22-07-09

Fünf Sonette an Orpheus

"III

Ein Gott vermags. Wie aber, sag mir, soll
ein Mann ihm folgen durch die schmale Leier?
Sein Sinn ist Zwiespalt. An der Kreuzung zweier
Herzwege steht kein Tempel für Apoll.

Gesang, wie du ihm lernst, ist nicht Begehr,
nicht Werbung um ein endlich noch Erreichtes;
Gesang ist Dasein. Für den Gott ein Leichtes.
Wann aber sind wir? Und wann wendet er

an unser Sein die Erde und die Sterne?
Dies ists nicht, Jüngling, Dass du liebst, wenn auch
die Stimme dann den Mund dir aufstösst, - lerne

vergessen, dass du aufsangst. Das verrinnt.
In Wahrheit singen, ist ein andrer Hauch.
Ein Hauch um nichts. Ein Wehn im Gott. Ein Wind."

Rainer Maria Rilke, Fünf Sonette an Orpheus, III, p.24 booklet with CD "Rautavaara, Song of My Heart, Orchestral Songs", published by Ondine.

(official English translation below)


What I wanted to talk about was 'Mind-Mind Dualism'; then I thought about Orpheus and remembered what is quoted above from Rilke (I hesitated a bit: Kierkegaard or Nietzsche came to mind as well, but I settled for Rilke-Orpheus). This godly creature could woo even the devil into appreciating the beauty of song but he was too human not to hesitate about whether his earthly beauty was still accompanying him; he was more man than god in other words, and probably therefore as godly as can be, alive but not constrained by death.

'Mind-Mind Dualism'! No, I'm not a dualist by any means. But given how much it has gone out of fashion to be dualist, this phrase of 'Mind-Mind Dualism' is, maybe, just provacative enough to make people think beyond the current consensus. It has long been a thought with me that 'Mind' was treated in philosophy to simpliciter. & I don't mean: 'too simply' because nothing has been treated as complicatedly as this. But I do mean that 'Mind' is taken as some kind of simple entity, or as a quality common to a host of phenomena (let's not get stuck in the relative merits of the versions, as commonly denounced here).

Let me try to be as arrogant and ambitious here again as, hopefully, ever. My belief can be phrased as: 'Mind is a homonym for two qualitatively distinct phenomena, or objects (let's not get stuck in the relative merits of phenomena vs. objects." There's the associative Humean mind and the deductive Fregean mind. The fact that we are using the same word to denote two vastly different things is not a coincidence; from the former springs the latter, and - all scientistic claims of the 'Erreichtes' and all the religious claims of the 'Werbung' can be put aside - the latter can only originate if it has the former to spring from. More than this: the latter can only continue to be if it has the former as its continuous substratum. Leading to all positives & negatives of being 'All too human' - 'Das verrinnt' ... 'Lerne vergessen' ..., don't think you'll ever be beyond looking back.

If you follow my drift you'll maybe say that this is Mind-Body Dualism all over again. The associative mind being associated to the body and the deductive mind being of eternal-soul-like qualities. You'd probably right to a certain extent, I think - but this is a clearer way of putting that, avoiding the basic falsities in a dualism in any strict, and therefore honest, sense. It is in fact in line with my conjecture that a big part of insight in philosophy has to do with rephrasing, with finding a way of speaking that's enlightening what always tended to be obscure in context (with singing in fact). This is where a 'stepping-stone theory of language' comes in (as I once have to dedicate myself to working out in less detail but with more clarity than in my thesis); from an initially associative background we gradually and socially construct our well-behaved languages that permit us to express things that survive our specific context, & even our specific social contexts to some extent. This is not the process that takes rubble from the associative side to construct clean self-supporting edifices on a logical side - this is a process that requires both elements to continuously cross-fertilize without aiming at heavens but with the natural consequence of increasing understanding &, 'In Wahrheit singen'.

Yes, you got me, it's very close to anomalous monism (which I discovered after I'd grown a fixation to this theme). But still - not quite - because there the meddle still persists, the meddle of 'The Unified Signification of Mind'. It is - as far as I can see - a dogma that remains to be broken. As all dogma-breakers it's based on a hunch of association (dissociation between the paraphernalia of the Humean mind & those of the loftier, Orphean, mind). It's also a constructive thought; it demolishes all the 'Either/Or' and converges into an, albeit continually imperfect, harmony. Specifically the notion, elsewhere expanded ever so imperfectly, of the loftier Mind necessarily, and universally, being a Social Mind (rather than the hencetoforth used Fregean, or logical, adjectives at the service of clarity and provocation).

As Lance says: 'Stay Tuned'.


"III

A god an do it. But how, tell me,
should a man follow him through that narrow lyre?
His mind is torn in two. At the crossing
of two heartways you will find no temple for Apollo.

Song, as you teach it, is no yearning,
no wooing for something that can be finally attained;
song is being. Easy for a God.
But when are we? And when will he turn

the earth and the stars to our being?
This is not about your loving, young man,
even if your voice exploded from your mouth;

learn to forget that you ever sang. It fades away.
To sing in truth is a different breath.
A breath of nothing. A breeze of god. A wind."


Whilst writing this I was listening to (yes, you can guess) Rautavaara, above for details.

12:03 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: identity, tones, mind-mind dualism, optimism, rilke |  Facebook |

06-06-09

The Origin of Species: Author's Introduction

"This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms.", The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, Wordsworth classics of world litterature, 1998, p. 5-6.


A simple one. Malthus has gotten loads of bad press. If at all a connection is made between Malthus and Darwin, it's mostly made under the heading 'Social Darwinism', which is meant insultingly as misapplied Darwinism and associated to extreme right political views. This annoys me. Better: this infuriates me. But more importantly: it's incorrect. And, most importantly: the error blocks us from an important insight.

First the error. Malthus was not a biologist. His theory was not a biological theory. An interpretation of his theory along biological lines in which the weakest individuals, as per the weakest social or ethnic groups, should perish such as to have better human offsrping is in clear error. Darwin's '(..) any being, if it vary however slightly in in any manner profitable to itself (..) will have a better chance of surviving (..)" rewarped in Malthus's sociological thinking needs to be seen as a variation of beliefs held by the human beings in society. The Malthusian thesis is that, insofar people have a better set of beliefs, they'll be better equipped to lead a good life. A necessary element of such a set of beliefs is to moderate population growth (not by a one-child policy but by a realization that it is better to moderate one's own procreation even if as Darwin later showed non-moderation of procreation is a biologically inescapable instinct). In fact, as we know now, moderation of population growth is essential to survival of the human race as all natural checks - other than destructive disaster - on an increasing human footprint have been eliminated. As Malthus forewarned (and therefore, in its essence, his theory stands): the only check to disastrous crisis is internal - i.e. self-imposed - checks.

Second, the blocked insight: the dynamics of creation is as unavoidable as the laws of logic and applicable indiscrimately to all that lives (& therefore all that isn't just a matter of pure logic). Anything living will tend to procreate. Anything procreating will tend to variate. Only the competitive variants will remain. This applies to beings, as is generally accepted, but it also applies to beliefs, the original Malthusian  thought as acknowledged by Darwin. We have had to vary our ideas, and hence: create new ideas, such as to avoid continuous catastrophic crisis. One of the ideas that 'had to' be created is the understanding of the dynamism of all things living, the Malthusian idea more clearly illustrated by Darwin in biology.

So what? So this: only the 'best' ideas survive with 'best' in the sense of adapted in the best (most competitive) way to the environment in which the idea. No - not just Dawkins' memes again. Because the question is here as in Darwinism - 'Adapted to what?' The notion of memes misleadingly centered on things as nursery rhymes - & by pejorative extension to false populist ideology - such as 'Darwinism-denialism' -, and that's as misleading as stating that the fittest creature is the one that survives in an environment artificially created to suit such a creature. The analogy holds: for populist ideology can only survive in an islander environment (or one of the fenced off pieces of nature described by Darwin). Such artificial islands can't survive (mono-cultures are like forced inbreeding, and will ultimately succumb under the weakness of its culture when it inevitably faces other cultures that survived in some unartificial environment - cfr. the current state of Muslim countries and the maybe future state of the culture of Western supremacy). Bad ideology is, by the way, a lot like rhyme: both are well adapted to a subsegment of the environment - those of memory and instinctive beastly fear of the strange.

'Adapted to the freely evolving conditions of nature', however frustratingly vague an expression like this may be to some, is the correct view, also for ideas. One idea is the original one of Malthus: universal education. A later idea was: birth control. Both together are well adapted (even if still obviously varying), allowing a relative stability in the substrate for creating more ideas. They neutralize the imminent destruction - the trigger for Malthus ideas - by overpopulation. Further well adapted ideas are the ideas of universal social security and low-carbon emission growth (to give those that are currently relatively uncontroversial in non-populist monoculture groupthink - the right to die and the right to be lazy are my typical controversial ones).

Here I unfortunately need to make this one even longer by going into a long 'by the way'. It is indeed important to note that the above also explains the intuitive appeal of the Hegelian quasi-dynamic of the dialectic. In describing such dynamic processes one is easily fooled by the fallacy of treating the description as if it were thé reality & then applying logic to the description to get thé truth, thé way out, thé next step. All current politics is Hegelian in this sense of identifying something bad then proposing some specific solution to it and thinking that in so doing the bad thing is irreversibly eliminated. Taking Malthus and Darwin this can't be true - whilst we can simplify our descriptions to isolate this animal and that plant, the real reality is that of all plants and all animals ... and all ideas. Things change, interact & are constantly in motion, with the brute creative force as Bergson tried to describe, such that we can't say that this situation is superseded by that one; this thing solved by forever applying such a solution.

