Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mathworld and Mythworld

We've finished the book on Thomas, and I'm pretty much left with nothing to say this morning, and no compulsion to say it. The end of a blogging cycle? Could be. In any event, what we have here is a rambling exploration of whatever pops up

Note to myself: the future never arrives. It was never there.

Something arrives. Just not the future. Rather, all we can really know is the new present. The present is always here, and we are always in it.

Pro-tip right there.

Still, we can't help thinking about the future. We are situated in this dimension called time, which has three distinct and extraordinarily different modalities: past, present, future. These three are so different in character that it's difficult to see how they could be the same thing; or, three views of the same thing. And yet, there it is: was, is, and will be.

I'm out of the loop. Has anyone cracked the enigma of time? Or have we still made no progress since Augustine's remark that if no one asks us, we know what time is. But if we wish to explain it, then we have no idea.

It seems to me that science just putters around the edges of such mysteries. It can only assume time, not explain it. Likewise little things like causality, law, consciousness, subject, origin, event, etc. These are all prerequisites for science and therefore unexplainable by science -- just as the eye cannot see itself or the Antifa support himself.

You might say that science is one way to metabolize the mystery of existence. But just because you have metabolized it in a certain way, it hardly means you have done so exhaustively, or that nothing remains to be digested. Indeed, no explanation, no matter how complete, ever extinguishes the mystery, and may even deepen it.

As Feser explains, "there is simply no reason to suppose that physics gives us anything close to an exhaustive description of reality in the first place," and "ample reason to think that it does not." It "focuses its attention on those aspects of nature which can be described in the language of mathematics," but by definition leaves out everything that is not subject to mathematization. Thus, "if there are features" of the world "that cannot be captured by this method, physics is guaranteed to not find them."

Mathematics is an abstraction, indeed, the most abstract language available to man. But it is only possible because there is something concrete prior to it. We cannot live in mathworld. There must be something of an "intrinsic character" that simply is what it is, and can never be reduced to an abstraction.

It seems to me that this is Gödel's bottom line take, and yet, so few really take it to the bottom: that all of our intellectual systems are ultimately projections on the mystery of existence.

However, according to my sources, Gödel never intended this to consign us to a Kantian shadow-world of phenomenal appearances only, with no possibility of knowing reality. Rather, the opposite: that of course we have access to truths we cannot prove with our reason, the latter of which is always self-enclosed and tautological.

In short, we can exit the cave and see the sun. But we can never contain the sun in our own little abstract systems. To think otherwise is... G3AOA -- Genesis 3 All Over Again.

So, one must maintain a complementary balance reality and idea, or between concrete and abstract. Again, no matter how sophisticated your idea, reality nevertheless is what it is. Indeed, the more sophisticated the idea, the more one may be tempted to imagine that it is adequate.

This is precisely where idea transmogrifies into ideology, where education devolves to indoctrination, and where math is fallaciously reified into a misplaced concreteness.

It is the difference between mathworld and mythworld. No civilization can be founded upon mathworld, let alone maintained on it. Infertile eggheads who imagine otherwise are just leaves leafing in denial of the trunk and roots of the cosmic tree that nourishes them.

From a psychological standpoint there are two forms of independence, the real kind and a pseudo version. Real independence is always rooted in what we call "mature dependence." Conversely, to imagine we are literally independent -- an I without a We -- is the worst kind of narcissism. I think many libertarians fall into the latter error. Conversely, leftists champion a version of immature dependence in elevating the We to the detriment of the I.

Come to think of it, this is precisely the subject of Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity. The questions 'Who Are We?' and 'Who Am I?' are absolutely intertwined and complementary: one cannot ask one without asking the other, either explicitly or implicitly.

And at the basis of our civil war are two completely irreconcilable version of the I and We. In other words, the We of the left has absolutely nothing in common with the We to which I belong. That may sound polemical, but it is quite accurate, and cuts right to the heart of the dispute.

