Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roy Bhaskar’s Realist Theory of Science is an excellent rigorous account

Somewhere or other Zizek defines metaphysics (in the pejorative sense) as any operation that takes one dimension of reality and elevates it to a condition for all other beings in reality. Thus, for example, if Nietzsche remains within the field of metaphysics then this is because he makes all other beings conditional upon force or the will to power. I hesitate to use the word “metaphysics” in its pejorative sense because metaphysics is not, for me, a dirty word or something to be abandoned. I think one of the major blind alleys of Continental thought in the last century was to equate metaphysics with ontotheology or philosophies of presence. The real move should have been to develop a metaphysics that wasn’t premised on presence and that was not ontotheological. That aside, if this pejorative sense of metaphysics is accepted, then it is clear that these ontological sutures, far from being anti-metaphysical are all too metaphysical in their suture of being to one being or type of being such as the subject, language, or the social.
larvalsubjects Says: October 28, 2009 at 11:27 pm Hi John,
I am sympathetic to your position that it’s important to be cognizant and aware of how the political informs inquiry. Nor do I think realism prevents one from engaging in this form of analysis. Roy Bhaskar’s Realist Theory of Science is an excellent rigorous account of just how the intersection of the social and political and scientific inquiry must be thought within a realist framework. In other words, Bhaskar shows how it is possible to both do the sort of self-reflexive analysis you’re calling for and advocate a robust realist ontology (not just the Kantian claim that there is mind independent “stuff”).
I do not, however, think that ontology can be abandoned in the way you seem to suggest. On the one hand, I think Nick gets it right in his rejoinder to some of your points over at Speculative Heresy. [...]
A realist will even agree that self-reflexive analysis of that inquirer, knower, or observer is a crucial feature of any inquiry. In other words, nothing in the realist position prohibits or excludes in engaging in, for example, self-reflexive analysis of biases that inform her cognition, protocols of practice, perception, etc.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Veda begins as a kind of double-speak

George Quant Interviews Dr. Debashish Banerji: Return of the Veda (June 2, 2009)
The Nalanda Journal - October 27, 2009 – 4:10 pm June 2, 2009

GQ: Welcome to the show. I’m George Quant, your host with special guest Dr. Debashish Banerji. On this show today we are going to tract the foot print of contemporary meditation and modern wisdom to its ancient root. In the beginning there was the Ved and the Ved was with spirit and silence. In the end there was the Quantum and the Quantum was with spirit and science, or is the formless expressing itself in the form of new terminology in an endless expression of wisdom through time immemorial?
The two most popular forms of meditation today are transcendental and mindfulness. Mega best selling author, Dr. Deepak Chopra, is a luminary of the Veda, which is coreless to quantum physics. His meditation, primordial sound meditation, falls in the category of transcendence. Mega best selling author, Eckhart Tolle, is an exponent of mindfulness meditation, which falls in the category of anapana. The blockbuster docudrama, “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, and the more recent phenomenally successful DVD, “The Secret”, were both anchored in the idea that quantum physics makes all things possible.
Has the Veda returned as the quantum? If the Veda and the quantum are evolving theoretical bodies of knowledge, is spirit the subjective experience, the inner experience? Does the unchanging spirit become an experience only when mind contacts it? Is meditation the technology that makes direct experience of the spirit possible in both sciences, Quantum and Veda? And what other forms has the Veda taken over the years?
Here with us to answer these questions with anticipated eloquence is Dr. Debashish Banerji. He is part of a distinguished panel of experts who will enrich our discussion on the origins of modern and ancient wisdom traditions and practices. Dr. Banerji completed his undergraduate studies in English literature from the University of Bombay, and has a PhD in Indian art history from UCLA. Dr. Banerji is an authority on Indian contemporary art and philosophy, which includes the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Veda, especially in its contemporary applicability. A master story teller, his book is based on his dissertation titled, “The Alternate Nation of Tagore”, presently in press. He teaches courses at the University of Philosophical Research, Pasadena City College, UCLA, UC Irvine, and a distant learning course on the “Visual Imagination of India” at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco.
Welcome to the show Dr. Banerji.

