Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Folks, You are History!

This guy Benedict -- the former Cardinal Ratzinger -- was once quite the daring metaphysician and theologian. Clearly he's had to dial it back since becoming Pope, being that he is now responsible for making things crystal clear to the 99% who don't have the time, inclination, or capacity to think these things all the way through to the ground and back up again.

But back in the day, he was publishing opinions that just a generation before might have landed him in the soup (despite their intrinsic orthoparadoxy).

Personally I would find this quite frustrating. I just couldn't do it. Not that anyone has asked me to be Pope. I mean, I put in my application and they said they'd get back to me, but you know how that goes. Turns out they also discriminate against non-Catholics, but let's just move on.

Besides, blogging is the ideal medium for me, because it allows me to utterly be myself, with no compromises. I can say what I want, when I want, in the way I want, with only Petey as my infallible guide and no readership to get in the way.

I just finished a book of Ratzinger's called Credo for Today. Its subtitle is What Christians Believe, but I'm pretty sure that this is not what most Christians believe. If they did, then the information here would be superfluous.

I'll just speak for myself, and say that the cosmology Ratzinger lays out is much closer to the Raccoon metaphysic than it is to the worldview of most Christians of my acquaintance.

He begins with the observation that in the Bible, "the cosmos and man are not two clearly separable quantities, with the cosmos forming the fortuitous scene of human existence, which in itself could be parted from the cosmos and allowed to accomplish itself without a world."

This may look like a banal consideration, but it goes directly to the philosophical problem of dualism that infects most all science (that is, when it attempts to be more than a method that is rightly predicated on this instrumental dualism).

Ratzinger's view is obviously in accord with modern physics, which reveals the deep "oneness" and inseparability of all reality. Whitehead was perhaps the first philosopher to understand the metaphysical implications of modern physics. I am reminded of a comment from Science and the Modern World, to the effect that,

"each volume of space, or each lapse of time, includes in its essence aspects of all volumes of space, or all lapses of time," so "in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world."

I am also reminded of a circular comment rolled out by the physicist John Wheeler, that "It is not only that man is adapted to the universe. The universe is adapted to man."

And this is true in more ways than one, for example, the manner in which the deep mathematical structure of the cosmos is mirrored in the psyche.

Finally, I am reminded of another misleading dualism that affects our ability to "think about thinking." I'm not going to have time to rehearse the whole argument here, but if you search the blog for the name "Matte Blanco," you will see that this is a topic we have discussed on numerous occasions in the past.

In particular, I was thinking of the implicit, folk-psychological notion that the mind is something like a "bag full of stuff," or in other words, a kind of empty space that harbors thoughts and such.

But in reality, the space -- the container, or (♀) -- cannot be separated from the thoughts -- i.e., the contained (♂). Yes, thoughts are from Mars and the thinker is from Venus, and their relationship in many ways determines the quality, depth, and fruitfulness of mental activity.

Being that "all is one," what we call "history" can only be separated from cosmology in the abstract. The fact is, thanks to modern (post-Einsteinian) physics, we now understand that everything has a history, and that everything is situated in the larger cosmodrama, i.e., the whole existentialada.

Here is how Ratzinger describes it:

The cosmos is "not just an outward framework of human history, not a static mold -- a kind of container holding all kinds of living creatures that could as well be poured into a different container."

Rather, "the cosmos is movement... it is not just a case of history existing in it," because "the cosmos is itself history."

Another critical point: thanks to the tenured boobs of multiculturalism, we now have multiple histories -- feminist history, black history, queer history, Chicano history, etc.

But in truth, "there is only one single all-encompassing world history, which for all the ups and downs, all the advances and setbacks that it exhibits, nevertheless has a general direction and goes 'forward.'"

But this direction can only be seen from a higher perspective, just as a person struggling in the rapids can't see the mountainous source and oceanic destination of the river.

And if we do manage to float our boat above the currents of time, we see that "spirit is not just some chance by-product of development, of no importance to the whole; on the contrary..., in this movement or process, matter and its evolution form the prehistory of spirit or mind" (Ratzinger).

For any transrational person, this metacosmic march forth -- for which reason March 4th is the Oliest and most slackful day of the Raccoon calendar -- is undeniable. Nor is it intelligible in the absence of a "point" -- an Omega point, if you will.

What -- or who -- is this point of existence?

To be continued...


Gandalin said...

Thanks for pointing out some of the many interesting things in Benedict's deep and serious thinking. But I was disappointed by his retreat from Regensburg.

Gagdad Bob said...

Agreed. As usual, no one wants to upset the Muslims, when a strong dose of reality is precisely what they are lacking.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm reading this memoir of Bernard Lewis, and he touches on themes of both this post and the first comment. For it seems that he was the first historian to actually situate Arab history in the larger context of world history. The Arabs couldn't do it, due to their closed societies. For the same reason, they cannot critique their own religion, nor gain any perspective on things in general.

Magister said...

what I know of Muslim metaphysics is limited - Muslims seem to have a strong sense of the vertical relationship, but it strikes me as too ferociously dualistic - "Allah" is not love, but power: omnipotent, feudal, remote - no wonder they have problems

mushroom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mushroom said...

Commenting in Blogger is getting to be a chore since my last Firefox update.

... in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times ...

I am always intrigued by the interdependence of time and space and where the past "goes". I wonder if you couldn't think of the big bang as the point where eternity spreads out with the released (let there be) light.

...the mind is something like a "bag full of stuff"...

Mine's sort of a Klein Clown Car.

Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting how one can deduce the connection between time and space from pure metaphysics, but one would have been called a crank for doing so prior to Einstein.

Magister said...

well mush, it's nice that you give us free rides in it

during coffee break, I raccooned around a bit and collected the following scraps:

77,429 words in the Quran, but only 69 instances of the word "hubb" (love) = 0.0009%

some chap did a breakdown of that 69:

37 - references to man's love of things, human love, human love for Allah
22 - claim that Allah does not love xyz
20 - statements that Allah loves man conditionally upon xyz

it'd be interesting to see other analyses that confirm/challenge this account

part of the problem is that Muslims think it disobedient/unIslamic to aspire to inquire too much into the nature of Allah

sorry Moe, it just comes natural to the rest of us

Gandalin said...

Quite interesting. The Noble Qu'ran deserves much study and examination. Very dangerous to do so, however. If, as Christoph Luxemburg has suggested, the Qu'ran was cribbed from Nestorian hymns in Aramaic, they must have been very carefully selected and edited. Here's a source on the different words for "love" in the Greek New Testament:

"philein" appears 45 times, and "agapan" 320 times.