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Showing posts with label Aristotle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aristotle. Show all posts

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Illusion of Individual Reality

It is a popular belief in the Western World, in our academic centers, in our books on “self” that every individual dwells in their own unique “reality,” that each of us possesses our own distinct “truth,” justifying our adherence to individuated sets of absolutes.

There is a school of thought associated with this world-view, in academics it is Logical Positivism, it is the promotion of philosophical relativism.

It is a problem.

The school of Logical Positivism gave us the classic philosophical trope:

“If a tree falls in the woods and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Suggesting that the answer is unknowable, because it is unverifiable.  

This is false: trees do fall in the woods, and when the do they obey the laws of physics, they make noise. It does not matter if there is a person present to see it, the tree and the forest are their own witness.  

These positivistic and relativistic notions, come to us out of a worldview known as mind-body-dualism. There are many philosophical traditions rooted in mind-body-dualism, most of which do not go so far as to promote the conclusions of the positivists and the relativists. Nevertheless, the position that the positivists and the relativists have arrived at is the logical end of dualistic bias.

The dualistic worldview has been more corrosive and corrupting than any other set of beliefs that have been disseminated through the world, because it divorces the individual first from their own self, then from their neighbor and ultimately the world.

Dualistic thinking is ancient, it is rooted in preliterate assumptions concerning the nature of reality. Its primary proponents in the literary tradition of Western Philosophy are Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, from the 6th through the 4th century before the common era; followed by Plotinus in the 3rd century C.E., who was the greatest synthesizer of their thought, and who transmitted it to the Christianity through the writing of Saint Augustine of Hippo, in the century C.E..

The tradition of mind-body-dualism entered the enlightenment, and the so-called age of reason without challenge into the modern world through the work of Descartes, Kant and Hume by way of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor of the Church, the Patron Saint of Philosophy in the 13th century, and through the entire structure of the Catholic University system.

All of the aforementioned thinkers were essentially dualists.

As I have said, dualistic thinking is a problem, not merely because it does not accurately represent reality, which it purports to do, therefore distorting our point of view.

Dualistic thinking is a manifestation of grievous selfishness, self-centeredness, and this is dangerous.

Dualism is harbored in our culture by people who do not want to accept responsibility for themselves or their relationships.

They fear to be incriminated by their own actions, or to take responsibility for their faults.

Dualism establishes the paradigm of “otherness.”

When we see ourselves as separate from one another, as dwelling in our own unique reality, as possessing our own unassailable truth, then we do not see others as a part of ourselves (which all people are, as we are of them), as sharing in the same experience, we do not see our relationship with them as a part of what makes us who we are, and this is the cause of great suffering in the world.

When we separate our experience from the experience of our sisters and brothers we establish the foundation for indifference and find opportunities to act for what we think is in our “self-interest,” through the denial of the legitimacy and rights of the other.

When we view others as objects, when we view them as competitors rather than co-operators and co-creators, when we see them as “things” with a destiny that is different from our own, when we cling to the notion that we have our reality, our own truth, we systematically invalidate own, and through this process we justify our crimes against them.

We victimize them, and ourselves in this way.

When we are blinded by the illusion of individual reality, then we have destroyed the basic bond that ties humanity together, and we have obfuscated the bond that links us to God, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of all that is.

While it is true that we each perceive the universe, reality in different ways, nevertheless, it is the same universe that we are perceiving. The distinctions in our perceptions only manifest themselves according to the differences in our points of view.

Our point of view will always be different, but our common experience will always be the same.


We are one.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Faith Seeking Understanding

Belief Beyond Knowing


Does God exist?

Does the universe, and do we human beings as a part of it, have a purpose beyond the fulfillment of our immediate desires?

Is the entire construct we call reality just an accident, a random sequence of events that are completely unnecessary, un-called for, and as meaningful as the void?

Listen to Aristotle: one moment instantiates another, there is a cause behind every event (no matter how small), but there cannot be an infinite chain of causality.

There must be a first cause, a first source and center to all that is, a prime mover we call God.

God exists!

This is more than a statement of faith.
           
We human beings are not merely organic machines.

The existence of the universe is not an accident.

We are not gears spinning in a wind-up toy.

The universe is not a random event, an unnecessary phenomena. It is not the product of chance.

The universe did not emerge from nothing, because nothing is nothing, and from nothing, nothing comes.

Saint Augustine was wrong when he penned his doctrine creation ex nihilo, for ex nihilo nihil fit.

In nothingness there is not even the chance for something, not even the possibility of something.

Nothing is not, it does not exist.

As human beings we have been given the cognitive capacity to comprehend the notion of the infinite, but we cannot imagine it in its particularities.

The universe itself is the existential infinite, the eternal thing/being, that/who beneficently confers the reality of existence on every other thing and being.

While I cannot know it, while I cannot grasp it in its entirety, I can imagine the universe without end, imagine the unbound material order, a limitless electromagnetic field, with every galaxy, every star, every world, and every person in it, conscious and aware.

I can imagine it, and believe in it, though I cannot know it in the same way that I know my name, or yours, the name of our world, the star we orbit, or the spinning milky-galaxy we were born into.  

In science, God is the first cause.

In philosophy, God is the one being who exists sui generis, by its own self, independent of any other being, while beneficently conferring the reality of existence on everything that is.

In religion, God is the universal and loving Parent.

My personhood, my sentience, my consciousness, as well as that of every other person on Earth, is a construct of tissues and neurons, of fibers and cells.

We are an electromagnetic phenomena.

My own consciousness is a minor part, a miniscule subset of the broader electromagnetic field that envelopes the world I was born to, Earth.

Planet Earth, our mother, is alive, she is sentient as well. Her sentience is different than mine, but nonetheless real, Demeter, Ceres, Gaea…you have so many names.

Like us, the field of her electromagnetic consciousness is but a subset of a broader field, with our bright yellow star Sol Invictus, at its center…and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

The entire universe is one vast electromagnetic field, a field that carries within it each and every person, planet, star, thinking and alive, as a subset of it.

If it makes me a pantheist to call this thing, this field, this structure God, so be it, this being is God. As a twenty-first century Christian, not bogged down by the neo-platonic dualism that provided the intellectual framework of Christian thought, I am untroubled by that heresy.

Pantheism, pan-entheism, these systems of belief are not contrary to the teaching of Jesus, at all.

Logic tells me that these claims are true, my faith is ratified by my understanding of science, and ratified directly through my own experience.

Knowing, is a tangible force. Certainty is a feeling.

What a person believes they know is what drives them.

This is true to the extent that our constructs of knowledge are always the controlling factor in the decision making processes we are engaged in. This is true whether or not the knowledge we possess, the things and categories that we imagine to be true, are objectively true and accurate.

Truth does not motivate us, only what we believe to be true about the things we believe we know, whether or not our knowledge is real, only that motivates us.

The truth beyond all knowing is this; while lies are counterfactual, which is to say, they does not represent what is real, the lies we tell ourselves are real, regardless of the their factuality.

A lie is a lie, and that is true, I know it.

When it comes to our discussion of God, the infinite and eternal creator, the source of all things and beings, the navigation of objective realities amid the hidden currents of relativism becomes tricky.

How do we test our assumptions?

How do we come to understand the veracity of our faith?

First we first believe it, we must act as if the things we believe are true, we must trust in the propositions that we have put forward, and we must do it without reservation.

Again, we must act as if our beliefs are true. If we are able to, the world itself will provide us feedback regarding the integrity and coherence of our faith, and we must be sensitive to it.

We must operate under the pretense that the beliefs we hold are true, we must do this without reservation, and then incorporate those beliefs into our daily lives, and then we are able to generate feedback from the world around us, which is evidence concerning the value of those beliefs.

Were your beliefs helpful or hurtful, kind or mean?

The community you live in will let you know, it will tell you in thousands of little ways.

Did your beliefs promote justice or injustice, violence or peace, did they harm or heal?

Be mindful and you will see.

By the fruits of our actions we will be known.

With certain knowledge we may determine how good it is to believe what we believe, what good it promotes in our lives, and in the lives of others, whether our beliefs illuminate, edify and harmonize with the world.


We will see if they do not.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year’s Day 2017



It is a day of beginnings.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A small miscalculation at the outset, will cause you to miss your mark by a wide margin, and cause you to never reach your end, or to end in a place you never meant to be.

Great care must be taken at the beginning.

Be mindful of your aim.

It is a day of resolutions.

Doing is being, that is what Ray Bradbury said. To have done is not enough. You cannot lie about, and lie about the things you might just do someday. Do, and win the game.

Great things are achieved (and by great I mean great on any scale; socially, professionally, personally, spiritually, privately), arrived at, built, discovered, in a series of small, steady, consistent steps, and the steady application of effort.

Resolve to do something; be resolute.

Know this, life is a dance between contradictions.

The process is just as important as the goal.

The archer is only concerned with the object of their aim.

2017, it is an odd number. I mean it is both odd, as a numeral, and odd in that it portends to be a year marking a significant shift in the fabric of American life.

2017 marks a new era in American politics, in the American social order, in the American vision, and the American experience.

2017 is the sea change, denoting a transformation that has been taking place over many years, and launching that transformed America, suddenly, and dramatically, unexpectedly, into both the collective psyche, as well as the governing apparatus of the American social order.

It is the sort of dramatic shift that you might have thought would have come at the beginning of the century or the millennium, but no…it came 2017.

It is the new day, of the new year, the first in this new era, the era of unreality and Donald Trump. Only time will tell us if this is an anomaly, I do not think we can treat it as such.

It is not a Brave New World, thank goodness it is not a Huxlian World, it looks like a foolhardy world, more and more like an Orwelian World, and that might be worse.