I've highlighted so many passages in the book that I scarcely know where to begin. I'm almost out of time anyway, but let's just say that Trump not only speaks for the forgotten We of America, but for a We that the multicultural and transnational left effectively wishes to eradicate.

And I mean that literally. Ultimately what the left wishes to eliminate is Americans, that is, people who identify with our founding, our traditions, our history, our myths, our spiritual vision, and our exceptional mission. Even our statues. And certainly our constitution.

Let's put it this way: you can deconstruct the shorthand myth of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree. Fine. But if you are not mythopoetically awed by the greatness of the man, and deny his national fatherhood, then we are not only no longer brothers but members of different and hostile tribes.


julie said...

Indeed, the more sophisticated the idea, the more one may be tempted to imagine that it is adequate.

It is so dreadfully easy for us to fall in love with our own ideas. Back in my art school days, I had a good instructor who warned against just this tendency: having made a line or a feature or indeed an entire work which strikes the artist as particularly something, when it may in fact be dreadfully wrong in a way that throws off everything else, we were told, "you must be willing to kill your darlings."

Gagdad Bob said...

For example:

The United States of America,” Trump said, “has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.” This is the simple truth, but I do not recall hearing such sentiments from the White House in recent years.

On the different notions of time and of selfhood:

What a cunning, devilish word is “might.” For here as elsewhere, possibility is cheap. Scrap our current political accommodations and things might be better. Then again, they might be a whole lot worse. Vide the host of tyrannies inspired by that disciple of airy possibility, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. “Man was born free,” he declaimed, “but is everywhere in chains”: two startling untruths in a single famous utterance.

About the American We:

As the English philosopher Roger Scruton argued, “Democracies owe their existence to national loyalties — the loyalties that are supposedly shared by government and opposition.” Confusing national loyalty with nationalism, many utopians argue that the former is a threat to peace. After all, wasn’t it national loyalty that sparked two world wars?


Today, the nation state, that territorially based network of filiation bound together through shared history, custom, law, and language, is under greater siege than at any time since the dissolution of the Roman Empire.

But in the end, perhaps the greatest threat to the West lies not in its external enemies, no matter how hostile or numerous, but in its inner uncertainty — an uncertainty that is all-too-often celebrated as an especially enlightened form of subtlety and sophistication — about who we are.

The attack on the nation state... proceeds apace on several fronts. The world will soon recognize the great service Donald Trump has done for the forces of civilization through his eloquent and impassioned defense of national sovereignty.

julie said...

Truly a great speech. I never really thought we'd get a president who would boldly just say what's true; it always seemed we'd end up with, at best, a "nice" politician who could never bear to offend his opponents, even when a cluebat was desperately needed. Indeed, a future that seemed unpossible is unfolding within our very present.

Gagdad Bob said...

YOU CAN'T TELL THE TRUTH HERE! reminds me of "Gentlemen -- you can't fight here. This is the war room!"

julie said...


Gagdad Bob said...

You can't speak freely here! This is the UN commission on Human Rights!

Rick said...

I'm totally spoiled for all future presidents.

I swear he got into this because he literally couldn't stand to see thing run so poorly. He seems to be that kinda guy. There is a good example of this in his book Art of the Deal where he talks about the ice skating rink project in NYC. The city was in year 6 of its restoration project when Trump took it over, knowing nothing about ice rinks, starting from scratch, and then completing it in about 3 months if I recall.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm hoping for a future president who is even more Trumpy than Trump. Either way, I can't imagine people settling for lukewarm Republicanism, which is just slow-motion liberal fascism.

Gagdad Bob said...

But probably, no mere politician could possess the flaws that make Trump so great.

Gagdad Bob said...

Reminds me of being a rock star: the traits needed to be a great one usually make one a dysfunctional human being. Which is why they tend to die rather than fade away.

I remember Paul McCarteny saying that a key to their success was John Lennon's awe-inspiring "fuck-all" attitude. Not so adaptive when off stage.

