Friday, March 21, 2014

Even God Can't be a Little Bit Pregnant

As we've discussed in the past, we are confronted with a number of irreducible complementarities -- we call them orthoparadoxes, but that term is probably getting stale -- such as time/eternity, form/substance/, male/female, wave/particle, individual/collective, subject/object, part/whole, I/thou, etc.

We can attempt to think beyond these by choosing one side over the other, but doing so always comes at the expense of sneaking in properties of the excluded term through the backdoor.

For example, if you really choose object over subject, then the conversation must stop then and there, because objects don't think or speak. Thus, to even acknowledge the bare existence of material objects is to simultaneously acknowledge the existence of subjects. Call it the Law of the Excluded... sibling or something.

Now, one of these complementarities has to be Absolute/Relative. As with the others, we can try to think beyond this orthoparadox, but doing so will simply generate paradox -- the bad kind.

I call a bad paradox any idea that negates itself or simply generates unthinkable absurdity.

Take, for example, determinacy/indeterminacy. To affirm the former over the latter is to affirm nothing, because the affirmed is simply the necessary. Only if there is contingency can we know the necessary. Likewise, if predestination is true, then we couldn't know it. (For similar reasons, if natural selection is the sufficient cause of man, man couldn't know it.)

Hartshorne asks a naughty theo-logical question, that is, "What is the basic logic of the assumption that relativity is primary, not absoluteness?"

Yes, there are passages in scripture suggesting the primacy of absoluteness, but there are also passages implying otherwise. Besides, Hartshorne is inquiring into the "basic logic," and perhaps the logic is necessary in order to sort out conflicting passages in scripture.

For example, if there is a passage suggesting the sun revolves around the earth, we can safely (and appropriately) ignore it, because it conflicts with observation and reason.

In a more general sense, is it helpful to conceptualize a Creator who gives us the precious gift of intelligence, only to ignore it in transmitting his most important communication to us? Why then do we have the intelligence, if it only gets in the way? Or, to what is the revelation addressed? To stupidity? Credulity? Fantasy?

Could be. But this places intelligent people in a bind, because then they are forced to choose between intellect and God.

Let's begin with some definitions of relative: "considered in relation or in proportion to something else"; "a being or object posited by virtue of its relations"; "having mutual relation with each other."

Now, do we arrive at relativity via absoluteness? Or rather, do we posit absoluteness based upon our familiarity and intimacy with relativity?

For Hartshorne -- and for me, for what it's worth -- it is clearly the latter: "The concept of the non-relative is parasitic on that of the relative. Given the concept of relatedness, we can then by negation (itself an example of relativity) arrive at that of non-relatedness."

In other words, in everyday life, we confront nothing but a concrete (not abstract) web of relations. To the extent that things can exist apart from the web, this is always an abstraction. There is "absolutely" nothing that is radically separate from anything else, which is why it should have come as no metaphysical surprise -- the surprise of physicists notwithstanding -- that the quantum realm should reveal itself to be a field, a web, a network, and not a world of externally related parts.

True, there is the famous wave/particle complementarity, but of the two, which must be primary? (And please note, to say "primary" is not to exclude the complementary term, for there is still relation.)

I would suggest that the field must be primary, just as, say, our body is primary over the cells of which it is constituted, even though both are necessary. A bunch of cells does not equal a body, nor is the cosmos a pile of atoms.

Now, being relative means that what something is -- i.e., its identity -- "depends for being what it is upon some relation to another."

I don't know about you, but I find it fascinating that Christianity posits a God of "absolute relation." In other words, there is no God "beyond" the mutual indwelling and roundabout relations of F↔S↔HS. What a strange idea!

And yet, in my opinion, it accords with basic logic in a way that "absolute absoluteness," so to speak, cannot. Rather, in my opinion, absolute-absoluteness (AA for short) -- in which all relativity is bleached out -- is absurd and paradoxical.

An AA God, in whom relativity is denied, would, of course, be a changeless God. Thus, such a God would be neutral as to all alternatives and differences.

