Saturday, November 05, 2022

The Origin of Origins and Creation of Creativity

The subject is Necessity and Possibility, but in thinking about this metacosmic complementarity, it seems to me that it might be the principial formula for Origins, which is to say, “something from nothing,” AKA creatio ex nihilo

And it’s not just something from nothing, but everything, which I suppose goes to the distinction between divine and human creativity.

Being conformed to the Absolute -- the image and likeness -- means we share nearly all of God’s attributes, but only by way of analogy, and in an “infinitely" diminished way. 

I put infinite in quotes, because what we really mean is that God’s creativity is infinite while ours is finite, and there’s an infinite distance between these two categories, even though they must somehow be continuous as well.

The point is, while the Creator creates with no preexisting material, we do so with already existing stuff. 

Still, it’s pretty shocking how much novelty we are able to create with, say, 26 letter of the alphabet, or seven notes, or three primary colors. They say that dispite the finite number of letters, notes, and colors, we’ll never exhaust their possibilities. Unless the left succeeds in totally destroying the arts, but that’s the subject of a different post.

As with fractals, it seems that our finitude is infinite. Come to think of it, it may well be that the cosmos itself partakes of the same paradoxical structure, i.e., simultaneously bound and infinite. 

The latter may be conceptualized by, say, attempting to measure the coast of Great Britain. In one sense you could simply draw a circle around it, but if you truly wanted to measure every indentation, rock, particle of sand, water droplet, molecule, and atom on down, it would take “forever.” Thus the paradox of “contained” or “finite infinitude.” 

That’s us. Radical novelty in particular seems to come from out of nowhere, at least looking forward. With hindsight we can often get a sense of how it was done, but still, without the person who did it, it’s hard to see how it would have occurred. Hindsight is 20/20, while creative foresight is 20/∞.

I may be out of my element here, but if the Beatles, for example, hadn’t recorded I Am the Walrus in 1967, I don’t see how it ever occurs, assuming even an infinite number of instruments played by no matter how many monkees -- and Headquarters was a pretty good album (https://monkeesstore.warnermusic.com/en/the-monkees/home/the-monkees---headquarters-super-deluxe-edition/081227883836.html). 

Origins. As mentioned in the previous post, this is a very tricksy concept, for when we say “origins” what we really mean is “beginning.” Again, the Big Bang is the beginning of the Cosmos, but it’s certainly not the origin -- unless one is incurably incurious. Again, a beginning is simply a horizon, but by definition there is always something over the horizon.

I want to say that some people can see over the horizon or around ontological coroners — prophets, mystics, visionaries, etc. In the past, we’ve discussed "quasi-angelic" intelligences that seem to do just this, i.e., to peer directly into the essences of things, and know in an unmediated way. 

But here again, it seems to me that this is merely an exaggerated form of what must be present in any knowing and all knowers, for what is knowledge? And what does it mean to be a knower? These are not trivial questions, but rather, go to the very heart of what it means to be be human.

If you are a knower, what do you know? Er, truth? And if you are a truth-bearing primate, what does that make you? There are only two possible answers, and they are proposed in Genesis 3: you are either godlike or God. That’s a whole separate discussion, so let’s get back to Origins.

Fool disclosure: what got me to fooling around with this subject was a book called Knowledge and Evolution: How Theology, Philosophy, and Science Converge in the Question of Origins (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1666702072/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1).

My conclusions aren’t the same as Chaberek’s, but his meditations did cause a disturbance in my own private Idaho, provoking more insights than I have time to pack into a single post (not to say that my insights are True, only that they were provoked; the only way to discover whether they might be true is to blog them out).

On p. 46, Chaberek asks the question, “what is beyond our universe?” Is this question even answerable, since the universe is what contains us, precisely, so how can we presume to know what is beyond that horizon? 

Something tells me that even posing this question takes us outside the cosmos, even though we are in it -- which reminds me of the “bounded infinitude” mentioned above. Anyway, here is how Chaberek approaches the question:
Whether there are many universes or just one, in either case we face one serious problem: since the totality of universes is finite, there must be a limit of space, a “place” where space simply finishes. In other words, it is a place where something touches nothing.
Okay, but WTF?! Something touches nothing? How can nothing be touched? Can’t there at least be something in between something and nothing, so it’s not so jarring?
Adding some intermediary bodies does not help, because ultimately, whatever the body might be, it must have dimensions and must touch nothingness that does not have any dimension or any other properties. Nothing can border with nothingness.
Well, what then?
In our opinion the very existence of a finite universe is therefore impossible under natural conditions. But an infinite universe is not possible either. Hence, we need to postulate the existence of some immaterial supernatural power that constantly makes it possible for the universe to neighbor nothingness, i.e., to be spatially finite. Since the distance between nothingness and something is infinite, the power that creates the limits of the universe must also be infinite in order to overcome the distance.
We’ll call this infinite immaterial supernatural power O. But that’s not the end of our inquiry, rather, only the beginning. To be continued...

Friday, November 04, 2022

Freedom and Free to be Dumb

Intelligence is to Truth as freedom is to the Good. If this isn’t the case, then intelligence isn't intelligent and freedom isn’t free. 

But I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like, dumb. If so, this is because there must be a higher principle above Fredo-dom, since

totality of intelligence implies freedom of will. This freedom would be meaningless without an end prefigured in the Absolute; without knowledge of God and our final ends, it [freedom] would be neither possible nor useful (Schuon).
Recall that “totality of intelligence” doesn't imply omniscience except at God’s end of the deal. As his intelligence is active and “convex,” so to speak, ours is in potential and “concave.” 

This is what it means to be “conformed to the Absolute,” AKA the image and likeness mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post: the image is gratuitous, the likeness a work in progress; the former is a condition-without-which (necessary), the latter the condition-with-which (sufficient). Freedom is a kind of vertical link between man and God: it is what we work with, not an end as such.

Bottom line, man "can think truth or error, he can will good or evil, he can love beauty or ugliness” (Schuon). This is job one herebelow; or, in the words of the Aphorist, The soul is the task of man

However, not only can this task not be accomplished without the divine accomplice, it seems self-evident to me that our conformity to these transcendentals is already divine assistance, and let Nicolás explain why this is so:

Truth:
All truths converge upon the one truth, but the routes have been barricaded. 
Truths are not relative. What is relative are opinions about the truth.
The truth is objective but not impersonal.
Goodness:
It is needless to bless our goods. They are goods because God has blessed them.
Let us apply ourselves to reducing our deficits. The virtues are on God’s account.
We only love in our life presences that cross it like messengers from other worlds.
Beauty:
The work of art is a covenant with God.
Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.
Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.
Our duty always and everywhere is to aim at these vertical realities -- to realize them and make them real down here (in other words, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven):
There is something that man must know and think; and something that he must will and do; and something that he must love and be (Schuon).
In short, with great gifts -- gifts of intellect, freedom, and beauty -- come intrinsic duties, responsibilities, and obligations.  

Nevertheless, the left will always be with us, since none of these possibilities can exist unless we are free to ignore them or choose badly. Whatever else “fallenness” is, it is a permanent possibility for man qua man. 

In other words, if we are to have this possibility called man, then his vulnerability to a vertical plunge must be baked into the snake. It’s only logical, because if there is truth and freedom, then we must be free to reject truth -- to create ugliness and even "love hate," which gets to the essence of the diabolical left. 

But what I really wanted to talk about this morning is Origins. While we can conceptualize the origin of anything, as soon as you think about it, it becomes quite mysterious. 

To cite an obvious example, we can trace the origins of the cosmos to the Big Bang, but that’s not actually the origin of anything, rather, just the limit of our method or our paradigm, which goes only so far before everything goes dark. A horizon as not an origin, just a limit on what we can perceive.

It’s the same with all the really important things, including existence, life, consciousness, subjectivity, persons, and the transcendentals mentioned above. However, this post is probably too long already, so we’ll pick up this thread tomorrow. Call it the Origin of origins. 

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Did We Hit a Triple, or Are We Born on Third Base?

Just a very brief post because this is my short morning.

Continuing our theme of the Necessary and Possible, we suggested yesterday that these would seem to go to the age-old debate about the One and the Many, to which we might add Absolute and Infinite. 

In whatever way we wish to characterize it, we can’t help noticing the unity and diversity -- or rather, that beneath or coequal to the diversity is an intuition of the One. 

This much is obvious, nor do we need any supernatural assistance in order to see it -- except insofar as nature itself is supernatural, i.e., not self-explanatory. Just like anything else, nature requires a principle without which it cannot be.

But is the Principle One or Many? This we cannot know without a celestial hint. To be perfectly accurate, we know it can’t be the Many, because if that were the case, we could never know it, for, among other things, Truth is a unity of subject and object (or between subjects). In other words, the fact that we can know anything rests upon an implicit unity of knower and known.

At the same time, if the One is only One and nothing else, we land ourselves in a radical monism that has no room for ourselves, precisely. 

We see the fruits of such absurdity in Islam or in various sects of Christianity that posit an occasionalism or double-predestination that turns our freedom into a trivial illusion, just a deceptive side-effect of the One being the One.

They say the Trinity is supposed to be a Big Mystery we can never penetrate, nor do I want to be presumptuous, but it sure makes sense to me that this should be the Ultimate Principle. 

Of course, like anything else, it doesn’t make total sense due to that inevitable cosmic infirmity known as Finitude. Still, I don’t see it so much as unintelligible as infinitely intelligible. For example, right now I’m thinking about it, and out pops this post, for what it’s worth.

Maybe the most helpful thing about this principle is that it illuminates personhood and grounds it in the (supra)nature of things. After all, we know that man is created in the image and likeness of the Creator, so the meaning of this obviously depends on the nature of this Creator. What is It or He like? 

That contains a couple of buried assumptions, because what if the question is, “What are They like?" Of course, Scripture is sprinkled with hints, for example, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.  Is this just the royal we, you know, the editorial we? 

Let's just say that a lot of new stuff comes to light in the New Testament, which helps unlock such mysteries. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

A Father and Son Walk into a Bar

To reset the scene: we’re on the subject of Necessary Being and how this relates to possibilities such as, oh, you and I and everything else. 

Two posts back we made an offhand joke-of-a-title to the effect that I believe in God, it’s me I’m not sure about, but later that day received confirmation in the form of a statement by Schuon indicating that this is no joke, but rather, the most fundamental distinction of them all, and that from which "all other distinctions and valuations derive.

Now, is it any wonder my audience becomes more selective every year?

Anyway, Necessary and Possible. Let’s think these through together. Some people say the first question of philosophy is Why is there something instead of nothing? I don’t know about that, because the real question is why there are twothings instead of One — in other words the old problem of the One and the Many.

This goes all the way back to the pre-Socratics, who were mainly concerned with cosmology, i.e., "the use of reason to explain the universe. They "shared the intuition that there was a single explanation that could explain both the plurality and the singularity of the whole (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Socratic_philosophy#General_features).

Lng stry shrt, this single explanation ultimately reduced to two possibilities: that “all is one,” such that change is an illusion; or “all is flux,” such that any permanence is an illusion. 

Because there was no way to adjudicate this question, the sophist nihilists came along and claimed reason can prove anything and therefore nothing, and then the hedonists who said, Fuck it, let’s go bowling.

And here we are, dealing with the same unresolvable question, ending in one form or another of monism — from material to scientistic to religious  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monism). 

But this I did not know, that "The circled dot was used by the Pythagoreans and later Greeks to represent the first metaphysical being, the Monad or the Absolute.

I use it too, but to symbolize a certain irreducible relationship between Intellect (dot) and Ultimate Reality (circle). Of course, there’s more to it than that, and let’s find out what. 

These two aren’t one, but rather, not-two. And the reason they’re not-two is because of the Three that unifies them in various transcendentals including love, truth, beauty, virtue, etc. (Think of these as radii linking the periphery and center.)

This is the ultimate “structure” of reality, but please note that it is always dynamic, not static, thus accounting for flux, change, evolution, etc. It’s why we can never step in the same river of Being twice, even though the river is one, in particular, with respect to its source (Alpha) and destiny (Omega). “Progress” exists, and can only exist, between these two terms.

Let me follow up with something Schuon says about the Fundamental Distinction(s) under discussion:
The Absolute, in Its overflowing fullness, projects contingency and mirrors Itself therein, in a play of reciprocity from which It will emerge as victor, as That which alone is.
I’m loathe to correct people who are above my praygrade, but I prefer not to say That which alone is, but rather, something like They who all-one are, in other words, all-for-one and one-for-three.

Believe it or not, this metaphysical scheme clears up more divisions, dualities, conundrums, riddles, and annoyances than I have time to detail. Certainly it grounds the one and the many in an ultimate principle, not to mention creativity, change, possibility, meaning, and upside surprise.

I want to say that inside the Trinity is one surprise after another — not stasis but endless creativity. Brings to mind brother Eckhart:
Do you want to know what goes on in the core of the Trinity? I will tell you. In the core of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son. The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit. The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.
This is the ultimate guffah-HA! experience, and the very ground and possibility of divine comedy. Davila:
I believe more in God’s smile than His wrath.
So,
Let us live the militancy of Christianity with the good humor of the guerrilla fighter, not with the glumness of the entrenched garrison.   
All I got.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Necessary Idiocy and Unnecessary Cuteness

Turns out the title of yesterday’s post was no joke: 

[Man] must know that God is necessary Being, which therefore suffices unto Itself; that It is that which cannot not be, whereas the world is merely the possible, which may or may not be; all other distinctions and valuations derive from this fundamental distinction (Schuon, emphasis mine).
All? That’s a bold statement. And if it’s so important, why did no one tell me until June 2006? 

In any event, let’s cogitate on this Fundamental Distinction and try to figure out why it’s s'durned important and what we can derive from it. 

A couple of posts back we alluded to what Schuon calls the “principial” realm, which involves those principles that are irreducible to anything else, and ultimately run the show herebelow. 

In other words, these principles have any number of entailments but are not entailed by anything else, unless it is the Divine Mind, and that’s not a principle but a person. Put another way, the ultimate principle is the Divine Person(s), which means that the principial realm must be penultimate.

Perhaps it is that which is so lavishly praised in the book of Proverbs. I could pluck any number of examples, but the passage from 8:22-36 drives home the point, for example, "When He prepared the heavens, I was there,” likewise "When He drew a circle on the face of the deep.” That's pretty early.

I’m no expert, but this can’t be the Son, since the text specifies a she who “was beside him” and “Rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world.” This is way before people started confusing sons and daughters, i.e., last week.

In fact, it says here in the introduction to Proverbs in this Orthodox Bible that “The personification of wisdom in 8:22-35 is applied to the Theotokos, the Mother of God…” (it employs a different numbering system, ending in 35 rather than 36).

Back to our primordial distinction between that which must be and that which may or may not be, AKA the Necessary and the Possible.

Now, ironically, it seems to me that Necessity must include Possibility, such that it is necessary for possibility to exist, even if no possibility as such must exist. Moreover, as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, once a possibility exists, it partakes of necessity. If it didn’t, it would be impossible.

But this has been well understood for a long time, because if God is Necessary Being in whom essence and existence are one, we participate in this Necessary Being to the extent that we in fact exist. Well, we do exist -- change my mind -- which, it turns out, gives us unique access to Necessary Being, or I couldn’t be writing this post about it at this very moment.

Gosh. It’s difficult to write about this subject without sounding cute or clever. Let’s toss in a Schuon grenade, since he is never cute and way beyond clever. Again, we most certainly exist, and even knowing this bare fact situates us infinitely above the animals, who
have no reason because they are incapable of conceiving the Absolute; in other words, if man possesses reason, together with language, it is because he has access in principle to the suprarational vision of the Real and consequently to metaphysical certitude.
Faith. Yes, it is important, but I want to say — paradoxically — that it is founded upon this metaphysical certitude described by Schuon. Put in plain English, since God necessarily exists, what rational choice do we have but to have faith in Him?

Cute, Bob. Okay, put it this way:
The intelligence of animals is partial, that of man total; and this totality is explained only by a transcendent reality to which the intelligence is proportioned (ibid.).
Animals have no idea that their intelligence is partial (in fact, no ideas at all), nor even that they are intelligent. Well, man is an animal. How did he escape this animality and find himself in a transcendent space proportioned to the Absolute, AKA Necessary Being? 

That’s not rhetorical, and don’t give me some cute answer. This may not be the first question any philosophy needs to answer, but it’s right up there, after What’s for lunch? Or, Do you know her phone number? 

You really can’t help it, can you Bob?

So sue me. This is blogging, not life or death. Oh, really? 
All those who hate me love death (Proverbs 8:35).
Now, that explains a lot, because it goes to the two tribes that are always at war, and have been since Genesis. One tribe believes man is proportioned to Necessary Being but falls short of this ideal, while the other tribe consists of idiots. The war may not be necessary but it's nevertheless ineveateapple.

Monday, October 31, 2022

I Believe in God, It's Me I'm Not Sure About

A reader sent me a link to a passel of aphorisms by the philosopher Mortimer Adler. They’re not aphorisms per se, just aphoristic extracts from larger works. Although the world abounds in maxims, bon mots, wisecracks, zingers, and putdowns, the Benevolent Order of Transdimensional Raccoons recognizes only one Aphorist. 

Adler was a bestselling author who brought philosophy and theology to the masses, or what a widely ignored unpopularizer such as myself bitterly dismisses as a popularizer. He was such an effective Catholic apologist that he convinced even himself to enter the Church at age 97. 

Here is one with which we agree wholeheadedly:
More consequences for thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question.
However, if I were going to express that sentiment, I’d want to sneak in a sharp object and then twist it, and maybe sprinkle some salt into the wound. 

I'd also want to preserve a little space for the victim of the aphorism to put two and two together and convict himself. An insultaining aphorism needs to sting. Or bite. Or leave a mark. For example,
Unbelief is not a sin but a punishment.
Or,
The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment.
Back to that first and most consequential question: God or no God, meaning or nihilism, O or Ø. Any schoolboy armed with rudimentary logic can prove God exists, but it takes a real vulgarian to prove he doesn’t: 
If one does not believe in God, the only honest alternative is vulgar utilitarianism. The rest is rhetoric.
Nor can you simultaneously reject God and exalt man, for 
Only the theocentric vision does not end up reducing man to absolute insignificance.
In the end, it’s
Either God or chance: all other terms are disguises for one or the other.
Except chance must be parasitic on order; the converse is not only impossible and unthinkable, but can very well end in outright tenure.

But I AM SOMEBODY! Precisely. The question is, how and why? Says who? By virtue of what principle are you different from a worm or a stone? What is a person, and what is its principle? Here’s a hint:
For God there are only individuals.
Are you an individual? Or only a race, a class, a gender, a “sexual orientation”? For we could turn that aphorism around and say: only for individuals is there God (the Christian God, to be precise, i.e., the God who assumes human nature).

One last gag from our official Aphorist: 
The sole proof of God is His existence.
No, this is not a tautology, because God is that in whom existence and essence are not two: God’s essence is to exist, which is another way of saying necessary being. Everything else is unnecessary, or at least pretty much uncalled for. 

The bottom line for me is that God must exist, even while I remain agnostic with respect to the existence of myself, or rather, I take my existence on faith.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

My Pronoun is I Am and My Verbs are Being & Knowing

The things I do for you: I just counted, and there are said to be over 700 branches of science (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_branches_of_science). And science itself 

(from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.
Modern science is typically divided into three major branches that consist of the natural sciences, which study nature in the broadest sense; the social sciences, which study people and societies; and the formal sciences, which study abstract conceptsDisciplines that use science, such as engineering and medicine, are described as applied sciences. 
Okay, but which are the truly Big Ones, the ones without which science could not be? There are plenty of trivial pursuits, from bees to mud to queers, but which are the principles that render science — or any knowledge — possible? 

In yesterday’s post we alluded to a number of important -ologies such as alethiology (the study of truth), agnoiology (the study of ignorance), and pseudology (the study of lying), which pretty much covers the waterfront: truth, ignorance, and lies. What else is there?

Well, let’s run down the list; there’s phenomenology, which is the study of appearances (i.e., how phenomena appear to consciousness). Appearances may deceive, but believing them doesn’t make one a liar. If an uneducated person tells you the sun circles the earth, it isn't true but he’s not lying. 

Come to think of it, if someone tells you the earth circles the sun, he’s also wrong but  not lying, since both bodies revolve around the center of gravity of the solar system. 

Nor is that the last circle, since our galaxy is spiraling inside a cluster inside a  supercluster of galaxies, and thinking about this is making my head spin.   

So, truth, ignorance, lies, and appearances. What else? Let’s not forget etiology, the study of causes, since to understand a principal truth is to know the ultimate cause, or that from which other things flow. This dovetails with archelogy (the study of first principles). (When Schuon refers to the "principial" realm, he's talking about the first principles and ultimate causes of things herebelow.) 

Have we left anything out? Why, yes, we only left out everything, i.e., ontology, the study of being qua being. Other candidates for ultimacy include gnosiology (the study of knowledge), the very much underrated mereology (part-whole relations), noology (intellect), sophiology (ideas) and eschatology & teleology (ends and final causes).

Now, suppose we want to organize a cosmic flowchart to understand how these ologies relate to one another. Reviewing the list, what must come first? Again, we have Truth, Ignorance, Lying, Appearances, Causation, First Principles, Being, Part-Whole Relations, Intellect, Ideas, and Finality.

Well, it’s gotta be Being, since Being is the one property that truly unifies everything: supposing something exists, then it partakes of Being. A thing either IS or IS NOT.

Okay, but how do we know this? Since we do know it, there must be a complementary relationship between Being and Knowing. If there isn’t, then how is science even possible, since each of those 700+ scientific disciplines studies this or that tiny aspect of intelligible being, from acanthochronology (cactus) to zythology (beer)?

Is there a principle that could be higher or more fundamental than this? Yes, I think so. At the same time, it seems to me that there are other important aspects of Being besides its intelligibility, or rather, there’s more to intelligibility than truth, for example, beauty. 

When I ran down that list, I noticed there is no entry for logology. Nevertheless, I see it has an entry of its own; in fact, there are two distinct logologies, one referring to “the study of all things related to science,” the other to “the study of words in search for divine truth.”  

This latter is of more interest, because it would go to the Unity of unities — not only the unification of science, but to the very ground and possibility of Unity itsoph. But the Wiki entry isn’t helpful, because it defines the term differently from the way I mean it. 

For I’m talking about that Logos which 1) is in the beginning, 2) is with God, 3) is God, 4) is that principle through which things are made (and without which nothing is made), 5) is Life, 6) is Light, and 7) descended into human nature.

Whew, this post took it out of me. To be continued...