• Wallows
    6.3k


    I try and be pragmatic. I value the highest 'base reality' or reality that is undistorted, clear, and lucid as much as possible. I also value the consistency, which psychedelics strongly disrupt. I just think that the aura and lure of drugs are overrated. I don't find any sort of rituals to be of any actual significance to anyone apart to some idealized vision, which I don't share. I'm glad our shamans of the past have become more strict and logical instead of metaphysical and mystical.
  • Janus
    6.1k
    But it works both ways. What is it like to have a mind that has never been blown? :grin:

    Or if we are talking about the advantages of things being revealed, what is it like to have a mind that understands the neurochemistry? Will you ever know what you are missing?
    apokrisis

    Obviously understanding neurochemistry will broaden or simply alter your perspective; albeit in a different way than imbibing hallucinogenic substances will. So will hiking in the wilderness, studying physics, biology, mathematics, literature, history, political science, religion, as will surfing, playing or listening to music, painting and drawing. writing or reading poetry, belonging to a religion...the list of activities is endless.

    But the altered consciousness of psychedelic experience is radically different; and in fact you could even participate in most or all of the activities I listed in a mind-alteringly different way if you were tripping. So to have a mind that hasn't been blown is to have a mind that lacks a radically different perspective. There can be no advantage in that unless it were shown that having such experiences is detrimental in some way to the 'ordinary' mind; and this has certainly not been shown to be so except perhaps in a minority of people who might be adversely affected by even one experience, or those people who have over-indulged ( and even what constitutes overindulgence would differ, possibly quite extremely, from one individual to another).
  • Janus
    6.1k


    But you can only be speaking for yourself, surely? Perhaps the real visions of others, precisely because you cannot share them, appear to you as "idealized"!
  • Wallows
    6.3k


    I don't know. I think so. It's just that there's too much hype around the idea. Set and setting I guess.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    Perhaps the real visions of others, precisely because you cannot share them, appear to you as "idealized"!Janus

    Yeah, that's a slippery slope there...
  • Janus
    6.1k


    I think many of the problems ("bad trips", freaking out) arise because people ignore set and setting. Still people should not expect the experience not to be terrifying; I think that terror and letting go of it is an often essential part of what can be shown by these experiences. Anyway, perhaps we have gone well off-topic from StreetlightX's OP, and should henceforth desist.
  • Janus
    6.1k


    Are you now offering a 'slippery slope' argument?
  • Wallows
    6.3k


    If you want to continue the casual conversation, I think you'd be interested in this thread:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/3597/about-mind-altering-drugs
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    I don't find any sort of rituals to be of any actual significance to anyone apart to some idealized vision, which I don't share. I'm glad our shamans of the past have become more strict and logical instead of metaphysical and mystical.Posty McPostface

    I see @Bitter Crank made the important point in your other thread that shamans did create a guided experience. The rituals created a social framework which gave the production of an altered state its culturally useful meaning.

    So it is the opposite of trite or insubstantial hedonism. Again to connect with this thread, it was constructing the conceptual framework within which that kind of perceptual state would make complete sense.

    No different from going to church. Or an art gallery. In some general way, culture does want to frame our perceptual experience so that it has proper social meaning.

    Which is where hippies come up. There was of course some cultural authenticity in the "counter-culture" movement. There would be good reason to want to alter people's perception of their social, economic and political reality.

    LSD or pot was that sacrament. It could have been Ecstasy as it was a few decades later. Or it could have been the alcohol and cigarettes of their parent's generation. It could be EST sessions, yoga, Mozart, or the whole variety of things which are there to construct human perception in a culturally conceptualised fashion.

    Even maths and philosophy are "drugs" in this sense. We are meant to be initiated into their mysteries by shaman guides and see the world through different eyes as a result.

    So what I see as "trite" is the Romantic notion that one sees the world all by oneself, naked and simply. As if it is all about altered biology, not about social learning.

    Perception is conceptual and systematised. For humans, it is culturally constructed. And so what becomes our individual choice is whose poison do we take? What culture do we consume to become the people we will thus grow to be?