Dr. B: Yes, right. In terms of western knowledge, this is the age of Materialism, when consciousness is reduced to a product of physics and chemistry and only what meets the senses. The form of modern knowledge is Science, George.

GQ: Debashish, repeat that. In terms of western knowledge, this is age of materialism when consciousness is reduced to a …

Dr. B: … a product of physics and chemistry. It’s only material understanding and what meets the senses.

GQ: Oh, I see, I see, and consciousness is reduced to what it sees only with the senses.

Dr. B: Exactly.

GQ: I see.

Dr. B: You know the terminology used is – consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter.

GQ: Un huh. Yes.

Dr. B: There is no such independent thing as consciousness or spirit.

GQ: Yes, so this is the case in Kali Yuga. Go ahead.

Dr. B: Exactly. So this form of modern knowledge is science, because science is a description of reality given to us in our modern time. Now from within this description, there now arises a knowledge, a description of reality with speaks of non-duality, non-locality, the collapse of subject and object. This is the Quantum. Like the Veda, this knowledge can also be taken in an external or internal, a subjective and objective form. Taken objectively, as many scientists wish to restrict it, it is a probabilistic model for describing material reality. But taken analogically, internally and subjectively, it can be both a new science and a new poetry of the union of man and spirit, a science and art of consciousness, a psychology all the way down.

GQ: Yes.

Dr. B: Hence we can see it as a return of the Veda in a universal and secular form in the modern world. Now to just cap this with a thought, there is a lot of debate about whether the quantum theory, or quantum formalism is an analogy for the spirit and its processes, or an actual description of the spirit and its processes, what may be called the physics of satchitananda.

GQ: Yes,

Dr. B: But irrespective of whether it is one or the other, I think what you said earlier, is something we need to remember, that the spirit is illimitable, indescribable and formless.

GQ: And so is the Quantum, really.

Dr. B: Yes. So it depends on our approach to it. How is it that we contact it, that gift of the language with which we speak about it. All languaging of the spirit is just a set of symbols, but they allow us to come into contact with spirit, to conceptualize it and enter into relation with it and therefore make it real and living and experiencable in our physical body.

GQ: Which takes us to the next question, Dr. Banerji, and that is if the Veda and the Quantum are evolving theoretical bodies of knowledge, is spirit the subjective experience? And I think you just answered that, but elaborate.

Dr. B: Exactly, exactly. We might think of these bodies of knowledge as bodies of languaging and therefore they may have objective meaning, but if we dwell on them subjectively, they can yield to us subjective experiences. What is being told to us in an objective sense, as mathematics, for example, in quantum physics, can hardly be understood as a description of reality. But in a subjective sense, it is experiencable through meditation and in terms of transcendental experience.

GQ: So this takes us to the next question and that is, does the unchanging spirit become an experience only when mind contacts it and …

Dr. B: Yes indeed …

GQ: And if so, is meditation the technology that makes direct experience of the spirit possible in both sciences, Quantum and Veda?

Dr. B: Yes George. When we talk about meditation, basically what we are saying is the concentration of our inner consciousness on this reality, this formless reality that you talk about, using a certain language as a mediator and you are absolutely right, in that process, that technology of consciousness gives to us the experience of spirit, irrespective of what language we use to enter into relation with it.

GQ: Because language actually falls away. Language and symbols fall away…

Dr. B: Language and symbols fall away. You are absolutely right.

GQ: And then the experience reveals itself.

Dr. B: Experience reveals itself.

GQ: And it reveals itself to the senses, the nervous system, the body, mind and spirit which is the subjective nature.

Dr. B: Absolutely George.

GQ: Which takes us now to the next question, and that is, what other form has the Veda taken over the years?

Dr. B: The depth of this question is like the history of consciousness and its repeated return through the centuries, George. We may say that the very first appearance of the Veda is accompanied with its obscuration. That is, as I mentioned, the Veda begins as a kind of double-speak with rituals and material symbols of invocation to the nature gods. And so within that ritualistic nature, it carries the obscuration of its reality into a more material understanding where we are talking socially about rituals mediated by priests and a caste system that develops around this, etc. And the inner and subjective power of the Veda to reveal experience recedes to the background. [...]

Dr. B: Yes, and there was also an embrace of exotic knowledge and a throwing away of the humanistic tradition of the West. So this is what leads us to today, and what we see today is that we may be on the threshold of a more integrated mainstream return of the Veda. I’d say, in fact George, that the grand symbol of that is the Internet. In fact the term itself is very similar to an ancient Buddhist term, “Indra’s Net.” The whole idea of Indra’s Net is that there is a net which is so subtle, one can’t see it, but every point in it contains the entirety of that net. All the other points in the net can be accessed at any point in that net, and that is exactly the paradigm of non-locality that we entered into with the Internet. The only thing is that this omnipresence is mediated by technology. It is today’s world in which our dependence on the external methods of contact has become so great that we have entered into a global consciousness without even realizing it.
GQ: Yes.
Dr. B: But it is exactly where what you are saying becomes so important that we have to understand this return of the Veda as a technology of consciousness, not just a technology of external contact of machinery.
GQ: Yes, and it’s really beautiful, because this Indra’s Net, and this sort of metaphor for the current return of the Veda and the role of the Internet because we are talking really to an Internet audience right now.
Dr. B: Exactly and …
GQ: And we are going out to 25 countries around the world so it’s a sort of … So Debashish you mentioned this sort of idea that perhaps someday we will be able to carry this consciousness out into the world without it riding on the wave of the Internet.
Dr. B: Yes, it’s great that we are reaching out so far with the internet, but if we are to look at the flip side, I’d say the dependence on technology to arrive at global consciousness is a failure of the spirit. It is a kind of external achievement of omnipresence, but consciousness has to equal it. It is very important at this point for a subjective revolution to take place. A revolution like that of the Upanishads where the consciousness of man can equal … that is we can experience the power of Indra’s Net in consciousness. That is the inner correlate of the Internet. With that thought I think that we really come to the threshold of the contemporary possibility of the return of the Veda. By nalandainternational Posted in Culture, History, Spirituality Tagged Leave a Comment

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nature is itself historical regardless of whether or not humans exist

Lurking behind the distinction between the world of causes and the world of meaning is, I believe, a distinction between nature and artifice. On the one hand, the story goes, we have the domain of the natural which is eternal and unchanging. Nature is that which, given a particular “cause”, produces a certain effect. Culture and meaning, by contrast, are the domain of history, where the historical is that which is outside the domain of natural laws, but is rather an order of the unrepeatable and the event.
This distinction, I believe, is a carry-over from the old theological heritage that distinguishes the incorruptible order of nature or the divine decreed by the divine and the corruptible order of the world and the human. The constructed, produced, or built is treated as being nature’s other, while the order of the constructed, the produced, or built– all, in short, that is equated with the artificial –is treated as being radically outside of nature. [...]
If contemporary science has revealed anything, it has revealed that nature is contingent and the result of a construction. When I claim that nature is the result of a construction, I am not claiming that it is the result of a social construction– this would reduce nature to the side of the culture distinction in the nature/culture distinction –but rather that nature builds itself and builds itself in ways that could– and no doubt will –be otherwise. But if this is the case, then there are no longer any grounds for distinguishing between the eternal natural and the cultural historical. Nature is itself historical regardless of whether or not humans exist. And if it is the case that there is no difference in kind between human phenomena and natural phenomena, only a difference in degree, then there is no longer a reason to treat the “artificial” (note the scare quotes) as being less real than the natural. How is a contingently evolved species any less real than Einstein’s relativity? If we grant this, why should we treat human meaning as somehow more artificial (and therefore less real) than a species or the principles governing relativity in our portion of the pluriverse?
This leads me to the final distinction that must be both rethought and abolished: the distinction between the is and the ought. This distinction is ultimately derived from the distinction between nature and spirit, where nature is treated as the order of causes alone and all meaning is exiled from the domain of being by virtue of equating being with nature. When the modernist constitution claims that the “ought cannot be derived from the is”, I see a couple of things going on.
First, insofar as the modernist constitution equates the “artificial” (note the square quotes) with the unreal, it needs a ground for normativity that isn’t built, constructed, instituted, or generated. Somehow, the unconscious line of thought reasons, that which is built or which must develop is less real than what is “natural”. But here the natural is treated as that which is eternal and unchanging.
Consequently, second, normative thought seeks an analogue to natural laws (which only exist in a theological conception of nature anyway), such that the normative is conceived as something that is eternal and unchanging outside of anything that is “socially contingent”. Kant states this baldly when he tells us that we must conceive the categorical imperative as like the laws of nature. Here he reveals his theological conception of nature as an eternal and unchanging order and then transfers this to the domain of normativity.
In subsequent deontologists this premise will go underground, no longer being stated as baldly as Kant stated, but it will continue to be operative in all deontological arguments nonetheless. The constant touchstone of these lines of thought will be that anything that is built, constructed, instituted, or created is somehow less real and less binding than the so-called “natural”. This will be why deontological approaches necessarily have recourse to occult entities, evoking beings such as transcendental subjects (outside of any natural evolutionary phenomena and contrary to all neurology), or “a priori categories” (outside of any historical or natural developmental processes), or “principles of reason” (outside of any dynamic developmental processes).
Somehow the human and human norms are supposed to be outside of the dynamics that govern all other domains of being ranging from the laws of physics to the chemical elements to the formations of species. We’re told that this is “rigorous” and careful thinking, but what it instead looks like is superstition or the occult dressed up, as Hume would put it, in “abstruse language” all the better to deceive the gullible. From the standpoint of the ought-o-philiac this argument looks like an “anything goes” argument, yet this interpretation only arises when one’s thought continues to be pervaded by onto-theological assumptions that strongly distinguish between the divine order of the eternal and unchanging (which does not exist except perhaps retroactively) and the “artificial” order of the constructed. Just as Nina says, we need another effort that doesn’t require transcendental guarantees or bow to neo-liberal accusations of “anything goes”, to keep going and that doesn’t denigrate the built and carefully maintained in the face of some supposed eternity.
Re: John D. Caputo: A Postmodern, Prophetic, Liberal American in Paris by Michael E. Zimmerman
Tony Clifton on Mon 19 Oct 2009 12:15 PM PDT Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Profile Permanent Link
There has been a long problematic history with respect to the ordering of human beings and human society. That is why the idea of "progress" always needs to be interrogated when it is applied to the ordering of human society. And its also why I could except there has been an evolution of consciousness that has resulted in Western Liberal Democracy but to call this evolutionary movement "progressive" is a whole other can of worms.
In my reading Sri Aurobindo seems at best unsure of the idea of human progress and you are right his views are highly nuanced and one must consult the difference he assigns to the yoga of prakrti and the yoga of purusha to attempt to resolve the matter. There was a long discussion on this under the 100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution series My own interpretations on Sri Aurobindo's view regards progress and human wisdom seems analogous to the following statement by Ronald Wright on agricultural progress:
"The crops of about a dozen ancient people feed the 6 billion people of the world today. Despite more than two centuries of scientific crop breeding, the so-called green revolution of the 60’s and the genetic engineering of the 90’s, not one new staple has been added to our repertoire of crops since prehistoric times."
In the same way Sri Aurobindo suggest that while there has been possible increases of subtlety, complexity, manifold development of knowledge, that on the whole there has been no significant new mutations of human consciousness with respect to wisdom.
Re: India’s Independence and the Spiritual Destiny: Part Y
paulette on Tue 27 Oct 2009 03:04 AM IST Mirror of Tomorrow Profile Permanent Link
The various economic-political systems unfolding in succession correspond to specific stages of development of the individual and collective being. None of them can be discarded or condemned, historically, in their being the expression of the state of society prevailing at that time. But Sri Aurobindo called the trend of this age, capitalistic and consumerist, ‘barbarian’ – and its mentality, ‘philistine’. The time for it is over, as the global crisis shows, and whose very matrix is the collapsing economic and financial system put in place by the USA.
Sri Aurobindo points out that democracy, socialism, communism and anarchy stream from the realm of Idea. The human mind cannot access them in their sheer form. In whatever way humanity has been trying, or will try, to adapt to the prevailing mentality of the age any of the four is doomed to fail, for those ideals belong to the realm of pure Reason. As Sri Aurobindo reminds us, a still largely infrarational humanity cannot live and manifest those ideals. Past and present history are the most eloquent proof. [...]
Here we are: Marx’s ultimate vision is anarchy. But anarchy too is a vain chimera, like the three political systems that precede it , as long as humanity remains infrarational, largely barbarian. None of those ideals, translated into political and economic systems, will ever lead to the ideal society, which only CONSCIOUSNESS can bring about. The ultimate society that both Marx and Sri Aurobindo envisage is anarchy. But for Marx it is a mental formulation and as such is doomed to abort or fail – while for Sri Aurobindo the lever is consciousness. There is no other way. It is the evolution into Gnostic beings, the ultimate stage of society, a Gnostic humanity. Paulette

Monday, October 26, 2009

I’m not interested in “selling” OOO

Ben Woodard Says: October 23, 2009 at 1:37 am
There and when he is cataloging idealisms…and it should come as no surprise that I find Kant completely unconvincing there. And yes you are certainly right about Iain’s book – his Schellingian injunction would be what is the ground of that Kantian ground? For Schelling it is Kant’s inability to face the terror of the absolute and Kant’s use of the transcendental subject does not meet Schelling’s qualifications for the prius or origin, or first ground.
Stuck between the over externality of the rationalists and the over internality of the (ideal) empiricists Kant seems to ground conceptualization itself as ground and, as Iain makes very clear in his book, this does says nothing about the genesis of ideation or, in Hume’s case, its limit.
Basically, I think, since transcendental realism indexes a non ideal (in the naive sense) source of the transcendental function, it is unpalatable to Kant. This is why Schellling attempts (particularly in his naturephilosophie and the system of identity) to produce a speculative physics where the strata of ideas and the strata of geological investigation are different in degree and not necessarily in kind.
larvalsubjects Says: October 23, 2009 at 1:07 pm Hi Paul,
I suppose the question would be whether they doubt this on good or sound grounds. There are inquiring minds that doubt evolution, but that doubt isn’t enough to discount the mountains of evidence that support evolution. In philosophy, between Nietzsche, Freud, and Lacan the idea of immediate access to mind is pretty thoroughly demolished. Deleuze is far from rejecting this psychoanalytic trajectory. In the sciences proper, neurology and cognitive psychology pretty decisively undermine the idea of any direct access to mind. Consequently, all things being equal there’s not a whole lot of reason to grant privilege to mind. We find precisely the same epistemic quandaries emerging with respect to claims about our own minds and how they function as we do with respect to objects. Thus, all things being equal, the points about transcendental idealist arguments, I think, stand.
larvalsubjects Says: October 22, 2009 at 12:34 pm Hi Chris,
I don’t think we can run sociology and anthropology together. Anthropology has been pretty good on these issues. As Latour remarks in We Have Never Been Modern (and I think I make a similar point in this post or perhaps the earlier one on realism), anthropology is able to simultaneously weave together things like crop production, techniques, technologies, weather conditions, geography, resources, kinship structures, narratives, etc. It could be that we’re coming at the social sciences through different background literatures. I come from the continental tradition, so I’m primarily thinking of social thinkers such as Bourdeau, Foucault, Luhmann, Adorno, etc., as well as continental political theory such as Zizek and Badiou. This tradition is strongly influenced by the primacy of the linguistic and the semiotic, such that these other factors get reduced to receptacles for social forces, power, language, perception, signs, and so on without contributing differences of their own.
larvalsubjects Says: October 23, 2009 at 2:59 am Chris, I’m fine with discussing the theoretical concepts of OOO, its lines of argument, and so on, but I’m not interested in “selling” it, which seems to be what you’re asking for.
larvalsubjects Says: October 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm While I do not think Continentalists are mistaken to see importance in things such as signs, the discursive, the linguistic, social forces (whatever those might be), power (whatever that might be), and so on, I do believe it needs to be opened up from its myopia to make room for the sorts of actors or objects you talk about in the sort of work you do. I see the speculative realists and OOO theorists as engaging in this sort of project. 10:27 AM

