Saturday, January 13, 2024

God's Own Wild Card

It is easier to say what Life isn't than what it is. Among other things, it is not and cannot be a machine. Why? Mainly because a machine is composed of parts with exterior relations, whereas everything about Life has interior relations, resulting in a virtual infinitude of interconnections, feedback loops, and entailments. 

So, if we're on the right track, the key principle is interior relations. Or, you could even say relations, because inanimate things aren't actually related until we perceive the relation. A rock, for example, isn't related to another rock. Likewise, we can be in relation to a rock, but the rock isn't in relation to us.

Some people think this is how God rolls -- that we are related to him, but not vice versa. However, a trinitarian metaphysic suggests otherwise, positing a God that is irreducible substance-in-relation. Turns out the Absolute is relative after all.

I'm reading an interesting book on Pneumatology, the Pneuma (AKA Holy Spirit) undoubtedly being the most underrated of the Three. After all, he's a Person too, just a rather slippery one, always blowing about here and there. Hard to pin down. Whoops, where'd ego? To quote Mr. Cale, 
They call me the breeze / I keep blowing down the road.


I ain't hidin' from nobody / Ain't nobody hidin' from me.

This being the case, it seems that the ungraspable Spirit may actually be the easiest of the Three to grasp. He's not hidin', rather, we are. He's always related to us, but we may or may not be related to him (or notice the relationship).

Put it this way: anyone who says they're "spiritual" -- which is almost everybody -- is confessing either the Holy Spirit or a hostile spirit of one kind or another (or a mixture of the two). 

This Spirit is and always has been available to man, ever since man became man. The testimony is abundant, diverse, and continuous. For not only is the Spirit always related to us, I would argue that He is relationship as such -- beginning with the interior relatedness of Father and Son. 

For example, in one famous formulation, the Trinity is Lover, Beloved, and the Love that binds them. Another says something to the effect that the Father is God above us, the Son God with us, and the Spirit God in us; and above, with, and in are distinct but inseparable, each being with and in the others.

As God's divine energy that permeates all life and everything in the cosmos, the Spirit is... the most intimate "contact point" between the Triune God and human beings (Kärkkäinen).  

Or at least change my mind.  

Of note, 

The doctrine of the Spirit has always played a more prominent role in Eastern Orthodox theology...., whereas the Christian West (Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Protestantism) focuses on Christology.

This can lead even to ill-sounding charges "of 'Christomonism' against Western theology." One hates to criticize such believers, but after all, Christ went to a great deal of trouble to reveal the threeness of the One. "Too often," writes Kärkkäinen, "a subordinate, secondary role" is "assigned to the Holy Spirit." 

This strikes me as self-evident, now that I think about it. It's one reason why Catholic theology is more rational than Orthodox theology, the latter being more mystical and experiential. Of course, all Three are present in both; rather, it's a matter of emphasis.  

This relative neglect of the Spirit, I think, accounts for people moving from one church to another in search of Him, for "people are experiencing a hunger for a concrete, lived experience of the life-giving Spirit" (ibid.). 

Not unlike earlier times of perceived crisis, Christians today attempt to reconnect with the wellsprings of the faith, hoping these roots will bring about stability, order and meaning to a postmodern world that is often felt to be hopelessly fragmented. In particular, many seek to retrieve a three-personed God who is related to the human community and to the entire universe in love... (Dreyer, in Kärkkäinen).

Emphasis mine, because there's that word again: related

Now, to quote another authority, The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. I want to say it is the wild card of divinity, emphasis on the wild. For which reason we need to test it, as alluded to above vis-a-vis Holy and unholy maninfestations.

Think of how wildly the Spirit behaves in Acts. Maybe the Spirit is just as wild today -- but again, both the good and bad kinds: for

People are paying attention to the spiritual dimension of their lives and often seem to be experiencing the Spirit in ways and places that often challenge traditional theologies and Church structures.... The Spirit is present and active beyond the official structures and ordained ministries of the Church (Sachs, ibid.).

