Thursday, April 03, 2014

It's All True!

If religious predestination or secular determinism are the case, then becoming is pointless -- because we are already there -- and freedom is nothing -- since it is only the illusion of choice.

And to say there is no becoming and no freedom is another way of saying there is no time, only eternity.

Or -- stick with me here -- time is reduced to space. Thus, any so-called "choice" one makes in the present is actually just the backward extension of a future which has already happened. What looks like a photograph to us is just part of a giant flip book, in which the next picture is already in place, giving the illusion of motion (motion being synonymous with change).

Weird, I know. But plenty of people believe the cartoon, both religious and secular. In fact, speaking of animation, this would mean that Life Itself is also a kind of illusion of movement.

Which is precisely why physics is powerless to deal with Life, because there is no principle in physics that can distinguish between living and nonliving matter. It's all just the same atoms in a different pattern, that's all.

As we've said before, this profoundly unbiblical idea is a Greek import. One reason why science never developed in ancient Greece was that time and change were considered existential defects, so to speak -- like rust, or corrosion, or dandruff. Everything available to the senses is just a more or less imperfect copy of something from the timeless world of pure form. There is appearance and there is reality, and never shall the twain meet on the same twack.

In fact, when Paul makes that cwack about the gospel representing foolishness to the Greeks, this is what he is referring to. The Greek mind could never wrap itself around the idea of the timeless world getting mixed up in the temporal, or of the loftiest principle taking the form of a filthy, screaming infant, no matter how breathtaking the baby.

Yes, there is an absolute and there is a contingent. But for the excessively Platonized mind, the absolute is not "in" the contingent, any more than you are really in a photo of yourself. Just as it would be absurd to suggest that you could jump into a photograph of yourself, God by definition cannot enter the contingent, i.e., that which only exists because it is a distant reflection of, or accidental emanation from, the One.

Note that in the Greek view, God is wholly abstract, a point to which we will later return. Unlike in the Christian view, the Greek One is definitely not a concrete person. Which is why neoplatonism involves ascending up and out of the body and extinguishing all traces of one's accidental self.

I read somewhere that Augustine was once a neoplatonist and that he never quite shook its acute somaphobia. The greatest neoplatonist of them all, Plotinus, was said to be absolutely ashamed of the mere fact of having a body.

I'm thinking maybe he was just embarrassed about the nose:

I say that predestinistas and other fatalists are tossing out the most essential and shocking news in the good news -- or even the news that makes it good. Indeed, what does make the news good? That everything that has ever happened and will ever happen to you is preordained, so you might as well give up now?

That would be a tough sell, in my opinion. You think the Jehovah's Witnesses have a rough time of it? Imagine Paul going door to door and announcing,

"Hello. I have some good news for you. I am here because I am predestined to be here, as are you. I am compelled to tell you about a vision I had about this Jesus fellow, which you will either accept or not accept, depending upon how God has programmed you...

"And if I refuse?"

"Doesn't matter. God already knows who's saved and who's damned, so I wouldn't worry about it."

Now, it would be a mistake to minimize the appeal of this metaphysic to certain spiritual types. As we've said before, all valid big-box religions are all full-service operations that cater to the individual. This is more explicitly expressed in the East, in particular, with the various paths of yoga, e.g., karma yoga, hatha yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga, etc. Different yokes for different folks.

I would suggest that the innocent fideism of the simple predestinista is an example of bhakti yoga, in which there is an absolute trust that whatever happens happens for the best. Naturally this helps to cultivate spiritual peace in the face of all these damn cosmic fluctuations, oscillations, enigmas, and annoyances. It's an easy yoke, but not everyone gets it -- specifically, those with a different makeup and different spiritual needs.

You could say that it is a transparently childlike approach, and not necessarily with any pejorative connotation. Bhakti yoga is "efficacious for fostering love of, faith in, and surrender to God. It is a means to realize God, and is the easiest way for the common person because it doesn't involve extensive yogic practices."

And as a matter of fact -- and I've been thinking about this lately -- just as all philosophies are "true," there is a little bhakti in everyone, right?

Wait -- all philosophies are true? Yes, I've been noticing lately how virtually every philosophy has an element of truth to it. It's just that the philosopher gets all carried away with his little piece if the puzzle, and elevates it to the whole existentialida.

You name the philosopher, and I'll show where he was right, even Nietzsche, or Hegel, or Kant, or Derrida. (Was that distant thunder, or was that Van's head exploding?)

To come full circle, I would even say that the predestinistas are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. As far as they go.

I wanted to get into an allied subject, to wit: what is necessary in order for existence to be possible? Or in other words, what are the necessary conditions of existence, or conditions without which existence cannot exist? I think that by answering these questions, we might be able to understand how it is possible for it All to be True, i.e., how all these halfwits can be half right.


River Cocytus said...

