Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Classical Gas"

It doesn't get much better then this. It about brings a tear to my eye to watch.
Tommy Emmanuel: Check him out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

P.2 What is Science / "The Beginning of Dogma"

It occures to me now, that perhaps the following from Robert Pirsig applies when thinking about "The Nothing" post; consider this:

"...before an object can be distinguished, there must be a kind of nonintellectual awareness, which he [Phaedrus/Pirsig] called awareness of Quality. You can't be aware that you've seen a tree until after you've seen the tree, and between the instant of vision and instant of awareness there must be a time lag. We sometimes think of that time lag as unimportant, But there's no justification for thinking that the time lag is unimportant...none whatsoever.

The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality. This preintellectual reality is what Phædrus felt he had properly identified as Quality. Since all intellectually identifiable things must emerge from this preintellectual reality, Quality is the parent, the source of all subjects and objects. "

When thinking about “The Nothing” from below, I of course had Buddhism in mind, and also Heidegger; but again it occurred to me that the paragraph from Pirsig above clearly applies as well. What I have on my mind here is that all language is dogmatic, or better, all spoken language IS dogma. In thinking about that I have another character in mind, namely, Kurt Godel. Consider the following paragraph (in short) regarding the first theorem:

“Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory.

The resulting true but unprovable statement is often referred to as "the Gödel sentence" for the theory, although there are infinitely many other statements in the theory that share with the Gödel sentence the property of being true but not provable from the theory.
Roughly speaking, for each theory T the corresponding Gödel sentence G asserts: "G cannot be proved within the theory T". If G were provable under the axioms and rules of inference of T, then T would have a theorem, G, which effectively contradicts itself, and thus the theory T would be inconsistent. This means that if the theory T is consistent then G cannot be proved within it. This means that G's claim about its own unprovability is correct; in this sense G is not only unprovable but true. Thus provability-within-the-theory-T is not the same as truth; the theory T is incomplete.
It is possible to define a larger theory T' that contains the whole of T, plus G as an additional axiom. In this case, G is indeed a theorem in T' (trivially so, since it is an axiom). However, there will be a new Gödel statement G' for T', showing that T' is also incomplete. Each theory has its own Gödel statement.

Now, consider the following implecation:

“Stanley Jaki, followed much later by Stephen Hawking and others, argue that (an analogous argument to) Gödel's theorem implies that even the most sophisticated formulation of physics will be incomplete, and that therefore there can never be an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles, known for certain as "final".”

Rather then talk about Godel here, which I’d love to do, I simply want to point out the implication that science can not and will not ever have a consistent true theory of everything. Relative to scientific method, theory and reason itself, it is impossible. So what then (I imagine) is science even saying if we can never assert that anything it comes up with is true with some sense of finality? If science doesn’t actually serve the purpose of true discovery, it seems to me that what we’re left with is nothing short of faith and perhaps (in the spirit of Rorty) a form of neo-pragmatism. We can’t go forward and believe (within reason) anything absolute about the nature of what science says, even if it says (or comes to prove), that there isn’t a God; for this would be mere pragmatic speculation based ultimately on faith. And in this case, with our new faith based outlook, we’ve made reason our God thus in a vary Godelian way destroyed the proof outright.

I’m getting out of tune here though; as I don’t want to talk about faith at this point, I want to talk about dogma (although I may not be able to do so without tying the two together). So, not that it’s necessary to do so, but let’s be clear about faith and dogma and define the two:

- a “religious” doctrine that is proclaimed true without proof.
- a doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative.
- religion: a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny; "he lost his faith but not his morality"
- complete confidence in a person or plan etc; "he cherished the faith of a good woman"; "the doctor-patient relationship is based on trust"
- religion: an institution to express belief in a divine power; "he was raised in the Baptist religion"; "a member of his own faith contradicted him"
- loyalty or allegiance to a cause or a person; "keep the faith"; "they broke faith with their investors"

From the vary start when one begins to speak about the world one is building up for oneself a dogma. We are slowly indoctrinating ourselves into a language system which we, without even thinking about it, think of as authoritative. The truths which our language seem to speak are simply truths that serve as a reflection our everyday experiences; however as I’ve stated many times in the past, this dogma is not our everyday experience.

Eventually a “science” is built up to establish [propositionally], a certain set of truths about our experience; the proof of those propositions is nothing more then experience itself. We learn to accept science as authoritative because, well, it works (of course there’s more to it then that, but I’ll leave that there for now). I would like to assert here however, that science (reason/rationality/logic) is nothing more then a doctrine that is proclaimed true without proof.

