Saturday, July 23, 2011

Conatus in Spinoza, Hegel, and Dewey

I have been working on my manuscript, and I just came upon an insightful thought that I wish to share that may present a window into Dewey's thought.  Much of his thought that would be of interest to the process metaphysics crowd has been made inaccessible by barriers of diction, tradition, academic politics, etc.  Below is a paragraph from a manuscript draft wherein sketch a few elements of Spinoza's "conatus" to illustrate something in Dewey by analogy.  The insight follows this paragraph.

For Spinoza, the animate force of a creature to persist in its own being is conatus (III,p7;108).  It is the power of a thing to act alone or in conjunction with others to persist in its own being.  Only its own nature and place within the system of nature constraints it, which are understood as “internal” (essential) constraints.  The same force becomes appetite, will, and consciousness of appetite (“desire”).  Hence, we do not judge a thing to be good and seek it, but the reverse; we act, will, and seek a thing and thereby judge it to be good (III, p9s;109).  Imagining a desired object moves one to seek it, and implies that the affect was occassioned by something prior to thought (III, p18; 114).  Consciousness of a desired object is the last phase of a process preceded by the workings of nature that present ideas to thought.  Spinoza’s position is anti-Kantian, because it denies the separability of nature, body, desire, and reason that is the core of Kant’s critical philosophy.  In the following, I will parallel this description of conatus with its analog in Dewey and will shift from a Spinozan to Deweyan vocabulary.

If a thing’s essence is the limit that gives it form, then for Spinoza the determinacy comes from the necessity of nature and its law.  For Hegel, essence is historical.  The generative force of conatus (by analogy) produces a plurality of form limited by the epoch, this phase of the logos or dialectic.  For Dewey, who began with an approach derivative of Hegel, culture is the form-giving limit to human evolution.  Hence, the animate force of human being is empowered and limited by culture, which explains the majority of human difference upon a shared biological basis that is quite plastic.  And there is more to human morphology than history.

For Dewey, the analog of conatus is "desire" (my term) or "eros" (Thomas Alexander's term) that is encompassed in what Dewey called "valuation."  The human eros, per Alexander, is the search for meaning.  For my part, I shift one stage back and ask about the conditions of meaningfulness for Dewey.  Unlike Alexander, I'm not aimed at civilization, mythos, etc. (cf MacIntrye After Virtue), but embodied phenomenological semiotics.  Why does that sign mean this, and how aware might we be of its connection?  That is, why does this attire mean "poor hobo" and that act mean "pretentious," and how is it possible that those associations could be otherwise?  Better, what is the structure of such possibility, its order, its genesis, its temporal asymmetry, its morphology?  But I digress too far into obscurantism….

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Post: Pastor Dwight Welch on God, Causality, and Christianity

"I’ve been asked by Jason Hills to comment on the discussion of process thought, God, and causality. As a mainline pastor and former colleague of Hills at SIUC, I’ve been influenced by process and classical American pragmatism but I’ve been far enough from the field of philosophy that I apologize if my treatment of some issues is thin.


I’m sympathetic to Whitehead’s cosmology but I don’t believe that one must adopt any particular cosmology in terms of identifying with religious faith and theism in particular. In that I agree with Rudolph Bultmann that religious faith need not tie its fortunes to one system such that one could be a Whiteheadian, a Columbian Naturalist, a Platonist, etc and still identify with and work out of, in my case, the Christian tradition.

I myself am sympathetic to a form of naturalism that would identify God with particular features, events as found in the natural world. In particular, those events, features, etc that works in ways to relativize and humanize our existence to use Gordon Kaufman’s language or works to judge and redeem our existence in Reinhold Niebuhr’s language.


The model that I find most helpful would be Whitehead’s idea of intensity, the greatest amount of diversity/contrasts held together. If one imagined communities which held to such a goal, one can see how difference held in community can critique our norms and sense of things while expanding those communities in transforming ways. In that I can see a model for various communities, including religious ones.

The question of causality could be this; does God cause such vivifying contrasts? Is God an explanation behind such a thing? I’d argue not. Instead of saying that God is behind and causing events, I would say that God is to be identified with such events. That is, when we see transformation towards the better, we’ve experienced God. Not something God did but something of who God is.


God in this case is a term we use when we encounter such events. God is not an explanation. I would presume that we would want to use all sorts of descriptive accounts, from the natural and social sciences, etc. One could go to a number of disciplines to describe what happens when life is critiqued and transformed. None need invalidate each other. They would be various descriptive routes to the same event.

God would be an evaluative description, one which describes the quality of such events, and calls for a particular response. Such responses could be that of loyalty, ultimacy, reverence, devotion, and so forth. In any case, a commitment to what makes life move towards the better. In the west, given the history of the word, God would seem most appropriate given the nature of specific communities, including my own.

In that I can see atheist interlocutors not describing a world with one less object, but rather prone to use different evaluative words (and given the way certain words have been tied to a certain set of actions done by religious communities and presented in ways which fly against what we know of the world, one can see the plausibility of using different words.)


But for those of us who, given the history and meaning of God, in our communities, the word best fits when we encounter salvific events, as a response. The point is to transform our language so that it can be in conversation with, not be used over and against other descriptions what less other communities."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Causal Closure of Nature: A Re-Introduction (Part 3)


Given that my hypothesis about the causal closure of nature has been repeated a number of times in the speculative realism blogosphere, I wish to revisit the issue.  The first time I was "thinking out loud" and was not intending to spark a controversy about causality and the godhead in speculative realism and object-oriented ontology.  Hence, after the fact, I will explain what I was thinking more clearly.  It concerns a hypothesis about cosmogenesis and the unfolding of the universe.

I began with the assumption that order cannot come from chaos ex nihilo.  There must be some limitation from which order is possible.  I presumed it would be an immanent limitation as I am an "open" monist; all is being (ontologically), and exists as nature (ontically).  This forbids traditional transcendence and all such religions, including conventional Christianity.  However, existence is only one of at least three modalities of being, qua Peirce.  Existence or activity is secondness, while possibility is firstness, and law, meaning, or habit is thirdness.  Suppose that the categories and triadic logic were minimally sufficient to describe the cosmos.  What, plausibly, might be limited to produce order?

I then specified the "limit" as the mathematical or algebraic "closure" of secondness qua activity.  Closure means that given any natural element of the triad (ontic), whether possibility, existence, or law, its operation upon another element must also be natural.  The mathematical definition is here: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Closed.html.  (I have a B.S. degree in mathematics and took every course in every kind of non-statistical analysis offered.)

I understood the limitation to mean that the set of real possibilities for natural forces was closed, or limited, and that this place correlative limits on what might exist determinately (which is concrete thirdness and not pure secondness).  Keep in mind that to speak of the "possibilities of natural forces" is to speak of a first of a second (second of a first?) and not pure secondness.  That is, firstness would be limited to the closure of secondness, i.e., the possibilities of natural forces would be limited.

This has consequences, which I noted in the comments to my first post and in a second post.  Concerning theology, a traditional conception of the perfection of God--perfections in the scholastic sense--requires some kind of limitation on the godhead.  I say this because, per Plato's famous Euthyphro argument, that the good is a limitation of God and not the other way around.  Catholicism agrees with this view, while some of American Protestantism does not, i.e., the voluntarists or unconcerned, such as the Southern Baptists.  (God does whatever God wills, period, and thereby makes it good.)  For the doctrine of the perfections, i.e., how god "has" the cardinal virtues, etc., there is more at stake than goodness, but that's the popularly troublesome one.  

Let me get back on point.  I did not think that possibility was closed.  The same with meaning or law.  If they are closed or otherwise limited, it seems that secondness or activity/existence was the most informative.  However, the universality or eternity of thirdness qua generality is the next topic that I'd like to see treated, although for that  I will return to Peirce.

Causality at the Intersection of Process, Naturalism, and Theology


This is a response to Tom at Plastic Bodies
(http://plasticbodies.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/process-theologians-please-respond/).

He writes,

" After reading a post at Immanent Transcendence, I would speculate that the theological and naturalist dogs in the SR/OOO fight will inevitably be lead to an impasse over causality. It will come down to whether or not you accept the reality of final, formal, and perhaps material cause in addition to efficient (and, for Harman, vicarious) causality. The theological wing will invoke Aristotle and Peirce to talk about several forms of causality, whereas the naturalist wing sticks to efficient and vicarious (perhaps material, anyone?)."

I would argue that he has not adequately parsed the "sides."  He implies that the "theological side" is for final and formal causes, while the supposedly opposed naturalism side is for efficient causality, etc.  First, I would not identify affirmation of teleological causality, e.g., Peirce and Dewey, as the "theological side."  That sides most if not all emergent naturalisms with theology, even though many are thoroughly secular and card-carrying "Brights" (militant aestheists).  Dewey was not sympathetic.  Second, the identification of "naturalist/naturalism" with efficient causality is too hasty.  That narrows the field to some popular naturalisms, i.e., scientific naturalism, but leaves out emergent naturalisms that embrace teleology.  Third, a Peircean/Deweyan teleology is not a strict Aristotelian one--far from it--and thus the implied identity between the two is quite misleading.  If one does not realize how different they are, then they probably do not know what I mean by pragmatic "teleological causation," because it's neither Aristotle nor scholasticism.  Fourth, the invocation of Spinoza against them is odd, as Dewey and emergent naturalists find a lot of inspiration in Spinoza (Spinozistic thinking, usually through the medium of German Idealism).

To answer your question, Tom, we need not agree to disagree just yet, because we're not on the same page.  I am not even sure how my linked post is connected to your comments, which leads me to believe that you interpreted them through Leon of After Nature's post on them … and he toke them a place I was never intending to go.  I have little to say about the Theology vs. X debates, although I do think that causality is key.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Freedom as the Immanent Transcendence of Desire

Here is an introduction to my book manuscript that I wrote and discarded because it moves too slowly.  However, it is an excellent start to furthering the discussion of the first post on this blog that also explains its title, immanent transcendence.  Many of my professional struggles over the years have been over Dewey's theory of desire (~valuation) and its importance for his theory of inquiry.  The problem has been that most scholars I meet either focus on the reflective moment or valuation/evaluation, or do not think on it at all.  The discussion below will imply why this is a dangerous omission, and even if my points are granted, rarely do I see scholarship that thinks through the implications.  In essence, Dewey presumes far more of human agency than even his own theory allows, and thus over-promises on what his theory of inquiry can accomplish.  Since then, I have attempted another angle of attacking the problem that will become my second book.

One reason that I have struggled with this is because few scholars think "desire" in Dewey as akin to the conatus of Spinoza and as suffering similar problems as the seeds of desire (cosmogenesis) in Schelling and Hegel.  See Gouinlock for the clearest thought on this, and then contrast it with Lekan, Eldridge, or Campbell.  Dewey, for those of you not in the know, began his career as a Hegelian, and such thought left a "permanent deposit" on his thought by his own admission, but decades of Dewey scholarship has overlooked it until recently, e.g., see Jim Good and Jim Garrison.  Many of his basic concepts are derivations from Hegel, whom he is often said to have naturalize.  He has, as a prime example, a Hegelian concept of "experience," which is why neo-pragmatists such as Rorty nearly universally jettison the lynch pin of his philosophy despite its prominence.

I will most certainly revisit this topic.

Introduction

There is an asymmetry in the struggle between desire and intelligence.  Desire always rules before reflection masters it, yet intelligent thought pursues desire's purposes.  This is the fundamental insight of this book, which leads to recognition of the basic problem.  Since desire partly constitutes thought, intelligent thought requires a momentary transcendence of its conditions to effect an immanent reworking of desire.  When thought arises, it finds itself bound in the structures of desire that it cannot escape, but only reconstruct, and it is autonomous only to the extent that it succeeds.  The question is, what is this transcendence that constitutes intelligent thought and how is it possible?

This book focuses upon the problem within the philosophy of John Dewey, as it is exemplified in two concepts, desire and experience. Neither term carries its usual denotation, and most of the book will consist in their exposition through historical and contemporary scholarship.  An extensive treatment is necessary because both concepts involve process metaphysics, which is alien to most readers.  I will slowly introduce introduce the concepts in this introduction that will illustrate the asymmetry of desire and reflective thought (intelligence).  "Desire" can be understood as the animate force of a creature to continue itself.  I will present three historic understandings, of this idea to triangulate my intended meaning.

For Hobbes, this animate force, or endeavour generates all the motions, feelings, and thoughts of the body as if the unwinding of a master spring in a watch.  However, Hobbes understood it on the model of corpuscular mechanics, which would later be known as Newtonian mechanics, whereby it is an inner drive or active power that determines the movement and thought of a person unless externally constrained.  Desire is then reduced to a generator of efficient, mechanical causality, a watch spring.  While the view that desire is a source of self-preserving activity is accurate for Dewey, its reduction to efficient causality and the perspective of Newtonian physics would reduce nature to clockwork mechanism.    The relation of desire and nature is better established through Spinoza, who also shares Dewey's views on the psychology of desire.

For Spinoza, the animate force is conatus. (III,p7)  It is the power of a thing to act alone or in conjunction with other things to persist in its own being.  Only its own nature and place within the system of nature constrains it, which are understood as "internal" (essential) constraints.  The same force becomes will, appetite, and consciousness of appetite ("desire").  We do not judge a thing to be good and seek it, but the reverse; we endeavor, will, and seek a thing and thereby judge it to be good (III,p9s).  Likewise, imagining a desired object moves one to seek it, and implies that the affect was occasioned by something prior to thought.  Consciousness of a desired object is the last phase of a process preceded by the workings of nature as environment, body, etc. that present ideas to thought.  Spinoza's position is anti-Kantian, because it denies the separability of nature, body, desire, and reason that is the core of Kant's critical philosophy.  Dewey shares these conclusions that he inherited as a student of German idealism, especially Hegel, and physiology that I will discuss in a later chapter.   I will begin to triangulate Hobbes' and Spinoza's view to locate the proximity of Dewey's theory of desire.

Desire is the individual source of self-preserving activity, per Hobbes, but is a part of a whole system of nature per Spinoza.  Nature is not separable from its parts, and the parts are not to be understood as bodies asserting themselves against each other, e.g., as colliding billiard balls, but as an organic, inseparable whole.  Nature is a whole from which the individual body, appetite, affect, will, and conscious of desire emerge, in which thought comes last and even imagining a desired object implicates prior activity.  This is the origin of the asymmetry of desire and thought.   However, contra Spinoza, individuality does not persist as an idea in the mind of God/Nature.  Dewey synthesizes the empiricist and rationalist traditions in a novel way, and agues for neither a Hobbesian billiard-ball universe nor the Spinozan duality of Nature/God into mind and body.   Triangulation requires two points of reference to estimate a third point, the approximate significance of desire for Dewey.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Post: Alice Pittet on Deleuze

By good fortune, I recently became acquainted with Ms. Pittet through Academia.edu, who is working on Deleuze in conversation with both contemporary French and classical pragmatist/Americanist thought.  I found it especially interesting since it is pro-pragmatist/Americanist and contra Meillassoux.  While I can speak for the pragmatist side, I let it to my readers whom I know to be more familiar with Meillassoux.  After some conversation, she agreed to send the English-language abstract of what is roughly a master's thesis (Masters 2/Bac+5)--the educational levels of the US system are not equivalent after high school.    I invite her and the readers to discuss this, knowing that Deleuze, Meillassoux, and process metaphysics are of high interest. Below is her translation, and you should feel free to converse in English or French, although my grasp of l'argot is limited.



Empiricism and metaphysics in the work of Gilles Deleuze:
A semiotics of Idea

The aim of my work is to consider the renewal of metaphysics in particular through the work of Gilles Deleuze. The main contribution of my memory is to show that the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze is not an overflow or a deconstruction of metaphysics, or a new form of Platonism, but a renewal of metaphysics by American and English empiricism. We support that the metaphysics of Deleuze opens a third way or a new challenge for contemporary metaphysics: this metaphysics is neither a "multiple Platonism" could defend it Alain Badiou, nor a scientific metaphysics or an overflow of the Kantian criticism as argues Claudine Tiercelin. In reality, the metaphysical issue of Gilles Deleuze is less the return of the absolute both Platonic and Kantian than a discovery of a new form of metaphysical absolute, absolute immanent, empirical and concrete. Unlike Quentin Meillassoux, we do not believe that the current metaphysical issue was taking place in a possible return to the absolute, considered a limit by "corélationnistes" philosophies, but in the reform of the absolute paradigm, reform undertaken by the English empiricist and Americans such as Whitehead, Peirce and William James. Our work is positioned against two interpretations of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze: an anti-metaphysician interpretation and an interpretation that aims to make the metaphysics of Deleuze a “conversly” of Platonism.
If there is a metaphysical absolute in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Deleuze calls "Idea". But we will show that this "Idea" is a reversal of the metaphysical idealism (Platonic and German idealism) by what Deleuze calls, like Jean Wahl, a "transcendental empiricism" and inherits from the English idealism especially Peirce and Whitehead. The main thesis of our work is to show that the concept of “transcendental empiricism” implies a reversal of metaphysical idealism that we will try to trace the history from Plato to Kant, and that inherits especially of the semiotics of Peirce and Whitehead’s idealism. Idea is not an essence or substance, but a concrete and cosmological entity that requires two types of processes or experiences for its construction: a mental process because Idea is considered "differential" of the thinking, and a semiotic processes since each empirical sign suggests and envelopes an Idea. We will establish a classification of all of the signs which suggest, in other words a semiotics of Idea.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Unification of Process Metaphysics and Phenomenology