    You become wise or clear-minded by picking your influences carefully, not by altering your neurobiology or accessing a different plane of being.
  • Wallows
    6.3k


    I'm not too sure if it's a slippery slope argument or a no true Scotsman fallacy. Anyway, I'm gonna stop spamming this thread.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    Obviously understanding neurochemistry will broaden or simply alter your perspective; albeit in a different way than imbibing hallucinogenic substances will. So will hiking in the wilderness, studying physics, biology, mathematics, literature, history, political science, religion, as will surfing, playing or listening to music, painting and drawing. writing or reading poetry, belonging to a religion...the list of activities is endless.Janus

    I just posted on that. Perception depends on conception. And for humans, conception depends on intellectual systems. Even hiking qualifies as a holy sacramental activity - a socially-valued method of shaping perception - within particular cultures.

    So to have a mind that hasn't been blown is to have a mind that lacks a radically different perspective.Janus

    If that different perspective has significant value, why hasn't it become shamanistically woven into modern common experience? Has society made other choices for good reason?

    Yeah, I get the obvious answer. Drugs disrupt the smooth functioning of The Establishment. So they get suppressed. But I think it more likely that the supposed benefits are trivial.

    Society already makes a place for drugs that get you whacked. The lubricants and anaesthetics. So health risks are endorsed for rather questionable personal rewards.

    But here you are talking about a magical cognitive enhancer. If it safely worked, why wouldn't we?

    Again, maybe society does value cognitive enhancement it seems. Although probably only for the few, or of the general form that is pro-social by being pro the norm. But granting that cognitive enhancement appears to be regarded as a general social good, hasn't acid been tried and found wanting? Or at least underwhelming.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    Again to connect with this thread, it was constructing the conceptual framework within which that kind of perceptual state would make complete sense.apokrisis

    OK, so we're talking about profound spiritual experiences. Are we at the limits of what language and reason can go about in formalizing and making sense of such experiences? They seem nonsensical on face value.

    No different from going to church. Or an art gallery. In some general way, culture does want to frame our perceptual experience so that it has proper social meaning.apokrisis

    What do you mean by qualifying an experience as 'proper'?

    Even maths and philosophy are "drugs" in this sense. We are meant to be initiated into their mysteries by shaman guides and see the world through different eyes as a result.apokrisis

    Not that same kind of shamans advocating drug use, surely?

    You become wise or clear-minded by picking your influences carefully, not by altering your neurobiology or accessing a different plane of being.apokrisis

    Agreed. So, there's no escaping reality then.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    So, there's no escaping reality then.Posty McPostface

    Has anyone found it yet? :)
  • Erik
    579
    Is spirituality in its healthy form not always both "this-worldy" (immanent) and "other-worldly" (transcendent)? It seems that "this-worldly" action is always informed by "other-worldly" understanding. Even if you take Nietzsche who despised the transcendent - wasn't the value creation of the Ubermensch transcendent itself? Where did the value come from, if it wasn't in the world before the Ubermensch? It was the Ubermensch who revealed it, who made it present, and who thereby creatively changed and affirmed the fullness of the world. There is a tension here that must be maintained between the transcendent and the immanent. Plato would call it a metaxy.Agustino

    Yes, I think you're right, although as you point out the connection is contingent upon a proper understanding of transcendence. More specifically, as contrasted with an other-worldly transcendence which slanders and devalues this world in favor of an imagined future one: a la traditional Christianity. Heidegger likewise talks about the transcendence of Dasein within the world.

    So the concept of "God" is irrelevant. You can drop the word (as Nietzsche did - "God is dead") but you cannot drop the content - it just gets re-attributed to another concept. The creative action of the Ubermensch has a transcendent source, the Ubermensch reaches out beyond himself to bring what did not exist immanently into existence. So this relationship that Dasein has with Being is a relationship with something that transcends Dasein - and it is only by remembering this relationship (ie, raising up the question of Being anew) that Dasein can be authentic in his immanent actions. The immanent actions are informed by this understanding of Being.Agustino

    But wouldn't Nietzsche say that values brought forth by the Ubermensch lie completely within himself, i.e. within his own being now understood as a manifestation of nature (synonymous with will to power)? And that we'd be deluding ourselves if we attributed these to a transcendent source (pace Heidegger) which we're somehow indebted and responsive to? To me, Nietzsche and Heidegger seem to represent antithetical positions on this matter.

