The Auguries of Science

"The very notion of truth is a culturally given direction, a part of the pervasive nostalgia for an earlier certainty. The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods in the first two millennia after the decline of the bicameral mind." Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind., Mariner Books, 1990, p. 446.

There you have it in one quote: all of the beauty and most of the folly of one of the most original thinkers of the XXth century - a scientist that mistook his philosopizing for hypothesis. A thinker lost in the Quine-Duhem-Davidson triangle of changing too much concepts at the same time to be taken seriously by anybody because - in the end - everybody has one concept that is so near & dear to her or his heart that it's a little bit too holy to be touched.

One example being: the naïve concept of truth. The type of truth that settles things, once and for all. The kind of truth that discovers essentialia, in what for some is just a depressingly absurd sequence of events otherwise.

His bold conjecture was this. Consciousness evolved slowly and after man genetically was already a long time more or less the homo sapiens it still is today. Before those conscious times humans that were genetically quasi-identical to us roamed around - in blissful ignorance of the fact they existed. First these people evolved language, & in that language they heard what they denoted as 'the voice of God' giving, literally, commands. Not merely more or less as a schizophrenic would hear voices giving her commands. No, exactly like a schizophrenic would hear voices giving him commands.

Jaynes held that for the majority of the history of the species our predecessors were roaming the world whilst all of them in a never-ending psychotic episode in which God personally told them what to do. What they were hearing in fact were verbally coded and transmitted traditions making up their culture and connecting the lessons learnt by the forefathers with the survival strategies of the group to which they belonged.

This conjecture is of an originality and a beauty that receives better than the scorn it got (up to a point that the original friends, like Dennett, dare no longer speak "that" name again). Nevermind that scientifically he overreached, stumbling upon hilarious self-defeating 'truths'. Nevermind that he failed to appreciate what philosophers had only appreciated in the 2nd half of the XXth century: the relativity of relativity, and a final destruction of the absolutes of even falsifiability.

Nevermind all that and think about it.

Think about how giving up certainties opens up possibilities - the possibility of all of us having developed consciousness up to the level of almost being all of the time in a state of collective neurosis. And the possibility of also overcoming this by evolving into a better state of collective consciousness. A state where we give up on mutual & mutually incompatible Holy Grails. A state where we just live life knowing the past is: as good as it could have been. Knowing that the future will be: better.

Even ridicule will not be able to destroy originality of thought.

Whislt writing this I was listening to Bill Frisell, Disfarmer, Nonesuch.

21:44 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (15) | Tags: jaynes, scientism, language, mind-mind dualism, optimism |  Facebook |


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 |


The Objective Problem (concerning The Truth of Christianity)

"(..) And as for the relationship of the subject to the truth when he comes to know it, the assumption is that if only the truth is brought to light, its appropriation is a relatively unimportant matter, something which follows as a matter of course. And in any case, what happens to the individual is in the last analysis a matter of indifference. Herein lies the lofty equanimity of the scholar, and the comic thoughtlessness of his parrot-like echo." S. Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Princeton 1968, p. 24.

A friend of mine put my mind again on Kierkegaard. Although I won't praise the lord for it, I am thankful for reading him early on in my life. He cured me of many things (one of them trying to be too serious about anything for too long) and most notably of religious group-think (and, consequently but with quite a significant delay, of all & any religious - or with more modern terms: deep, sincere, authentic - sentiment, but not of sentiment as such - see later). He also cured me of feeling compelled to what is commonly preferred sentence-wise: i.e. short sentences. And of the need to avoid starting sentences with the word "And".

So I dug in. At random, as I read Kierkegaard well before I started with this habit of dog-ear'ing (Dutch speaking visitors will maybe not recognize the term as an English translation of "ezelsoor"; dogs turn into donkeys in the area of language, no sweat) and unfortunately also before I started reading in German. I came across lots of the type of funny thing that makes somebody like me cringe in the realization that they may, after all, not be as good as they think they are at this business of writing. And I came across a section on old virgins that waited and waited for the moment just to realize when they thought they got to it that nobody was interested anymore - not in sharing it with them, that is, at least.

I laughed, then settled for the above dry 'n sober quote. Risking, in so doing, to be scaring of one or two visitors here for the atheistic joy of reading somebody that is - unashamedly - religious. Christian even, and - for him - not by co-incidence.

Oughtn't I get around to the point?

To my defense: I did get around it - which was, more or less, the point.

'Dawkins' he said and 'agnosticism'. I like Dawkins, mostly. I dislike agnosticism, all of the time (that is a bit harsh, really, but the way the former appears to understand the latter: true enough). It hit me: I hated the link between the both. 'Why that?', I thought (I'm making things simple here, so please thank me for it while I shift gear from 'banging-the-same-nail' status I got into in the last posts). Well - I will tell you why! Because the guy really should pay his dues to Kierkegaard - to the man whose first name my keyboard won't allow me to type. It's not a mere historical accident of not knowing everything that has been written. Kierkegaard's essential to anything in the field of criticizing religion, ANYTHING. Leaving him out can only be negligence, or foul play; I leave it up to Dawkins which it is, as I have not the least interest in what is on his mind. But I can imagine it is awkward to recognize that the stupidity of any proof of God's existence was demonstrated in the 1st half of the 19th century by an avowed Christian (regardless of the disproof of the provability of God).

Which brings me back to the things I was cured of by a really great Dane: scientism, or the belief that science in and of itself can be the solution ('Solution of what?', is a sufficiently à propos retort to it, by the way). It can't and I am not saying Dawkins is saying it can, but he is at least neglecting to say it can't. No - correction needed: I'll need to be prudent here as I didn't read most of what Dawkins had to say lately (as I thought he said what was to be said in his first two books). More prudently then: I, sincerely, believe that the evidence points in the direction of Dawkins (et al) making his (their) life(s) easier for themselves (in converting the converted) by neglecting a challenge which is quite to the heart of their point. If so they are as far as the critical attitude goes, far inferior to Kierkegaard who started from the opponent's angle and point of view; who started from the worst possible place, for what he thought was the intuitively correct position. Because in the end (but that's for other posts elsewhere & here) what science cannot be, the scientific spirit maybe can be, and the critical mind surely is. It's at least discomforting to give the impression to loose out on the home qualities to the away team, isn't it.

There is not enough time now or place here to go in the real detail but let me say - and one of these days I'll get the old virgins in this bed and come back to it - that: the omission (if it is there) is non-trivial also from the content point of view. It is of the type exposed by Bergson and more mathematically attacked by a Chruchland - or was it Alonzo Church?, I really have to find that paper back: in the real world and the world of real numbers, there is no straightforward transformation of facts and of matters of fact. There is a subject there that makes the relations 'dirty' - maybe in Davidson's anomalous monism case. This dirtiness needs to be faced; for if not - it will, once again, be confused for 'something' higher, deeper, more authentic, super- or supra-human .. and the misery of human inhumanity - in the name of - can start all over again.

To close: look at the end of the quote above: "parrot-like echo". It's dead on, as is clear from the above. Exaggerating in science leads not only to mysticism - and late converts - but also leads to a destruction of creativity. There is just no point in being right, right?

My only difference here with Kierkegaard is that I don't see where that's funny.


Whilst writing this I was listening to the jazz program on klara.be, called, aptly, "Jazz".

(but, more interestingly, whilst thinking about it I was listening to Valentin Silvestrov, The Seven Verses of Alexander Blok, by the Gryphon Trio)

21:42 Gepost door Guido Nius in Vrije tijd | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: kierkegaard, scientism, decadence, boldness, intention |  Facebook |