Posts Tagged ‘science’

The Language Of Freedom

June 11, 2011





While puzzling over how to respond to INspired Ink’s post, “The Here and Now”– A Post A Day 2011 post, I stumbled upon the following 2008 post of mine and thought it special enough to post again (my response to Ink’s post was a single paragraph response from the below post).

The Reciprocal Relationship Of Content/Form Interdependence

What’s Going On With These Posts—Are They Random, Directed, Or Something Else?

I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. If there’s a common theme running through these posts, it’s my quest to understand what I don’t understand. That said, in this post the suggestion is that I understand something, or, to put it more gently, what I haven’t understood so far, begins to make more sense if understood in the following way:

The subject of freedom is a major theme in my writing. Freedom, depending on its context, means many things to many people. Operationally speaking, though, we first encounter freedom as the freedom to act. Satisfying our biological needs frames this freedom. I associate Aristotle with this freedom because he was the first to recognize, as far as I can tell, the importance of the sensation/understanding connection. Freedom is not just a sensation, however. The freedom to avoid the unpleasant and pursue the pleasant has the indirect effect of creating the environment out of which all other freedoms are expressed.

On another level, a higher level, phenomenological freedom expresses the question that theoretical freedom answers (the freedom to be logically consistent). This answer, scientifically speaking, is verified through its reliable predictions as they relate to our aesthetic experience. This answer, sociologically speaking, allows for behavioral change and emotional growth. In other words, as a dynamic process, freedom (or lack there of) is continually being discovered in the “universal limiting space that defines it.” As knowledge accumulates, for instance, life’s expectations and goals may change. The value and meaning of relationships may change. What at one time was sought for pleasure and comfort may, with increased understanding, become unpleasant, and so on and so forth.

But there is another kind of freedom, one that escapes categorizations. This is Buddhist freedom– a freedom we cannot sense, a freedom that is by definition indeterminate. Even so, paradoxically, much has been said (and written) about this freedom. Fortunately, the Japanese sage, and student of Zen Buddhism, Nishida Kitaro, has discussed Buddhist freedom without venturing outside the “limiting space” framework of freedom.

Nishida went looking for “pure experience” and found it in the “absolute free will” emerging from and returning to absolute nothingness. Since Nishida wanted to communicate this realization, he created his own logic, the logic of basho, because he believed the only way to communicate ultimate reality—true selfhood, was through a rational methodology. To be fair, I think his logic referenced existence more than analysis, but when you need to communicate the reality at the center of the creative world, where “absolute free will” lives in the “eternal now,” analysis by itself just can’t do the job. Anyway, three categories distinguished Nishida’s logic: basho of being, basho of relative nothingness, and basho of absolute nothingness. (Most of my information on Nishida comes from the book, Great Thinkers Of The Eastern World, Ian P. McGreal, Editor, p. 384-5.

For me at least, basho logic seems to be describing three different levels of interconnectivity—the interconnectivity of three different “pulses of freedom.” The basho of being becomes the limiting space of existence while the basho of relative nothingness becomes the defining characteristic of that limitation. The basho of absolute nothingness, on the other hand, is the glue and ultimate reality that Nishida is trying to communicate. In this interconnectivity a dual purpose is at work. As the ground of everything, the logic of basho works to support and restrict all beings. Upon achieving a state of self-realization, however, one experiences the absolute interpenetration of nothingness with all the particular existents in the universe. According to Nishida, everything that Is, is within the interconnectivity of basho, and, at bottom, the “self as basho” identifies itself with all the existents and beings of the world. The “self as basho,” “self as absolute nothingness,’’ wakes to perfect freedom, perfect wisdom and perfect bliss.

The fact that language will not (can not) permit a description of “fully enlightened beings,” is what inspired Nishida to create his basho logic. Was he successful? I cannot say, but I’m glad he tried because the second major theme in my writing is to search out a language rich enough to express all of freedom’s ramifications. Next week’s blog, in fact, will be a good indication of just how far I’ve come in achieving that goal. Like Nishida, I believe that a sufficiently strong freedom language will incorporate logic, albeit a logic referencing existence and analysis, and the concepts of interconnectivity and interpenetration. This language will require also (for me at least) the concepts of transformation and reciprocity, more specifically, the reciprocity that exists structurally in content/form interdependence.

One of the things I’ve found intriguing is how certain conceptual forms can go through various transformations without loosing meaning, e.g. 2 means two, two also means 1+1=2, two also means 4-2= 2. In logic, in a like manner, A and ~A cannot exist at the same time (the law of non-contradiction wherein a statement and its negation cannot both be true and false at the same time), but, ~~A then A (the principle that any proposition implies and is implied by the negation of its negation) is perfectly true, e.g. it is the case that not, not A implies A.

Transformations like above are not limited to analysis. For instance, suppose that my own self-awareness was a product of mind and something else. Suppose also that this something else not only defined (formed) self-awareness, but also was responsible for the interconnectivity of my self-awareness across time, which is to say past mind events connect present mind events and present mind events connect future mind events in the same way that form interpenetrates content, i.e., the reciprocal relationship of content/form interdependence.

Self-awareness as a structured reciprocal relationship is not simply a product of my imagination; it surfaced for me after reading a book by Jean Piaget. Before I describe what I found in his book on Structuralism, here’s what the Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Vol. 6, p.306) has to say about what he studied: “Piaget examined the development of not only abstract concepts such as classes, relations, and numbers, but also physical concepts like space, time, atomism, conservation and chance, all of which he has regarded as constructed from behavioral activities.” My search for a vocabulary rich enough to describe freedom’s ramifications increased ten fold after reading Piaget.

The Psychologist, Jean Piaget, put the origin of structure and the symbolic content that it generates, in an organisms capacity for action. For Piaget then, the knowledge of our objective and subjective experience begins in the recognition and coordination of sensorimotor activity. By locating the source of cognitive structure in the sensorimotor activity of babies, Piaget opened up the possibility that “structure” was grounded in “nature”– not in “mind.” Through his investigations, he was able to show how the subject and object poles of experience are “products” of experience. In fact, what we typically call “normal cognitive skills,” for Piaget, is a product of necessary developmental stages, i.e. sensorimotor, representational, and formal operative. Only after the individual passes through theses stages does one acquire “normal cognitive skills.” The subject pole and object pole of a child’s experience remains undissociated early in the sensorimotor stage, but after passing through the stage of formal operations the child (8-12 year old), in his/her capacity to invoke reasoned judgments and deductive thought, is then able to conceptualize what is not perceived (e.g. principles of conservation, reversibility, transitivity, etc.). For Piaget then, cognitive-awareness is not something we are born with; rather it is the product of an ongoing developmental process. This is important because it tells us that logic stems from a sort of spontaneous organization of activity,– that the pre-condition for knowledge is an assimilation of a given external into the structures of the subject,– and that out of these subjective structures arise, phoenix like, the genesis of self-awareness. Thus, not only do we find the relationship of context/form interdependence in the ongoing activity of accommodation/assimilation of environment, we also find it in the relationship that binds natural structure to cognitive structure.

The mental event structure that we cognitively experience as “movement into the future” becomes (according to the way I understand Piaget) a product of the externally given context/form interdependent relationship of accommodation/assimilation. In the externally given accommodation/assimilation structure, accommodation is understood to be a change in the assimilated product of environmental interaction, i.e. acting on the past to create a present, and, likewise, assimilation is understood as an action actively reproduced in such a way as to incorporate new (accommodated) objects into one’s own assimilated experience, i.e. actualizing the potential to intelligently navigate a course through an uncertain future, thus, this externally given “structure” of accommodation/assimilation becomes (when subjectively internalized) what Piaget calls the center of functional activity, or, the context/form interdependent experience of “self” moving from past, to present, to future. However, to introduce a caveat that I believe any anthropologist would agree to, the capacity to dissociate one thing from another is itself a product of social evolution. The “self” experience of today is not the “self” experience of archaic people. Social consciousness is intimately connected with its environment, and only gradually, through the process of reification, does that environment become externalized as an object of consciousness. In other words, today what is perceived in clarity and sharpness was, for archaic people, perceived as a relatively undifferentiated whole. The evolution of mind then, in addition to evolving structurally, “in time,” also evolves linearly, “across time.”

The question that still needs to be answered is where exactly is Piaget’s “self” located? According to Piaget, “the center of functional activity is not located in the traditional ‘me space’ that we so often take for granted; nor is it located in the ‘lived space’ that is described in the works of various existentialists; nor is it located in the positivists physico-chemical brain activity,” Nietzsche’s will to power, Marx’s economic determinate, or Durkheim’s normative order etc. Rather, Piaget locates his “constructionist self,” in general terms, “somewhere midway between the nervous system and conscious behavior (because) ‘psychology is first of all a biology.”’ To be more specific, however, Piaget locates the “constructionist self” in the structure of content/form interdependence. Piaget explains:

“But what manner of existence is left, then, for the mind, if it is neither social, nor mental in the subjective sense, nor organic?

…If it is, as Levi-Strauss says, necessary to ‘reintegrate content with form,’ it is no less essential to recall that neither forms nor contents exist per se: in nature as in mathematics every form is content for ‘higher’ forms and every content form of what it ‘contains’….

This uninterrupted process of coordinating and setting in reciprocal relations is the true ‘generator’ of structures as constantly under construction and reconstruction. The subject exists because, to put it very briefly, the being of structures consists in their coming to be, that is, their being ‘under construction.”’ [Piaget, Structuralism, p. 112]

If Piaget is right, and intelligence is an extension of natural structure then intelligence arises, phoenix like, from natural structure, but, suppose intelligence (rather than arising from structure) was, just as Piaget believed, contained in the structure of content/form interdependence, and here’s where it gets somewhat tricky,
what if this content/form interdependence became self-conscious, and, this self-consciousness then became the “start up” of human intelligence, and/or what Piaget calls the center of functional activity.

This is a bit much to take in, to be sure, but that is what I will write about in next week’s blog. In closing, I want to end this blog with a modern day description of self-awareness, one that also upholds the idea that human intelligence is a product of context/form interdependence.

Identifying Jean Paul Sartre’s philosophy as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed this option (without, I might add, elaborating on it.) “One might go as far as to say…that structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness — it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” [Jean-Marie Benoist, A Structural Revolution, p. 1] In Sartre’s book Being And Nothingness, his chapter on Being-For-Itself is subtitled “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself.” [Jean-Paul Sartre, Being And Nothingness, p. 119] Structure is not hidden in Sartre; it’s just that on the whole Sartre’s book is a polemic against reading structure as anything more than appearance.

In the representation of Sartre’s thought as “consciousness is what it is not, and it is not what it is,” we find reciprocal movement, the same reciprocal movement encountered, in Piaget’s content/form interdependence. Specifically, Sartre defines the consciousness of the transcending For-itself (our self-space) as: “Consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” (Ibid. p. 801) [As far as I am concerned this for-itself concept, and much of what is also written in Being And Nothingness, is as much a product of the thought of Simone deBeauvoir, Sartre’s life long confident, as it was the creation of Jean Paul Sartre. Throughout the writing of the book she (PhD in Philosophy) was his sounding board, and editor. Unlike Sartre, she stayed committed to this philosophy until she died.) In an extrapolation on Sartre’s definition of consciousness, Benoist describes the relationship inherent in consciousness as: “it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” My own reading of this relationship is: being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In either case, however, we end up with a description of content/form interdependence.

