1.28.16

-Ruyer: If an embryo compared itself to chemists and physicists, he’d think they were far less intelligent than he was. They can make Styrofoam, adhesives, film, etc. but he can make legs, nerve endings, trillions of differentiated and coordinated cells…

-Chemistry can make real substances and not just accidental agglomerations, but it can’t make them beautiful or age well. Old marbles can be ruins, old plastics are just garbage.

-If you wanted to study the oration scientifically it would make more sense to understand it though the variations and changes of state in the audio system. These can be reproduced, they occur in a controlled environment, they involve no occult ideas like meaning or consciousness or spook-stuff… “But that’s crazy, we can all tell that audio systems are open systems” – except that hylomorphism unites the instrumental and primary powers into a single entity.

-The hand is a prosthetic for the soul so far as it needs to manipulate the world.

-The audio system is open because there is some initial state which is undefined, namely the vibration of the diaphragm on the microphone. But anything with potency – energy included, since we must always allow that it could have transitioned to its present state from a previous one – satisfies this description.

-Computers are brain prosthetics.

-When you use a blanket you are the one who warms and the one who is warmed.

-There is an “is” that means something like an exchange rate: A dollar is 0.7 shekels (notice that this is commensurate: 0.7 shekels is “nothing other than” a dollar). This is not at all the same sense of “is” which tells us about the thing in question: a dollar is the unit of American currency. Algebraic senses of “is” are, by nature, the first sort. A good deal of nonsense arises from thinking that the first “is” is all there is to know about the second “is”.

-The second “is” has one and only one definition, but the exchange rate “is” can be seen as infinitely richer. The dollar is not just xShekels but yEuros, zYen, aDinars, bPounds…

 

 

1.26.16

-Assume Hell was the only thing weighty enough to make cupidity initially undesirable. What does that reveal about cupidity?

-You still have objective morality without God, and not everything is permitted. What you actually get is far more horrible: secular morality, i.e. a comic morality too insubstantial to stand up to any sexual or pecuniary desire. It even shrugs in the face of suicide. A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death. 

-If not for the witness of Christ, we would have taken Hell as a metaphor since the First Century.

-Consider the second commandment not as an imperative but as a declaration of fact: you will love your neighbor as yourself. Dehumanize him and you will act in an inhuman way, and hatred of him manifests self-hatred.

-Contraception negates the connection between love and birth and so negates our existence as an image of the Father and the Son. Ex patre NATUM ante omnia saecula.

-As a vice, self-love is better understood as self-hatred.  

 

1.23.16

-If reason gives us only probable truths about the world, we can interpret our desire for certitude as a desire for revelation from one “who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Arguendo, take the most tendentiously antagonistic account of faith as true: belief without evidence. Don’t I want it even under that description? Not being an ideal mind, evidence is usually something I can be deceived about. What if I want a more robust belief than that? You say I wander off into transcendental illusion, I say you are failing to follow out the logic of your desire to know.

-Descartes grounds the cogito on the fact that denying it involved a contradiction. But he then makes a crucial argument:

a.) The cogito established I have absolute certitude about something

b.) Therefore, I have a standard of absolute certitude

c.) This standard is that my ideas are clear and distinct.

The objection to (c) is immediate: “You told us that the cogito is certain because denying it involves a contradiction. Now you are telling us it is certain because it is a clear and distinct idea”. But doesn’t Descartes have a point? We would never be able to judge “A is B involves a contradiction” without a previous insight into A. The principle of contradiction is a moved mover.

Analytic philosophy: (1) They’ve ended up with a system where “intuitions”  means, by default, “suspicious foundational beliefs” or even “things everybody believes with no reason and which are probably false.” (2) In grounding all rationality on the proposition, they occlude the role of insight.

-Hume declared insight a mystery best left unspoken. But there is no comparison between a skeptical philosophy that makes this act of reverence and one that doesn’t.

-With reasoning, the greatest certitude is spoken, distinct, concluded to. With insight, the greatest certitude is unspoken.

-We hide our insights from reasoning. Reasoning is too busy, too profligate. Show it any actuality and it will immediately become fascinated with mere possibilities. We rationally store our deepest insights in the unconscious. The adverb means both “for the good of reason” and “for the sake of truth”.

