Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Put Away the Scythe, and Nobody Gets Hurt!

We're still negotiating with that grim ferryman, Death, but he is truly impossible. Refuses to budge on whisking us to the other side, but refuses to tell us anything about what awaits us there: For me to know and you to find out.

Or not!

Childish, really.

Speaking of passive-aggressive non-responses, Tomberg relates Death to the philosophistries of mechanism and materialism, which are "not at all the realm of answers, but rather the graveyard for real questions." Why is that? Because, for example,

The laws of biology alone do not have fingers delicate enough to fashion the beauty of a face (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

To embrace scientistic reductionism as a worldview (as opposed to a method) is to more or less live as semi-zombie, in which case one is not so much alive as merely undead. And the painful thing about being undead is that one will be aware of an absence -- a present absence -- but not be able to name it. One will seek to fill the absence, but in the manner of a blind raccoon looking for a metaphor.

I am reminded of the preface to Code of the Woosters, in which the author observes that "High seriousness about [Wodehouse] brings to mind poor Professor Scully," who attempted "to describe a smile scientifically." The professor "doggedly dissected 'the drawing back and slight lifting of the corners of the mouth, which partially uncover the teeth, the curving of the naso-labial furrows...' Such an approach is not actively harmful, but it suffers from naso-labianism -- leaving the mystery of Wodehouse's genius intact."

Don Colacho: To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which a poet sang. And

If determinism is real, if only that can happen which must happen, error does not exist. But

Stupidity appropriates what science invents with diabolical facility. As a result,

Whoever has understood a notion from the natural sciences has understood all that can be understood; whoever has understood a notion from the humanities has understood only what he can understand (ibid).

Things are no different today than in Professor Scully's day. Ask a victim of materialitis or reductionosis what a smile is, and they could in good faith respond that it involves "the contraction of muscles in the region of the mouth and cheeks, and this latter through electrical impulses transmitted through the nerves from the centre called the 'brain.'" The real cause of the smile -- joy, or humor, or satisfaction -- is defined out of existence.

This misguided approach is similar to trying to understand a telephone conversation by analyzing the electrical impulses that pass back and forth through the wires. The most complete analysis will of necessity be entirely inadequate.

The same applies a fortiori to the mind/brain relationship. Again, a smile is a local manifestation of joy, or humor, or bemusement, which are nonlocal (in the sense that they cannot be found in one unambiguous "place") and which "set in motion both the muscles of the mouth and the electrical impulses of the nerves." As mentioned somewhere in the bʘʘk, every reductionistic explanation harbors a cognitively pathological dualism that results in one side of the dualism sneaking into the other side without acknowledgment.

One might say that, like a psychotic patient, the materialist's explanation is always put forth with the utmost confidence by that which is specifically denied in the explanation. Making a question go away is not the same as having answered it. As Tomberg points out, the question remains but is simply offloaded from conscious to unconscious planes, with no proper connecting flight. These people are carrying all kinds of metaphysical baggage, but don't even know it.

If you ever want to know why self-styled rational people believe in such weird things -- global warming, zero-sum economics, tea partiers are extremists, blacks can't function without socialism, etc. -- this is why. They descend into an incoherent form of unconscious thinking, because one can no more make the unconscious go away than one could make the sympathetic nervous system go away. All one can do is discipline and channel it, the same way one creates electricity from a wild river.

(The following parabular passage is somehow related to the above: "The belief that only conscious actions are 'real' is common among collectivists and economic creationists who can't understand unintended consequences, but this fallacy is akin to believing that drinking a glass of water on a hot day benefits only those who understand the chemical reactions of H2O in human body.")

While ordinary psychoanalysis does an adequate job of describing the lower vertical, in so doing, it generally reduces the upper to the lower vertical. However, one of the purposes of religion is to provide a framework with which to generatively explore the upper vertical. And in fact, it also does a fine job (at least in potential) of structuring and conferring meaning upon the lower vertical.

I'm thinking of all the extraordinary wisdom embodied in, say, the Talmud or in classical elucidations of the cardinal virtues and deadly sins. Awhile back we did a series on the esoteric meaning of the Ten Commandments. Same idea. Just as there is such a thing as a healthy body -- obviously -- there is also such a thing as a healthy soul and spirit. But if one denies the soul and spirit up front, then should one remain spiritually healthy, it will be by accident, not design. Which has a bearing on the subject of death, because

For the man who lives in the modern world it is not the soul’s immortality in which it is difficult to believe, but in its mere existence. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

So many decent but useful idiots of the left hypocritically retain religious habits and inclinations with no religious belief to support them. For example, they insist that marriage is sacred -- so sacred, in fact, that we should extend it to relationships in which it is literally impossible to live in the state of marriage, e.g., polygamous or homosexual.

It is analogous to saying, "eating salads is healthy. Therefore, I will place my cat on a strict diet of fresh vegetables." Good logic. Wrong species.

Which pretty much sums up the left. It reminds me of a scene from the Larry Sanders show, when his bitter agent says "our job would be so easy if it weren't for fucking talent!" Leftism would be so great if if weren't for effing humans! Humans are the problem. Right, so let's give them more power over us!

Most people don't have the time or ability to be metaphysicians, which is one of the practical blessings of religion. If one eliminates religion, one only ushers in bad metaphysics and values, with nothing to oppose them. See 1960s for details. See Occupy Wall Street for examples. See Obama for implications.

Way out of time, and we didn't even get anywhere. Oh well, to be continued...


mushroom said...

To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which a poet sang.

True, but Robin does make singing photographs.

mushroom said...

Making a question go away is not the same as having answered it.

That should be engraved above the doors at every educational institution in America.

A corollary might be: The correct answer is not necessarily the easy one.

julie said...

The laws of biology alone do not have fingers delicate enough to fashion the beauty of a face

Heh. I'm reminded of a literally Darwinian take on how facial expressions are formed. He did a series of experiments, with photos.

I don't recommend looking at them too close to bedtime...

mushroom said...

Kind of related is this from Stephen Bodio's blog about passenger pigeons:

In the words of Jeffrey Lockwood, entomologist and ecologist: “Ecology is beginning to slowly shift focus with tentative explorations of what the world would look like if process, rather than matter, were the basis for reality. What if we defined a species in terms of its life processes?”

River Cocytus said...

Sounds downright Alexandrian, mushroom --! I've often said that a thing is not merely what it is now, but its whole is all of the states it will have from creation to annihilation; a sort of tesseract. So to really get a picture of the 'thing' you have to view it as a process, or view space and time as not separate.

Gagdad Bob said...

Don't know if I'll be able to finish this post before the electricians turn off the power for the day. Tell my story to the world!