Thursday, May 30, 2002

Mmmm. Chili.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

The hard-right Washington Times has an article on the latest on the subcontinent.
In Friday's post, I said:
But this god would be nothing like the ethically good deity presented by the crescent religions.
By "the crescent religions". I meant the three religions that originated in the fertile crescent, which is composed of Mesopatamia and Palestine--Judaism, Christianity and Islam. From a google search, it appears that this is not the common usage that I thought it was. People seem to call them the monotheistic religions, or the Western religions, if anything. One might be tempted to call them religions of the book, but I think that this would be misleading when one considers the enormity of the Hindu scriptures.

Come to think of it, Islam didn't originate in Mesopatamia or Palestine, so my usage really doesn't make sense. I'm going to have to ask some of my historian friends what the collective term for these three religions is.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

This can't be good.

Friday, May 24, 2002

So here's the hitch:
how is it I, a worm, could hope to meet
the Face, the Source of all that hopes and leans
toward hope? How could a worm imagine past
reality? Half of creation is
imagination. And if half-created,
why not all--already--being? For
the universe is here by miracle:
Its cause was nothing more nor less than naught.
Before Plank time is preternatural--
so by the brightest minds we have been taught.
What more miraculous than Personhood?
What more unnatural than nature's Is?
Why are there some things rather than no things?
Incomprehensible! I feel a shock!
Envisage more than Anselm's point, look here:
If we can think it, perhaps it is already,
or else we work in part to make it be.

Is it possible to see the spirit of evolution as a god?

What kind of god would this be?

When one considers the emergence of living matter from inanimate matter, and of consciousness from living matter, and of self-consciousness from consciousness, the character of the spirit of evolution changes from the brute, dumb, almost malignant algorithm presented by contemporary neo-Darwinists like Gould, to a more progressive, positive spirit, perhaps even to a learning, growing, suffering entity. Although, of course, not an entity that exists independently of its components.

But this god would be nothing like the ethically good deity presented by the crescent religions.

This conception would be attacked as quaintly nineteenth-century progressivist by the vast majority of twentieth-century evolutionary theorists. Gould especially loved to ridicule the idea of evolution as progression, in fact he saw it as his duty to destroy the vestiges of Social Darwinism. But I think that there is an alternative to both Social Darwinism and flatland relativism.

If we are to ever recover--intellectually, ethically, culturally--from relativism--and I believe (with Nietzsche) not only that we need to, but that this is the task par excellance for contemporary intellectuals--evolution is surely the way out.

I read an article recently, but can't remember where, in which this kind of evolutionary speculation was described as Kubrickian. Yes, but also no: Kubrick inserted a MacGuffin, a black box, for what he couldn't put his finger on. That is, for what is driving evolution--the evolution of consciousness, and evolution beyond individual consciousness.

We must dare to go where Gould could not, and to where Kubrick could not, and describe what the spirit of evolution must be like.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

For someone who once thought that they would be a famous writer, it hurts to find a writer who expresses what one has felt better than one can. But it is dishonest to simply deny it. Maybe that is the arrogance of the artist: to believe, despite all, that one is truly creative. As with many arrogances, it is not unrewarded.
Here's my one of my favorites from the page of Wilber quotations. I have changed Wilber's idiosyncratic spelling.

"Maybe the evolutionary sequence really is from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit, each transcending and including, each with a greater depth and greater consciousness and wider embrace. And in the highest reaches of evolution, maybe, just maybe, an individual's consciousness does indeed touch infinity--a total embrace of the entire Cosmos--a Cosmic consciousness that is Spirit awakened to its own true nature. It is at least plausible. And tell me: is that story, sung by mystics and sages the world over, any crazier than the scientific materialism story, which is that the entire sequence is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? Listen very carefully: just which of those two stories actually sounds totally insane?"
-- A Brief History of Everything, p. 38-39

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Frank Visser posted an excellent list of Ken Wilber quotations.

I only wish that he had put the date of each book next to the title so that one could see Wilber's development. Without this, some of the early quotations are a little embarrassingly new age-y and naive.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

--- TWMKLADD@....wrote:
> Another great one is gone. Lost to cancer. If we
> could keep these geniuses
> alive a little longer we would be in better shape.
> Science has lost a hero
> today.
> twL

Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 11:11:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: "scott james"
Subject: Re: Gould dies

I heard him lecture at FermiLab a few years ago. He
sounded more like a rabbi than a scientist, obviously
in love with the idea that he could see statistics,
evolution, and baseball all as examples of similar
principles and move between them effortlessly.

But he was a physicalist and materialist, as all
contemporary normative scientists must be. And on
those grounds he was not really part of the cultural
solution I envision.


Monday, May 20, 2002

Amateur DVD Commentary. Via Metafilter. Wow. I'm definitely going to try some of these, and maybe make one someday.

