How is soul separate? (II)

-The theory of recollection sees the soul-body nexus as revealed though intellectual-sensible objects that have exemplified-example union. These are inseparable so far as nothing is exemplified without examples, but the separability is also clear. STA also sees the reason for union in a similar way:

If, therefore, the inferior substances received species in the same degree of universality as the superior substances, since they are not so strong in understanding, the knowledge which they would derive through them would be imperfect, and of a general and confused nature. We can see this to a certain extent in man, for those who are of weaker intellect fail to acquire perfect knowledge through the universal conceptions of those who have a better understanding, unless things are explained to them singly and in detail.

-Time in nature and in mind result from the soul-body nexus. If someone asks you how long a logical inference takes, in one sense the inference itself is instantaneous but the normal distribution of neuronal-firing will be some number of milliseconds. If someone asks you how long the Boston marathon takes, you can’t say “in one sense the marathon is instantaneous, in another sense the normal distribution of finishing times is between around two and eight hours”

It’s true that any motion can disregard the middle moments, and sometimes we even define them out of existence. Chessmen move instantaneously in the sense that the motion from here to there is irrelevant to the game.  A game like “War” or Solitaire is decided as soon as the shuffling is over. In digital systems or in anything based on bits, the fact of the decision is all that matters – the time taken to get to it can be often disregarded. One account of determinism is to see the universe as an information system or card game like Solitaire. There is no contingency, only ignorance.

But this comes to the same thing: in one sense anything we understand has time an in another sense it doesn’t. This is exactly hat we would expect if everything we understand is a soul-body object.


How is soul separate?

A: But which operation of the soul is clearly non-physical? It would be one thing if we had evidence for psychokinesis, telepathy, telling the future or whatever. What can you point to?

B: What’s wrong with Plato’s?

A: What, “the forms themselves”? Who can believe that? What about the third man?

B: I think this develops his thought in a direction he had no interest in. His basic point is that learning arises from sensation but doesn’t seem to terminate in it. When you teach someone you use examples in the hope that they will get what’s exemplified. The “forms” or “things in themselves” are just ways of talking about what you get when you get something and the only thing we’re for sure about is that it is a different sort of reality than the things exemplifying it.

A: Different from the sensible.

B: Yes. The physical is always correlative to sensation and learning is getting past this. Learning consists in getting something that is wholly contained in any individual without being exhausted by any one.

A: But the learning is always from sensation.

B: Recollection is a theory about learning from sensation.

A: So even here the separation from the physical is a union with it.

Morality and torture, pt. II

I’ve argued in the past that torture is wrong because all torture attempts to use pain to alienate persons from their own self-possession, and it is always wrong to intend to cause such alienation. The word “torture” can also describe acts of physical cruelty or features of punishments, but I leave these outside of the consideration because the first is not morally problematic (we all see that pointless cruelty is immoral) and the second falls under a different set of considerations (the morality of punishments) The morality of torture is the most interesting when it involves the use of pain to alienate self-possession and so obtain information.

STA raises the question of torture in the context of compelling persons to accept the faith. Bottom line: he does not allow it for those who never accepted the faith but he does allow it for heretics and apostates, who have once vowed to accept the faith as confessed.  What’s interesting is that one can accept the argument against torture given above while allowing its use to compel heretics and apostates, since a vow once given can never be rescinded and so one can never will contrary to what they have vowed. Taking a vow has to mean that any future renunciation of that law is not an act of reason. Since conscience is already bound one way, it is hard to see how we act against conscience by compelling it that way.

Do I need to say that I’m not arguing for torture here? Well there, I said it.

One difficulty is that torture means everything from cruelty to compelling to a sort of information seeking. The Church and the Enlightenment seemed to be most of all against cruelty or severity in punishment while we are more focused on the information-extraction problem (the ticking timebomb, or whatever). The morality of cruelty is, to be sure, largely a casuist question of particular practices, and if torture is seen this way it tends to collapse into the rhetorical question of “what is torture anyway?!?!” But the question of alienating someone from self-possession by pain is a different question.


The Continuity of Geocentrism and Copernicanism

Scholars of Medieval and Ancient cosmology have long known that the supposed “Copernican dethronement” is a facepalmingly bad anachronism. Those who put the earth at the center of the universe did not regard this as putting humanity at the center of attention but as putting it at the greatest possible distance from the incorruptible and perfect world of the outermost sphere. If being at the center of the universe was any great privilege, those in the deepest pits of Hell would be far more in God’s favor than the saints on earth.

In fact, seeing the earth at an infinite remove from the divine is perhaps the only point of continuity between the geocentric world and the Pascalian world we replaced it with, with its horrible stretches of infinite space. There is something archetypal (evident?) about the earth as a place of exile. Not even God could come here except as a wanderer or as cloaked in mystery. Said another way, for him to come to it as God would utterly destroy this place being earth.

The critique of Christianity paradox

The main critique of any post-axial religion is the Argument from Evil, but in the last few centuries we’ve added the critique that only atheism sees the world as it is, sc. as immense and without concern for some lone species of hairless primate. This might start as a critique of design but it is inseparable from the scientific disenchantment that moves out of the infancy of an anthropomorphism into the full grandeur of the tree of life, the majestically indifferent post-Copernican world, and Darwin fish.

These critiques conflict, perhaps fatally. The first insists that God has no answer to suffering and the second that the Christian world is infantile and therefore consoling. God cannot both save us from the indifference of the universe and have no answer to the suffering that we find in it.

I’m not appealing to dialectics here but more to experience. The sort of evils that someone might ground the AFE upon (the sudden or painful death of children) are the sorts of things that Christians overwhelmingly experience as throwing them into a pit so deep that God alone can be found at the end of it. The friends of those thrown “into the depths” feel compelled to speak and know they have nothing to say; compelled to be with them and know they can never be with them. Anyone might descend into Hell, but only Christ has gone there with any hope of returning. God is literally the only consolation one can experience in the depths of suffering, and so he is the only possible solution to the problem of evil. We can respond to this by saying it is all wish-fulfillment, infantilism, or pre-scientific enchanted magical thinking, but this commits us to declaring the AFE unsound.


Revelation is liturgy

Given Reformation controversies, it is easy for Catholics to see “sainthood” as an epistemological category: saints are those we are sure are in heaven. This is true, but it sounds like Catholicism played in the key of Calvin. Catholicism as such sees saints as a liturgical category: saints are those now made an explicit part of the liturgy.  The certitude we have of the blessedness of the saints is not to provide us with some super-certitude about the possibility of salvation but because, for Catholics, revelation is liturgy, and so if the saint were not in heaven he could not be part of what God revealed to the world about himself.

Similar things can be said about the inerrancy of Scripture, although its de-contextualization from liturgy leads to far greater confusions. A reading from Genesis about the creation of the world means something far different in a liturgical environment than in the private study of a skeptical biologist.

No Justice, No Peace

Many slogans are vacuous and aimed more toward the release of endorphins than conveying information. “No Justice, No Peace”is more robust than this, but it admits of interpretations that run from the noble to the demonic.

1.) The Natural Consequence Interpretation. The claim is a brief commentary on the definition of justice as the pre-condition of peace. Taken this way it’s a truncation of Martin Luther King’s claim (said previously) that peace is not merely the absence of tension but the presence of justice.

2.) The Explanation Interpretation. Systematic injustices are seen as being the cause of civil unrest, the subtext being that the injustices are severe, deliberate, and egregious while the civil unrest is understandable and sympathetic.

3.) The Right-to-Riot Interpretation. We acquire the right to riot in response to unjust treatment or an unjust jury verdict.

4.) The Thrasymachus Interpretation. Justice is simply the will of the stronger. If you don’t give us what we want in your “law enforcement” and “trials” then we’ll simply take it with riots and burning, and use the threat of this to extort your future jurymen into giving us what we want.