    If I were forced to translate the distinction between the two into traditional theological concepts then I'd say that Nietzsche is a robust atheist, or maybe a pantheist (and aren't the two ultimately the same?) whereas Heidegger would be a pan-en-theist, with Being encompassing but also transcending the entirety of beings. Speculative stuff for sure and probably best to leave those traditional concepts behind when approaching these guys, as they're laden with way too much historical/metaphysical baggage.
  • Wallows
    6.3k
    Has anyone found it yet?apokrisis

    What a strange way to approach reality, don't you think?
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    3.2k
    What a strange way to approach reality, don't you think?Posty McPostface
    See, I find thinking we know what "reality"is for me and you is a strange assumption. Everyone's reality is made up of their perceptions, so everyone's reality is different.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    However, once you start saying things like "seeing things precisely as they are" and couple this "without concepts"...schopenhauer1

    I don't think I would say 'without concepts' though; I think philosophy is inseparable from - and perhaps defined by - conceptual activity (hence Adono: 'Philosophy has no choice but to operate with concepts...'). What is at stake is how concepts are employed: what kind of use they are put to. What is being inveighed against (as per the Geuss quote) are prepared categories and pregiven positions, not 'categories' and 'positions' tout court.

    It is a mistake, I think, to invoke a radical disjunction between some beatific intellectual intuition - as though one were to occupy the position of a all-seeing God in direct, unmediated contact with 'the things themselves' - and that of a rigid systematizing in which everything fits into pre-given boxes. The point is rather - to quote Adorno again - whom everyone seems to be ignoring! - to "assure ... the non-conceptual in the concept": to let our concepts respond to the singularities of 'each thing', to capture each thing in it's distinctiveness.

    There's a biblical trope in which God counts all the stars and gives a name to each one: each treated as the singular luminescence it is. One wants to do the same with concepts.
  • Erik
    579
    Not sure if this adds anything but here's Heidegger, in typical melodramatic fashion, on the difficulty of letting something as simple as a tree be itself:

    "We stand outside science. Instead we stand before a tree in bloom, for example - and the tree stands before us. The tree faces us. The tree and we meet one another, as the tree stands there and we stand face-to-face with it. As we are in this relation of one to the other, the tree and we are. This face-to-face meeting is not, then, one of these "ideas” buzzing about in our heads. Let us stop here for a moment, as we would catch our breath before and after a leap. For that is what we are now, men who have leapt, out of the familiar realm of science and even, as we shall see, out of the realm of philosophy. And where have we leapt? Perhaps into an abyss? No! Rather, onto some firm soil. Some? No! But on that soil upon which we live and die, if we are honest with ourselves. A curious, indeed unearthly thing that we must first leap onto the soil on which we already stand. When anything so curious as this leap becomes necessary, something must have happened that gives food for thought. Judged scientifically, of course, it remains the most inconsequential thing on earth that each of us has some time stood facing a tree in bloom. After all, what of it? We come and stand, facing a tree, before it, and the tree faces, meets us. Which one is meeting here? The tree, or we? Or both? Or neither? We come and stand - just as we are, and not merely with our head or our consciousness - facing the tree in bloom, and the tree faces, meets us as the tree it is. Or did the tree anticipate us and come before us? Did the tree come first to stand and face us, so that we might come forward face-to-face with it?

