Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Waves


There’s something deep, metaphysically deep, scientifically deep, drowned deep about waves. From the side they present periodicity and therefore time and causality as energy is transferred along the medium of the sea. Then we notice that boats bob up and down and the perspective of being directly in the path of the wave occurs to us. In the face of the wave the idea of the non-difference of cause and effect is operative. Every energy in the wave is transforming into its next phase ceaselessly. In the Sankhya philosophy this is known as satkaryavada. The vertical movement in the face of the wave is also a marking of time. Presumably speed pulls away some of that face, herniating it. Warp speed cap’n.

Neither being in the wave or to the side of it is an artefact of consciousness. Both are true views.


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SONNET 60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time, that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.




Sunday, 29 July 2018

Whitehead meets Bhagwan Hamsa on Mount Kailas




(repost from 2012)

This misapprehension is promoted by the neglect of the principle that, so far as physical relations are concerned, contemporary events happen in causal independence of each other. This principle will have to be explained later, in connection with an examination of process and of time. It receives an exemplification in the character of our perception of the world of contemporary actual entities. That contemporary world is objectified for us as 'realitas objectivas', illustrating bare extension with its various parts discriminated by differences of sense data. These qualities, such as colours, sounds, bodily feelings, tastes, smells, together with the perspectives introduced by extensive relationships, are the relational eternal objects whereby the contemporary actual entities are elements in our constitution. This is the type of objectification which (in Sec. VII of the previous chapter has been termed 'presentational objectification'.
(from Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead. Chap. II: The Extensive Continuum

From Sankara's commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad II.iv.11:
Objection: In everyone of these instances the mergence of the objects only has been spoken of, but not that of the organs. What is the motive for this?
Reply: True, but the Sruti considers the organs to be of the same category as the objects, not of a different category. The organs are but modes of the objects in order to perceive them, as a lamp, which is but a mode of colour, is an instrument for revealing all colours. Similarly, the organs are but modes of all particular objects in order to perceive them, as is the case with a lamp. Hence no special care is to be taken to indicate the dissolution of the organs; for these being the same as objects in general, their dissolution is implied by that of the objects.
I place these citations together to show that the dissolution of the subjective point of view arrived at by the progressive absorption of lower perspectives into higher ones, brings in its train the monistic condition of pure self-awareness, "one without a second". According to Whitehead the natural awareness of the subject is an atomised one because "The notion of a direct 'idea' (or 'feeling') of an actual entity is a presupposition of all common sense." (P&R) From that bare pre-theoretic intuition Whitehead concludes:
Some real component in the objectified entity assumes the role of being how that particular entity is a datum in the experience of the subject.
All actual entities are open to all other actual entities in a philosphy of organism. In short to divest the essential insight of the bewildering prolixity of Whiteheadian categories - everything is open to everything else and this openness is limited by the nature of each entity. But what is an entity? It is from our subjective point of view, according to the evolved interests of the human being, that we divide the world. Ecology has taught us, that, although these are natural to us, Nature continuously draws back into seamless unity the pieces we have cut out of the whole.

I believe that I can connect these two citations, not by an easy assimilation but by the telescoping that is a feature of both. In the way that actual entities are in each other according to the rubric of their eternal objects, do I dare to call them limiting adjuncts, so are the limiting adjuncts/upadhis successively dissolved. as described in the experience of the sage on Mount Kailas. That this is merely a fanciful connection with the philosophy of organism must be countered by the remark of Whitehead’s in Process and Reality:
This conception of an actual entity in the fluent world is little more than an expansion of a sentence in the Timaeus “But that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in the process of becoming and perishing and never really is.” Bergson in his protest against ‘spatialization’ is only echoing Plato’s phrase “and never really is”.

The words of the sage Bhagwan Hamsa on Mount Kailas mirrors the progressive dissolution of the stages between becoming and being:

Here my Manas merged into Antahkarana (heart); the antahkarana with the Manas merged into Chitta (mind-stuff); the Chitta along with Antahkarana and Manas merged into Buddhi (intellect); the Buddhi with Chitta, Antahkarana and Manas merged into Ahankar (egoism); and the Ahankar along with Buddhi, Chitta, Antahkarana and Manas merged into Absolute Brahma! I found myself reflected everywhere in the whole Universe! It was all one harmony - full of wisdom, Infinite Love Perennial and Bliss Eternal! Where was the body, its tenements and the ‘I’! It was all Satchitananda. (Truth, Wisdom, Bliss).
(from The Holy Mountain by Bhagwan Shri Hamsa)

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Hume's Epistemic Thimblerigging


The feeling I have about Hume on Miracles (Section X Treatise is very like that I get looking at a skilled thimble rigger (shell game). Where does the miracle lie? Under the logical impossibility shell i.e. there is only nature and any event not natural i.e. supernatural, has never occurred. Looking for evidence for an impossibility is pointless. But when you point at that shell, miracle is discovered to be under the pious fraud shell so evidence is a possibility but it will never be enough to establish a miracle. And it’s a virtual logical impossibility too. By virtual here I mean that the impossibility of establishing that a miracle has taken place has the force of the logical while being empirical. There is something not quite right about that but the steady stream of diverting patter moves one on quickly.

Who are Hume’s confederates in the crowd. There is a physicist who nods at the ‘there is only nature’ and there is the philosopher, a lover of mazy modality. They win: the punters hardly ever. I say to people who question miracles - you shouldn’t believe in them. They don’t cohere with your world, they don’t matter for you. If they come to matter it will be because your world has altered.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

De Quincey on Thought Experiments


De Quincey discussing Hume on Miracles (Section X 'Treatise') has a pertinent thing or two to say. His observations on the Queen Elizabeth resurrection story attested by her physicians are good and can be applied to the present mania for killer T.E.s

Prudent men, in such circumstances, would act as the judges in our English courts, who are always displeased if it is attempted to elicit their opinions upon a point of law by a proposed fiction. And very reasonably; for in these fictitious cases all the little circumstances of reality are wanting, and the oblique relations to such circumstances, out of which it is that any sound opinion can be formed. We all know very well what Hume is after in this problem of a resurrection. And his case of Queen Elizabeth's resurrection being a perfectly fictitious case, we are at liberty to do any one of three different things:—either simply to refuse an answer; or, 2dly, to give such an answer as he looks for, viz., to agree with him in his disbelief under the supposed contingency; without, therefore, offering the slightest prejudice to any scriptural case of resurrection: i. e., we might go along with him in his premises, and yet balk him of his purpose; or, 3dly, we might even join issue with him, and peremptorily challenge his verdict upon his own fiction.
(from Theological Essays and Other Papers Vol.1)

Saturday, 21 July 2018

De Quincey's Palimpsest


Amongst the posthumous works of De Quincey is the essay The Palimpsest of the Human Brain sometimes included in Suspiria de Profundis. Find a copy at
suspiria de profundis
He shares with Bergson the strong conviction that at the moment of death your life is present before you in simultaneous review. This is a common report but only Bergson offers a metaphysics that naturalises it. The Frenchman destroyed all his notes before his death perhaps to secure his reputation from the judgement of scientistic sciolists. De Quincey destroyed nothing except inadvertently through the practice of reading by candlelight. How easy it is as you approach the light to get a better squint to set the page on fire. Or your hair, or both.

What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain? Such a palimpsest is my brain; such a palimpsest, oh reader! is yours. Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet, in reality, not one has been extinguished.




further down:
The fleeting accidents of a man’s life, and its external shows, may indeed be irrelate and incongruous; but the organizing principles which fuse into harmony, and gather about fixed predetermined centres, whatever heterogeneous elements life may have accumulated from without, will not permit the grandeur of human unity greatly to be violated, or its ultimate repose to be troubled, in the retrospect from dying moments, or from other great convulsions.
Such a convulsion is the struggle of gradual suffocation, as in drowning; and, in the original Opium Confessions, I mentioned a case of that nature communicated to me by a lady from her own childish experience. The lady is still living, though now of unusually great age; and I may mention that amongst her faults never was numbered any levity of principle, or carelessness of the most scrupulous veracity; but, on the contrary, such faults as arise from austerity, too harsh, perhaps, and gloomy, indulgent neither to others nor herself. And, at the time of relating this incident, when already very old, she had become religious to asceticism. According to my present belief, she had completed her ninth year, when, playing by the side of a solitary brook, she fell into one of its deepest pools. Eventually, but after what lapse of time nobody ever knew, she was saved from death by a farmer, who, riding in some distant lane, had seen her rise to the surface; but not until she had descended within the abyss of death, and looked into its secrets, as far, perhaps, as ever human eye can have looked that had permission to return. At a certain stage of this descent, a blow seemed to strike her, phosphoric radiance sprang forth from her eyeballs; and immediately a mighty theatre expanded within her brain. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, every act, every design of her past life, lived again, arraying themselves not as a succession, but as parts of a coexistence. Such a light fell upon the whole path of her life backwards into the shades of infancy, as the light, perhaps; which wrapt the destined Apostle on his road to Damascus. Yet that light blinded for a season; but hers poured celestial vision upon the brain, so that her consciousness became omnipresent at one moment to every feature in the infinite review.

