Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds

This post supervenes my recent post On Some Happy Corollaries of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems (so you might want to review that post, and the earlier posts it cites in turn, in order to find yourself quite oriented in what follows (sorry, dear reader: not everything is TLDR)).

There is much talk in traditional cosmology of a stack of heavens above our own, and likewise of hells below. The hierarchy of angelic choirs echoes that stack. Most pagan pantheons feature such hierarchies of gods, with a Most High God above all gods, whom they worship, and who lives in the Highest Heaven which is above all the heavens. There is talk too of other worlds parallel to our own (such, e.g., as Jotunheim in the mythic scheme of the Vikings), that might communicate with each other (as at Ragnarok, when the giants of Jotunheim make war upon the men of Middle Earth and the gods of Asgard), so as to form a world of worlds.

That sort of talk struck me at first as fantastic, and so relatively irreal – despite its irresistible odor of concrete factuality, and its ubiquity in the traditions of Earth, and thus its uncanny tinct of credibility. There is also the difficulty that there is a certain beauty in the notion, that cannot be found in the flat idea that our world (however generously conceived (as with the various sorts of branching cosmoi proposed by this or that metacosmology)) is all there is. Then at last there is the ancient conviction of the Great Chain of Being, no link of which might be concretely missing if any part of the chain were to find concrete instantiation.

Paul speaks of being caught up to the Third Heaven, to be sure. And given his background as a dour and radical critic of the Christian revelation, a persecutor who was doing his damnedest to kill as many Christians as he could, his account bears some weight of credibility. Paul did not want to become a Christian. On the contrary. He had dedicated his whole life to destroying the cult of Jesus. And he had a terrific education, both Greek and Hebrew. No more perfect skeptic can be imagined. So, yeah, there’s that. He’s a formidable mind, not easily swayed by flim flam or flummery. But I mean, come on, right? Who goes to another world? Probably Paul was recounting some phantasm, which might have been true in some sense, maybe. But still it was an hallucination, right?

On the other hand, this is Saint Paul we are talking about; the guy who – like many other Christians of his era, and ever since – went willingly to his death on the conviction that his experiences of a nature superior to our own were *totally reliable.* Paul *knew* he was right. There was not a jot of doubt in his mind about what he had witnessed. His only doubts were about his own adequacy to the reality he had seen. If we are going to jettison Paul’s account of his ascent – sparse though it be – then we are going to have to jettison Paul entirely.

Now, I have had such experiences. Whether they were like the experiences of Paul, I cannot of course tell; he is too cagey about them, and so for good reason shall I ever be. But, I can say certainly that they were not of this world. It’s the other way round: of their reality, this world is a smoke and a shadow, a vague and partial manifestation. I cannot more precisely characterize them without hazard of falling into impiety; without, i.e., introducing untoward noise of Earthly language, that confused, and so profaned. Better to be rather too vague than to strain at an impossible precision. But here’s the thing: there is no question in my mind that what I in them suffered was orders of magnitude more reliable and true than any of my quotidian experiences – and what is much more, far more valuable than all Earthly life. To repudiate them for the sake of my life here below – or, a fortiori, for the sake of a philosophical scheme founded only upon considerations and evidence arising strictly from within our own parochial cosmos – would be like selling my patrimony for a mess of pottage.

Still, as to the reality of other worlds from a purely philosophical perspective – as distinct from the massively empirical perspective of my own life – I held all that in abeyance, and in no little tension, for many years, until I read JR Lucas on Gödel. Then only did I begin slowly to see just how those supernal worlds I had without possibility of doubt certainly tasted could be understood to be as concretely real as our own – or even, as saints and philosophers from Plato to Lewis have insisted, far more real.

In his The Freedom of the Will, Lucas notices that a true Theory of Everything in our cosmos [a TOE] – an exhaustively comprehensive logical calculus that, implemented as an algorithm, would generate from this or that set of causal inputs a set of outcomes consistent with what we actually observe from the inputs we have ourselves generated experimentally – would have to be consistent – would, i.e., have to be incapable of expressing contradictions in its own terms, so that it could be a coherent and intelligible theory in the first place. It would, what is far more, have to be logically complete, so as to be a TOE: it would need to be able to demonstrate in its own terms all the truths it was capable of expressing. He reminds us then that Gödel has demonstrated forever that any such consistent and complete logical calculus is logically impossible: any logical calculus that is competent to express at least the truths of basic arithmetic consistently is able to express true propositions that cannot be demonstrated under its own terms.

