Best Possible World: Gateway to the Millennium and Eschaton

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Part II, titled “Physicalist Discontents”, contains defensive replies to physicalist arguments, insisting that functional or other higher level properties might well enter into causal relations and be legitimate parts of the physical world, without having to be seen as reduced or reducible to lower level physical properties. There are no Cartesian dualists, and indeed only the faintest hint of epiphenomenalism. Everyone in this section pays some lip service to physicalism, yet still resists. Perhaps the book would better be titled Reductive Physicalism and Its Discontents.
There is a tone of battling programs here rather than detailed argument and reply.
The physicalists continue to gerrymander physics into impossible contortions in attempting to force it through the burning hoop that is the mind. They would much rather reside in this frying pan than leap into the fire of immaterialism.
But now let's get back to David for a moment. He has two theses: the historical inevitability of physicalism, and his message to its army of in-house critics: 'get over it.' There is the not very subtle sub-text: 'It's Us or Rust.' Yes, there is much to be discontented with in physicalism, but this is where history has brought us, and you will not undo physicalism without overturning history. This is rather in keeping with the eschatological tenor of rational theism, wouldn't you say?
David is pleading for an end to the debate: not on any rational grounds, but purely out of respect for the sweeping course of history. This has indeed been a long march into materialism. David only covers 300 years of it. This sojourn could as well be projected right back to the dawn of history.
If there is any light in the spirit, then surely we look for a new dawning. For what does David look? He is simply marking the territory that is the end of reason, and, perforce, the end of history. There is no pot of gold at the end of his rainbow. Is there one at ours? Well, either faith and hope are God given, or they are not. According to David, les jeux sont fait.

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On the Side of Reason

Perhaps a few years from now, we will be willing to agree that David Papineau may be afforded the singular distinction of having had the last word for materialism. There is the expression, 'It's all over, but the shouting.' Well, David's ought to be and can be the last shout.
David did not even have to shout. He had only to, very candidly, admit that materialism spells the end of reason. Ever since materialism raised its head at the dawn of philosophy, there have been few illusions about its ultimate hostility to reason. So what is new with David?
Here's what: history. David clearly senses an historical precedent. Everyone agrees that the mind itself is the last frontier of materialism. David has only to side with the 'mysterians', which he does in a muted fashion, and then to put this position into its proper historical context, which is also done in a low-key, but, nonetheless, unmistakable manner. The resulting eschatological message is almost subliminal; it may not even have been deliberate, but is better transmitted for not having been so. This is pure, totally innocent, eschatology, and so it may be seen as such only when viewed in retrospect.
End of story? No, just the beginning of the end. Only the Millennium now stands between us and God. David's message ought to be the signal that frees us to turn our minds and hearts to the imminence of the Millennium. If I am unable to act accordingly, it will just be another one of probably many missed opportunities. It will then only signal, once again, my lack of faith.
Where to, with the Millennium? Nowhere for now. I have said most of what I can say. I just keep hanging out here waiting for some action. I can only wait for more people to opt for coherence. The world will beat a path to whomever can spell out the most reasonable and coherent cosmology. Google should make it easy for us coherentists to cohere. I am not the only one who senses the materialist blood in the water. Materialism will be an easy act to follow. Many would-be visionaries hang out their shingles on the Internet. One of us will be the first to break though the noise and skepticism. This may already have happened, but I have not spotted it. I may be looking in all the wrong places, but there are only so many words that a radical coherentist can avoid using, and that Google can miss. If I don't have a decent handle on that venue, then I have surely missed a calling.
Every morning is a new day. Every time I put a search term into Google, I know that it could be my last blind search. It may not sound like much, but I do have that much faith. It would not take many of us to turn the Internet around, and to light the lamp of reason that will never be extinguished. It is a new day in a new year, and my patience persists. For what more could anyone ask?
Perhaps the next step is to give a synopsis of rational theism. What is its motivation and what are its consequences?

In a seemingly paradoxical fashion, it is the rise of science that may be most closely correlated with the decline in our regard for human reason. As already pointed out, Kant is the pivotal figure in this reversal of fortune. But to get a better handle on Kant we must consider his intellectual milieu, the Enlightenment:

Bernard de Fontenelle, popularizer of the scientific discoveries that contributed to the climate of optimism, wrote in 1702 anticipating "a century which will become more enlightened day by day, so that all previous centuries will be lost in darkness by comparison." Reviewing the experience in 1784, Immanuel Kant saw an emancipation from superstition and ignorance as having been the essential characteristic of the Enlightenment. [Britannica 2001, here & ff]
Before Kant's death the spirit of the siècle de lumière (literally, "century of light") had been spurned by Romantic idealists, its confidence in man's sense of what was right and good mocked by revolutionary terror and dictatorship, and its rationalism decried as being complacent or downright inhumane. Even its achievements were critically endangered by the militant nationalism of the 19th century. Yet much of the tenor of the Enlightenment did survive in the liberalism, toleration, and respect for law that have persisted in European society. There was therefore no abrupt end or reversal of enlightened values.
The perceptions and propaganda of the philosophes have led historians to locate the Age of Reason within the 18th century or, more comprehensively, between the two revolutions--the English of 1688 and the French of 1789--but in conception it should be traced to the humanism of the Renaissance, which encouraged scholarly interest in classical texts and values. It was formed by the complementary methods of the Scientific Revolution, the rational and the empirical. Its adolescence belongs to the two decades before and after 1700 when writers such as Jonathan Swift were employing "the artillery of words" to impress the secular intelligentsia created by the growth in affluence, literacy, and publishing. Ideas and beliefs were tested wherever reason and research could challenge traditional authority.
The scholars of the Enlightenment recognized a joint inheritance, Christian as well as classical. In rejecting, or at least reinterpreting, the one and plundering the other, they had the confidence of those who believed they were masters of their destiny. They felt an affinity with the classical world and saluted the achievement of the Greeks, who discovered a regularity in nature and its governing principle, the reasoning mind, as well as that of the Romans, who adopted Hellenic culture while contributing a new order and style: on their law was founded much of church and civil law. Steeped in the ideas and language of the classics but unsettled in beliefs, some Enlightenment thinkers found an alternative to Christian faith in the form of a neo-paganism. The morality was based on reason; the literature, art, and architecture were already supplying rules and standards for educated taste.
[...] The philosophes knew enough to be sure that they were entering a new golden age through rediscovery of the old but not enough to have misgivings about a reading of history which, being grounded in a culture that had self-evident value, provided ammunition for the secular crusade.
"The new philosophy puts all in doubt," wrote the poet John Donne. Early 17th-century poetry and drama abounded in expressions of confusion and dismay about the world, God, and man. [...] The method expounded in [Descartes'] Discourse on Method (1637) was one of doubt: all was uncertain until established by reasoning from self-evident propositions, on principles analogous to those of geometry. It was serviceable in all areas of study. There was a mechanistic model for all living things.
A different track had been pursued by Francis Bacon, the great English lawyer and savant, whose influence eventually proved as great as that of Descartes. He called for a new science, to be based on organized and collaborative experiment with a systematic recording of results. General laws could be established only when research had produced enough data and then by inductive reasoning, which, as described in his Novum Organum (1620), derives from "particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all." These must be tried and proved by further experiments. Bacon's method could lead to the accumulation of knowledge. It also was self-correcting. Indeed, it was in some ways modern in its practical emphasis. Significantly, whereas the devout humanist Thomas More had placed his Utopia in a remote setting, Bacon put New Atlantis (1627) in the future. "Knowledge is power," he said, perhaps unoriginally but with the conviction that went with a vision of mankind gaining mastery over nature. Thus were established the two poles of scientific endeavour, the rational and the empirical, between which enlightened man was to map the ground for a better world.
Reason has never recovered from the debacle that followed the Enlightenment. Was this the failure of reason? No, it was the arrogance of reason. The failure of the Enlightenment stands as a great lesson concerning the evil that can result when reason denies its own source.
Human reason does not naturally deny its source. It has to be provoked, and mightily provoked it was by the sectarian history that preceded the Enlightenment.
Until the final revelation, the prophetic tradition stands on the authority of God, as defined by its prophets. Recognizing its own prophets was the major challenge facing this tradition. Another problem is that all prophets cannot be equal. If history is to have meaning or value, then it can only be in the context of a progressive enlightenment of humanity. This observation can even be inverted: the very idea of a universal history originated in the prophetic context.
It is only with the Enlightenment that the notion of a progressive history became self-conscious. If only the Reformation and the Enlightenment could have conspired, might not much of the evil of the past two centuries been avoided? If this were, indeed, the Best Possible World, would that not have been the scenario of choice? Why was this hope seemingly held out to us and then taken away? Why could not this final revelation have come at least two centuries earlier?
The real question thus becomes, Why couldn't history have ended at least two centuries earlier? That question becomes much more difficult. It is tantamount to asking, Why history? Why creation? The final revelation answers that question.
But there is a caveat. History is the story of our separation from and then our rejoining with God. This is the fundamental premise of all prophecy. It has never been a secret. The function of the final revelation is to convince the world that history is coming to its logical conclusion. The subsequent Millennium is just that reasonably protracted concluding phase. It is the grace period in which all our unfinished business is finished. All our debts are settled. A thousand years should be considered as a reasonable upper limit for this denouement and rapprochement.
The final revelation makes sense of history and creation. In this regard, there is just one little secret that is not really a secret, but which, nonetheless, must be officially 'revealed'. Creation is not gratuitous. As I will continue to emphasize, without a Creation there is no Creator. Even God cannot ignore that simple, analytic tautology. Indeed, creation is the primary function of any self-respecting god, nay, of any god.
But there is more to this non-gratuity than mere tautology. There is the pantheist insight that Creation is the essence of God. In some sense, God = Creation. Having achieved this mystical insight, pantheists, much too often, go on to devalue creation, history, life, God. They set their spiritual sight on a realm beyond the tangle of Creator and Creation. How many of us have never contemplated the trading of life for nirvana? One can hardly blame them. N.B., however, mystics are much less inclined to suicide than the general population. That should tell us and them something. The life of the mystic is about as far from being absurd as one can get. No small paradox, that!
Hinduism had its combined Reformation and Enlightenment in Buddhism. It was, like our own Enlightenment, eventually rejected. Why? I'm afraid that the answer was all too mundane. Buddha was unable to overcome the Caste system. (Has Jesus fared better? You'll have to be the judge of that.)
But was that Buddha's fault? No. You will have to blame it on the system, the system of Creation, not Caste. Buddha somehow had to play the logically scripted role of the non-prophetic prophet. This might actually have been a greater spiritual challenge than anything on the other side which was naturally meant to be more straight forward. Just ask me about straight forward!
Creature and Creator are essential to each other. Why have the authorities always gone to such lengths to obfuscate this simple fact? The authorities take it upon themselves to intervene between creature and Creator, a role that is not entirely at odds with the prophetic process of mediation. Thus we have the 'divine mandate' of popes and kings. The Cabots speak only to the Lowells, and the Lowells speak only to God. That is not supposed to be a two way street, we think. We like to have our kings be kingly and our presidents be presidential. If today the President called you to ask for your advice on Iraq, how would you feel? You might feel just a bit put out. Then imagine if it were God on the other end of the line. Let the preachers preach so that the rest of us can mind our own business, thank you.
The final revelation is that we are all in this little boat together, and I do mean 'little'. Creation may not be perfect, but it is the best one possible, and I do mean 'one'. There is no second best creation. There is no second best creator. Secondness is the beginning and end of all incoherence, nay, of all absurdity. The Savior and Santa Claus are not the same. Santa Claus has to jump down every chimney. The Savior has but one. Ours was it. Despite the superficial materialist appearances, there is no spiritual redundancy in the Cosmos. There is only that supposedly mysterious second and final coming that we are about to witness in all of its down-to-earthiness. The final coming is meant precisely to break the seal of Creation. The key is in our own, oft-maligned minds, hidden in plain sight. It is just our universal power of reason -- a reason that knows only one authority -- love. That is our ticket to heaven.
Do you feel less than convinced? Well, don't take my word for it. Go talk to David. His is the last word for materialism. Does that spell the end of reason? No, that is just the beginning of a universal reasoning no longer cowed by the specter of atomism.

Since at least the time of Bertie Russell, The Analysis of Mind (1921), folks have turned to 'neutral monism' as a means to avoid the incoherence of materialism and dualism, without having to embrace the dreaded immaterialism.

David Hume, an 18th-century Scottish skeptic, developed a theory of knowledge that led him to regard both minds and bodies as collections of "impressions" ("perceptions"), the primary data of experience. Bertrand Russell, a 20th-century British logician and philosopher, called the neutral entities "sensibilia" and argued that mind and matter are "logical constructions." William James, the American pragmatist, held that the neutral primary stuff is not a series of atomistic perceptions but is a "booming, buzzing confusion" that he termed "pure experience," with mind, or consciousness, and body as names of discernible functions within it.
Neutral-monist theories have been criticized as inadequate in their account of either mind or body. Hume himself said (A Treatise of Human Nature) that his concept of mind as a bundle of perceptions inadequately accounts for the identity and simplicity of the mind. Others have criticized the notion that physical bodies comprise some sort of primary experience as implicitly idealistic. Hence, the central problem for neutral monism is seen as that of specifying clearly the nature of the neutral stuff without qualifying it in an exclusively mental or physical fashion. [Britannica 2001]
Neutral monism has taken a variety of forms, but mainly those of phenomenalism and, more recently, informationalism. This latter form covers David Bohm's 'implicate order' by which he attempted to provided a 'hidden variables' interpretation of the Quantum. Even the standard Copenhagen interpretation is virtually a neutral monism. I would submit that panpsychism and pantheism, when not purely immaterialist, are versions of neutral monism. Kant's noumenal realm is yet another version.
More to the point, naturalism and even non-reductive physicalism strongly overlap with neutral monism. Unless one is able to pretend that there is a very strict epistemic/ontic divide, then one is bound to deal with some form of neutral monism, at the least.
Let's see now. We are left with naturalism and, of course, supernaturalism. Off to the side is immaterialism. Supernaturalism is, to most folks, the same as dualism. If we shuffle these three cards once again we get neutral monism, dualism and idealism. The theistic dualists hold the incoherent wild card. If they ever saw the light of coherence available in idealism, our premillennial game would be over. Most theologians verge on idealism, but they will not confront the scientific establishment. The Creationists do that, but they are wedded to their dogmatic dualism . Without foreseeable support from the non-rational theists, we immaterialists must be the ones to confront the naturalists with their own incoherence. That is the only opening for rational, ideal theism. [Confrontation? Maybe just a nudge in the right direction.]
The naturalists fall back on the limited coherence of the scientific cosmology. Their weakest link is in explaining the evolutionary emergence of the mind. Except for the few remaining non-reductive physicalists, most naturalists assume a neutral monism that is tantamount to panpsychism.
It seems to me that it is a very slippery slope from naturalism to vitalism to panpsychism to pantheism to panentheism to a monistic theism. Where the naturalists find themselves on this slope is not something they are wont to advertise. No thoughtful naturalist could be unaware of this slope and of the non-existence of any logical retaining wall on their side of theism. They just see no reason to brag about the logical tenuousness of their position. Darwin and the Big Bang are their fortress. It seems a formidable fortress until one inspects its foundation.
There are mountains of evidence supporting the scientific cosmology. Those mountains may be shifted with one's little finger. This is accomplished by yanking the materialist rug out from under the scientific edifice. The smallest amount of panpsychism may then provide the grease to set that edifice adrift. It might as well be floating in mid-air, which is exactly the claim of immaterialism. It's all in the mind, be it cosmic mind or whatever.
Is there no alternative to panpsychism for the naturalist? What about all those dissipative structures and spontaneously emergent properties of the complexity theorists? The issue we found there was whether there can be non-trivial self-organization without a non-trivial self.
Biology is replete with apparently non-trivial emergent properties. But, by definition, an irreducible property is unexplainable scientifically. It cannot be explained by physics. The realm of the irreducible, should it not then be identified as some sort of projection of Kant's noumenal realm?
All of the emergent properties of which we shall ever have cognizance will pertain to living systems. If their noumenal source is other than some kind of vitalism, we could never know it. Naturalism tends naturally to vitalism. Do the naturalists deny this? Not to my knowledge. They simply don't brag about it.
But now it gets worse. There are a plethora of irreducible emergent properties with which we happen to have more than a nodding acquaintance. These are the states of our own psyches. It is often suggested that this acquaintance is so intimate that it is, at the least, unimpeachable. No one can vouchsafe our own mental states. Indeed, our own mental states may not even exist outside of our experience of them. Thus do we see how vitalism naturally and easily spills over into panpsychism.
There are caveats. We have to consider unconscious mental states, as well as the possibility of an artificial intelligence.
[from the PDA, not wanting to break the natural (sic) flow]:
Friday, January 10, 2003
6:05:51 PM

· [@GreenSpring Courts]

· There are caveats. We have to consider unconscious mental states, as well as the possibility of an artificial intelligence.
· [from 'On the Side of Reason' page.]
· These two considerations may be related.
· The computationalists like to think that our uCs is where the bulk of our information processing takes place.
· It is only our HOT's ['higher order thoughts'] that become conscious.
· Once again we find a possible venue for Kant's noumenal realm.
· Naturalists can avoid vitalism only if connectionism or computationalism can take up a significant amount of the noumenal gap.
· There are strong indications that these approaches are mutually negating. Only if some unknown amalgamation of them can be concocted, is there a way out of this logical dilemma.
My claim is that 'strong' AI is the only thing that stands between naturalism and vitalism or panpsychism. Thus is strong AI the last retaining wall on the slippery slope from naturalism to theism.
Once theism is back on the intellectual radar screen, immaterialism will then have its entrée onto that same screen. And once theism and immaterialism can no longer be intellectually dismissed, rational theism, as herein specified, will come into its own. This will complete our premillennial phase.
This is the most likely foreseeable course of events. The timing is now the last unknown. Within this decade? How about 2012 as the drop dead date? Let's give the Mayans their due. Why not? If we can bring it all in before then, well, so much the better. (And how many would-be cosmologists can say that only their ol' man knew D-day? Crypticism was never my strong suit.)
Here's a page for the record; this was on the neutral monism list: Neutral Monism & the Mind/Body Problem. This page is from the Holoweb. It belongs to Keith Choquette. Notice the similarities and differences between our two sites. So near yet so far??


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