The Ontological Boy
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.
|WHOEVER you are, holding me now in hand,|
|Without one thing, all will be useless,|
|I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further,|
|I am not what you supposed, but far different.|
|Who is he that would become my follower?||5|
|Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?|
|The way is suspicious—the result uncertain, perhaps destructive;|
|You would have to give up all else—I alone would expect to be your God, sole and exclusive,|
|Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,|
|The whole past theory of your life, and all conformity to the lives around you, would have to be abandon’d;||10|
|Therefore release me now, before troubling yourself any further—Let go your hand from my shoulders,|
|Put me down, and depart on your way.|
|Or else, by stealth, in some wood, for trial,|
|Or back of a rock, in the open air,|
|(For in any roof’d room of a house I emerge not—nor in company,||15|
|And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)|
|But just possibly with you on a high hill—first watching lest any person, for miles around, approach unawares,|
|Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea, or some quiet island,|
|Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,|
|With the comrade’s long-dwelling kiss, or the new husband’s kiss,||20|
|For I am the new husband, and I am the comrade.|
|Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,|
|Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest upon your hip,|
|Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;|
|For thus, merely touching you, is enough—is best,||25|
|And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.|
|But these leaves conning, you con at peril,|
|For these leaves, and me, you will not understand,|
|They will elude you at first, and still more afterward—I will certainly elude you,|
|Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!||30|
|Already you see I have escaped from you.|
|For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,|
|Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,|
|Nor do those know me best who admire me, and vauntingly praise me,|
|Nor will the candidates for my love, (unless at most a very few,) prove victorious,||35|
|Nor will my poems do good only—they will do just as much evil, perhaps more;|
|For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit—that which I hinted at;|
|Therefore release me, and depart on your way.|| |
Friday, February 28, 2014
6707 How can we reconcile the laws of logic, i.e. non-contradiction, the excluded middle, and self-identity, with quantum superpositioning? Is it the same ancient philosophical question of how a penny can be both round and oval? Maybe not. As I see it, we can either abandon logic—which I am not prepared to do—or we can think about different worlds lying against each other. I guess I'll take the latter, which is better than just giving up and turning on the tv. Any other suggestions?
6706 At the moment there are a lot of complaints by students here in Iowa City that the university administration is not doing enough to stop the threat of sexual assaults on and around campus. Somebody is grabbing young women's breasts. To be specific, somebody who is not a cute young male student is doing the grabbing. In other words, it isn't the grabbing per se that is bad, it's who's doing the grabbing. Young women, well of course, don't like being grabbed by old guys, especially by one wearing a trench coat. What is really bad here is the thought of someone old touching something. Old and maybe diseased and almost dead. Age and death must be kept away, far away. And the university administration, in loco parentis, must do it. Youth and beauty should not be approached by or even have to look at poverty and disease and age and death. A firewall must be built. Otherwise, the young Gautama might be shocked, become a Buddha, and our whole economic system will collapse because desire is extinguished.
6705 I have often written of the Principle of Presentation, which roughly says that if some entity presents itself to my mind, then it exists, at least as far as my ontological cataloging goes. It is a principle that is as old as philosophy itself, but I suspect few understand what I am talking about—no entity appears to which my words might refer. My words seem meaningless. There is no thought there. And my so-called principle is dismissed paradoxically on the grounds of violating the Principle of Presentation, which says that if no entity presents itself and no thought is thought, then the purported something is nothing.
Let me give examples of its use. I think we all can think the relation named by the words "next to". And we can think the thought that red is different from green. All is good and fine. But now comes along an ontologist and asks whether or not you think there is an entity named "next to" and "different from". You may feel that it's a baffling question. To say that there is feels like nonsense. To say that there isn't seems to be saying too much. The philosopher, not liking such ambiguity and not believing there is any entity between "is" an "isn't", wants you to choose one or the other. Existence is thinkable and non-existence is thinkable, but a strange mixture of both is not; there is no entity there.
Take the sentence A causes B. Today we often hear about statistical or Humean cause. That is more or less the idea that to say A causes B is no more than to say that whenever there is A there is a very high probably that there is B; they associate. Another common, but usually unspoken idea, is that it means A creates B or brings B into existence. This is the creationist idea of causation. Now then, wielding my Principle of Presentation I look for an entity appearing before my mind's eye that the words "create" or "bring into being" might refer to. But nothing appears. Therefore, I assume there is no such thing and I dismiss such a type of causation. I am Humean.
