30-03-08

L'existence et le néant

"Si l'on passe (consciemment ou inconsciemment) par l'idée du néant pour arriver a celle de l'être, l'être auquel on aboutit est une essence logique ou mathématique, partant intemporelle. Et, dès lors, une conception statique du réel s'impose: tout paraît donné en une seule fois, dans l'éternité." L'évolution créatrice, Henri Bergson, Quadrige/PUF, 1941, p. 298.

"La négation diffère donc de l'affirmation proprement dite en ce qu'elle est une affirmation du second degré: elle affirme quelque chose d'une affirmation qui, elle, affirme quelque chose d'un objet." ibid., p. 288

(amateuristic English translation below)


Things esoteric & spiritual cannot be farther removed from my grasp of reality. However, I admit, quite reluctantly, that I'm attracted to the relation between pure logic & mathematics (also unavoidable in linguistics) & our dirty everyday real world, specifically because of the mystery that still persists in it. It should then not be a surprise to see here a quought on where logic and reality come apart, not in the spirit of providing evidence for a 'something more' but rather in the thriving tradition of meeting complexities rationally but head-on.

Pure logic & reality do come apart. They do so most strikingly in negation and, in consequence, in the law of the excluded middle. Many will find Bergson isn't a credible reference in such matters (which is why I started with the above & quite superfluous paragraph) & I do not do him justice here in quoting only a conclusion without providing his argumentation. Be that as it may, pure logic & reality do come apart for the basic reason outlined in the second quote. It is a truth that when ignored leads to the common fallacy succinctly put in the first quote. That common fallacy in turn is the premise of much mischief in the name of reason as well as the type of scientism/positivism commonly abused by those of a spiritual bend to discredit science/logic &, whenever necessary to saveguard the own 'spiritual' truth, reason itself alltogether.

Negation in natural language is a complex phenomenon. In its simplest form, negation of a primitive assertion, it remains problematic certainly with respect to negation in formalized logic. In the latter P denotes what 'not P' does not denote & that's more or less the end of it. In the former however, something happens, I believe, that is quite similar to 'that P' opaque contexts in as have been studied by e.g. Donald Davidson (to name a more credible source here, at least somewhere); 'not P' in natural language is not simply objective but a specific assertion that, for its truth, is relative to the context & the speaker of the assertion in ways that aren't one-to-one with respect to assertions of 'P' (even by the same speaker in the same context).

If so, the junction at which pure logic & reality come apart here is the junction between a static description of reality & that reality itself. As Bergson notes it is a coming apart of quite grave consequence. Not in the sense of discrediting the importance of pure logic & mathematics in describing reality (I'd go further in saying: not even in the sense of challenging the monopoly of pure logic for any reasonable description of reality). The grave consequence is that - in not heeding this fact of natural language - we'll necessarily misrepresent reality - with, see elsewhere, grave & rather concretely real consequences itself.

One could argue, no doubt many have so argued, that this may well be true, but that in philosophy and in science one has no other option than disregard this fact of natural language (&, if you will therefore: of nature). The problem is that ultimately the problems of philosophy but also science are problems as put in natural language; so are the results also put in natural language. It is therefore impossible to avoid this complexity. Avoiding it unavoidably leads to conclusions that are much more than merely doubtful: it leads to results that are plain wrong. Unavoidably wrong results naturally trigger - without need for any reasoning whatsover - an evolutionary defense mechanism in - most probably all - rational creatures: emotional or spiritual adherence to the base premise, whether revealed or not.

On the positive side, there is really no reason from all of this to posit entities of a spiritual or extra-scientific nature. It suffices to recognize that the basics of action (with Davidson) or time (with Bergson) are indeed basic. Reality isn't only to be described but also to be acted upon. Few would challenge that it is action that comes first and last whilst description is merely a helpful aid in the middle. Many unfortunately would see this as discrediting descriptions across the board although this truth (if truth it be) is very compatible with the desire to act only on the basis of an adequate description of the relevant reality. It's not because Darwin's law, or the laws of thermodynamics for that matter, are pointing to relative strengths that they do not absolutely apply.

 


"When we pass (consciously or inconscuously) from the idea of nothing to that of being, the being we end up with is a logical or mathematical essence, & therefore timeless. And, from that point onwards, a static conception of of reality imposes itself: everything appears given at once, for eternity"

"Negation thus differs from what is properly called a positive assertion in that it's an assertion of the second degree: it asserts something of an assertion that, it, asserts something of an object."

 


 

Whilst writing this I listened (quite appropriately) to Eric Satie, L'oeuvre pour piano by Aldo Ciccolini, EMI Classics.

22:33 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: bergson, dynamics, identity, scientism |  Facebook |

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