There's something going on here that is analogous to Gödel's theorems, only as applied to doctrine. For doctrine is a structure that "contains" the uncontainable Spirit, which necessarily eludes containment. Again, it is the wild card: 

Theologians from whom I have learned the most, both ancient and modern, all warn against trying to comprehend the Spirit in a systematic way (ibid., emphasis mine).

As alluded to above, we're talking about something fundamentally relational and experiential -- "the most intimate 'contact point' between the Triune God and human beings."

Even though the experience of the Spirit always leads to theological reflection on its meaning, spirituality is the first contact point. This is clearly evident in the biblical record: a powerful, often charismatic experience of the Spirit came first; only afterward, and in a slow tempo, came theological reflection (Kärkkäinen)

Exactly. The earliest councils first had to sort out the business of the Son before getting to the isness of the Spirit, which wan't nailed down until later.

On the one hand, "talk about the Spirit cannot be based on pure theory but must touch on experienced reality." But on the other, "experience alone does not suffice. It must be tried and tested so that 'one's own spirit' does not take the place of the Holy Spirit."

This post actually began with a very different subject in mind, that is, Rosen's "relational biology," which is a biology that is mindful of the infinitely rich interior relations of organisms. While Rosen doesn't say it, I will: that Life cannot be reduced to anything less than Life Itself, which is in turn related to the living relationship-as-such of the Holy Spirit. 

This is only the introduction to a vast subject, but I suspect creation is substance-in-relation all the way down, starting not only at the top, but within it. 

So many aphorisms, so we'll limit ourselves to five:

God is infinitely close and infinitely distant; one should not speak of Him as if he were some intermediate distance.

God does not reveal with discourses, but by means of experiences. The sacred writer does not transmit a divine discourse; his words express an experience given to him. 

Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge. 

The objectivity of mystical experience cannot be demonstrated. Just like that of any other experience.

Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Developmental Bio-Cosmology

Next up in our survey of philosophical nonstarters is Thomas Hobbes, who was a thoroughgoing materialist, back when being one could be dangerous to one's health:

The universe, that is the whole mass of things that are, is corporeal, that is to say body; and hath the dimensions of magnitude, namely, length, breadth, and depth (in Magee).

I'll bite: what are the corporeal dimensions of the truth you just uttered? Where is it in space? I'm trying to touch it, but I don't feel anything.

Nevertheless, materialism serves a kind of purpose, analogous to how the development of a strictly monistic monotheism was necessary prior to the revelation of the triune Godhead, otherwise the folks would mistake the latter for a primitive polytheism.

In yesterday's post we highlighted the philosophical problems that ensue from an underemphasis on the empirical/material world. Hobbes obviously indulges in the opposite error, but only gradually did the practice of science completely cleanse it self of the naive projection of the subject into the object, as in primitive animism.

Somewhat ironically, now that the cleansing of the cosmos is more or less complete, it is safe to go back to the view that IT'S ALIVE! Only from a higher and more integral level. As usual, we are now free to return to the beginning and know it for the first time -- i.e., meta-know it.

What do I mean? Well, in his book The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology -- which was a go-to prior to the discovery of Robert Rosen -- he sketches out a theory that for primordial man, everything was alive, death being the Great Exception. Perhaps we were like kittens, who likewise seem to inhabit a world in which everything is alive. 

Clearly, for such a primitive mentality, subjectivity and objectivity are thoroughly conflated. This view isn't wrong, just precritical and prescientific. 

Come to think of it, perhaps it simply results from an underdevelopment of the left cerebral hemisphere, which, to this day (in child development), lags behind the development of the right. At any rate, the Aphorist is not wrong to say that 

Things do not have feeling, but there is feeling in many things. 


The truth is objective but not impersonal.

But this is a late stage realization known only to Raccoons and fellow vertical travelers. The point is, the personal and impersonal have to be differentiated before they can be reunited at a higher level, where we can truly truly say that

The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason. 

Where indeed,

Truth is a person.

We're not there yet, or rather, let us retrace the steps of how we got here. 

