(At some point in the following, you may wish to refer back to Coherence Theory.)
It is remarkable that there are knowers in the world. It is only slightly less remarkable that there is so much for us to know.
We speak of the knowledge explosion. We speak of the mysterious comprehensibility of the world and even of a Theory of Everything.
Did the world have to be so knowable and with so much to be known? We are finding this coherence despite our lack of expectation that there should be any. Is it just an illusion? Appeal is made to the controversial Anthropic Principle and to the appearance of a cosmic design, by way of explanation. Did the world have to be thus? Is all this just the luck of the draw?
Appeal has also been made to the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Nothing happens without a reason, or at least without a knowable cause. When there is an 'accident' we try to ascertain the cause, and seek to avoid it in the future. When there is sickness, we expect to find a toxic agent or some malfunction.
In biology there is an almost overwhelmingly pervasive appearance of teleology. We refer to it as teleonomy, and chalk it up to natural selection, but there would be no biological science without it.
The still very young science of ecology finds, wherever it looks, an almost unimaginable relational intricacy in the entire system of nature. The web of life is a living coherence.
We find similar situations in the human sciences. Linguistic semantics is a case in point. There was once the expectation that the meanings of words could be analyzed or reduced to logical atoms and sense data. After almost fifty years of failure, we realized that meaning is holistic. This realization spelt the effective end of analytical philosophy. The repercussions are still being felt. The end of analysis marks the beginning of postmodernism.
Meaning holism is part of what lies behind the expanding gap between what we know of natural and artificial intelligence.
It would seem that the very remarkable external coherence is mirrored in the mysterious coherence and irreducibility of natural intelligence. This could all just be an accident. But ought we not wonder about the cause? Some see a cause in natural selection. That may be a necessary part of it, but is it sufficient? Can it be considered a natural, scientific cause if there are no known or knowable limits on what its ultimate power might be. Such indefinable power and potency seems much closer to what would reasonably be ascribed to a deity. Ascribing it to nature is only to deify nature. Where then might one draw the line between natural and supernatural? If there is no longer a logical distinction, then what is the sense of calling oneself a naturalist?
Under the aegis of naturalism, coherence is a gratuitous mystery. With immaterialism it is a logical necessity. With materialism, everything is alleged to be contained within a space-time receptacle. With idealism there is no such container. Instead of a container, we need a glue. Coherence is nothing more nor less than the cosmic glue.
With materialism, existence is absolute, all or nothing, atoms in the void. With immaterialism, existence can only be relative or relational. To exist is to relate. This is just cosmic holism. We have excellent models for this kind of existence in the holistic domains of mathematics and language.
Is it any great surprise that the potency of nature is bursting the arbitrary, artificial seams of materialism and naturalism? Why should not coherence be considered perfectly natural? It is, just as soon as we bring God into the picture. With idealism, God is the natural and logically necessary centerpiece of its attendant coherence. Is God anti-nature? Does not human nature reflect divine nature? Are we not each just a microcosm? Are we unnatural?
Idealist coherence certainly violates every Fundamentalist taboo against our relational intercourse with God. This intercourse culminates in the ecstatic rapture of the Eschaton. One might think that this would be right up the Fundamentalists' alley, but any expectations pertaining to Fundamentalist rationality are wishful indeed.
This segues us to the not insubstantial matter of the Eschaton.
I'll have to admit that the Eschaton seems to violate every intuition of what is natural, but I'm going to argue that this is actually the fault of Nature. Am I not digging myself into a logical hole here?
Is the Eschaton not the rupture of Nature? No, it is the rapture of Nature.
Please recall that creation implies an act of separation between the Creator and her Creation. The dualists are right about that. In a relational cosmos, that separation is very unnatural. What we glibly call 'Nature' is actually just covering the void of that most unnatural separation. (Oh good, now I can dig myself even deeper into this hole.) 'Evil' and ignorance are also the manifestations of the unnatural separation of Creator and Creature. Our fallen state is the result of, not the cause of, that separation. That was just a minor theological misconception. The Eschaton pierces the veil of Nature, and returns us and the cosmos to its more natural, fully relational state. The Puritans thought of the wilderness as Godlessness, not as the Ansel Adams Sierra Club poster, which represents mainly a postindustrial, almost postmodern, attitude.