E.g., the proposition, “this theory is a TOE.” No TOE can explain itself. For, that would amount to circular reasoning. So, no consistent and complete TOE is possible.

Thus the project of empirical science cannot ever be completed; for, no system of natural law that specifies the order of our cosmos can be completed, by any agent whose own acts are ordered only by that system of laws. The same goes for any agents of any cosmos. Any TOE in our own cosmos – or in any other – would stand in need of completion by some theory supersidiary thereto, competent to demonstrate the truth of the propositions that its subsidiary logical calculi could truly express, but could not on their own terms demonstrate.

Now, the first most important consequence of all this is that there can be no complete account of our cosmos that does not recur to some supernature. On Gödel, *any* consistent TOE of our cosmos has no option – if it is to be completed – but to recur for demonstrative support to superordinate logical calculi – which themselves, being like the logical calculus of our cosmos incomplete in their own terms, implicitly invoke mundane domains supersidiary to their own. And this is just as true for the logical calculi of all such superdomains as it is of the logical calculus of our own (which, to be sure, I do not at all doubt is out there, nomologically operant at and upon and indeed within every occasion of our cosmos (so that mutatis mutandis we get a cosmos, together with all her subsidiary worlds, such as those of our own lives)).

So much for philosophical naturalism. It’s dead. Indeed, it was stillborn. It was never possible in the first place.

Excursus: I note in passing a delicious consequence and concordance of grammar. NB first that linguistic grammar is just as indicative and so just as dispositive of reality as any other kind of item among our empirical data. For, the grammar of language is but a department and derivate of the grammar of being. Where language (however we define it) and reality disagree, no social life – which is to say, no life of any sort (for life of every sort is social) – can for long (for, i.e., more than a few iterations (sc., the game of Telephone)) hang together (Telephone is hilarious; is all humor somehow telephonic?). Our traditional linguistic grammar is the survivor of countless tests against the grammar of reality. So, linguistic grammar is just a sort and index of the ontological grammar that informs it, and that it then (by our daily offices) informs. Linguistic grammar, then – albeit, only of the most traditional, the most tested sort – is a reliable and veritable index of truth.

An aside – an excursus within an excursus – the grammatical relation of subject to object is basic, not just to speech, not just to thought, but to being, and to becoming. “Doctrines” that purport to transcend it end only by supporting it, and so repudiating themselves; for they all depend upon it, and cannot be expressed other than in its terms. This is why the veritable mystical insights of such disciplines as most schools of Vedanta (excepting dvaitadvaita) must be expressed in a language that radically controverts their nondual metaphysics, which deny the reality of the subject and the object of experience (dvaitadvaita accords with the traditional grammar of all languages). Their exponents cannot make sense of them under the terms of any language to which they might revert; on the contrary, given any language, the metaphysical doctrines of such schools are absurd. They are, rather, reduced to asserting that there is no such thing as sense to be made, or anyone to make it.

I exaggerate a bit perhaps – Perennialists have labored mightily, and not altogether unsuccessfully, to explain nondual metaphysics in such a way as to reconcile them to our experience – but really it boils down to not much more. Carried to its ultimate implication, apophasy as of the most strict Buddhism and Vedanta is absolute ignorance. It is not after all even possible to propose apophasy other than by some cataphatic act. This is as much as to say that pure apophasy is not possible; and that is as much as to say that non-being is not possible.

Ditto for diction. Words pick out reals, or else mislead us toward our doom. Thus the crucial importance of the Confucian Rectification of Names: of the primordial office of Adam, in virtue of which he was before the Fall charged with the duty of naming his fellow creatures, and so of discerning among them according to their characters.

Consider then (as again a tangent) the enormity of the SJW sinistrification of names. It’s Babel all over again, amped up to a whole new level. God save us.

Here then is the lovely consequence of concord between “merely” (tace, you nominalists) linguistic grammar and the grammar of being: a superdomain of some domain ordered according to a logical calculus is the realm of a superdominion. It is a lordship, with – as grammar would indicate – a lord.

Note then that the Dominions, or Dominations, are, of course, a choir of angels.

That all seems rather recondite and abstract, until you get to this: in every one of its moments, our world concretely expresses a logical system of natural law that, as consistent (so that the world can hang together coherently), cannot be complete in itself, and so must have been derived from and inhabit some more spacious and more competent system of law supersidiary to its own; some system of supersidiary law, i.e., that characterized and ordered a supersidiary and environing actual world.

An actual world, supersidiary to our own, that environs and so orders all the occasions of our cosmos?

Sure.