This double movement is represented on many levels in Sartre’s exegesis on being and nothingness. This double movement becomes very specific in Sartre’s description of his pre-reflective Cogito. In so far as we find ”nothingness” at the center of Cogito, consciousness per se must be understood to be set apart from itself, therefore, Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito will always form one pole of our conscious experience while the “objects” of consciousness will take their place at the other pole of conscious experience. This condition, where the pre-reflective Cogito becomes the preexistent structure for conscious awareness of objects, is another way of arriving at what Piaget called the center of functional activity. Depending on where “you” focus your concern, the content of consciousness is either pushed to the front of consciousness (the unreflective consciousness), or, the object of consciousness is pushed into the background, as the “negation of consciousness” is brought into the foreground (the reflected upon object of consciousness).

Together, our pre-reflective Cogito and the object of consciousness form our conscious experience of the knower-known dyad– content/form interdependence. In so far as this double movement turns on the pivot point of pure negation, the known exists for the knower, but the knower can never be fully known. As self-consciousness rises in consciousness, it is denied the possibility of becoming fully self-aware. This result, the incompleteness of self, brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness, or, “consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.” This center of functional activity, this content/form interdependence that makes thinking possible, this symbol-generating movement of free thought that emancipates language, myth, science, and morality, pushes and pulls self-awareness down the road that hopefully leads to a more civilized society. In the absence of this center of functional activity, “thinking” is restricted to the manipulation of signs—mere sensual indicators, minus the symbols that carry the significance of those same indicators. In other words, in the absence of this center of functional activity, language becomes severely limited, if not impossible.

Self-consciousness emerges where the center of functional activity– begins. This experience comes with a price. As individuals, we are condemned to be free. In the words of Sartre, we must perpetually “confront the world and self as a lack,” and, because of this, we cannot escape responsibility for our choices. Irregardless of how we choose to act, we must take responsibility for our choice. For Sartre, responsibility lies in the chosen act and therefore can never be separated from the person who chooses. If, on the other hand, we happen to be living in the episteme that the postmodernist Foucault characterized as, “belonging to the questioning of that to which one belongs,” then responsibility becomes absorbed into the power/knowledge relationship of “responsible to whom for what ends.” Certainly Foucault argues this position and, I might add, it is not a coincidence that Foucault characterized the modern episteme as “man’s obsession with what eludes him.” Just as I am sure that Foucault read Sartre, I am also sure that Foucault’s description of epistemes is off the mark and here’s why:

While Sartre has delineated the not-self and the consequences that follow from not-self in our everyday world of social interaction, he stops far short of identifying the structure of his pre-reflective Cogito— the content/form interdependence that constitutes self-awareness—with what Piaget called natural structure. The short answer here is that content/form interdependence encompasses both nature and human consciousness– as the “innate structuring capacity of all structures,” and this will be the subject of next week’s blog.

Advertisements

The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

August 29, 2010


The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

“The famous philosopher of mind, John Searle, said, “Not only do we have no idea what consciousness is, we have no idea of what it would be like to have an idea of what consciousness is.”

Saint Augustine had an idea: Consciousness is our Soul, and exists by direct connection to the Mind of God. The Catholic Church is willing to accept evolution of the human body, but not the conscious mind or soul. Descartes just posited mind, Res Cogitans in his famous dualism of Res Extensa — i.e. matter and machines including the human body, and Res Cogitans, the conscious mind.

Modern Connectionists often equate consciousness as another emergent property of sufficiently complex computational systems. I worry, since water buckets by the millions pouring water into one another above and below a bucket level threshold for 1 or 0 could be a complex computer. I just have a hard time believing they would be conscious…..” (by Stuart Kauffman, NPR blog entitled The Hard Problem: Consciousness)

These days I spend my computer time looking for appropriate subjects (blogs) to comment on. Typically, after a bit of introduction, my comments take the form of cut and pastes from my blog. I am about to enter the changing life experience of retirement, so maybe I’ll find the time to blog again—I can’t say for sure. Anyway, yesterday I posted a comment on Reijo’s blog (see below) and today I googled “consciousness blog ontology” and came across the NPR blog noted above. When I started to leave my comment on the NPR blog I discovered “comments closed.” So here I am with no place to go except my own blog. I found the comments under the NPR blog interesting, especially the one’s that protested the use of “quantum fuzziness” to suggest the consciousness/physics connection. Here’s an example:

“This discussion reminds me of the early 20th century search for the “ether” through which electromagnetic waves propagate. There was compelling reason for the search for ether, as radiation behaves much like matter waves (which propagate through matter). However there should be no reason to search for any ontological possibilities through which quantum waves “wave” as they are complex and thus have no physical meaning. Schroedinger’s equation and its solutions are only tools by which to understand physical phenomenon.

In short, I think the logic is fuzzy.”—Colin Clement

What the above comment suggests to me is that QM is describing a physical universe, albeit one different from the classical one we live in, but nevertheless one that we discover as opposed to the one that some people believe identities the consciousness/physical reality interdependent connection. But then, a few pages over in the NPR blog you find this comment by Pankaj Seth:

“We have theories about a lifeless, insentient early universe, early earth but they have been established due to inference, and obviously not direct perception… these theories rely upon the assumption of a fundamental duality between matter and mind. When we try to isolate matter apart from consciousness, we can do it from the POV of the I-self witnessing the classical world, but when we dig deeper as in QM, we cannot establish such a duality between the perceived matter and the perceiving consciousness. There is a duality at the sensory, I-self level (and hence the evolution of the early universe and life… . Similarly, it is found in Buddhist and Yogic meditation practice that at the depth of self-experience, there is a non-duality between perceiver and perceived… “Nothing perceived is independent of perception.”

What I am suggesting below is a structured universe which, at the appropriate structural level, acquires the ability to focus in on the different layers of the structured universe’s contents. In this respect, think of this ability (self-consciousness) as the lens that accounts for knowing consciousness, a consciousness that informs on the different levels of the universe, i.e., informs on the quantum, biological, and psychological levels of the universe. In this way, we come to the experience and understanding of a universe of content, a universe of structure, a universe that preserves the integrity of the Affirmative Ideal, and a universe that answers Heidegger’s question: “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing.”

So now we come to the comment that inspired this blog. Below is my response to Reijo’s comment concerning my comment on nothingness– Nothingness by calthai

Thanks for the interesting comment. Parmenides was right, “what is not, is not,” but that is definitively not the end of it.

It certainly is true that (not not) interesting implies the word interesting, but, similarly, I would like to suggest that “being what is not while not being what is” implies something akin to Parmenides’ plenitude/being. While reading Sartre’s Being And Nothingness, I wrote the following:

“Being-in-itself (Sartre’s concept of being) cannot be defined because language is ‘definition dependent,’ while Being just is (is free of dependence). I wonder if Sartre, in this respect, was influenced by Parmenides’ poem. In Parmenides’ ‘way of truth’ being was beyond description. Time, plurality and motion, all aspects of duality, were not compatible with Being. Although I don’t understand why, knowledge was considered an extension of Being in Parmenides philosophy. For Sartre, if you strip away all determinate characteristics and all those meanings which are due to human interpretation, you are left with being-in-itself.”

In today’s world, we do not give much thought to concepts that cannot be defined. That said, the notion of “wholeness” has found its way into the lexicon of scientific theories. When solving relativistic space-time problems, the geometry of the space-time continuum supersedes all notions of the physical nature of space and time. Likewise, at the quantum level of applied physics, the uncertainty relationships (Heisenberg), particle probabilities (the decoherence problem) and the non-local universe (Bell/Aspect results), when taken into account, suggest the existence of a universe-wide connectiveness. Given this turn of events, I will describe in next few paragraphs not only the “wholeness aspect of Being” that is consistent with Sartre’s philosophy (its ontological aspect), Parmenides’ Being, and the universe of connectiveness, but also how this “wholeness aspect of Being” expresses itself in the unique relationship that is up-right walking, language speaking, analytical thinking, empathy feeling, imaginative, curious, and goes by the name–human being. Thanks for the opportunity to post. (Sorry for the length, I only post when inspired—thanks for that too).

I want to begin my discussion of structured existence by revealing its shape. It looks like the letter v. The first thing to notice about the V is its openness. This openness moves the content of existence forward; in fact, one is tempted to say that “to be free” is why existence exists. Science does a good job explaining the content of existence, but it is severely challenged when it comes to explaining the “otherness of existence,” or the liberating process that structures existence. As existence and liberation move up the V, freedom expands. Freedom expands diachronically at each level of structure (think evolution here), but, over time, lower level structure becomes “content” for higher level structure (Piaget). At each “step up” freedom yields a new synchronic (frozen in time) structure, one that, although different from the lower structure, still preserves the integrity of the lower structure while structuring a whole new dimension of freedom. This process continues until it reaches the level of freedom (content) that occurs among symbol generating, language speaking life forms. Yes, that be “us.” So let’s take a look at this process that moves existence forward and expands freedom in a little more detail.

Let the V image represent the liberation of the “otherness of existence.” Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (not, not-being is the structure of existence, not the content). The “double negative” characterizes the entire V, and implies that which exists outside the V– the Affirmative Ideal (Piaget), or, more to the point, an affirmation of the Affirmative Ideal. In other words, the V and all that it represents/manifests, via the “double negative,” connects/embeds everything to everything else, first through the empirical world and second through the Affirmative Ideal. In terms of quantum strangeness this state of affairs is revealing. But, this is only the first structural level; the second level occurs somewhere above the V vertex.

On the liberation side of the V, let the letter b represent the more liberated form of the “otherness of existence” (life is the content) and ~b, (~b on the empirical side of the V,–~bb is the structure of life), represent the conservation of the integrity of the Affirmative Ideal vis-à-vis the space that separates, embeds, and connects. The word most often used to describe this condition, however, is death. Albeit, life, now firmly established, moves freedom forward until an even more liberated form of the “otherness of existence” emerges.

Let b~b~bb represent this highly evolved form of structured existence. We are familiar with this structure because it represents the participatory moment of a conscious being where b~b (on the empirical side of the V) represents the existence of embodied self-conscious and ~bb (on the freedom side of the V represents the participatory moment of “time of mind”—the conscious content of a thinking human being). With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom moves forward and the V grows larger and wider as the story of civilization unfolds (unfortunately, sometimes the story of civilization takes two or three steps backward before forward momentum is restored).

In summation, the b~b~bb structure liberates the interplay of self-consciousness and environment. Embedded in the physical environment (b~b), human self-consciousness (~bb) creatively reaches out for the accouterments and the necessities of life while at the same time generating new (and sometimes logically precise) meanings that give content and “color” to all perceptions–a percept is product. This creativity, in our cosmopolitan world, gets identified with technological advances, beauty (art) and ethics—all of which can be measured against the significance of b~b~bb—the most potentially expressive product of freedom’s dialectic. Someday, perhaps, the day will come when people will thirst for cooperation, education and shared resources in the same way that today they thirst for power, wealth, and fame.

The Logic Divinity Connection

June 27, 2010


The Myth of Religious Neutrality

Here’s a blog from Matthewherring’s Weblog. My comment is under it.

[Many thanks to Ioana for her notes!]

