Contradictions

“In formal logic a contradiction is the signal of a defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory.”

~~~Alfred North Whitehead

Scientists use contradiction to overcome old theories. Especially if you’re part of the old guard whose theory has generated the contradiction, you’re in trouble. Your theory is scuttled. This is the basis of good scientific thinking. Out with the old, and in with the new. But there’s a problem with saying that contradiction is a sign of defeat. E.g., the MARS (Materialistic, Atheistic, Reducitonistic, Sensationistic) scientist may claim, “Oh, sorry, the Mind-Body Problem renders your metaphysics contradictory, thus there is no mind, thus Materialism is true.” However, this boarders on scientific hegemony. Should we use a scientific bat to clobber a metaphysical view? Maybe we should use the contradictions in metaphysics (and in religion and spirituality) as an opportunity, just like scientists do. The scientists of the late 19th century kept coming up with contradictory results. Einstein used those contradictions to, as Whitehead would say, “progress toward a victory.” Once Einstein abandoned the ontology of reality as ultimately “stuff” operating in the vacuum of space, a “stuff” that independently moved through time, suddenly, the other shoe dropped. Once the new view of Special Relativity was put into place in 1905, those anomalous scientific results of the past 30 years made good sense.

In philosophy and theology we have hosts of problems and contradictions. The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Induction, the Mind-Body Problem. The problems pile high into the sky. Why? Because we’re still thinking along the lines of the old metaphysics and the old ontology. How can a non-material mind connect with a material body? It’s a huge contradiction. But Materialists haven’t even digested Einstein’s ideas from 100 years ago. In Process metaphysics we’re talking about using the contradictions to make a radically empirical move into a new metaphysics. We’re dumping Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, matter, materialism, dualism, and moving into something new.

What’s new? Well, our old metaphysics forces us into contradiction and problems. We’re all still addicted to a “metaphysics of things.” Whitehead says that we don’t live in a world of “things.” Materialism is dead. We live in a world of “events.” Spaciotemporal events, to be exact. He called them “Actual Occasions.” Once we realize this, and reject a materialistic/reductionistic metaphysics (which derives from the 16th and 17th centuries, by the way!), then most of the contradictions disappear. When we realize the world is event-driven rather than stuff-driven, the other shoe drops. Take the Mind-Body problem. At the fundamental level, mind and body are already connected because what we call matter is only an abstraction of the more real spaciotemporal events–Actual Occasions. Actual Occasions are the final real “things” of the world, and they have internal and nonlocal connections so that primitive “experience” flows at the basic level of reality. All of reality is nonlocally connected, so there’s no problem with mind and body being connected, given that they’re in the same ontological reality.

Importantly, this destroys the old false dilemmas of subject-object, fact-value, and body-spirit. Thus religion, mysticism, spirituality, and morals and values, may be elevated from the level of “mere subjectivity” to their proper ontological place in our everyday experience. The Subjective becomes the Real, also. Contradictions have helped us move toward a victory.

Classical Theology vs. Process Theology

Process Theology is a different way to think about God. It is very different from Classical Theology, and it makes much more sense than Classical Theology. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, just trying to make people aware that there is another way to look at reality:

Classical Theology is what we’re all familiar with: God created the world from nothing, controls most things (“What did we do wrong to deserve this…?”), judges souls and sends them to damnation or paradise, is all-powerful (omnipotent), is all-knowing (omniscient), is all good (omnibeneficent), knows the future, in fact, God DETERMINES the future, etc. God runs the whole show, and our role is to try to figure it out God’s will, and hope God is on our side in the end, and hope that God doesn’t have a bad road in store for us in the future. God puts huge obstacles on some people’s paths, while God lets others sail along smoothly. We can’t know or figure out why. That’s just how it is.

But Classical Theology leaves an entire universe of questions unanswered, and even worse, leaves these questions unanswerable even in principle.

