What does the Aphorist say? My brief sentences are touches of color in a pointillist composition. Moreover, The only claim that I have is that of not having written a linear book, but a concentric book. The points consist of pebbles thrown into a pond -- and the pond is your soul.
Handle. Does the world have one? Is it numbers? Words? Ideas? Or is the cosmos entirely flat, such that there is nothing to grab and no one to lift it? Well, we do have hands, so we can physically handle things. Moreover, human beings are uniquely able to consciously think about things they'd like to lift, like this cup of coffee to my right.
That's a good start, but is there an ultimate handle, which is to say, principle of intelligibility? If you are a neuromeshugeh or Darwinebbish, I'm afraid not. There is no there there, only a here. And it's not even a here, because there can be no presence for whom the here is here.
Quite literally. Tallis spends a good deal of time discussing the reality of intentionality, which is to say, the irreducible "aboutness" of consciousness. Before the age of one, human infants surpass all other creatures in being able to look at where the finger is pointing. It's what we do. It's what you are effortlessly doing right now, seeing through my words (which you didn't even notice until I mentioned them) while both constructing and interacting with an implicit mental image that is more real than the words pointing to it. Polanyi and all that.
Come to think of it, I see Tallis and Polanyi as engaging in very similar projects, that is, rescuing science and philosophy from the metaphysical nul de slack that results from a naive -- but deeply destructive -- scientism. Destructive to what? To human beings, ultimately to the human state itself. The difference is that Polanyi, while apparently not a conventional believer, was very much open to the religious dimension, whereas Tallis has a knee-jerk opposition to it.
I'm frankly a little surprised that Tallis doesn't foresee "where this is headed," so to speak -- why he doesn't think to himself, "ah, now I get where those religious folk are coming from."
But for Polanyi, religion involves a "fusion of incompatibles" accomplished by the imagination. God is the focal point of the fusion; or, in other words, He is the Cosmic Area Rug that reveals the meaning of its various patterns: "as in art -- only in a more whole and complete way -- God also becomes the integration of all the incompatibles in our own lives" (Polanyi).
Incompatibles? Like what? Oh, spirit and matter, God and man, knowing and being, body and mind, man and woman, faith and reason, Tallis and Schuon, you name it. Absent the integration, we can be no more than "a heap of impressions," or "a slop of accumulated experiences and their echoes in memory, not too different from delirium" (Tallis).
Instead, we have one mind. Or, more to the point, the mind itself is (or ought to be) one, which means that it possesses (or is possessed by) a synthetic and dynamic interior unity.
How do we -- how does the I of this neural storm -- pull this off, given the fact that there are more potential connections in the brain than there are particles in the universe? Our brain circuitry has "an estimated 9,000,000,000 components," each of which having "many hundreds, even thousands of connections with other neurons." The brain is "the mother of all motherboards." Yes, but which came first, the motherheno or the eggboard?
Where does this unity -- this synthesis -- take place? It can't be in the parts, because that just begs the question. If the parts are parts, they can't account for the whole: no matter how many rocks or neurons you toss onto a pile, it will still be a pile, not a unity.
Or, maybe the unity -- a faux unity to be sure -- is located below. This is what the neuromaniacs and Darwinists hold, that "you are just a little byway in the boundless causal nexus that is the material world" -- that you and your so-called mind serve "evolutionary success, not truth."
Therefore, if the Darwinians are correct, they will leave the most offspring. "The reasons we give for the things we do are mere rationalizations that conceal from us the real reason, which is no reason at all but a biologically determined propensity."
Well, at least God above and Darwinians below agree that we should be fruitful and multiply. But why then do the latter hate us so much?
Again, the rigidly orthodox Darwinian Professor Gray, whom Tallis quotes at the outset, describes man as "exceptionally rapacious," "predatory and destructive," possessing "no more meaning than that of a slime mold," and "not obviously worth preserving." In short, be sterile and stop propagating. How can a reductionist Darwinian be so un-Darwinian? How ever did he transcend his genes to the point of genocide?
It takes all kinds.