Propositions of any logical calculus superordinate to that of our own world could not after all of themselves exert nomological, ordering causal power. For that, their concrete angelic instantiations are needed: an utterly abstract, totally ideal idea is not itself alone a mover; no agent, no agency; so, no motion of any sort. An equation on the page is inert. It is a record of action, and a proposal thereto, but not a motive or urge thereof. It arrived on the page in the first place only because men noticed that it formalized what they had experienced as a regular motive or urge to action in fact, and so as an order of that action. The formalization of a natural law is then but one of its relicts, and fossils. The law itself is ontologically active only insofar as it characterizes the regular action of concrete actors.

The clear implication: the natural law of our cosmos is active only insofar as our cosmos is a department of some other more expansive cosmos, of which the natural law of our own is but a sort or subdepartment.

So much for the prolegomena. Now perhaps we are ready to address the meat of this topic (I hope that comments here will indicate whether we are indeed ready), which I hope shall sufficiently elucidate why the notion it proposes, of a stack of actual worlds, has been for me a philosophical skeleton key. But that meat I shall save for a subsequent post.

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Afterword: That the logical calculi internal to this cosmos are inadequate to reality in its fullness is indicated by the absolute inadequacy even of relatively inconsistent (and therefore possibly complete) natural language to the description of mystical experience – a shortcoming of all words that all genuine mystics have insisted cannot be overcome (even when they have gone ahead and tried to describe their mystical experiences). The inadequacy of all words to mystical fact is reflected in the caveat urged by all religious thinkers, that we cannot take the terms of religious language to mean quite the same things they normally denote. And it is only fair to admit that Perennialist apologiae for traditional nondual metaphysics have urged the same caution.

28 thoughts on “Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds

  1. For, the grammar of language is but a department and derivate of the grammar of being

    That’s what language would like you to believe.

    the grammatical relation of subject to object is basic, not just to speech, not just to thought, but to being, and to becoming. “Doctrines” that purport to transcend it end only by supporting it, and so repudiating themselves; for they all depend upon it, and cannot be expressed other than in its terms… Their exponents cannot make sense of them under the terms of any language to which they might revert; on the contrary, given any language, the metaphysical doctrines of such schools are absurd

    What a weird passage…I didn’t think it was possible to be aware of nonduality and also in denial of it, but somehow you manage.

    Of course nonduality seems absurd from a dualist perspective; what would you expect? Absurdity, properly employed, is a tool for achieving nondual insight, that’s sort of how Zen koans are supposed to work.

    In my experience, a close acquaintance with Gödel brings with it a sense of the limitations of language, and a desire to see beyond them, but YMMV.

    • For, the grammar of language is but a department and derivate of the grammar of being …

      That’s what language would like you to believe.

      That’s what language would like *you* to believe.

      You see the problem with your linguistic critique of language, right? It redounds: I can throw it right back at whatever belief you cherish, to equal effect; including the belief that language misleads us about reality. What is more, the critique of language can be accomplished only by way of language. The critique of language entails a critique of critique per se. This, in just the way that the postmodern critique of truth entails the postmodern critique of the truth of the postmodern critique of truth. That way is omphaloskepsis, all the way down. And I do mean down.

      I didn’t think it was possible to be aware of nonduality and also in denial of it, but somehow you manage.

      I manage it the same way I do with square circles. I wager that you, too, are able to manage in that way, when it serves your purposes.

      Of course nonduality seems absurd from a dualist perspective; what would you expect?

      The only way to obtain a perspective in the first place is dually. No subject → no perspective thereof; no reference → no referential frame. The only way to obtain a seeming is by way of a subject, to whom objects can seem one way or another, and an object, that can seem one way or another.

      Thus the only way to arrive at a notion of nonduality is by way of duality. Nonduality supervenes duality in grammar, just as it does in being.

      … that’s sort of how Zen koans are supposed to work.

      As with the mountain: first, there is the relation of subject to object; then, there is no relation of subject to object; then, there is the relation of subject to object.

      You are stuck in advaita, the second phase. Your tea cup is full of it. Eventually, you may graduate to dvaitadvaita, the third and final phase. Then you’ll be able to empty out and just see.

      Gödel does indeed demonstrate the limits of language. No limit, no language. Language per se picks out differences; so it is a tool for specifying and naming limits. There can be no surprise then in the discovery that language itself is limited (Gödel arrived many millennia after man figured out that language had limits; jokes are such discoveries). The question is whether it is used to do so properly, or not. Understanding the limits of your tool, you have a good shot at using it rightly, so that you do not ruin it along with the work you were trying to do with it.

