Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Roget’s Theosaurus and the Tickwttted Illusion of Sweet Fanny Adams
By Robert W.Godwin [Gagdad Bob] , Ph.D is a clinical psychologist whose interdisciplinary work has focused on the relationship between contemporary psychoanalysis, chaos theory, and quantum physics. http://onecosmos.blogspot.com/
Perhaps it’s as simple as Zero and One. Either you have a metaphysics of the One or you embrace the nihilism of the zilch, the nada, the bupkis...
Hmm, here’s an interesting little factoid. I was just looking up synonyms for zero in my thesaurus, and I see that the very first two categories are Existence and Nonexistence, followed, appropriately enough, by Substantiality and Insubstantiality, then Intrinsicality and Extrinsicality. Thus, the first three pages of the thesaurus tell us pretty much all we need to know about theology, metaphysics, and ontology.
For, it is written, in the beginning was 1. EXISTENCE, or being, essence, presence, substantiality, reality, actuality, factuality, authenticity, not a dream, the truth of the matter, what’s what, the nitty gritty, absolute, self-evident, inescapable, and indisputable fact, brass tacks, self-existence, uncreated being, noncontingent existence, aseity, and others.
How true, which is to say, correct, valid, sound, accurate, well-grounded, logical, veridical, inerrant, self-consistent, cogent, authoritative, uninvented, unadulterated, square, dead right, bang-on, straight-up-and-down, and honest-to-God, for Being implies Truth.
Indeied, In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was EXISTENCE. Or, you might say that In the Beginning God created BEING and NONBEING, or, to be precise, pulled BEING out of his own ASEITY, or beyond being.
What about the alternative, which is to say, 2. NONEXISTENCE? Let’s see, we have nonbeing, nothingness, emptiness, vacuity, “the intense inane” (Shelley), unreality, negation, negativity, zero, absence, goose egg, not a whit, not a hint, not a blessed one, just Sweet Fanny Adams. In short. “ain’t nobody here but us leftists.”
What are the implications of this philosophy of zero, this metaphysics of nonbeing? According to Roget, it is to not exist, to be absent or lacking, to be annihilated, destroyed, eradicated and wiped out, to vanish, to be no more and leave no trace, to disappear, evaporate, melt away, die out, pass out of the picture, peter out, perish, circle the drain, go kaput, and just plain die.
This is indeed the fate of the leftist. In fact, he admits as much. Why then are they such chronic whiners? If their absence is intrinsic, why do they complain about it so much? I guess that’s why. As we said yesterday, leftism is the attempt to use horizontal politics to fill a vertical hole of their own creation. They are self-inflicted victims of their own nothingness. Envy takes care the rest.
All because you never allowed yourself to exist by aligning yourself with the Real, the Absolute, and the Intrinsic. Rather, you made yourself nonexistent, unreal, imaginary, fanciful, unsubstantial, illusory, and without being. Which is to say, you made yourself. But nobody made you. .....”
“... What is “nothing,” anyway, and why are there people who believe in it? Schuon writes of nothingness that it is, “on the one hand, an intellectual notion and, on the other hand, a cosmic tendency; this notion of nothingness is identical with that of impossibility; that is to say, nothingness is total impossibility, whereas there do exist relative impossibilities, namely those which represent situations modifiable in principle.”
So true nothingness cannot really exist except in the minds of nihilists. Therefore, they know of what they speak, since they themselves are the absurd “possibility of nothing,” which is just one of the diverse possibilities of Something. The nihilist is just a self-unmade man, or man unmade, to be exact.
“The notion of ‘nothing’ is essentially a reference — obviously negative — to something possible or existent, otherwise it would be meaningless and even inconceivable. Indeed, ‘nothing’ indicates by definition the absence of something: it excludes one or many objects, or all objects, according to context; to speak of an intrinsic ‘nothingness,’ of a nothing in itself, without reference to the things which it excludes, would be a contradiction in terms. When a receptacle is filled and then emptied, there is a difference; now this difference is a reality, otherwise no one would ever complain about being robbed. If this ‘nothing’ were in itself a ‘nothingness’ — if it had no ‘referential’ character — there would be no difference between presence and absence, plenitude and vacuity, existence and inexistence; and every thief could argue that the ‘nothing’ he produced in someones purse does not exist; the word ‘nothing’ would be devoid of meaning just as the nothingness is devoid of content.... an intrinsic nothingness cannot concretely be opposed to anything or be affected by anything in any way.”
