Friday, September 11, 2015

Digging Up to the Foundation of Reality

Wittgenstein remarked that "when you discover the foundations, you find that they are being held up by the rest of the house" (in Barron).

It seems to me that this goes to the part-whole relations that everywhere characterize our cosmos, and also to its fractal and holographic nature.

Example. I used to think that the mother-infant dyad was about as deep down as one could go in human psychology. If there was a foundation to our humanness, then this dynamic relationship had to be it.

But then I realized that this foundation is being held up by the rest of the house, the ultimate house being the Trinity. Thus, the mother-infant intersubjective dyad without which we wouldn't be human is actually a kind of fractal-echo of the Trinity. I could think of more examples, but my brain isn't yet awake.

Think of scientism, in which things are ultimately reduced to mathematical quantities. That's all well and good, but what's holding up the mathematics? Only the cosmos itself, from which the math is abstracted and derived. If one forgets the real world, one is liable to fall into an infertile angelism that sees reality as a reflection of the theory rather than vice versa. This is literally pre-post-erous, i.e., putting the end (post) before the beginning (pre).

The same principle comes into play with regard to economics. This new book by Brother Sowell reminds us that a nation's income is not measured in terms of money, but is a reflection of its wealth. Actual wealth consists of the real goods and services produced by the country. The money is just an unreal measure of something real.

If you don't have money, it's because you are -- get this -- not producing a good or providing a service that anyone wants. Your input -- income -- is dependent upon your output.

The left turns this around and wonders why people who produce nothing of value have -- get this -- nothing to show for it. But you can't make a man more valuable by paying him more than he's worth -- otherwise Obama would have made us wealthier by piling up more debt than all previous presidents combined.

Back to Wittgenstein's comment. I have no problem with the idea that physics is the foundation so long as we stipulate that theology is the house that holds up the physics.

This is not "intelligent design," but far beyond -- or before -- it. That the world is intelligible at all is already a reflection of intelligence. "Intelligent design" is a pleonasm. Just say intelligent.

Barron quotes theologian John Milbank, who writes that "Any secular science, cultivated exclusively, may become dangerous to religion," on account of its narrow focus on one aspect of reality. We can say that God is a mathematician, so long as we stipulate that he's a bad one, in the sense that things never add up with him. Rather, everything is always more than the sum of its parts. Or just say wholeness: wholeness is the house, where the parts are the foundation.

Which leads to a nice segue to this book on The Nature of Wholeness, which I found to be entirely congenial to the Raccoon POV. I first read it when it came out in 1996, but it didn't resonate. For some reason I reread it a couple of months ago, and it was as if Bortoft had committed anticipatory plagiarism and stolen my ideas before I had had the chance to think of them.

Weird. I just flipped open the book, and I read this: "We can now recognize... that the fact that modern physics is true -- which it certainly is -- does not mean that it is fundamental. Hence it cannot be a foundation upon which everything else, human beings included, depends" (emphasis mine... and Wittgenstein's).

Importantly, our view does not in any way contradict science. Rather, it complements and completes it. It closes the circle which is otherwise an absurd line, or Bad Infinite. In the case of the Good Infinite, the parts converge on the whole -- the Infinite Good -- while the whole is constituted by the parts. To say part is to say whole, and vice versa. A part with no whole would be literally inconceivable. It certainly couldn't be part of this cosmos. Or any cosmos.

As Bortoft says, "Both can be true" -- the holistic/organismic and the atomistic/mechanistic -- "not because truth is relative, but because they reveal nature in different ways."

Thus, for example, "it may be useful to reverse the relationship and understand the local environment as being the result of the rest of the universe" (recall what was said above about infancy and the Trinity).

Or, think of the meaning of any text. "The meaning is the whole of the text, but this whole is not the same as the totality of the text.... We do not have the totality of the text when we read it, but only one bit after another." But it is not as if we add up these bits to arrive at the meaning -- the whole.

Instead, "the meaning of the text is discerned and disclosed with progressive immanence throughout the reading of the text."

In other words, the whole is in each of the parts. Like right now: you are reading these individual words without even being aware of them as words. Rather, they are transparent to the meaning I am conveying from my mind to yours. The words are like the radio waves that carry the meaning of the broadcast. I am right now focussed on the whole and trying to enlist or attract the words to transmit it.

"Thus we can say that meaning is hologrammatical," such that "the whole is present throughout all of the text" and "present in any of the text." A hologram, in case you don't know, is a three-dimensional photograph. Shine a laser into the holographic plate, and the image appears.

What is intriguing about the hologram is that if you break the plate into fragments, each part will nevertheless contain the whole, and be capable of reproducing the entire image, only less vividly. Thus there is a trace of the whole in every itsy bitsy of the hologram -- just as each cell contains the DNA necessary to reconstruct the whole organism.

As we were saying a couple of posts back, the transcendental of transcendentals is oneness itself. In order for something to exist, it must stand apart as a thing. But these foundational things only exist as things because of a primordial Oneness, such that each part is, as it were, like a little broken fragment of our venerable hologrampa: or as Joyce called it in his Hologrammatical Book of Fractals, Only a fadograph of a yestern scene.