      • What is more, the critique of language can be accomplished only by way of language. The critique of language entails a critique of critique per se. This, in just the way that the postmodern critique of truth entails the postmodern critique of the truth of the postmodern critique of truth.

        Yes…so what? This is just the way things are, like it or not. Postmodernism did not invent the inadequacy of language; you can find that expressed in the Tao Te Ching.

        Thus the only way to arrive at a notion of nonduality is by way of duality. Nonduality supervenes duality in grammar, just as it does in being.

        I wouldn’t argue with the first sentence of that; but I don’t understand the second one. What do you mean by “supervenes”?

        As with the mountain: first, there is the relation of subject to object; then, there is no relation of subject to object; then, there is the relation of subject to object…You are stuck in __advaita__, the second phase.

        Not sure why you would say that, I don’t feel the least bit stuck in nonduality, which would make it difficult to function.

        Gödel does indeed demonstrate the limits of language. No limit, no language. Language per se picks out differences; so it is a tool for specifying and naming limits. … The question is whether it is used to do so properly, or not.

        I have been holding my tongue here about the various bad interpretations of Gödel circulating around here. Allow me to offer my own – one thing Gödel showed is that you can’t legislate the “proper” use of representation; it always comes back to bite you on the ass.

      • … one thing Gödel showed is that you can’t legislate the “proper” use of representation; it always comes back to bite you on the ass.

        You just bit your own ass.

        Nobody had here yet mentioned legislation as to the proper use of language. That you think in those terms bewrays your adherence to the Leftist – and, I might add, fundamentally illiberal (but when has contradiction among its doctrines ever troubled the Left?) – notion of political correctness in speech. Not that we would ever blithely support utterly Free Speech at all costs. But we can well see that tyrants are ever wont above almost everything to ensure that nobody ever says or hears any news that might sap their Establishment Narrative, such as the one that your ilk supports. No tyrants want any little boys giving public voice to the obvious fact of their nakedness.

        If you honestly believe that no one can have any idea whether anyone is using language properly, why then you believe also by a straightforward implication that there is no way to use language improperly, either. Propriety and impropriety in the use of language then are just empty categories. If it is not possible to be good, then neither is it possible to be bad; so that you are not in a position to say that I am wrong in anything I say. But it gets worse, for in that case, nothing you or anyone else might say can be treated as an intelligible statement. Every statement is, in that case, just noise. For, when there is no way to say anything wrong, nothing anyone can say can be right, either. When no statement can be correct, all statements must be devoid of information – including the statement that all statements must be devoid of information. Which raises the question: why is not your silence preferable to your noises? If you believe it is impossible for you to make sense, why not be quiet?

        Proper representation – signal of any sort, as distinct from improper representation, which is only noise – is discernible only within and by means of some consistent logical calculus, in respect to which facts (of gesture and statement, here particularly pertinent) may be tested, and so interpreted. In a nutshell: signal is Gödel consistent, while noise is Gödel inconsistent; so we can ascertain the propriety of a representation by its consistency. But because no logical calculus can alone test – can, that is, demonstrate – all the truths it is capable of expressing – so that the discernment of such truths cannot be known to be certain under its own terms – that discernment supervenes, and can proceed only upon, Gödelian completion, which no one consistent logical calculus can achieve.

        But here’s the thing: the only way that it could be possible for any mind to ascertain the truth of a statement expressed in the terms of a logical calculus that cannot be demonstrated thereby is if completion has been achieved *somehow or other.* And it doesn’t work to just jump up a level in the stack of logical calculi in order to complete one of its subsidiaries, for no such level is itself complete. Jumping up a level just kicks the can of completion up another level. The completion we need cannot be achieved by any finite stack of logical calculi; and the fact that *all* logical calculi are incomplete, and therefore each presuppose a supersidiary calculus, means that the stack of logical calculi must be infinite.

        Thus the whole infinite stack of logical calculi must be complete, if it is to be possible to ascertain the truth of any statement in any logical calculus.

        Postmodernism did not invent the inadequacy of language; you can find that expressed in the Tao Te Ching.

        As I wrote in the Afterword to the post:

        That the logical calculi internal to this cosmos are inadequate to reality in its fullness is indicated by the absolute inadequacy even of relatively inconsistent (and therefore possibly complete) natural language to the description of mystical experience – a shortcoming of all words that all genuine mystics have insisted cannot be overcome …

        Notwithstanding that, it is one thing to discern the limits of the proper domains of languages, and it is quite another to propose that there are no such domains. The latter proposition is implicit in the suggestion that the linguistic grammar of subject and object misleads us about the character of reality. It cannot be proposed except by means of the very languages it deplores as radically and essentially wrong. It bites its own ass.