Then there is the creepy idea that consciousness emerges out of the workings of the brain. So I look at this word "emerges". Does it name any entity? Sort of. But only in a creationist understanding of causation. Therefore, No. It's a meaningless word. Consciousness does not emerge out of brain processes. At most it's a poetic idea coming out of Gothic Romanticism or maybe some chthonic cosmogony. Creepy.
We all use the Principle of Presentation to some extent. I push it. Maybe into parody.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
6703 Positivism is the philosophy that says that all philosophical statements are meaningless. They are more than meaningless; they are absurd. And more than absurd; they are evil. It is a philosophy of the young men of this-worldly science who hate the old men of otherworldly metaphysics. Or at least they were young before their workload started to wear on them. Whatever, I too am a positivist when it comes to science. I think philosophy/metaphysics should be kept out of it entirely. I should explain that I think science is just part of the everydayness of the everyday no matter how weird quantum physics becomes. Philosophy and the everyday are totally, completely, absolutely, utterly, thoroughly, à fond other. Neither should be contaminated by the other. And, yes, each is evil from the viewpoint of the other. Otherness and separateness prevail. I'm just saying.
Where metaphysics has God, positivism has the Social. In fact all the properties and powers that once belonged to God are transferred to the Social. The secular religion of humanity that August Comte envisioned is the necessary end of positivism. Yes, real philosophy must stay away, far away, from all that. But in today's world it is difficult, very difficult, for the aspiring, the perspiring, the conspiring. Inspired or not, I'm somewhere else.
PS. Today's religious fundamentalists or all stripes are positivists through and through.
PS. Today's religious fundamentalists or all stripes are positivists through and through.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
6702 Physics today informs us that what we think of a matter/energy constitutes, at most, only about five percent of the universe. The rest is dark matter and dark energy, about which we know nothing. I am wondering if bodies of objects are also made out of that stuff. There probably are.
There are also phenomenal objects. I look and I see a rock. It has certain sensual properties. It has a whole truck load of observable properties. That phenomenal object is different from the object composed out of fine subatomic pieces of matter and energy, dark or otherwise. Phenomenal objects and what I will call scientific objects. Two very different kinds of objects, neither reducible to the other, but fellow travelers, at least for the time being.
And then there are minds. The only minds we know now are those that have bodies composed out of non-dark matter. There is no ontological reason why minds must have bodies, dark or non-dark, so I suppose there are those that don't; let's call them disembodied spirits. I further suppose that those minds come in all sorts of flavors. Flavors we cannot now even imagine.
After death, will we encounter minds with other body types? Probably. Will we have another body type? Probably. Will we meet disembodied spirits? Probably. Will we be a disembodied spirit? Maybe. For all of that, there is no ontological reason why not. It will be a trip.
Monday, February 24, 2014
6701 Johnny Cash sang of the burning ring of fire. Many of us understand. St. Paul said it is better to marry than to burn. Like many others of both his time and ours, he saw ready sex as a prophylactic against craving desire. Socrates, on the other hand, in the Phaedrus, warns us that speaking ill of Eros is blasphemy against that great god and leads to terror. It is obvious that much of great art feeds on that fire. Without it we are dead. Still, it is painful and we try mightily to overcome it. The Buddha said that desire is the source of all our troubles. Nirvana is a blowing out of that candle. Meditation cools down the fried soul. And surely watching someone in love's agony is painful. (Unless that person is cute, then you think you might have a chance.) We all deal with it the best we can. I agree with Socrates that it is a great daimon that we dare not cross.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
6700 J. N. Findlay spoke of "Plato's Great Inversion, the erection of instances into ontological appendages of Ideas rather than the other way round." It's an inversion I rather like; in fact it is pretty much my whole philosophy. Consider the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse. In that great vision, all the male followers of Jesus are safely laying their collective head on the lap of their lord as he sits beside the Terrible One, all together one God. Again they are in an upper room but now in the very crystalline, i.e. highly mathematical/geometrical, New Jerusalem. There's a whole lot of adornment there. Jewels and gems and bedazzlement. We are not in the land of family values. This is a Vision. That's pretty much my whole philosophy. It's not very practical. The Platonic Ideas glitter in a far heaven. The logic is perfect.