We can never actually possess the whole; rather, we can only converge upon it. Under-standing is always a process, a moving-toward. Conversely, "When we do not understand, we merely pass along the parts." This is a profound observation.

I'm thinking of my own meaningless education, which was meaningless precisely in the degree to which disconnected parts were merely passed along. To be perfectly accurate, I have subsequently been able to confer meaning on many of those parts with reference to the nonlocal whole. But the parts that don't fit into the whole are simply meaningless, absurd, at a right angle to Meaning.

The parts are "things," while the whole must be no-thing. If you see the latter as a thing, then this thing is simply another part. I would say that this is a reflection of the fact that we can never contain God, because to do so is to reduce him to thingness, and this in turn redounds to the thingdom of heathen, AKA tenure.

Parts are a kind of passive presence, whereas the whole is an "active absence" which pulls us into its nonlocal attractor. Thus, -- and this is a key -- wholeness only manifests through our receptivity, our own active absence, so to speak. In the book, I symbolized this absence (o), which is a kind of hologrammatical fractal of the big O of which we are image and likeness.

I suppose the bottom line is that man is the cosmic foundation held up by God. This is not preposterous but properly postpreperous.


julie said...

Wittgenstein remarked that "when you discover the foundations, you find that they are being held up by the rest of the house"

At risk of repeating a point made later in the post, I'm reminded of the Hanged Man, who only looks upside down to the world below...

julie said...

I'm thinking of my own meaningless education, which was meaningless precisely in the degree to which disconnected parts were merely passed along. To be perfectly accurate, I have subsequently been able to confer meaning on many of those parts with reference to the nonlocal whole. But the parts that don't fit into the whole are simply meaningless, absurd, at a right angle to Meaning.

Over in our neck of the woods, it seems as though all the stuff that seemed essentially meaningless at the time (beyond the immediate purpose, at least) has in many ways served as useful preparation. Whether that eventually bears fruit remains to be seen, but as usual in hindsight everything seems like a conspiracy.

mushroom said...

a kind of fractal-echo of the Trinity

I like that. It is as though our being in God's image requires this dyad then the Trinity is visible in the reflection.

mushroom said...

Just say intelligent.

I don't see how the better class of scientists can have an argument with that. Most are more than willing to admit the correspondence that must exist between human intelligence and the conveniently mathematical structure of reality.

Ann Kellett said...

Every new post of yours is my new favorite! A laser on The Hologram. Thanks!

Ann Kellett said...

Not only that, Mushroom, but "the Trinity be[ing] visible in the reflection" requires another to receive the wavelengths of light. We truly are co-creators in the "one cosmos under God."

maineman said...

Speaking of hologrammatical, check this out. Astonishing:

My apologies for being as technologically untutored as possible, but a cut and paste and 15 minutes of your time will not disappoint , I can pretty much guarantee.

julie said...

Thanks, Maineman, that was interesting. David Warren was just talking about Sainte Chappelle yesterday; I looked up some images, but didn't think to look for a video. So beautiful, and almost astounding to think it was built in the 1200s. Is anybody building anything half so amazing today, with all of our modern technology?

Rick said...

The answer to that is no.

But in defense of today's architects, there are no Kings to inspire them in that way nor to foot the bill. Nor such a culture as was then. Today's Kings -- who knows what they want and why they want it so badly. Hillary bent on that one thing.

Also in their defense, who could imagine something greater than St. Chapelle or Chartres? and so on. Anyway, we still have them, which is a blessing.

We'd be fools to not use modern construction equipment and a fool to use them to build a cathedral today. There is that one being built in Spain which has its aesthetic problems some say. And odd to use computers and cranes to do it, and would be odd not to.

It was a different time. That window has closed. It was meant to be and to stop being (probably).

Speaking of, this post re "the house holding up the foundation" resonates nicely with the concept of the cornerstone.

julie said...

I don't disagree exactly - that is, I wouldn't expect anybody to use today's technology to try and build the sorts of things the world of 1200 brought forth; that would be self-defeating. Like Bob trying to write his posts in Shakespearian English.

I don't know what I think of the Spanish cathedral - I know the one you mean, but can't think of the name. It is both astoundingly beautiful and detailed, and also at the same time perplexing and even occasionally kind of ugly. There's just so much happening, and they don't have the space they were meant to have to give it a little breathing room. And so many extremely different artists contributing their personal vision, including people who were initially opposed to the project.

Rick said...

Yes, likewise, I don't know how I feel about the Spanish one either. I do think they should try to finish it. I think I'm in that camp.
Your question was very thought provoking.

maineman said...

Not that comforting a thought, that architecture has been all downhill since the high Middle Ages and literature has been all downhill since Shakespeare.

The future of Christendom seems to be in what was once called the 3rd World, but the future of art and man's ability to translate and represent beauty? That future seems to be in the past.

John said...

In the same way that I can buy beautiful hand made pottery for personal use, the church could employ traditional artisans to build its sacred spaces. These artisans already exist, at least in Europe. Modern devices could be used, in the same way a potter can use an electric wheel. It lightens the load, but does not alter the technique.
Obviously impractical beyond that narrow domain.