        What do you mean by “supervenes”?

        Literally: super, above + venire, to come. In philosophical usage, y supervenes x when y follows, or presupposes, or is entailed by, or is a consequence or feature of x. Most philosophers of mind presuppose, e.g., that phenomenal experience supervenes neurochemistry. They presuppose, i.e., that neurochemistry is basic to phenomenal experience. We can say equivalently that neurochemistry subvenes phenomenal experience.

        So, when I say that, “Nonduality supervenes duality in grammar, just as it does in being,” I mean that it is not possible to assume or propose a nondual perspective in language except by virtue of a prior implicit presupposition that the duality of grammar is veridical – that, i.e., it is true that there are subjects and objects. The use of language presupposes its usefulness. Thus, you can’t be a nondualist unless you are first a dualist. This is manifest in the term ‘nondual perspective:’ perspectives are possible only to subjects vis-à-vis objects. Indeed, it is manifest even in the term ‘nondual,’ which is a modification of ‘dual.’

      • Nobody had here yet mentioned legislation as to the proper use of language. That you think in those terms bewrays your adherence to the Leftist … notion of political correctness in speech…. But we can well see that tyrants are ever wont above almost everything to ensure that nobody ever says or hears any news that might sap their Establishment Narrative,

        That’s an awfully big leap from what was a metaphorical use of “legislate”. Calm down and take a deep breath, nobody is legislating anything. (At the present political moment it seems to be the right who are trying to use actual legislation to ban ideas they don’t like; but that has nothing to do with what we are talking about).

        If you honestly believe that no one can have any idea whether anyone is using language properly, why then you believe also by a straightforward implication that there is no way to use language improperly, either.

        Again, not really relevant to what we are talking about, but real language use is always in a social context and that context does provide standards for what is considered proper or not.

        Proper representation – signal of any sort, as distinct from improper representation, which is only noise – is discernible only within and by means of some consistent logical calculus, in respect to which facts (of gesture and statement, here particularly pertinent) may be tested, and so interpreted. In a nutshell: signal is Gödel consistent, while noise is Gödel inconsistent;

        Sorry, you have no idea what you are talking about. I can’t even begin to untangle the confusions, and you probably wouldn’t listen in any case. Funny how you are preaching propriety in language while mangling the language of mathematics. Since I am apparently a epistemological anarchist, all I can say is, you are free to do so, and I’m free to ignore it.

        Notwithstanding that, it is one thing to discern the limits of the proper domains of languages, and it is quite another to propose that there are no such domains.

        I didn’t say that.

        The latter proposition is implicit in the suggestion that the linguistic grammar of subject and object misleads us about the character of reality.

        I don’t think I said that either, although it’s a bit closer to something I might say.

        You seem to be under a misapprehension that reality is either dual or nondual, and nondualism is a denial of the reality of distinctions and duality. It’s not, because that is itself a form of dualism. Nonduality is a view, as is duality.

        It cannot be proposed except by means of the very languages it deplores as radically and essentially wrong. It bites its own ass.

        Of course, language can be used to point to realms beyond language. This is not news. Language is not “radically and essentially wrong”, it is a tool. Unless you refuse to recognize its limitations, in which case it becomes a prison.

        Literally: __super__, above + __venire__, to come. In philosophical usage, y supervenes x when y follows, or presupposes, or is entailed by, or is a consequence or feature of x.

        Those are all very different things, and using a single word to mean all of them sounds like going off the rails before even leaving the station. And if you have to have a term like that, “x is prior to y” is probably better, for a bunch of reasons. That word also has its pitfalls but it least it is clear.

        You are claiming that duality is prior to nonduality, because we can’t talk about either of them without the duality of grammar. That just seems wrong, and not just by my intuition but by all mythology and scripture. You’ve read the Tao Te Ching so you know what I’m talking about. “The nameless is the beginning of the ten thousand things”. And yes, it’s using language to talk about that which is beyond language. It contradicts itself by giving a name to the nameless.

        It’s kind of dumb to try to argue someone into a Taoistic or nondual viewpoint, so to the extent that I am, I’m going to stop. See it if you wish.

      • That’s an awfully big leap from what was a metaphorical use of “legislate.”

