Best Possible World: Gateway to the Millennium and Eschaton



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I'm trying to find the publication page again. Here it is. I was struck mainly by the conference title:
"A Common Ground and Some Surprising Connections", Southern Journal of Philosophy, Volume XL, Supplement, 1-25. (Keynote lecture delivered at the Spindel Conference entitled Origins: The Common Sources of the Analytic and Phenomenological Traditions, September 2001, University of Memphis, Philosophy Department)
No wonder I'm perplexed. Am I gonna have to read this? [10/14 -- I have read it without yet determining a relevance. It is nice to have a formal ontology, but I suspect that the world is not so wont to stand on ceremony. Formality does not comprehend rationality, and rationality does not comprehend the aesthetic implied in the BPW. Cosmic love is just bound to be trans-rational. The world is optimally rational.]
[10/13]
It looks as though I may have to render some sort of opinion about the competing theories of abstract objects that these latter-day, techno-ontologists love to fret about. In general I would say that their disagreements may be attributed to an overly analytical approach to ontology. They each assume that existence is an all or nothing proposition. This is a major mistake. They don't want to conceive of existence as relative. There is a good reason for this. It's part of our self-preservation instinct. Each of us wishes to exemplify an absolute existence. But on a relational perspective there can, at most, be only one absolute. My more immediate concern is as between the particular and the universal. I have spoken of cosmic love. Do we envision that as a universal or a particular? Do we embody or exemplify that property? I'll have the answer in one hour, so keep your pants on.
Yes, this is what I think is going wrong here, Ed is trying to construct a computer friendly ontology. And he has fallen into the trap of thinking it's not who you know, it's what you know. Well, this is a trap that is more difficult for an x'ian to fall into, if you catch my drift, not to say that Ed is not such at heart, but that is somewhat beside the point, or is it? Someone that analytic has got to be just a tad insecure, and one's x'ianity is directly correlated with one's existential security. It's just that simple. But I'm no expert, just an amateur.
And, here's the real catch: to know me is to love me, or, really, vice-versa, and how many of us could ever say that, even about ourselves. No one said that existence, or really just love, is easy. The only reason we continue to exist is because of God's continuing love. Even God is not absolute. The absolute is the creator-creation love feast, or the hierogamos, to be technical. Is that a universal or a particular? Obviously it is more than the sum. It has got to be the best possible love feast. Does that mean we are going to die? No, that means don't ask stupid questions, if you catch my drift. Does that completely answer your question concerning existence? I hope so, 'cause that's all I can think of right now.
And I almost forgot: what about 'holier than thou'? As a wannabe second comer, am I just looking out for numero uno? You got it, sister! Oh yeah, and that's a priori, if you catch my drift for the last time. And do I know what I'm talking about? Not really, if you catch........ I'm a lot like you, I just work here, if you........
And that segues us right back to Ed & Bernie (Linsky):
Indeed, from a naturalist perspective, how can there be synthetic a priori truths like the comprehension principle? The answer is that there can be such truths if they are required to make sense of naturalistic theories, that is, if they are required for our very understanding of those naturalistic theories.
.....As the final step to our argument, we claim that it follows from this conclusion that the comprehension principle and logic of encoding are required to make sense of any possible scientific theory, i.e., required for our very understanding of any such theory. So our Principled Platonism is consistent with naturalism because it is required by naturalism.
I would also point out that I can think of nothing more universal than gravity. But is the universality of gravity not essentially Platonic? And without this Platonism there would be no nature, nay, there would be no naturalists. Nature is not self-sufficient, not even the Creator is self-sufficient. Did you ever see a Creator without a Creation? You could have an ex-creator with an ex-cre(a)tion, but let's not go there!
The comprehension and identity principles present us with an ordered realm of objects that looks more like a formal garden than a jungle.
Well, guys, there's the mistake. We didn't promise you a rose garden. It's just mean streets out here in the BPW.
A principle asserting the existence of a plenitude of abstracta meets this standard, for a plenitude is not arbitrary. There is no need to explain why some abstract objects exist while others don't. A Platonized Naturalist, however, operates in the spirit of this standard by pointing out that for objects outside the causal order, there is no way to discover or explain our connection to them on such a piecemeal basis. There is no good reason to suppose that abstract objects are sparse.
The plenitude can only be of, by and for cosmic love. How many more millennia to get this right? The love is gonna getcha! (The Ravens just lost, but we're still tied for first in our division.)
I gather from Bernie & Ed [and see Hookway, above] that Willard Quine was, in effect, the first and last naturalist philosopher. He was the first self-professed naturalist philosopher, and yet his naturalism was amended with a 'limited Platonism'. No naturalist since has been able to refute this peculiar epistemic appendix to nature. A great deal of effort has gone into the attempt to naturalize Plato, but these authors argue effectively that it is a lost cause, and the only recourse is now to Platonize nature. This is not your grandmother's idea of nature.