Have I gone astray in my above example then as well? A fair question, & the answer is: 'No!'. No, because I was not specific and took care to identify winning ideas on an abstract enough level to be able to be substantiated by the insights of Darwinism, & the dynamics of Malthus. These ideas are winners in the sense that humans have to be winners; both are intrinsically and qualitatively better suited to support a creative, and continuous, growth. Ideas are a major new element of growth. They do not grow into something definite, virtuous just as DNA did not pruposely grow into humans.

The only virtue that can be identified is the virtue of growth itself. The virtue of truth even is derived from the virtue of growth. Ideas can only grow insofar as they are, in a logical and a scientific sense, true (this does not settle the problem of logical truth and mathematics, by the way!).

Even if abstract, there are other things that we can pinpoint as winning ideas besides education and birth control (the control over one's own destiny). Without argument I give a few: competition, consumption, economic growth. Other ideas clearly can't but be categorized as loosers: xenophobia, carbon growth, extension of life expectancy, hard & long work. This has been a long one again so I have permitted myself some fun in implying but not argueing that economic growth is split from carbon growth (& consumption from material consumption) and that working hard is incompatible with the emergence of original ideas. Certainly the latter is a definite to do: maybe time for a Montaigne quote again.


Whilst writing this I was listening to Anthrax, 'State of Euphoria' and 'Strawberry Jam', The Animal Collective.

16:34 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (2) | Tags: competition, dynamics, darwin, malthus, optimism, tones |  Facebook |

02-05-09

Star Trek

"To boldly go where no man has ever gone before." G. Roddenberry, Star Trek, anywhere.


Never cared too much for most of this series. Among my many weaknesses there is a certain immunity to being radically 'into' anything. Still, that line & the general gist of it mean a lot to me and should mean a lot to you. No not because of nostalgia, a passing infatuation with camp or because one has to dig at least what was popular - none of that. It has to mean a lot because it means a lot: because it's universal 'to boldly go where no man has ever gone before'. So universal it wouldn't make sense to think of intelligent creatures that wouldn't want to go there (which does not mean, alas, that all creatures are intelligent - all us humans are not intelligent, most of the time).

That's what I'm doing here: going where no man has gone before. Not trying to do - doing! No idea if I will wind up in places of any relevance whatsoever. Nor am I very sure that at least the ride itself is very enjoyable (or whether there is anybody on it at all). More, I'm going boldly because doing it prudently is just to keep within this, ot that, known territory; and for all one knows, that territory might as well be prison ('God'-prison, 'being responsible'-prison, 'hard work'-prison, 'listen to your experts'-prison, ...).

The spirit of Star Trek is the truely human spirit (and yes! - Lt Uhura & Chekhov are beasts in bed), the human spirit as it should be. And every single time I have heard the above line I have felt (albeit I have no appetite for travel & less so for even this most convenient space travel) that it was enough. Without any of us physically going anywhere we can be everyhwere (-Q!-).

It seems like the mediocrest of points one can on a corny piece of pop culture but it really isn't. It's the meaning of life, Jim, but not as we know it. We've succumbed, or all but succumbed, to the neurotic interpretation of meaning as a fixed point, that is to be discovered and henceforward used as steadfast anchor point. We're so far into this obsessive-compulsive behaviour in this 21st century that it's hard to see how we would ever be able to cut loose from the 'religious prison renamed compliance' in an as short stretch of time as is left between us and the 24th century. But precisely this mediocre point is the mental virus that will save us from our pet-genes of pettiness: it is a well known point, it is well understood, across cultures. Going boldly is fun, it's good for those coming after you, it is respectful to those that have gone before you, and it will only succeed by trying to communicate.

And on an unimportant side note: it has relevance for philisophy and for language - I don't know a clearer statement of Davidson's saying on conceptual schemes than Star Trek. I don't know a better illustration of far-reaching cultural relativity in some loose sense and the universal primacy of needing-to-understand in the strictest of senses.

Also, it always, in my memory at least, has ended well as it cannot but end well with us because there is, rationally, only the possibility for long term improvement. Such tastes as well the victory over the pessimism that is a necessary by-product of some strong & strict (neurotic) belief in cultural relativism - good to have a strong dose of psychosis once in a while, the short term being as it is rather miserabilistic.


Whilst writing this I was listening to Schoenberg (Chamber Symphony 1) & Brahms, (Piano Quartet 1), Simon Rattle: City of Birmingham Orchestra

12:31 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: optimism, boldness, pop culture, universals, tones |  Facebook |