        I take you to mean what you write. If you meant something like “determine,” or “ascertain,” or “decide,” or “discern,” it would have been apt to use one of those terms. At any rate, most enforcement of PC is not first legal in character, but rather just social, even though it often ends in legal procedures: dismissals, lawsuits, seizures, elections, disciplinary actions, and so forth.

        At the present political moment it seems to be the Right who are trying to use actual legislation to ban ideas they don’t like; but that has nothing to do with what we are talking about.

        Sir, you are projecting. That a couple laws have been passed against the promulgation of Critical Race Theory by government institutions is a feeble reaction to the pervasive, and often coercive, promotion of Critical Race Theory by almost all government institutions. The Left is everywhere legislating – legally enforcing the promulgation of – Critical Race Theory. Laws forbidding the promulgation by the government of this or that notion are sure to be struck down by the Supreme Court, eventually – unless those notions are Leftist.

        … real language use is always in a social context and that context does provide standards for what is considered proper or not.

        So society *can* “legislate” the proper use of language after all.

        Sorry, you have no idea what you are talking about. I can’t even begin to untangle the confusions, and you probably wouldn’t listen in any case. Funny how you are preaching propriety in language while mangling the language of mathematics.

        I’d be the first to admit that I am neither a mathematician, nor a logician, nor a philosopher of mathematics. What is more, in the passage you here deplore, I was thinking out loud, working my way through a conceptual space I had not before entered, but which seemed to my lights to be unfolding in a way that made sense. It would be a great help to me for you to try to clear up my confusions. I know I am subject to them.

        I am also prone to use language idiosyncratically – albeit, not, I hope, improperly – by recourse to aetymology; to ancient meanings in older languages than English, that can tell us something about how our ancestors thought about things, and thus about the deep knowledge of the species (indeed, I try to trace terms all the way back to the PIE when I can). I often invoke those older meanings by connotation, and sometimes that might engender confusion in the reader. It is possible in the aforementioned passage that I meant to denote concepts and their relations in a way that you would find amenable to your understanding of math, even though I am using terms in a way that is not current in the discourse of modern mathematics.

        The same sort of thing happens all the time when modern readers interpret Scholastic terms to mean what modern philosophers have lately meant by them, and so badly misunderstand the Scholastic arguments. Again, likewise, many atheist arguments assault a notion of God that theists reject ab initio; so that the atheist arguments are not about theism at all, properly speaking; with the result that they are irrelevant to the topic actually at hand. It’s amazing how upset some atheists can get when I point this out.

        Anyway, without wanting to oblige you, I’d be truly and humbly interested in any attempt to untangle my confusions that you cared to present.

        You seem to be under a misapprehension that reality is either dual or nondual, and nondualism is a denial of the reality of distinctions and duality. It’s not, because that is itself a form of dualism. Nonduality is a view, as is duality.

        So nondualism affirms dualism. Makes sense!

        /snark. I think I understand what you are getting at here, and I am not unsympathetic. To deploy the sort of distinction cherished by the Scholastics: from one perspective we may truly say that reality is integral, and so constitutes a One, so that subjects are but portions and aspects of and upon that One, while from another we may truly say that reality is diverse, and constitutes a Many, so that subjects really do actually exist.

        I add only that both those perspectives are *of subjects,* and so presuppose subjects per se, and so presuppose duality in the relations of subjects and objects.

        You can’t have a perspective if you don’t exist so as to have a perspective in the first place. You can’t have a nondualist perspective except by first being a dualist in fact – i.e., in ontological act – whatever your perspective, and so that you can have a perspective. Nondualism supervenes dualism, in thought and in fact: what does not actually exist cannot have any properties, including the property of feeling as though reality is nondual.

        The One is indeed primordial to all things – that’s just theism – but it remains the case that we cannot begin our investigations other than as disparate participants in a Many. Minds must begin as themselves, and then eventually if they are lucky figure out that there is the One. At that point they may relax into just being, realizing that there is no way they may be other than as themselves.

        Of course, language can be used to point to realms beyond language. This is not news. Language is not “radically and essentially wrong,” it is a tool. Unless you refuse to recognize its limitations, in which case it becomes a prison.

        I entirely agree. Note that I did not say that language per se is radically and essentially wrong. I said that the suggestion that the linguistic grammar of subject and object misleads us about the character of reality cannot be proposed except by means of the very languages it deplores as radically and essentially wrong. Bluntly: if it is false that there are subjects and objects, then language – which presupposes that there are subjects and objects – is radically and essentially wrong about reality. My argument, on the contrary, is that it is *true* that there are subjects and objects, so that language in its presupposition of subjects and objects is radically and essentially *right* about reality.

        Literally: super, above + venire, to come. In philosophical usage, y supervenes x when y follows, or presupposes, or is entailed by, or is a consequence or feature of x.

        Those are all very different things, and using a single word to mean all of them sounds like going off the rails before even leaving the station. And if you have to have a term like that, “x is prior to y” is probably better …

        OK, whatever. So use “legislate” only when you mean legislate, right? All I was doing was reporting on the current usage of “supervene” in modern philosophical discourse, so that you could figure out what I meant by the term. Let’s just say that y supervenes x when y iff x, OK? Bear in mind that there can be any number of ways that y iff x, and “y iff x” can be used to refer to any of them. That this is so nowise vitiates the rigor or precision of “y iff x.” Likewise then for “y supervenes x.”

        Analogously, the fact that giraffes are mammals does not render the statement that giraffes are animals somehow confusing. Honestly. Calm down and take a deep breath.

        You are claiming that duality is prior to nonduality, because we can’t talk about either of them without the duality of grammar. That just seems wrong, and not just by my intuition but by all mythology and scripture. You’ve read the Tao Te Ching so you know what I’m talking about. “The nameless is the beginning of the ten thousand things.” And yes, it’s using language to talk about that which is beyond language. It contradicts itself by giving a name to the nameless.

        This is the best, meatiest thing you’ve said, and I thank you for it.

        To be clear, I am not claiming that duality is prior to nonduality because we can’t talk about either of them without the duality of grammar, but rather that the duality of grammar *even in its veridical talk of nonduality* is – as a matter of logic – a likely veridical indication of the ontological priority of nonduality, at least when it comes to any way of being that is possible to us, who are partial aspects, representations and participations of some whole that we cannot ourselves possibly encompass, and that must therefore be to us forever somewhat mysterious.

        Again, as a creature, the only way to be nondualist is to be first dual, and thus implicitly dualist. I get the impression that we don’t actually disagree on that point.

        I completely agree that it is just … well, if not wrong absolutely, at least very odd to suggest that our way of speaking about things determines their reality (tace all this postmodern New Age woo-woo nonsense about how narrative and expectation deform the real (even though they cannot but do so, at the margin (room here, and call, for more Scholastic distinctions))). I would rather suggest that over centuries of millennia the reality of things cannot but have schooled our way of speaking about them, so that if we are all of us humans accustomed to speaking about things in a certain way, there is a very good likelihood that our way of speaking is adequate to its topic at least pragmatically, and so also a very good likelihood that it is veridical.

        The Nameless YHWH who may not be named or spoken of, or in any way encompassed by any lesser than he, but who told us to call him “I am” (Exodus 3:14), is indeed the beginning of all things, and the ens realissimum. We call him the Tao, because he told us that he is the Tao (John 14:6). The Taoists and their Jesuit and Orthodox interlocutors in Peking knew at once that they were all talking about the same Tao, who is the Lógos: the Truth and the Way of all things, and their very Life. He is the Second Person of the Trinity, which is the manifestation of the Dionysian SupraPersonal Godhead.

        Dionysius insists that the SupraPersonal Godhead – the One – is prior (logically) to all actual manifestation, and that he is and can be actually manifest – that he actually is, and can be – only as the Trinity. And there are interesting numerological reasons to take trinity as necessary to the actuality of any one of the Persons, and so of the SupraPersonal Godhead. Note then that in the Trinity there is, not just duality, but trinality.

        But then, first (logically) there is unity, in the One SupraPersonal Godhead.

        So is there the One, and again also the Many (at least and at first) of the Trinity. And they are – the One and the Many – mutually implicit: no manifest Trinity, no manifestation at all, so no manifest One, so no One at all. But the One is necessarily manifest; so the Trinity is necessarily manifest. Ergo, etc. The entirety of Christian theology hangs upon these considerations.

        Both Plotinus and Moses may then be seen to derive from these considerations. Lao Tse, too; and Nimbarka.

        The Ten Thousand Things flow all from the Lógos, who is the Tao. And the Tao is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of the primordial SupraPersonal Godhead, and so also of all other things whatever.

        So, yeah, the primordial One who is prior to the Ten Thousand Things is nondual. But the One is manifest – is actually real, rather than merely formal – only as and by and in virtue of a Many: the Trinity. So, all others than the SupraPersonal Godhead are dual: are subjects, that suffer objects.

      • the pervasive, and often coercive, promotion of Critical Race Theory by almost all government institutions. The Left is everywhere legislating – legally enforcing the promulgation of – Critical Race Theory.

