Scrap note #8

The next installment of sub-cognitive fragmentation became too snarled in self-involvement to manage, splintering its crate, and leaving a debris trail of scrap notation. When a flicker of proto-intelligence finds itself out beyond the ledge, tumbling into the abysmal self-problematization of Gnon, it has either to surrender itself to the plummet, or scrabble quickly for some arresting roughness on the cliff walls. This isn’t the time for a deep descent (so my figurative fingernails are gone).

After seven years in an apartment at the edge of Xujiahui, we have moved to a slightly larger one in the Jing’an District (with space for each of the kids to have their own room). It’s up on the 19th floor — above the mosquito level — with a view of the Wheelock Square tower (an impressive KPF structure). The move was only completed over the last couple of days. So life this end has been vastly more chaotic, is becoming a little more spacious, and is already far more high-rise. Some of the recent gusts of disorder stem from this.

The scrap-reduced sub-cognitive fragment goes something like this: NRx has its own micro-decadence, which is expressed through a fixation on values, asserted as an alternative to thought. This is, I realize, overtly and dramatically controversial. If thought is confused with reason, and values identified with inherited intuitions, it might easily appear as a direct attack upon the most sacred commitments of the reactionary attitude. What, after all, are the feeble tremblings of embryonic intellect compared to the grandeur of what has been received?

What, though, has truly been received? Do we think we know? It is worth a digression into this peculiar usage of ‘think’. “I think the Old Way is best” is really close to an implicit contradiction, or even a presumption, in both directions. If the Old Way is being thought, it remains incompletely accessed. Either thought has been bypassed — by far the most probable case, were this in fact simply possible — or a claim of gargantuan hubris is being made to the completion of thought, in this particular case at least. Is it more likely that thought has indeed been pursued to its end, or that an insincere — in fact merely thoughtless — claim to the accomplishment of thought has been inserted groundlessly and subliminally, programmed by trivial considerations of grammatical or rhetorical convenience?

The anticipated rejoinder might be: “we are reactionaries precisely because we believe before we think, and this claim is itself a belief, adamantly thoughtless, and thus immune to the corrosive uncertainties of the wandering mind. What we know best is that which has not passed through thought, but rather through revelatory tradition and its social institutions, safeguarded against the chaotic hazards of the reflective individual, that miserable prey of pride, demonism, and darkness.”

Religion tightly binds philosophy … but then, when the turtles of obedience run out into the absolute, an insidious question arises. It is a difficult one, when thought about, even slightly: Does God think?

[Apologies for a little insulting hand-holding, but my enormous confidence in human thoughtlessness leads me to suspect that both theists and atheists might be more accepting of the decompressed formulation: What is it to think of a God who thinks? Could thought be anything in eternity, or in the absence of the unknown? And if God does not think (whether through his nature, as eternal, or through the necessity of his non-existence) what could it mean for there to be a ‘God of the Philosophers’?]

March 12, 2014admin 20 Comments »
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20 Responses to this entry

  • RiverC Says:

    You need to read Prayers By The Lake, good sauce in that one

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Accessed — I’ll try to make some time. (In hectic Acceleration deadline zone right now.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 6:39 pm Reply | Quote
  • Bill Says:

    I always liked reading about Einstein making his discoveries, because he was surrounded by a debate among scientists as to what was real. I forget all the names, but one side insisted on the world being real and the other insisted on thought being real. It’s a pretty old debate, maybe four thousand years. Well, Einstein said fuck it, and performed thought experiments. This means he didn’t take either position dogmatically, but saw elements of value in each. His experiments just took whatever he noticed seemed to work and combined it into a non-dogmatic, pragmatic thought process.

    It probably helped that Einstein read the “Critique of Pure Judgment” when he was 16. Einstein was familiar with Hume’s attack on fanciful causality, which gave Hume the ability to demolish a lot of superstitions. For Einstein, Kant’s response is equally important, because Kant says, “Sure Hume, you may have figured out that human beings look for causes, and often create bullshit causes, but have you considered that the way we think (this is my version of Kant) is conditioned by us being human? Our thinking is conditioned by being human. Therefore we cannot think perfectly, we are always limited by being what we are.”