If there is moisture in the air all open containers must contain SOME water.

julie said...

I'm reminded of how this debate ties in with the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Seems to me it can't possibly be a strict matter of either/ or, but must be a combination of both.

On the deterministic & nature side, I saw an article the other day claiming that, for instance, politics are a result of genetics. In other words, you only think you decide whether to be on the right or on the left. But since brain scans supposedly show different activity patterns between the brains of democrats and republicans, it must all be the fault of the genes. You're predestined to think that way.

Except, of course, that even if the scans are accurate, they show only the present state of brains, without any indication of how they got there, apparently ignoring the fact that experience and activity shape the brain's development just as much as the brain's development shapes our choice of activity.

Or looked at another way, if anyone - God, for instance - knows every detail of a seed, understanding perfectly all of its inner workings and functions, that one would have a pretty good idea of how the tree might look when it is fully grown. But no matter how perfectly one understands the seed, the true shape of the tree will still be in-formed by everything in, around, and under it.

Or in other, other words, it is possible to have a good idea of what the future holds, even while the actual shape of that future has yet to be set.

John Lien said...

Interesting article on time and a physicist who still believes in it but this is what he is fighting.

Wheeler and DeWitt succeed in producing a nightmarishly complex equation that, according to quantum theory, captures the true nature of the Universe. But the equation spawned a shocking insight. Of all the quantities it contained, one that everyone expected it to include had simply vanished: ‘t’ for time. “According to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, the quantum state of the Universe is just frozen,” says Smolin. “The quantum Universe is a Universe without change. It just simply is.”

If one truly believed this, how would one live? Complete passivity? Recklessness?

Rick said...

Speaking of half-wits, I swear t'gawd I wrote this joke a couple days ago:

Clothes make the man,
Socrates wears clothes,
Heck, I wear clothes,
I am Socrates.

Rick said...

Lovely (lengthy) post by David Warren:

The day after

"There is, both in and in traditional religious today, a specific cult...of singularity dressed up as a quasi-religious calling. ...My guess is that this is undermining marriage to a greater degree than anyone realizes. A great show is made of the spiritual opportunities available to those who live alone. But if there were a religious calling, I doubt that it would be to contemporary single life.

There is danger in being too much alone, which some may try carefully to avoid through church and acquaintance. Family life is full of distraction, but it is also full of spiritual opportunities not available to single persons; in a sense monastic life is also familial in nature. The aspect of Christian marriage: that intimacy founded not only between two united in mutual regard, but in the aspiration in each to get the other into heaven, is lost on our contemporaries;..."

Gandalin said...

Hi Bob,

This is a very important insight:

"Which is precisely why physics is powerless to deal with Life, because there is no principle in physics that can distinguish between living and nonliving matter. It's all just the same atoms in a different pattern, that's all."

Sadly, that is not only true of physics, but even more true of biology, which is or was the "science of life!"

Charles De Koninck wrote about "the lifeless world of biology."

Biologists attempt to describe living things as if they were not alive.

But there is something missing in their accounts.

I don't think that it would be possible to show any difference at all, at the moment of death, between any instantaneous chemical or physical property of an organism that has just died, between its current dead state, and the living state it showed just a moment before. "Eppur si muove."

There are vast differences, however, between living things and non living things.

Living things, for example, exist as individuals. Even the simplest organisms. And they are bounded by a membrane which separates their internal milieu from the rest of the world. And so on. On to the necessary conditions for existence!


ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...

Bloody Longish but good, "[t]his documentary shows Oxford professors (Alister McGrath, Keith Ward, John Lennox) responding and refuting the New Atheists."

Not really a debate; more like a roundtable sans the atheists.

Philosophy, Science and the God Debate (Part 1)

Van Harvey said...

"You name the philosopher, and I'll show where he was right, even Nietzsche, or Hegel, or Kant, or Derrida. (Was that distant thunder, or was that Van's head exploding?)"

;-) Actually that was just thunderous applause... or the latest in a series of thunderstorms pummeling us at the moment... hard to say which for sure. I've been thinking along similar lines for awhile, and I think this:"It's just that the philosopher gets all carried away with his little piece if the puzzle, and elevates it to the whole existentialida." is a good way of putting it, even for Kant, whose convoluted tomes were set up to legitimize his substituting the What for the How in order to do just that

The only one I'd balk at is Rousseau. I think the best that could be said for him was that he found a nugget that he realized he could hoodwink everyone with, and milked if for all it was worth. Certainly worked on poor Kant.

I might except Sarte from that too....

Van Harvey said...

It's not the Subject alone, and it's not the Object alone, it's the contextual third of both that brings the hologram to life.

But of course they'll mistake to life for IS life, which puts them right back with the physicists and biologists... but hey, it's still more fun to watch them running about in a hologram, than 2D or even 3D.

mushroom said...

It's always bad to miss classes, but catching up is fun.