Proper Reduction

Reductionist explanation – as, e.g., materialism, or Marxism, or scientism, or for that matter any of the other popular conspiracy theories – is always tempting, for there is generally a grain of truth to it. That’s the only way it could be at all appealing to the questing intellect. Things being all coherent, they must all explain each other; must make sense in terms of each other. Thus may they all be viewed in terms of each other with some profit; and any accurate and adequate formalization of reality must in principle be susceptible to translation into the terms of another formalization likewise accurate and adequate. So it is that we can treat of economic transactions as all physical, and vice versa; or, likewise, treat of economic transactions, and ergo physical transactions, as all moral or aesthetic, and vice versa. We can learn all sorts of interesting and useful things by thinking in this way.  

But where such reductionist explanation is taken as the final word – where, i.e., such assertions as “economics is nothing but scurrying atoms” are bruited about – it is inadequate to the explication of the whole truth in almost all cases. Whenever you hear “x is nothing but y,” cast an especially jaundiced eye. For, no finite set of causes can exhaustively account for all the infinitely many true statements we could form about any subject. And in the final analysis, nature cannot explain itself.

Thus there is really but one factor to which we may reduce any phenomenon with complete adequacy: God.

11 thoughts on “Proper Reduction

  1. This is a great post and I hope there are more to come.

    A while back you wrote about the real limits on thought. Unfortunately I don’t remember the context or whether it was a full post or throw away comment. It was not ‘don’t trust your thoughts’ type counsel, but ‘know what thinking is’. And was in reference to some conundrum you did not yet know how to think about. There was intimation that if one part or one instance of the problem could be understood, then whatever was universal in the part or instance contained what was universal in the whole conundrum and could be taken to stand for it in the interim. I thought you intended to articulate a method of dealing with intractability, not necessarily using an overt mathematical or logical approach. I got a definite sense you understood an intentional offset, detour (or in reference to the current post, reduction) to be almost obligatory to gain a purchase on the intractable.

    • Thanks, J. I can’t tell from your description which post you are trying to remember — there are so many conundra I don’t yet quite know how to think about! It sounds interesting, though, and I’m curious to find out what I was thinking at the time. Can you offer any more clues?

  2. I went thru my notes and reckon it was not before I first noticed the word ‘misology’, I don’t know where I read it, but made a note of it on 12th June. I made quite a few notes on your posts between ‘Leave the Dead to Bury the Dead’ in early April to ‘Objective Reality’ in late August. A lot of ‘Bread of Heaven’ (which I do not claim to understand) is infused with it; particularly ‘knowing is participation’ and your use of the absorption of the momentum of an object by another as topologically equivalent to eating; coffee and bacon can be a foretaste of heaven etc. I have no idea about the mysteries of Christianity, but I do recognise a certain ‘truth’ that what is universal in eating bacon will contain within it ‘something’ universal about eating that is also contained mysteries conveyed by eating. (Confession: I don’t know what Eucharist actually means).

    On 17th Aug you commented in Bread of Heaven that “every moment of time was an operation in eternity…Don’t ask me yet how this works. I’ll let you know if I figure it out”. That would do for what I mean. Reading it again, I immediately start to wonder “how does he go about figuring that out? Does he think about it ‘directly’ or does he transpose it into something more tractable so that the mysteries of time do not interfere with any geniune limits there are on thought.”

    During that time I was wondering about incomplete observation, incomplete representation and partial understanding etc in a completely different context and my recollection may have conflated what I was thinking with what you wrote: Faulty recollections aside, there is something in what you write that I appreciate. Ratiocination is a Moral Operation is a cracker.

  3. Thanks again, J, I think I see now what you are asking about. I suppose I am using the method in question to understand the method in question! It will take me a few blog posts to answer, I think. Titles: Knowing as Participation, What is it Like to Partake?, Formality & Inference, What is Inference, Really?, What’s so Great about Charism?, What is it Like to Be Eternal?, maybe a few others. If I write all those I will have moved most of my troops into position for the assault on your specific question, which I have still only hazily in view. Oh, also Imago, Icon & Information.

    What is the Eucharist? It is the liturgy of the Mass, of the soma of God. It is the sacrament of the central Christian mystery, the infusion of the created order by the flux of Divine Grace. Philosophically, theologically and mystically it is inexhaustibly generous and unfathomably deep. It is an onion that gets bigger as you peel off the layers. I couldn’t finish explaining it in ten lifetimes, for it is the image of life everlasting, which shall never be completely explored. As a participation in the basic procedures of the Heavenly Court it is a synecdoche of the basic features of creaturely being. Usually translated as “thanksgiving,” it means literally “good grace.” When you say grace before eating, you infuse your meal with the form of the sacrifice of the Lamb. When you bless your food, you invoke the original blessing wherein the altar and food are sprinkled with the Blood of the Lamb (“bless,” “blood,” and “flow” stem from the same root), and the son and heir is designated and ordained by the sprinkling of his father’s blood. In giving thanksgiving for your food, and for this good land and your life, you call down the Lamb himself and ask him to be present and operative therein.

  4. I thought some and my question reduces to: What is a gain of understanding, really? And, I do like that collection of titles. The paragraph on the Eucharist is beyond my comprehension, as it is must to be: I did not see the word ‘infuse’ coming and it knocked me clean out of the saddle. And, I do get the impression you could go from knowing less about “a moment of time as an operation in eternity” to knowing more, and, your religious beliefs would be essential: they provide a gain in thinking function. Who would have thunk it? This shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Thanks again.

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