Nature loves to hide. First, for the reason just given, next, because it executes a rational action without having to reason about it. We shouldn’t be shocked when we put a reasoning-grid over it and miss something.

-Consider this sense of philosophy as “love of wisdom”.  While slumming around Amazon or walking the stacks at a library, you see that text from a philosophical mentor that you’ve never seen before, or never knew was translated, or have never been able to find until now, etc. The sophia of philosophy is also this love of how our mentor thinks.  There is something deeply unphilosophical about someone who lacks this.

The prosthetic singularity

Advances in prosthetic technology all converge on the prosthetic singularity, when the limb will be able to move itself.

1.21.1793.

Louis XVI was executed today at 10 AM. Norman Malcolm describes the significance of the event by pointing out that at the time of the execution the civilized world had accepted hereditary monarchy for five thousand years. For the last few years I’ve spent the day taking stock of my opinions of the hereditary monarchs* of the ancien régime and the modern/liberal order that replaced them.

I first unearthed my opinion about kings accidentally. I was trying to understand Dawkins’s opinions on God, which are a peculiar mix of utter apathy that turn out to be grounded on contempt, and I hit on the thought that this was more or less how I felt about kings. I’m physically incapable of seeing political authority as conferred by the normal course of birth, which makes me a-monarchist in the same way that Dawkins protests he is atheist – it’s not that he hates or rejects God but that he simply has no feelings about him one way or another. This apathy-which-is-not-contempt is unstable since everyone sees his dispositions to the world as rational, and so unless the other guy insists that his love of God or monarchs is a personality quirk or a sheer matter of taste both Dawkins and I have no choice but to see him as irrational. The more earnestly such a person insists on his reasons, the harder it gets for us to avoid contempt. This is before raising the possibility that the other guy might want us to bow to our King.

Our self-descriptions can be more or less coherently imagined as counter-factual. I have very little trouble imagining what it would be like to work as a store manager or to come from a larger family or even be a protestant, but when I try to imagine what it would be like to be female or extraverted I hit a conceptual wall. What I have to deny is so close to the core of my personality that I can’t conceptualize the sort of self that could transition from one way to another. It’s easier for me to imagine taking the blue pill and waking up in the Matrix than to imagine myself finding it natural to bow to hereditary ruler.

But that doesn’t make me right. I’m suspicious of any opinion that commits me to seeing myself as living on a small island of political rationality, and so I either have to adopt historical relativism about political order or search around for some basis in my self for the rational belief in the justice of hereditary rule. If there is something wrong with it, it is a far more subtle error than I’m taking it to be.

—–
* I stress that it’s precisely as hereditary that the kings fascinate/repulse me. It’s the denial of the justice of hereditary rule that I take as the fundamental sense of the political equality of persons. Only fools think that no one is born more fit to rule than any other – the dispute is over whether the rulers can be justly identified by birth alone, or whether they must be empowered by a process that human beings have set up themselves: a lottery, an election, a rational test of ability, etc. This seems like a small dispute but is of tremendous consequence – it will ultimately determine whether we see nature as a co-partner in human life or not. But if it has no partnership with us, what is it? A sublime and indifferent object we can merely look at? A heap of mere material to be dominated and worked into our schemes? A faceless monster with no intentions at all, much less ones that might incorporate our existence into itself? Perhaps a foolish or delicate creature in need of our protection and oversight? The king is the nexus of nature/birth and human affairs. The equality of modernity is the explicit rejection of just such a nexus, and we have yet to come to terms with what this modernity entails.

The desire to reset the calendar

The logic of the shift to “CE” and “BCE” demands that we reset the calendar since it’s still offensive to have to mark your dates from Jesus even if you don’t call him Lord or Christ. This will happen one of two ways.

1.) We decide to reset the calendar at some arbitrary date. Some sort of agreement gradually builds, probably under the influence of elite opinion, that we will reset our history at some set moment. We fight over some piece of legislation (or not) and it passes to set the calendar over at zero. Newspapers, history textbooks, contracts, public records, and everything else resets to confusion and inconvenience.

2.) We decide some event is so significant that it deserves to be the reference for all other times. The desire that a timeline start at some chief or significant event is the normal way of human action, though variosu exigencies force us to pick an event in human history (the date of the big bang or the congealing of the earth, even if we could get it accurate enough – which we can’t – would leave us with unmanageably large numbers.) So we’re stuck finding a person or event that we want to reckon all time from.

