Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The ratio of love

Over at Boundless, J. P. Moreland has an interesting series of articles about the nature of knowledge. SeeI don't intend to write about all of them, although they are good reading. Moreland has a number of degrees, including a PhD in Philosophy, and he keeps it all quite accessible as he provides a critique of Naturalism. I'm just using a small quote from the second article to get myself started:
To briefly review: The three major components to naturalism are 1) scientism - the belief that scientific knowledge is either the only form of knowledge or a vastly superior form of knowledge; 2) the belief that the atomic theory of matter and the theory of evolution explain all events; and 3) the belief that non-physical things don't exist and that the world isn't here for any purpose.
I used to subscribe to point one above. I still have great respect for the things science has given us. Number two I'm not addressing at the moment, and number three it seems to me piggybacks on number one too much. Some rejoinders to One and Three above, from yet another mind that's sharper than mine. Myself, I think that strong scientism is just silly - to embrace it you need to deny that things like love,justice, or beauty exist, since they can't be empirically measured. I also observe, and the reasons for this are still mysterious to me, that advocates of strong scientism are most common among naturalists. Mathematicians and Physicists may embrace scientism, but they are, it seems to me, just as likley to go for it in the weak form, acknowledging that "some claims in fields outside of science (like ethics) are rational and justified." The mind is a funny thing. Of course it fulfills the weighing, sifting and calculating that are crucial to the way science is done. It might be a mistake to jump the conclusion that that is all the mind does, however. A mistake born of seeing the mind as an isolated, detached observer. A more complete view would need to admit that a mind is not so isolated from the world it inhabits, or those it is surrounded by, and it is probably not as isolated from the other senses as we are prone to think. To understand human concepts one has to step back inside a human brain - better still, admit that no one ever left it in the first place. Then, it becomes easier. Love is a binding agent in human relations, and it takes many forms. It's tough to test for, but you'll know when it begins to go missing. Forgiveness will dry up, for example. Justice has no precise definition, but could be understood as balance. If it could be expressed in numbers it might be something like ratios between, say, 2:3 and 3:4. A power ratio disparity greater than might be said to be at risk of succumbing to the use of arbitrary power. And beauty! Well, we all know that when we see or hear it, don't we? We might make some headway with beauty if we recognize that what is beautiful is in some degree dependent on what it is that we are doing. Beauty is purpose dependent. If you want a mate, beauty will take certain forms. If you want to set a land speed record, it will take another. I am at risk here of seeming to argue that beauty is nothing more than efficiency, and that would be something quite different from what I intend. What I'm getting at is that to make sense of beauty, one needs to think in terms of teleology. Efficiency can be a very valuable concept, but if we stop there, it can lead us to actions and to things that set us back, thinking "well, that can't possibly be right." To move from efficient to beautiful, one needs to have a goal in mind, and I don't just mean the job at hand. If something is to begin an approach towards the sublime, it begins to take on a timeless appeal, apart from a job or a place, or even a particular culture. Efficiency can't pick your goals for you, and it won't lead you to the sublime. For that you need to lift your nose from the grindstone and attempt to see something so big it's near incomprehensible. For us, intangibles (and universals) are simply mysteries that we feel like the blind feel the warmth of the sun. We can apprehend them with our minds if we recognize that we lack third party omniscience, and lack independent existence. When we are comfortable in our own skin (when we grok our own ontology) and can see reflections of God inside the skins of others, we might begin to escape the cage of five senses naturalism, whose fancy name is phenomenology.

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