    What happens here, that the tree stands there to face us, and we come to stand face-to-face with the tree? Where does this presentation take place, when we stand face-to-face before a tree in bloom? Does it by any chance take place in our heads? Of course; many things may take place in our brain when we stand on a meadow and have standing before us a blossoming tree in all its radiance and fragrance - when we perceive it. In fact we even have transforming and amplifying apparatus that can show the processes in our heads as brain currents, render them audible and retrace their course in curves. We can - of course! Is there anything modern man can not do? He can even be helpful, now and then, with what he can do. And he is helping everywhere with the best intentions. Man can - probably none of us have as yet the least premonition of what man will soon be able to do scientifically. But - to stay with our example - while science records the brain currents, what becomes of the tree in bloom? What becomes of the meadow? What becomes of the man - not the brain but the man, who may die under our hands tomorrow and be lost to us, and who at one time came to our encounter? What becomes of the face-to-face, the meeting, the seeing, the forming of the idea, in which the tree presents itself and man comes to stand face-to-face with the tree?..."
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    979


    Some random thoughts and questions (I'm not sure they'll be on topic or coherent enough, so feel free to ignore them):

    I wonder how you relate this to Aristotle's epistemology in "Posterior Analytics" or Ibn Sina's theory of God's knowledge. Or what conception of knowledge is implied by the approach you propose. What counts as knowledge?

    I find it interesting that reference to knowledge is mostly absent (although it's probably implied?) from your post and "seeing" is used instead. It makes me think if a distinction between surveying and knowing would be applicable here. In a way, "to see everything just as it is", to see everything in its singularity isn't precisely to do away with theory (and thus knowledge) altogether?

    I think that in the Aristotelian tradition knowledge is about universals. Similarly, I think that Ibn Sina held that God knows particulars in a universal way - so, they don't do away with theory. Your approach seems to be the opposite (not surprising giver your disdain for Aristotle); some kind of atomism maybe? If that's so, how is knowledge possible under this view? Or is the fact that this way of seeing does not constitute knowledge precisely what God lacks in comparison to us?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    More specifically, as contrasted with an other-worldly transcendence which slanders and devalues this world in favor of an imagined future one: a la traditional Christianity.Erik
    But this "other-worldly" transcendence is actually no transcendence at all since it is in-truth conceptualized as another immanent possibility of the world. It is actually a devaluation of transcendence. For example, Heaven is not a different world than this one, it is actually this Earth, and this nature that will be healed and lifted up. The position that the world is entirely sick, beyond redemption, is a heresy in Christianity. And even if it wasn't - another world is still a world, and therefore not transcendent. Whatever can be brought into the world as a thing or state of affairs is not transcendent. So the "other-worldly" transcendence, located in a different world, is a contradiction in terms. Transcendence is not worldly - it is not a different world. Transcendence exists at every point in the world, and in every world. It is not another thing in the world. It is not something that can be immanentized - brought into the world, captured within your hands. If it was, then it would not be transcendent. It is much more of a pervading (creative, active) quality that can be tapped into anywhere and at any time. It is what Spinoza called natura naturans, or indeed "the will to power" or whatever you want to call the active force that drives natura naturata. The will to power is self-overcoming - it is transcendence itself that shines through the world, pervades it. It is like the air that pervades the lungs.

    But wouldn't Nietzsche say that values brought forth by the Ubermensch lie completely within himself, i.e. within his own being now understood as a manifestation of nature (synonymous with will to power)?Erik
    What is the self-overcoming of the Ubermensch if not precisely this (self-)transcendence? Nietzsche merely subjectivises this transcendence but does not eliminate it. The values brought forth by the Ubermensch cannot lie completely within himself - if they did, there would be no self-overcoming, no creation of values.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I had the idea that in all of the main Christian denominations, ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’ existed as a pair - in that God is both transcendent [beyond the world] and immanent [having taken birth as Jesus Christ]. That is why I would have thought that, from a Christian perspective, the idea of the possibility of anything whatever being ‘solely immanent’ is nonsensical - it is like saying you can have mountains without valleys, left without right, up without down [to allude momentarily to Taoism]. Immanent implies transcendent and vice versa, at least from the perspective of doctrinal Christianity.

    Speaking of which - there’s a book called The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science, Peter Harrison:

    Peter Harrison provides an account of the religious foundations of scientific knowledge. He shows how the approaches to the study of nature that emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were directly informed by theological discussions about the Fall of Man and the extent to which the mind and the senses had been damaged by that primeval event. Scientific methods, he suggests, were originally devised as techniques for ameliorating the cognitive damage wrought by sin. At its inception, modern science was conceptualized as a means of recapturing the knowledge of nature that Adam had once possessed. Contrary to a widespread view that sees science emerging in conflict with religion, Harrison argues that theological considerations were of vital importance in the framing of the scientific method.

    I suspect this idea will go down like a lead balloon but I think it’s worth mentioning.
  • Erik
    579
    But this "other-worldly" transcendence is actually no transcendence at all since it is in-truth conceptualized as another immanent possibility of the world. It is actually a devaluation of transcendence. For example, Heaven is not a different world than this one, it is actually this Earth, and this nature that will be healed and lifted up. The position that the world is entirely sick, beyond redemption, is a heresy in Christianity.Agustino

    I actually like this approach, but are you suggesting that Nietzsche unfairly caricatured Christianity? That genuine Christianity - as opposed to Nietzsche's straw man - doesn't posit another "true" world in the beyond which serves to falsify and condemn this one? That Heaven and Earth will be ultimately be reconciled?

    I think his evidence is pretty compelling, with things like pride and the accumulation of power being seen as sins against God rather than natural expressions of ascending life. I assumed the "other" world for Christians was one in which the meek shall reign supreme, the proud shall be eternally punished, etc -- not exactly how things normally play out in this one. This picture has obvious consequences in and for this world, so in a certain sense you're right about the constant interplay between the two even as they're separated in thought.

    And even if it wasn't - another world is still a world, and therefore not transcendent. Whatever can be brought into the world as a thing or state of affairs is not transcendent. So the "other-worldly" transcendence, located in a different world, is a contradiction in terms. Transcendence is not worldly - it is not a different world. Transcendence exists at every point in the world, and in every world. It is not another thing in the world. It is not something that can be immanentized - brought into the world, captured within your hands. If it was, then it would not be transcendent.Agustino

    But can Christians or Muslims, for instance, have knowledge of that transcendent world beyond vague hopes and descriptions? Streets paved with gold and seventy virgins sort of stuff? Whatever paradise is, it will be another, albeit far superior world, of course, but it's one that we who are still living have little or no access to. That being the case, it's taken as an article of faith: just wait until you see what God has in store for you!

    I had a similar conversation with someone on here recently and it seemed like he was understanding "transcendence" in such a broad way as to render it indistinguishable from immanence. As mentioned in reference to Heidegger's philosophy, the two are inseparable for him and maybe even for Nietzsche - but for religious believers within Christianity and Islam (with possible exception of mystics) it seems like they're separated by a wide gulf. To repeat, Heaven in those religions is regarded as a "transcendent" world which the living are denied access to, right? That's like the sine qua non of these religions in fact, the ultimate reward promised to the faithful.

    That juxtaposition of this world with another - "how the true world became a fiction" - is what I imagine Nietzsche had in mind. Is there a different term than "other-worldly" that would better describe the supposedly perfect one? I mean, I agree with you on the transcendence/immanence relatedness in principle, but with all due respect I just don't think most religious believers would countenance this philosophical position of yours at all as it relates to their highest hopes. I'm admittedly somewhat ignorant (or even more than somewhat) of specific details, however, so I could be wrong.

    It is much more of a pervading (creative, active) quality that can be tapped into anywhere and at any time. It is what Spinoza called natura naturans, or indeed "the will to power" or whatever you want to call the active force that drives natura naturata. The will to power is self-overcoming - it is transcendence itself that shines through the world, pervades it. It is like the air that pervades the lungs.Agustino

    Again, I find this very congenial, but I also think it would be rejected, and vehemently so, by all but a very small minority of religious believers within the Judeo-Christian tradition. To my limited knowledge Spinoza's God was/is a far cry from the God of Augustine, of Aquinas, of Luther. He (or rather It) is something Nietzsche could respect, and precisely because of His immanence! This conception of God sounds a bit like the Tao, or possibly even the seemingly pantheistic Logos of Heraclitus. But to drive the point home, emphatically not the intensely personal loving and caring God of those Western religions which appeal to the "otherworldly" hopes of the faithful.

    Anyway, we've gone far afield here (apologies SX) but it's quite possible, likely even, that I'm still not grasping your attempt to collapse or reconceive the distinction between immanent and transcendent. Have another go at it if you'd like.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    I find it interesting that reference to knowledge is mostly absent (although it's probably implied?) from your post and "seeing" is used instead. It makes me think if a distinction between surveying and knowing would be applicable here. In a way, "to see everything just as it is", to see everything in its singularity isn't precisely to do away with theory (and thus knowledge) altogether?Πετροκότσυφας

    That's a good point actually, and now that I'm thinking about it, it's not by accident that I'm avoiding 'knowledge' here. As far as it goes, I'm a bit of a hybrid Wittgenstinian/Heideggarian/Sellarsian on the topic. From Wittgenstein I draw on the idea that knowledge is a not much more than a kind of regional language-game in which the ability to answer 'how do you know...?' is just the ability to respond in a certain way (where this 'response' might require, depending on the circumstances, certain standards of proof (and what counts as proof? - look to the language-game)). There's a certain sense in which, if this philosophical understanding of knowledge is accepted, then the entire field of epistemology becomes a question for anthropologists, and not for philosophers ('ditch the ladder...').

    From Heidegger (and maybe Bergson?) I take the idea that our primary relation to the 'world' (or whatever you want to call it) is not one of 'knowledge', but of a deeper, 'pre-ontological disclosure' or 'vital' (a la 'living') kind, with knowledge as a kind of (inessential) add-on or supplement to this. Finally from Sellars (and Heidegger) I take the idea that to 'know' something is always to know something as something, which means being able to place it into a conceptual web which has it's own, specific kind of dynamics (stratification into token and type, general and particular), which requires a very specific kind of learning-to-do in order to be counted as knowledge proper (again, knowledge as regional language-game).

    The 'seeing' or 'understanding' that I'm leveraging Geuss/Nietzsche/Adorno to explicate - again, now that I think about it - probably belongs more to the order to sense: it's a question of how one makes sense of a phenomenon, of understanding the kind of thing it is and of the kinds of becomings it can enter into (it's ability to affect and be affected, qua Spinoza). This kind of understanding can, I think, be codified as knowledge, can be placed into conceptual web which would make it knowledge, but does not, 'in-itself', belong to the order of knowledge.

    Deleuze in D&R speaks of a kind of 'infinite learning' that marks any encounter with a genuine problem to be thought through, which only subsequently becomes codified into 'knowledge', which by contrast "designates only the generality of concepts or the calm possession of a rule enabling solutions." Or to shift metaphors: knowledge is like a still image of movement, where the understanding I'm after can only take place in and with the movement in action. Sorry if this seems like an unholy amalgamation of uneasily fitting puzzle-pieces, but these issues lie almost exactly on the edge of what I've been conceptually struggling through lately.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    I had a discussion about exactly this with Mariner in another thread recently.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.3k
    I don't think I would say 'without concepts' though; I think philosophy is inseparable from - and perhaps defined by - conceptual activity (hence Adono: 'Philosophy has no choice but to operate with concepts...'). What is at stake is how concepts are employed: what kind of use they are put to. What is being inveighed against (as per the Geuss quote) are prepared categories and pregiven positions, not 'categories' and 'positions' tout court.

    It is a mistake, I think, to invoke a radical disjunction between some beatific intellectual intuition - as though one were to occupy the position of a all-seeing God in direct, unmediated contact with 'the things themselves' - and that of a rigid systematizing in which everything fits into pre-given boxes. The point is rather - to quote Adorno again - whom everyone seems to be ignoring! - to "assure ... the non-conceptual in the concept": to let our concepts respond to the singularities of 'each thing', to capture each thing in it's distinctiveness.

    There's a biblical trope in which God counts all the stars and gives a name to each one: each treated as the singular luminescence it is. One wants to do the same with concepts.
    StreetlightX


    Have you ever read any Whitehead? I think @apokrisis would blow a gasket that I even recommended him. But, he seemed to develop a philosophy of direct experience, or at least developed a vocabulary to talk about such things meaningfully. Would this be the direction you would are going down?