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sri Aurobindo, Varisco, Berdyaev, Iqbal, Buber, Teilhard, Brightman, Radhakrishnan, and Heschel

Process Theism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) First published Thu Jul 29, 2004; substantive revision Mon Oct 6, 2008 Copyright © 2008 by Donald Viney -

Process theism typically refers to a family of theological ideas originating in, inspired by, or in agreement with the metaphysical orientation of the English philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and the American philosopher-ornithologist Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000). For both Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to be fully involved in and affected by temporal processes. This idea contrasts neatly with traditional forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable,) and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theism does not deny that God is in some respects eternal, immutable, and impassible, but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.

The views of Whitehead and Hartshorne should also be distinguished from those that affirm that the divine being, by an act of self-limitation, opens itself to influence from the world. Some neo-Thomists hold this view and a group of Evangelical Christian philosophers, calling themselves “open theists,” promote similar ideas. These forms of theism were influenced by process theism, but they deny its claim that God is essentially in a give-and-take relationship with the world. Moreover, process theism is a genuinely philosophical theology in the sense that it is not grounded in claims of special insight or revealed truth but in philosophical reflection. Specifically, process theism is a product of theorizing that takes the categories of becoming, change, and time as foundational for metaphysics. The metaphysical underpinning of process theism is often called process philosophy, a label suggested by the title of Whitehead's magnum opus, Process and Reality. In order to bring out this philosophy's emphasis on relatedness, many scholars follow Bernard Loomer in calling it process-relational philosophy. Whitehead's preferred expression for his metaphysical viewpoint is “the philosophy of organism.” This article concerns primarily the concept of God in process theism, although we shall conclude with a brief discussion of arguments for the existence of God in process thought and a note on the historical influences on process theism. [...]

Philosophers Speak of God demonstrates that Whitehead and Hartshorne are not the sole representatives of process theism, although they are its chief exponents. Buddhism, with its twin emphases on impermanence and dependent origination, is arguably the most sophisticated ancient form of process philosophy. Buddhist philosophers criticized the notion of a timeless absolute without, however, developing a form of process theism. Whitehead remarks that his concept of God has more richness than the Buddhist concept of nirvana and that his philosophy of religion could be viewed as an effort to “true up” the Buddhist idea (Johnson 1983, 8). Hartshorne maintains that aspects of process theism are in Plato's later writings—specifically, the Sophist, the Timaeus, and the Laws—but they are never brought together into a coherent theory. Hartshorne sees process theism as providing the needed coherence (cf. Dombrowski 2005 and Viney 2007a).

Because process theists reject the idea of a deity whose moral character is ever questionable, John Stuart Mill's essay, “Theism,” is not an anticipation of process theism. By parity of reasoning, Peter Forrest's proposal of a God that grows from pure power to pure love is not a version of theism that process theists would find appealing (Forrest 2007). Some of the central themes and arguments of process theism, however, are evident in less well-known thinkers scattered throughout history. One can mention the names of Levi ben Gerson (1288-1340), Fausto Socinus (1539-1604), Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775-1854), Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), Rowland Gibson Hazard (1801-1888), Jules Lequyer [or Lequier] (1814-1862), Lorenzo D. McCabe (1817-1897), and Otto Pfleiderer (1839-1908).

Some might count G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) as a forerunner of process theism, but his case is not clear. The idea of development is central to Hegel's thinking about the Absolute Spirit. On the other hand, his philosophy was more influential in ushering in what he himself called “the death of God” than in providing a clearly articulated theistic alternative to classical theism (cf. K√ľng 1980, 138-42). It is also ironic that it was much less in the positive influence of Hegelian idealism than in the negative reactions to it that process philosophy, and by implication process theism, matured in the twentieth century.

In the generation immediately preceding Whitehead, C. S. Peirce (1839-1914) and William James (1842-1910) closely anticipated process theism and served as important influences on its development. There was also a cross fertilization of ideas from some of Whitehead's contemporaries: Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Samuel Alexander (1859-1938), and William Ernest Hocking (1873-1966)—Hocking was one of Hartshorne's teachers at Harvard.

Philosophers and religious thinkers who independently formulated aspects of process theism in the twentieth century include: Bernardino Varisco (1850-1933), Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Nicholas Berdyaev (1874-1948), Mohammad Iqbal (1877-1938), Martin Buber (1878-1965), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), Edgar Sheffield Brightman (1884-1953), Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975), and Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972).

Major figures who defended some variety of process theism informed by the works of Whitehead or Hartshorne include: Henry Nelson Wieman (1884-1975), Bernard Meland (1899-1993), Paul Weiss (1901-2002), Norman Pittenger (1905-1997), Daniel Day Williams (1910-1973), William L. Reese (b. 1921), John B. Cobb, Jr. (b. 1925), Schubert Ogden (b. 1928), Eugene H. Peters (1929-1983), Bowman Clarke (1927-1996), Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (b. 1933), Lewis S. Ford (b. 1933), Rem B. Edwards (b. 1934), David A. Pailin (b. 1936), David Ray Griffin (b. 1939), Jorge Luis Nobo (b. 1940), George W. Shields (b. 1951), and Daniel A. Dombrowski (b. 1953)—Williams, Reese, Cobb, Ogden, and Peters were Hartshorne's students at Chicago; Clarke and Edwards studied with him at Emory; Nobo was Hartshorne's student at Texas.

There’s nothing that allows me to prohibit God

Realism is not a Synonym for Materialism
from Larval Subjects . by larvalsubjects

Harman accords well with the theses of Laruelle in Non-Philosophy II, whom I detest, but whose points are nonetheless well taken. To begin with an idea of what is real is to begin within the framework of an idealism that allows the concept to dictate being. By contrast, object-oriented ontologies, paradoxically, do not begin with a thesis of what is real, they do not allow an idea to dictate being, but rather hold that we do not know what the real is, only that the real is.

In my own ontology for example– an ontology of which Harman is not guilty –I begin from the modest principle that to be is to make a difference. However note that I do not regulate what is capable of making a difference. What makes a difference is completely open within the framework of my ontology. Material beings certainly seem to make differences, but fictions, humans, contracts, semiotic entities, and numbers also make differences. I suspect that there are many other things besides that make differences. To be quite honest, I’m rather surprised that certain philosophers of religion and theologians haven’t exploited this point when characterizing me as the wicked, secular-humanist, materialist atheist.

For if the ontic principle is rigorously followed through, then there’s nothing that allows me to prohibit God, and other things besides, from the order of being. A theology or philosophy of religion premised on the ontic principle might lead to some surprising results contrary to traditional theistic conceptions of God where God overdetermines everything else, but the very coordinates of my thought prevent me from excluding the divine as productive of difference. I suspect this is one reason that I get so much flack from more materialistically oriented philosophy as they, at some level, recognize the democracy or non-idealistic clamor that the ontic principle threatens to unleash as an ironic criteria of the real. I also suspect that this is the reason that some theologians and philosophers of religion have been rather enthusiastic about object-oriented ontology and the ontic principle.

In the end, I take it that as leaky as my ship is, this capacity to surprise is the mark of a good philosophy or ontology. Since I first formulated the ontic principle in January or February, I’ve been on a witches broom of thought, no longer knowing where I’m being led or am going. In other words, my basic ontological commitments might not only be surprising to others, but are surprising to me as I carry out their implications. I do not take this as a negative thing, but as precisely what a philosophy should do.

If a philosophy doesn’t make you become, if it doesn’t change you like some infectious parasite that rescues from doxa whatever that doxa might be, if it doesn’t generate new problems, questions, and concepts, if it doesn’t shift lenses, if it doesn’t manifest the world otherwise, then what is it good for? A philosophy should be relief, where relief is not thought as the reduction of tension, but in the artistic sense of bringing into relief.

(title unknown) from For The Turnstiles by DGA

The more interesting aspect of this question has to do with the unexamined political and social consequences of these assumptions. And this is where I started with the analysis of Aurobindo that opened up the "Syntheses and Surprises" paper back in 2006. Aurobindo is a really useful source for Wilber because his theory of history and time synthesizes so many of these latent assumptions and presents them in nominally intellectual prose. Those who are engaged in authentic, integral spiritual work are at the edge of the cosmos's development--such is the claim. If you want to be in the "in" group of exceptional persons (hello Protestant exceptionalism, American exceptionalism, &c), simply identify with that in-group and find ways at all costs to defend that claim.

I would still like to know why and how one would produce some evidence in support of that claim, however. Might there be a more plausible way to explain yogic phenomena and world history, with an eye toward responsible behavior, than reifying some providential Spirit as the engine of transformation and as a commodity for sale (hey, first month free!)? Yeah, probably. I suggest you stop shopping for it, though, and instead start making it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Consistency and coherence are emergent properties

1) Assemblages are composed of heterogeneous elements or objects that enter into relations with one another. These objects are not all of the same type. Thus you have physical objects, happenings, events, and so on, but you also have signs, utterances, and so on. While there are assemblages that are composed entirely of bodies, there are no assemblages composed entirely of signs and utterances.

2) I think the idea of different kinds of lines is particularly fruitful. This is especially the case of those lines that tend towards ruts, black holes, and death. Posts about minotaurs, trolls, and gray vampires are really posts about black holes. The black hole or, as Einstein called it “dark star”, is an entity whose gravitational force is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from it. Minotauring, trolling, and gray vampiring are forms of engagement that suck all discussion into their orbit, preventing it from moving on. As such, they tend to prevent the formation of assemblages. One aim in cultivating and evaluating assemblages lies in finding ways to escape ruts, black holes, and lines leading to death.

3) Deleuze’s claims about coherency and consistency are particularly important. Consistency and coherence are not qualities that precede assemblages, rather they are emergent properties that do or do not arise from assemblage. It is noteworthy that the term “consistency” is not being used in the logical sense, but in the sense of solutions and substances. Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of consistency is closer to the way we use it when talking about cement, referring to it as “soupy”, “dry”, “lumpy”, “coarse”, “consisting of stone and lime”, etc., than the logical sense of “lacking in contradictions”. An assemblage can be riddled with contradictions as in the case of the economic and ethnic divisions that divide the North and South side of Chicago, while still producing consistency and coherence. Consistency and coherence are thus not about being without logical contradiction, nor about harmony, but rather about how heterogeneous elements or objects hang together. Deleuze on Assemblages from Larval Subjects .