Thursday, October 04, 2018

True and False Humanisms

Bertrand Russell is another Genius who said and thought so many foolish things. Check out this doozy, from Physics & the Ultimate Significance of Time: "It is a mere accident that we have no memory of the future."

Yeah, well, that's just like, your opinion, man. While it may be challenging to say what time is, it's much easier to what it isn't, but if Russell is correct, it isn't anything. It's just a stubborn illusion. And delusion.

The essence of time is obviously change. But for Russell -- as for Einstein -- the essence of reality is changelessness, so time itself becomes accidental, i.e., not essential to reality. But how can one even think in the absence of time? It makes no sense. The reason why it makes no sense is that these geniuses attempt to approach time without subjectivity -- i.e., to remove the human subject from the cosmos. But why not take the cosmos as it is and how we find it? Why eliminate the most important feature of the universe out of fealty to an abstract model?

According to general relativity,

if I know the conditions in this instant, I can predict the entire future because the laws [of physics that govern this chunk of spacetime] are deterministic.... The future is entirely written, it's just not accessible to us [inside the block] at this point."

From this block time perspective, time, as we experience in the block universe, is an illusion. "It's not a real, fundamental property of nature," says Cortês. The ticking of time, our experience of time passing, is only because we are stuck inside the block universe, moving forward along the dimension of time.

If our Universe is like this block universe, then everything -- past and future -- has happened and our experience of time is just a mathematical artefact arising from the equations describing the Universe. But then why do we only experience moving forward in time -- why can't time flow backwards? What does this tell us about free will? Or is there another theory to describe the Universe that reinstates our intuitive certainty that there is something special about time?

For the answer, it says to click here. Okay, I'll bite.

As much as we would sometimes like to (speaking as someone who has just cleaned up a glass of spilt milk) we cannot go back in time. For us, time marches relentlessly on. Which makes it so surprising that, according to the equations that govern fundamental physics, time doesn't only have to move forward, it could move backwards too. "In the mathematics everything is so beautiful and symmetric.... The fundamental equations [of physics] are reversible with time."

I call BS. It's such a fine example of knowledge negating wisdom, or of (k) obscuring (¶). Who left physics in charge of all reality? Hint: not physics. Obviously, there is nothing in physics that says physics is to be our paradigmatic science. And in this scientistic day and age, it is critical to be liberated from this a priori fantasy. But it is equally critical to be liberated from the counter-fantasy of postmodernism! These two -- scientism and postmodernism -- are just pathological mirrors of one another.

Ironically, these two camps each like to call themselves "humanist," but nothing could be less deserving of the name, because they not only dislodge humans from the center, but render him a meaningless fluke. Conversely, I am the real humanist, because I believe the very existence of the human station is the most important fact in all of creation.

This is expressed mythopoetically in the formulation that man is in the image of the Creator, which, in more metaphysical terms, means that he is a reflection and prolongation of the Absolute. Note that the prolongation is continuous, while the reflection is discontinuous, an irreducible orthoparadox that must be respected. It is why we can literally say that man is surely not God, but not-not God either (and Christ mediates the orthoparadox).

The typical secular humanist would no doubt regard someone like Schuon as a frightening counter-example, but for me, he is the perfect expression of real humanism, in that he provides a rock solid foundation for our dignity, our rights, and our value, all objectively. This is one of my favorite lines, from his little book of aphorisms and wise cracks, emphasis mine:

The. Worth. Of. Man. Lies. In. His. Consciousness. Of. The. Absolute.

Conversely, the block universe of modern physics robs man of all dignity and worth, and not just "in a manner of speaking," but literally: it maintains "that our feeling that we have choice in our lives is an illusion.... The block universe says that we're mere puppets living our lives, the play has already been written..."

Mere puppets with no choice, living in illusion. Some humanism. Some dignity.

It also leads to the question of how we can know the theory is true if we are living in illusion and have no choice in the matter, but we'll leave that to the side. However, notice that scientism slips in a false absolute, even while pretending we have no access to it.

Here's a thought: perhaps physics only describes the world described by physics (a circular and closed metaphysical tautology), not the worlds of life, mind, and spirit. Maybe those ladder worlds not only require their own sciences, but perhaps those sciences are more paradigmatic than physics. In other words, who said physics is more fundamental than biology, i.e., the science of complex systems?

Not Robert Rosen, that's for sure. Let me be clear: I am infinitely grateful to modern physics, because without it there would be no internet, and without the internet I would have never discovered a Robert Rosen (and so many others) in a thousand years. Nevertheless, as Rosen says (and it was a Moment of Liberation -- from the stubborn delusion of scientism -- when I first read this) that the world of complex systems "is much larger and more generic than the simple world we inherit from reductionism."


In short, life cannot be reduced to physics. Physics, however, can be subsumed into Life. Biology, you might say, reveals the New Physics. This New Physics was always here, but not visible until the emergence of organisms. Which goes back to my dissertation and to the papers I published out of it. For example, Ilya Prigogine -- on whose theories they were partially based -- said that "The theory of open systems has opened up an entirely new field of physics."

Among other important developments, only an open system has an outside because it has an inside. This doesn't mean that "insidedness" only begins with biology. Rather, it is there from the start, ultimately in the I AM discussed in yesterday's post.

Two problems: my thoughts are running ahead of my ability to transcribe them, plus there are so many dimensions and implications that I can't chase all of them down in the allotted time. The result is another shambolic post that raises more questions than it can ever answer. My bad. Let's leave off with an aphorism by Schuon that may help to clean up the mess we've left:

Our deiformity implies that our spirit is made of absoluteness, our will of freedom...

I would say that man is quintessentially Intellect-Will-Sentiment, which are prolongations of Truth-Freedom-Love, and that this expresses the only True Humanism -- the only humanism worthy of humans. Anything that erodes this humanism is not only false, but will inevitably give rise to monsters in human form and monstrosities of various kinds.


Gagdad Bob said...

Monsters & Monstrosities:

"The ground is littered with dead and wounded ideals: civility, dead; basic decency, dead; the presumption of innocence, gravely wounded, ditto for the idea of due process. And this disgusting carnage is all on you, O ancient one, Dianne Feinstein, and your self-important, preposterous colleagues. You were desperate to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court so you abandoned any semblance of decency and respect. You travestied the processes of the United States Senate for the sake of a cynical grab at power. I’d say that you should be ashamed of yourselves, but, like the thugs that you are, you have no shame. You believe the acquisition of power is a magical antidote to shame."

julie said...

Reading through Genesis with the kiddos today about Jacob and Esau, it was striking that when they finally reunited and forgave each other, Jacob - who had seen a vision of God and just spent the previous night wrestling an angel - described his brother’s face as being like the face of God. A true humanism recognizes this likeness.

Anonymous said...

The future is sometimes experienced. Perhaps you have done so yourself? It is futile to scoff at or deny future sensing based on if you have not had the experience. It is a verified thing.

Being that so, that says something about whether the future is already extant. It could be the case.

Likewise, there is allegedly extant all that was, the Akashic Record.

Time plays only forward, and this can be described as "mere" physics. It is a property of entropy that time plays only forward, and God apparently had entropy set that way, possibly to optimize his enjoyment of all that was, is, and will be, by sampling a portion at a time. There is a possibility it could all be set to play backwards as well, or stopped/paused. Think of it like a tape deck.

Back to the Ganja. It has been nice tarrying here a while. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

We now have an Inquisition in the land; how curious. We haven't seen this since the Red Scare.

Witch Hunting, Pogroms, and Inquisitions all have one thing in common: finding moral failing/evil in individuals based on premises which are later determined to be inadequate or ridiculous.

Currently sexual misconduct is seen as monstrous and intolerable, an irredeemable moral failing, even if only a single instance. Any manner of evidence is admitted and the conclusion is always foregone: guilty as charged.

Women and men are equally vulnerable to charges of this sort. Women teachers who touch a student, and sex-workers, are reviled. Men are arrogant, exploitative dogs; women are manipulative greedy sluts.

They are all people trying to meet their needs, confused and bewildered beings lost in the world; a perplexing maze of urges, signals, and opportunities. Jesus forgives. Would that be asking to much of ourselves to do the same?

The premise for this latest Inquisition will be seen as inadequate and ridiculous even 50 years hence. Too late for the victims.

doug saxum said...

Checking in.
Hi Raccoons!