20-11-09

L'élan vital

"Le mécanisme reprochera donc avec raison au finalisme son caractère anthropomorphique. Mais il ne s'aperçoit pas qu'il procède lui-même selon cette méthode, en la tronquant simplement. Sans doute il a fait table rase de la fin poursuivie ou du modèle idéal. Mais il veut, lui aussi, que la nature ait travaillé comme l'ouvrier humain, en assemblant des parties. (..)", H. Bergson, L'évolution créatrice, p. 90, Quadrige, Grands Texts, 1941.

(amateuristic English translation below)


Going hard-core again. I apologize to those unwilling to dive deeply.

It's a 'slippery slope'-mission which I'm about to embark upon. Nobody will be willing to wave the mechanistic flag but many will be willing to put anything - even remotely - Bergsonian out with this garbage of extraterrestrial, supernatural, or, extrasensory entities, or, beings, or causes. But, much worse than that (& here stoppeth the usual disclaimers because these religious bastards just won't socially darwinize themselves into oblivion rapidly enough): the nut crew will be all too happy to claim anything, as far as there is something claimable.

It's a thin line where the friends are trying to push you to the nether side & enemies are trying to pull you into their camp. But enough apologies for crimes uncommitted, byt myself at least:

There's something rotten in neo-Darwinism. Hence there's something wrong with the currently established logico-materialistic consensus. Something that doesn't - at the present moment at least - should really bother us too much given the many billions that still believe the crap in which their less educated parents believed. But still, it is something that at least gives an argument to the advocates of "there just has to be a certain 'something' or other" thereby protracting the agony of getting rid of all that bull-shit (not that you're personally very bothered by this agony, you being one that has the luxury of reading philosophically type thingies on the internet but just watch the news and you'll see how literal the agony is in what's commonly referred to as a South-East portion of the world). And, eventually (but I'll leave that unexplored, it's a popular theme for the advocates of the nut crew anyway) it'll do real damage also to us (on second thought: I do think it already does damage by the work ethics that are inspired by the amassing of 'stuff' - but see further).

"What's wrong then?", you ask.

"Read the bloody quote!", I say.

OK, that was uncalled for. Let me take an unexpected example: the gene. What's a gene? Can we individuate genes? Take one, turn it around and examine whether it's selfish, or, less ambitiously, yellow? No, and that's why there is a problem with them (no, you're not getting any more disclaimers - so if you go off and imagine I' saying what I'm not saying: have fun in the looney bin, there are a few rather decent works of Michelangelo I'm told): conceptually they work but on closer inspection ... there is nothing to inspect. DNA, yes and bits and pieces of DNA that when handled in certain ways tend to have a certain range of effects but nothing quite as simple as we're led to believe by the common noun term that has been coined to refer to ... well, what?, what exactly?

It's atomism & holism. It's integers & reals. It's Wittgenstein A & Wittgenstein B. It's Quine. Them things simply do not exist! Subatomic particles don't exist; at least not if it is a criterion for the identity of them that they aren't also waves - and what could be further from particleness than waveness as undoubtedly many concluded before I concluded it.

Back to the drawing board then ...... Or not! Because that's it in the end, as much as we are drawn to drawing it out, preferably in minute specific detail; we can't 'wrap our heads around it'. There is indeed 'something' that resists being captured. No spirit - no essence - no 'Sein' & certainly no ... (hint: the first dot is in capitals). Something, you know, that is true but that resists being proven. Dunno really - but something in the order of such an improvably true something. Nothing mystical, maybe that was a flaw of Bergson himself, I also don't know, because it is something with which we are able to calculate. Indeed, this something will create new stuff, and that new stuff will get exposed to the existing stuff and out of that confrontation some stuff will prevail and other stuff will be lost (not material stuff of course - but stuff made out of those materials and nothing else). And so forth. And so on. Etcetera. Etc. Darwin.

Not the kind of stuff you can hope for. Not at all stuff that will come to your rescue & certainly not stuff that will listen to what you're not saying.

But maybe this is something that can be said of our stuff: that it is the type of stuff that'll make sure that we have to do an effort not to end well.

Energy/Entropy comes to mind. What is entropy?

(I'm starting to sound like Wittgenstein; sorry, I'll cut it out)

What I wanted to say when I started saying something here & wound up saying what is above: it's not a mystical thing that we need, even if Bergson (& I - with less good excuses I have to admit, more than a century on) could only give it a mystical name - something 'vital'. But it ís vital because it does bring hope without the 'Trojan' virus that is so exceedingly well adapted to our discrete thoughts.

It brings hope because, looking back, we see its impetus is in the direction of better adaptation, the direction of improvement. If energy comes from suns, plants always tend to evolve to trees. It can take forever & maybe even literally (never happen - I mean): but trees will never evolve away from the sun. Animals'll tend to intelligence, and intelligent animals to socialization and social animals to interaction & interaction with some luck to language and language to justice.

Oversimplified, I know, but you get the gist and the gist is everything I can convey - decadence is a logical impossibility - i.e. everything labeled like that has something we should identify and cherish. Or (strictly for later use) - from one thing always two.

One of the next times: Kant's argument for the after-life & a new type of after-life - kidding you not.


"Mechanistic thought will, rightly, attack final causes for its antropomorphic character. But it doesn't recognize that it proceeds following this same method, simply by leaving out a final cause. Without any doubt it makes tabula rasa with the objective sought after or with ideal models. But it wants, it as well, that nature works like the human worker, putting together piece parts."


Whilst wirting this I was listening to Valentin Silvestrov, Metamusik and Postludium, ECM New Series.

19:27 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: bergson, scientism, dynamics, mind-mind dualism, identity |  Facebook |

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 |