    In other words, the world is real, but how we think of it is always conditioned by being human. Therefore, inductive reasoning, looking for specific examples to illustrate an idea, is an excellent way to think, but it is not perfect, there is still room for thought. Great thinkers know the limits of thought, therefore they can think the biggest thoughts possible, which might be quite small in comparison to ambitions. Poor thinkers give thought too much credit, and try to think thoughts outside of the limits, they LOVE deductive reason. Great thinkers love inductive reason.

    That’s one reason I like the idea of this blog, Outside In…

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I’d only want to complicate this by saying that thought can also fall into confusion when it attempts to determine its own limits. (Modified only slightly, this becomes a question about possible political constitutions …)

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 8:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mai La Dreapta Says:

    Man is logikos, but God is logos. One mustn’t confuse the two. It is, in that sense, perfectly accurate to say that God is not rational and does not think.

    (This is just a scrap, but such is appropriate for this thread.)

    BTW my respect for you as a reactionary is greatly increased now that I know you have kids.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “God is not rational and does not think” — things certainly get strange once one ventures out ‘beyond’ some such formulation. At the very least God would need to be an investigative problem to itself, and an opening would be required for a dynamics of eternity — an ultimate open horizon (while struggling, perhaps vainly, to avoid mere relapse into transcended time). Does Aristotle’s God — the original ‘God of the Philosophers’ — tend to break ultimate reality open in this way? A God absorbed in self-contemplation is certainly suggestive of intellectual action, however incomprehensible this may be. In any case, it is a chronic philosophical temptation to attribute paradox to the absolute, because its absence seems like a destitution, but I fully understand how this might strike the faithful as a lamentable mental disease … at best.

    [Reply]

    excthedra Reply:

    Eriugena reformulates the Trinity as an explanation of how the indeterminate (i.e., unthinking, unknowable to itself) Absolute begets the Logos (and thereby also the primal causes, and then creation as theophany) as the first determination — knowledge is the first limitation of divinity. Plotinus, and heterodox anti-Arians (such as Marius Victorinus), tread in similar waters.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 8:07 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    I’m not going to pretend your question isn’t beyond my abilities to answer. But it does remind me of the debate among Mormons about whether God can have free will or not.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Yes.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 8:47 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    Religion tightly binds philosophy …

    “There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own … But it was against this remote ruin that all the military systems in religion were originally ranked and ruled. … The authority of priests to absolve, the authority of popes to define the authority, even of inquisitors to terrify: these were all only dark defences erected round one central authority, more undemonstrable, more supernatural than all — the authority of a man to think. We know now that this is so; we have no excuse for not knowing it. For we can hear scepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying upon her throne. … With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The right of religion to bind philosophy is not settled (in the negative) by the fact it makes philosophers uncomfortable.

    The argument you cite, however, is a far more interesting (and indeed thought-provoking) one.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 9:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • Driftforge Says:

    Interesting question. If God knows all, and thinks, then ‘all’ expands to accept the outcome of His thought. His thought is Creation. We ourselves are crystallised Thought. Everything that we know that, we reveal, is the result of that Thought.

    To further complicate matters, we take God as eternal and existing outside of the limitations of time..

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    among the Theologians (those with that title and not that profession) while God is the Logos, all things have their eternal origin in logoi, or ideas, in God. So all things are also ‘logos’ (pattern) but not all things are rational (have rational souls.) In Christianity the question of whether God thinks or not has its tables overturned by the incarnation; if we are to use the generic ‘does God think?’ just as ‘can God create a rock he cannot lift?’ the answer is yes due to the godman.

    In Orthodox theologizing the term ‘God’ is imprecise and requires further refinement. ‘God’ either refers to one of the members of the Godhead, persons or hypostases, or to the divine nature itself (the godhood.) If we say ‘does God think’ in reference to the godhood it’s an absurd question equivalent to asking ‘does the human nature think?’ The nature has capacities for sure but it does not act outside of an instance.

    The further refined question would be, ‘does God the X think?’ Does the poet’s reference to God’s thought being above our thought imply that he thinks? To confound this further other theologians have said that our deliberation (most of what we consider rational thought) is not our natural mode but an accommodation we are capable not unlike your lower back overworking because your abdominal muscles are failing.

    Also, our form of thought depends a lot on not seeing into things but seeing the surface of them and trying to figure out things about them. God has no such limitation, either way you look at it.