Constituting time

Objection: You say that nature is an instrument of freedom or spirit. Very well, so freedom or spirit has to account for some physical difference. But accounting for physical differences is exactly what energy does. So spirit must exert some sort of energy on the world. Taken in this way, your spirit is either an element in a physical system or causes no physical change.

Response: All physical theories have described nature as observer-dependent. Aristotle said that time required soul for its full logos; Newton and Einstein made motion and rest contingent on the observer’s stipulation of a background; and QM allows no natural entities except actually measured ones. What we call “nature” in any physical theory is not an absolute totality into which observers interrupt but a melange of subjective and objective factors. The activity of spirit is thus present from the beginning and physical law is realized only in what is constituted by spirit.

Said another way: to say we intervene in nature at some given time is to miss that time itself is already an objective-subjective melange. We’ve gotten so used to imagining time as a line or a division of the clockface that we forget that time requires counting (and act of the soul) from something remembered (another) to something either remembered, perceived, or anticipated. Separate places are both equally actual in a way separate times can never be. We can stretch the tape-measure across a surface and read the number at the end without having to remember where the hook-end is anchored, but time is not like this.

This why, even under the hypothesis that all of time is a single causal progression that is utterly determined, we are still free since the whole of time is must already be understood a constituted by spirit and so as able to be integrated with it. In constituting time, spirit can use any determined necessity to bring about a free action in the same way that it can use the necessity of an explosion to propel a bullet. The world at any given time has the structure it does because spirit needed it to be that way to attain its ends.


Cosmological argument from freedom

The demand for freedom meets a demand for a science that says nature is only chance and necessity.

Freedom could never be the instrument of necessity and chance, but necessity and chance are instruments of freedom all the time. The entropy must cool the fridge, or at least there is a very good chance it will. Thus, freedom can preserve the existence of necessity and chance in their proper sphere while necessity and chance cannot do so for freedom. Why go through all the awkwardness of elimitivism or emergence – which none of us can accept anyway – when we can make necessity and chance potentially instrumental to freedom and so preserve the full, substantial and autonomous reality of all three?

More broadly: intelligence can preserve the integrity and domain of nature, but nature-as-modeled cannot even preserve the existence of intelligence. Nature is not “emergent” or eliminated if instrumental to freedom

But what is the mechanism of freedom? Does the soul emanate freedumeons or soulitrons that push the body around? Nature must conquer all!  We face the same decision as Socrates: how can the good be binding without cords or straps to bind them?

Freedom is more parsimonious than Naturalism. Allowing for the transcendence of nature does a better job at preserving what nature is in tension with than any of the unbelievable attempts to account for freedom as arising from nature.

But freedom does arise in nature.

Thus there is some source of freedom beyond nature, and this is what all call a divinity.



On Bacchanalia

Whatever his other reasons are, the rockstar has occupational pressures to use heroin, drink heavily, invoke dark energy, etc. The reason is the same that gladiators have: the object of Bacchic energy must be closer to death. What else could we be faster approaching by fast living? Like the gladiator, he must be alluring as well, and occupational pressures demand him to be sexually prolific.

The hypothesis of that the rockstar is engaged in mere hedonism or the gladiator was only in it for the girls misses the crucial element of death. If hedonism sufficed, Sardanapolus or Hugh Hefner could be objects in a Bacchanalia. But while we can envy or pity them their actions cannot energize the crowd.

The Ring of Gyges is the crowd. Whatever we do within it is not our responsibility: kill persons in a soccer crush, pillage whatever we want from a store, urge the victim-priest of the Bacchanalia to conquer, wound, kill, etc.

To place sex and death together in a single priest-victim, or to go all the way to the door of non-being and yet be fertile there. It is a desire to conquer death with our most creative of powers.

Christ had to be stripped naked, not in allure or fecundity but in degradation and physical conquest. We raised him up to have a better view of the crowd and our power over death.

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