One such example is the “Problem of Evil:” It’s a LOGICAL CONTRADICTION to believe that there is an omnipotent and omnibeneficent God, and that evil befalls innocent people in the world. If God was all-powerful and all-good, there’s no way God COULD LOGICALLY permit evil things. And when we say God could not “logically permit” such a thing, and when we say it’s a “logical contradiction,” we mean it in an absolute sense. God cannot logically create a square circle, regardless of God’s infinite power, infinite intelligence, infinite ability and skill, etc. It’s illogical and simply can’t be done by God or anything else. It’s the same with the “problem of evil;” it’s logically impossible for evil to occur, given the meaning of the words “all-good,” “all-powerful,” and “evil.” But clearly evil does occur.

There are a dozen or more fundamental problems like these. These problems are the main cause of atheism today.

Process Theology, on the other hand, conceives God differently from the start, and thus the problems in Classical Theology aren’t found in Process Theology. Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne (and some others throughout history) set this theology out most clearly. The basic idea is that God is not omnipotent. Rather, God genuinely “surrenders” some power to creatures. And because of this, God thus “co-creates” reality along with creatures. This means that God and creatures determine reality together; God doesn’t solely determine someone’s fate. So when someone gets into a car wreck it’s not God’s fault. God is all-good, and all-knowing, and thus God knows you have to replace your windshield wipers. Thus God bombards you with guidance (“replace your windshield wipers…”) and the person ignores it, thus eventually the distorted visibility in the rain causes an accident. God didn’t cause the accident.

God communicates with creatures through what Whitehead called “the divine lure.” At the base of reality, at the sub-sub quantum level if you will, God is continually “feeding” God’s perfect vision of the world to creatures (humans, animals, etc.). We have the ability to pick up on this lure or guidance. “Replace your wipers…Take that job…Don’t take that job…Eat healthy food…Take Elm Street…Treat your co-workers with respect…” Each creature is free to tune into God’s will or to tune God out. In my opinion, the latihan is a way to tune directly into this guidance that Whitehead and Hartshorne talk about.

God isn’t “a being,” but like everything else God is “a becoming.” God is ubiquitous and not locatable in spacetime. God is everywhere, all the time, at the base of reality. This is not Pantheism, BTW. The closest theological view is called Panentheism.

On Process Theology, God didn’t create the universe. The “stuff” of existence (whatever that is) has always existed. Science is a good explanation (although a very limited explanation) of what happened. Our current universe big-banged into existence 15 billion years ago. The wider stuff, “before” our universe was born, and “after” our universe finally dies out, has always existed. Nothing was ever ultimately “created” thus God doesn’t create from nothing (again, it’s entirely illogical and impossible for anything or anyone or any God to create a thing without something with which to create it). There’s no damnation or paradise model, and God doesn’t sit in judgment. God doesn’t control things but guides things and it’s up to creatures to respond to the guidance or not. God is the source of Order and Value in the process. That’s why it’s called “process” theology and “process” philosophy, because there are ultimately no “things” and no “beings” but only “processes” and “becomings.”

God doesn’t know the future because there IS no future to even know. “The future” as an actuality doesn’t exist. All that exists is past and present. God and creatures, together, create the present. The word “future” is just a word and doesn’t point to any kind of reality.

On Process Theology, our task is to be fully in the moment, feeling the divine lure, and dealing with the elements in our experience that work against us actuating that Divine vision. What a HUGE task!!!

Technically speaking, what human beings call “God” is what Whitehead called the three “Formative Elements:” Creativity, Potentiality, and God. The Formative Elements can’t exist apart from each other. But they are not “actual” thus they don’t “exist” like a chair or table exists. (Thus, arguably, there is no issue or dispute about “whether God exists” like there is in Classical Theology.) The Formative Elements are non-actual and non-temporal. Again, I can’t argue this here, but when you do a deep logical analysis of what is actual and temporal, you see there must be something which is non-actual and non-temporal. Whitehead does most of this analysis in a small book called “Religion in the Making.”

Just some thoughts this Saturday night.

Aloha!

Spirituality/Materialism/Dualism

NORMAL DUALISTIC SITUATION: We normally think of mind and body as different kinds of things. The mind is spiritual and the body is material. Seems simple enough.