So many possible avenues... Let's begin with Jonas, who writes that

When man first began to interpret the nature of things -- and this he did when he began to be man -- life to him was everywhere, and Being the same as being alive.... Soul flooded the whole of existence and encountered itself in all things. Bare matter, that is, truly inanimate, "dead" matter, was yet to be discovered -- as indeed, its concept, so familiar to us, is anything but obvious.


that the world is alive is really the most natural view, and largely supported by prima-facie evidence. On the terrestrial scene..., life abounds and occupies the whole foreground exposed to man's immediate view. The proportion of manifestly lifeless matter encountered in this primordial field is small, since most of what we now know to be inanimate is so intimately intertwined with the dynamics of life that it seems to share its nature.

Recall yesterday's link to the story about Afro-chemistry, in which matter is confused with primitive identity politics projected into the building blocks of reality. 

Here again, a pathological (or developmentally arrested) subjectivity is thoroughly conflated with objectivity. Suffice it to say this this is not what the Aphorist means by the crack that "there is feeling in many things." Molecules are not racist, not even melanin. 

As for the proper reunion of subject and object, Rosen is again our man. True, we can arrive at the same synthesis via pure intellection, but he does so with bullet-proof math and logic. 

Suffice it to say that -- contra Hobbes -- the world is not a machine, and cannot be a machine. However, there's no harm in viewing it that way, so long as one doesn't elevate this to an ontology. For nothing is that simple, let alone everything

Rather, everything is complex, not merely complicated, because machines -- for example, the one I'm typing on -- can be plenty complicated. But they are not complex, a critical distinction that Judith Curry highlights in her excellent Climate Uncertainty and Risk:

Complexity is not the same as complicated. Complicated systems have many parts but simple chains of causation. Complexity of the climate system arises from the chaotic behavior and nonlinearity of the equations for motions in the atmosphere and ocean, and the feedbacks between subsystems for the atmosphere, oceans, land surfaces, and glacier ice.

There are no mechanical models for such complexity. Well, there are, but as they say, All models are wrong, but some are useful

The aphorism acknowledges that statistical models always fall short of the complexities of reality but can still be useful nonetheless. The aphorism originally referred just to statistical models, but it is now sometimes used for scientific models in general.

Or, supposing you're better at logic than math, you could just say Gödel. Rosen rightly does so even before the first chapter, in the prelude, reminding those of us who need no reminder that "Gödel effectively demolished the formalist program," showing 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, no matter how good you are at math,

There is always a semantic residue, that cannot be accommodated by that syntactical scheme (emphasis mine, to highlight the fact that semantics cannot be reduced to syntax, and that's final).

This has many mind-blowing -- and liberating -- implications. One of Rosen's key insights is that we, or reductive scientism, rather, has things upside-down and inside-out, because it regards complexity as the exception, when, come to find out, it is the rule: complexity is more general than the linearity and relative simplicity which physics is capable of handling. 

Suffice it to say, you can't get from matter to life via physics; the world mapped by physics is necessary but not sufficient.

Again, one can, for methodological reasons, regard complex systems as simple, just don't forget that they aren't actually simple systems, and thereby reduce yourself to a simpleton.

This is a complex subject, so to be continued...

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Bob and the Eternal D in Geometry

It seems to me that the problem with Greek science was a failure to communicate -- between left and right cerebral hemispheres. This is no doubt a simplistic and reductive explanation, but blame I-Mac for that. 

In any event, something must account for what amounts to an ideological capture that prevented the Greeks from stepping outside their ideas and comparing them to the external world. Instead, if there was a conflict between beautiful idea and messy reality, so much for the latter.

And here we are. 

Speaking of which, if you're not in the Metacosmic Spiral you're in the Intracosmic Circle, in which case extremes meet. Check out this story on the colonization of STEM by barbarous ideologues (which is to say, right brain by left). In a course called -- no, really -- Afrochemistry,

Students will apply chemical tools and analysis to understand Black life in the U.S. and students will implement African American sensibilities to analyze chemistry. Diverse historical and contemporary scientists, intellectuals, and chemical discoveries will inform personal reflections and proposals for addressing inequities in chemistry and chemical education. 

*Ironically*, this description betrays the very parochial mentality that would have absolutely prevented the development of science, which is, among other things, universal. For example, whether black or white, if you swallow a chemical called cyanide, you won't be doing any more science, Afro or otherwise. 