Friday, May 17, 2002

On the Emerson ListServe, Richard Geldard said something I liked:
As to the self, I have always liked RWE's image of the human being as a container of water, which after death is broken to spill its contents into the sea, there to merge with the whole. Thus, the so-called personal "self" is just a temporary embodiment of the greater Self, which, of course, pretty much takes care of the notion of the survival of the personality.
This makes me want to go to Rome.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

This could explain a lot.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Saw "Fellowship of the Ring" again Tuesday night. The movie portrays a world in which one seems very small in relation to the immense problems of the wide world. In which we walk among the ruins of a past time that seem larger than life. In Tolkein's world, it seems like we were born too late to struggle with the ultimate powers. Until we realize that our struggles are just as epic and just as momentous as those of the past.
Another excellent column by Robert Wright on the Levant.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

"Strive to bring back the god in yourselves to the God in the All" -the last words of Plotinus

I like this quotation. But what, I would ask Plotinus, exists that is not God, or that is not "All"? And doesn't the coherence of your conception depend on the existence of this not-God or not-All?

Friday, May 10, 2002

If any of you will be in NYC in early June, this sounds...interesting. If I weren't in school on Saturday, I would go.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

From the movie X-Men: "Mankind isn't evil, just uninformed."

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

"I want to turn our common picture around. The judgment of beauty is not the result of a mysterious inference on the basis of features of a work which we already know. It is a guess, a suspicion, a dim awareness that there is more in the work that it would be valuable to learn. To find something beautiful is to believe that making it a larger part of our life is worthwhile, that our life will be better if we spend part of it with that work. But a guess is just that: unlike a conclusion, it obeys no principles; it is not governed by concepts. It goes beyond all the evidence, which cannot therefore justify it, and points to the future. Beauty, just as Stendhal said, is a promise of happiness. We love, as Plato saw, what we do not possess. Aesthetic pleasure is the pleasure of anticipation, and therefore of imagination, not of accomplishment. The judgment of taste is prospective, not retrospective; the beginning, the middle, but never the end of criticism. If you really feel you have exhausted a work, you are bound to be disappointed. A piece that has no more surprises left – a piece you really feel you know "inside and out" – has no more claim on you. You may still call it beautiful because it once gave you the pleasure of its promise or because you think that it may have something to give someone else. But it will have lost its hold on you. Beauty beckons." --Alexander Nehamas, "An Essay on Beauty and Judgment", The Threepenny Review, Winter 2000.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

I love the Hegel quotation I posted on May 3rd. There is a Goethe quotation that I believe is equivalent: "The history of science is science itself". That is, science is not merely mankind's current solutions to problems that nature has posed. Instead, science is the whole development through time of mankind's interaction with nature, and discarded theories and hypotheses are just as significant a part of that history as are the theories that we currently hold dear. A tree is not merely its current form in the present, but is instead understood better as its entire development from acorn to maturity.

Positivists will dismiss my description as naive pre-Darwinian 19th-century optimism, or as Spencerian social darwinism. Instead, it is the inner aspect of Darwinism. Darwin described how evolution looked from the outside--the objective view. Hegel describes how it appears from the inside--the subjective view. And the inner, subjective appearance is just as valid, and just as important as the outer, objective view.

Everything that exists has an inner reality. Every object is also a subject. And this fact does not create a mind-bending labrynth of subjectivities, as in Rorty's view, because all of the inner subjective realities emerge from a single subjectivity. Just as all objects are ultimately made of similar stuff, so inner reality is ultimately made of a single consciousness.

Adding these irreducible perspectives together helps create what I referred to earlier as a modern cosmology which is at least as complex, as complete, and as beautiful as the views of Dante, Plotinus, Homer, Hesiod or Ovid, and therefore has no need of religious myth or scientific dogma.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Good reading in just-published Sidebar G ("States and Stages") to Ken Wilber's forthcoming novel.

Friday, May 03, 2002

"Opinion considers the opposition of what is true and false quite rigid, and confronted with a philosophical system, it expects agreement or contradiction. And in an explanation of such a system, opinion still expects to find one or the other. It does not comprehend the difference of the philosophical systems in terms of the progressive development of the truth, but sees only the contradiction in this difference.

The bud disappears as the blossom bursts forth, and one could say that the former is refuted by the latter. In the same way, the fruit declares the blossom to be a false existence of the plant, and the fruit supplants the blossom as the truth of the plant. These forms do not only differ, they also displace each other, because they are incompatible. Their fluid nature, however, makes them at the same time elements of an organic unity in which they not only do not conflict, but in which one is as necessary as the other. And it is only this equal necessity that constitutes the life of the whole."

—Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface.
Translated by Walter Kaufmann.
There is a poorer translation here.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Excellent article, as always, by Robert Wright, this time analyzing and shredding a typically dissembling William Safire column.
Maggie Balistreri is one of my favorite contemporary poets.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

This is sick and twisted, but I can't help but think: who will be the next victim of friendly fire by the US armed forces? A candidate.