PROBLEMS: However, if mind and body are two radically different kinds of things, then this presents a problem. In one guise we call it “The Mind-Body Problem.” How do two utterly different things, one substance and the other spirit, effect each other? A mental decision that we make is a purely mental or spiritual activity. If I decide to eat something sweet, and a moment later I grab a fork and eat half a chocolate cake, then how did that purely mental (non-material, non-physically extended mental event) “cause” my arm to grab the fork, and dig into the cake? The problem is that a decision in my mind or soul doesn’t have anything to “bang up against” in my nervous system or arm. The electrons in my nervous system, which tell my arm’s muscles to move and grab the fork, are material, while my mind or soul, and the “thought,” are non-material. My immaterial mind can’t connect–in any possible way–with my material nervous system and muscles.

Thus it seems that the mind and body are incompatible.

But we do feel–and we do believe–that our minds and bodies interact. How do they interact?

SOLUTIONS: DEMOCRATS vs. REPUBLICANS:  Mind and body are two high level abstractions that are connected by a deeper reality. Here’s an analogy: Mind vs. Body may be like Democrats vs. Republicans. On the surface it seems as if they are incompatible. But there’s a more fundamental reality. The Democrats and the Republicans both tap into a realm of common fundamental values. For example, the value of human life, the value of personal freedom, and the desire to live a good life. It’s similar with mind vs. body. With the advent of electromagnetic theory in the mid-19th century, and General Relativity in 1905, and the quantum mechanics in the 1920’s, Alfred North Whitehead realized that mind and body were connected at a more fundamental level. It became widely known that the supporting basis of matter is energy. But Whitehead doesn’t say that energy connects mind and body. He goes a step further. His speculative claim was that there is something even more primary than energy: at the fundamental level, reality is not spiritual, or energetic, or material stuff. Then what is it? Reality is ultimately a series of spatiotemporal events, or Actual Entities. At the sub-sub quantum level, reality is a flowing process of these spatiotemporal events, each a sort of primitive experiential entity which exists for a fraction of a second, and passes its experience onto the next Actual Entity. Nature is alive! It’s the fundamental level where what we call “matter” and “mind” and “soul” are actually one kind of entity. The spiritual and the material are really different aspects of the one fundamental reality of Actual Entities.

Thus, spirituality (and materiality) are happening right here, right now. But the material realm and the spiritual realm are the same thing. There’s only one reality. Welcome to it!

The End of History–We Know It All?

Another thought provoking Noon Tide Query by Troythulu:  “What doctrine or belief system do you consider to be the most disturbing? The most dangerous?”

Both disturbing and dangerous are folks who think we’re at the end of history–we know it all!

They think “X” can’t exist because science says it can’t (or religion says it can’t–take your pick).  Each epoch thinks they’re at the end of history and each time they’ve been wrong.  There have been at least 5 scientific paradigms since ancient Greece, and the final conclusions of each one have eventually been shown to be incomplete.  Not necessarily false, although in many cases they have, but at the very least incomplete.   In the beginning of the 20th century, most scientists were UTTERLY CONVINCED materialism was true.  By 1950 almost no physicist believed it.  Not only do we now know about the conceptual problems with materialism, but the logical problems alone sent the materialists packing.  Speaking of logic, rather than suspend judgment about something which is logically possible (God, teleportation, etc.), closed-minded people using the flavor-of-the-month epistemological and ontological view, claim to know “X” it’s not possible.  Why?  Blind faith.  For example, most physicists of the 1950’s and 1960’s were totally against the existence of quarks because their limited view of science told them “nothing could be smaller than a proton.”  A broader view of science dictated otherwise, nay, LOGIC itself dictated otherwise, and finally by the mid-1970’s most scientists were on board with quarks.  But for 20 years denial ruled the day because people thought they knew it all–they thought they were at the end of history and that we had it all wrapped up.  Think again, Feynman, et al!!!  (Feynman was BRILLIANT, don’t get me wrong, but history proved his earlier view to be completely in error because he refused to open his mind to wider possibilities.)

Put differently, if you think “X” is impossible, then wait.  Maybe 50 years, maybe 500, but sooner or later our understanding of reality will grow to the point where “X” is shown.  Again, as long as it’s logical.  E.g., an all-good, omnipotent God is illogical, so it’s useless to posit it.  But that doesn’t mean God isn’t possible, of course.  Like Shawn says on the TV program “Psyche” …  Wait For It…..  Wait For It……  !!!

Aloha!

Evidence: Raw sense data?

Troy, nice job on THIS BLOG ENTRY about whether or not to dismiss or evaluate a claim, and if evaluation is merited, then how many resources should be used and to what extent it should be investigated (if at all). You lay out a good approach. Rejecting out of hand illogical claims and non-verifiable anecdotal claims makes good sense. To go into a little more detail: You perspicuously point out, regarding your approach to dismissing or evaluating claims, that there must be “…some sort of evidence obtainable that will meaningfully demonstrate the truth or falsity of the claim.”

First, I submit we take another step back—the interest level of a claim is more important than its truth or falsity. Logicians tend to think that truth/falsity of a claim is paramount, but our experience in the world says otherwise.

Second, exactly what kind of evidence is required? In sensation-based empiricism (Hume’s work is the quintessential example), the only elements admissible as evidence are sense data. However, the sensationist theory of perception and its accompanying epistemology don’t permit causality or induction. Hume’s arguments are clear, cogent, and forceful on this score. However, we have to know that the same process happens today as happened a billion years ago when two hydrogen atoms combine with one oxygen atom (production of water), and on the sensationist epistemology, we can’t know that. Further, it’s more than just causality and induction which are in question. The status of the continuity of time, the status of mathematical objects, and the status of truth itself are also in question on the sensationist ontology (but never mind as there’s plenty of grist for the mill to simply focus on induction and causality!).

A.J. Ayer and others have simply thrown up their hands and say we just have to assume it’s rationally possible to conduct science in the way we’re doing it now, and can’t sit around and wait for the logical problems to be solved! The irrationality coming from such an otherwise amazing mind is—well—mind-blowing. Isn’t there a good REASON that logic dictates major problems on this score?!?!

Anyway, one answer is Whitehead’s theory of perception, which combines Hume’s sensationism with modern science’s view of the human nervous system and its visceral/kinesthetic modes of operation. Thus Whitehead’s theory of perception is holistic and doesn’t succumb to the logical problems of a purely sensationist/empirical theory of perception. Rather than the constituents of reality being hard material stuff which hits our sense organs and activates them in an externally-based sense, reality is actually internally related to itself and data is passed directly through it from moment to moment. As our brains and nervous systems interact with reality there’s a lot more going on than just photons hitting the body and causing (woops—there’s that logical snafu again) reactions on the skin, eardrum, etc.

But therein is the problem for the materialistic, atheistic, reductionistic, sensationistic ontology and accompanying epistemology: The Process ontology explains how real causality and real induction are possible and the exact same set of arguments also show how time, mathematical objects, and universals are real, and how the correspondence theory of truth makes complete sense. And they don’t want to hear about realism.

Talk about Bass-Ackwardness! The process philosophy and theology requires realism, while so-called objective, scientific empiricism has to deal in coherence and pragmatic theories of truth, and has to argue for ultimate relativism and anti-realism! Post-modern science has really gotten itself into a terrible snafu.

However, my guess is as science, especially neuroscience, gets deeper and deeper into the details of the operations of the brain, that the neuroscientists will be among the first to admit that spatiotemporal events which are actually internally related to each other are at the base of reality rather than material stuff. Once there’s scientific energy put in this direction, Whitehead and others will be re-discovered and their work hailed as visionary. (This is for another post, but this is the reason Heidegger, the phenomenologists, and the Existentialists probably won’t experience the same kind of re-discovery, because they didn’t take on science and accept science qua science like Whitehead did.) Aloha

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #5 (of 10)

I added in a sentence in this explanation which was missing which clarifies the idea of “analyzability:”

Core Doctrine #5: “All enduring individuals are serially ordered societies of momentary ‘occasions of experience’.”   From Griffin, “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 6)

This is how process deals with the issues of efficient and final causality, and freedom vs. determinism.  All things, such as chairs, minds, electrons, and elephants are not actually and fundamentally those things per se, rather they are firstly analyzable into atoms, subatomic particles and quarks, and secondly (actually and fundamentally) they are analyzable into momentary events (occasions of experience), on the most basic level.  Griffin says (p. 6): “…each enduring individual, such as a living cell or a human mind, oscillates between two modes of existence: the subjective mode, in which it exerts final causation or self-determination, and the objective mode, in which is exerts efficient causation upon subsequent events.”

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #4 (of 10):

Core Doctrine #4: “Panexperientialism with organizational duality, [holds that] all true individuals –as distinct from aggregational societies–have at least some iota of experience and spontaneity (self-determination).”  From Griffin, “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 6)

Modern ontology (Cartesianism) claims there are two kinds of actual entities, purely material ones which lack any kind of primitive experience or internal relations.  These are the entities of modern and post-modern science, bits of insentient “stuff” be they matter or energy (and they really all boil down to energy).  The second kind of entities are immaterial “mind stuff” which account for mind and consciousness.  Presumably because they’re immaterial they are internally related to each other, and may even enter “into” each other.  However, this part of the ontology was never developed by anyone; Descartes tried to defend it when people brought up the “mind-body problem” of how the two kinds of actual entities could interact, but Descartes could not articulate a sufficient answer–probably because it’s not logically possible given two distinct kinds of actual entities.

On the process ontology there is only one kind of actual entity, and it has the capability to behave as “matter” as well as “mind.”  We ARE, in fact, sentient beings, so to think sentience irrationally floats in from nowhere, or manifests somehow at the animal level while it exists nowhere else in the universe, makes little sense.  Rather, actual entities are drops of primitive experience, which if enough build up, and are housed in a protective environment such as a body with some type of nervous system, the thing can have what we call sentience or experience.  Note it’s not the sheer numbers of actual entities which matter, but the complexity of their organization, so chairs and rocks and mountains can’t have self awareness, but a cell or a beetle or a person may.  The old ontology requires a miracle because animal consciosuness comes out of nowhere (somehow), but on the process view, a primitive kind of “experience” is inherent in the very nature of the most fundamental structures of the universe (actual entities).

This is NOT, and is very different, from Idealism, from Vitalism, etc.

Core Doctrine of Process Philosophy #1 (of 10)

Over 10 blog entries, I will set out the 10 Core Doctrines of process philosophy (of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne), as given by the process philosopher and theologian David Griffin.

Core Doctrine #1:  Process integrates “…moral, aesthetic, and religious intuitions with the most general doctrines of the sciences into a self-consistent worldview [and considers this] as one of the central tasks of philosophy in our time.”  From: Griffin, David R.  “Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism” (p. 5)

Another way to say this is the integration of science and religion; to be able to put religion in a context that someone who takes science seriously may countenance, and to be able to put science in a context that someone with religious beliefs can countenance.

PROCESS PANEGYRIC

Troythulu the Skeptophrenic Blogger, must think I’m mad.  I respond to some of the posts on his blog, but I don’t seem to respond directly-my responses have a non sequitur feeling.  The reason I respond is because the ideas in some of his posts are as close as they can be to mine, but just far enough way to make it very satisfying to attempt to build a bridge between the skeptical point of view and mine.  Thus the non sequitur feeling of my responses.  I wonder if he feels the same way?

I suppose partly in response to something I wrote, Troythulu blogged that “it is often claimed by those who seek to misrepresent science…that science is no more epistemically valid than religion, because both rely on prior assumptions as the basis for their arguments and conclusions.”  He also says that supernaturalistic religion is based on faith, dogma, and people and books that claim to be ultimate authorities without giving arguments or evidence, etc.  (the entire post is HERE).  Rather than responding directly to this, I launched into a Process Panegyric.  I posted it here because I think it’s interesting to see that a more subtle and informed metaphysical point of view can produce a more robust and satisfying scientific view, as well as a more satisfying religious view:

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#1: (TGT): Let’s Begin…Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith (TGT)

This is a discussion of David Ray Griffin’s book: “Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith” (here identified by “TGT”) with a foreward by Howard J. Van Till.

It’s all over the media, in synagogues, mosques, churches, scientific labs, and universities everywhere: there’s gigantic conflict between science and religion.  Well, of course there is!  It’s a huge and direct conflict, after all, EVERYBODY knows it is.  (Argumentum ad Populum)  Well, David Ray Griffin (and process philosophy/theology in general) would rather delve deeper into both science and religion and take a more informed, synoptic view.

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