Interestingly, the radically un-judgmental God of the New Agers often approaches this ideal; for example, who are you to claim that God has an issue with homosexual marriage? Differences between the sexes are just human constructs, but in God there are no such distinctions, just absolute gooey oneness!

From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. The essence of God is birthing. --Meister Eckhart

Well, that's about it for today. To be continued...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shhh! The Liberals are Sleeping!

Must every post be important?

You know, in the old days, I had the occasional post consisting of unalloyed frivolousness and bleating heart gliberalism. Like this one.

Because. What a loaded word! X happened because Y. Very few events are that simple, and yet, our implicit collective metaphysic is founded on the idea that they are.

In other words, we pretend that everything has an unambiguous, linear explanation, when in reality few things do. Again, that kind of simple cause-and-effect is the exception, not the rule.

Okay. What is the rule, then? Anyone can say what it isn't.

I think it was Aristotle who defined philosophy as the search for ultimate causes. How do we know when we've reached an adequate, let alone ultimate, explanation? I suppose adequate explanations are sufficient to get us through the day, but if you're at all introspective, you'll very quickly see through the absurdity and even insanity of most of these.

The other evening I jotted down a murmurandom to myself. Let me go fetch it.

Don't get excited. It's no major epiphany or theophany or hahafunny. Says, and I quote, 'never had existential dream v. ontic dreams.' I can tell by the dashed off quality that it made sense at the time. I think I heard some sort of TV commercial in the background, talking about achieving your dreams.

It occurred to me that I never really had the dreams that seem to motivate so many people. And if you don't participate in the collective dream, then you are going to be marked out as an oddball. It only takes one person outside the dream to make all the dreamers feel awkward, uncomfortable, and self-conscious.

I wish I could remember the book -- I think it was the Coon Classic Violence Unveiled -- in which the author writes of how the presence of a neutral observer made savages feel very uncomfortable when they were about to enact one of their collective dreams, such as human sacrifice. "Must you stare at me like that when I'm about to plunge the blade into his throat? It's creepy."

It's as if the presence of the outsider makes the group aware of their dream-trance, when the whole point of the dream is to not realize it is one.

I remember a similar feeling on one of my first internships, which must have been in around 1987 or so. I didn't know much of anything, and being that I was still a liberal, I actually knew less than that. I was still naive about the ways of the world. Anyway, this internship was at an AIDS hospice in West Hollywood. I guess I was supposed to help people with their feelings or something, but the whole thing was rather ill-defined. I could only handle two afternoons.

Anyway, when I got there, I felt like an orthodox Jew at communion. You know how it is. Everyone stops talking. Sort of like Blazing Saddles: No, I said the shrink isn't a qu... GONG!

This is ridiculous. I'm just trying to entertain you, aren't I, to conceal the fact that this post isn't going anywhere?

Let's start over.

Everyone's got one. A BECAUSE, I mean. It seems to me that a group, in order to be one, must share the same Because, or inhabit the same social trance.

A trivial example, but my son's Little League team is the Cardinals. One of the dads is a lifetime Cubs fan who grew up in Chicago, so he absolutely cannot bring himself to wear a Cards hat. I told him I empathized, because if my son were unfortunate enough to be on the Giants, under no circumstances would I soil my dome with their skeevy merchandise.

Weird? Yes. But only because you don't dream Dodger blue. Any longtime Dodger fan shares the dream, and would know exactly how I feel. I mean, c'mon. This was during my first year as a fan, and I don't forget that easy:

Liberals and conservatives don't just differ on this or that policy, but inhabit different dreamworlds. Likewise Islamists. Or Paul Krugman, as discussed in yesterday's post, recklessly swinging those racist bats in his belfry. That he feels so free to spew such craziness means not only that there are plenty of people who share his dream, but that he seems to have never met anyone who doesn't. He's like the medieval peasant who has never actually seen a Jew, but only knows they have horns and cloven feet, as do Giants fans.

David Mamet uses the term "recognition symbols." You might think of these as outward cues about the dream a person inhabits: they are "the slang terms, jokes, and archetypes that minority groups employ to signal their understanding of and belonging with each other."

A contemporary liberal education -- especially at our finest universities -- consists essentially of "Nothing. Students learn five recognition symbols that make them comfortable in conversation with other people who know nothing."

Or in other words, they internalize the rudiments of the dream, so as to function without friction in the totalitarian dreamworld of the left.

There is friction of course, but only when they hear rumors of one of those conservatives with the horns and cloven feet. I mean, have you taken a good look at Megyn Kelly? I hear she's a monster!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Insanely Powerful Intellect of Paul Krugman

Almost no time this morning...

Speaking of infinite variables, complex systems, nonlinear behavior, and human freedom, there is a relevant essay by Isaiah Berlin called The Concept of Scientific History. I haven't actually finished it, but he begins with a discussion of past attempts to treat history as a natural science, an enterprise which can succeed neither in practice nor in principle. Why is that?

Well, history deals with what we call "facts," but there are no historical laws from which these facts can be deduced, nor any strict inductive method for putting them together.

It seems that imagination is required at both ends, both in identifying and in synthesizing the historical facts into "history." But we all know that imagination easily veers into fantasy, or hordes of tenured revisionists would be out of business.

It is as if there is a kind of rupture in epistemology above physics and biology. Physics, of course, is the paradigmatic science, in that it advances not just by observation but by deductions which extend the reach of its powerful and coherent system. The whole existentialada is governed by a few laws with staggering implications.

But no one can do this with history except for Marxists and other progressives. Paul Krugman, for example, has it all figured out. As with physics, he has a powerful logico-deductive system that provides immediate answers to any historo-political question. In fact, Krugman's system is insanely powerful.

For example, why do conservatives believe what they believe? Because they -- we -- are racist. Political science is so easy, even a Nobel laureate can do it!

Krugman begins with the principle of racism, from which "facts" on the ground are then deduced. Unlike a sane person, he does not begin with the facts, i.e., with any actual racist. Indeed, he even says "there’s no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist," but that doesn't matter. There was also no evidence of, say, the theory of relativity. Rather, it was initially deduced and only observed some two decades later.

Krugman implies that Charles Murray is a racist for simply writing of the well documented differences in IQ among different racial groups. If Murray is a racist, then so too is his own employer (two newspapers in one!). Which, in all fairness -- the leftist kind -- makes Krugman a vile racist as well. Hey, he makes the rules.

Krugman acknowledges that he is working from deduction in claiming that "race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics."

Or in other words, any time Krugman is confronted with an idea he doesn't understand, he submits it to his logico-deductive racial system, which promptly and dispassionately announces "Mystery solved." Simple as. Like Chris Matthews, minus the spittle.

By the way, it is not Krugman who is being simplistic and reductionist. Rather, it is those of us with different ideas. His system assures him that people with different policy preferences only hold them because racism is "all that [they've] got." We are intellectually and spiritually impoverished, not Krugman.

History is complex and change is hard. Is it any wonder that progressives such as Krugman cling so bitterly to simplicity, stasis, and slander? That's pretty much all they've got.



Kind of like Obama, who constantly confuses "the ideas in his head with reality. It is not clear if he knows the difference." True, but at least he's in good company with fellow Nobelists such as Krugman, Carter, Arafat, and Gore.

Nevertheless, "ultimately, fantasy must yield to reality, falsehood to truth, superstition to science" (the Derb).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Thou of Physics

What must physics be like in order for something as queer as an "I" to exist? And what must metaphysics be like in order for physics to go that way? (Not that there's anything wrong with it.)

Or, what must God be like? Mighty queer, I suppose. For He is indeed the Light in us loafers and shoegazers. Unless existence -- including its most striking feature -- tells us nothing about ultimate reality, however we conceptualize it.

Well, let's think about this. Is physics alone sufficient to account for the human subject? The official line from Big Academia is that nothing occurs in the cosmos -- or even can occur -- that violates the laws of physics. Oh sure, strange and unexpected things can and do happen. But there is always a purely naturalistic explanation.

This type of explanation always looks backward in a naive way that would embarrass a historian. A trained historian is supposed to have the Historian's Fallacy trained out of him, which is the tendency to view the past in light of how events turned out. At the time the events were occurring, no one, of course, had the historian's advantage of knowing exactly how they are going to play out. Hindsight can make you look much more clever than you actually are.