Reminds me of how Hitler rejected the Jewish physics of Einstein, Pauli, and Oppenheimer. And a good thing, since, if he hadn't, we might all be Deutsch sprechen

In his book The Savior of Science, Jaki writes of the intracosmic ideological capture of the Greek mind. Obviously it has nothing to do with intelligence per se, as they invented geometry, whereas I scraped by with a D back in 10th grade. If I knew then what I know now, I would have confidently reminded Mrs. Neilson that

Geometry is still not science, inasmuch as science is about the actual universe, where all is in motion and, in contrast to the world of geometry, nothing is ever at rest (Jaki).

And when we say intracosmic left brain ideological capture, we are apparently being quite literal. For example, I was thumbing through Aurelius' Meditations the other day, where he articulates the prevalent idea of what Nietzsche would later characterize as eternal return:

Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round again in its cycle.


Whatever may befall you, it was preordained for you from everlasting

So relax. Everything that happens must happen.

Yes, Nicolás?

I do not want to conquer serenity, like a Stoic, but to welcome serenity in, like a Christian. 

Philosophy, of course, begins in wonder. I wonder why they didn't wonder about the world exterior to their heads?

One is here in the presence of a blindness of the human mind to the obvious, which is worth exploring (Jaki). 

But only briefly, in order to illustrate the fact that left brain capture is not just a thing, but a deadly thing (for a more recent example, see here). For it seems that Aristotelian physics "was taken to be necessarily true, whatever the evidence to the contrary." Much like Afrochemistry and Cuckoo-climatology.

Steeped in that perspective, which included a firm belief in eternal cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth for all, the Greeks of old could be but the victims of an intellectual state..., that all was matter in motion, resulting in rigid determinism (ibid.).


full trust in a rational Creator was needed to muster intellectual courage to live with quantities as well as qualities whatever the apparent irrationality of the fact that they are irreducible to one another (ibid.). 

So, take that, Mrs. Neilson -- you and your high but barren intellectual plateau. I accept your D with pride! And resignation! For if the inventors of geometry are correct, I shall take this course an endless number of times and earn the same D. 

Mrs. Neilson, top left; also depicted, Mr. Trahan, from whom I earned a D in calculus.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Rational Darkness and Transrational Light

In the book we're using as a template for our discussion of philosophical nonstarters, it touches on the scientific revolution and Isaac Newton. Of course, in Newton's day, philosophy and science had not yet undergone their messy divorce.

Come to think of it, Newton was no atheist, rather, a bit of a religious nut with some peculiar ideas about God. At any rate, subsequent developments were more of a trivorce: just as both Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism emerged out of the matrix of temple Judaism, modern science was only gradually differentiated from the religion and philosophy that gave birth to it.

Now that these three are trivorced and living separate lives, people like to... what's the word, Jeeves? Backread? Yes, that will do -- backread subsequent developments that were not present at the time. It's one of those historical fallacies falling under the heading of anachronism, i.e., 

a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement, especially a juxtaposition of people, events, objects, language terms and customs from different time periods. The most common type of anachronism is an object misplaced in time, but it may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, [etc.], or anything else associated with a particular period that is placed outside its proper temporal domain.

In the deeper context, perhaps Newton's religiosity -- and he is arguably the GOAT of science -- was fundamental to his whole approach to the world. 

For example, my son is taking a philosophy course, and on the first day the professor said something to the effect that the development of modern science would have been impossible absent the ancient Greeks. I don't disagree, and yet, the Greeks did not develop science in our sense of the word. Rather, as in the case of all non-Christian cultures, science was stillborn.

Therefore, we can say that the Greeks met some of the necessary conditions for the development of science, but were weak on the sufficient ones -- the "conditions with which." Which conditions might those be?

Magee doesn't get into them, so I guess it's down to me.

More generally, my hobby is fooling around with seeming irreconcilables. My mind sees connections everywhere, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Just built that way, I guess. 

But if religion, philosophy, and theology were once united, who's to say we can't do it again, albeit at a deeper level of harmony and integration? 

Besides, it's fun, and if I have to choose between an amusing metaphysic and an unamusing one, all else being equal, I'm going with the former. Like Alan Watts, I'm a philosophical entertainer, beginning with myself. Obviously I blog to amuse myself, and only hope that others get the jokes. For it is written: my jokes are easy, my words enlight.

With good humor and pessimism it is possible to be neither wrong nor bored.

And I am never bored.

Two contradictory philosophical theses complete each other, but only God knows how. 

To which I would add that It's for God to know and for us to find out.
I believe more in God's smile than His wrath.  

I frankly don't believe in the latter at all, this being but an understandable human projection. True, God hates evil, but not in an emotional way. It's just that he prefers (and cannot not prefer) the Good. Of course it sounds presumptuous to pretend to read the mind of God, but

To speak of God is presumptuous; not to speak of God is imbecilic. 

So in reality, we're simply doing our best to not be imbeciles.

There's a world of difference between a tautology and a self-evident truth, and it is not tautologous to affirm that

The sole proof of the existence of God is His existence.

For it is a binary question: either God does or does not exist. And if he doesn't, then -- among other inconveniences -- we lose the very ground of reason itself, AKA the Logos. I like the orthoparadoxical way Rodney Bomford puts it: "If God does not exist, only He knows it." And if He doesn't, then only man could not know it. Absurd?

Man calls "absurd" his secret pretensions to omnipotence.

Thus, the real absurdity is pretending to a knowledge that only God could possess. He does, but thankfully, we participate in it, which is precisely how and why we have access to truth at all. Unless you think we don't, in which case you are dismissed. To the outer darkness. With no inside. If you can imagine such a state.

I can. Yes, I myself dabbled in nihilism. For

God allows man to raise barricades against the invasion of grace. 

A key point here is that grace takes many forms, the light of truth being just one of them. Beauty, of course, is another, and not for nothing is mathematics so full of beautiful equations. More generally,

God does not ask for the submission of intelligence, but rather an intelligent submission,

This being in contrast to, say, Islam, which means submission, full stop. The unintelligent kind. But Islam is scarcely alone on this score, another being submission to our deeply anti-intellectual educational establishment.  

Why is it so stupid? Many reasons. These reasons extend all the way back to the mythognoetry of Genesis 3, but that's a rather vague and general explanation that takes any number of forms, one of the most consequential being nominalism. 

Coincidentally, I just read an essay on the subject, called The Complications of (Bad) Philosophy. It only skims the surface, but it will do until I haul out the heavy hitters:

Who could have predicted that Ockham’s rejection of universals (nominalism) and emphasis on God’s supreme omnipotence at the expense of the divine intellect (voluntarism) -- esoteric philosophical concepts if ever there were ones -- would provoke such censure, even centuries after his death?

Not only is this not esoteric, it is the very soul of common sense, for if we can't know universals, then truly truly, we can't claim to know anything -- anything beyond the raw perceptions furnished by the senses. Thus, nominalism is the principle of no principles -- "the most perennially pernicious of philosophical assumptions," 

a “universal acid” that “disintegrates the coherence of philosophy in every area: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.”

For it

assumes that there is no objective order in creation. It reflects not a wonder or awe at cosmic goodness but rather a pessimistic doubt about reality that demands that people impose order on an otherwise unintelligible creation. This entails that the concepts of truth and goodness are ultimately arbitrary constructs the philosopher creates to prescribe an order for a fractious world.

The outer darkness referenced above: 

if there are no forms, there are no universal natures such as humanity -- every single being is a radically unique individual not limited by human nature. (Sound familiar?)

Yes. Yes it does sound distressingly familiar. Nor is it fun, to put it mildly. These people are at war with comedy, with irony, and with good natured self-deprecation, which is -- in my book -- a sin against the Ho-Ho-Holy Spirit.

[It] dramatically limits our ability to know reality, because without necessary causal relations, we can never understand what is behind our sense experience. There is no rational inference, only the mathematical analysis of material bodies. Everything else is pure speculation.

Now, we never speculate.   

Either God or chance; all other terms are disguises for one or the other. 

Irrational? Hardly:

"Irrationalist" is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism.  

For example, Gödel responded to the shouting by proving that nothing can be more irrational than a rationalism that encloses man in his own ideas and thereby consigns him to the outer darkness. That is stupid, nor is it funny, except unintentionally.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Critique of Pure Criticism, or Doubt²

More than reasons to believe, there are reasons to doubt doubt. --Dávila

So, a prime directive is to cultivate doubt². For there are two kinds of cynicism, the facile and superficial kind -- one thinks of a Bill Maher, or the New Atheists, or the MSM -- and the kind that properly regards the wisdom of the world like this fella:

The believer knows how to doubt; the unbeliever does not know how to believe. 


The most subversive book in our time would be a collection of old proverbs.

Which makes Dávila just about the most subversive guy around. For he would be the first to say that nothing he says is original, God forbid.

Whoever believes himself to be original is merely ignorant.


Originality is not something to be sought, but something to be found.  

As all posts do, this one took off in an unanticipated direction -- or rather, what Churchill called anticipatory plagiarism. In other words, Dávila, merely because of his temporal priority, expressed all my ideas before extending the courtesy to allow me to think of them first.

Magee writes that "science did not begin"

with a study of those matters closest to hand, namely human affairs, and then work outward toward the most distant things, namely the stars. On the contrary, science began with observation of the stars, and worked from there inward. The last matters to come under scientific observation were human affairs.

While trivially true, there's a deeper point, that without an investigation (and critique) of the human subject -- not just its role in science, rather, its very existence -- science exists in a "pre-critical" state. And it seems to me that this naïveté largely accounts for its transformation to bonehead scientism, from a skeptical method to a credulous ontology.

At the same time, those matters closest to hand -- human affairs -- that man had been thinking about for thousands of years, were gradually forgotten. Which is why there is more wisdom in Marcus Aurelius or the Tao Te Ching than in contemporary psychology. Come to think of it, this must partly account for Jordan Peterson's popularity, in that he repackages this wisdom for an age of stupidity.

This whole subject of scientism is a bit played, isn't it? Fish barrel bang. Is there anything new to add? Better yet, anything old? 

The modern man is the man who forgets what man knows about man.

For example, that men aren't women, or that two men cannot marry, or that it's okay to be white. 

The fool is not impressed except by what is recent. For the intelligent man, nothing depends on its date.

The modern man only admits the evidence that the vulgar perceive.
No wonder our culture is so vulgar, for 
In order to abolish all mystery it is enough to view the world through the eyes of a pig.

Or a journalist. 

Scientism is nothing if not vulgar. I'll bet we can dispatch it in five wise cracks from the Master, which I will take the liberty of arranging in ascending order: 

Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions.

Why deceive ourselves? Science has not answered a single important question. 

To believe that science is enough is the most naive of superstitions.

Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but unable to explain the consciousness that explains it, will have explained nothing.

What about the wisdom of old, which is as young as the day it was hatched by those venerable eggheads?

Man is not educated through knowledge of things but through knowledge of man.

To think like our contemporaries is a recipe for prosperity and stupidity. 

When one century's writers can write nothing but boring things, we readers change centuries.

Only ancient writings have a cure for the modern itch.

All reading is contemporary for the reader who knows how to read.

He who does not place his life alongside the great texts places it alongside the clichés of his time. 

To be conservative is to understand that man is a problem without a human solution.

After conversing with some "thoroughly modern" people, we see that humanity escaped the "centuries of faith" only to get stuck in those of credulity.

Civilizations are what old men have saved from the onslaught of youthful idealists.

Yes, I resemble that remark.

Back to scientism for a moment,

Nothing proves more the limits of science than the scientist's opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession.

Three words: Neil deGrasse Tyson. Or two: Bill Nye. Or one: Fauci.

What is more irritating than stupidity itself is a scientific vocabulary in its mouth.

Like I said, this subject might be too easy for our cynical audience, but we'll have to think about it and come back tomorrow, hopefully with some new stale bobservations.  

Monday, January 08, 2024

The Cosmic Divide

Well, I just flipped through Alexander's The Phenomenon of Life, but I don't really feel like blogging about it. You get the point: Life starts at the top. So what am I gonna do now?

Hmm. Maybe get back to our chronological survey of philosophical nonstarters, which went off the rails when we were discussing Augustine -- going from time to part-whole relations to persons to the open cosmos to temporal holofractality to truth & presence and to Life Itself. 

We'll skip over Thomas, since we're always talking about him, to the next section on The Beginnings of Modern Science, because that revealed a definitive fork in the philosophical road that in turn iterated into any number of snide streets, bland alleys, and nul de slacks, and here we are: so many philosophies, and yet, truth remains the same One it was prior to the scientific revolution. 

Or better, what began as a rebellion led to a revolution, all revolutions leading to an upside-down and inside-out cosmos.

For science itself could have easily been integrated into a more holistic and integrated weltanschauung. There was absolutely no need for us to be weltanschlonged by our own knowledge.  

Revolutionary theories violate history without impregnating it.

A "revolutionary" today means an individual for whom modern vulgarity is not triumphing quickly enough.

The ideas of the left beget revolutions; revolutions beget the ideas of the right.

So, let's impregnate history and beget some ideas that might slow down the vulgarity. 

I used to think -- this being a couple weeks ago -- that the misnamed American revolution was just a rebellion aimed at restoring our natural political rights. Now I wonder, because it was actually part of a much wider revolutionary project that affected everything, this being the so-called "Enlightenment," which ended up shedding less Light than it yoinked. 

I'm still thinking about it, but the thought was provoked while reading a provocative book called Puritan's Empire: A Catholic Perspective on American History. You could say that it is revisionist history, or perhaps de-visionist, as it is harshly critical of the Enlightenment vision that inspired the founders. They meant well, but there's a reason why the left is and always will be the Good Intentions Paving Company. 

More generally, even before reading the book, I had been wondering how we got here -- how it all led to the current madness. Was there some identifiable flaw at the very founding of the United States, some sort of latent virus responsible for the shocking devolution from George Washington to Joe Biden? Clearly, something went wrong, but was it located in historical contingency or built into the constitutional cake?

For example, people speculate that we took a wrong turn with Thomas Jefferson, or Justice Marshall, or Andrew Jackson, or Lincoln, or Woodrow Wilson, or FDR, but perhaps it was inevitable, man being man. You can hardly manproof a manmade document. 

I'm no Nikki Haley fan, but she did have a point in trying to widen our perspective on the causes of the Civil War, which some people say goes back to the struggle between Roundheads and Cavaliers in England, which in America took the form of the puritanical assholes of the north and the free-living denizens of the south. 

Looked at this way, our current puritanical wokeholes are the same intrusive busybodies in a pestilent new form. Come to think of it, David Hackett Fischer says as much in his Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. There's a reason why Massachusetts is still Massachusetts and Texas still Texas (and why they want to use illegal immigration to turn the latter into the former).

Cain and Abel.

Maybe, in that some people say this deadly kerfuffle marks the beginning of the age-old urban-rural conflict: Cain was from red Massachusetts, Abel from blue Texas. Too bad he left his gun at home.

If we really want to widen our perspective, it's also a right-brain/left brain thing, which is to say, reality and ideology, respectively. 

But for our purposes, we want to talk about science and scientism. However, we slept late and will have to get to it in the next post.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Pantheistic Tri-personalism

Our subject -- Life itself -- has provoked flashbacks to Book One of Christopher Alexander's The Nature of Order, The Phenomenon of Life. 

These aren't exactly memories, rather, memories of memories, in that I know we discussed it but I can't recall the details. I was going to reread the book today, but why not just review the previous posts and hope they aren't trashbacks?

No, that's not false modesty, because I feel as if anything I've said in the past I can say better today. Or more clearly. Or at least will be lower on the Wince Meter.

Clearly Alexander is our kind of architect: the subtitle of the book is An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. Hmm, architecture and cosmology. Isn't that the bailiwick of the Freemasons -- one of our rival secret organizations? 

Alexander only uses architecture as a kind of focal point to discuss everything under the sun.

Speaking of the Masons, maybe like this:

I am quite sure Alexander would agree with the Aphorist that

Modern architecture knows how to erect industrial sheds but cannot manage to construct a palace or a temple.

And that

The preferred materials of modern architecture age like a prostitute.

Although this might be taking it too far:

Compared to a Romanesque church, everything else, without question, is more or less commonplace.

Along these lines, an amazon reviewer writes that

Alexander begins by asking the question, why is contemporary architecture so terrible? In the 20th century we have passed through a unique period, one in which architecture as a discipline has been in a state that is almost unimaginably bad. I find myself musing on this question as I sit in the waiting room at a doctor's office, park my car in a garage, or go though airport security. How did we end up with a built environment that actively degrades our lives? 
Does it have to be this way? Throughout history, cultures have established methods of architecture that enrich the human experience. He posits that this has been caused by a loss of the ability and desire to discern aliveness....
Alexander establishes that aliveness is a property of space and matter, not only of biological organisms. Next, he establishes that aliveness exists on a spectrum: anything can be more or less alive. In the built environment, we have agency to influence where something -- a door nob, and window, a room, a village, a region -- falls on this spectrum.
So how do we discern aliveness? After decades of experimentation, Alexander has found that it is an objective property. A basic tenet is the question, "which of these things, manifestations, etc. brings me more aliveness?"

According to the ubiquitous Professor Backflap:

Alexander describes a scientific view of the world in which all space-matter has perceptible degrees of life, and establishes this understanding of living structures as an intellectual basis for a new architecture.

He identifies fifteen geometric properties which tend to accompany the presence of life in nature, and also in the buildings and cities we make. These properties are seen over and over in nature and in the cities and streets of the past, but they have almost disappeared in the impersonal developments and buildings of the last hundred years.

This book shows that living structures depend on features which make a close connection with the human self, and that only living structure has the capacity to support human well-being.

Seems to me that Alexander is tackling the same questions as Rosen, only under cover of architecture. But instead of illustrating his thesis with lots of bullet-proof mathematical equations, he illustrates it with lots of... illustrations. Could these constitute left brain / right brain demonstrations of the same fundamental truth?

Let's grow out on a limb and say Yes

Beauty is important, but maybe it's actually far more important than we realize. At the very least, Alexander's work explains exactly why beauty is so important, because it is as if Life is one of its attributes or entailments. 

I am an unabashed pantheist. It's just that I'm not only a pantheist. In a footnote, Alexander suggests that "all space and matter, organic or inorganic, has some degree of life in it" and that things are more or less alive according to their "structure and arrangement." More than once I've looked at a tree and pondered whether we are equally alive. I love trees, but the answer is no. 

In the same footnote Alexander claims that reality is personal, and now we're talkin', because that's one of my Ultimate Suspicions. He writes that "all matter/space has some degree of 'self' in it," and that "some aspect of the personal... infuses all matter/space."

I've never given it a name, but let's call it pantheistic tri-personalism. Until something snappier occurs to me.

I am now flipping through the book, and will pause when something does something to something in me.

Very few people realize, I think, how much the present confusion which exists in the field of architecture is wound up with our conception of the universe.

To which I can only add hoo boy, because this apples to any and every field. In other words, a stupid conception of the cosmos poisons everything. Didn't Thomas warn us that a small error in the beginning leads to a great one at the end? And that The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold?

Well, in this case we're talking about a massive error In The Beginning, in which case it must be multiplied at least a googlefold.

A great many metaphysical questions of great consequence are binary in nature, for example, the world is either created or not created, and you have to pick one. Of course, we ought to pick the more likely one, or at least the less unlikely, which is why I choose the former. 

Likewise, the universe is either personal or impersonal, but if it's the latter, then you've got a lot of explaining to do, but with no one here to explain it.

This post has probably gone on too long already, but I think I'll continue flipping and blogging tomorrow. Meanwhile, aphorisms:

The existence of a work of art demonstrates that the world has meaning. Even if it does not say what that meaning is.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.

Things do not have feeling, but there is feeling in many things.

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