather that we have equal value in the eyes of God.

8/19/2016 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That there are racial differences in IQ and temperament should be no more surprising than that there are sexual differences. For example, because the bell curve for male intelligence is flatter and wider, there are more male geniuses but also more male idiots. The consequences of denying the differences are catastrophic and tragic. In a free society, outcomes will match attributes, not some abstract ideal of equality. Therefore, the freer and fairer the society, the more liberals will complain that it isn't. Fairness will be taken as evidence of unfairness, to be remedied by the heavy hand of the state. Which will only fail, and which will in turn evoke calls for more state intervention.

8/19/2016 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I couldn't care less if every math and engineering spot at Berkeley and Stanford is taken by an Asian. I guess that means I hate white people.

8/19/2016 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

As to the aninnymouse, Cuz & Petey got it about right.

As to the possibility of differences between races, I haven't read the book, but if we're talking about differences in something brain processor speed, or even memory retrieval, the physical aspects of what is normally referred to as intelligence, I can see no reason why there wouldn't be differences between races, just as there are differences in hair type, melanin, bone structure and size. To say that noting a tendency that Nordic types tends to be larger boned than Eurasian types is racist, could be, assuming the data is sound, just as silly as saying that the click speed of the Eurasian brain is higher than the Nordic, is racist (though I suspect there'd be discussion of whether Nordic is a race, rather than a type of Caucasian,etc, and the fact that changed Eurasian diets have resulted in larger boned people,etc).

I do though, and again, I haven't read the book, have a problem with a wider view of intelligence, wisdom, morality, being associated with race as such. It seems far more likely that such issues are related to culture, rather than race. The examples of people of one race being raised by another, although interesting, don't prove a racial cause; human beings aren't so easily isolated from influence as that - but it's interesting, to be sure.

8/19/2016 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mushroom said "Lower IQ doesn't mean people can't be good, can't contribute to society, aren't loved by God, and don't deserve to be valued as fellow humans."

That seems true, and then, conversely, it also seems to be true that:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a large cranium to enter the kingdom of God.

Paraphrasing.

8/19/2016 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

You know, that's a really good point in light of the the parables of the talents. Not that it's wrong to be rich, but that much is expected of those who have been given a lot - whether money or brains or other gifts. How many people, having been gifted with IQ, are willing to put it to the service for which it was intended.

8/19/2016 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Very true. Luke 12:48 -- Everyone to whom much has been given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

That's kind of scary.

8/19/2016 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Abdulmonem Othman said...

There is nothing scary in bringing out the good qualities of the human, what is scary is forgetting the nurturing process the tool of spiritual growth and get preoccupied with the natural construction of the human. It is unfortunate to be occupied with what you do not have option in, and neglect the domain of your option that is your spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is a doing issue that is to know is to be, the message that have been forgotten only to be rejuvenated in our time by peoples like polanyi,schuon, gunion, corben, gebser etc etc not forgetting the contribution of gagdad.

8/21/2016 11:25:00 AM  

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