Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Come Together Over Me Under I AM

We're up to number three of Clarke's six main themes of metaphysical reflection, participation, by which he means "the basic ontological structure of sharing in the universe." Each thing is participating in the All, as part is to whole; or, as Whitehead put it,

We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from an environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature.

No can be. Metaphysically speaking. Indeed,

Science is taking on a new aspect which is neither purely physical, nor purely biological. It is becoming the study of organisms. Biology is the study of the larger organisms; whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.

To which I would add -- not in any woo woo way, but literally -- the cosmos is the largest organism. And yet, it cannot be ultimate, because organicism is a function of personhood, not vice versa. We'll no doubt come back this principle, if not in this post, then in themes four, five, or six. But "participation" already hints at personhood, since it is an entailment of persons, and persons are by definition irreducibly intersubjective.

Whitehead blows up both biology and physics, at least the orthodox but incoherent view that ether subordinates the former to the latter, or that places a sharp line between them. For, example, the doctrine of evolution "cries aloud for a conception of organism as fundamental for nature." In other words, if organism is fundamental and not just epiphenomenal, then neither biology nor physics are what we (they) think they are.

Can't get more participatory than this: "in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world" (ibid.).

By the way, I don't bring in Whitehead as some kind of appeal to authority. Rather, to common sense.

I suppose we could say that human beings are woven of the limitless and limited; or finitude and infinitude; or absolute and relative. Or, we could say that humans have the privilege of being finite and yet conformed to the infinite, which is what makes knowledge of totality possible but totality of knowledge impossible.

As Clarke describes it, "the immanent One in many is also a many from a transcendent One." This is a key, because what is knowledge -- of anything -- but a kind of participatory oneness-to-oneness in Oneness?

Is that obscure enough for you? If so, put it this way: knowledge of anything presupposes the existence of that single thing under investigation. But the investigation presupposes a single mind capable of knowing this one thing it has selected or abstracted from the whole. And the unification of these two -- intelligible object and intelligent subject -- presupposes a higher unity that is the source of these two, i.e., the unity of the object (that which makes it one) and the unicity (i.e., interior oneness) of the subject.

If things weren't structured in this way, then 1 + 1 would always = a pair of ones instead of a synthetic twoness, to say nothing of transcendent threeness (and all genuine creativity participates in a generative threeness).

The following sounds very much like Whitehead, and not just because it's a run-on sentence. The participatory cosmos

must be seen as a synoptic vision of the universe, in which all beings, from the lowest to the highest, come together to form a single great community, where each holds the common identification card of the act of existence, or active presence, plus its own individual signature as a distinct member of this ultimate club of real being, where everything has secret affinities with everything else from highest to lowest, where nothing real can ever be objectively alienated in any ultimate way (Clarke).

In short, "To be is to be together." And in the end, "psyche mirrors nature and nature mirrors psyche, each in its own way" (ibid.). This isn't a metaphor; rather it is why we have metaphor, or even language itself.


julie said...

If things weren't structured in this way, then 1 + 1 would always = a pair of ones instead of a synthetic twoness, to say nothing of transcendent threeness (and all genuine creativity participates in a generative threeness).

Reminds again of how the body is made up of not only millions of its own cells, but also any number of symbiotic organisms, and yet a person is not merely a collective, but rather is simply oneself.

Anonymous said...

Good evening from the Midwest. All is quiet in the heartland.

I enjoyed the post, very intricate, very good for contemplation. The subject of the post was unity, the mechanism by which the Cosmos is shown to be a single item.

I will inject a parallel Eastern view of unity, for comparison purposes.

God was perceived as being composed of consciousness, which could be thought about as a substance. So God's body is a very large ball of consciousness. The cosmos was thought to be made out of God's body, which was consciousness.

Matter is very dense consciousness, energy is somewhat less dense consciousness, thoughts and mental processes lighter forms, and there were even higher gradations beyond human range.

Everything is formed from the same bolus, has varying densities which account for everything we experience, and with this model connectivity of one item with all can be assumed. Because as we experience moment to moment, our consciousness is very, very connective. We all feel it.

Then on to enjoying unity. What, not enjoying it so much at times? That's a whole other thing called your life story, your arc, your Bildungsroman.

Because this unified cosmos has a purpose, and that is to create a spurious appearance of disunity, which serves some inscrutable purpose.

Now for some Bhang and disrobing for bedtime. Ta ta.

Anonymous said...

Will the billions of microbes inhabiting my body also go to heaven?

Mine have always gone along for the ride and usually do their part to fight evil on behalf of the body collective. It'd be a shame to leave them behind.

Petey said...


Anonymous said...

Petey, I have a theory that every living thing gets to heaven, eventually, as long as it either doesn’t have intelligent free will, and of course that bit where it does have it and decides to decide properly.

For example, it'd be really wrong if a Sentinelese warrior lived a fine life gathering coconuts and worshiping the Clay Crab Pot and dutifully shooting arrows at the demonic white devils in their strange boats, died and woke up in a brimstoney place and little red demons poking spears at his ass.

How was he supposed to know that he was supposed to know better?

The same thing goes for my bodily microbes. They're not just along for the ride, we're all in this together my microbes and I.

Which brings me to my father. Long ago when I was still a child, my well-intentioned and highly religious father took me to see The Cross And The Switchblade’ movie. I don’t think he was trying to keep me away from gangs or Puerto Ricans, but to appreciate the power of the Cross over such things. But there was a scene where Pat Boone was wrestling around with a gangster chick and her tiny dress flew up revealing her panties. I had never seen such a thing. I didn’t know what a prostitute was and I was just old enough to be developing an interest in girls. Holy cow! I didn’t care about the rest of the plot I just wanted to see that scene again! Needless to say, my fathers good Christian intentions backfired. Even worse was that time he took me to see Barbarella thinking it was a science fiction movie. He had to leave the drive-in during the first sex scene. Imagine my embarrassment from all the honking cars. That miscalculation earned him some serious disrespect from me. Plus I’d kinda wanted to watch that.

But what if those things had addled my brain even worse than they did, to the point where I’d disrespect all things Christian? Who would be to blame for that?