Below is the abstract for my dissertation, which I am now revisiting to complete the manuscript for my first book.  I am nearly finished with writing my second book, per the title of this post, which I wrote as a series of long articles.  I think I was trying to convince myself that the sketch outlined in my dissertation was correct.  One fatal flaw of my dissertation was that it was actually two dissertations on Dewey, one on the role of desire (better rendered eros or conatus) and one on how desire informs the genesis of the phenomenon (felt quality, meaning, behavior).  To be clear, I am using "phenomenology" in a pragmatist sense and not a Husserlian one--too many misunderstand my words when they make that mistake.

Abstract
"Agency and desire are interdependent.  Agency is not a given, but an achievement of ordered desiring.  We want to control our desires rather than be controlled by them, but the dilemma is that our selves are separate neither from our desires nor our control.  John Dewey articulates this dynamic and proposes a solution; we can control desire and thereby ourselves by an immanent and reflective reconstruction of the meaning and object of desire.  However, Dewey over-estimates the cognitive control of meaning and desire, because he presumes that desire is always ideational, rather than explaining how desire comes into cognitive awareness and control to be available for reflective manipulation.  This work will extend Dewey's theory of experience and habit by explaining the structural habitual conditions necessary for the cognitive control of desire, e.g., how desire becomes ideational and subsequently an ideal.  It offers a constructive criticism and a new heterodox phenomenological method based on the works of John Dewey, Thomas Alexander, and Victor Kestenbaum."

The dissertation focuses on a fundamental dynamic that I will now progressively articulate.  Dewey's "insistence upon the necessity of an ideational or intellectual factor and in every desire" led to an over-estimation of the possibilities of such control that is also an over-estimation of agency" (LW 13:240).  For desire, thought emerges from a "tensive" or "problematic" situation such that the local environ gives  a character and background to experience.  Dewey's fault was in the very frequent assumption that "desire" has "an ideational or intellectual factor" that allows us to in principle be aware of our desires and how they direct our experience, behavior, etc.  In contrast, he explicitly rejects both psychoanalysis and a substantive unconscious.  I have my own views on those topics.

Regardless, has placed himself in a terrible bind that he rarely recognizes in print.  You see, Dewey is an emergent naturalist and hold an emergentist view of mind, rationality, and agency.  Desire is a primal phenomenon that is constitutive of mind, rationality, and agency.  Thus, he over-estimates the possibilities of agency and mind to mediate desire.

Said in Deweyan process language, mind is a late phase of the process of experience, whereas desire is an early phase that leaves a discriminate trace long before even the possibility of awareness.  However, he also offered a method to control desire by mediating the meaning of the object of desire, e.g., how we symbolize our vital conatus to ourselves in the first-person.  My dissertation systematized this whole account and the method while being faithful to Dewey's processive elements, which is uncommon in the recent scholarship.

I also tacked-in the beginnings of a Deweyan phenomenology to my dissertation.  That will be cut, because it became what is now my second manuscript.  The latter delves into the various issues of systematizing Dewey's view--he is all over the place in his own writings--that includes the issues of how an existential environment becomes a phenomenal realm that upholds the principle of continuity (synechism), and the requisite unified account of habit- and qualitative accounts of experience.

I apologize to the neophyte who is not well-versed in Dewey.  I am more than willing to explicate various concepts, including to those not of the American tradition as I have so much practice doing so (by necessity).  However, my main blogging interest is in working out technical details "out loud," and thus I will only offer explications upon request.  I know, dear reader, that this can be a harsh thing, but then I ask, how often do you see a blog devoted to the technical details of philosophy?

For the scholars, see Gouinlock's John Dewey's Philosophy of Value; I'm using his sense of "desire."  See also Alexander's John Dewey's Theory of Art, Nature, and Experience; I'm extending his metaphysics and solution to the metaphysics/phenomenology divide.  I also provide my own account of the gestalt and its solution.  Finally, see Kestenbaum, The Phenomenological Sense of John Dewey, for an explanation of habit and its contribution to a phenomenology.  If one would like to see prior attempts at such grand syntheses, see Rosenthal, Speculative Pragmatism, although her treatment is highly synthetic across all of classical pragmatism and very reliant on C.I. Lewis.  Her account is incompatible but mutually informing.

Blogosphere on Fire

Yesterday saw me in two confrontations on two blogs.  

Since I quickly bowed out of those conversations,  I wish to say a few words here as I could not do so there, especially since the issues are so important.  I apologize to members of the first audience, for I never intended to cause a firestorm, as I was ignorant of how my views would be received.

On one side--and I never realized it would be a confrontation--I defended the view that philosophic traditions have communities of interpretation that educate and normalize certain interpretations and that this was not bad, but necessary.  I recommended that we philosophers become "multi-lingual" and learn these, e.g., learn more than one mainstream tradition whether continental, analytic, American, the various Asian traditions, or the new traditions emerging as critical race theory, etc., as I have done.  However, it is not as simple as picking up their texts, because without the background knowledge, the root metaphors, etc., then one will interpret in a manner not consistent with the community; it requires apprenticeship or uncommon dedication.  Keep in mind that "being scholarly" is in part being consistent with the scholarly community at large, and that picking up Hegel, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, or any historic text is non-trivial.  Moreover, I noted that a properly trained historically-informed scholar should often be able to detect if an author of an article or longer work has read and digested the history of philosophy of a continental text--I choose that because in that tradition such familiarity is often assumed--and I implied that lack of such indications was prima facie a mark against that scholar if the text in question should be historically-informed.  Likewise, one can usually detect what tradition of interpretation one comes from, although this ability requires careful and wide reading.  This is no different that recognizing what political ideology one comes from by their diction if not their claims.

This view did not go over well.  I do not know what to say, really, other than that I respectfully disagree and never expected the venom that came from it.  I was understood to be saying that traditions should not read each other, at some point, and I have no idea how that idea came about except, as I later begged pardon, that acknowledging a continental/analytic divide meant not reading both to that audience.  My insistence at being "multi-lingual" was lost, but I hope that it is not lost to this audience.

I also made comments about how elite schools (predominately analytic) in the US strongly tend to hire their own graduates, and that this was not likely to change, which set off another firestorm.  Honestly, I wish I would have known about this situation when choosing graduate schools, because I would have "sold out" and accepted the offers from the elite schools, since I was not then aware that attending the "wrong" school was a mark of Cain in the academic community.  I know of many others in similar situations, and now we are regarded as not making the cut rather than, in truth, not being in the know.  But bearing the mark of Cain presents few opportunities to correct that preconception.  Being a first-generation student, I already had one mark against me that no amount of intelligence or study could erase, and that very few could see clearly since I eliminated all outward signs in order to survive academia, yet I was constantly not in the know on various "obvious" topics.

On the other side--and I did realize this would be a confrontation--I defended a friend against hasty anti-religious comments.  The comments appear to have been taken back, but there is a lesson here.  One must call people on inappropriate behavior, especially when you know that they will retract or deny it, because then the person--unwittingly or not--will continue pushing the envelope.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Response to the OOO Debates (Part II) from Leon at After Nature

For my part, my rebellion against "flatting" one's ontology is directed at scientific naturalism and the reduction of being to the physical along with material and efficient causation.  Tell me that human suffering is *just* a neurological state, and I'll tell of your hubris.  Aside, a motivation for my work is to articulate how destroying a people's culture can be as grevious a wound as of the flesh and sometimes more so.

I affirm the parity principle.

Being a panpsychist, the parity principle is all but a given for me once I affirm that I do not view human nature as some transcendent pinnacle of history or evolution.  That said, destruction of humanity in its various forms, both physical and symbolic--presuming a difference for the moment--is still violence that humanity need not countenance even if wolves do.  If one wants a biological-organic basis that doesn't presume transcendent values at the outset, then we can begin with homeostasis, i.e., the self-maintenance of all things that are living.  Why treat culture or a people's heritage as any different, unless we have already presumed that it is somehow "non-natural" as so many in contemporary philosophy do?  That shows a terrible lack of reverence.