    From Whitehead quoted in SEP: An object is an ingredient in the character of some event. In fact the character of an event is nothing but the objects which are ingredient in it and the ways in which those objects make their ingression into the event. Thus the theory of objects is the theory of the comparison of events. Events are only comparable because they body forth permanences. We are comparing objects in events whenever we can say, ‘There it is again.’ Objects are the elements in nature which can ‘be again.’ (1920, 143-4)[/quote]

    fixed scientific cosmology which presupposes the ultimate fact of an irreducible brute matter, or material, spread through space in a flux of configurations. In itself such a material is senseless, valueless, purposeless. It just does what it does do, following a fixed routine imposed by external relations which do not spring from the nature of its being. It is this assumption that I call ‘scientific materialism.’ Also it is an assumption which I shall challenge as being entirely unsuited to the scientific situation at which we have now arrived. (1925, 22)

    The basic units of becoming for Whitehead are “actual occasions.” Actual occasions are “drops of experience,” and relate to the world into which they are emerging by “feeling” that relatedness and translating it into the occasion’s concrete reality. When first encountered, this mode of expression is likely to seem peculiar if not downright outrageous. One thing to note here is that Whitehead is not talking about any sort of high-level cognition. When he speaks of “feeling” he means an immediacy of concrete relatedness that is vastly different from any sort of “knowing,” yet which exists on a relational spectrum where cognitive modes can emerge from sufficiently complex collections of occasions that interrelate within a systematic whole. Also, feeling is a far more basic form of relatedness than can be represented by formal algebraic or geometrical schemata. These latter are intrinsically abstract, and to take them as basic would be to commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. But feeling is not abstract. Rather, it is the first and most concrete manifestation of an occasion’s relational engagement with reality.

    This focus on concrete modes of relatedness is essential because an actual occasion is itself a coming into being of the concrete. The nature of this “concrescence,” using Whitehead’s term, is a matter of the occasion’s creatively internalizing its relatedness to the rest of the world by feeling that world, and in turn uniquely expressing its concreteness through its extensive connectedness with that world. Thus an electron in a field of forces “feels” the electrical charges acting upon it, and translates this “experience” into its own electronic modes of concreteness. Only later do we schematize these relations with the abstract algebraic and geometrical forms of physical science. For the electron, the interaction is irreducibly concrete.

    Actual occasions are fundamentally atomic in character, which leads to the next interpretive difficulty. In his previous works, events were essentially extended and continuous. And when Whitehead speaks of an “event” in PR without any other qualifying adjectives, he still means the extensive variety found in his earlier works (PR 73). But PR deals with a different set of problems from that previous triad, and it cannot take such continuity for granted. For one thing, Whitehead treats Zeno's Paradoxes very seriously and argues that one cannot resolve these paradoxes if one starts from the assumption of continuity, because it is then impossible to make sense of anything coming immediately before or immediately after anything else. Between any two points of a continuum such as the real number line there are an infinite number of other points, thus rendering the concept of the “next” point meaningless. But it is precisely this concept of the “next occasion” that Whitehead requires to render intelligible the relational structures of his metaphysics. If there are infinitely many occasions between any two occasions, even ones that are nominally “close” together, then it becomes impossible to say how it is that later occasions feel their predecessors – there is an unbounded infinity of other occasions intervening in such influences, and changing it in what are now undeterminable ways. Therefore, Whitehead argued, continuity is not something which is “given;” rather it is something which is achieved. Each occasion makes itself continuous with its past in the manner in which it feels that past and creatively incorporates the past into its own concrescence, its coming into being.

    Thus, Whitehead argues against the “continuity of becoming” and in favor of the “becoming of continuity” (PR 68 – 9). Occasions become atomically, but once they have become they incorporate themselves into the continuity of the universe by feeling the concreteness of what has come before and making that concreteness a part of the occasion’s own internal makeup. The continuity of space and durations in Whitehead’s earlier triad does not conflict with his metaphysical atomism, because those earlier works were dealing with physical nature in which continuity has already come into being, while PR is dealing with relational structures that are logically and metaphysically prior to nature.
    — IEP
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    but are you suggesting that Nietzsche unfairly caricatured Christianity?Erik
    Yes, more or less, this is exactly what I think. Nietzsche painted a fair picture of the popular Christianity in his day and age, but certainly not a historically accurate picture, nor an accurate picture of what Christianity actually is (instead of what people THINK it is). Kierkegaard has much the same criticisms of Christianity that Nietzsche does, of course phrased somewhat differently. But it's true that the Christianity of the 19th century was fake, by and large, and no longer authentic.