But not always. Leftists prove that it is just as possible to be afflicted with backward looking myopia despite the advantages of living in the present -- for example, in condemning Truman for nuking Japan, or ridiculing Ronald Reagan for his advocacy of the "Star Wars" missile defense, or vilifying people who correctly warned us about communist infiltration of the federal government.

We saw a typically childish version of this with the Iraq war, in which many of its most vocal supporters concluded that "Bush lied" only after things turned out badly. They pretended that perfect knowledge of the future had been available in the past. Which it never is, at least not for mortals, and perhaps not even for God.

But I think leftism in general is rooted in this fallacy. It is present in most everything they do. Even their current euphemism, "progressivism," presumes to know not just the content and direction of history, but the means to get there. Thus, Clinton sold us a "bridge to the 21st century," while Obama presumes to be "on the right side of history."

That last one is especially nefarious, because it is just a thinly veiled Marxist historicism, in which the future is known and it is the task of the Vanguard to get us there irrespective of fact, logic, or dissent.

Global warming is the same way: we know the future, so people who disagree with us need to be imprisoned. That means, what, more than half the population needs to be sent to the gulag? Whatever. Eggs & omelettes.

Now, only the simplest scientific system can predict the future. This can only occur when the variables are few and known, and operate in a linear manner, as in the solar system. The theoretical biologist Robert Rosen was the first of whom I am aware who argued that this type of system is the exception, not the rule, in the cosmos.

If Rosen is correct -- which I believe he is -- it would represent another one of those Copernican Revolutions. It would mean that our whole way of looking at the world is backward and upside down, because we are elevating a rare exception to our unifying principle. Metaphysically speaking, it doesn't get much worse than that.

I know what you're thinking: Bob, where are you going with this? Have you lost control of the bus? Or does it just appear so, based upon our imperfect knowledge of the future? And is the bus actually moving into the future, or is the future just flowing into the bus? Are you really driving, or is this thing like a monorail, with only one way to go?

The question is: do we determine reality -- even if just an itsy bitsy -- or does it determine us, right down to our last teensy weensy? And it doesn't matter whether we are determined by matter or God, because it amounts to the same thing: the primordial soup nazi barking no slack for you!

Now, according to Big Theology, God is Pure Being, with not so much as a jot or tittle of Becoming. For them, the gnosis is settled.

Well, we say: like anyone can know that, Napoleon.

Let's say it is true: God is pure Being. Let's lay out the implications. "If God is sheer being, devoid of becoming, then all becoming is external to Him, and yet He knows it" (Hartshorne).

But "Can the perfectly known be external to the knowing?" In other words, if total reality consists -- which it must -- of "the divine being and the worldly becoming," then it as if we are positing God as a part of the total reality -- the unchanging part. Does this make any sense?

A doctrine of Pure Being has implications for the Method of realizing its truth (again, all religiosity consists of Doctrine + Method). It would imply that nondual approaches such as Buddhism and Vedanta are correct, and that "the way to find God is to 'leave the world behind,' to turn from becoming altogether."

But the Judeo-Christian tradition assumes the opposite: that the world is the very field of our adventure in redemption. It is not some cosmic mistake or accident, any more than the baseball diamond is extrinsic to the game.

Would you believe me if I told you I am a better player than Babe Ruth because I have transcended hitting? Then why believe some light-hitting guru when he claims that never budging from home plate is the same as a homerun, because you end up in the same place?

I believe the human praying field is the dynamic space between I and Thou, or let's say O ↔ •, on the one hand, and • ↔ •, on the other (vertical and horizontal, respectively).

Considering the first, if we are rightly oriented, our becoming takes place in God, or, to be precise, in the living space between I and the metacosmic I AM. And predictions are all well and good, but you can't know the outcome until you play the game. "Upsets" happen all the time in sports and in life, and they violate neither physics nor God. And they certainly make life more interesting. Or as someone (Chesterton?) said: I don't believe in miracles. I only rely on them.