Friday, April 09, 2021

Shedding Metalight on the Subject of Subjectivity

Just to make sure we're on the right track, yesterday I reread a book called Incompleteness, on Gödel and his theorems. We've discussed this book in the past, but one of Goldstein's main objectives is to correct the common view that the theorems forever seal us in a closed world of subjectivity, cut off from reality. 

She compares this misconstrual to the common misunderstanding of Einstein's theory of relativity, which is actually a theory of absoluteness. Yes, motion is relative, but to an absolute: the speed of light. Nevertheless, many vulgarians think it implies that "everything is relative" or something. 

Likewise, a common postmodern interpretation of the Theorems maintains that 

the very notion of the objectively true is a socially constructed myth. Our knowing minds are not embedded in truth. Rather the entire notion of truth is embedded in our minds.... Epistemology is nothing more than the sociology of power (Goldstein). 

And we all know where this leads: to Foucault and other metacosmic perverts. Could Gödel actually be an oddfather of the left? Not bloody likely. Yes he was crazy, but not that crazy.  

Rather, as Goldstein explains,

Gödel's theorems don't demonstrate the limits of the human mind, but rather, the limits of computational models of the human mind (basically, models that reduce all thinking to rule following). 

Along these lines, I also re-skimmed Robert Rosen's Life Itself for additional hints at where this series of posts might be headed. Lots of important stuff in there, but I'll try to limit myself to the most relevant passages:

The celebrated Incompleteness Theorem of Gödel effectively demolished the formalist program. Basically, he showed that, no matter how one tries to formalize a particular part of mathematics, syntactic truth in the formalization does not coincide with (is narrower than) the set of truths about numbers.

In short, semantics cannot in principle be reduced to syntax, or meaning to order. This is big. No, bigger than big: infinite. For "no finite set of numerical qualities"

exhausts the set of of all numerical qualities. There is always a purely semantic residue that cannot be accommodated by that syntactical scheme.


Or Woo Hoo!, depending on how you look at it, because it means that meaning always persists despite our efforts to contain it via form. Which goes precisely to our larger point -- or intuition -- that esoterism can never be reduced to the exoteric formulations of dogma. 

In one sense this is blandingly obvious, but in another it is anything but, being that for the great majority of people, esoterism is by no means obvious. It may be obvious to you and me, but we're weird. Ofttimes the conventionally religious person makes even less sense to us than does the babbling village atheist. At least the latter isn't an affront to our hindbrain, even if he's a hindrance to our front brain.

Biology may look "soft" to a physicist, but don't confuse complexity with softness. Rather, as Rosen points out, a material system is not necessarily -- in fact, usually not -- a simple system but a complex system, because the latter has more qualities than can be accommodated by mere syntax.

For example, this is why climate science is such a travesty. Economics too, at least the kind that pretends to leap over Hayek's wall and know the unknowable. 

Now, meta-questions about this or that discipline aren't usually contained in the field itself -- for example, physics isn't equipped to answer metaphysical questions, and to the extent that it tries, it merely beclowns itself (e.g., via materialism, positivism, scientism, or any other approach that tries to magically explain the higher via the lower).

Gödel, in the words of Goldstein, was primarily interested in shedding metalight on the metalevel of reality. But I would say it was more of a.... not light per se, but a cleaning of the window, so to speak. The theorems themselves aren't the light, but they do allow us to transcend the relative darkness of mere syntactical formulations, if you're following me, and it is this higher metalight that is of interest to us.

But ironically, Gödel himself was limited and hemmed in by his own Platonism. On the one hand he was "committed to the possibility, pace the positivists, beyond our experiences to describe the world 'out yonder.'" 

But he limited this yonder to "a reality of pure abstraction, of universal and necessary truths," as opposed to plugging into the living God -- or let's just say to the Cosmic Person, who can never be reduced to any form of syntax, not even to his own name! While he is the logocentric source of speech, he also shatters speech, for the Singer transcends the song. 

We're running out of time, and there is much more to come, but let's just stipulate at this point that the Principle that ultimately explains why semantics cannot be reduced to syntax is the Person.


julie said...

Or Woo Hoo!, depending on how you look at it, because it means that meaning always persists despite our efforts to contain it via form.

No matter how meaningless something may seem, the very fact that a person participates in it at all renders it meaningful.

Anonymous said...

This post sheds light on what the author calls "Meta-subjectivity." After finishing the post I grasped the point, that God is a person and is approachable as such. The author noted Godel almost but not quite grasped that.

Serious metaphysical thinkers sometimes conclude that God is impersonal, abstract, and absolute. The blog author points out that is not the complete picture. God is all that, but also a Person as well.

This two-fold nature of God, the Absolute and the Personal, was understand and taught by sages dwelling on the Brahmaputra river as early as 3500 BC. Jesus proved the fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. And today we are still having to teach that to the overly cerebral masses (thank you Bob).

That is because people don't like complicated concepts. And also, the cult of appearance has overtaken us.

The single most famous poem of the early 21st century, "Skyrizi," well illustrates the narcissism and worship of physical appearance we have fallen prey to. Witness today the primacy of the human skin as the most important organ, surpassing the brain. And the soul is nowhere evident.

And the conclusion: nothing is everything, which means effectively, everything is nothing. This is the Foucault's work reaching full fruition in our time.

"Things are getting clearer; I feel free
To bare my skin- yes, that's all me
Nothing and me go hand in hand;
Nothing on my skin- that's my new plan.

Nothing is Everything."

Weep, raccoons, weep as to where we have collectively ventured. Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light.

-X Tacy

Anonymous said...

climate science is such a travesty

The way I’ve dealt with climate change, easily observable in my forest acreage, which I remember a mere 20 years ago as being over-populated with fat western hemlocks and lush sword ferns, now mostly dead or dying, is to assume that my regions morphing from marine coastal climate to Mediterranean is permanent and that I’ll need to adapt accordingly. Vinca, laurel and holly aren’t as lushy-fat but they’ll do. I like landscaping as much as I do problem solving.

They say that the big leaf maples and western red cedars are showing signs of being the next to go. And amongst them as always, those planted into the most stress inducing of situations shall get it first and worst, a dynamic easily observable on my property by the objective eye. But I’m hopeful that I’ll be long gone before any of that happens.

Yes, my conservative evangelical BIL has seen the yard. Yet strangely, instead of the ‘scientific curiosity about the root cause for the sake of creative problem-solving ideas’ thing typical of most other doctors I know, he tries to blame it on something I did wrong and gets angry and walks away in a huff if I get anywhere near suggesting climate change. It’s the very same response as when I told him that invading Iraq could be an expensive boondoggle, which it indeed, became.

Will the Zuiderzee Works be overtopped? Shall the California firestorms an annual occurrence? Will our really great new border wall be swarmed by heat stroke avoiding latins?

To be honest, these things are of little concern to me. What is concerning to me is that faith in Jesus may eventually be taken about as seriously as faith in Sinthgunt. Christianity will become something tribal-fun with clued-in insiders and outcaste outsiders, but never to be taken more seriously than one’s own daily survival concerns.

Anonymous said...

Of course climate change is real. A warming trend correlating to people emitting green-house gases has been identified. The warming trend and the causes of same are well-documented and established fact.

Climate change deniers are to be counted among the flat-earthers, moon landing conspiracy buffs and election fraud believers; I know there are a few CC deniers who read this blog and oh well. As Tom Petty said, you believe what want you want to believe.

But let us move past this irritating disagreement. The authorities are taking matters in hand and all will be well. So it doesn't matter what anyone believes on the subject of climate change. It is handled.

Now we must turn our attention to incels. Among the animal kingdom, competition for mates is fierce and usually some dominant male gets exclusive access to all the females and the rest of the males just try to horn in usually to no avail.

Now, people don't have to let this happen. The geeky, socially awkward person should be able to go to some government agency and be matched with a suitable mate if they can't find one.

I am in a position to lobby for the development of this program and I want everyone's support.

-C. Trittellevitz, Social Policy Developer, Barcelona

Van Harvey said...

"It may be obvious to you and me, but we're weird."

Good point.