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6109RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: [neoplatonism] Re: Relativity and Neoplatonism (Mether vs. Chase, III)

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  • jhs426
    Nov 4, 2013
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      You are certainly correct about the importance of understanding the "relation between knower, object known, and the act of knowledge", although this goal is not exclusive to Neoplatonism. In The Eternal Law, I even go so far as to defend not only the importance of the knower and the known, as well as consciousness, but also the reality of soul. Indeed, I show how the very possibility of science necessarily presupposes the reality of incorporeal soul, which, by its very nature, necessarily remains beyond the final grasp of scientific and logical dissection. However, the pathway you are offering to take us beyond the dangerous parochialism of scientism is absolutely incapable of achieving its goal. What you, Wheeler, and Merleau-Ponty are offering is, as I have previously stated, antirealist, which is decidedly not Platonic.


      You stated that you agree with Gerson's quote: "Platonism is a form of explanatory realism". Unfortunately, in Phenomenology of Perception (Landes Translation, 2012, Routledge, p. 388) Merleau-Ponty says pointedly that "siding with realism is, however, out of the question". This would seem to present you with somewhat of a problem. 



      ---In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      Thank you, John, for your answers and for engaging in this
      discussion, that has taught me a lot.  But let me try to
      express shortly, and again through a quotation, the very
      essence of  what I have been trying to say—it is not, once
      again, an appeal to authority, but a way of saying, better
      than I could, what I wanted to convey on the relation
      between subjective and objective: 

      'what begins as a thing ends as consciousness of the thing,
      what begins as a “state of consciousness” ends as a thing'
      (e.g., my hand, through which I touch and perceive, when is
      touched by the other hand, ceases to be part of my perceiving
      or  "phenomenal" body and becomes, itself and the same, part
      of my perceived or "objective" body).

      This is what Merleau-Ponty calls a "chiasm" and, in this
      particular case, it consists in

      'an exchange between me and the world, between the
      phenomenal body and the “objective” body, between the
      perceiving and the perceived' .

      (The Visible and the Invisible, Evanston, Ill., Northwestern
      University Press, 2000, p. 215.)  

      All I wanted to say is that the awareness of this state of
      affairs—that recalls the Neoplatonic understanding of the
      relation between knower, object known, and the act of
      knowledge
      —can have profound repercussions upon the
      issues we have been talking about. 

      All best,         -dino



       


      On 2 November 2013 10:14, <john.h.spencer@...> wrote:
       

      The terms 'antirealism' and 'realism' are full of further complexity. I stopped counting after finding more than thirty-five types of realism. To help simplify things, I offer three different categories — broad realism, abstract realism, and factual realism, all of which are aspects of Platonic realism, which I won't go into here.

       

      Bohm is not an antirealist, but Wheeler definitely is.

      ​​

      ​Sorry, but in my previous message I inadvertently wrote
      Bohm instead of Bohr. But this shouldn't affect neither ​
      mine nor your arguments.ber

       

      And what you are offering is, indeed, Wheeler-style antirealism. Do you know anyone who would profess to agree with Wheeler that the world does not exist ‘out there’, and who is also willing to repeatedly smash their unprotected head against a brick wall for several hours? While apparently similar, this example is not quite the same as Johnson's stone-kicking refutation of Berkeley's immaterialism. I am simply saying that if you really believe that there is nothing out there, then you should have no problem smashing your head against a brick wall for several hours. If you refuse to smash your head against a brick wall, or to stand in front of a herd of stampeding elephants, etc., then either you do not really believe what you preach, or your metaphysics is wrong, or both.

       

      While there may be a certain very deep metaphysical/spiritual sense in which there is nothing out there, because we are all just projections in the mind of God (nous), it is still the case that in this realm of reality projection where our physical bodies currently abide, we certainly do have to live as if something is out there (and not simply because it happens to be useful to do so). There may be nothing out there for God, but there sure is a whole lot out there other than me.

       

      But if we reflect even further, then we realize that everything is out there in terms of God (the One), since the One is beyond all and everything, and so anything that is not the One is necessarily other than the One, and therefore must be out there outside the One, for if anything were in the One then there would be more than one within the One, and thus the One would not be the pure One (Plato’s Parmenides). So, let’s just say that nous is way out there, man.

       

      In any case, unless one's metaphysics can accommodate this mundane level of reality (the appearances that the sciences seek to explain), then said metaphysics is deficient at best, if not outright false. Indeed, I don't see why we should have patience for philosophical fancy when such expositors are unwilling to live what they profess to believe.

       

      I was also amused, to say the least, to find that you have tried to put me in the same philosophical camp as Laplace, implying that I am hanging on to an old, dying paradigm, an accusation that is complete nonsense. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they are a dying breed.


      Materialism is false, but so is (modern) idealism (which, as I explain below, is actually antirealism). Platonic realism transcends both positions, bringing us to a significantly higher understanding of reality. In other words, what I am saying is that the view that you (and many others) are offering, while on the surfacing appearing to have greater affinity with the assumptions and implications of quantum mechanics, is actually just as misguided as materialism.

       

      One of the key issues here is the false conflation of the terms 'realism' and 'materialism'. Many people have made this mistake, including Heisenberg, which has caused much unnecessary confusion. Materialism has always been false, but quantum mechanics just helps to make this point more obvious. Nevertheless, many people have falsely believed that classical physics necessarily implied materialism, which it did not. (Newton was not a materialist, and he rejected the idea of a clockwork universe--the idea actually goes back to Oresme, with a version of it appearing in the thirteenth century in the De Sphaera of Sacrobosco).

       

      Thus, when physicists such as Heisenberg realized (finally) that materialism is false (for Heisenberg, a realization very much rooted in his own mystical experience), and since they confused realism with materialism, then their denial of materialism necessarily meant (for them) a denial of realism. This confusion opened the door for an equivocation on the term 'realism', leading to all sorts of irrationality. In other words, those postmodernists and relativists and others of similar persuasion (who often deny being part of this pack of anti-truth wolves even though they howl the loudest) could now say that 'if even the physicists are denying realism, then realism must definitely be false, and since realism assumes that there is objective (or absolute) truth, then objective (or absolute) truth must be false, and so relativism (and all its variants) must be true!' Of course, they have conveniently ignored the fact that they believe their own views to be true while also saying that there is nothing that is actually true. They also apparently could not (or disingenuously choose not to) understand that Heisenberg et al. were emphatically not denying objective (or even absolute) truth; they were denying materialism. Unfortunately, it was already too late: the antirealist doorway had been flung wide open.

       

      A different form of antirealism then descended upon us, namely the New Age mysticism for the masses, often waving the banner of "Quantum Physics!" as it rode into town and grabbed all the loot it could. This movement has often claimed that "Quantum Physics!" proves that you can create any reality you want just by twinkling your nose or wishing really hard. You can make all the money in the world and receive endless abundance, using endless resources, while these authors sell endless books. Well, this version of antirealism, thanks to Wheeler and others, has been convenient for capitalism, which is one reason it has been permitted to thrive in academia and pop culture. Unfortunately, antirealist capitalism has put us, indeed the whole world, in an awful mess.

       

      And yet, many of the teachings in the New Age movement are true in a very deep and profound sense (but not always in the sense in which they appear when applied to a lower level of reality, and it is to our desires in this lower level of reality that these books tend to appeal). Those parts that are actually true in the New Age movement find congruence with (indeed, they find their foundation in) Platonism and other traditions, most obviously in the ancient spiritual texts of India, generally classed under Hinduism. (Buddhism, unfortunately, at least as expounded by B. Alan Wallace and others of a similar persuasion, has often been presented as an extreme form of antirealism. However, I argue that the Buddha most certainly was an extreme realist.)

       

      Another problem is that 'ancient idealism' is very different than 'modern idealism'. Ancient idealism assigns greater reality to the non-physical and unchanging (i.e., the Ideal), whereas modern idealism claims that there is no definable reality beyond the appearances of things in consciousness. Thus, ancient idealism, such as Platonism, is extreme realism, where the unchanging is more real than the changing (although the changing is not merely an illusion but is just less real, and so we are deluded when we believe the physical realm to be the only reality or the highest level of reality). Modern idealism, however, is simply antirealist, and it is this sort of interpretation of quantum mechanics that has caused so much confusion and resulting antirealist nonsense. And this is precisely the trap that Wheeler and you have fallen into. Neoplatonism is ancient idealist (realist), but it most definitely is not modern idealist (antirealist). Only ancient idealism can offer any hope of genuinely increasing our understanding of quantum mechanics and beyond (including our own inner experiences, from the mundane to the higher spiritual realms).

       

      We can now better understand why Corrigan writes that Plotinus ‘spells out his own peculiar idealist-realist, but definitely Platonist, version of perception’ (see Ennead I, 1, 7). However, the phrase ‘idealist-realist’ may falsely suggest a compromise between the two positions, which is especially problematic (and actually impossible in principle) if one assumes modern idealism and a materialist version of realism. However, ancient idealism, as just noted, is really Platonic realism, which says that abstract nonphysical laws, principles, and Ideas (Truth, Beauty, etc.) are real and, on my account, it also accepts that matter is objectively real (at the very least in the sense that physical things can exist independently of my physical being). In this sense, we can say that Platonism is idealist-realist, but it is less confusing to simply say ‘Platonic realism’ or just ‘Platonism’.

       

      It is certainly important to relate the perceptual to the metaphysical, but not via Wheeler-type antirealism. The path to understanding the Platonic foundations of modern science, and all of reality, is not via modern idealism (antirealism), but through ancient idealism (realism), which is Platonism proper.



      ---In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      Dear John,

      Thank you for your answers to my observations.  Yes, I think
      we may be "not in such disagreement after all".  One point I would
      still insist on, though, is about "realism" and "antirealism": I agree
      with Gerson's quote, for I do not think of Wheeler or Bohm as 
      "antirealists" in the sense you seem to attribute to it.  They look
      to me more as "explanatory realists", for the opposition "realism"
      vs "antirealism" ought not, in my opinion, be a way of recasting in
      a superseded way the classical opposition "objective" vs "subjective".
      Your position seems to me—wrong as I may be—akin to a sort of
      "defensive response to an uncompleted paradigm change", given
      that "the Laplacian model has a deeply ingrained hold on the rational
      mind" (S. Barry Cooper, 'Definability in the Real Universe,' in Cooper
      S. B. and Sorbi A. (eds.), Computability in Context: Computation and
      logic in the real world
      , London 2011, 131-67, p. 134). 

      True, the issue is "far more complex than" I may perceive, but
      I think it *IS* an issue and that it can be approached the way the
      old Neoplatonists did, by relating the perceptual to the metaphysical
      the way they did.

      All best,      -dino buzzetti   




      On 31 October 2013 08:19, <john.h.spencer@...> wrote:
       

      Dino: Well, what is the purpose of a quote ? 


      JS: There are many purposes for citing a quotation, and your purpose was not clear.  



      Dino: Far from being an appeal to authority, it is more of an invitation to explore the reasons of that assertion and a warning of caution before being so assertive as in your "short answer" .


      JS: Ok, I have been warned.



      Dino: What Vuillemin's quotation shows—the way I understand it—is that the quantum approach overcomes the classical view of an absolute distinction between objective and subjective.


      JS: Actually, this is a very difficult issue, as Einstein and Heisenberg were well aware. ‘In reality’, Einstein told Heisenberg, ‘the simplicity of the natural laws is an objective fact as well, and the correct conceptual scheme must balance the subjective side of this simplicity with the objective. But that is a very difficult task’, Einstein continued, ‘let us rather return to your lecture.’ 



      Dino: I do not know how you deal with the "discussion about the epistemological versus ontological nature of the laws of physics" in your book, but the real issue, from a Neoplatonic point of view, seems to me that of the relation of our claims of describing objectively the world with the notion of the νοῦς, "in whom there is no difference between knower, object known, and the act of knowledge"  (Philip Merlan, Monopsychism, Mysticism, Metaconsciousness: Problems of the soul in the Neoaristotelian and Neoplatonic tradition, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1963, pp. 80-81 — not an appeal to authority, God forbid !).  

       

      JS: We can also add Bohm, Krishnamurti, and Plotinus (Ennead III.8.10-25), among others. Unfortunately, it was the analytics (via the positivists) who rejected these very sorts of questions regarding unity between the knower and the known, replacing them with questions about linguistic analysis (‘the dichotomy between language and the world’, as Mark Sacks puts it). 


      Nevertheless, despite the importance of exploring the metaphysical depths of this sort of unification (knower and known), it is generally a good idea for us to remember to be grounded in the everyday realm of our 3-D macro experiences. It may be helpful to recall that when Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, it directly killed approximately 80,000 people. In this case, it is very difficult to explain how the "knowers" (those physicists who created the bomb) were completely unified with the "object known" (the bomb itself). Obviously there was no such physical unification, for these physicists were not in Hiroshima and hence were not evaporated by the bomb. There is a deep metaphysical sense in which such unification is real, and yet there is another very important physical sense in which there is no such direct unification. 



      Dino: How can the universe describe itself, as in Wheeler's eye ? That seems to me the point.


      JS: In addition to (or in spite of) his brilliant career, Wheeler claimed that ‘useful as it is under everyday circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld’. He also claimed that ‘no elementary phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is a registered (observed) phenomenon’. Such statements, unfortunately, have been a goldmine for antirealists (and misguided spiritual seekers), because if these statements were really true, then apparently Little Boy didn't happen (or it happened to everybody in the whole universe), and nothing could exist until we happened to look at it anyway. On Wheeler's account, since I didn't observe the dropping of Little Boy, then it couldn't have happened. Unfortunately, it did.


      At some moments Bohr seemed to agree with this antirealist viewpoint, but when we examine his views more closely we see that he, in fact, did not. He writes that ‘the use of phrases like “disturbance of phenomena by observation” or “creation of physical attributes of objects by measurements” is hardly compatible with common language and practical definition’. Such antirealist notions are not compatible with basic rationality, either. Indeed, if Wheeler were correct, then the earth could not have existed until there were humans (or some sort of sufficiently sentiment creature) able to perceive it. So much for evolution.


      We need only ask Wheeler what he would say to a person who has run him over with a car and then claims that such an accident could not have happened because the driver did not observe Wheeler in that moment, meaning that Wheeler could not have existed (from the driver's perspective anyway). If the reply is that Wheeler's remarks apply only to subatomic or micro phenomena, then the question of the dividing line between the micro and macro becomes unavoidable, which still has no adequate resolution. These issues are far more complex than you seem to be implying.



      Dino: Accordingly, the discussion about "epistemological versus ontological" seems to me outdated


      JS: Since when is a philosophical issue "outdated"? Are you really saying that part of the very heart of the debate in the development of quantum theory is outdated? And since when has this been the case? 50 years ago? 10? Perhaps you could write to Penrose and let him know that his views are outdated. 


      One problem here is that you seem to be representing Platonism as being a thinly disguised version of antirealism (apparently not much different from Rorty, van Fraassen, or Wittgenstein). This is not a version of Platonism that I defend (nor do I even think it is Platonism). As Gerson puts it, 'Platonism is a form of explanatory realism'. 



      Dino: and we should instead fully acknowledge the paradigm shift induced by the advent of quantum theory.  


      JS: Are you suggesting that philosophers should shut up and stop asking annoying questions, and simply bow our heads in submission to an amorphous paradigm shift, especially when various physicists are the first to admit that they don't even really understand quantum theory?



      Dino: May be something instructive in this respect could be gleaned from Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible, or Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form—who explicitly quotes Proclus, by the way.  


      JS: I haven't come across Spencer-Brown before (but I like his name). In the end, once the philosophical dust has settled, perhaps we shall discover that we are not in such disagreement after all (or maybe we will see that we disagree even more than we initially thought).


      John H Spencer



      ---In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      On 30 October 2013 06:44, <john.h.spencer@...> wrote:
       

      I do not understand the purpose of the Vuillemin quote. It seems to be an appeal to authority, acting as a rebuttal against Planck (the key originator of what has become the most powerful scientific theory in history), or perhaps it is simply meant to remind me that others disagree with me. (Or have I totally misunderstood what Vuillemin is talking about, or your purpose in quoting him?)


      Well, what is the purpose of a quote ?  Far from being an appeal to authority, it is more of an invitation to explore the reasons of that assertion and a warning of caution before being so assertive as in your "short answer"​. ​

      What Vuillemin's quotation shows—the way I understand it—is that the quantum approach overcomes the classical view of an absolute distinction between objective and subjective.  I do not know how you deal with the "discussion about the epistemological versus ontological nature of the laws of physics" in your book, but the real issue, from a Neoplatonic point of view, seems to me that of the relation of our claims of describing objectively the world with the notion of the νοῦς, "in whom there is no difference between knower, object known, and the act of knowledge"  (Philip Merlan, Monopsychism, Mysticism, Metaconsciousness: Problems of the soul in the Neoaristotelian and Neoplatonic tradition, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1963, pp. 80-81 — not an appeal to authority, God forbid !).  How can the universe describe itself, as in Wheeler's eye ?  That seems to me the point.  Accordingly, the discussion about "epistemological versus ontological" seems to me outdated and we should instead fully acknowledge the paradigm shift induced by the advent of quantum theory.  May be something instructive ​in this respect could be gleaned from Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible, or Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form—who explicitly quotes Proclus, by the way





      --
      Dino Buzzetti                                         formerly
      Department of Philosophy     University of Bologna
      ​                                ​
                                  currently
      Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII

      via san Vitale, 114                 I-40125 Bologna BO
      e-mail: dino.buzzetti@...
                 buzzetti@...
      web: http://web.dfc.unibo.it/buzzetti/ 



      --
      Dino Buzzetti                                         formerly
      Department of Philosophy     University of Bologna
      ​                                ​
                                  currently
      Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII

      via san Vitale, 114                 I-40125 Bologna BO
      e-mail: dino.buzzetti@...
                 buzzetti@...
      web: http://web.dfc.unibo.it/buzzetti/ 
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