Last Tuesday, Ioana and I went to a lecture at WYSOCS by Professor Roy Clouser, author of The Myth of Religious Neutrality. He’s a great speaker, who kept our attention through some pretty heavy stuff (mathematics, logic). Here’s a short summary of what he said.

Every theory we hold is based on a ‘Divinity Belief’. This includes both consciously held and unconscious beliefs. We may disagree on who is divine, but we all know what it means to be divine. Clouser defined the Divine as that reality which is self-existent and everything else that is not divine depends on it. Others have approached the same definition by speaking of ‘the Absolute’, or ‘the Ultimate Reality’, or ‘the Unconditionally Non-dependent’. Thus, such things as worship, or ethics, are not necessary for a belief to be considered religious (not all religions involve worship or ethics, e.g. Theraveda Buddhism) and certain beliefs (e.g. atheism, materialism) not normally considered to be religious beliefs can now be counted as religious beliefs (because even atheists believe that something is self-existent, usually matter, physics or the like). Hence the title: it is a myth that anyone can be religiously neutral, or, put a different way, that secular society represents the base norm and religious beliefs are an essentially unnecessary, but troublesome, add-on.

A Divinity Belief lies at the core of every theory and the outcome of their arguments. This is inescapable. One’s worldview consists of one’s answer to these three questions: 1) what is divine? 2) how does everything else relate to the divine? 3) how should human beings live in order to be in a correct relationship to the divine. The atheist is subject to this just as much as the ‘religious’ person: an atheistic materialist might answer question 1 by saying that matter and physics are that reality which ‘just exists’. Therefore everything else that exists, including us, exists because matter and physics exist. How should human beings live in the light of that? Well, for one, they should stop worrying about any notion of heaven, hell and divine judgement and just live for this life!

Clouser goes further than linking Divinity Beliefs to big, worldview-scale beliefs, but goes on to say that all beliefs are conditioned by one’s Divinity Belief, even ostensibly neutral or trivial ones. The counter argument which is presented against this is that 1+1=2 is the same, regardless of your Divinity Belief. An atheist believes that 1+1=2 just the same as an animist, or a Christian. Clouser addressed this counter argument by asking the question, ‘what is a number?’ Throughout the history of mathematics there have been various answers to this question. Pythagoras, Plato, Leibnitz and others believed that numbers existed in a higher, more perfect world – the number world theory. Thus, Leibnitz would say that 1+1 would =2 even if there were no things to count or people to count them. Numbers are the self-existent reality. The second theory of numbers was that held by Bertrand Russell, namely that there are no numbers; numbers and mathematical laws are simply shorthand for logic. Therefore, the self-existent reality is logic itself. A third theory, held by John Stuart Mill, is that numbers are just our generalisation of what we see. They are based on sensation and observation – sensation is the self-existent reality. John Dewey believed that the marks we call numbers stand for nothing. Asking whether 1+1=2 is true or not is asking the wrong question. Mathematics is a tool: one doesn’t ask if a tool is ‘true’ or not, but what job the tool does. Our beliefs are tools to help us survive and thrive; we are animals who invent tools. Then there are formalists and intuitionists – the latter reject the logical formulation which goes, “either P or Q; it’s not P so it must be Q” and thus reject a whole school of mathematics. Leibnitz believed that negative numbers don’t actually exist – we just make them up, so 4-8=-4 doesn’t have the same status in truth as 1+1=2 (if you believe that numbers derive from quantity you also have to come to this conclusion, because you can’t have -4 apples. You can owe someone 4 apples, but the owed apples don’t actually exist). Some languages don’t have words for numbers over 3. If 1+1=2 is problematic once one starts asking what a number actually ‘is’, then for higher mathematics, which Divinity Belief you hold makes a huge amount of difference.

Addressing the question of how we acquire our Divinity Beliefs, Professor Clouser stated that knowledge is not by faith. It’s the other way round: we have faith because we know who god (or God) is. Fitting it into the Christian framework of the Fall, we were created with knowledge of God. The Fall consisted in our wilfully replacing God with some other object (a cover for our real aim: putting ourselves on the throne). Romans chapter 1, in the Bible, states that mankind suppresses the knowledge of God. We are made with antennae for picking up knowledge of God. With the Fall, these became distorted and now focus on other things and can only be fixed by the intervention of the Holy Spirit. As to why some people latch onto one god and others to a different god, Professor Clouser said that this was something that one could not know (or at least he didn’t). However, he did venture that our Divinity Beliefs chose us rather than the other way round. Certain beliefs just seem self-evidently ‘right’ to us – hence the person brought up to be a devout Jew who encounters a materialistic professor at university and goes, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve always thought!” And the penny drops. To this extent, our beliefs are not under the control of our will (try making yourself believe something that is self-evidently not true).

Lastly, Professor Clouser proposed a thought-experiment for telling whether a Divinity Belief is true or not. Think about some aspect of reality (Clouser’s example was his glass of water) and strip away everything except the self-existent reality (in other words, our ‘fictions’ about that thing). Taking the example of the glass and the belief of materialism, that means stripping away notions like beauty. It also means stripping away quantity. Then shape. Then position in space. And so on. If you strip away everything but matter away from the glass, you end up with nothing, because nothing is exclusively material. (I’m not sure I understood this test – surely something has a particular shape because of the matter it is made of – but this is what he seemed to be saying. Perhaps he’s saying that, in the final analysis, shape doesn’t exist if the ultimate reality is just ‘matter’ in its generality and the particulars of this particular piece of matter are not germane to that. If you strip away everything but matter, you end up actually with nothing. I think he’s saying that nothing but God is adequate as a ground for reality).

******

After the lecture, Ioana and I cycled down into the centre of Leeds (from Horsforth, where WYSOCS is based). This was really good fun. We passed Kirkstall Abbey. Bits of Leeds reminded me of Glasgow – we passed the ends of a lot of Victorian brick tenements on streets which climbed steeply upwards from the main road. There’s something about the space of those sort of streets that I really like. You could see into the rooms of the flats on the end: people’s intimate lives separated from a busy thoroughfare by nothing but a few inches of brick. The contrast between the intimacy of the rising street, with its front steps, gardens, windows, neighborhood dogs and trees, and the anonymous rush of the main road.

bwinwnbwi’s comment

I agree Matthew–we cannot be religiously neutral (great blog by the way). Professor Clouser’s lecture pushed so many of my buttons that before this comment ends you will have a good summary concerning the significance of all of my blogs and my beliefs, and, I also agree that. my beliefs chose me and not the other way around–not because I’m an easy catch, but because the answers to questions I brought to the table of inquiry ended up painting an unmistakable picture of divinity!

1) I also agree with this: “It is a myth that anyone can be religiously neutral, or, put a different way, that secular society represents the base norm and religious beliefs are an essentially unnecessary, but troublesome, add-on.”

2) For me, God is logic and because of this our beliefs make sense to us, but they must also be held accountable to the rules of “non-contradiction” and consistency. In other words, what makes sense to us must conform to what makes logical sense. I agree with Bertrand Russell here, “namely that there are no numbers; numbers and mathematical laws are simply a shorthand for logic. Therefore, the self-existent reality is logic itself.”

3) God, again for me, is affirmation. As you have already said: “If you strip away everything but matter, you end up actually with nothing. I think he’s saying that nothing but God is adequate as a ground for reality)”. Arthur Eddington said it best when he said:

“If you want to fill a vessel you must first make it hollow. Our present conception of the physical world is hollow enough to hold almost anything, hollow enough to hold ‘that which asks the question,’ hollow enough to hold ‘the scheme of symbols connected by mathematical equations that describes the basis of all phenomena.’” He also said, however, “If ever the physicist solves the problem of the living body, he should no longer be tempted to point to his result and say ‘That’s you.’ He should say rather ‘That is the aggregation of symbols which stands for you in my description and explanation of those of your properties which I can observe and measure. If you claim a deeper insight into your own nature by which you can interpret these symbols—a more intimate knowledge of the reality which I can only deal with by symbolism—you can rest assured that I have no rival interpretation to propose. The skeleton is the contribution of physics to the solution of the Problem of Experience; from the clothing of the skeleton it (physics) stands aloof.” (Quantum Questions, Wilber, p. 194)

4) I agree that one’s worldview is based on your three questions and here they are with my brief answer to each one: 1) What is divine?….logical structure/b~b~bb, freedom/liberation, emotion/love, affirmation/wholeness. 2) How does everything else relate to the divine?….through the logical structure of b~b~bb, i.e., wholeness/affirmation, life/death, and self/consciousness/affirmed physical events. 3) How should human beings live in order to be in a correct relationship to the divine?….not an easy answer, but here’s what I have said elsewhere:

We struggle to become educated and, in the process, obtain reasonable beliefs that endure. However, when faced with blatant evidence to the contrary our beliefs may change (ought/need to change). In the absence of contradictions, though, we choose to believe emotionally fulfilling beliefs. In conclusion (and without embellishment), here is a list of reasons why I find my worldview emotionally satisfying. Oh, and by the way, this is also my reasoning for why some values are not culturally relative:

1) Religion and science are brought into harmony; that is, they may be equally reverenced without conflict. 2) Because human self-awareness, life, and the physical-chemical processes that support life, are all embedded in divine extensive connection, humans are born with the potential to right the wrongs caused by “ignorance based injustices.” 3) The values used to judge right from wrong follow from the extensive connection process; that is, values used to judge right from wrong are life affirming and freedom affirming values. In other words, in terms of a minimum quality of life, within the prevailing economic realities, no person should be denied the basic necessities of life; and further, sufficient freedoms (within the limits of reasonable expectation) should be in place to allow for meaningful self-expression (the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution are a good place to start). As long as these two conditions are satisfied market competition, within prevailing economic realities, should be permitted. Anything less than this—the minimum standard of living for all human beings, — is an “ignorance based injustice.” 4) And finally, in regards to a religious afterlife: death is not the end, but things like virgins, talks with Jesus, and eternal bliss, are spurious and misplaced expectations–therefore, ecological stewardship–preserving the quality of life for future generations–is the first and last commandment to which we must pledge our allegiance. Thanks for the opportunity to post!

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained Structure of Existence

April 24, 2010

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained
The V Shape Structure of Existence

Part 2 of 4 posts

The first thing to notice about the V is its openness. This openness moves the content of existence forward; in fact, one is tempted to say that “to be free” is why existence exists. Science does a good job explaining the content of existence, but it is severely challenged when it comes to explaining the “otherness of existence,” or the liberating process that structures existence. As existence and liberation move up the V, freedom expands. Freedom expands diachronically at each level of structure (think evolution here), but, over time, lower level structure becomes “content” for higher level structure. At each “step up” freedom yields a new synchronic (frozen in time) structure, one that, although different from the lower structure, still preserves the integrity of the lower structure while structuring a whole new dimension of freedom. This process continues until it reaches the level of freedom (“content”) that occurs among symbol generating, language speaking life forms. Yes, that be “us.” So let’s take a look at this process that moves existence forward and expands freedom in a little more detail.

Let the V image represent the liberation of the “otherness of existence.” Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (not, not-being). The “double negative” characterizes the entire V, and implies that which exists outside the V– the Affirmative Ideal, or, more to the point, an affirmation of the Affirmative Ideal. In other words, the V and all that it represents/manifests, via the “double negative,” connects/embeds everything to everything else, first through the empirical world and second through the Affirmative Ideal. In terms of quantum strangeness this state of affairs is revealing. But, this is only the first structural level; the second level occurs somewhere above the V vertex. On the liberation side of the V, let the letter b represent the more liberated form of the “otherness of existence” (life) and ~b, (~b on the empirical side of the V), represent the conservation of the integrity of the Affirmative Ideal vis-à-vis the space that separates, embeds, and connects. The word most often used to describe this condition, however, is death. Albeit, life, now firmly established, moves freedom forward until an even more liberated form of the “otherness of existence” emerges. Let b~b~bb represent this highly evolved form of structured existence. We are familiar with this structure because it represents the participatory moment of a conscious being where b~b (on the empirical side of the V) represents the existence of embodied self-conscious and ~bb (on the freedom side of the V represents the participatory moment of “time of mind.” With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom once again moves forward and the V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds (two steps forward one step back, or maybe more).

The Logic of Divine Necessary Opposites

We must shift gears here and think of the universe not as something that consciousness defines, but, rather, as something that defines consciousness. The idea that consciousness pervades the universe is not new. The Greek philosopher, Heraclites, believed that a non-human intelligence or the Logos ordered everything. For Heraclites, all the discrete elements of the world were organized into a coherent whole. The Stoics, using this idea, turned the Logos into God—the God that is the source of all rationality. But, those ideas were developed some 2400 years ago. Can the Logos be equated with the universe and all its elements today? When the noted logician, Alburey Castell, was confronted with a similar question, he responded:

“Suppose the sciences divided into four major groups: the mathematical, the physical, the biological, and social. Suppose the philosophical disciplines also divided into four major groups: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics. Where among these does logic belong? Is it a fifth in either group? Or a subdivision of some one of the eight divisions? It seems to me to be neither of these, but somehow common to all divisions. The nerve of every science and every discipline is inference, or argument. In every science and every discipline two questions are always being asked and their answers sought: If these facts are granted, what follows? From what prior facts do these follow? That is If P, then what? And, Upon what does P rest?” (A College Logic, 329)

Before I begin to answer the question –Upon what does P rest? I want to give a little background information on the law of logical contradiction.

“The laws of logic,” says the Dictionary of Philosophy, “are regulative principles governing the pursuit of knowledge and the construction of scientific theories. Seen in this way, logic is the most general of all sciences… To assert a contradiction would be to depict things as being one way and yet at the same time not that way. But nothing can be p and not-p at the same time. To believe a contradiction is thus to hold as true something that is necessarily false” (Antony Flew, p.210).

What the rule of non-contradiction means in practical terms is that if a contradiction is found in a work of reasoning then that work is of little or no value. On the other hand, if a reasoned work identifies the condition for the possibility of any contradiction whatsoever, then that work would be valuable indeed!

Oh, by the way, freedom’s dialectic (the V structure) is the answer to the question –Upon what does P rest? This experience (the third level of the V structure) opened the door to meaningful symbol creation, the door that swings forward into the creation of language, myth, religion, art, and theoretical knowledge…and into the creation of the civilizing processes that we call “civilization”. But, not to forget, all of this rests on the pre-existing liberating processes of liberation that have come together in human consciousness, and, ultimately, rest on the ground condition of the Affirmation Ideal, Logos, God, albeit, an affirmed indeterminate Divinity. Freedom’s dialectic is at once bond and liberation, bond as Divine Affirmation and liberation as “the otherness of existence” progressively becomes freer!

What God’s freedom is defining here is God as Immanent (the phenomenal world) and God as Transcendent (the God of all religions). All we can know about Transcendent God is that God exists. The space of logical implication tells us that much. On the other hand, we can know a great deal about God’s Immanence because that’s what we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Everyday, as a self-conscious being, we participate in inquiry, analysis, conscience, and imagination. Now, let’s take a closer look at what the form of ~bb, of b~b~bb entails (the freedom of the human mind).

What separates this second level of existence form the third, — the human animal from other animals, is the experience of number, identity, language, etc., i.e., the potential to create and communicate through symbols. In so far as the human animal is defined by God’s non-being, humans become aware of non-being, and out of this awareness, by implication, arises a “mental given.” This “mental given” is experienced as the object pole of consciousness while “not being this mental given” allows for conscious reflection on the content of consciousness. Functionally, ~bb, or the cognitive experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity, is very close to, if not identical with, both Sartre’s pre-reflective Cogito and Piaget’s center of functional activity. Discontinuity occurring in continuity, or ~bb, not only identifies the source of conceptual representation– symbolic meaning, it also explains why our thoughts should be able to represent the world outside our mind, especially when it comes to the application of mathematics to physical theories. Since both the world and our ideas are a product of the logic that structures all existence, there is a necessary correspondence between mind and world. The laws of mathematics, physics, and nature are all grounded in the same structure, the structure that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the “space of logical implication, connects to the liberation of God in the here and now. Probably the most difficult (and uncomfortable) thing to apprehend here is that all reality/existence is the non-being of God,—the “otherness of God.” I didn’t invent this idea; there is a literature devoted to it. Unfortunately, I have not read much of it. Actually, maybe I did invent this idea, since I came upon the literature only after I had developed my argument for the structure of existence. Anyway, Robert P. Scharlemann, edited a journal devoted to this topic. Below is a quote from that journal:

The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual, but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some commentary to this idea when he says: “The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

It follows from this view that an infinite amount of diversity is both permitted and discovered in God’s freedom not to be, a diversity that, ultimately, is at one with God. What makes this possible (and logically consistent) is the fact that all existence is grounded in one structure, the structure that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the “space of logical implication, connects to the liberation of God’s non-being in the here and now. Another way to state this peculiar state of affairs is that all existence exists as: being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. This “way of being,” in addition to characterizing God’s freedom, also characterizes the liberation process that evolves God’s freedom (God becomes more free as freedom evolves) and this freedom, ultimately, characterizes physical events, biological events, and psychological events, — the divine self-consciousness of the here and now.

The Medium Of Soul End Of Life Story Chapter 6

January 23, 2010

In this, my next to last chapter before the end of my End Of Life Story, the Devil and I continue to argue over the disputed wager, but the relationship between us begins to shift. Unbeknownst to the Devil, the “condition of the possibility for the devil’s existence,” begins to unravel as the discussion moves into the more positive effects of this condition. I manage to keep my soul until after I have introduced, at the end of this chapter, the article Stranded In Flatland—A Critique of Education in Modern America [By David Fideler].

I Am All You Hold Dear And When Things Go Wrong I Am That To

You Limit Freedom And Consciousness—You Are Incompleteness

Future Time Nine Concluded

“So am I finally out of the hole? I said.

“Which hole?” replied MV.

“Remember, according to you, Matthew Broderick and I were inside Godzilla’s footprint looking for a footprint,” I responded, “but all we found was dirt.”

“Oh, that hole,” exclaimed MV. “What do you think? I’d say yes; now that you are on the outside looking in. From atop the hole, you can see the whole footprint, and taking in God’s footprint, what you see is the ‘designer of dirt!’”

“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here! My two term reality concept made God’s footprint possible,” I responded. “But where are you in all this? In the scientific journals I don’t recall one citation with your name on it.”

“What’s unusual about that? Hate, cruelty, pain, or for that matter, beauty, justice, and goodness are not cited either,” replied MV. “Does that mean its all illusion? Does that mean what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel doesn’t exist? Sometimes you have to ask: just how smart are the smarties?”

“Okay, so where do you fit in,” I replied. “I know that as the ‘enabler of creation’ you are everywhere, but I think I’m missing some details, as you so lovingly like to remind me!”

“How can I refuse such a ‘sweet request,’” said MV. “Sometimes you’re just pathetic! You are right about one thing, though. I’m in everything. I’m earth, sky, and water. I’m food, air and sex. Without me there would be no hope, no dreams, or future. Hell, without me the ‘big bang’ would have been a ‘big fizzle.’ I am the great ‘Enabler’ and ‘Ennobler’ put together. Do you get it yet?”

“Alright already, calm down,” I said. “All I’m asking is that you fill me in on a few more details. Ok?”

“You know all you need to know,” replied MV. “First Atlas shouldered the world. Then, briefly, Hercules hefted the weight. But everybody knows that muscle, even those muscles, can not support the world. Fortunately, this problem was solved when the weight fell upon the back of the mighty turtle—and after that it was turtles all the way down. Well, I’m the shell of that turtle. Without me there would be nothing above or below!”

“Bull,” I responded, “You are the fractional nature of freedom and consciousness; you are that incompleteness! You are change and death. You are also the slayer of freedom and growth. This is where you fit in. How am I doing?”

“Not bad, but way to gory,” replied MV. “You left out what’s really important. My, my, you have forgotten so much? Without me this conversation couldn’t take place; there would be no stories, no questions, or, for that matter, no libraries, goodness, justice, or right and wrong. You also left out my potentialities, the potentialities that you, more than most, could not live without. Without me there would be no ‘shake you alive wilderness experiences,’ no sunrise, sunset, magnificence’s, and those love interests, the one’s that used to keep you awake at night, the one’s consummated only in your dreams—don’t blame me for that,– zilch, up in smoke, gone! Read my lips, nature’s nurturing is not possible without me! In fact, to see where I fit in, look at everything you hold close to your heart!

Morality, Goodness, Justice And Evil Are Products Of Free Will

Death Is Only A ‘Right Of Passage,’ A Structural Necessity, A Mere Door Separating Different Levels Of Freedom And Consciousness

Future Time Ten

“It is as you say it is,” I said. “I see now.”

“See what?” exclaimed MV.

“The whole picture,” I replied. “It seems like a lifetime ago, but I remember the moment your voice first popped into my head and said that without evil, righteousness and goodness would disappear. At the time, I thought I was going insane. But it’s true. Right and wrong, good and evil, are flip sides of the same ‘free will coin.’ Morality, goodness, justice, and evil necessarily follow from free will. It’s all about the continual structuring and liberation of an evolving universe. I see it clearly now!”

“What else do you remember from that conversation?” said MV. “Do you remember my promise? You seem to have penetrated reality’s nexus, so you must feel pretty damn good–right?”

“I feel strange. It’s a bit numbing,” I replied, “but I can live with that.”

“A hum! That’s probably a bad choice of words,” said MV. “In the overall scheme of things, nobody lives forever—if you catch my drift.”

“Well, I don’t feel bad,” I replied, “but, in a round about way, maybe we do live forever. After all, death is only a ‘right of passage,’ a structural necessity, a mere door separating different levels of freedom and consciousness, even without death, freedom and consciousness remain, albeit at a diminished level – right?”

“Have you forgotten who you are talking to,” said MV. “In this life you owe me; a pact must be obeyed. You don’t know it all, but you know enough to lose it all. Do you remember our bargain? You agreed to something back in New Orleans, what was it?”

“Yes, I remember,” I replied. “It went something like this: If God exists and pain and suffering are a necessary part of all that is righteous and good then I would willingly give up my soul in return for that ‘truth.’”

“Very good,” said MV.

“But wait, there’s more,” I exclaimed. “You also told me that because bad becomes good, the wager was a win, win, situation. In effect, by striking that bargain, I got you out of my head and in the future I would, with your help, become privy to the truth that everything is part of the Divine plan. Well, I’m there. I see that now. You’re not the Devil of old; you’re simply the structural manifestation permitting someone like me to believe that Satan exists. Other people, upon hearing of your possible existence, have the option to choose for themselves whether to believe or not to believe. Well, I have chosen not to believe, so go away; leave me alone?”

“Ignorance isn’t bliss,” responded MV. “Welching on this bet is not an option, comprende! What else did we agree to back then? Don’t strain that poor little memory of yours, I’ll tell you. Back then I said your knowledge was incomplete and you had to admit that fact before I could help you find the truth—that was part of our deal. And further, I pointed out that you possessed a total lack of knowledge when it came to matters of Divinity. Do you recall the phrase, ‘In God’s house there are many mansions?’ In that cockroach infested apartment of yours, your arrogance was hardly perceptible, but now it seems it has become your passion. You were barely worth my time back then, but now, I must admit, you make me proud. Be advised though, there will be no reneging here. Begging, however, is allowed. Win me over if you can!”

“I will not beg,” I replied, “and furthermore I admit that I do not know everything. You do agree, though, that everything is part of the Divine plan-right?”

Determining What Is Divine From What Is Purely Human Is Very Problematic

Language Is Divine, But How It Is Used, Or Can Be Used, Is Another Thing All Together– Science Too Is Divine, But Its Application Can Be Totally Profane

Future Time Ten Continued

“Yes, inside and out, the Divine plan is everywhere,” said MV, “however, as you yourself have pointed out, some things are not divine, they’re just plain human—and thank God for that!”

“Exactly, that’s my point,” I replied. “The problem is figuring out what is Divine and what isn’t. For you, retributive justice is Divine, but I only have your word for it, and quite frankly, your reputation precedes you when in comes to lying, treachery, and deceit. The rest of it, however, makes perfect sense; that is, the continual structuring of an evolving universe makes sense. Christ, I’ve even had dreams about it, or were you somehow the source of those dreams too?”

“No, your dreams are your own,” said MV. “If you need explanations, go read a book on dream physiology.”

“And that’s what dreams are about,” I replied, “the excitation of random neurons firing in the brain?”

“They certainly aren’t about free will,” said MV.

“But are they part of the Divine plan?” I replied. “I know my dream was about divinity, but was it also part of the Divine plan? I’m going to say yes because I prefer to think of it that way, but, determining what is Divine from what is purely human is very problematic. Hell, even science falls into that gray area. In science, when the boundaries between purposeful action and moral principals become blurred, science becomes a dehumanizing endeavor. In fact, I devoted a section of my thesis just to that point.”

“Here’s how it works,” MV responded. “In your dream, when you dreamt that all writing was a manifestation of the Divine, well you were right, but what gets written is not always divine. Language is Divine, but how it is used, or can be used, is another thing all together. It’s the same with science. Science is Divine, but its application can be totally profane. What I like best about science, though, is that most scientists value science as if it was a religion, and that’s fertile ground for me!”

“Like I said, I know all about that,” I replied. “In fact, let’s take a look at some of what David Fideler had to say about the downside of science. His article, Stranded In Flatland—A Critique of Education in Modern America, gets right to the point; that is, if it’s alright with you?”

“Not alright,” said MV, “but, agreeing, in the end, to a little groveling before me might persuade me to be more accommodating.”

“I’m not going to grovel,” I replied, “but after the article I’ll be ready to ‘give up the ghost,’ or whatever you want to call it. I have nothing more. How does that sound?”

“Irritating,” said MV, “but okay. Finis, I like the sound of that!”


What Is The Greatest End Or Goal Of Human Existence

Man Can Degenerate Into The Brutish Lower Forms Of Life, But He Also Possesses The Power To Be Reborn Into The Higher Forms, Which Are Divine

Excerpts From: Stranded In Flatland—A Critique of Education in Modern America [By David Fideler, Gnosis Magazine/Summer 1994]

The Cosmological Underpinnings Of Education

[“One crucial aspect of any cosmology involves the question of anthropology; in other words, what is the nature of humanity? On the practical side, the belief that you are a totally preprogrammed machine, conditioned entirely by your upbringing, and that the greatest end of existence is to acquire the maximum level of material comfort reinforces an experience of reality that will differ from that of someone who believes the most important end of human existence is the realization of understanding, insight, and creativity. Thus the question “what is man?” always leads to a further question of teleology, from the Greek telos or “end”: what is the greatest end or goal of human existence?

“From a pragmatic standpoint, no one can maintain that cosmology, anthropology, and teleology are merely abstract concepts. More than any other factors, the questions of the structure of reality, the nature of humanity, and what we should strive for in life ultimately determine how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to Nature. They determine how we experience reality, how we go about shaping the world, and what we decide to do with our lives. In short, the assumptions that we carry in these areas, both individually and collectively, condition every sphere of life, including the sphere of higher education, that hallowed domain which supposedly enshrines the highest ideals of humankind.

Education in A Hierarchical Universe

“Up through the Renaissance, the universe was viewed as an organic, hierarchical structure stretched between the extremes of spirit and matter. In addition to the linear, temporal dimension, reality was pictured as possessing a timeless, vertical dimension. This cosmology also viewed humanity as a microcosm, the entire universe in miniature; humanity not only encapsulates spirit and matter, but is seen as the mediating principle between the two extremes. As the Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola notes in his Oration on the Dignity of Man, humanity possesses an infinite freedom of choice, for it can fashion itself into whatever form it prefers. Man can degenerate into the brutish lower forms of life, but he also possesses the power to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine.

“True education is implicitly based upon this traditional view of human nature, which is rooted in a metaphysical vision of man’s place in the cosmos. From this perspective, the end or goal (telos) of education is the expansion of awareness and realization of the soul’s innate potential; ultimately this is the path of initiation (telete). That is why, in practically every traditional allegory, the path of education is pictured in terms of an ascent….True education thus is not merely something that is assimilated during four years of college; rather it forms a cyclical process of cultivation and an authentic path of initiation extending for a lifetime, and perhaps even beyond.

Science And Technology—The New Materialistic Faith

Thus The Guiding Principles Of Science And Commerce Came To Be Dictated By Entirely “Pragmatic” Concerns: Empiricism On The One Hand And “Improving The Bottom Line” On The Other, A Financial Dictum That Gave Rise To The Modern Economic Ethos Of “Unlimited Growth”

Excerpts From: Stranded In Flatland—A Critique of Education in Modern America Concluded [By David Fideler, Gnosis Magazine/Summer 1994]

Education In A Two-Dimensional World

“Intimately associated with the hierarchical view of traditional cosmology is the notion that Nature is a theophany, an emanation of the divine, the best possible image of divine reality within the confines of time and space. With the so-called Enlightenment, however, a linear, reductionistic, and materialistic view of the universe arose. For most people, this eclipsed the perennial vision of a multidimensional, hierarchical cosmos, in which the various levels of being are linked together by universal harmony and sympathy. All of a sudden, we were left stranded in Flatland. And within
the new, two-dimensional cosmos, Nature came to be seen not as an already perfect theophany, but as a “natural resource,” ready to be developed by human technology. Traditional cosmology had always approached the transformation of nature through art and consciousness in an alchemical sense, which implied a corresponding transformation of both individual and culture; the new approach, on the other hand, was dictated by exploitative, commercial motives.

“The Enlightenment can be seen as a backlash against centuries of Christian repression of free intellectual inquiry. The Christian Church appropriated the hierarchical universe of traditional cosmology, but it did so with a political agenda, proclaiming itself the sole custodian of universal truth. Under the Church’s auspices, the path of philosophical inquiry was replaced with theological dogmatism, and politically enforced belief triumphed over reason and knowledge.

“The modern era began when European intellectuals rebelled and demolished the dogmatic stranglehold of “theological certainty,” but one evil was replaced with another. Fueled by centuries of pent-up potential, science and technology broke loose from ecclesiastical constraint. But because the view of a multidimensional cosmos was lost, there was little left to guide the hand of science and technology, which became subservient to the interests of business and commerce and established itself as a new, materialistic faith.

“This two-dimensional philosophy of materialism had little use for the vertical dimension of value and meaning, and limited its sights to the Promethean manipulation of the natural world through technology. Thus the guiding principles of science and commerce came to be dictated by entirely “pragmatic” concerns: empiricism on the one hand and “improving the bottom line” on the other, a financial dictum that gave rise to the modern economic ethos of “unlimited growth.”

“Only against this historical backdrop is it possible to diagnose the ills of the modern educational system, which we can now see as synonymous with those of the modern world itself. The fact that education is in trouble should not surprise us, for if true education is rooted in the old hierarchical view of reality, it simply cannot flourish—or perhaps even survive—in the current cosmological climate. Our culture, while often proclaiming high ideals, is essentially indifferent to beauty, art, education, and the spiritual dimensions of life. For example, politicians claim that we need to “raise the level of education so that we can remain globally competitive in a world economy,” but what they are really saying has nothing to do with true education, or the expansion of awareness, and everything to do with expanding economic interests. If we lived in a world that really did value education, the world itself would look and feel like a different place than it does today.

“The most telling symptom of the breakdown of the educational system is the ever-accelerating transformation of our colleges and universities into trade and business schools. Most students don’t go to college to expand their horizons or to get an education; they go to college to get a job. The anthropological assumption of our consumer culture is not that the individual is a spiritual entity with a unique relationship to multiple levels of being, but that the individual is a potential cog in the economic machine of production and consumption. Students attend universities to be exposed to the latest techniques and technologies, but they are rarely encouraged to question their own lives or cultural assumptions. Rather than presenting alternative models to the philosophy of materialism, universities regularly sell out to economic interests and thereby grant tacit approval to the two-dimensional cosmology of Flatland. Universities thus forsake their credibility as the custodians of education and, rather than questioning the integrity of the world we have created, become silent instruments of indoctrination and socialization for the economic machine.

“In the modern age, the myth of the celestial ascent is replaced by the favorite myth of American culture: climbing the corporate ladder. The pursuit of excellence, which formed the basis of Greek civilization, is replaced by (or equated with) the pursuit of higher sales or a higher salary. And the realization of an individual’s intrinsic humanity through art, creativity, and learning is replaced by yet another end: acquiring the trapping of social status.”]

Meditation For The 21st Century

December 12, 2009

While I was deciding where I wanted to go with my Footprint story I stumbled across this meditation and decided very quickly that it was a good summary of my Footprint story. Except for posting on the web, this meditation represents the only other time I attempted to “tell my story” to others. I presented this meditation to the philosophy club at the university where I work. The student President of the club felt I should be compensated, so he passed me off as a visiting lecturer and I walked away with $100. I guess that makes me (or made me) a one time professional!God’s Civilizing Attribute

I have found that many of the paradoxes associated with thoughtdissolve when I consider the point of view that existence, in general, and identity, in particular, ensues from the expressive aspects of God not being God’s own non-being. The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some commentary to this idea:

“The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition, the otherness of God has remained unthought and conceptually forgotten in exactly the same manner as has the question of the meaning of being. …What cannot be thought, in the tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

I realize that many people find elitist the notion of a privileged-human-nature, but I disagree. When considered from the point of view of this meditation it is not that human beings are superior, rather, it is that human beings are born into a much larger and richer reservoir of potential freedom, and, I might add, that in this privileged space (if indeed privilege is the right word) advantage and responsibility are joined. Ian Barbour, in his book, Issues in Science and Religion (1966, p.29.) puts it this way:

“In the capacity for abstract thought and symbolic languagethere is a radical distinction between man and animal. Self-conscious awareness, critical self-reflection, and creative imagination are found nowhere else in nature. In memory of the past, anticipation of the future, and envisagement of ideal potentialities, he transcends his immediate environment. He is unique in his search for truth, concern for moral values, and acknowledgement of universal obligation –and above all, in his relationship to God.”

In a supportive environment, life propagates and grows more complex. The same holds true in a knowledge environment –the self-conscious environment of the human being.

When non-being occurs in being (~bb), the self-consciousness of being becomes, by implication, conscious of itself. When the negative condition of continuity gets experienced in the higher dimension of a factual event (b~b~bb), knowledge, in its propositional and signifier sense, gets liberated. Analytically speaking, this condition identifies the source of the principle of logical contradiction and thus denotes the original precondition for the evolutionary development of language and mathematics. Rene Descartes, was, as far as I can tell, the first person to isolate and consciously describe the experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity (~bb). Descartes’ methodological doubting brought him to recognize, in his “Cogito ergo sum”, the fundamental bottom line of human experience: I experience non-being therefore I am. But, Descartes’ cogito occurs in its own physical event environment (b~b), and here we discover the less than articulate evolutionary development of this cogito.

With every new dimension of non-being (~~b, ~bb, b~b~bb) comes a new beginning for the resurgence of complexity. In the human dimension (b~b~bb), this movement from simple to complex continues to take place, only now history and civilization evolve right along side biology and adaptation. In the initial stages of human history, Descartes’ cogito was hidden behind the participatory moments of human consciousness. Here the thread of human history–cultural evolution (to paraphrase Cassirer) — may be traced back to that point in time where man/woman ceased to passively accept their negative condition (physical environment), and, in setting themselves in opposition to it, began to create and form it. This act, the transformation of mere impressions into pure expression, began the human psyche’s progress, via the development of myth, ritual, art, language, music and science, toward the liberation of its own non-being.

At this point in the meditation, I would like to point out that there are many comprehensive philosophies that directly illuminate the human spirit’s capacity for liberation. Spinoza, Heidegger, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are just a few names that spring to mind, but the person who I feel best represents my own position is Ernst Cassirer. In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, (1957), Cassirer’s thesis suggests that as man interacts with his environment through his desires, emotions and work he acquires the capacity, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature – the nature of his inner and outer reality. Objectification here is not meant as a thing to be apprehended but rather as a movement toward constancy, endurance and certainty. Accordingly, the self that we take to the library, the store, a music recital, or sometimes to the bar, must be understood as the ongoing product of human history, which, in turn, must be further understood, according to this meditation, as the being-of-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is in its pursuit to free itself from its own limiting conditions.

Our immediate experience of this process is temporality. In addition to establishing our “I”, — the awareness of being aware of our own non-being (implicative affirmative of the not-me-self), this liberation process also implies (as a consequence of the physical event b~b~bb) an environment of factual events. Here we not only experience ourselves as a degree of permanence in the midst of constant flux, we also experience the forward movement of an implied knowledge of our environment.

Knowledge expands as a consequence of time. We are born into a world of knowledge and knowing, but the throttle of this knowing process–the actualization of what is unique in human freedom, lies in our capacity to actualize our own non-being. Simply put, every time we ask a question we actualize in the question our own non-being. Whether we like it or not our knowledge expands, but when we ask questions we accelerate that expansion by detaching ourselves from being in our capacity as non-being in order to more fully appropriate the world around us. Our passive experience of time does not produce a great deal of knowledge, but because we bring the logical relationships implicit in God’s freedom to bear on an event, we are free to create judgments (and the values which arise from those judgments) concerning the significance and probable cause of an event. These judgments, concerning the nature of an event, are determined valid across a continuum that ranges from sensation divorced from theory, at one end, to sensation reinforced by the most advanced and respected scientific theory available.

There are no guarantees that the answers we propose in response to our questions will match up with corresponding events, yet scientists have a pretty good track record when it comes to the discovery and confirmation of these answers. In experience that is not accountable to scientific confirmation, however, we determine, via our judgments and emotions, appropriate behavior. It is at this level of preferred behavior, this level of “willed consciousness participation” (as it is called by Owen Barfield), that we encounter our potential for the highest order of expressed freedom.

When God’s freedom becomes aware of itself, something very remarkable happens. From our point of view, we see our past, present, and future possibilities, thus, we become free to actualize those possibilities. But, from the divine point of view, it’s simply an “awareness of presence.” For me, this is an emotionally charged consequence since it brings home the notion that God is, in a very real sense, all-knowing and all-present. But even more astonishing is that, via our intentions and concerns, we are responsible for the content of God’s “presence.” Here I am reminded of the words of Walt Whitman, where in his poem “Song To Myself,” he wrote: “Whoever degrades another degrades me. And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.” It follows that if just one person recognizes an act of injustice and becomes outraged, God becomes outraged. Suffice it to say, that if humanity would recognize its own conscience, then perhaps conditions would arise where a sensitive human being might be able to look out upon the social milieu without a shudder.

We begin our conduct with the recognition of desirable behavior, but putting this awareness into action takes on special significance. Just as the validity of a scientific hypothesis is authenticated when it is confirmed against experimental results, so, too, is behavior authenticated when it is made to conform to behavior that has previously been judged appropriate by the individual. In Goethe’s play “Faust,” which records Goethe’s own life-long spiritual development, Faust rebuffs Mephistopheles temptations with the words: “So realm and rule to me will fall—The glory’s naught, the deed is all.” Faust is acting on his supreme vision of a free land and a free people, and, in so doing, his authenticity—better know as character, honor and integrity—arises.

The question that needs to be answered here is, “How is the appropriateness of behavior determined?” Almost always, answers to this question suggest contrary examples, but in this case there is only one answer—that the behavior, which is determined appropriate, is the behavior that is judged appropriate by the individual. Simply put, behavior is a measure and a product of freedom. Herein we may appreciate the significance of those teachers and teachings that encourage students to think for themselves while stressing heightened awareness and social responsibility; and, since freedom is actualized at different levels by different people, it follows that, whenever possible, a responsible person will posture herself or himself as a student or a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Recognizing the appropriate occasion to accommodate these postures comes with experience.

In the world of experience our thoughts and feelings are experienced as separate from the universe as a whole. That is as it should be for it follows from the nature of God’s freedom. It is precisely because of this limitation that we are able to seek and hopefully satisfy our needs and desires. In the world of non-being, where suffering, injustice, and cruelty occur, we sometimes feel compelled to look upon satisfaction and fulfillment as somebody’s idea of a joke, like some carrot, always out of reach, dangling in front of our noses; and further, we find ourselves, in one stage or another, of the ultimate indignity -our mortality. Without question, the price of freedom is high, but it follows from the nature of God’s freedom that in our suffering, God suffers. We share the price of freedom with God, but more importantly, in our rejoicing, God rejoices, and it is in this light that we, as active agents of transformation, may come to understand our responsibility to work toward a happier, healthier humanity. Ultimately, religion, science, law, art …all of civilization, must be understood as the expression of the freedom of God that works toward this transformation.

Certain aspects of the world cannot be changed, however. Our mortality, for instance, is a condition of God’s freedom and therefore must be experienced and endured. Yet it is in our mortality that we may come to discover an incredible comfort and release. Many of our desires are automatically fulfilled in the realization that we are one with God’s presence in the here and now. With this understanding we arrive at the heart of the experience that is poetically described by mystics and other spiritually evolved individuals. In the immediately grasped indeterminate, all-embracing oneness of God’s freedom lies the source of the knower and consequently the knower’s freedom. All intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion flows from this all embracing oneness common to man’s nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and dimensions of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the human dimension as love, caring, happiness and reverence. The telling factor behind this whole process comes with the knowledge that the “I” of God and the “I” of you and me are one and the same (paraphrased from the teachings of Meister Eckhart).

For more information concerning how the above ideas were discovered see my last seven posts starting with the We Voice of Humanity post

The Observer–Gods Open Footprint Chapter 3

December 5, 2009

Determinism and “not quite determinism” describes the physical event side of God’s footprint. This footprint, however, is linked to an observer. You might say its observers all the way down, but the observer I am talking about here possesses human intelligence. A product of the aesthetic continuum and the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, intelligence can be traced back to its source in the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. Intelligence (rationality) did not pop into existence phoenix like however; rather, it evolved. One might expect then that the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self concept is related to disparate concepts spread out across unrelated disciplines. Perhaps, for instance, the concept of the implied not-me-self speaks to the issue of the derivation of a true theorem in number theory that is its own negation, a negation that, in turn, implies the existence of higher dimensional numbers (Gödel), or, perhaps the not-me-self has something to say about the origin of natural numbers, which, according to one mathematician, can be found in “the mind’s ability to image a thing in a thing” (Dedekind). From a functional perspective, these mathematical concepts have a close kinship with the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. In philosophy too, the “identity inference” implied by Descartes,’ “I think (doubt), therefore I am,” is obviously impregnated with the not-me-self concept. And further, in Sartre’s definition of consciousness: “Consciousness is a being such that in its being its being implies a being other than itself,” the not-me-self is not only revealed, it is defined. And again, in psychology, every time the subject is identified as “coming to be,” or “under construction” the not-me-self shows up. In fact, Piaget’s concept of “self” is defined as “the center of functional activity.” And, again in Sociology, where Thom focuses his studies on the “the overcoming of the primitive ambivalence or opposition between the modes of difference and no difference, and, in a like manner, where Simmel focuses his studies on “man as both the fixing of boundaries and the reaching out across these boundaries—the language of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is front and center. And lastly, in the physics of the quantum particles, where the collapse of the wave function is observer generated, here we are not only witnessing the language of the not-me-self, we are witnessing (with each collapse of the wave function), all the dots that shape God’s footprint, i.e., confirmation of the God footprint theory.

Two excellent observers peered into the abyss and saw God. Both described God differently, but, when these descriptions are passed through the prism of God’s footprint, it becomes clear that both observers were describing one and the same God.

“The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When the mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.” Bodhidharma

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you–in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.” Martin Buber

What We Call Self Is A Late Product In The Participatory Process

The Differentiating Aspects Of Culture Began With The Feeling Of The Sacred And The Boundaries Used To Establish The Sacred

Adding the observer to God’s footprint connects all the dots imaging God’s footprint. Here is a bit of the evolutionary process of how the modern observer came to be. I begin with an anthropological take on early humankind and then move on to a more philosophical, even structuralist perspective. All of this, however, is consistent with the observer aspect of God’s footprint. In my next post, when I talk about the relationship between necessary opposites, this will become clearer.