Of course one would argue, “We have proof, that’s what science is all about!” But I would say this is nothing more then a system of consenting dogma. At Stephen Law’s blog I stated:

“It seems to me that to say “something doesn’t exists unless it’s scientific”, is every bit as dogmatic as, “something exists even if it isn’t scientific.” One side follows the dogma (language) of reason, the other side follows metaphors of the intuition. And as Sam pointed out, we run into problems when we take those metaphors and form a metaphysic around them, and (I’d add) try to apply scientific principles to them. There to, the test of both sides positions is whether or not it works to it’s purpose and is consistent with what we mean (do we understand each other). Photosynthesis is true because we agree, not because it’s absolutely so outside of our experience. To prove that is impossible.”

To this I received a response that the consensus theory of truth simply doesn’t hold water; for some reason however, relative to the way I’m using the consensus theory of truth, I’m not convinced of that and stated the following:

"If we all come to the same conclusions about a given thing (say gravity), yet on our own terms; we've done so using a tool [a dogma] that we've already before hand agreed upon, that being reason (science, mathematics). Reason does not necessarily allow us to come to different conclusions. We're all buried in the dogma of reason."

"The lizard people example is weak because it depends upon what we mean by lizard people. If we mean it in the literal way that we'd think of it today (green slimy men), then that certainly isn't *reasonable*, so we'd all certainly not consent."

My point here (at least in my own mind) is simple. What it is we’re consenting upon is not reality, in fact far from it. What we’re consenting upon is dogma, or more simply put, we’re agreeing upon a language. When we begin to teach our children how to speak, we typically begin with simple verbs and nouns; we teach them run and walk, we teach them the colors, we teach them hard and soft, cold and wet. We’re doing nothing more then teaching them to associate certain things and actions in the world with certain words. We are from the get go teaching them to consent. If from the get-go we called monkeys lizard men, then monkeys would be lizard men by virtue of consent, nothing more.

Consider gravity (for example); Newton’s scientific description of reality is considered by most (if not all) an authority (dogma). We like to think that what Newton said about gravity is exactly what it is and is absolutely true. But there are two realities here, (I’d like to draw from Pirsig above), namely, classical/intellectual reality and romantic/intuitive reality. Newton is merely describing a dogmatic intellectual reality; we consent to Newton’s theory because before hand we’ve already consented to the language he used to get to the underlying propositions which define it. In other words methodologically [doctrinally], the science follows. It is now a rational way (a consensual way) of describing our experiences to each other.

As already stated elsewhere, Gravity did not exist prior to Newton as the propositions which defined it were not themselves just floating around in space. The intuitive/romantic experience may have been there, however there was no authority to describe it, to pin it down to language. There too, the principles of gravity do not ultimately describe an emotional reality (the immediate sensation of quality) but again, an intellectual one, whos aim is at making predictions and establishing a homogenous and consensual view of the world. As pointed to already there can be no ultimate truth in the propositions (language), there is only a means to an end.

In summary what I’d like to ultimately say is that science (reason / logic) as it exists in language is dogmatic from the start. Any theory it comes up with (see Godel) is ultimately not provable as any and all theories will be incomplete and never final. Nonetheless hordes of individuals will blindly follow science as they’re authority, dogma, and God. They are blissfully unaware and ignorant to the fact that what really lies at the core of these scientific beliefs is a sort of blind faith.

At best we can say that science works as a consent to dogma. Or as William James so eloquently put it:

"Truth is what works by way of belief"

It should be recognized that one cannot come at reality via scientific, rational or logical means without the use of an underlying language. In this way (from a rational standpoint), it is never reality that we're agreeing to, but a rational stance built in language. Further, we can never ultimately agree to what reality is in a scientific sense as a result.... That's where religious language comes in, and that's where I'd like to go next.

Ween / "Did You See Me"

I was looking for some Ween to post up (as I'm a huge Ween fan) and came upon this video put out by by woxntox. I love the song, and the adjoining video I thought was great.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Relative or Absolute

Joshu addressed an assembly of monks:

"The Real Way is not difficult;, but it dislikes the Relative. If there is but little speech, it is about the Relative or it is about the Absolute. This old monk is not within the Absolute. Do you value this or not?"

A monk said to him,
"If you are not within the Absolute, how can you judge its value?"

Joshu said,
"Neither do I know that."

The monk argued,
"Your Reverence, if you do not yet know, how is it that you say you are not within the Absolute?"

Joshu said,
"Your questioning is effective. Finish your worship and leave."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Your Touch"

Artist: The Black Keys
Category: Blues-Rock
Album: Magic Potion

P.1 What is Science / "The Nothing"

Generally when I have a question in my mind of what something is and I can’t figure it out, I try to think of what it’s opposite may be. A simple definition of science is, “knowledge attained through study or practice”. Of course science itself comes from the Latin “scientia”, meaning knowledge. To put the definition another way we can say that science is the verb sense of cognition, where cognition is, “the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning”; so again science is merely the act of cognition.

In this way, formal scientific method aside, science takes place all the time in happenings and occurrences of our everyday lives; we are always (arguably) cognizant. So the question in my mind at this point is not about what the nature of this process is, but rather just what it is we’re cognizant about; what is it that we perceive and why do we perceive it. More importantly I have on my mind (relative to thinking about opposites), if what we perceive is simply what we call the objective world, then what isn’t the objective world? What is the “NOTHING”?

This morning I took some inspiration from Hume’s famous thought experiment of imagining an individual born without any senses. When this individual becomes, say, 18, does he/she have a thought in they’re minds? Now of course I’m not concerned with exactly that question as I’m not a big fan of radical empiricism, but simply a variation of that theme to get my thinking off the ground.

1.) To start, lets suppose you’re staring at a wall. The wall itself is painted white from top to bottom, there isn’t anything hanging on it, there are no windows; it’s all vary unassuming. The first reaction to what it is you’re looking at (having been asked the question regarding it) would perhaps be to say, “I’m looking at a wall… It’s white.” Relative to everything else in life an individual is cognizant of, that’s about as much you could expect anyone to say about it at any given moment in time. There just isn’t anything else there but a white wall; detail beyond that case excapes you, or simply never enters your mind to begin with.

2.) OK, lets then suppose you take those four white walls and wrap them in on themselves so what you now have is a white room. Then suppose one is placed in the room for an extended period of time, perhaps weeks, months, years. After the person leaves the room he’s then asked about the walls. I’ll here imagine a much more cognizant response where is revealed a kaleidoscope of different shades and colors, different textures, bumps, ridges, entire ranges and canyons of character.
(On the other hand, perhaps the man goes nuts and has nothing at all to say, but lets not ruin the thought experiment hu)

So did the individual in “1” miss all the detail from “2”? Or was it just not there? Was all that detail there all along? Someone from an absolute state of mind might like to argue that the detail was there all along, person “1” simply wasn’t perceptive to it, wasn’t cognizant of the finer details pointed to in "2". However, whether or not the detail can be said to have been there after the fact is utterly meaningless and speaks nothing to the original experience of “1”. All one is saying in this instance is, “it was there 1, you just missed it.”, even though “1” was looking right at it.

My argument is that, in the case of “1”, those details were not there at all. The mind of “1” was cognizant of white, and of wall, that’s it. The rest of what he say was simply pre-intellectualized nothing. Where perception isn’t taking place, where reason hasn’t defined and proposed, nothing at all exists. Again, nothing in this case is pre-intellectualized reality. To make the argument that such a state of affairs always existed begs the question and is nothing more then a belief. The given state of affairs that you’re referring to exists in your mind now (that you’ve perceived it) however it is not a state of affairs that existed in the mind prior to that perception. What we know as truth and reality exists in knowledge and in knowledge only. Prior to those truths which represent our knowledge, those truths did not exist.

Consider my post on Absolute truth vs. System truth.

Consider this here from Pirsig.

So once again, this is important; “The Nothing”, is nothing more then pre-intellectualized reality. Where intellectualized here, is simply another word for cognition, perception and the use of reason. One can look, yet not perceive. Consider that reality doesn’t come at one pieced or parted, it doesn’t come at one pre-differentiated. It is reason which differentiates it, our speech which parts the whole into nouns and things which we consider separate from each other. However, that we consider things in this manner (subjects and objects) doesn’t necessarily imply that the world is so parted in the ways we part it, only that we reason on it in ways we find useful to our purposes.

NOTHING: Pre-intellectualized, undifferentiated reality.