((The woman referred to is his mother))

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Illusion and Confusion and the Snake/Rope example


When discussing in Indian philosophy the snake/rope confusion we need to strictly distinguish it from an illusion. An illusion stays an illusion even when you know that it is one. The Muller-Lyer lines still continue to look unequal. Adalbert Ames’s illusions are uncannily persistent.ames room
The rope is no longer seen as a snake when we discover our mistake and that is an important epistemological point in Indian philosophy. In the Nyaya inflected account of the advaitin Dharmaraja Adhvarindra our default position re perception is to accept it as veridical until shown not to be on further acquaintance.

He writes in the section The validity of Knowledge is Intrinsic and Self-Evident of the chapter on Non-Apprehension:

The validity of knowledge generated by the above -mentioned means of knowledge originates by itself and is self-evident. To explain: Valid knowledge is that knowledge regarding something possessing a particular attribute, which has that attribute as its feature which is conducive to successful effort, and which includes recollection as well as fresh experience.

The term ‘effort’ refers to the factor of confirmation. The silver we pick up is precious and not a mere piece of nacre. Unsuccessful effort is to discover on closer examination that we were suffering from temporary confusion. Clearly this is different from illusion.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Veggie Hitler


Hitler was a vegetarian. That tells you where vegetarianism is at as a moral position. Really? No it doesn’t. Most people can recognise this as pure argumentum ad hominem, or playing the man not the ball. Here in Ireland though it seems to be the only argument we know or the one we find most effective. It goes after this fashion. First characterise moral opposition to abortion as Catholic doctrine. Then point to the moral failings of the hierarchy and say ‘who are these people to tell you what to do’. Above all do not discuss the intrinsic evil or otherwise of abortion. Slather on words like compassion, care, and trust. Good, fine, splendid; it worked and the solemn incantation of ‘no woman takes abortion lightly’ was belied by the celebrations in the square of Dublin Castle as though ‘our team’ had won a cup.

Enlightened Progressives 2 : Recidivist Troglodytes 1

Why now after all the almost daily stories about Mother & Baby Homes, Magdalen Laundries, and buggering Bishops have achieved their goal do we continue to be treated to their continuous repetition? It is I believe a mopping up operation now that conscientious objection by doctors who will not refer on women,and the likelihood of picketing of abortionist doctors’ surgeries are issues. Demonisation must continue so that repressive measures will be accepted. One in three people voted NO and in a proportional representational electoral system that is a significant minority. If they go too far it could affect those final seats in a 5i seat constituency.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Facing Death, Facing Life


(repost from 2011)

His father had always been a stranger, an irritable stranger with exceptional powers of intervention and comment, and an air of being disappointed about his offspring. It was shocking to lose him, it was like an unexpected hole in the universe, and the writing of “Death” upon the sky, but it did not tear Mr. Polly’s heartstrings at first so much as rouse him to a pitch of vivid attention.

(The History of Mr. Polly by H.G.Wells)


That amusing and warm hearted novel has a lot of wisdom in it. We face death by facing life otherwise it’s just a distracting mystery encompassed by either table turning or nihilism. As an old English labourer explained to me as I hacked ineffectually with my pickaxe at the obdurate ground of Hertfordshire - ‘Pat, you’ve got to put a face on the work’. I won’t reduce that piece of instruction to its complete architectonic significance but the practical import of it is that you must first create a decent hole with a face that you can prise away into the void that you have created.

((I mean by facing life that ‘face’ we hew continuously, not a Mount Rushmore face but our own.))

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Vaidya on Anupalabadhi


I spent about one and a half hours reading this interviewhindu syllogisms
and that I suppose gives me the right to comment on it. I have, so to speak, paid my way – the way of the internet savant.

I’ve said this before about Sanskrit and Sanskritism. Poetry is what is lost in translation. If a philosophical text cannot be translated it is not philosophy. Philosophy is what is retained in translation. Do you really have to know French to understand the ‘evil demon’ hypothesis? Does not knowing German put the ‘thing in itself’ out of your reach?

I went to India in 2018 to speak to some very respected Mīmāṃsā scholars who debated in Sanskrit aspects of Mīmāṃsā theory of knowledge (pramāṇa). My hope is that by talking to these learned scholars who train in Sanskrit for most of their lives from a very young age, I might figure out more about the nature of non-apprehension (anupalabadhi).

Vaidya might well have read about the non-apprehension of existence in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness pub.1943 (Chap.1:Section 2) (find the book at:
being and nothingness

I have an appointment with Pierre at four o'clock. I arrive at the cafe a quarter of an hour late. Pierre is always punctual. Will he have waited for me? I look at the room, the patrons, and I say, "He is not here." Is there an intuition of Pierre's absence, or does negation indeed enter in only with judgment? At first sight it seems absurd to speak here of intuition since to be exact there could not be an intuition of nothing and since the absence of Pierre is this nothing. Popular consciousness, however, bears witness to this intuition. Do we not say, for example, "I suddenly saw that he was not there." Is this just a matter of misplacing the negation? Let us look a little closer.
Further on in his masterly exposition:
This figure which slips constantly between my look and the solid, real objects of the cafe is precisely a perpetual disappearance; it is Pierre raising himself as nothingness on the ground of the nihilation of the cafe. So that what is offered to intuition is a flickering of nothingness; it is the nothingness of the ground, the nihilation of which summons and demands the appearance of the figure, and it is the figure-the nothingness which slips as a nothing to the surface of the ground. It serves as foundation for the judgment-"Pierre is not here." It is in fact the intuitive apprehension of a double nihilation.

There are differences to the anupalabadhi pramana but the core intuition is there. The central point of claiming anupaladhi (non-apprehension of existence) as a pramana is that it is a valid means of knowledge that cannot be reduced to any other.

I see that I have come to the end of a page which is quite enough for now. I might have more to say on Vaidya on the topic of disjunctivism (argument from illusion) later.

One thing else: the example given of anupalabadhi – ‘the pot is not on the floor’ only goes on all fours if you have the background knowledge of the universal presence of an earthen water pot on every Indian floor in olden times. Its not being there is an immediate knowledge.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

My Word


You can't possibly believe that because you've never doubted it. That is what the belief in the external world amounts to.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Last Score: The Private Life of Sir Richard Ormston by Storm Jameson (pub. 1961)


I’ve been reading two political novels by Storm Jameson (1891 - 1986). The first one was Last Score from 1961 and the second In the Second Year published in 1936. It was finished in 1935 which puts it directly contemporaneous with It couldn’t happen Here by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935. Both are about fascist takeover and while the American book was deemed to be prophetic due to Trump, because Trump, the Englishwoman’s book had its source in the very real events in Europe and mad marching Mosely in England.

Last Score is based on the E.O.K.A. insurgency in Cyprus of the late 50‘s featuring the family life of Sir Richard Ormston and his dealing with the rebels. Spying, treason, torture: that sort of thing. My feeling about Jameson is that she couldn’t write a really bad book but that due to legal concerns, certain unrealities emerge to separate the character of Ormston from the real governor of Cyprus Sir John Harding who also dealt with the Mau Mau in Kenya. That good Sir John died in great old age festooned with honours though the torture claims linger on marks the difference between a possible fiction and truth we can’t handle. The astute reader of the day would decant the novel through a muslin of irony; take the glass of whisky and leave the revolver.

The character of Sir Richard, his relationships to his wife, his son, his mother and, his lover are true to the life of a steadily climbing careful colonial administrator more usually right than wrong. Until!

His wife is the plain only daughter of a deceased merchant banker. The money was useful to advance his career but she is no good at the social side of Governorship. Mother does that.

He made an effort, smiled, and managed to reply with the gentleness and polite tolerance he rarely failed to use with her: it hid, decently, he thought, the cold purgatory of boredom his marriage had day by day become. "That depends what you mean by awful. She's a loose young woman. That's surely enough."

The ‘loose young woman’ is Sarah Ling the daughter of the newspaper publisher critical of the colonial regime. By the way Cyprus is never mentioned but a reference here and there makes the location clear.

Ormston visits the prisoner:

Frent, he learned at police headquarters, was out. An officer called Senior was on duty in his room, a big stout comfortable fellow with burnished cheeks and twinkling blue eyes, the spit of a country grocer, very reassuring. The prisoner, he said cheerfully, had been put to bed in one of the cells, he was not sure which, but the prison doctor had seen him, and if His Excellency would like to talk to that officer . . .
Ormston cut him short. "I want to see the prisoner. At once. I haven't much time."
Did he catch or imagine a trace of embarrassment on the fellow's good-humoured face? If it had been there, it vanished instantly and its place was filled by the blank pseudo-face Captain Senior kept in readiness, behind his features of a decent only slightly rascally village tradesman, for use when some important person, so important that Hector Senior should never have been left to deal with him, was behaving out of character. Deplorably out of character. What call had His Excellency the Governor to appear here, without warning, without an aide, and demand to see a man who was no longer of any interest since he had been squeezed dry? It was all very difficult. Not the least of his difficulties was marching sideways, so that he led the way without leading.

Marching sideways indeed. This is an excellent novel. Jameson can do that devilishly intricate stunt for a woman of getting into a chap’s mind. Ordinary everyday evil highly placed can inflict grievous political damage. The subtitle of the book is The Private Life of Sir Richard Ormston. Take that as the gravamen of the charge; strain the rest.

In the Second Year must be for another post. Both novels are available on archive.org in the usual formats.









Monday, 9 July 2018

Belief in God


What is it to believe in God? Let me prescind here from the consideration of the demonstration of the existence of God and instead reflect on the consciousness of the person who lives as though God existed. That life is suffused by ultimate meaning. Nothing that happens is arbitrary, there is no mewing ‘why me’?

Without method, yet most exact; without rule, yet most orderly; without reflexion, yet most profound; without skill, yet thoroughly well constructed; without effort, yet everything accomplished; and without foresight, yet nothing better suited to unexpected events. Spiritual reading with the divine action, often contains a meaning that the author never thought of. God makes use of the words and actions of others to infuse truths which might otherwise have remained hidden. If He wishes to impart light in this way, it is for the submissive soul to avail itself of this light. Every expedient of the divine action has an efficacy which always surpasses its apparent and natural virtue.
(from Abandonment to Divine Providence by Rev. J.P. de Caussade Chap.4:Section 4)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Mr. Addison, Mr. Locke, and M. Malebranche on time


Mr. Addison reflects on the words of Mr. Locke(from no.94. Vol.1. The Spectator)
Spectator
Mr. Locke (Essay: Bk.2.Chap14) observes
'That we get the Idea of Time, or Duration, by reflecting on that Train of Ideas which succeed one another in our Minds: That for this Reason, when we sleep soundly without dreaming, we have no Perception of Time, or the Length of it whilst we sleep; and that the Moment wherein we leave off to think, till the Moment we begin to think again, seems to have no distance.'
To which the Author adds,
'And so I doubt not but it would be to a waking Man, if it were possible for him to keep only one Idea in his Mind, without Variation, and the Succession of others: And we see, that one who fixes his Thoughts very intently on one thing, so as to take but little notice of the Succession of Ideas that pass in his Mind whilst he is taken up with that earnest Contemplation, lets slip out of his Account a good Part of that Duration, and thinks that Time shorter than it is.'

The idea that you can lengthen time or feel it as longer by occupying your mind on many subjects or shorten it by focussing on just one has something to recommend it. It is the experience of many people that concentrating the mind can make time fly whilst the bored flitting from topic to topic can seem to drag.

Addison mentions Enquiry after Truth(pub.1674/5)by Mallebranche published before Locke’s Essay (1690):
“That it is possible some Creatures may think Half an Hour as long as we do a thousand Years; or look upon that Space of Duration which we call a Minute, as an Hour, a Week, a Month, or an whole Age.
”(Locke’s summary)

Henri Bergson has a similar idea of the subjectivity of the flow of time. The buzzing of the wings of a bee can be very slow to an awareness working at a higher rate or like the darting of a mouse might be slow for a cat. Duration he would define differently from Locke, Addison, and Malebranche as not an extent of time measured conventionally rather the force of all that has passed impinging on the present moment. This is preserved for use and is accessed or channelled through the brain which is an organ of action.. All that is not relevant to immediate use is filtered out. When immediate action is not required as at the point of death all that was previously ignored presents itself. Bergson takes seriously the reports of their whole life passing before them of people who thought they were about to die. I would consider this panoptic capacity as the mind of a sage and an indication of a naturalistic continuum.



Jorge Luis Borges peeps through this keyhole:
From The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges:

On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror's face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I'd seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand...