Monday, July 04, 2022

Independence Deity

Emergence: what is it, and is it actually a single thing, or very different things we place under a single rubric because we don't know what else to do with them? 

Emergence occurs when two or more very different ingredients or causes combine to form a third thing that has little or nothing in common with its components. Obviously it happens all the time in chemistry: neither sodium nor chloride alone taste like salt, nor do hydrogen or oxygen look or behave like water, and the sum of these four parts doesn't add up to the salt sea, let alone the mystery and majesty of the ocean.

Another way of conveying the idea is to say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: the combination of Lennon and McCartney is much greater than the banality of either one alone. More generally, if one plus one didn't often add up to three, we would't be here. Nor would God, but that going into that subject would take us far afield.

Another question is, what is the ontological status of the emergent system or thing or property? Does it have a real reality of its own, or is it just an epiphenomenon safely reducible without remainder to its component parts? 

Our sensibility recoils at the notion that a human being is worth his weight in water and chemicals -- which, factoring in inflation, comes to about $17.18. Looked at this way, a fat person is intrinsically more valuable than a fit one, and children are a complete ripoff.

I suppose it all begins with the general question of whether our cosmos is more like a smooth ramp or a discontinuous ladder. Our official scientistic paradigm maintains that nature makes no leaps but is always a gradual process. This despite the fact that leaps nonetheless occur. 

As alluded to in the previous post, I have no problem acknowledging the leaps because I am not wedded to an ideology that forbids them because it implies You Know Who. Since I am on excellent terms with YKW, I say, the more leaps the merrier. 

The Flatlander will counter that these aren't leaps, they're temporary Gaps, and that You Know Who is just a name for our present ignorance of an exact explanation that will eventually eliminate them. 

For example, we used to think there was a chasm between man and ape, but Darwin revealed the actual mechanics of the ramp. Thus, there is no ontological distinction between man and his subhuman ancestors.

Of course, we disagree with that simplistic assessment, since the differences are literally infinite. I say literally because there is an infinite gap between the qualities of spirit and of matter. The former is immaterial, simple (composed of no parts), and open to further transcendent realities that in principle are not reducible to matter, e.g., truth, beauty, creativity, unity, etc.  

Now, I understand materialism as method, but I do not understand the motivations of the person to elevate it to doctrine. Why would anyone do that? 

I know: because they are faithfully committed to truth, no matter where it leads. Good. Now define "truth."

I'm not actually interested in your definition, because whatever it is, it crumbles under Schuon's Hammer:

Fundamentally it consists in propounding the claim that there is no truth as if this were truth or in declaring it to be absolutely true that there is nothing but the relatively true; one might just as well say that there is no language or write that there is no writing....

The assertion nullifies itself if it is true and by nullifying itself logically proves thereby that it is false; its initial absurdity lies in the implicit claim to be unique in escaping, as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared to be the only possibility. 

Okay, hold on a sec... I'm thinking. I know: truth is an emergent property of matter!

No, that doesn't get you anywhere, because it means that matter isn't what we thought it was, since it possesses properties and potentials that essentially render it immaterial, which violates a little thing called the principle of non-contradiction: if you redefine matter as both material and immaterial, you've landed in absurdity. 

Philosophical alternatives to our view include existentialism at one end and process philosophy at the other; as to the former, it "postulates a definition of the world that is impossible if existentialism itself is possible"; if true, 

then its own promulgation is impossible since in the existentialist universe there is no room for an objective and unwavering intellection. 

A similar affliction permeates all process philosophies, or philosophies of pure becoming. These are superficially attractive, since they at least recognize the reality of emergence, creativity, and novelty in a non-reductive way. 

But if becoming is posited as the ultimate reality, it too falls apart, this time under Garrigou-Lagrange's Hammer, which he borrowed from Thomas; for if Being dissolves into a sea of Becoming, it too violates the principle noncontradiction, which results in

the destruction of every kind of substance, and the admission of a becoming that takes place without anything that undergoes that becoming. Indeed, such a denial leads to a destruction of all truth, for truth follows upon being. Likewise, it leads to the suppression of all thought and every opinion, which would thus come to deny itself at the very moment it affirmed itself.

As Fr. G-L reminds us, "philosophical systems are generally true in what they affirm and false in what they deny," for "reality is richer than they are." So, I am all for scientific materialism as far as it goes. It goes pretty far, but obviously not far enough. 

It's a nice model, but it's only a model, and we'll take reality over a model of reality every time. Or as expressed in this book on emergence, "nature is too rich to be described in a single language."

Along these lines, Fr. G-L writes that

materialism is true in its affirmation of the existence of matter and false in its denial of the existence of spirit, and vice versa for idealistic or immaterialistic spiritualism. Truth is found at the elevated peak set in the middle of these two errors.

And we can eliminate with the Hammer of Metaphysics any notion that becoming can "exist by itself without an efficient cause superior to it, without a Supreme Uncaused Cause, and without a true ultimate end known by the Supreme Intelligence."

We will have much more to say about emergence, but let's stipulate that "Becoming is not self-sufficient" and that "The more perfect cannot come from the less perfect" but "requires a cause superior to becoming."

Today being what it is, let's examine Coolidge's famous July 4th speech from 96 years ago under the light of principles discussed above:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful

Because it is grounded in permanent Being, not endless becoming. Yes, but

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. 

Becoming marches on: evolution has the last word, and the last word is ETERNAL CHANGE.

But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.

Have you not gotten the memo? Did you not attend college? Those are old White ideas, and we have new and improved ones such as equity, moral relativism, "diversity," race essentialism, infanticide, transgenderism, and best of all, a Living Constitution that never stops becoming what we want it to become! 

Good for you, Brandon, but

the only direction you can proceed with those is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Always ahead of their time because timeless. 

Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17).

1 comment:

julie said...

Ultimately, it seems like a kind of endless progress is just another form of death. I mean, the dinosaurs were endlessly progressing all the way to extinction. Or a butterfly progresses through an array of forms, but the final one isn’t flight, it’s decomposition.

Nihilism really is exhausting.