    Finally, at least in the old psychology, thought refers not to logic or thought-in-words, but to the energy that arises from or around the heart which language is used to form into words so it can be transferred between beings via sound or writing. Emotion is a form of unformed thought.

    Therefore to even begin to answer the question would involve defining some terms. Given the ones I accept I would say that God thinks, but that God is not ‘rational’.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 9:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • nyan_sandwich Says:

    This is a good point against the position taken by Konkvistador and I (among others) on the importance of value stability and whether capitalism/singularity ought to be subordinated to human values. We take the position that roughly our current human values are right and good and singularity ought to serve them, more or less because that’s what we already believe. As you say, we believe before we think. The inherent lack of self-critical analysis in this position is disturbing, but not yet mortally so (to me).

    It is clear that we want any system deployed on our behalf to resolve value confusion by faith in the revelations from the maker (us). It is much less clear from the inside, without already having that faith, whether we ought to adopt it, and if so, which revelations to have faith in.

    Another point to be made here, though, is that this can be flipped around to skewer the opposite position: blind acceptance of the inherent teleology of Capitalism or Cathedral. In that case, again one is simply believing that they will be acceptable without thinking one’s way to that conclusion manually.

    Even the apparently reasonable position of accepting whatever conclusions the wandering mind produces requires a blind faith that that mind produces acceptable conclusions.

    This shaky epistemic ground seems as unavoidable as the problem of induction (being roughly the same problem). Another slice of horrism, IMO.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “Another slice of horr[or]ism, IMO.” — which is unlikely to be a coincidence.

    I think I agree with what you are saying here but, because I do not know, struggling to think further is unavoidable …

    [Reply]

    RiverC Reply:

    Axioms exist whether we wish them to or not. The question that remains is which Axioms and why; but when considering Axioms what Axioms would you use to construct your arguments for or against them? In what terms would you adjudge some superior while others inferior without reference to other Axioms? And if they can be actually reduced to other Axioms they are not Axioms and the real Axioms then are ‘hidden’ while still acting.

    One answer to this question seems to arise from the fact that Goods are intangible-tangibles; take one of the lowest of the goods, money. While money nearly always has physical manifestation, it need not, and it does not ‘exist’ if there is not one to trade with. But yet it remains a good that constantly ‘justifies’ itself due to its nature, by what it does because of what it is.

    I think the answer here is to take a rhetorical approach and 1.discover the goods, 2. arrange them in their proper order and 3. elucidate this order to the other (in this case, the machine.)

    The second part is tricky; axioms usually follow a natural ordering (that is to say, like items in a database, their natural order is their order of coming into existence) but that natural ordering, being usually linear, does not constitute a hierarchy (take the ten commandments for instance; the first commandment is definitely the most important, but for the others their importance cannot be sussed out from their natural ordering.)

    The ordering then must be determined by mapping to another ‘kind’ of axiom, or another dimension of ‘axiomality’ – if we are dealing with goods, we have two other dimensions; the beautiful, and the true. The ordering of these axioms shall thus not be self-referential and solipsistic, but in reference to the two other dimensions, of their relationship to truth, and their relationship to beauty.

    (I apply computer science to the problem but that is only because computer science is one of the few philosophies with any precision left in its terminology. I disagree with the notion that applying computer science terminology is evidence of autism.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 10:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thos Ward Says:

    This may be a category error under classical theism, or this question is specifically referencing the personal theistic conception of God. Feser outlines the distinction: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

    In other words, does the classical theistic God think? Well, he cannot have an epistemology at all because He is what would be known. It’s like asking if he has eyes. Also, what is it to think? From the perspective of extended mind and distributed cognition, you might have to ask “Does God use a pencil?” I suppose I’m with Mai la Dreapta.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “I suppose I’m with Mai la Dreapta.” — The same firm foundation, indeed. So my response to him transfers also perhaps to you — Is a supreme ‘being’ further exalted when it is not an abyss to itself?

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 12th, 2014 at 10:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Bill Says:

    @adminI guess my point was that some considerations of limits is good. Anyone who has written a thesis has realized that they needed to focus a nebulous book-length concept into a 30 page laser beam. Modesty is good in thought.

    Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind, there are few”.

    Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “… some considerations of limits is good” — agreed, but if taken as an engrossing topic in itself, the consideration of limits does not itself have definite or unproblematic limits.

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 14th, 2014 at 12:21 am Reply | Quote

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