Willard's refutation of the analytic-synthetic distinction has been touted up one wall and down the other, but not so for his refutation of the Cartesian dichotomy of idea & matter. This is far more significant historically, in my humble opinion. We have spent about half a century trying to restore nature's conceptual virginity, and now it's time to face this fact of life: 'Do not put asunder that which God hath brought together.' 'Anomalous monism', indeed.
[10/14]
There are several contemporary philosophical discussions that bear upon our putatively imminent gestalt switch to rational theism. I have been surveying them in these last few pages.
Now that we have witnessed the partial rehabilitation of Plato in contemporary philosophy, let us return to the consideration of rationalism.
(Just as a sidelight, here is an account of rationalism vs. empiricism in economics: In Defense of Extreme Rationalism- Thoughts on Donald McClosky. The Rhetoric of Economics.)

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Topical Index
10/10/02

Rationalism vs. Naturalism and other Orthodoxies



[10/15]
Rationalism and idealism are not two sides of a coin; they are simply one coin. Of course, the scientific establishment is constantly attempting to recruit rationality to its own cause. The next time a scientist makes an appeal to reason, ask her if anyone has ever observed one of them there reasons.
The Fallacy of Epistemological Idealism:
Modern philosophy seems to be a maze of contradictory theories which have arisen in a relatively short period of time. --------
On the surface, there appears to be nothing but intellectual chaos. Viewed from a broader standpoint, however, by far the majority of these theories and systems will be seen to be more or less alike. They reveal a common parentage and show a common kinship. As such, then, they possess a uniform trait, a fundamental doctrine identical in them all, which underlies all the variants and forms the root-idea from which they derive their origin and then develop into different philosophies. This uniform trait is idealism, and the root-idea is the idealist postulate.
Here, here! Nothing worse than all these half-baked idealists! A dime a dozen.
How, then, can the mind perceive things at a distance, or how can things get into the mind? It does not seem to solve the difficulty by referring to the stimuli (light waves, airwaves, etc.), which are supposed to leave the objects and impinge upon the sense-organs; because then we should perceive these stimuli and not the objects from which they come. That, however, is not the case: we perceive apparently objects and certainly not stimuli.
Yes, I always did wonder about that.
The foregoing criticism shows that idealism arises out of the ego-centric predicament and that its arguments involve a faulty logic. This, of course, does not prove than extra-mental reality actually exists; it merely shows that idealism has not disproved the existence of extra-mental objects. The question of the existence of such objects must be solved, not by any a priori, but by an a posteriori method. Facts alone, together with their proper interpretation, must settle the issue; that is the only scientific and philosophic procedure which can lead us with safety to a definite conclusion.
Yes, Mam, just the facts, please. Our survival depends upon sticking to the facts. But to whose facts do we stick? Where is our authority? Nay, where is our Author?
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA- Rationalism: (speaking of authority...)
The term is used: (1) in an exact sense, to designate a particular moment in the development of Protestant thought in Germany; (2) in a broader, and more usual, sense to cover the view (in relation to which many schools may he classed as rationalistic) that the human reason, or understanding, is the sole source and final test of all truth. It has further: (3) occasionally been applied to the method of treating revealed truth theologically, by casting it into a reasoned form, and employing philosophical Categories in its elaboration.
Not exactly a rousing cheer for rationalism from this authority, and I can readily sympathize with their cautions...
But in his method of proof of the authority of Scripture recourse was had to reason, and thus the human mind became, logically, the ultimate arbiter in the case of both. Supranaturalism in theology, which it was Wolff's intention to uphold, proved incompatible with such a philosophical position, and Rationalism took its place. This, however, is to be distinguished from pure Naturalism, to which it led, but with which it never became theoretically identified. Revelation was not denied by the Rationalists; though, as a matter of fact, if not of theory, it was quietly suppressed by the claim, with its ever-increasing application, that reason is the competent judge of all truth.
They are not quite denying that our presumably God given, supra-natural power of reason is not the final arbiter. (Am I sounding too Protestant?) What else can be? On what other basis can there be an interfaith dialog, or an apologetics?
I am finding the remainder of this article most helpful, and I urge you to view the source.
As has been noted in the preceding paragraph, German Rationalism had strong affinities with English Deism and French Materialism, two historic forms in which the tendency has manifested itself. But with the vulgarization of the ideas contained in the various systems that composed these movements, Rationalism has degenerated. It has become connected in the popular mind with the shallow and misleading philosophy frequently put forward in the name of science,....
Amen, to that.