Does this mean that the NRA Bambi Bashers are on the side of God? I hardly think so. But hunting is a rather primitive form of relationalism, after all.
Are the deep ecologists going to miss the Glory Train? Hardly. The clouds of glory that we will be rapturously streaming will significantly comprise their spiritual regeneration of Nature in the new Heaven and new Earth. Admittedly this is not a role that they presently envision for themselves, but we will all have a thing or two to learn over the next thousand years. There will be no bit parts in that final drama.
Is everybody happy? Am I making this too easy? Would you like this exposition to seem more like brain surgery? Have a little faith. We will each be presented with the appropriate challenge, right up to our full capacity. If things seem too pedantic now, there will be days when it will be anything but. And then again, we can always hurry up and wait.
OK, what is our next loosest end?
What remains most pertinent are the loose ends of reductionism. Has the failure of reductionism been universally accepted? I see no evidence to the contrary; however, people are not standing on line to give their testimonials to this failure. There has been no anti-reductionist initiative, except in the form of pluralism. With pluralism, it is just pre-reductionist business as usual, as if nothing had really happened. For starters, I am advocating an overdue 'postreductionism' which is something rather different from postmodernism.
First we must highlight the irreducibles. From whence do they come? A minimalist irreductionist would be a conceptualist. This would be like the alleged view of Aristotle versus Platonism. However, as we have seen: Aristotle Gets Real, when push came to shove, even Aristotle had to confess to a Platonic realism. What gives?
Is there a difference between a concept and a Platonic Idea? If a concept is irreducible then every time it comes to mind is it being created anew, ex nihilo? This does not make sense. Certainly Occam would not approve.
Conceptualism presupposes mind and an intercourse between minds. Can we then revert to a nominalist explanation of this intercourse? Is the concept disassembled in the first mind and reassembled in the next? This is reversion to reductionism. It is hard to kick the reductionist reflex.
The only real difference between conceptualism and Platonism is the unwarranted positing of multiple minds. Occam disapproves. There is scant evidence and no rationale supporting the atomic mind theory, once we surrender the brain-mind identity thesis.
Well, there is the slight problem of personal identity with its attendant Newtonian mechanics of the soul. I'm sympathetic with identity, but I don't think that we must thereby revert to the atomic thesis of minds swerving in the void. This was Leibniz' only real sin: monadology. We have Freud to thank for the overthrow of the 'mind in the void' view. That void became his Unconscious, and then Jung saw the logical impossibility of attempting to quantify or enumerate the unperceivable. We are islands of consciousness in this cosmic ocean, with partially partitioned memories.
Only thus does even the minimalist irreductionism of conceptualism make sense.
Show me one irreducible concept, say 'banana', and I will show you the Cosmic Mind. It's that simple, folks. Why, in Heaven's name, have we made this so difficult for ourselves? That's just par for Creation, even for the best possible creation.
Given the cosmic mind, we then have less than zero need for a physical universe. The concept of a physical, space-time universe becomes an atavistic addendum to a failed reductionism. Get over it! Just say, 'No'!
My Kingdom for a horse? No. My Kingdom for a banana!
While I'm on this hobby-horse, let us reconsider those Platonic Ideas. Again, aren't we seeing an incipient problem of the void. Those Ideas cannot just be swerving in the void. Thus must we have recourse to a plenum of holism and coherence. Holism might seem a rather passive concept. Coherence is much less so. Nothing can be coherent, absent a comprehending subject. Holism may be interpreted objectively. Coherence has no objective measure.
We have gone one step further. You show me a 'banana', and I'll show you the cosmic Self. The concept of 'banana' cannot exist is a void. It can exist only in a cosmic mind that coheres upon a cosmic Self, of which our own selves are intimate reflections or reverberations.
Is this a leap of logic or of faith? This is hardly more than a baby step. Consider the prolonged history of reductionism, and contemplate the logical gymnastics and contortions that we performed, all in the avoidance of the excruciatingly obvious. What an exercise in self-deception! What an excursion into sophistry!
This excursion might only begin to make sense as a shadow of the Eschaton.
In giving up reductionism we must also give up inductionism. (N.B. This is not to give up either reduction or induction, only to give up their globalization.)
