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.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

I Sight to the Blind

How is it possible for there to be something rather than nothing; here rather than everywhere (or nowhere); and now rather than always? These are far from nonsense questions, although they generate countless nonsense answers.

I recall Einstein being puzzled by the last one in particular: "For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one" (in Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time).

Wow, not a single review for that book, which was published in 1985. My copy is copiously highlighted and underlined, with lots of marginalia. I don't know what I'd think of it today, but I remember it being very helpful at the time -- the same time I was working on the dissertation I've mentioned in the past two posts.

How and why was it helpful at the time? Well, I suppose it goes back to the Curse of the Autodidactic Polymath. And of the late bloomer. I don't believe I ever had even a semi-serious thought in my head until I was well into my 20s. My son, for example -- who is 13 -- is much deeper and more thoughtful than I was at 23. That's about when the headlight flickered on, but the library -- in my head -- was empty. In other words, the thinker began to stir, but there were no materials with which to think. I knew a lot about popular music and baseball, but that was about the extent of it.

So I began reading, voraciously, in ever expanding circles, about everything -- literature, philosophy, economics, anthropology, psychology, physics (popularized, not straight from the bottle), history, religion, art, new age quackery, and more. Why am I like this? I have no idea, except insofar as I was born this way, and it would be painful for me to have to live in any other way.

As I've mentioned before, I graduated college with a BA in Radio-TV-Film in the early '80s. Why RTVF, of all things? Because I wanted to extend my adolescence as long as possible while keeping my parents off my back. So long as I was a College Student, I could forestall adult responsibility. I didn't even know there was such a frivolous major as RTVF (this was before all the "---- Studies departments), but when a friend told me about it, I jumped right in. What could be easier than watching TV and movies? Even I could do that!

But providence works in strange ways, and the whole thing proved to be much more challenging than I had bargained for. In particular, there was a lot of writing about a lot of different subjects, because movies have so many different dimensions -- including the psychology of character. No single person could ever make a film. Films are inherently collaborative, because they involve so many specialties.

Eh, I don't like the self-indulgent direction this post is taking. Back to time. Recall what was said in the first paragraph about something, here, and now, as opposed to nothing, everywhere, and always. Each of these involves an enigma which physics is helpless to address or resolve. Here's another observation by Einstein:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

That's not just bullshit, but the epic kind. It reflects perfectly the aphorism that Nothing proves more the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession (Dávila).

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space." Just when you think this post has nothing to do with the previous two, Einstein comes along to forge the thread. In that single sentence he makes a number of metaphysical assertions, but they certainly aren't supported by physics. Physics tells us precisely nothing about the human condition. If you don't believe me, ask the typical professor of physics the meaning of life, restricting his answer to the axioms and equations of physics.

Notice that Albert doesn't so restrict himself, and yet, one can't help suspecting that he is so metaphysically naive that he imagines he is. For example, how does he know human beings are locked in a prison of time and space? If that were true, we could never know it. Thus, by asserting it, Einstein has transcended it.

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe. Oh? Have you ever perceived this whole? Or is it simply an assumption of physics? It is clearly the latter. This was first brought home to me by the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki:

How can a scientific cosmologist be sure that his model of the cosmos is truly about the strict totality of consistently interacting bits of matter? Can scientific cosmology contain the proof of the existence of such a totality?

Think about it: how can physics presume to model all of reality? Speaking of continuity, now we're right back to Hayek and the knowledge problem. Ironically, science only works because it is an open system. No person or body of persons is responsible for the progress of science. Rather, it is quintessentially an open-ended, spontaneous order. It makes progress so long as no centralized power is forcing it to do so. Like an economy.

"[W]holes as such are never given to our observation but are without exception constructions of our mind. They are not 'given facts'.... They cannot be perceived at all apart from a mental scheme that shows the connection between some of the many individual facts which we can observe" (The Counter Revolution of Science).

Please note how Hayek trumps Einstein because common sense trumps the most sophisticated physics conceivable. Or, sophisticated physics renders itself unsophisticated the moment it forgets its assumptions and pretends to transcend its own limits. That is when rationalism becomes irrational.

Back to my autobobgraphy for a moment: how did I end up approaching the enigma of time? Again, this book (Physics & the Ultimate Significance of Time) was helpful, if only because it pointed me to Whitehead, who had every much the genius of an Einstein, only mingled with a little common sense. Let's compare and contrast. At the beginning of the book are several pages of observations about time by various notable persons from antiquity to the 20th century.

Recall what Einstein said above: "For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one."

The operative term is believing, AKA faith.

Whitehead: "Apart from time there is no meaning for purpose, hope, fear, energy. If there be no historic process, then everything is what it is, namely, a mere fact. Life and motion are lost."

This one is even better -- much better, as it is the gateway to the Permanent Real:

Science can find no aim in nature: Science can find no creativity in nature; it finds mere rules of succession. These negations are true of natural science. They are inherent in its methodology. The reason for this blindness of physical science lies in the fact that such science only deals with half the evidence provided by human experience.

That other half is the human subject, itself a prolongation of subjectivity as such, AKA the great I AM.

Frustrating! I wish I could go on all day, but blogging doesn't pay the bills.

Monday, October 01, 2018

A Cosmos-in-Relation

Where do we begin? I mean, philosophically, or metaphysically, or epistemologically? What's the first step?

Surprisingly, there is only one answer to this question, regardless of whether or not one is a believer. Everyone -- except perhaps the clinically insane or willfully unprincipled -- begins with the relation between an intelligible thing (object or subject) and a mind capable of responding to it.

Empiricists give priority to the object, while rationalists give it to the subject, but guess what? The relation between the two is the key principle. This is because the relation cannot be reduced to one of its terms. And how did relations get into the cosmos? What is a relation, anyway?

This is such a critical idea, and yet, it is overlooked by almost everyone. You know who doesn't overlook it? Besides me? For starters, the Bible and the early Christian fathers. Maybe you don't believe in Christianity. Fine. But don't you find it a little odd that these founding fathers -- almost alone -- got the most important metaphysical principle right? Frankly, I would guess that the great majority of Christians don't even realize Christianity gets this question right.

Bob, explain what you mean. This is all a little general, if that.

Well, when one starts off with such a large generality, there are a million possible paths to pursue; for example, if you begin with the One, that leaves the Many, which is to say, Infinitude. It reminds me of the principle that the refutation of bullshit requires an order of magnitude more energy than its production. That is to say, the affirmation of Absoluteness is simple, and yet, has infinite implications. Where to begin discussing the Beginning, without descending in a wild nous chase?

The most fruitful path I can think of at the moment has to do with the mystery of personhood. Persons are by far the most interesting and evolved things in the cosmos. Is there anything higher than a person? Even if you are an atheist, you will agree that persons are atop the terrestrial heap, or why should we even listen to you? You just believe persons got here randomly. And you omit the most important feature of persons, which is relation.

By the way, it may not be obvious that this post is a direct continuation of the previous post on the open cosmos. But an open cosmos is a relational cosmos (and vice versa), which will become more clear as we proceed.

One of my favorite little books is Person and Being by W. Norris Clarke, although all of his books are essential, especially The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics, Explorations in Metaphysics: Being-God-Person, and The Philosophical Approach to God: A New Thomistic Perspective.

Let's see if any amazon reviewers can save me a little groundwork. The following is good enough, albeit with some editing on my part:

Why should you read this book? Let me try to answer that. This book is about the relational aspect of Being. That right there is what is remarkable.

Fr. Clarke shows how the revelation of the Trinity actually helps us understand ourselves more fully. If God relates to (within) himself through this combination of relationality (being relational in nature) and substantiality (being a substance, a thisness), then we see that we too find our most authentic mode of existing by living in this tension between being ourselves (an independent substance) and being in relation to others. Practically speaking, it is good for people to recognize that their existence, for its fulfillment, requires that they develop both aspects of themselves.

As the child grows up, he must successfully progress through increasingly complex relations with others. We start with parents, then friends, then boyfriends/girlfriends, then spouses. In each stage, we go "out" to others and then return to ourselves a little bit different each time.

You've no doubt met people who close themselves off to these relations. As such, they fail to live an authentically human existence. This book shows that God himself is not far removed from our quest when we see that He too is relational in nature (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Yes. In the previous post I mentioned the article I published on the mind as open system. In the article, I applied the principle of openness to healthy and pathological human development. You could say that every form of psychopathology (with the exception of purely biological or neurological cases) involves a disturbance or denial of the open system.

The most obvious examples are narcissistic, schizoid, and autistic personalities (although the latter is now thought to be more genetic in nature; even so, autism is pathological specifically because it results in the mind being more or less closed to personal relations). (As a brief asnide, one reason why the left is so demonic is its obsession with self-love. This runs directly counter to the truth of persons.)

Another reviewer highlights this relational aspect:

Clarke demonstrates that the human person is not just a substance but a relational substance. The relational aspect of being is not accidental to being but is a primordial constituent thereof. "To be fully is to be substance-in-relation."

It reminds me of how, in the bOOk, the chapters are distinct-and-yet-continuous. Analogously, man is not substance, nor is he relation, but substance-in-relation. Expressing it this way emphasizes the distinction amidst unity. Or distinction-amidst-unity.

[W]hat the doctrine of the Trinity means is that the very inner nature of the Supreme Being itself is an ecstatic process of self-communicating love: the Father... communicates ecstatically his entire divine nature to the Second Person, the Son or the Word..., so that the only distinction between them is the distinction of two complementary but opposed relations, Giver and Receiver. Then both together, in a single act of mutual love, pour forth the same divine essence again in all its fullness to their love image, the Holy Spirit, the third Person.

"The Word shows us that receptivity is itself a positive aspect of perfection of being. This has important implications for the understanding of the masculine and feminine dimensions of human personality." I should say! The Absolute is the masculine pole, the Infinite the feminine pole, and these two are always in relation. One might say that the Absolute eternally "pours forth" Infinitude but also perpetually "receives" it, which is the great Circle of Being.

Ultimately, "the final goal and perfection of the whole universe is, literally, the communion between persons..." Or better, horizontal communion is a prolongation of the vertical. What did Jesus say? It is almost algebraic in its summation of all we have said above:

The greatest commandment is to love -- which is to say, be open to -- God with all our heart, mind, and strength (or intellect-will-sentiment). The second greatest is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." The latter is predicated on the former, and unthinkable in its absence. It's how the love gets in here in the first place.

Out of time. There's a playoff game at 1:00, so I have to finish my work before then.

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