[10/16]
Consider this conceptual triangle:
Sometimes a distinction is made, as it has been in different ways by Frege and Popper, between three kinds of real things (three 'realms' or 'worlds'). The first contains material things.... The second contains psychological things.... The third contains abstract things.... Philosophers have tended to treat these three realms ... as lying in a triangle, so that the rejection of one was compatible with accepting either or both of the other two. Materialists strictly speaking say that only matter exists, but in modern times they have tended to direct their fire primarily against believers in the second realm, and some of them (e.g. Armstrong) accept at least a moderate realism in connection with the third realm. But this was not always so. Plato, with whom so much of philosophy began, was primarily concerned to assert the existence of the third realm....
If the rationalists/idealists have established anything it is that realm of numbers cannot be reduced to material entities. Given the reality of this 'third realm' then it follows naturally that the realm of the psyche must also have an immaterial aspect in order to make contact with the realm of numbers.
The existence of consciousness is very hard to deny, as materialists must, but its existence cannot be demonstrated objectively, as they insist. The materialists have the rest of us in a bind, demanding an objectification of non-objects, i.e. abstracta. 'Abstract' may be a poor word because it implies a logical dependency, but, in any case, abstraction, per se, is a purely psychic act.
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Opposing rationalism is empiricism, which is most narrowly equated with materialism. More broadly conceived, empiricism becomes naturalism, which is more loosely defined, so loosely, in fact, to be possibly lacking in coherence.
Next, we look at naturalism. Is it a coherent set of beliefs?
What it insists on is that the world of nature should form a single sphere without incursions from outside by souls or spirits, divine or human, and without having to accommodate strange entities like non-natural values or substantive abstract universals. But it need not reject the phenomena of consciousness, nor even identify them somehow with material phenomena, as the materialist must, provided they can be studied via the science of psychology, which can itself be integrated into the other sciences.
Off the top, psychology is very, very far from being a science. Every psychologist has a different theory of psychology. In these latter days, even the physicists are getting into the pluralism act. Every theoretical physicist has a different conception of what the final Theory of Everything is going to look like. This simply means that the frontier of any science will be 'unscientific'. Political, aesthetic, intuitive and subjective considerations become dominant. This is about charisma at its highest level. Only when this charisma has been thoroughly routinized are we back in the realm of science.
From an historical perspective we can think of alchemy as, at one time, being the frontier of chemistry. Alchemy was a thoroughly charismatic affair: it reflected intensely personal and creative participation. As an immaterialist, I would go even further than this. During this charismatic stage of science, reality is being defined. There is a give and take between the subjective and objective realms. It is like a lengthy process of negotiation where the protocols of transaction are being worked out so at to achieve the greatest harmony as part of the Best Possible World. Science is not simply a process of discovery. The human intellect and the cosmic intellect are working out an ultimate accommodation which is mediated by and through nature.
Psychology is still very much at the charismatic stage as represented by alchemy. The transactional and transference protocols of psychology are intensely personal, and the results of which will ultimately define how we become one with the creator. That is the 'science' of eschatology; that is what psychology is gradually working up to. The eschatological psychology will be barely recognizable from what we know today. It may even become more charismatic than it is now, but that will not prevent it from also taking on some significant aspects that represent a continuity with the methods of today's science.
But we were supposed to be discussing naturalism. We have simply explained why the epistemological form of naturalism is sometimes referred to as 'psychologism'. It was Frege's reaction to the 'psychologizing' of mathematics, late in the 19th century, which lead to contemporary rationalism.
It appears that the academic debate that is of most practical relevance to rational theism is the debate between rationalists and naturalists. It is also true that this area of discussion is as active as any in philosophy.
[10/17]
One of the foci of this discussion is the 'naturalistic fallacy':
The naturalistic fallacy is a metaethical theory proposed by G. E. Moore (1873-1958) in Principia Ethica (1903) that the notion of moral goodness cannot be defined or identified with any property. Moore argues that "goodness" is a foundational and unanalyzable property, similar to the foundational notion of "yellowness," and is not capable of being explained in terms of anything more basic.
This has a slightly different thrust than the more commonly stated version of this fallacy as consisting of the attempt to infer 'ought' from 'is', and going back at least to Hume.
Here is another take on the fallacy:
Small wonder, then, that faith in Nature is hard to reconcile with the rationalist philosophers' critique of the naturalistic fallacy. Environmental ideas of Nature are often based on a scepticism about the power of reason, and a willingness to put faith in spontaneous order precisely because one knows the limits of one's own knowledge about the working of the system.
This points to the divide between naturalistic philosophers, who align themselves with science, and naturalists simpliciter. Is there anything in the world more unnatural than science? Natural science should be an oxymoron. These matters are further complicated by the once prominent religious notion of Natural Law. And finally, the concept of human nature is about as contentious as any in the modern world.
