Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nietzsche already took - 20 years before Saussure - this step (from which Saussure explicitly refrained)

ANT: Latour’s interests are definitively not primarily epistemological, but ontological ones. He does not focus on the nature of knowledge of the world, but tries to figure out the nature of a world in which knowledge plays a role our world, i.e., the world of science and technology.
To get a feel for ANT, think of the world as a staged play. How does an actor become a character in a play? Only by interacting with other actors and with artefacts, and by speaking about himself, artefacts, events, and so on. What character is he? Look for the artefacts and the actors that surround him and the plots he is involved in. Watch how artefacts mediate to define a character: a crown on his head translates an actor into a king, and vice versa. How does a prop become a particular artefact which plays a definite role in the world of the play? Look how it has become involved in interactions.
On stage, each thing is only constituted solely through its interrelations with, and differences from, everything else. Nothing has any intrinsic features of its own. ‘The properties of a thing are effects on other “things”. If I remove all the relationships, all the “properties”, all the “activities” of a thing, the thing does not remain.’ (Is that a Latour quotation? No, but it could have been. In fact, this is Nietzsche). So, to answer any question about what anything is, and to answer any question about meaning, we have to study how the world in which it plays a role is built up as an effect of interactions, i.e., interactions in which both humans and non-humans are involved. We have to deconstruct the ‘scripts’ that brought actors and artefacts into existence, study their genealogy, and see how in that process they became bestowed with essences.
What is the philosophy behind this? First, call to mind the Saussurian idea (commonplace in semiotics) that there are only differences in language: nothing inherently suits a phoneme for its role in words, the only thing that matters is that it differs from other phonemes. (For example, the phoneme b enters in bat and bed, not in rat and red - that makes b into a distinguished phoneme, but nothing inherently affords b this particular role.) ANT follows up on this. It radicalises this idea, by applying the Saussurean principle to the whole world. Interestingly, ANT is not the first to have done this.
In fact, Nietzsche already took - twenty years before Saussure - this step (from which Saussure explicitly refrained) to apply the intuition that language is a system of differences to the whole world. So, what we are talking about is a pan-semiotic ontology, a Nietzschean conception of the world as a text, or - as I would prefer - as a staged play.

Values are an illusion; Nothing can be known with certainty

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin Let us review the main conclusions of the kosmonkey referenced above:
1) Man is an animal, fundamentally no different than any other.
2) Values are an illusion; nothing is actually any better than anything else (e.g., the Giza Pyramid is a stick in an ant hole and Shakespeare is Maureen Dowd).
3) Emotion and language -- or heart and head, meaning and truth -- cannot actually exist in any human sense. My dog knowing where to poop or when it's time for a walk is no different than the theory of relativity.
4) Nothing can be known with certainty, which is simply another way of saying that nothing may be known except falsehood -- which is no knowledge at all.
5) Ironic though it may be for a "progressive" to say, there is actually no direction in history, no objective standard of measurement, no better or worse. Our unique Western values have nothing whatsoever to do with our extraordinary "success." As the Big Baboon, Jared Diamond, has argued, it's just a matter of geography, disease, and fortuitous placement of natural resources.
6) There is no intrinsic meaning in the cosmos, much less in your life -- which is simply the tail end of the tail end of a random process leading from nowhere to nothing.
7) The secular leftist takes an appallingly violent wrecking ball to the entire realm of the vertical, in that not only are you not special, but you are insignificantly small. Furthermore, the world is not special -- which of course makes us wonder -- but not really -- why all these leftists cheer the fanatical message of Al Gore, which is obviously premised on the doctrinal truth that the earth is of infinite importance; here again, a fine example of the "ape of God."
8) Neither human beings nor the planet are at the center of the universe, since there is by definition no center once the vertical has been demolished by academic monkeys with sticks. Again, the correct doctrine is that of course human beings are at the very center of the cosmic drama if viewed vertically. The center of a three-dimensional cone is a line that descends from the point to the base, not anything located along the base. Reduced from three to two dimensions, we are left with only a circle at the base. This is the self-imposed "circle of hell" inhabited by the the secular left which they -- no different than the Islamists -- would like to impose upon the rest of us. posted by Gagdad Bob at 2/26/2007 06:08:00 AM 48 comments links to this post

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Origen, Denys, Eckhart, Blake, and Boehme

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
Now, it is surely no coincidence that all of my favorite Christian theologians happen to be mystical theologians, many of whom have at one time or another been branded as heterodox, even heretical: Origen, Denys, and Eckhart; or Blake and Boehme, who would not really be considered theologians but visionaries in a Christian context; the author of Meditations on the Tarot, who was Catholic but calls himself a Christian Hermeticist, part of a perennial wisdom tradition extending back before Jesus and parallel to Moses; or even Balthasar, a nominally Catholic theologian who is regarded with some suspicion because of his close working relationship with a visionary mystic, Adrienne Speyr, who essentially provided him with "channeled" material. There's simply no other way to put it -- for example, Speyr explained in detail to Balthasar exactly what was going on with Jesus while he was dead and in hell all day on Holy Saturday, between the crucifixion of Good Friday and the first Easter Sunday.
And the more I study Frithjof Schuon, I can see that he struggled mightily to situate himself within orthodox tradition -- indeed, it was the entire basis of his life's work -- even though it is obvious to this Coon that he transcended any small-o orthodoxy and abided within O-rthodoxy itself: beyond religion, so to speak, into the source of religion...posted by Gagdad Bob at 2/24/2007 06:02:00 AM 25 comments links to this post

Friday, February 23, 2007

Don’t slide back into some premodern justifications for the state of things

Matthew Newsham Says: February 22nd, 2007 at 10:27 am Have we given up hope that philosophy can be useful? Aristotle created a TOE- he came up with a powerful formalized system of logic that couldn’t be ignored by Christians of the West. Aquinus eventually even incorporated many of those concepts into the thinking of his era. Yes, maybe there is some hubris bound into all this- but what is good, true, and beautiful will continue to be refined in any case. We have to remember that we aren’t talking about any one man or idea here, but the sum total movement of all human understanding. Language, logic, values, calculations- these are all things that will continue to be effected by the overarching “meta” diolauge we are participating in today. Don’t slide into the trap of the green meme- most people’s condition on earth is still far too miserable for us to put up our hats and just think about ourselves. Don’t slide back into some premodern justifications for the state of things-
Stand and fight to move humanity forward towards the good and the true! A person in conflict has to assume that his every action will be effective in winning his battle. He has to be attentive to them and trust them, and as necessary let them go- but he can never give up hope of succeeding.
Matthew Newsham Says: February 22nd, 2007 at 7:25 pm Yea, Aristotle might not have been the best example of a TOE in terms of his reservations about the issue of perfect forms… But then, at its core, Ken’s work isn’t about promoting the abstract dreams of the idealist. I think its entirely pragmatic- and in that sense he share’s something of a “Sophist”-ic attitude, of which Aristotle was probably the next incarnation. (Someone who knows more about that than me may argue that point). I was just pointing out that creating all-encompassing metatheories can produce great results… the next big break after Augustine as near as I can tell.
And yes, I think raising this issue of “arrogance” is kinda green- NOT the issue of making clarifications, which I was just advocating myself a post or two back.I guess I assume that anyone worth their spit won’t be intimidated by a title. -GO full out, I say.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I will be more of a Bohr than an Einstein

Re: Re: Mantric Poetry (SA & postmodernism?) by RY Deshpande on Sat 10 Feb 2007 06:15 AM PST Profile Permanent Link I think we should meticulously avoid the danger of slipping into the Grecian kind of speculative explorations or discussions. I will be more of a Bohr than an Einstein. The strong pillar of the physical sciences has been empirical rationalism and walking away from it will be straying into the marshy-foggy places. That is why I detest all talk about quantum mechanics coming from sachchidananda.
Re: Re: The Zero-Point Field (Lab verifications?) RY Deshpande Fri 16 Feb 2007 07:55 AM PST Profile Permanent Link I think, linking up philosophy with science or science with philosophy should always fall in the purview of empirical rationalism if it has to have any meaning for science. To see quantum behaviour of an electron as Shiva’s dance is mixing up issues which belong to different domains—a risky business popularised by Fritjof Capra. Empirical rationalism is a precious gain and should not be frittered away by extraneous considerations. Which also is not to mean that it can abrogate all judgement to itself. Hawkins would like to tell us again and again that, in the imaginary time in which the big bang occurs, there is no need for a God to create a world. Here he is not talking science, and in fields other than science his opinion need not have any value. Similarly, we have to also guard from the opposite tendency.
But there are deeper issues—in science itself. One of them is how to get out of the Newtonian trap into which we have fallen. Can we apply our old geometrical notions of gross space and time to a world where things have become too subtle—yet material—for us to figure out. 10:07 PM

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Both James and Wittgenstein struggled with the question of belief

Daniel Dennett Tufts UniversityMedford, Massachusetts
I myself have looked over large piles of recent religious thought in the last few years in the course of researching my own book on these topics, and I have found almost all of it to be so dreadful that ignoring it entirely seemed both the most charitable and most constructive policy...The arguments Dawkins exposes and rebuts are the arguments that waft from thousands of pulpits every week and reach millions of television viewers every day, and neither the televangelists nor the authors of best-selling spiritual books pay the slightest heed to the subtleties of the theologians either.
Who does Orr favor? Polkinghorne, Peacocke, Plantinga, or some more recondite thinkers? Orr brandishes the names of two philosophers, William James and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and cites C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, a fairly nauseating example of middle-brow homiletic in roughly the same league on the undergraduate hit parade as Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (1998) and transparently evasive when it comes to "meticulous reasoning." If it were a book in biology—Orr's discipline—I daresay he'd pounce on it like a pit bull, but like many others he adopts a double standard when the topic is religion.
As Orr says, both James and Wittgenstein "struggled with the question of belief," in their admirable and entirely different ways, but both also steer clear of the issues that Orr chides Dawkins for oversimplifying. I wonder which themes in these fine thinkers Orr would champion in the current discussion, beyond the speculation he cites from James, that "the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe." I'd be curious to know what Orr thinks that means. How should it be clarified and investigated, in his opinion, or does he just want to leave it hanging unchallenged?
Letter exchange between Daniel Dennett and H. Allen Orr regards Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (NYRB) by Rich on Mon 12 Feb 2007 08:16 PM PST Permanent Link 'THE GOD DELUSION' By Daniel C. Dennett, Reply by H. Allen Orr In response to A Mission to Convert (January 11, 2007)

It's a lot like Nietzsche's use of Hegel. Not really fair to Hegel

My paper will be responding directly to Zizek's comments on Buddhism in that link I posted earlier. He actually has a valid point, but his treatment of Buddha Dharma is part of a bigger polemic, of course. It's a lot like Nietzsche's use of Hegel. Not really fair to Hegel, but close enough often enough to be relevent. And this little squirt is actually intended as a response to Bonnita Roy's comments on an integral theory of creativity, also at the Integral Review. I'll be making substantial reference to, well, a bunch of stuff, including some ideas on Shakespeare I've been kicking around for years now. posted by DGA at 7:30 PM