Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Message of the Cosmos

Continuing with yesterday's post on the keys to existence, an amazon reviewer of Means to Message explains what Fr. Jaki means vis-a-vis the distinction between means and message:

The "means" are the objects of reality which act upon the knowing mind which receives and forms the "message," since reality and the cosmos as whole are rational (that is, can be known). Jaki shows that even science itself must begin with objects that exist apart from our minds, otherwise science and philosophy become just "talk about talk," thereby confusing both means and message. When the means and message are confused, the human mind alone becomes the sole arbiter of reality, plunging humanity into all sorts of metaphysical and epistemological problems.

And political, as we shall see.

In order to for existence to ex-ist, there must be this primordial distinction between means and message. Typically we think of the foundation of things as consisting of matter, or energy, or law, but these are all somewhat beside the point if there is no Message and no Means to encode and transmit it. This means, of course, that there must also be an encoder, but we're getting a little ahead -- or behind, rather -- of ourselves.

Suffice it to say that in order for us to know anything, there must be a cosmic structure of encoder --> message --> means --> decoder; or God --> truth --> medium --> man.

In a way, this corresponds to the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, meaning that God doesn't just formulate the message, but first creates the means through which the message will be conveyed. It is not as if the world already exists, so it is only a matter of superimposing a message. This explains why the world is so shot through with truth and beauty from the inside out. It is full of objects -- means -- that transmit truth -- the message. Vertical murmurandoms are everywhere!

There are diverse methods for unpacking these messages, from poetry to science, philosophy to theology, math to music. More generally, you might say there are qualitative ways and quantitative ways. In our Age of Stupidity, there is a widespread belief that only the quantitative ways are valid, but guess what? As soon as you say that, you've made a qualitative argument, one that obviously cannot be reduced to numbers. People such as Steven Pinker who naïvely promote logic as the last word in wisdom are obviously making an extra-logical (but in this case infra-rational) argument.

Wisdom. Is it a thing, and could it ever be expressed with mathematical precision? Obviously Yes and less obviously YES -- in a way. This for me is the appeal of the Aphorisms, which express a maximum of wisdom with a minimum of words. Here are some relevant examples; I've arranged them so they build to and convey a kind of meta-aphorism:

To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

What is capable of being measured is minor.

Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

The natural sciences, where the process of falsification prevails, take only errors out of circulation; the social sciences, where fashion prevails, also take their achievements out of circulation.

Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

The Christian who is disturbed by the “results” of science does not know what Christianity is or what science is (Dávila).

Jaki writes that "Concern for anything serious cannot be taught in a straightforward manner, if it can be taught at all." Rather, like painting, poetry, and composing, philosophy, if not "inspired by the love of truth," reduces to banality. Thus,

the scientist singles out what is quantitative in reality and therefore he deals with matter only insofar as matter embodies quantitative features. From there the scientist proceeds along a straight track which conceptually is also an extremely narrow track.... The scientist need not probe into the deeper origin of matter as quantitatively patterned...

In contrast, the philosopher -- at least one who is open to being as such, and not just a little corner of it -- must probe the "many other aspects of reality in which the true, the good, and the beautiful are intertwined as they reveal ever greater depths that cannot be fathomed quantitatively."

None of this is to denigrate science; rather, to simply describe it.

Science not only deals with material reality, but assumes it. But as Schuon writes, "Matter is the sensible manifestation of existence itself," such that it is immediately elevated to something much more than science can say about it.

Or, put conversely, if you were to consider all the things science says about matter, they wouldn't add up to existence itself, for existence is greater than the sum of its parts. Again, science simply assumes not only that "matter talks," but -- more bizarrely -- scientists can hear what it is saying!

Critical for our purposes is that "what holds true for the universe applies equally to the soul," for the macro- and microcosms mirror each other, because each is first a mirror of the Divine Mind, the Absolute Subject, the El Supremo at the Top of the Stairs. Oh? Tell us more.

The soul is "matter" by its existential substance, "form" by its individuality," "number" by its necessarily unique subjectivity; it is "space" by its expansion and "time" by its cycles. Or again it is "spatial" by its memory, since space conserves, and "temporal" by its imagination, since time changes and transforms; it could be added that reason refers to number, since it calculates, snd intuition to form, since it perceives directly and by synthesis (Schuon).

Hmm. I just thought of something. A conservative wishes to conserve our founding principles, so this reflects the spatial orientation referenced above. But progressivism -- it's in the name -- is not only temporal (i.e., oriented to an imaginary future), but in such a way that it cuts itself off from founding (spatial) principles.

Now, properly understood, our founding principles are both spatial and temporal, in that they are the operating instructions for a rule-bound dynamism, or ordered liberty. But progressives imagine we can have meaningful progress with no ground and no telos. In short, it is pure message, or abstract idea with no concrete underpinning. Being that they begin with their ideas rather than the world, it should come as no surprise that they end up shipwrecked on the shoals of reality -- the very shoals they deny up front.


ted said...

What is capable of being measured is minor.

Including the number of comments on this profound post!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a hybrid between conservative and progressive would be best; grounded in solid fundamental principles, yet willing to imagine a different future, and willing to take risks.'

But I'd like to inquire about your family of origin, Dr. Godwin. I am curious about your father in particular. Tell us about him, if you would.

Thank you,

Professor Tanya Apple-Bottom

julie said...

Or, put conversely, if you were to consider all the things science says about matter, they wouldn't add up to existence itself, for existence is greater than the sum of its parts.

Indeed, just as a painting is on the hand simply smears of color, while yet reducible to a mere sum of the blobs of paint. Or a piece of music being more than simply a sequence of vibrations and pauses.

Spring break is coming, in these parts at least. It wouldn't be surprising if comments are sparse for a while...

mushroom said...

Or maybe we are just too blown away to comment. I'm still processing.