James Boyle continues with his review:
In 'Contested Natures' Phil Macnaghten and John Urry take up these questions. They argue that we have not one but many Natures, "constituted through a variety of socio-cultural processes from which such natures cannot be plausibly separated." Their argument, if I understand it correctly, is that three things will happen once we realise that the concept 'Nature' is neither 'natural' nor unitary. First, we will stop believing that we can get objective science about Nature. The reason is almost Heisenbergian; the observers are in the frame, not outside of it. We are part of Nature, part of many Natures, and scientific analysis must always begin by assuming some pretheoretical orientation towards one of those 'Natures.'
These preceding observations bring us back to the question I posed yesterday: can anything posing as 'naturalism' be coherent? I am not the only skeptic on this matter. Naturalism is the de facto, ad hoc fall-back position for the rag-tag remnants of the once ascendant materialists. As we speak, they are discovering that this encampment is not rationally [sic] defensible, and they encounter a lack of sympathy among the natives.
Now I could be proven wrong in this prognosis, and certainly I am not specifying a date by which the 'naturalists' will have folded their tent. I am not holding my breath, but I am, right here before your eyes, maintaining a vigil. I am supposing that a properly conceived vigil will expedite the folding of that tent.
And, of course, I am doing rather more than that. I am attempting to give shape to the tent that will come. As the naturalists get a better handle on what exactly they are holding out against, it may well increase their resolve. So be it. What could be the more logical contender to naturalism than a rational theism, with its attendant BPW supposition? They may well realize that their best strategy is to fight every strawperson and ignore every real person. When they are no longer able to ignore rational theism, the game is over.
-----------------------------
Now I search on rationalism & naturalism. There are over 5,000 hits.
It is disappointing to see how many people using rationalism in its particular historical and non-philosophical sense that is now covered by naturalism. The scientifically inspired attack on religious authority came way back in what was naively billed as the Age of Reason by self-styled Rationalists. This confusion means that a lot of people are missing what is now the principle argument against naturalism. Of course, naturalism is also a misleading term, chosen perhaps deliberately by those defensive materialists.
Here is the first substantive hit. (Note that 'empiricism' is used in place of 'naturalism'):
....the Rationalist holds that some or all of what is true knowledge is in-nate to us, it is literally inborn with us; the Empiricist believes the opposite: all of our knowledge arises from our perceptual experiences in the world after we are born. The name of the school of Rationalism obviously derives from the word 'rational' which itself goes back to the Latin, 'ratio' meaning 'calculation'. This in turn goes back to another Latin word, 'ratus', which is the past participle of 'reor', meaning "think', 'deem', 'judge'. What runs through all of these is the emphasis on mind, an emphasis retained in most of the modern associations connected with the word 'rational' as well: rationalise, rationality, and so on. 'Empiricism' derives from another English word, 'empiric', meaning, 'derived from experience' (this itself going back to Latin and Greek words for experience also). So in the plainest language possible, the Rationalist places the origin of our knowledge of reality in the powers of the mind, whereas the Empiricist places it in our powers of perception.
As John Mullarkey points out later in this article, it is also the distinction between deduction and induction. But in a contemporary cultural sense it is the distinction between the Analytical and Continental schools of philosophy. So if I'm so big on rationalism, why don't I just move to France? Well, the French still see rationalism as opposed to both religion and nature. They are still back in the Age of 'Enlightenment'. Hegel's stab at a rational theism was stopped dead in the water by many converging historical forces. Those deconstructive catholic atheists show not the slightest inclination to revive it.
[10/18]
By the way, I hit on the following article that is apropos of the interface of faith and reason: The Opening of the Evangelical Mind:
If there is a threat to academic freedom, it comes from what he calls "dogmatic rationalism." Naturalism, the belief that everything that exists in the world has a natural origin and can be explained by laws of nature, "becomes dangerous when, like the dogmatists of old, it declares its way of knowing to be the only legitimate one and then seeks to disenfranchise other voices."
Notice that even the editors of the Atlantic Monthly are disposed to equate rationalism with naturalism. The whole religion-science debate may hinge upon the distinction.
Continuing on with the rationalism & naturalism listing, I find the most complete statement of the anti-naturalist view of the mind: Mind and the World of Nature by Steven Horst. He is still drafting some of the chapters. I have not run across any defense of naturalism that is nearly as comprehensive. The 'neuro-philosophy' tomes we looked a earlier simply do not address many of these basic philosophical issues. The papers that do address these issues do so in a piecemeal fashion.
Now here is a revealing article by a secular humanist: Evolutionary Naturalism: the Philosophical Foundations of Humanism. Pat Hutcheon reads the Darwinian riot act to his fellow humanists:
Do you assume that human beings cannot know anything beyond nature, nor can they know anything by any means beyond the use of the senses and the application of reason to experience? Do you consider that any sound understanding of reality must begin with a bottom-up, empirical search for cause and effect relationships -- rather than with a priori axioms and a top-down process of deductive rationalism?....
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