Rick said...

Trump understands the building class because he's one of them.

Speaking of future presidents, I saw a picture of Pence the other day when he was standing next to Trump. Trump was speaking to folks in FL about the hurricane. Anyway, Pence had a look in his eye while watching his boss operate, and it looked to me like he was thinking, man I want to be like you when I grow up.

Rex is 65 I think. He had a diff look on his face at the UN thing. Like he was studying him. Fully engaged. He may do. Wiki doesn't seem to like him. That's good enough for me.

I'm with Scott Adams -- Trump tore a whole in the universe.

Gagdad Bob said...

Agreed -- I watched the video and thought to myself that Trump has torn a giant hole in the spacetime fabric of the liberal mind. And it's not healing.

About Tillerson -- there is a chapter in Who Are We? on these transnational corporate types that have absolutely no allegiance to, or identification with, America. I don't know if Tillerson is one of them, but they are a real menace. I don't necessarily have a problem with the "corporations are people" idea, so long as they are American people. But so many of them -- most notably the tech giants -- are as American as the UN.

Gagdad Bob said...

So -- "ironically" -- these transnational corporations -- that overwhelmingly support Dems -- are the "foreign influences" meddling in our elections...

Anonymous said...

Great, rambling post, really a three in one deal. We first get some musings on time, and then on the limits of what can be known, and then a nice political finish. Followed by comments on the President's UN speech. A feast today.

My contribution:

There is some mild evidence to suggest the "future" is already extant. Numerous anecdotal reports of prescience support this. Anyone who has had a solid, vivid, detailed multi-sensory prescient experience, with later prediction success, will know what I'm talking about. There has been some headway to account for "Deja-vu" as a cognitive artifact, and these ideas are persuasive. However, we're talking cash money results. And that stuff happens, believe you me.

Physics tends to describe time-space-matter as a loaf of sliced bread, done from start to finish, and we are like ants eating a tunnel through the slices. We stay in the present moment because of entropy, a law governing the flow of energy. We literally can't back up, and we can't stop. Forward is the only option. When will we reach the last slice of the loaf? We know the back end of the loaf is about 13 billion back, but we don't know where/when the other end is.

If two ants are eating separate tunnels and one of them angles off slightly (due to near light speed travel, for instance, which tends to curve space), then the two ants will end up in slightly different time slices. This accounts for the time distortions predicted by relativity.

So, the future. Is is fully created, ready to be tunneled into and enjoyed? Hmmmm.

Rick said...

Rex seems to be a guy that climbed the ranks from literally the bottom of that biz to the top - started as an oil rig dude (I believe) - but that could be a cherry tree story. Was an Eagle Scout and President of the Boy Scouts. Plus my libdar is not pinging. Anyway, that's a ways off (hopefully).

Other thing about that hole in the universe, it seemed like a brilliant idea that a guy just like Trump should run. That was one thing. But he was also simultaneously the guy for the job + the guy who had the idea before anyone else --- even before Scott Adams*!

Scott likewise is flawed on some Very Important Subjects. But he can afford to be. I do like his Talent Stack concept, though.

julie said...

Rick, did you see the thing back in February about the Hermit of Loreto?

Interesting to go back and revisit that, in light of how the year has gone so far. Speaking of future, past and present.

Rick said...

Thanks Julie - I did read it then. I'll have to revisit...

Rick said...

Watched it again, Julie. Thanks again - I'd completely forgotten about it.
I've been to the Holy House - I don't recall seeing the Hermit :-( Sad!
Neat to think there's a brick in the Vatican with Trump's name on it.
It's gold, Jerry!

Van Harvey said...

"And I mean that literally. Ultimately what the left wishes to eliminate is Americans, that is, people who identify with our founding, our traditions, our history, our myths, our spiritual vision, and our exceptional mission. Even our statues. And certainly our constitution"

Exactly so.