As for an SR/OOO ecological ethics, I believe that we should look to Chinese Buddhism, e.g. the ethical implications of sunyata or emptiness.  For my part, I hope to contribute through my analyses of the situated genesis of meaning and value that could be described as ecological.

Philosophical Passages from Camus

Only the captions are in English.


Des Passages Philosophiques de La Peste

Albert Camus, La Peste. Gallimard, 2007.

la bêtise qui vous tuera [the stupidity that will kill you ... war]

C’est ainsi qu’il faut comprendre aussi qu’il fut partage entre l’inquiétude et la confiance. Quand une guerre éclate, les gens disent : « Ca ne durera pas, c’est trop bete. « Et sans doute une guerre est certainement trop bete, mais cela ne l’empêche pas de durer. La bêtise insiste toujours, on s’en apercevrait si l’on ne pensait pas toujours et, de mauvais rêve en mauvais rêve, ce sont les hommes qui passent, et les humanistes en premier lieu, parce qu’ils n’ont pas plus leurs précautions. Nos concitoyens n’étaient pas plus coupables que d’autres, ils oubliaient d’être modestes, voilà tout, et ils pensaient que tout était encore possible pour eux, ce qui supposait que les fléaux étaient impossibles. Ils continuaient de faire des affaires, ils préparaient des voyages et ils avaient des opinions. Comment auraient-ils pense a la peste qui supprime l’avenir, les déplacements et les discussion ? Ils se croyaient libres et personne ne sera jamais libre tant qu’il y aura des fléaux (41).

l’abstraction qui se met a vous tuer [the abstraction that comes to kill you]

Apres un moment, le docteur secoua la tete. Le journaliste avait raison dans son impatience de bonheur. Mais avait-il raison quand il l’accusait ? « Vous vivez dans l’abstraction. « Etait-ce vraiment l’abstraction que ces journées passées dans son hôpital ou la peste mettait les bouchées doubles, portant a cinq cents le nombre moyen des victimes par semaine ? Oui, il y avait dans le malheur une part d’abstraction et d’irréalité. Mais quand l’abstraction se met à vous tuer, il faut bien s’occuper de l’abstraction. Et Rieux savait seulement que ce n’était pas le plus faciles. (85) … Alors commençaient l’abstraction et la difficulté en effet, car la famille du malade savait qu’elle ne verrait plus ce dernier que guéri ou mort…. Alors commençaient les luttes, les larmes, la persuasion, l’abstraction en somme. (86) Oui, la peste, comme l’abstraction, était monotone. Une seule chose peut-être changeait et c’était Rieux lui-même…. Rieux comprenait qu’il n’avait plus à se défendre contre la pitié. On se fatigue de la pitié quand la pitié est inutile…. Pour lutter contre l’abstraction, il faut un peu lui ressembler. Mais comment cela pouvait-il être sensible à Rambert ? L’abstraction pour Rambert était tout ce qui s’opposait à son bonheur. Et à la vérité, Rieux savait que le journaliste avait raison, dans un certain sens. Mais il savait aussi qu’il arrive que l’abstraction se montre plus forte que le bonheur et qu’il faut alors, et seulement, en tenir compte. (87-88)

il faut mieux qu’on ne croie pas en Dieu, parce qu’on cesserait de guérir les hommes
[it is better that one believe not in God, because one would cease to war with men]

[Tarrou parle à Rieux] Vous pensez pourtant, comme Paneloux, que la peste à sa bienfaisance, qu’elle ouvre les yeux, qu’elle force a penser ! … Croyez-vous en Dieu, docteur ? … Non … N’est-ce pas ce qui vous sépare de Paneloux ? [Rieux] Je ne crois pas. Paneloux est un homme d’études. Il n’a pas vu assez mourir et c’est pourquoi il parle au nom d’une vérité. Mais le moindre prêtre de campagne qui administre ses paroissiens et qui a entendu la respiration d’un mourant pense comme moi. Il soignerait la misère avant de vouloir en démontrer l’excellence. (119) … Sans sortir de l’ombre, le docteur dit qu’il avait déjà répondu, que s’il croyait en un Dieu tout-puissant, il cesserait de guérir les hommes, lui laissant alors ce soin. Mais que personne au monde, non, pas meme Paneloux croyait y croire, ne croyait en un Dieu de cette sorte, puisque personne ne s’abandonnait totalement et qu’en cela du moins, lui, Rieux, croyait être sur le chemin de la vérité, en luttant contre la création telle qu’elle était. (120) … regardant Tarrou avec attention, c’est une chose qu’un homme comme vous peut comprendre, n’est-ce pas, mais puisque l’ordre du monde est règle par la mort, peut-être vaut-il mieux pour Dieu qu’on ne croie pas en lui et qu’on lutte de toutes ses forces contre la mort, sans levé les yeux ver ce ciel ou il se tait. (121)

le mal vient presque toujours de l’ignorance
[evil comes nearly always from ignorance](124)
(see prior Note)

aux hommes, le contrôle était toujours possible
[to men, control was always possible]

Le lendemain, les parents étaient invites a signer sur un registre, ce qui marquait la différence qu’il peut y avoir entres les homes et, par exemple, les chiens : le contrôle était toujours possible. (162-163)

la création ou des enfants sont tortures
[the Creation where children are tortured]

[de la mort du fils de M. Othon] Je comprends, murmura Paneloux. Cela est révoltant parce que cela passe notre mesure. Mais peut-être devons-nous aimer ce que nous ne pouvons pas comprendre. Rieux se redressa d’un seul coup. Il regardait Paneloux, avec toute la force et la passion dont il était capable, et secouait la tete. Non, mon père, dit-il. Je me fais une autre idée de l’amour. Et je refuserai jusqu'à la mort d’aimer cette création ou des enfants sont tortures. (198-199)

est-ce que la souffrance d’un enfant compense en éternité ?
[is it that the suffering of a child is compensated in eternity ?]

[Paneloux] L’épreuve la plus cruelle était encore bénéfice pour le chrétien. Et, justement, ce que le chrétien en l’espèce devait chercher, c’était son bénéfice, et de quoi le bénéfice était fait, et comment on pouvait le trouver. (202-203) … Car s’il est juste que le libertin soit foudroyé, on ne comprend pas la souffrance de l’enfant. Et, en vérité, il n’y avait rien sur la terre de plus important que la souffrance d’un enfant et l’horreur que cette souffrance traine avec elle et les raisons qu’il faut lui trouver. Dans le reste de la vie, Dieu nous facilitait tout et, jusque-la, la religion était sans mérites. Ici, au contraire, il nous mettait au pied du mur. Nous étions ainsi sous les murailles de la peste et c’est à leur ombre mortelle qu’il nous fallait trouver notre bénéfice. Le père Paneloux refusait meme de se donner des avantages faciles qui lui permissent d’escalader le mur. Il lui aurait été aise de dire que l’éternité des délices qui attendaient l’enfant pouvait compenser sa souffrance, mais, en vérité, il n’en savait rien. Qui pouvait affirmer en effet de la douleur humaine ? Ce ne serait pas un chrétien, assurément, dont le Maitre a connu la douleur dans ses membres et dans son ame. Non, le père resterait au pied du mur, fidele a cet écartèlement dont la croix est le symbole, face a face avec la souffrance d’un enfant.

réponse a la souffrance : c’était notre pain amer pour la nourriture spirituelle
[response to suffering : it was our bitter bread for spiritual nourishment]

[Paneloux] Et il dirait sans crainte a ceux qui l’écoutaient ce jour-la : « Mes frères, l’instant est venu. Il faut tout croire ou tout nier. Et qui donc, parmi vous, oserait tout nier ? «
Rieux eut a peine le temps de penser que le père côtoyait l’hérésie que l’autre reprenait déjà, avec force, pour affirmer que cette injonction, cette pure exigence, était le bénéfice du chrétien. C’était aussi sa vertu. Le père savait que ce qu’il y avait d’excessif dans la vertu dont il allait parler choquerait beaucoup d’esprits, habitues à une morale plus indulgente et plus classique. Mais la religion du temps de peste ne pouvait être la religion de tous les jours et si Dieu pouvait admettre, et meme désirer, que l’ame se repose et se réjouisse dans les temps de bonheur, il la voulait excessive dans les excès du malheur. Dieu faisait aujourd’hui à ses créatures la faveur de les mettre dans un malheur tel qu’il leur fallait retrouver et assumer la plus grande vertu qui est celle du Tout ou Rien. (203-204) … Tout pèche était mortel et toute indifférence criminelle. C’était tout ou ce n’était rien. (204) … Il choisirait de tout croire pour ne pas être réduit a tout nier…. le chrétien saurait s’abandonner a la volonté divine, meme incompréhensible…. il fallait sauter au cœur de cet inacceptable qui nous était offert, justement pour que nous fissions notre choix. La souffrance des enfants était notre pain amer, mais sans ce pain, notre ame périrait de sa faim spirituelle. (205)

réponse au prêtre : d’un royaume spirituelle, non pas du corps
[response to the priest : of a spiritual realm, not of the body]
Si un prêtre consulte un médecin, il y a contradiction. (207)

il fallait prendre la sympathie pour arriver à la paix
[one must have sympathy in order to acomplish peace]

[Rieux a Tarrou] Par conséquent, je dis qu’il y a les fléaux et les victimes, et rien de plus. Si, disant cela, je deviens fléau moi-même, du moins, je n’y suis pas consentant. J’essaie d’être un meurtrier innocent. Vous voyez que ce n’est pas une grande ambition.
« Il faudrait, bien sur, qu’il y eut une troisième catégorie, celle des vrais médecines, mais c’est un fait qu’on n’en rencontre pas beaucoup et que ce doit être difficile. C’est pourquoi j’ai décidé de me mettre du cote des victimes, en toute occasion, pour limiter les dégâts. Au milieu d’elles, je peux du moins chercher comment on arrive à la troisième catégorie, c’est-a-dire à la paix.… Apres un silence, le docteur se souleva un peu et demanda si Tarrou avait une idée du chemin qu’il fallait prendre pour arriver a la paix.
Oui, la sympathie. (229)

la sainteté sans Dieu par être un homme
[saintliness without God by being a man]

[Tarrou et Rieux] En somme, dit Tarrou avec simplicité, ce qui m’intéresse, c’est de savoir comment on devient un saint.
Mais vous ne croyez pas en Dieu.
Justement. Peut-on être un saint sans Dieu, c’est le seul problème concret que je connaisse aujourd’hui.… Peut-être, répondît le docteur, mais vous savez, je me sens plus de solidarité avec les vaincus qu’avec les saints. Je n’ai pas de gout, je crois, pour l’héroïsme et la sainteté. Ce qui m’intéresse, c’est d’être un homme.
Oui, nous cherchons la meme chose, mais je suis moins ambitieux. (230)

Favorite Philosophical Passages from Camus

If there's interest, I'll translate these, as I could use the practice.  I have captions in English.


Des Passages Philosophiques de La Peste

Albert Camus, La Peste. Gallimard, 2007.

la bêtise qui vous tuera [
the stupidity that will kill you ... war]

C’est ainsi qu’il faut comprendre aussi qu’il fut partage entre l’inquiétude et la confiance. Quand une guerre éclate, les gens disent : « Ca ne durera pas, c’est trop bete. « Et sans doute une guerre est certainement trop bete, mais cela ne l’empêche pas de durer. La bêtise insiste toujours, on s’en apercevrait si l’on ne pensait pas toujours et, de mauvais rêve en mauvais rêve, ce sont les hommes qui passent, et les humanistes en premier lieu, parce qu’ils n’ont pas plus leurs précautions. Nos concitoyens n’étaient pas plus coupables que d’autres, ils oubliaient d’être modestes, voilà tout, et ils pensaient que tout était encore possible pour eux, ce qui supposait que les fléaux étaient impossibles. Ils continuaient de faire des affaires, ils préparaient des voyages et ils avaient des opinions. Comment auraient-ils pense a la peste qui supprime l’avenir, les déplacements et les discussion ? Ils se croyaient libres et personne ne sera jamais libre tant qu’il y aura des fléaux (41).

l’abstraction qui se met a vous tuer [
the abstraction that comes to kill you]

Apres un moment, le docteur secoua la tete. Le journaliste avait raison dans son impatience de bonheur. Mais avait-il raison quand il l’accusait ? « Vous vivez dans l’abstraction. « Etait-ce vraiment l’abstraction que ces journées passées dans son hôpital ou la peste mettait les bouchées doubles, portant a cinq cents le nombre moyen des victimes par semaine ? Oui, il y avait dans le malheur une part d’abstraction et d’irréalité. Mais quand l’abstraction se met à vous tuer, il faut bien s’occuper de l’abstraction. Et Rieux savait seulement que ce n’était pas le plus faciles. (85) … Alors commençaient l’abstraction et la difficulté en effet, car la famille du malade savait qu’elle ne verrait plus ce dernier que guéri ou mort…. Alors commençaient les luttes, les larmes, la persuasion, l’abstraction en somme. (86) Oui, la peste, comme l’abstraction, était monotone. Une seule chose peut-être changeait et c’était Rieux lui-même…. Rieux comprenait qu’il n’avait plus à se défendre contre la pitié. On se fatigue de la pitié quand la pitié est inutile…. Pour lutter contre l’abstraction, il faut un peu lui ressembler. Mais comment cela pouvait-il être sensible à Rambert ? L’abstraction pour Rambert était tout ce qui s’opposait à son bonheur. Et à la vérité, Rieux savait que le journaliste avait raison, dans un certain sens. Mais il savait aussi qu’il arrive que l’abstraction se montre plus forte que le bonheur et qu’il faut alors, et seulement, en tenir compte. (87-88)

il faut mieux qu’on ne croie pas en Dieu, parce qu’on cesserait de guérir les hommes
[
it is better that one believe not in God, because one would cease to war with men]

[Tarrou parle à Rieux] Vous pensez pourtant, comme Paneloux, que la peste à sa bienfaisance, qu’elle ouvre les yeux, qu’elle force a penser ! … Croyez-vous en Dieu, docteur ? … Non … N’est-ce pas ce qui vous sépare de Paneloux ? [Rieux] Je ne crois pas. Paneloux est un homme d’études. Il n’a pas vu assez mourir et c’est pourquoi il parle au nom d’une vérité. Mais le moindre prêtre de campagne qui administre ses paroissiens et qui a entendu la respiration d’un mourant pense comme moi. Il soignerait la misère avant de vouloir en démontrer l’excellence. (119) … Sans sortir de l’ombre, le docteur dit qu’il avait déjà répondu, que s’il croyait en un Dieu tout-puissant, il cesserait de guérir les hommes, lui laissant alors ce soin. Mais que personne au monde, non, pas meme Paneloux croyait y croire, ne croyait en un Dieu de cette sorte, puisque personne ne s’abandonnait totalement et qu’en cela du moins, lui, Rieux, croyait être sur le chemin de la vérité, en luttant contre la création telle qu’elle était. (120) … regardant Tarrou avec attention, c’est une chose qu’un homme comme vous peut comprendre, n’est-ce pas, mais puisque l’ordre du monde est règle par la mort, peut-être vaut-il mieux pour Dieu qu’on ne croie pas en lui et qu’on lutte de toutes ses forces contre la mort, sans levé les yeux ver ce ciel ou il se tait. (121)

le mal vient presque toujours de l’ignorance
[
evil comes nearly always from ignorance](124)
(see prior Note)

aux hommes, le contrôle était toujours possible
[
to men, control was always possible]

Le lendemain, les parents étaient invites a signer sur un registre, ce qui marquait la différence qu’il peut y avoir entres les homes et, par exemple, les chiens : le contrôle était toujours possible. (162-163)

la création ou des enfants sont tortures
[
the Creation where children are tortured]

[de la mort du fils de M. Othon] Je comprends, murmura Paneloux. Cela est révoltant parce que cela passe notre mesure. Mais peut-être devons-nous aimer ce que nous ne pouvons pas comprendre. Rieux se redressa d’un seul coup. Il regardait Paneloux, avec toute la force et la passion dont il était capable, et secouait la tete. Non, mon père, dit-il. Je me fais une autre idée de l’amour. Et je refuserai jusqu'à la mort d’aimer cette création ou des enfants sont tortures. (198-199)

est-ce que la souffrance d’un enfant compense en éternité ?
[
is the suffering of a child compensated in eternity ?]

[Paneloux] L’épreuve la plus cruelle était encore bénéfice pour le chrétien. Et, justement, ce que le chrétien en l’espèce devait chercher, c’était son bénéfice, et de quoi le bénéfice était fait, et comment on pouvait le trouver. (202-203) … Car s’il est juste que le libertin soit foudroyé, on ne comprend pas la souffrance de l’enfant. Et, en vérité, il n’y avait rien sur la terre de plus important que la souffrance d’un enfant et l’horreur que cette souffrance traine avec elle et les raisons qu’il faut lui trouver. Dans le reste de la vie, Dieu nous facilitait tout et, jusque-la, la religion était sans mérites. Ici, au contraire, il nous mettait au pied du mur. Nous étions ainsi sous les murailles de la peste et c’est à leur ombre mortelle qu’il nous fallait trouver notre bénéfice. Le père Paneloux refusait meme de se donner des avantages faciles qui lui permissent d’escalader le mur. Il lui aurait été aise de dire que l’éternité des délices qui attendaient l’enfant pouvait compenser sa souffrance, mais, en vérité, il n’en savait rien. Qui pouvait affirmer en effet de la douleur humaine ? Ce ne serait pas un chrétien, assurément, dont le Maitre a connu la douleur dans ses membres et dans son ame. Non, le père resterait au pied du mur, fidele a cet écartèlement dont la croix est le symbole, face a face avec la souffrance d’un enfant.

réponse a la souffrance : c’était notre pain amer pour la nourriture spirituelle
[
response to suffering : it was our bitter bread for spiritual nourishment]

[Paneloux] Et il dirait sans crainte a ceux qui l’écoutaient ce jour-la : « Mes frères, l’instant est venu. Il faut tout croire ou tout nier. Et qui donc, parmi vous, oserait tout nier ? «
Rieux eut a peine le temps de penser que le père côtoyait l’hérésie que l’autre reprenait déjà, avec force, pour affirmer que cette injonction, cette pure exigence, était le bénéfice du chrétien. C’était aussi sa vertu. Le père savait que ce qu’il y avait d’excessif dans la vertu dont il allait parler choquerait beaucoup d’esprits, habitues à une morale plus indulgente et plus classique. Mais la religion du temps de peste ne pouvait être la religion de tous les jours et si Dieu pouvait admettre, et meme désirer, que l’ame se repose et se réjouisse dans les temps de bonheur, il la voulait excessive dans les excès du malheur. Dieu faisait aujourd’hui à ses créatures la faveur de les mettre dans un malheur tel qu’il leur fallait retrouver et assumer la plus grande vertu qui est celle du Tout ou Rien. (203-204) … Tout pèche était mortel et toute indifférence criminelle. C’était tout ou ce n’était rien. (204) … Il choisirait de tout croire pour ne pas être réduit a tout nier…. le chrétien saurait s’abandonner a la volonté divine, meme incompréhensible…. il fallait sauter au cœur de cet inacceptable qui nous était offert, justement pour que nous fissions notre choix. La souffrance des enfants était notre pain amer, mais sans ce pain, notre ame périrait de sa faim spirituelle. (205)

réponse au prêtre : d’un royaume spirituelle, non pas du corps
[
response to the priest : of a spiritual realm, not of the body]
Si un prêtre consulte un médecin, il y a contradiction. (207)

il fallait prendre la sympathie pour arriver à la paix
[
one must have sympathy in order to accomplish peace]

[Rieux a Tarrou] Par conséquent, je dis qu’il y a les fléaux et les victimes, et rien de plus. Si, disant cela, je deviens fléau moi-même, du moins, je n’y suis pas consentant. J’essaie d’être un meurtrier innocent. Vous voyez que ce n’est pas une grande ambition.
« Il faudrait, bien sur, qu’il y eut une troisième catégorie, celle des vrais médecines, mais c’est un fait qu’on n’en rencontre pas beaucoup et que ce doit être difficile. C’est pourquoi j’ai décidé de me mettre du cote des victimes, en toute occasion, pour limiter les dégâts. Au milieu d’elles, je peux du moins chercher comment on arrive à la troisième catégorie, c’est-a-dire à la paix.… Apres un silence, le docteur se souleva un peu et demanda si Tarrou avait une idée du chemin qu’il fallait prendre pour arriver a la paix.
Oui, la sympathie. (229)

la sainteté sans Dieu par être un homme
[
saintliness without God by being a man]

[Tarrou et Rieux] En somme, dit Tarrou avec simplicité, ce qui m’intéresse, c’est de savoir comment on devient un saint.
Mais vous ne croyez pas en Dieu.
Justement. Peut-on être un saint sans Dieu, c’est le seul problème concret que je connaisse aujourd’hui.… Peut-être, répondît le docteur, mais vous savez, je me sens plus de solidarité avec les vaincus qu’avec les saints. Je n’ai pas de gout, je crois, pour l’héroïsme et la sainteté. Ce qui m’intéresse, c’est d’être un homme.
Oui, nous cherchons la meme chose, mais je suis moins ambitieux. (230)

Nature and Four-Fold Causality



Speculation in response to Leon, of After Nature, who took my discussion towards Aristotle's four-fold causality.  Again, thinking out loud.

The "formal cause" is time.  Insomuch as time is asymmetric change, then can we think (analogously or literally?) that the formal cause, i.e., the structure of what is, is ordered change?  But what irreducible element is ordered change?  Time.

The emergent actuality is the material cause.  Its thereby determinate powers are the efficient cause.  The final cause is the "sum" of the potentials.

I do not mean to return to Aristotle, but I am thinking the thought of process causality against the fourfold causality of the Metaphysics.  What I note is that if material and efficient causes are what I sketched, then they are reducible, are not primitive, because they would then be temporal-historical designations.  The emergent actuality is just a realized potentia.  Its powers are just those of the affiliated nexus that gives rise to that actuality.  The actual is the material cause, and its determinate powers are the efficient cause, but then there's nothing special about these two forms of causality, because they only appear as such in fully actualized complexes.  The language would only be worth keeping for translation into tradition metaphysics to aid in discussion.

This should sound more like Buchler than Aristotle.

Following Peirce, if possibilities do not strictly inhere in the actual, and activity is a distinct modality of being, contra Aristotle, then it is significant to note that the powers (kinesis) have achieved their realization (entelechy).  At that level we have efficient and material causation … but not before.  How very un-Aristotelian.

This seems to reduce the four-fold to final and formal causality, i.e., potencies and structure.  Potency implies 1) possibility, 2) activity/existence, and 3) law/determinate existence.  Structure implies time and chance.  I take "time" to mean ordered/structured "chance," e.g., time is historically asymmetric, whereas chance is mere variation.  Chance is more primitive.

This should be reminiscent of my previous claim that Nietzsche is lurking, i.e., will to power.  If what is, is atoms of will that assert their power, and greater power comes from the dominance of lesser wills, then structure is the enslavement of existence.  Good thing I'm not an idealist--this makes is sound very depressing.  Why be a Schopenhauerian?

The purpose of thinking out loud, btw, is to examine the structure and consequences of a thought.  Also, to allow for the weaknesses to be shown.  I am not embracing these thoughts, although the line of argumentation should show my commitments.

The Causal Closure of Nature: Revisited


In the first post, I was attempting to work out what causal closure would mean in my Peircean-Deweyan metaphysics.  By the end, I came to the conclusion that it means that the natural forces are limited, although the possibilities are not, and yet this limits natural laws.  In Peircean language, secondness qua activity is closed, while firstness qua possibility and thirdness qua meaning and law are not.  In set-theoretic language, we may say that an (algebraic) structure may emerge, while in contemporary analytic parlance we could say that the set of possible worlds is partially determined.  In sum, this is important for an evolutionary metaphysics, because it cannot be the case that anything goes in cosmogenesis, else we cannot answer the question, why is there something rather than nothing, order rather than chaos.  Schelling understood this, but also saw how dangerous it was to positively answer the question without presuming a seminal structure of the cosmos and thereby limiting its development and freedom.  Peirce to this to heart and presented us with a generative list of categories, the triad.

Another thought.  If nature is not causally closed, and God is nature (pantheism),then all is permitted.  Or is it?  I am not sure, but theists must wrestle with the cosmogenesis question in ways that non-theists need not.  Insomuch as God shares in the perfections, which are analogous to the cardinal virtues of humanity, then "anything goes" cannot be the case.  But again, then we appear have a limit on God's nature/freedom correspondent with God's goodness that has the effect of a seminal structure of cosmogenesis.

Leon, of After Nature, was kind enough to comment and solicit this response.  I will now respond to him directly.  I would like to point out a few minor corrections. [Edit: I am not correcting Leon on closed, as I believe he was expositing the views of others, but I thought that I should be more explicit what "closed" means per abstract algebra.]   A set need not be finite to be closed, and closure is a peculiar form of limitation that is *not* analogous to a line drawn in the sand or containment.  That is, in some sets, the bound of closure appears to sit across from an infinite chasm in which one might find more elements within closure.  This is frequently the case with continuous sets, and I take nature to be continuous (Dewey, principle of continuity; Peirce, synechism).

Nature would not be a container.  The boundness of nature is due to the possible transformations it may undergo and not anything that "holds it back."  Instead, it is due to its structure.  A given determinate, finite structure may only undertake so many geometric permutations.  Likewise, even an infinite set or nature may have bounds in its permutations, although mathematically speaking I have in mind infinite bounds, i.e., infinite elements, and thus the significance of the statement is in what is not within the bounds rather than what is.  For instance, a set may be an infinity of numbers, but not contain the number 2.  Likewise, God may be capable of an infinity of acts, but not evil ones--a bounded infinity.  This form of mathematics was not available to the scholastics, but I would not be surprised if an analogue were discussed, especially among the muslim scholars.  If what I say is unclear, muse upon the examples.  Closure per nature would mean that there is a limit to natural forces, which I also think are finite, and thus the forms of natural transformation are limited.  This does limit what may be, e.g., an infinite set of numbers without a 2, but it does not specify what is.

One of my goals with closure is to think nature other than as a totality of elements.  "Totality" says very little about structure, whereas boundedness and the how of its bound says much more.  I am sympathetic to Leon's claims about objects, for what little I know about object-oriented approachs makes it appear that they are like monads in their solitude, and thus we have a "Newtonian pile of objects as."  I hope to be corrected, as I am still a neophyte in the details.  Leon, in what way is nature an object?

As for the triad, Leon, you have mis-identified Peircean firstness if that is what you meant to name.  Firstness proper is pure possibility, not existential possibility.  For Peirce, possibility may be unmoored from actuality, whereas existential possibility is anchored by an actual existence.  I talk about the latter because of my work in hetero-phenomenology, the unification of process metaphysics and phenomenology, whereas existential possibility is the starting point.  Peirce called it "first of a second."  Likewise, actuality is second and not first.  However, you might be modifying it, as you note that I do as well.  Do let me know if you meant original Peirce or a modification or that I erred.  As for the implications, I was saying that the forces are closed, but not possibility or meaning, which does not necessitate that what exists is closed.  Existence as a second has some relation for firstness and possibility--what exists is an actual possibility--and if possibility is open but natural forces are not, then we cannot conclude that nature is bounded.  We can conclude that existence might be bounded, and it is certainly structured (limited).  Hence the points about the godhead.

In closing, Leon has understood the ultimate point.  We can neither maintain a flat ontology nor one of all depth.  Flatness is reductive, while all depth likely cannot explain order from chaos, cosmogenesis and evolution.  I am certain that I will revisit this subject soon, especially since I expect such good conversation.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Definition of Naturalism and Consequences: The Closure of Nature


As usual, thinking out loud.

I finally saw a definition of naturalism that I like.  All that is, is natural, and nature is causally closed.  Given my pragmatic naturalism, per Peirce and Dewey, I would add that there are more modalities of being than existence.  It includes possibility and generality.  I will now work out the consequences of this definition.

Causal closure does not close possibility and generality, e.g., meaning, because they are different modalities of being.  Since possibility is not closed, then quality is not closed, I hypothesize.  Quality as felt quality (Dewey, not Peirce) is an existential possibility, wherein chance reigns.  Quality and situatedness are mutually implicated in a human situation.

What is needed is to define "cause," which surely includes efficient and material, although I am yet not well-versed enough in metaphysics to determine the relationship of emergent teleology and efficient or material causation.  What is missing, prima facie, is a discussion of activity and its mode of being.

Emergent teleology requires potency, which is a triad of 1) capacity (dunamis), 2) telic activity (kinesis), and 3) realization unto actuality (entelechy).  Contra Aristotle, in a Peircean framework, potentiality is equiprimordial to existence; potentiality  need not inhere in actuality.

I have been trying to determine what "causally closed" practically means.  I think the most concrete way to put it is that there are a limited number of natural forces, e.g., weak/strong nuclear, electromagnetic, gravitic (debatable), etc.  However, that does not mean that their operation is static, e.g., since experimental cosmology indicates that the fundamental constants have changed given cosmic time.  Another way to think this is, that while firstness and thirdness may not be closed, secondness qua becoming is closed.  Given the rejection of eternal/timeless existence, secondness is always implicated in existence, but if causality is closed, then the possibilities of actual existence are thereby constrained.  They are constrained in how something may come to be.  Recall that becoming and existence are of secondness, whereas actual (determinate) existence and generality are of thirdness.  Under this interpretation, the laws of nature (thirdness) specify the possibilities (firstness) and how something may come to be (secondness).

None of this adequately addresses activity as a mode of being and its relation to existence.  Peirce names secondness as both activity and existence, but further study would be required to determine exactly what he proposed.  For my part, if an existence is an actualized potentiality that is also an event (~concrescence) ... aha ... there it is.  I should distinguish between potentiality-as-activity (kinesis) and potentiality-as-actualization.  If potentiality, i.e., the whole triad, emerges through the interaction of other existences, then the difference between activity and its produced existence is clear.  The produced existence of an activity is the concretion, the emergence, the realization to actuality of an activity that implicates that singular activity in a nexus of activities.  This last part is key; the activity does not create its existence ex nihilo, but involves the localized nexus of activities and existences.

For a practical example, since this all becomes arcane and abstract, I constantly remind myself of the analogy of energy-matter conversion; if energy is an activity, then sometimes it becomes matter.  Matter is really an emergent phenomenon of an energetic nexus that as a network gains a "body" that has extension and resistance.  Likewise, early 19th century physiologists were astounded to discover that the human body converts physical contact into nervous energy--matter energy conversion--and later in that century they learned the importance of rate of change to this.

Steven Miller, astute scholar, was concerned that "nature is causally closed" leads to a "definition by reassertion of the definiendum," which was criticized by Thomas Alexander as defining "naturalism as nothing super-natural."  I am sensitive to this criticism as I also find such a definition frivolous, and I hope to have addressed it.  Causal closure would indeed by boring if actuality and its efficient causality were all there were to nature.

In closing, I'm not claiming to do anything new.  I am just working this out for myself, for I find that I understand such thinkers as Peirce much clearer when I do so and then later discover Peirce's own argument.  Feel free to comment and to give me Peirce references, especially where he must have addressed this ... somewhere....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Philosophical Passages from Camus

Only the captions are in English.


Des Passages Philosophiques de La Peste

Albert Camus, La Peste. Gallimard, 2007.

la bêtise qui vous tuera [the stupidity that will kill you ... war]

C’est ainsi qu’il faut comprendre aussi qu’il fut partage entre l’inquiétude et la confiance. Quand une guerre éclate, les gens disent : « Ca ne durera pas, c’est trop bete. « Et sans doute une guerre est certainement trop bete, mais cela ne l’empêche pas de durer. La bêtise insiste toujours, on s’en apercevrait si l’on ne pensait pas toujours et, de mauvais rêve en mauvais rêve, ce sont les hommes qui passent, et les humanistes en premier lieu, parce qu’ils n’ont pas plus leurs précautions. Nos concitoyens n’étaient pas plus coupables que d’autres, ils oubliaient d’être modestes, voilà tout, et ils pensaient que tout était encore possible pour eux, ce qui supposait que les fléaux étaient impossibles. Ils continuaient de faire des affaires, ils préparaient des voyages et ils avaient des opinions. Comment auraient-ils pense a la peste qui supprime l’avenir, les déplacements et les discussion ? Ils se croyaient libres et personne ne sera jamais libre tant qu’il y aura des fléaux (41).

l’abstraction qui se met a vous tuer [the abstraction that comes to kill you]