Some thoughts/questions to myself:
1.) Can God be undifferentiated?
2.) Is our perception of God, nothing more then a continual awareness of undifferentiated reality?
3.) Buddhist meditation is another way of experiencing this un-differentiation.
4.) I don’t want to claim pantheism. Pantheism has been differentiated.
5.) Religion seems to rationalize about God. There is a flaw in this.
6.) Science says there isn’t a God (essentially) because (in the vary least) the idea of God cannot be differentiated or reconciled with the rest of what science assumes.
7.) Science is the art of differentiation.
8.) I think it would be agreed to that there are truths yet to be discover. We don’t know what they are, they don’t exist.
9.) I'm aware that this sounds like, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to here it, does it make a sound?" But that's a far cry from what I'm suggesting; nonetheless I have to address that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More Bon Iver

Artist: Bon Iver
Catagory: Indie Folk
Album: For Emma, Forever Ago

Often times the video scews the experience of the song, so I've taken' it out for this one.

A Lost Response to an Elizaphanian Post

I typed this up at work due to ideas that came about from a post at Elizaphanian (Sam), then sent it to myself at home and forgot what [exactly] it related to (I was following a post and was going to respond). Anyway, it looked like there was something to it (of course unfinished, like everything I do).

It seems to me that to consider there is no God is to ask a scientific question. Which of course is fine, but what relevance does it have with regard to religion?

Once you bring up the sort of discourse shown here, you’re no longer talking about religion (this isn’t an instance of meta-religion); rather this is an instance where you’re critiquing a system of thought with another system of thought which need not necessarily apply to it. If religion isn’t scientific, then how can you talk about it scientifically? How can you apply scientific principles to it?

I’m reminded here of Pirsig with his concept of believing in ghosts. Where ghost may simply imply a language or system of thought used to describe the world relative to experience. Pirsig pursued the “ghost of reason”, which in many ways can be thought of as the dogma related to modern mans way of thinking relative to reason. He aimed to do a critique of reason itself, with itself. Now THAT, is a bit of a bootstrap problem. Further, the system of thought itself isn’t real in any corporeal sense; it has no existence aside from the human mind. It’s a ghost. God in this way is every bit as much of a ghost as atoms, or laws of logic. The key for me however, is that both are *systems* of thought, ways of looking at the world which again, are not necessarily related.

Rationality [again] is nothing more then a ghost, but we believe in it so much (so dogmatically) that for many it’s become what the world is. Things are not real, things are not true, things do not exist, unless they’re rational. After-all, name one truth which exists void of rationality, void of a proposition which makes it so.

Religion, on the other hand, is not propositional; it doesn’t take its hold in the mind through rational processes as we know them. The language that exists to describe it is not what it is; it’s merely a path to understanding what it is and once this understanding occurs, the words may be discarded. Seems pretty irrational hu? Yes, of course it does, it’s not scientific.

Reason doesn’t work in this way. The propositions which represent the truths we know and love, gravity for example, are no truth at all without the principles, the mathematics and the reason which underpin it. Reason in this way *IS* language. It’s a tool to convey a homogenous, continuous, consistent view of the world from mind to mind. In this way we can communicate and have an understanding. Reason and scientific method becomes dogmatic when the propositions become the reality, and furthermore when outside those propositions there is no reality; which is in fact the case with reason and science. If science cannot prove something, cannot speak to something, then it isn’t true, it doesn’t exist. This is important to understand. On the one hand this is necessary to reason; after all, we don’t want to go into a building project unless all the guiding principles of architecture are understood to a degree that what we finally build is safe to live in. Reason in this way can and should not leave any stone unturned insofar as it can do so. But this doesn’t mean that there are not any further stones, only that, reason does not see them.

So to the bootstrap problem:
You cannot analyze of system of thought with that same system of thought - You cannot analyze scientific method with itself, without running into a problem of infinite regress; you’ll never get anywhere. So, instead of validating ones own system of thought, it’s much easier to invalidate another; in this case, religion. Again, Pirsig said, “I don’t believe in ghosts (in the 15th century sense of the term) because they are not scientific.” And in this way he’s simply adhering to his own dogma.

Modern rationalists and scientists like to the say the same thing about religion; it isn’t true, there is no God, the bible is bogus, because it’s not scientific. Then religion can turn around and say, science is not the ultimate source of truth because of course, it isn’t very religious.

Consider the bootstrap problem in this way. Can religion critique religion? It does, but how does it do it? Islam likes to critique Christianity and visa versa, so to with many other religions. But in doing so the religious thinker must leave the world of religion and enter into an entirely different one; namely, Reason. It ends up attacking another religion on objective grounds, it attacks another religions objective validity in the same way science does. It pokes at it’s mythology, it’s history, it’s rules, it’s morality; it attacks the *words* that make up the message. Once again, this is exactly what science does. Religion cannot attack itself on religious grounds because at the core they share the same meaning; it would eventually run into the same problem of infinite regress in the form of defining the root meanings of those things which encompassed the religion. They would find, they are both religious. (I guess the question is then, what’s religious?)

From a religious perspective, there just is God; that's it. There isn't anything reasonable about it because reason has nothing to do with it. Without God, there is no religion. Now of course one could say, "some religions (Buddhism) don't have god[s], but this is nothing more then a confusion of what one means by God and is again, asking a scientific question and not a religious one. When him with eyes to see sees, this is plainly understood.

An after thought: (Some questions I want to answer)
1.) What is science?
2.) What is the goal of science?
3.) What does science do?
(these seem like easy questions, but I still don't have an adequate answer. How does one say what one is?)

1.) What is religion?
2.) I don't know enough about question 1 to ask question 2, likewise for 3. I can say with some honestly that I feel I know the answer, but as of yet I lack the rational capacity to verbalize it. Perhaps this is for the better.

P2. An after thought on Biographies

An after thought on my post just below:

Joseph Campbel is famous for saying “Follow your bliss”.

That’s really my point about biographies. And that, we all look for the same thing, just find it in different places.

I'm not a fan of Biographies

The other day I was having a conversation with an individual about biographies and Buddhism; wonderful pairing I know. In the process was revealed something about myself relative to my taste in books; which is, I have no love for biographies. I never gave it much thought until after I teased him (this individual) a little bit on a couple of books he had read.

Off hand I know one was on Malcolm X, Jack Keroack, and another about a guy who was the first to climb the tallest mountains in the world. I remember saying, “eh, big deal, I’m not big on those sorts of books.” I didn’t insult him as we know each other well enough; however on my ride home from work that day (this conversation was at work) I was bothered by the whole situation. “What’s wrong with bio’s?”

So last night I had a few beers, sat in my garage, puffed on a cigar or two and thought about it.
“What’s wrong with bio’s?”

Glamour is the first thing that came to mind; glamour, bio’s are all about glamour (beer #1 down). You take a person who did something “great” and you write a book about it. We all read it and become inspired because we have such boring and uneventful little lives.

At the core, I think (beer #2) we all have the same basic set of emotions, we all feel, or have the potential to feel, the same way. Which isn’t to suggest that we do feel the same way (at any given time), or even want to feel the same way. Put one man at the open door of an airplane with a parachute on his back and serotonin is immediately released into his system; he’s scared shitless. On the other hand take a completely other individual and put him in that same situation and dopamine is released; he’s about to experience an adrenalin rush which is, in his case, his drug. In the same way one man feels lust and passion in the arms of another woman – yet another the same way in the arms of another man. Certainly we’d like to think that, relative to objectivity, we should all feel the same way. Men should only love other women, jumping out of planes is a rush, tickling makes me laugh, stake done medium rare is succulent and a flavor sensation, God is in the Bible, fun is a day at the park, boring is reading a book, asshole is my neighbor. But these things never seem to pan out do they….. As already stated, my wife say’s I like “ghetto food”, this is true.

(beer #3, lets have a cigar, “Backwoods” are my favorite)
I imagine if someone were to write a biography on Robert Pirsig it’d (as Pirsig would say) “be as dull a ditch water”. Of course objectively, he didn’t really do anything all that “great”. Nonetheless though, he did climb mountains, however the objective nature of this fact can never be shown in some spine tingling bio about climbing mountains, or in the personal struggles over a civil rights movement, or in the misadventures of some beat nicks travel across the United States. The mountain he climber of course, was in his head, it was rationality itself; the modern day dogma of human thinking.

There isn’t anything glamorous about me. Although I’d surely say I have the same obsessions and struggle along the same roads as anyone who has seemingly done something “great”; that fact goes for anyone in life. It just so happens, or so it seems, that in order to achieve a specific state of mind from individual to individual requires varying degrees of objective involvement. We call people great who’s struggle involves everything that surrounds them; a mountain, a movement, a war. If that struggle involves the lively hood of others, even more-so the magnitude of they’re greatness. To me this shows the selfishness of human kind in that, you’re not great (considered great) unless you benefited me. Is greatness a factor of utility?

That all sounded somewhat bitter (which was intentional), but not a reflection of how I feel about it. The point is simply that, no matter the objective setting of man, the human struggle is the same. Whether you’re scaling the side of a mountain, casting a jig onto a rock pile, replacing an old carburetor, playing with your kids, watching TV, whatever the case may be; we’re all climbing a mountain. Although sure enough many choose to camp in the foothills; this is another problem entirely.

Perhaps though, the image of a man risking his life is inspiring enough to get some off the foothills of life. Perhaps objective struggle, objective suffering, is what some people need to move they’re sole from the lost slumbers of evey-day-ness. Perhaps I’m being unfair, or perhaps I’m simply saying, “I prefer peanutbutter and jelly over ham and cheese.”

(beer #4, that usually does it for me)
Glamour, it doesn’t inspire me, it doesn’t move me; that’s just the way it is. I suppose I’m inspired by the mundane. If you can’t find life in the mundane, the Buddha on the park bench watching your kids, then perhaps there isn’t any life to be found. In this way Camus was perhaps famously correct in saying that the only serious philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide. If you’re not asking yourself that question then you know you’re having fun, then you found the Buddha in your quest for reason, or in your work, or in your play, and he was smiling. Don’t be fooled by the seriousness of philosophical questions, there isn’t anything serious about them. The seriousness exists, like the side of a plane, to give one that rush, to let one know he’s still alive and that that is life’s purpose.

Off track here, but on a side note:
It was said to me relative to my philosophical inquiries, “you’re just doing this to make life more interesting.”
EXACTLY! Which is the same reason people climb mountains, the same reason why people tinker in garage, and the same reason why people start movements. Call it interesting, call it purpose, call it meaning, it’s fun, even when you hurt for it. Surely we need "great" people, and also a measure of greatness that isn't necessarliy a reflection of objectivity - the ability to recognize greatness as it simply sits under a tree.

if you think bio’s are cool, read em’. I’m not a fan.

Skinny Love

Artist: Bon Iver
Catagory: Indie Folk
Album: For Emma, Forever Ago

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Everyday Life

Joshu asked Nansen: `What is the path?'

Nansen said: `Everyday life is the path.'

Joshu asked: `Can it be studied?'

Nansen said: `If you try to study, you will be far away from it.'

Joshu asked: `If I do not study, how can I know it is the path?'

Nansen said: `The path does not belong to the perception world, neither does it belong to the nonperception world. Cognition is a delusion and noncognition is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as sky. You name it neither good nor not-good.'

At these words Joshu was enlightened.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Grizzly Bear, "On a Neck on a Spit"

A Response to Bill on Religion and Absolutism

PREFACE: This doesn't make sense [necessarily] in the context of what exists here. I'm posting it simply as a response to another discussion I'm having. Furthermore, it's not meant to be a complete idea, it's not self contained and argued for, it's contentious and makes some assumptions. It's writen as a response to a Friend I've been having a discussion with, and he doesn't like his thoughts out in the open.

Ok look, once again I’m not saying that rocks are not rocks, or that bikes are not bikes, or that water is not wet, or that 4 apples are not 4 apples; all I’m saying is that, relative to us, the truth as we know it in those matters is not absolute, it’s systemic.

It’s Systemic because, in order for something to be true as we know true requires a “system of proof”; to prove, it needs a “means of decision”, a “method of resolution”, a way of coming to a conclusion that something is true. This method must exist before the truth in order to prove that it’s true.

At this point I feel that you’re making the fundamental flaw of mistaking the finger for the moon. That is you’re placing your notion of truth as being an object of existence outside the mind. But truth and existence don’t exist outside mind, they’re nothing more then words which point to certain aspects of finite human experience.

In this way if I say something like, “millions of years ago when T-rex roamed the earth there were hard rocks on the surface of the planet just as there are today.” All I’m saying is that, had humans existed in the capacity they do today, with the same thoughts ideas and language, they/we, would experience rocks which we’d call hard. So in this way truth is systemic.

However, outside the human mind there is no truth, there is no existence; to say that there is is to make a Systemic statement of truth relative to you being there. What rocks are outside human perception is not something we can ever know; after-all, we cannot know things as they are in themselves, we can only know things insofar as we have the sensibility and/or perceptibility to do so. To assume that things are exactly as we perceive them void of mind is nothing more then a belief, not a truth, because we can’t prove it.

Things may exist, and things may be true in some way or another outside of mind (human mind) but it can hardly be assumed that they do in such a way as we perceive it. In this way things are not simply what they are, they are what they seem to be… to us, as we exist and perceive things.

Now, the problem arises when (for example) people apply notions of absolute truth in every day life, as in religion. Some people believe that the bible is absolutely true, and further more represents examples of absolute morality. Truth, once again, has existence only propositionally as in, “this car is red.” You cannot say, “car is true.” Because of course objects don’t carry the property truth. That a car is red (or has color) is nothing more then a method of differentiating things in the world relative to our perception of it and based on it’s usefulness. That is, we don’t tend to make differentiations where it’s not useful to do so. For example, it’s been said that Eskimos have double digit names for the color white, where we (in the south) have just one (so are they seeing something we’re not?) . What we ultimately call something, (in this case the red car) is completely arbitrary linguistically; we could have called it anything, but we agreed and have been socially programmed to call things by certain names and identify certain aspects of human experience in certain ways.

So then, back to religion; let me start with an example I’ve used before. Let’s suppose I say to a certain individual who knows nothing about religion, Christianity, god (say someone in Siberia), “The devil has control of my life.” He wouldn’t know what the fck I was talking about. However, if I said that to a fellow christian here in states, they’d have a pretty good idea what I was trying to say. That is, I don’t have control over my impulses as they relate to my “sinful” nature; where of course sinful nature has been identified with certain biological impulses and debaucherous behavior as identified in the bible.

Now at this point we’re all fine and good, we’re just talking, we’re communicating and as Christians we understand each other. The problem arises with the anomaly in that sentence, which of course is the devil. Christians, with they’re notions of absolute, would like to think that the devil actually represents some physical and/or objective thing that exists in some other worldly transcendental realm, and not just a figure of speech (it exists absolutely outside the mind). Likewise with God and what the whole of the bible says about morality; that all these things are absolute and if you don’t communicate in such ways (and have belief backed by those words), then you’re wrong, you’re going to hell, and you’re a bad person.

But once again, all we’re talking about is words here, words that simply represent human experience. What difference does it make what words I use? The difference is, even though certain fundies believe in the absolute nature of they’re beliefs, they’re using those beliefs in a pragmatic [practical] way, to serve an end; in many cases this end is a socio political one. That is, religion is useful at creating a society which is a homogenous whole, but as we go on, people get fcked up along the way and start to mistake the practical ways with which they speak to be an absolute truth of the way of things. But his isn’t so at all, clinging to old forms of thought (where-as it’s useful to retain the strength of old) is futile in the long run and leads to war and persecution.

Think about it in this way, religion (as language and ways of speaking about the world relative to spirituality) has never changed. Science changes everyday; what we once thought was true 100 years ago we no longer think is true today. This isn’t because our experience of the world has necessarily changed, it’s because old forms of thought are no longer useful in dealing with the new problem we’re continually faced with… That’s evolution. When science changes, no body bats an eye, nobody cries, no body frets, we shrug our shoulders and say, look at this new stuff we know, and move on. But when one tries to change the absolute notions of religion, people pull they’re guns out. The reason people question it so much today, is that it’s simply no longer adequate in it’s current form to deal with the problems people face today relative to the new ways in which see and speak about the world. What we need are new myths and new religions and/or a transformation of old myths and religion. Furthermore we need an understanding of what underlies these things, which is not absolutism; in this way, our religions can evolve, (metamorphose) along with our culture and avoid any dogmatic hangups and mistaking fingers for moons.

The other issue is that science and religion deal fundamentally with 2 difference aspects of the human condition, (they’re not necessarily compatible) yet they continually argue against each other for absolute superiority. Part of this is due to the fact that at one time there was no difference between religious truth and scientific truth; however as science started measuring the world and changing, (evolving), talking about truth in different ways, religion stayed the same and now exists in dogma. Spirituality is lost among many people because science has pulled us all away from it to the obvious fault of our dogmatic religious culture of absolute idealism.

But again, there is no absolute truth, no ultimate right or wrong; what is good, and what is not good, need anyone tell us these things? The issue is that people ultimately seek that truth from these absolute sources and get lost in the lingo, they mistake the finger for the moon and then the slaughter begins. As apposed to simply coming up with new forms of thought and speech to meat the current needs.