    That genuine Christianity - as opposed to Nietzsche's straw man - doesn't posit another "true" world in the beyond which serves to falsify and condemn this one?Erik
    Yes, I don't think it does. The world is essential to Christianity, human beings were created to be co-creators along with God. The purpose of man is to harmoniously guard and continue the creative process initiated by God. That cannot be world-denying as some forms of Buddhism are for example. (although, to be fair, no religion could exist without world-affirming elements).

    I think his evidence that it does is pretty compelling, with things like pride and the accumulation of power being seen as sins against God rather than as natural expressions of ascending life. I assumed the other world for Christians is one where the meek shall reign supreme and the proud shall be eternally punished.Erik
    Okay, I see what you mean, but I think this is misinterpreting the Christian message. Pride in Christianity represents the sin committed by Lucifer and human beings in rebelling against the will of God, and putting their own selfish will above God's. This is seeking to dominate other beings and twist them to one's own will, instead of protecting them and contributing harmoniously to the creative unfolding of existence. In a way, pride is exactly what prevents one from being open to the call of Being, and leads one to remain caught up in the calculative, instrumental mode of thinking so characteristic of our world today.

    But, this kind of pride isn't the same thing as the self-confidence and self-mastery Nietzsche was talking about by using the word pride. Indeed, the Apostles themselves displayed this sort of self-confidence and self-mastery when they went to their death for their faith, unflinchingly. And most of the greatest Christian thinkers (such as Aquinas) have never concluded that the accumulation of power is an evil. They would say that power, just like everything else, comes from God, and he who is given a lot of power, has a lot of responsibility to use it to do God's will. So becoming powerful is a good thing, so long as this power is used for good.

    That Heaven and Earth will be ultimately be reconciled?Erik
    This is the entire point of Christianity...


    But can Christians or Muslims, for instance, have knowledge of that transcendent world beyond vague hopes and descriptions?Erik
    There is no transcendent world. Heaven is not separate from the world. Human beings lived on the Earth before the Fall, and that was Heaven. It was human beings who made it (this same world) not Heaven. And similarly, at one point this world will again be Heaven (that is God's promise).

    To repeat, Heaven in those religions is regarded as a "transcendent" world which the living are denied access to, right? That's like the sine qua non of these religions, the ultimate promise to the faithful.Erik
    Were Adam & Eve before the Fall "living"? Will Heaven and Earth be united in the end? If so, then the living are not denied access to Heaven. In addition to that, the process of theosis (or divinization) occurs while someone is part of the world. Not to mention that Christianity talks of a bodily resurrection... So someone can be both divine and part of the world, again, suggesting that there is no conflict between the world and Heaven. There is also no devaluation of the body.

    I just don't think most religious believers would countenance this philosophical position of yours at all as it relates to their highest hopes.Erik
    Most religious believers are not experts in their religion. Just like most people who listen to music aren't experts in music. Aquinas does discuss multiple levels of understanding of God, each one deeper than the previous one. There is the popular level understanding of God as a Father in the Sky, and then there are deeper levels, including that of the philosophers and that of the mystics.

    So to get back to the point, why should it be a concern for me that most religious believers would not agree with my position? Does not having majority agreement make me wrong? Should that even be relevant to deciding what Christianity actually teaches?
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    Have you ever read any Whitehead?schopenhauer1

    I'm somewhat familiar with Whitehead, more through secondary readings than any actual engagement with his own work. His vocabulary is forebording though, and I've put off properly studying him until I can devote the time to properly trying to digest it. Alot of what he says seems very congenial to me though, from the small bits I've gleaned here and there.
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