Friday, November 13, 2015

A Cosmic Ramble Between the Many and the One

I wonder if it's a coincidence that our totalitarian college students are laboring under the same deficiency as our president: a congenital inability to join in with the rest of us and laugh at themselves.

One quick way to limit the "problem" of racial insensitivity on college campuses would be to end racial discrimination, AKA affirmative action. One suspects that the students who have been affirmatively acted upon are the most acutely aware of an unconscious inferiority that needs to be denied and projected into others.

People who excessively project are never funny, because what they are projecting is always a matter of fierce urgency -- which is why they are projecting it to begin with.

When I see students who looks like this,

I immediately assume they have no business being in an institute of higher learning, but that they have been inserted there for reasons of "diversity." Is this insensitive? Well, then end the racial discrimination to which I am sensitive. I don't have the same perception when I see an Asian student wandering around the engineering department. I have never wondered how on earth Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams or Shelby Steele managed to earn their PhDs.

Back to the subject of how these cosmic assouls get that way. Yesterday we spoke of how the revolution of 1776 wasn't a revolution at all, but a restatement and a recovery. There was, however, a revolution prior to it, but it was an interior revolution. In the words of John Adams,

"The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.... This radical change in the principles, obligations, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution" (in Charles).

In turn, I would say that this revolution was actually an evolution, or a psycho-pneumatic development. This is what renders it cosmically universal instead of being just an idiosyncratic feature of our particular culture. To put it another way, the principles upon which the interior revolution was founded were discovered, not invented, much less imposed in a top-down manner.

Liberty, truth, creativity, and virtue are all intimately related, such that none can be detached from the others without losing its meaning. This is the great error of a truly awful book I'm slogging through called The Evolution of Everything, by Matt Ridley. I hardly know where to begin.

Yes, most everything is evolving, but the fact that we can say this means that at least one thing isn't evolving. That would be a little thing called truth. Unless you believe nothing is true, in which case your theory of evolution falls by its own standard.

Another book I do not recommend but which contains far more truth about cosmic evolution is Charles Hartshorne's Creative Synthesis & Philosophic Method, for at least he is a philosopher, and therefore understands the religious and metaphysical implications of an evolutionary cosmos. Unlike Ridley, he is not a boneheaded materialist.

If Everything is Evolving, it means that becoming takes precedence over being, and with this axiom we have no disagreement. But just because you have eliminated the abstract and static Greek God of Pure Being, it hardly means you have dispensed with God. It just means you have dispatched a certain image or projection of God. An idol.

But what if Creativity is our first principle? Then it should come as no surprise that Everything is Evolving; plus there is the added benefit of understanding how it can be that things evolve toward higher and deeper and more comprehensive unities. Then you are not reduced to positing almighty Chance as your ultimate category, which is another way of saying that you have no explanation, or that the Answer is "just becuz."

For Hartshorne, "To be is to create." What this means is that being is actually an abstraction of becoming, not vice versa. Once you recognize this, then it all falls together. Creativity always involves the attainment of a kind of higher unity, of -- to paraphrase Whitehead -- the many becoming one and increasing by one.

The many → one vector is not deterministic. Thus, in the creative act between many and one is our freedom.

Now, that might sound a little abstract, but I assure you it isn't. Recall what was said a few posts back about our political liberty:

"In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power" (Charles). But in America it is precisely the converse: here "charters of power" are "granted by liberty.... [T]he American people were telling the government of their own creation what its powers were, not being told by that government what their liberties were."

It's quite a striking contrast: for the left, liberty is granted by power. But for us, power is granted by liberty. And liberty is completely intertwined with truth, and before that, the divine love. In other words, while the source of liberty is not in the state, it still has a source. That source is and must be God (as made explicit in the Declaration).

To be is to create, and we cannot create if we aren't free. Therefore, the highest form of freedom is really a creative becoming. Which, in my opinion, also happens to be the terrestrial icon of God, for God is free, he creates, and he is relationship, and therefore undergoes a kind of endless trinitarian "becoming." Otherwise he'd be bored stiff, and we'd be too. God is an adventure -- with us, obviously, but also in himself.

As for Ridley, who has overstepped the boundaries of his matter-mind and is trying to operate way above his evolutionary paygrade:

If anything is unscientific, it is the denial of aspects of existence because they seem inconvenient for our methods.... Science has enough to do if it seeks to trace out the mechanisms which underlie and limit creativity. The creative as such is perhaps outside the sphere of science.... philosophy and religion exist to restore the total perspective, taking all legitimate interests of man into account. --Hartshorne


ted said...

For Hartshorne, "To be is to create." What this means is that being is actually an abstraction of becoming, not vice versa.

While I agree that becoming takes precedence over being, I can also see all sorts of distortions that come from this. Hence, the Ridley rhetoric (thanks for saving me the reading time on this one). Once you open this door, you get Hegel. Although Teilhard smoothed Hegel out, even he went a tad astray. Is truth revealed or created? Maybe both. But then we enter into a slippery slope when it comes to transcendent principles that guide immanent realities.

mushroom said...

God is adventure. It has taken me a long time to even get to where I could entertain that idea, let alone accept it. Thank you.

Gagdad Bob said...

Ted: With Harthshorne's theory of dual transcendence, it is as if God is at once completely transcendent and yet perpetually transcending himself in perfect love, truth, and beauty. Not saying it's correct, but it's the only way I can wrap my mind around it. For me, the static and therefore unresponsive God unexplains more than it explains (for to respond is to allow oneself to be changed).

ted said...

Yes, I like Harthshorne's panentheism in this regard. I do find it a challenge to perfectly balance this notion of dual transcendence, and it appears we will always be biased toward becoming or being.

Metaphysically becoming seems more coherent to me, while my personal disposition is towards being and wanting to withdraw from the world in a monastic setting. I don't do that, but I project the romantic appeal of it. Maybe I'm finding the world too mad these days to partake in any transformation of it.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think Hartshorne would say that being and becoming are complementary ultimate categories, as opposed to being either/or. It's just that becoming can account for being better than vice versa.

ted said...

That's well said, and helps clarify dualistic notions that reifies how one should live.

julie said...

But what if Creativity is our first principle? Then it should come as no surprise that Everything is Evolving; plus there is the added benefit of understanding how it can be that things evolve toward higher and deeper and more comprehensive unities.

The interesting thing about creativity, too, is that it tends to be the most beautiful when it expresses that which is timeless. Thus for instance, one can have a deep desire to create something interesting and worth sharing, and at the same time hope that what is being shared is neither new nor original.

Gagdad Bob said...

Update: there are actually some good points in the Ridley book in between the God-bashing, e.g., on economics & technology.

Gagdad Bob said...

... then again, the bad chapters are egregiously bad, e.g., on mind and free will.

John said...

Coincidentally, I've started reading Ridley's book as well. While I agree that his fundamental view is flawed, I do think the utility of removing final causes from scientific inquiry is that you are not fooled by false causes. Natural selection, genetic drift, and sexual selection are all incontrovertible at this point, and they come to influence every single domain, including human behaviors and abilities.
It's the lefts' NOT taking evolutionary theory seriously that causes most of their errors. They are creationists of the worst sort when it comes to this. It leads to terrorism in Paris and regime change abroad, for example, because they think everyone is the same and, with the right resources, we will all get along.
Ridley has a masterful critique of global warming alarmism on YouTube, by the way.

Gagdad Bob said...

I would say that he is precisely half-correct, in that he just defaults to the other side of the cosmic orthoparadoxical complementarities, and then elevates his side to the ultimate category in an intellectually incoherent manner. So when he's right he's right, but when he's wrong he is really wrong.

Gagdad Bob said...

For example, exalting nature over nurture is just as erroneous as the converse.

julie said...


It's the lefts' NOT taking evolutionary theory seriously that causes most of their errors. They are creationists of the worst sort when it comes to this. It leads to terrorism in Paris and regime change abroad, for example, because they think everyone is the same and, with the right resources, we will all get along.


One of the standard tropes in kids' shows that's been driving me nuts lately is the idea that there aren't really any bad guys, just people who act out because they don't have something. Toys, treats, friends, whatever. Every kids' series does it. The resolution, of course, always comes down to sharing the envied object and validating the bad guy's feelings of lack and dissatisfaction, which melts the bad guy's heart and helps him to stop being so bad. The focus is on sharing, but the real message they are teaching is that appeasing aggressors is the way to peace and happiness. Awful behavior is rewarded and everybody feels good about it, because really (they think) we all want the same things underneath. Nobody is truly evil.

Thus, Paris.

John said...

Bob, I agree, though it's not even half, of course, since the final cause is the causiest. But, once you see his flaw, the intermediate observations and facts are damned interesting.
Creationists of the religious sort deny these causes as lies.
But, on nature vs. nurture, there is no difference since they contantly feedback into each other. It takes a long time, though, which is why Christian values have not made as much progress in Latin America.
It's your writing that has gotten me here. Your theory that Christianity is the cure to religion weaves nicely into the idea that religion evolved, initially, but needed a vertical augmentation.

popemobile said...

Because I have almost no social skills I will state my thoughts as oracularly as ever:
1. Why not have “confirmative action?” If a minority is at least as qualified as a non-minority, don’t hire him just because he is a minority, but if he is a minority, give him a “minority bonus” over and above what he gets just because he has the job (but of course only do this in fields in which minorities are underrepresented). I've heard plenty of competent minorities in prestigious jobs say "affirmative action" doesn't help them--it just makes people think they didn't deserve their jobs.

popemobile said...

2. At my college, they taught me that in the Colonial Era just before the American Revolution, John Locke’s Second Treatise in Government was taught from the pulpit all over America—not as Scripture per se, but as something so fundamental to our understanding of reality that God Himself desired it to be taught in Church. And, if you haven’t read it, it seriously reads like a book from the Old Testament. Truly, although by faith I must believe that the Age of Prophecy ended a long time ago, Locke in this book imitated the style of the Old Testament writers quite well and communicated some very godly worldly truths (although perhaps the rest of his philosophy was in fact quite damaging, a la illegalization of school vouchers based on an establishment of the Lockean religion [see “Law or Prepossessions?” by John Courtney Murray]). Does the book you are reading talk about how Locke may have facilitated this interior revolution (I guess it doesn’t matter, I’m just interested)?

popemobile said...

3. In philosophy class, they taught me that there was a synthesis of being and becoming in a word something like "potency" but perhaps even "potential." I think Gaghdad Bob is merely adding to the note of "potency/potential" the note of "the greater than which cannot be thought." He must really be a genius, or at least a highly learned moron, but certainly there is a better word than "creativity" to describe "potency/potential + the greater than which cannot be thought?" I'm reaching for my thesaurus...sorry, guys, it looks like all the better words are either quasi-religious or have already been taken by the New Age movement--"visionary," "inspired," as in, "that artwork was inspired." Transcendence is pretty close. What about "perceptive?" In Latin it could mean either "grasp all the way to" or "receive all the way from"--the ambiguity here works in our favor, doesn't it!

popemobile said...

Of course, the "highly learned moron" was a quip, because that is what I consider myself, and I consider it a complement, although I truly believe that Gaghdad Bob is really, really smart. I'm sorry, you guys. Sometimes I can be insufferably self-referential and obscure.

William Wildblood said...

With regard to the Ted/Bob discussion above, could one say that God is always perfect in his being but, through becoming, is constantly transcending himself and moving on to ever greater perfections. He is the all that is always becoming more.

Gagdad Bob said...

PowerLine has a post on the subject of black privilege contributing to black paranoia.

popemobile said...

Could somebody please delete my posts? Truly, I was unaware, although I should have known, how annoying they are. I've been reading what Gaghdad Bob has written for years, and I never really feel like I have anything to add, so it's really hard for me, in my isolation, since I have never been in a seminary, and the reception I received a few posts ago seems to indicate that that's where I SHOULD be--where do you think "seminary types" come from, after all?--we're human BEINGS, like anybody else). Do you really want a bunch of priests screwed up like us, or would you rather make us better people by treating us with kindness and respect? I can't believe that you would be willing shoot yourselves in the foot like that. Please delete his post too, because the Blog ought to be defended from such marring spars.

julie said...

Popemobile, a couple things:

1) You're being awfully hard on yourself. Honestly, half the time I feel like when I comment it is either stupid, tangential, or oblique, but realize that it's usually not as bad as it seems to me. Usually.

2) Commenting, for some of us, actually takes practice. For instance, we write things that make sense inside our own heads, forgetting that without clarification other people might not follow our own train of thought. It probably took me a couple years (at least!) to break that habit; it's harder online than in person because you have no body language to use as a cue. This doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Just remember, always, that preview is really your friend. And when you preview a comment, pretend you are someone from outside the conversation, who may know a little of the context but definitely can't read your mind.

3) Also, for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the comment, sometimes people may not respond. This doesn't mean you should shut up.

Don't beat yourself up so much.