Apres un moment, le docteur secoua la tete. Le journaliste avait raison dans son impatience de bonheur. Mais avait-il raison quand il l’accusait ? « Vous vivez dans l’abstraction. « Etait-ce vraiment l’abstraction que ces journées passées dans son hôpital ou la peste mettait les bouchées doubles, portant a cinq cents le nombre moyen des victimes par semaine ? Oui, il y avait dans le malheur une part d’abstraction et d’irréalité. Mais quand l’abstraction se met à vous tuer, il faut bien s’occuper de l’abstraction. Et Rieux savait seulement que ce n’était pas le plus faciles. (85) … Alors commençaient l’abstraction et la difficulté en effet, car la famille du malade savait qu’elle ne verrait plus ce dernier que guéri ou mort…. Alors commençaient les luttes, les larmes, la persuasion, l’abstraction en somme. (86) Oui, la peste, comme l’abstraction, était monotone. Une seule chose peut-être changeait et c’était Rieux lui-même…. Rieux comprenait qu’il n’avait plus à se défendre contre la pitié. On se fatigue de la pitié quand la pitié est inutile…. Pour lutter contre l’abstraction, il faut un peu lui ressembler. Mais comment cela pouvait-il être sensible à Rambert ? L’abstraction pour Rambert était tout ce qui s’opposait à son bonheur. Et à la vérité, Rieux savait que le journaliste avait raison, dans un certain sens. Mais il savait aussi qu’il arrive que l’abstraction se montre plus forte que le bonheur et qu’il faut alors, et seulement, en tenir compte. (87-88)

il faut mieux qu’on ne croie pas en Dieu, parce qu’on cesserait de guérir les hommes
[it is better that one believe not in God, because one would cease to war with men]

[Tarrou parle à Rieux] Vous pensez pourtant, comme Paneloux, que la peste à sa bienfaisance, qu’elle ouvre les yeux, qu’elle force a penser ! … Croyez-vous en Dieu, docteur ? … Non … N’est-ce pas ce qui vous sépare de Paneloux ? [Rieux] Je ne crois pas. Paneloux est un homme d’études. Il n’a pas vu assez mourir et c’est pourquoi il parle au nom d’une vérité. Mais le moindre prêtre de campagne qui administre ses paroissiens et qui a entendu la respiration d’un mourant pense comme moi. Il soignerait la misère avant de vouloir en démontrer l’excellence. (119) … Sans sortir de l’ombre, le docteur dit qu’il avait déjà répondu, que s’il croyait en un Dieu tout-puissant, il cesserait de guérir les hommes, lui laissant alors ce soin. Mais que personne au monde, non, pas meme Paneloux croyait y croire, ne croyait en un Dieu de cette sorte, puisque personne ne s’abandonnait totalement et qu’en cela du moins, lui, Rieux, croyait être sur le chemin de la vérité, en luttant contre la création telle qu’elle était. (120) … regardant Tarrou avec attention, c’est une chose qu’un homme comme vous peut comprendre, n’est-ce pas, mais puisque l’ordre du monde est règle par la mort, peut-être vaut-il mieux pour Dieu qu’on ne croie pas en lui et qu’on lutte de toutes ses forces contre la mort, sans levé les yeux ver ce ciel ou il se tait. (121)

le mal vient presque toujours de l’ignorance
[evil comes nearly always from ignorance](124)
(see prior Note)

aux hommes, le contrôle était toujours possible
[to men, control was always possible]

Le lendemain, les parents étaient invites a signer sur un registre, ce qui marquait la différence qu’il peut y avoir entres les homes et, par exemple, les chiens : le contrôle était toujours possible. (162-163)

la création ou des enfants sont tortures
[the Creation where children are tortured]

[de la mort du fils de M. Othon] Je comprends, murmura Paneloux. Cela est révoltant parce que cela passe notre mesure. Mais peut-être devons-nous aimer ce que nous ne pouvons pas comprendre. Rieux se redressa d’un seul coup. Il regardait Paneloux, avec toute la force et la passion dont il était capable, et secouait la tete. Non, mon père, dit-il. Je me fais une autre idée de l’amour. Et je refuserai jusqu'à la mort d’aimer cette création ou des enfants sont tortures. (198-199)

est-ce que la souffrance d’un enfant compense en éternité ?
[is it that the suffering of a child is compensated in eternity ?]

[Paneloux] L’épreuve la plus cruelle était encore bénéfice pour le chrétien. Et, justement, ce que le chrétien en l’espèce devait chercher, c’était son bénéfice, et de quoi le bénéfice était fait, et comment on pouvait le trouver. (202-203) … Car s’il est juste que le libertin soit foudroyé, on ne comprend pas la souffrance de l’enfant. Et, en vérité, il n’y avait rien sur la terre de plus important que la souffrance d’un enfant et l’horreur que cette souffrance traine avec elle et les raisons qu’il faut lui trouver. Dans le reste de la vie, Dieu nous facilitait tout et, jusque-la, la religion était sans mérites. Ici, au contraire, il nous mettait au pied du mur. Nous étions ainsi sous les murailles de la peste et c’est à leur ombre mortelle qu’il nous fallait trouver notre bénéfice. Le père Paneloux refusait meme de se donner des avantages faciles qui lui permissent d’escalader le mur. Il lui aurait été aise de dire que l’éternité des délices qui attendaient l’enfant pouvait compenser sa souffrance, mais, en vérité, il n’en savait rien. Qui pouvait affirmer en effet de la douleur humaine ? Ce ne serait pas un chrétien, assurément, dont le Maitre a connu la douleur dans ses membres et dans son ame. Non, le père resterait au pied du mur, fidele a cet écartèlement dont la croix est le symbole, face a face avec la souffrance d’un enfant.

réponse a la souffrance : c’était notre pain amer pour la nourriture spirituelle
[response to suffering : it was our bitter bread for spiritual nourishment]

[Paneloux] Et il dirait sans crainte a ceux qui l’écoutaient ce jour-la : « Mes frères, l’instant est venu. Il faut tout croire ou tout nier. Et qui donc, parmi vous, oserait tout nier ? «
Rieux eut a peine le temps de penser que le père côtoyait l’hérésie que l’autre reprenait déjà, avec force, pour affirmer que cette injonction, cette pure exigence, était le bénéfice du chrétien. C’était aussi sa vertu. Le père savait que ce qu’il y avait d’excessif dans la vertu dont il allait parler choquerait beaucoup d’esprits, habitues à une morale plus indulgente et plus classique. Mais la religion du temps de peste ne pouvait être la religion de tous les jours et si Dieu pouvait admettre, et meme désirer, que l’ame se repose et se réjouisse dans les temps de bonheur, il la voulait excessive dans les excès du malheur. Dieu faisait aujourd’hui à ses créatures la faveur de les mettre dans un malheur tel qu’il leur fallait retrouver et assumer la plus grande vertu qui est celle du Tout ou Rien. (203-204) … Tout pèche était mortel et toute indifférence criminelle. C’était tout ou ce n’était rien. (204) … Il choisirait de tout croire pour ne pas être réduit a tout nier…. le chrétien saurait s’abandonner a la volonté divine, meme incompréhensible…. il fallait sauter au cœur de cet inacceptable qui nous était offert, justement pour que nous fissions notre choix. La souffrance des enfants était notre pain amer, mais sans ce pain, notre ame périrait de sa faim spirituelle. (205)

réponse au prêtre : d’un royaume spirituelle, non pas du corps
[response to the priest : of a spiritual realm, not of the body]
Si un prêtre consulte un médecin, il y a contradiction. (207)

il fallait prendre la sympathie pour arriver à la paix
[one must have sympathy in order to acomplish peace]

[Rieux a Tarrou] Par conséquent, je dis qu’il y a les fléaux et les victimes, et rien de plus. Si, disant cela, je deviens fléau moi-même, du moins, je n’y suis pas consentant. J’essaie d’être un meurtrier innocent. Vous voyez que ce n’est pas une grande ambition.
« Il faudrait, bien sur, qu’il y eut une troisième catégorie, celle des vrais médecines, mais c’est un fait qu’on n’en rencontre pas beaucoup et que ce doit être difficile. C’est pourquoi j’ai décidé de me mettre du cote des victimes, en toute occasion, pour limiter les dégâts. Au milieu d’elles, je peux du moins chercher comment on arrive à la troisième catégorie, c’est-a-dire à la paix.… Apres un silence, le docteur se souleva un peu et demanda si Tarrou avait une idée du chemin qu’il fallait prendre pour arriver a la paix.
Oui, la sympathie. (229)

la sainteté sans Dieu par être un homme
[saintliness without God by being a man]

[Tarrou et Rieux] En somme, dit Tarrou avec simplicité, ce qui m’intéresse, c’est de savoir comment on devient un saint.
Mais vous ne croyez pas en Dieu.
Justement. Peut-on être un saint sans Dieu, c’est le seul problème concret que je connaisse aujourd’hui.… Peut-être, répondît le docteur, mais vous savez, je me sens plus de solidarité avec les vaincus qu’avec les saints. Je n’ai pas de gout, je crois, pour l’héroïsme et la sainteté. Ce qui m’intéresse, c’est d’être un homme.
Oui, nous cherchons la meme chose, mais je suis moins ambitieux. (230)

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