Note on Brothers K

The definitive speeches of Ivan and Alyosha are both discourses on children who have just died. Ivan uses a child who he never knew to make a philosophical point whereas Alyosha eulogizes a once broken, rotten and spiteful child who was redeemed by someone who loved him in his rottenness.

Against the axiom of nature’s infinite precision

Working at any art gives us an experience of what might be called the stubbornness of matter: you have an idea in your head for a picture or a melody or a paragraph, then in trying to make it work you find the materials have a mind of their own. Those who make things end up expecting some divergence between what they set out to make and what gets made, and whether this is a disappointment or a pleasant surprise involves a changing ratio of luck and skill. I’m literally having this experience right now in trying to get this paragraph to work.

From Galileo until now, we’ve taken it as an axiom that the totality of natural causes does not have to deal with the stubbornness of matter since they are infinitely precise. If I am trying to cut a straight line but get a crooked one, we assume this is because there were competing forces that account for these slight deviations. My line is crooked because I only account for a part of the forces that gave rise to it. The total forces are infinitely precise and perfectly mathematical since any deviation from absolute precision requires us to posit another force to explain what caused the deviation. At this point we are supposed to humbly say we can never know all these forces and so science does the best it can with degrees of approximation.

But even total awareness of forces would not suffice to explain the end result since even an infinite intelligence would not suffice to make nature a math problem. Forces act only so far as they are given mathematically, and math is non-temporal. You can imagine formal or mathematical quantities taking time to execute a process, but they don’t take time as mathematical: how long does it take to sum all the parts of an integral? How long does it take to add 2 and 2? For that matter, how long is a yardstick as mathematical? One doesn’t need three feet of space to use the “yard” that gets used in an equation.

Trying to sufficiently explain either time or distance by purely mathematical considerations ends up leaving off the very motion and time we are trying to explain in the first place. Actual motion can’t be just an instance or concretion of mathematical “motions”. There is a non-formal element in them making them temporal, mobile, and therefore unintelligible to us. Some theory of hylomorphism or participation seems inevitable.

 

1.18.16

-Science is the world so far as it is willing to submit to our questioning, our standards of evidence, our demands for consistency, predictability, behavior according to a model, etc..

-Is there  anything rational about an event that couldn’t be entered into evidence? About a business relationship that couldn’t be put in a contract?

-Is everything visible tangible? Leaving off outlier cases, the answer is either (obviously) yes since the same things we see are things that could be touched or (obviously) no since it’s not as if blind men can’t feel or the anaesthetized go blind. All modes of knowledge are like this. From within the mode, nothing is left out, and everything can be reduced to an explanation in that mode (the visible can be wholly reduced to a tangible shape, like a wave.) So far as this goes, any mode of knowledge is the only or the best means we have of attaining reality.

-Tradition is hear-say: we heard from someone who heard from someone who heard, etc.

 

Definition of the universe

If we focus on the moment of causing, we couldn’t get the idea of causes being in prior in time. So why is temporal priority taken as essential to causing? Because we start seeing the cause as the initiator. But even this isn’t enough – we need to see the cause as working though subordinates, so that “the effect” is either at the end of the action of subordinate causes (like ringing the bell in the carnival strong-man game)  or the cumulative effect of subordinate causes making a whole (like a burning house being the sum of all its parts catching on fire).

Time is integral not to causality as such but to subordinate or secondary causes. Time is required when the primary agent is trying to act on one part after another either to reach an end or to form a whole. Do away with the secondary causes, and any temporal interval between cause an effect vanishes. Looking for it is like trying to find some time between pushing Joe and Joe being pushed.

We can consider the necessity of time not just through subordinate causes but though the substance of imperfect being.  By “imperfect being” I mean one that has incompossible perfections.  A person can have either the innocence of childhood, the beauty of youth, the authority of maturity or the wisdom of age, but these are incompossible, which can only be whole over an interval of time. Here again, however, we run into the subordinate causality of parts forming a whole. Time allows beings with incompossible perfections unite those perfections in a whole.

And so the domain of all time – the universe – is the totality of all incompossible perfections possessed by secondary causes.

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