An irreducible entity will be left dangling on a skyhook if it is not incorporated into a larger scheme. This larger scheme, no matter how holistic, must have a deductive aspect. In a purely relational scheme, the deductive process would logically proceed from the more to the less relationally entangled nodes.
It seems that the most entangling of relations known or knowable to us is love. Therefore, any globally deductive scheme would focus on the concept of 'cosmic' love which in its turn would presumably be focused on the relation of Creator and Creation. Any hypothetico-deductive scheme must proceed from some such guesstimated origin. If you have a better guess, feel free. One would be remiss not to note that the origination of this particular guesstimation harkens back just about two thousand years. Too much hypothetico-deductionizing can land one in a heap of trouble, it seems.
The principal version of skyhookism is 'emergentism'. Does emergentism make any more sense than skyhookism? Well, it might if it is considered in the context of Rupert Sheldrake's theory of Morphogenesis. On Rupert's hypothesis, the cosmic mind is a blank slate. Evolution writes on this slate, and the results are propagated non-locally, as the mind is wont. Thus we have such things as the 'hundredth monkey' syndrome, or the alleged fact that English school children can learn Japanese nursery rhymes more readily than similar juxtapositions of nonsense syllables.
I was once a staunch proponent of Morphogenesis. But that was back in my days of quantum dualism. Once I graduated from space-time containerism, I recognized that Morphogenesis was much too dependent on our very parochial notion of the strict linear directionality of time. Every Podunk universe that came down the pike would be reinventing this same wheel. Morphogenesis would get old very quickly and demand habeas corpus sub specie aeternitas. (Will someone please turn off the Latin!) This is just about the time for God to get in the act. Morphogenesis might have played a role in a hypothetical primordial, quantum-like chaos of potentialities far, far beyond space & time. This might be something for God to be concerned with, but not for us to bother our pretty, pre-eschatological heads with.
So, even in its most charitable, Morphogenetic interpretation, any non-trivial emergentism quickly collapses into a minimal, pre-established cosmic coherence.
Then there are the philosophers, bless their hearts, who worry about the 'carburetor' problem [and a more recent take]. Is there not a place in Heaven for the Platonic essence of carburetorhood? Yes and no. There are a lot of other folks in our little four dimensional world who could not get to temple on Friday to express their cosmic love were it not for carburetorhoodornament and and other such essences. It's definitely a part of our pre-eschatological cosmic ambient holism. Its essentiality differs only in degree from that of a lung, say. They are both significant parts of the necessary, level-playing-field, atomo-metabolic schema of our four dimensional best possible creation. That is saying a mouthful, but we have been over this metabolic ground before. Will there be a post-eschaton carburetorhood? I'm thinking, 'Let it be a surprise!'
The next topic is looking to be downward causation. This ought to be relevant to issues of coherence and theism.
Draft Project Proposal- Self-organization- a conceptual analysis -- Menno Hulswit:
My paper consists of three parts. In the first part, I will provide an analysis of the concept of downward causation as used in recent scientific and philosophic literature. I will show that it is a misleading concept, which entails a disguised reintroduction of the (Aristotelian) concept of final or formal causation.
Next, I will argue that self-organization is indeed a teleological concept, and that it must therefore be explained in terms of final causation.
Finally, I will argue that, whereas Aristotle’s substance based theory of final causation is hard to combine with contemporary scientific insights, a (Peircean) process approach to causation may be useful in explaining what goes on in self-organization.
I'd like to see the paper.
I should have done my homework on downward causation before launching the latest foray into reductionism. This topic may be the focus of an actual anti-reductionist initiative that I was despairing of earlier today.
Looking through the first hundred hits on "downward causation" I am not seeing anything new that has not been alluded to here in other contexts. Jaegwon Kim is the principal contender and he defends physicalism. Instead of an anti-reductionist initiative, I see mainly the reductionists retrenching at this last line of defense.
Here is a puzzle of evolution: if traits or functions did not entail downward causation, then on what basis could they be selected? I don't recall the source for this puzzle, but it is often mentioned with regard to consciousness: the alleged epiphenomenality of consciousness ought to preclude its biological selectability.
I recall that 'general systems' theorists, following Bertalanffy (c.1940), also speak of autonomous levels with downward causation.
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