Self-consciousness is a late product of the participatory process, the process that occurs between consciousness and the aesthetic continuum. This process of course begins in parent/child relationships, and gradually, over time and through a reification process, externalizes (objectifies) one’s surrounding environment. Mircea Eliade says it this way:

“If we observe the general behavior of archaic man, we are struck by the following fact: neither the objects of the external world nor human acts, properly speaking, have any autonomous intrinsic value. Objects or acts acquire a value, and in so doing become real, because they participate, after one fashion or another, in a reality that transcends them.” (Myth of Eternal Return, 1974, p.3)

Perception was not something that could be bandied about and examined from the space of perspective in the early stages of consciousness; rather, perception remained fixed in the parameters of the participation moment. The qualities that we take for granted, according to anthropologist Levy-Bruhl, did not exist for Pre-moderns. Owen Barfield, agreeing with Levy-Bruhl, elaborates on the case for Pre-moderns:

“It is not a question of association. The mystic properties with which things are imbued form an integral part of the idea to the primitive who views it as a synthetic whole. It is at a later stage of social evolution that what we call a natural phenomenon tends to become the sole content of perception to the exclusion of other elements which then assume the aspect of beliefs, and finally appear superstitions. But as long as this ‘dissociation’ does not take place, perception remains an undifferentiated whole.” (Saving the Appearances, 1939, p. 30)

It seems pretty clear that early humanity did not participate in the world, which, for the most part, we all share in common today. Yet, it was in this early participatory process where our present experience of self-consciousness developed. This process continues today and nobody, I believe, is more qualified to discuss this subject than Ernst Cassirer. He tells us that Pre-moderns, as they engaged their environment through emotions, desires and work, acquired the ability, via symbolic representation, to objectify nature–the nature of both “inner and outer reality.” There was (and is) a double movement that arises from one’s interaction with his/her environment; in one direction there develops the objectification of one’s self-nature and in the other direction there arises the objectification of the social and cultural contents of society. For Cassirer, art, myth, magic and ritual are co-creative products arising from this objectifying movement, which, in turn, arises from the work that people do in society. “For the form of society,” Cassirer states:

“is not absolutely and immediately given any more than is the objective form of nature, the regularity of our own world of perception. Just as nature comes into being through a theoretical interpretation and elaboration of sensory contents, so to the structure of society is mediated and ideally conditioned reality.” (Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Smbolic Form, 3 vol., vol. 2, Mythical Thought, 1955, pl 193)

In his three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Cassirer concentrates his focus on the nature and origins of symbolic form as it first arises in language and myth and then, over time, develops into the theoretical orientations of scientific thought. The utility of symbolic forms is not just about a “thing to be apprehended”; rather, it is about movement towards constancy, endurance and certainty, — an objective that applies to both culture and mind.

Both culture and mind began with story telling, and even today the stories that pass muster in peer reviewed academic journals continue to move this objectification process forward (sometimes forward even if not peer reviewed). But still, the objectification process, then and now, can be traced back to the capacity to imagine and communicate something significant. Cassirer adds:

…”the barriers which man sets himself in his basic feeling of the sacred are the starting point from which begins his setting of boundaries in space and from which, by a progressive process of organization and articulation the process spreads over the whole of the physical cosmos.” (The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 2, 1955, p.104)

For Cassirer, interrogation and reply, in its most elemental form, moves us into the expression of myth, ritual, art, language, and the abstract logical necessities encountered in mathematics and science.

Interestingly, even though there is no evidence that Cassirer and Piaget had much direct influence on one another, their thought converges when it comes to identifying the motivation behind the evolution of symbolic meaning. Work for Cassirer and action for Piaget are the instrumental motivators for the creation of symbolic meaning. In addition to the similarity that occurs in Cassirer and Piaget’s concepts of “work” and “action” the thought of these two men converges in another respect also. Both men believed that the subject and object poles of experience were not simply given. Rather, for Cassirer and Piaget, the subject and object poles of experience are products of experience. Cassirer came to this conclusion, at least in part, based on his studies of Pre-modern man’s mythology. Piaget, on the other hand, arrived at this conclusion as a result of his investigation into the language acquisition of young children. For Piaget, the long and active process that results in what we take to be the knowledge of our objective and subjective experience begins in the recognition and coordination of sensor motor activity. By locating the source of cognitive structure in the sensor motor activity of babies, Piaget opened up the possibility that “structure” was grounded in nature and not in mind (i.e., the first glimmer of the comprehensibility of the universe based on the structure of duality). In his investigations Piaget argued that the source of intelligibility—what is common to all sturcturalist thought–is the “affirmative ideal” –the ideal of intelligibility.

Jean Paul Sartre, a member of the academic elite in France like Piaget, came to a similar conclusion, only he discovered the source of intelligibility in the “structure of being for-itself.” In his description of consciousness, Sartre articulates the innate structuring capacity of consciousness. Identifying Sartre’s philosophy (phenomenological ontology) as structuralism is, I am aware, pushing the envelope. However, an authority on structuralism has proposed nothing less. Benoist states: “One might go as far as to say…that structuralism is analogous to Sartre’s view of consciousness—it is what it is not, and it is not what it is.” (The Structural Revolution, 1975, p.1) In Sartre’s book, Being And Nothingness, the title of chapter one is: “Immediate Structures of the For-Itself (1966, p.119). What this means is “conscious content” will form one pole of consciousness while the negation of “conscious content” will form the other pole of consciousness. Consciousness then, takes the form of being-what-is-not (the object of consciousness) –while-not-being-what-is (the negation of consciousness)—and as such, this condition preexists our awareness of objects. In other words, according to Sartre, conscious awareness turns on the pivot point of pure negation—the known exists for the knower but the knower can never be known! This result, the incompleteness of self, (i.e., the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self) brings us back to Sartre’s original definition of consciousness: “Consciousness is such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself. The genesis of what Piaget calls the “affirmative ideal” lies at the heart of what Sartre calls consciousness. When I was reading Sartre I kept a journal. What follows was written before I knew the meaning of what I was writing (the meaning of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self). This early journal writing may make Sartre’s being-for-itself easier to understand, but even if it doesn’t it still represents the kind of mental acrobatics that begs clarification, i.e., the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self:

[According to Sartre, we have consciousness of an object only through the negation of that object, which, in turn, means that being-for-itself manifests consciousness by being its own negation. That negation separates me from myself. Nothingness then, lies at the heart of consciousness. Sartre thus describes man as “the being by which nothingness comes into the world.” Being-for-itself can never, in any final sense, be conscious of itself. It carries within itself the rift of nothingness that negates that very possibility.

Knowledge is found everywhere except in for-itself. Worldliness, spatiality, quantity, temporality, instrumentality, etc. arise in consciousness as objects for for-itself, but the for-itself can never become a conscious object—just like a knife blade cannot cut itself. Were it not for the inherent nothingness of for-itself, there would not be a consciousness of knowledge. Sartre has described the for-itself as the “pure reflection of non being,” and it is this negation of being which let’s knowledge come into the world. In this respect, the knower-known dichotomy is reduced to mere fabrication, since the knower does not exist. “For- itself nothingness” permits the consciousness of reality, but it remains just outside the reach of that reality because there is no knower to know it.

Sartre also tells us that the ever-elusive present is a further consequence of this negation. Our location in time, to put it mildly, is not very precise. I am conscious of being conscious of something other than myself, and that something is my past self. What I grasp in self-consciousness is my past self—the self that has become being-in-itself. But, being-in-itself is being, so it follows that consciousness is always conscious of being. I have a body and I have a history; these are my objects of consciousness. I am never, however, conscious of for-itself’s negation– its lack, hole, nothingness, (it makes no difference how you say it, all are equivalent)—because this negativity for Sartre is the pre-condition for consciousness to be conscious. And further, it is this non-being of consciousness, which becomes the basis of my freedom.

The act by which being-for-itself separates itself from its past (the separation of being-for-itself from being-in-itself) constitutes my freedom. This separation cuts me off from my past, but it also plops me down in the center of my freedom–a freedom that demands that I either sink or swim. Sartre says, “existence precedes essence”—there is no tie-up of my present with my past. I need not be determined by my past. I am separated from it by my own nothingness. Therefore, I am free to freely choose my future until death intervenes, and then everything stops.

Under the weight of my own freedom, I am still able to maintain a sense of personal identity. Sartre denies the ego as an inhabitant of consciousness, although he grants consciousness its own personal consciousness. This ego is given to consciousness from outside of consciousness as “the reason for consciousness.” It becomes what I would be, if I could be myself. Ego is my transcendent possibility. All truths, values, psychic objects—everything that constitutes ego—are introduced to consciousness from the world outside of consciousness, as objects for consciousness. For-itself can never be conscious of itself, but it is conscious (can be conscious) of a lack of self. This inner ego of consciousness—the non transcendent ego, for Sartre, becomes the nothingness of “being-for-itself.”

To recap: Self-consciousness, or my relationship to consciousness, brings to consciousness the pure negative of my own nothingness. Self-consciousness denies itself a coincidence with itself. It denies itself a coincidence with the objects of consciousness–the consciousness-belief dyad. It is in consciousness, however, as presence-to-itself, but it denies itself the possibility of ever becoming fully aware of itself. Self-consciousness is its own negativity. Thus, I am conscious of it as not being what is, as what I lack, as a “hole” in my consciousness, as a “hole” in my very being.]

Ironically, Sartre interpreted being-for-itself as proof of the non-existence of God. Actually, what I got out of his reasoning was that freedom (restricted by its environment) is all that we are. We are the being that is being what is not, while not being what is because we are free to be conscious of everything else. Bogged down with this baggage, though, we cannot be surprised to find the human psyche in a constant struggle with existential issues, unsatisfied desires, and questions! This burden, if indeed it is a burden, is not insignificant; without this baggage there would be no questions,—and without questions there would be no God attribute of openness/freedom; there would be no comprehensibility of the universe!

The Voice Of The We Of Divinity Concluded

November 21, 2009

This is a continuation of lasts week’s post, but I have more to say in this one. There is some explanation for why I believe the We Voice of Divinity exists, but, there is more description than explanation; that said, I’ve decided to stay with this theme in future posts, at least for a while. Because of the lack of explanation, for the next couple of weeks, I will be describing some of the considerations that brought me to affirm the We Voice of Divinity. I will talk about God’s footprint. Yes, a lot of why I say what I say is because the length of God’s footprint extends up out of the strange behavior of quantum phenomena and into the heavy determinism of the physics of relativity—big footprint. The depth of the footprint extends as deep as the observer/observed relationship described below, which, in turn, is based on the experience/existence of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, or the ~bb of b~b~bb also described below.Here’s a quick sense of what I’m getting at (by chance I discovered this as I was shutting down my computer, I wrote it but I don’t remember when): God is a recursive loop of increasing complexity that liberates consciousness. Initially, this content/form relationship produced very little consciousness, but, upon increased complexity, the content of consciousness became human, while the form of this relationship remains imbedded in its source, i.e., God.Horizons Of Self: Mind, Emotions, And Body

Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here—the purple quadrant.

This new physics, to be sure, is still in the midst of growing pains, but whatever the outcome, John Locke’s concrete material substance is history. We do not exist a three-term relationship (mental substance, material object, appearance) we exist a two-term relationship with the second term being our theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated component of experience while the first term of experience is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum,– which is part of our very being. The immediately sensed component is relative to each individual while the theoretic component is public, exists within our understanding, and therefore is accessible to everybody, everywhere.

We experience our three horizons–emotional life (red), embodied life (pink), and psychological life (yellow)–in their aesthetic immediacy, within which differentiations come and go. In this way, change and understanding change, is pervasive. Theories follow from questions, and correct theories follow from confirmation of experimental results. In other words, the scientific method is one way to expand our horizons, but that method works best when dealing with physical phenomena, the embodied state (pink horizon). The scientific method is less effective when it comes to expanding our psychological and emotional horizons. However, with education, all three horizons expand. Understanding, whether it comes from the hypothetically conceived, experimentally verified component of our experience, or whether it comes from the “school of hard knocks,” so to speak, still educates.

Here’s how F. S. C. Northrop describes the two-term relationship of a fully known thing: “Both components are equally real and primary, and hence good, the one being the complement of the other… (He states) “To be any complete thing is to be not merely an immediately experienced, aesthetically and emotionally felt thing, but also to be what hypothetically conceived and experimentally verified theory designates.” (The Meeting Of East And West, p. 450) So, we may ask, into what do our self-horizons expand when they expand? In other words, I now want to talk about the blue, green, and purple quadrants in the above diagram. By way of introduction, and to keep the topic focused, here is another person’s take on why the three-term relationship is no longer needed; the physicist Henry Margenau, like Northrop before him, described human experience in terms of a two-term relationship.

In his book, The Nature of Physical Reality, Margenau elaborates on what the theoretic component of our experience entails when he says, “…that we come to knowledge of our experience in two ways—through the mental states of prepositional attitudes and sensation.” He then lumps these attitudes and sensation together in what he calls our P-plane experience—a combination of immediate experience with its significance (sensed qualia embedded in a knowledge matrix). In this way we come to “know” the same thing in two different ways, through sensed qualia and through the significance that we attach to this sensed qualia. For Margenau, there are four levels of P-plane significance. Language, with its lexical, syntactical, and contextual designations represents the first level. The second level, science, raises P-plane significance by connecting P-plane experience with the propositional aspects of our cognitive experience via what Margenau calls rules of correspondence—the sensed aspect of what may be inferred or deduced from theoretical postulates. On the third and fourth level of P-plane experience, significance deals with ethical behavior and existential meaning. Here the cognitive connection to P-plane experience does not entail the rigor of analysis that describes the scientific method. But, according to Margenau, this lack of rigor does not impose a lesser degree of significance.

Connecting understanding up with ethical behavior and existential meaning moves P-plane experience out of the blue quadrant—or the science of how our body works, and into the purple quadrant,–why we make our body do the things that it does. Here, in the psychological mind quadrant, we are constantly being stimulated, inspired, (and disgusted) by the hermeneutic circle of communication that comprises this quadrant. The independence, integrity, and freedom of the individual,–the groups, organizations, and institutions that the individual participates in, all are encountered in this quadrant. Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here. “Approved life styles” are affirmed here. Hamlet gets read, discussed, and criticized here. When our yellow horizon expands, it moves us further into this quadrant, into that place where the scope of human discourse burgeons. In brief, to quote Lett, (speaking in a different context) this is the quadrant “where people will assign meanings to their activities and experiences and will invest considerable intellectual and emotional currency in the development, expression, and preservation of those meanings.” (James Lett, The Human Enterprise, p.97) But, even though our mind is, so to speak, set free in the purple quadrant (yellow self-horizon), our body remains in the blue quadrant. So, where do we go when our pink horizon (blue quadrant) expands?

If we’re lucky, and say, for instance, that we’re in the middle of a Michigan winter, we pack our bags and go to Florida. For those of us who can’t quite swing a Florida vacation, however, we continue to punch the cloak, put in our 40 hours per week, and all for the purpose of keeping food on the table, rents and mortgages paid, and a little spending money in our pockets. The blue quadrant is the brick and mortar world we live in. It is also where scientific predictions are confirmed, and, on a more solemn note, where justice and injustice are experienced. Take me, for instance, I’m sitting in front of my computer screen and when I look up, I immediately see sand and cement laden material used in the construction of, oh well, you name it. In order to get into my room, I had to shove against an atmosphere pressing against my body with a force of fourteen pounds per square inch, a body constituted by a physical-chemical system, e.g., bone, nervous system, and cortex-brain. This physical body lives approximately 70 years, dies, and breaks down into constituent parts—rots. While I’m alive I am presented with voluminous products for the purpose of consumption, and, if I were able to invent a product that everybody desires, I would be able to follow the sun to my heart’s content. But, enough said about the blue quadrant; it’s depressing to note that many intelligent people never get beyond the blue quadrant, i.e., see everything as a by-product of the blue quadrant.

The New Model Of The Observer/Observed Relationship Continued

The source of everything, including Northrop’s two-term relationship, lies embedded in the indeterminate aesthetic continuum.

As was pointed out above, considerable emotional currency goes into preserving the meanings that give us comfort. In an odd sort of way then, you might say the more invested we are in production and consumption (blue quadrant) the more we expand our red emotional horizon. However, a passionate desire for wealth and power has little in common with the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty and truth. The gorgeous sunset that sometimes swells our eyes to tears is not just a product of the spinning earth; it is also part of the spontaneous, pulsating, emotion that flows from the whole of the aesthetic continuum. The material of the poet, painter, and musician is not the product of Locke’s mental substance; rather, it is the empowering emotion that inspires life, imagination, and awe. The mental substance, which Locke presupposed as necessary in order to explain the existence of appearance, is no longer necessary because appearance is not just appearance, it is the real stuff of the universe. It is too bad the syntactically designated, indirectly and experimentally verified, theoretic component of knowledge treats the reality of the aesthetic component as a mere sign. The immediately grasped, emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise,–the aesthetic component of our experience–beckons us to seek the impossible, express the unspeakable, and imagine the inconceivable.

Emotions, therefore, are not, as Locke believed, and many of the religiously informed persons who followed him also believed, the product of bestial urges that must be subdued. It is also unfortunate that Plato, although recognizing emotions to be an inseparable part of the human psyche, identified them with evil. For Plato, reason was the great charioteer, forever reining in the unruly emotions. It is to the credit of Northrop’s two-term relationship of the aesthetic-theoretic experience that emotion gets valued on par with reason. Indeed, reason becomes sterile without emotion and emotion without reason becomes misery–more often than not. The poet William Blake said it best when he said: “It is good when you are in a passion, but not when a passion is in you.” All emotion is meaningful, but that meaning is unjustifiably limited by Locke’s use of the three-term relationship of appearance, material object, and observer. We do not exist a three-term relationship, we exist a two-term relationship with the second term being our theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated component of experience while the first term of experience is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum. The continuity of emotion/reason follows naturally from this two term relationship, as does the psychological freedom that, if actualized, leads to reverence for all that is true, good, and beautiful in life.

Without psychological freedom we would be condemned to blue-quadrant existence—a life hardly worth living. Not to worry, though, the allure of freedom has, throughout history, inspired “greatness in thought, word, and deed,” and, when practiced in environments of some spiritual disciplines, this freedom is said to produce incredible “experiences of emancipation,” e.g., Patanjellie’s eight steps of yoga, the Buddha’s eight fold path to enlightenment, and, the more recent schools of transpersonal psychologies which, I believe began with Maslow’s self-actualization psychology, but now these schools are researching such things as meditation, higher levels of consciousness, and even Para psychological phenomena. Encouraging awareness, understanding, and the appreciation for this kind of in depth freedom is what my up dated description of the observer/observed relationship is supposed to be about. Ultimately, though, to fully comprehend the meaning of this freedom we must rethink what it means to be alive and belong to this universe of ours, and, in the process, we must get beyond the worldview that has outlived its usefulness and now inhibits.

To recap, the #8 bridge binds and separates life and death while the #9 bridge binds and separates the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self and the physical event, (or the emotionally felt immediate experience that at any given time may be hypothetically conceived and experimentally verified via its predictable consequences). The bridge that is not depicted in the diagram above is the bridge in which the universe lies suspended. Logically, this bridge is structured along the lines of a double negative (the logic of neither this nor that). The universe then hangs suspended in a Logos that is the equivalent of God’s non-being, but, via the Logos, God’s non-being implies transcendence. This is, obviously, a lot of information to take in. Hopefully, however, by incorporating a V structure and logical design in the paragraph below, I will have summed up (and simplified) the Divinity that simultaneously exists inside of Nature and outside of Nature. In this sense, Divinity is somewhat like the one sided surface of a Mobius strip; Divinity existing both outside and inside the loop.

Let the V image represent God’s freedom. Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity and the ground of the Logos that structures all existence). Somewhere above the V vertex, on the freedom side of the V, let the letter b represent life and ~b represent the negative space of life (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity) represent the next stage of freedom—the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity) represent (on the empirical side of the V) the physical event of a conscious self. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds.

Freedom here defines God as immanent (the phenomenal world) and transcendent (the God of all religions). All we can know about transcendent God is that God exists. The space of logical implication tells us that much. On the other hand, we can know a great deal about God’s immanence because, on a day-to-day basis, that’s what “we call reality.”

We struggle to become educated and, in the process, obtain reasonable beliefs that endure. However, when faced with blatant evidence to the contrary our beliefs may change (ought/need to change). In the absence of contradictions, though, we choose to believe emotionally fulfilling beliefs. If you’ve read this far, you probably have found something I’ve said interesting. Thanks for that. In conclusion (and without embellishment), here is a list of reasons why I find my worldview emotionally satisfying. Oh, and by the way, this is also my reasoning for why some values are not culturally relative:

1) Religion and science are brought into harmony; that is, they may be equally reverenced without conflict. 2) Because human self-awareness, life, and the physical-chemical processes that support life, are all embedded in divine extensive connection, humans are born with the potential to right the wrongs caused by “ignorance based injustices.” 3) The values used to judge right from wrong follow from the extensive connection process; that is, values used to judge right from wrong are life affirming and freedom affirming values. In other words, in terms of a minimum quality of life, within the prevailing economic realities, no person should be denied the basic necessities of life; and further, sufficient freedoms (within the limits of reasonable expectation) should be in place to allow for meaningful self-expression (the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution are a good place to start). As long as these two conditions are satisfied market competition, within prevailing economic realities, should be permitted. Anything less than this—the minimum standard of living for all human beings, — is an “ignorance based injustice.” 4) And finally, in regards to a religious afterlife: death is not the end, but things like virgins, talks with Jesus, and eternal bliss, are spurious and misplaced expectations.

For many of us, saying “yes to God” is easy, but getting to know the meaning of the relationships behind that affirmation is the all-important, and difficult, next step. At the end of the first part of this essay (last week’s post) I let Martin Buber have the last words, and likewise, he gets the last words here. Martin Buber understood that affirming the existence of God is no more difficult than affirming the ground out of which duality arises. In his book, I And Thou, he alludes to the spiritual significance of this affirmation when he says:

“Dimly we apprehend this double movement –that turning away from the primal ground by virtue of which the universe preserves itself in its becoming, and that turning toward the primal ground by virtue of which the universe redeems itself in being –as the metacosmic primal form of duality that inheres in the world as a whole in its relation to that which is not world, and whose human form is the duality of attitudes, of basic words, and of the two aspects of the world. Both movements are unfolded fatefully in time and enclosed, as by grace, in the timeless creation that, incomprehensibly, is at once release and preservation, at once bond and liberation. Our knowledge of duality is reduced to silence by the paradox of the primal mystery” (1970, p. 149).

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you–in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.” (1970, p. 130)