So EXISTENCE and NONEXISTENCE aren’t actually opposites. Rather, the one is real, the other entirely fanciful, an absurdity, an impossibility, a... never mind.
Similarly, as Will was saying the other day about the “ether,” or the spiritual substance of reality, in the absence of such a metaphysical category, the cosmos makes no sense at all.
For, “space, if it were an absolute emptiness — if it did not in practice coincide with ether — could not comprise distance and separation, for a nothingness added to another nothingness — if this were conceivable without absurdity — could not produce a distance.”
Now, back to the ZERO and the ONE. Schuon notes that “the difference between 1 and 2 is relative, but the difference between 1 and 0 can be termed absolute...” Which is to say, “A thing cannot exist half-way, either it exists or it does not exist; consequently, since there is something absolute about existence in relation to inexistence,” this speaks to “the whole miracle of creation.”
Or, put it this way: “When one, two or three out of four candles are extinguished, the difference in luminosity is relative; but when the last one is extinguished, the difference is total, for it is that between light and darkness. This is what allows negative expressions such as ‘the Void’ (Shunya), ‘not this, not this’ (neti neti), and other terms of the kind to be applied to pure Being, and a fortiori to Beyond-Being. All apophatic theology stems from this principle of terminology.”
Ah ha! So NOTHING does exist. In fact, it is not the negation of BEING, but the ABSOLUTE EXISTENCE of the God-beyond-being, who must exist — and if so, must coincide with the sovereign good.
“The idea of ‘being’ positively implies reality, and restrictively manifestation; we say ‘restrictively’ because manifestation or existence represents a ‘less’ or a limitation in relation to the Principle which is pure Being. In signifying reality, the idea of ‘being’ evokes ipso facto the ‘good’ and also the ‘more,’ hence quality and quantity; but above all it evokes ‘presence.’ As for the opposite idea of ‘nothingness,’ it implies first of all the ‘absence’ of being, or impossibility, and more relatively the absence of determinate things; it also implies, by derivation and by analogy, the phenomenon of ‘less’ and, in another respect, that of ‘evil.’ But this idea can also be applied, quite paradoxically, to the transcendent or principial order: from the standpoint of the manifested world — hence from the standpoint of existence in the restricted sense of the term — all that transcends this world and consequently is free from existential limitations, is ‘nothingness.’
Which was the point of beginning — and ending — and beginning — the [book] with the word nothing. Not to signify negation, non-being, nothingness, ... or some other addle-pated hooey. Rather, this is the infinite gap between the first and last Word of existence, which is to say,
a formless void without mind or life,
a shadow spinning before the beginning over a silent static sea,
unlit altar of eternity, fathomless vortex of the Infinite Zero.
Darkest night, dreamless sleep:
Outside in. Spacetimematterenergy.
No beforeafter, nobodaddy, no mamafestation, nothing but neti.
One brahman deathless breathing breathless,
darkness visible the boundless all.
Unknown origin prior to time and space,
fount of all being, unborn thus undying,
beginning and end of all impossibility,
empty plenum and inexhaustible void.
The thing that bugged Polanyi and that initially drove his intellectual work in this area was that his experience with scientific discovery was very different from the systematic kind of process that's conventionally held to be the way discoveries are made. He found making discoveries to be an art, that it was not systematic in the strict sense, that it involved more than just being reasonable but also being creative. You can't just follow a set of steps to a new discovery; there's a leap involved and reason and the scientific method aren't enough to span the gap.
Anyway, he took this seed and branched out from it and wound up arriving at some very interesting conclusions that have powerful implications in the area of science/religion and evolution/design -- and also politics (Polanyi was a classical liberal, strongly anti-communist). He has a novelty and an importance that reminds me of Godwin. He's one of those guys that more people ought to be aware of.
Highly recommended if you get the chance: