Friday, March 09, 2018

The Science of the Inexact is an Exact Science

Continuing with the theme of the previous post, I reread a couple of essays in Schuon's Gnosis that turned out to be particularly apt. It's as if the Cosmic Mind directed me straight to them.

For example, we adverted to the limitations of mere fact and logic, when our adversaries seem to think that these things not only speak for themselves, but can say everything there is to say. But then Gödel comes along and says "no way," because the human mind is bigger than math and logic put together.

Schuon says something similar:

There is doubtless no truth more "exact" than history, but what must be stressed is that there is a truth more "real" than that of facts.... Historical reality is less "real" than the profound truth it expresses, and which myths likewise express; a mythological symbolism is infinitely more "true" than a fact deprived of symbolism.

Here we are really on to something, almost a kind of cosmic meta-law that transcends anything even Gödel might have ventured; for in the end, he was a mere logician, wasn't he?

The reason there is no truth more exact than history is because it happened. Exactly. And yet, what was it? What did -- or does -- it mean? The most exact representation of what happened won't tell you that.

This reminds me of what was wrong with my formal education. For example, I remember studying a different facet of history every grade: US history, California history, European history, world history, etc. There were countless facts and dates to memorize, but I don't recall anyone pulling it all together and explaining What That Was All About.

So, yesterday I randomed into an article called Education as Enchantment: Tolkien’s Essay “On Fairy-Stories.” In it, the author describes perfectly the distinction between mere historical fact and historical reality:

When we teach, our aim isn’t merely [heh] to relay a subject matter -- a curricular “story” -- that otherwise remains “out there” at a level removed from the student himself. On the contrary, our desire is to be so competent and compelling in our teaching-cum-story-telling that our students and children are able, by an act of what Tolkien calls “literary belief,” to enter into the subject matter fully, and “see” and “feel,” even “be” inside of it.

Exactly. Which is ironic, because we're obviously dealing with a higher level of exactitude than mere fact! More:

Yet in casting our pedagogical “spell,” of course, we understand that we are engaged in no mere [heh] game or play-acting; we are not trying to get our students to believe something that is false.

Rather, we are engaged in the perilously important task of trying to seduce -- or “delude,” as Tolkien has it -- our students out of the so-called “real world” that they think they already know by leading them into the even more real “Secondary World” that is being “weaved” by the teacher.

Understood as a form or state of Faërian drama, then, education is to be appreciated as no mere [heh] means to some other, ulterior end, but rather education seeks to bring about much the same effect that all our arts ardently long for (but which only God’s own Faërian drama of the Gospel most fully achieves). In sum, our teaching must strive to imaginatively substitute the existing world with a new and redeemed because enchanted view of the old one.

I don't think I have sufficient time to unpack all that, but perhaps it's unnecessary, for either you get the point or you don't, and certainly Pinker and his ilk don't.

One central point is that the world isn't flat but hierarchical, such that exactitude on one level may be blurry or misleading or meaningless on the next. Nor is it possible to transcend from below, although people -- especially leftists -- never stop trying.

Bob, why did you just throw in that gratuitous insult to the left? Because the left practices a perverse, counterfeit version of Faërian drama by superimposing an ideological superstructure over events, AKA the Narrative. In denying myth, they descend into a kind of systematic and rigid delusion.

In the words of the Aphorist, Nothing is explainable outside of history, but history is not enough to explain anything.

For Real history exceeds what merely happened. Therefore, Facts need the historian in order to become interesting. Unless the imagination refines it, every event is trivial.

No. Exactly trivial. For The event without an intelligent narrator dies in frustrated virtuality. What this ultimately means is that history is consummated in the soul; or rather, it is woven of fact and imagination, horizontal and vertical, but conditioned from above.

Exactly!

15 comments:

Gagdad Bob said...

I only skimmed it, but this seems relevant: At the Box Office and Voting Booth, Leftist Fantasies Bomb.

ted said...

Yes indeed. Nonetheless, every so often Hollywood gets a gem out there. On that topic, I saw a preview for a new film last night Raccoons may enjoy: Death of Stalin. Definitely a dark comedy/satire that looks into the absurdity of totalitarian regimes!

Gagdad Bob said...

One must have a heart of stone to hear of Stalins death without laughing out loud.

mushroom said...

The left's superstructure is then an attempt to fortify their sole level of logic and facts against incursions of the truth. The ceiling is thick.

This explains why they desperately seek to control all forms of imaginative art from movies to comic books. Don't let people escape to a world where they can get a truthful perspective on the Narrative.

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of redemption from below, you can't make it up:

"It’s easy to look at what’s happening in Washington DC and despair. That’s why I carry a little plastic Obama doll in my purse. I pull him out every now and then to remind myself that the United States had a progressive, African American president until very recently. Some people find this strange, but you have to take comfort where you can find it in Donald Trump’s America."

Gagdad Bob said...

Here is what the cosmos looks like. I knew it!

julie said...

The reason there is no truth more exact than history is because it happened. Exactly. And yet, what was it? What did -- or does -- it mean? The most exact representation of what happened won't tell you that.

I'm reminded of the example seen somewhere recently of trying to figure out just how long a coastline is. On the one hand, it clearly has an exact length; on the other, how does one measure it? Do you count every little squiggle, or just sort of generally measure the distance as the crow flies? Conceivably, if you tried to be as accurate as possible the answer comes close to infinity.

Re. how the cosmos might look, it's both a donut and an eye. There must be a Simpson's joke in there somewhere...

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, a coastline is infinite. Therefore, it is as if infinitude is "contained" in finitude. Just as one would expect if God is immanent.

Anonymous said...

I've have this recurrent leftist fantasy that I no longer had to work and the government would provide for me and my dependents. I would be free to shop, stroll, attend gatherings, and have a carefree life.

julie said...

You're welcome to experience the reality in Venezuela.

No matter how lovely the fantasy, the truth of socialism is always murder.

debass said...

You are so right, Julie.
BTW, several years ago, I bought my daughter a ballistic panel for her backpack. Her classmates would always ask her what it was and why she had it. They don't ask her anymore.

Gagdad Bob said...

I've thought about what it would be like for the government to provide for everyone. But what if a deadly fungus or something kills the money trees?

Anonymous said...

Hello Raccoons:

On the topic of the necessity to work:

A prominent Yogini once remarked that quite a bit of human activity seemed akin to "beating the water in a cup with a fork."

Hunter-gatherer adults spend about 30-40% of their waking hours in making a living, depending on the season. When not busy they loll in hammocks or shoot the breeze.

In industrialized societies, adults spend about 30-40% of their waking hours in making a living (8 hours, 5 days a week). When not busy they have a plethora of things to enjoy.

However, due to the efficiency of industrialized societies, we should be seeing a trend downward in the percentage of time we spend at labor. But, we do not see this. If anything, people feel pressured to work longer hours.

And the assembly lines spew out ridiculous gew-gaws which compete with the thing-a-ma-jigs made by another company.

There's just something off about the whole thing. Gains in efficiency seemingly don't translate to increases in leisure time.

I suspect an ingrained attitude exists that one must labor long hours in order to deserve a respite. There seems to be a bias against laziness. Should this bias be relaxed?

Van Harvey said...

O, Dante look now...

Van Harvey said...

"Exactly. Which is ironic, because we're obviously dealing with a higher level of exactitude than mere fact!"

Yep. And of course, what Pinker will never grasp, is what our ol' buddy Aristotle, pointed out in his ‘Poetics,’ Chapter 9:

"...BUT it is evident from what has been said that it is not the province of a poet to relate things which have happened, but such as might have happened, and such things as are possible according to probability, or which would necessarily have happened. For a historian and a poet do not differ from each other because the one writes in verse and the other in prose; for the history of Herodotus might be written in verse, and yet it would be no less a history with metre than without metre. But they differ in this, that the one speaks of things which have happened, and the other of such as might have happened. Hence, poetry is more philosophic, and more deserving of attention, than history. For poetry speaks more of universals, but history of particulars..."