        I was going to berate you for spreading Fox News BS, but on consideration, you are broadly right – there is a political war happening to determine what is acceptable (or “proper” in your terms) discourse. “Critical Race Theory” as a boogey-man is an invention of the right, they have openly admitted this (see https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/the-white-panic-behind-critical-race-theory.html), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a struggle going on.

        I imagine we are on opposite sides of this fight but I don’t see much point engaging in battle here, not much chance of moving the front either way.

        I’d be the first to admit that I am neither a mathematician, nor a logician, nor a philosopher of mathematics. What is more, in the passage you here deplore, I was thinking out loud…I am also prone to use language idiosyncratically – albeit, not, I hope, improperly

        If propriety allows your idiosyncrasies, then it certainly allows me to use metaphor. Sauce for the goose.

        I don’t really mind you or anyone using mathematical concepts as metaphors, or linking them with metaphysics, or whatever. Be creative, I approve of that. The problem is thinking that because you have loosely linked your ideas to something as strong as mathematical truth, you’ve said something equally undeniable and powerful, IOW claiming the authority of proof for something which is mere metaphorical speculation.

        I’d be happy to share what I know but I’m not sure where to begin. For instance, you write:

        Proper representation – signal of any sort, as distinct from improper representation, which is only noise…signal is Gödel consistent, while noise is Gödel inconsistent

        This is “not even wrong” level, it makes no sense whatsoever. Signal and noise have technical meanings and have nothing to do with consistency. They apply to different things and are of different types. Signals are time-varying values, noise is a statistical property of a signal transducer, while consistency is an either/or property of a set of propositions. “Proper” is a moral or social term, not a mathematical term, so is meaningless in context (sometimes it is used metaphorically to create math terminology, like “proper subset”, but that has nothing to do with any sort of value judgement). And there is no such thing as “Gödel consistent”. Gödel introduced something called ω-consistency but I don’t think that’s what you mean.

        That’s just one sentence, so you see the problem. I’d be more than happy to clear up any confusion, but not sure where to start.

        I said that the suggestion that the linguistic grammar of subject and object misleads us about the character of reality cannot be proposed except by means of the very languages it deplores as radically and essentially wrong

        Yeah I get that’s what you are saying, but I don’t accept the implications that you seem to think comes along with it.

        Let’s just say that y supervenes x when y iff x, OK? Bear in mind that there can be any number of ways that y iff x, and “y iff x” can be used to refer to any of them. That this is so nowise vitiates the rigor or precision of “y iff x.” Likewise then for “y supervenes x.”

        This seems very confused, for one thing supervenience as you’ve described it is an asymmetric relationship while “iff” is symmetric (that is, x iff y implies y iff x and vice versa, or to be cute about it, (x ↔ y) ↔ (y ↔ x), where ↔ is a standard symbol for iff (highlighting its symmetry)). And “there can be any number of ways that y iff x” makes no sense at all.

        I am not claiming that duality is prior to nonduality because we can’t talk about either of them without the duality of grammar, but rather that the duality of grammar *even in its veridical talk of nonduality* is – as a matter of logic – a likely veridical indication of the ontological priority of nonduality

        I don’t see why that should be, and as I said, it goes counter to spiritual intuition. That you can’t talk about nonduality without the duality of language is obvious. It implies nothing about priority of one over the other, which itself is an entirely dualistic and somewhat silly thing to worry about.

        Again, as a creature, the only way to be nondualist is to be first dual, and thus implicitly dualist. I get the impression that we don’t actually disagree on that point.

        Yeah I’d agree. Our ordinary minds are dualist, and nondualism usually is presented as something we need to achieve through strenuous exercise (or think we do). That doesn’t mean either is prior metaphysically, it’s fully attributable to the limitations of our cognition.

        (Note that that’s Nondualism 101. In 102, you learn that “achievement” is itself dualistic, as is the separation between dual and non-dual. And in 103 you learn not to think or talk about it at all.)

        I would rather suggest that over centuries of millennia the reality of things cannot but have schooled our way of speaking about them, … there is a very good likelihood that our way of speaking is adequate to its topic at least pragmatically, and so also a very good likelihood that it is veridical.

        Oh you sweet summer child.

        Our evolved modes of cognition and speaking are indeed pragmatic, to a fault. They didn’t evolve to grasp the ultimate nature of reality, they evolved to grasp dinner. That we have taken our pragmatic abilities and learned to talk about all kinds of exotic and abstruse subjects like metaphysics is pretty wonderful, but it doesn’t imply that ultimate reality is necessarily structured like the quotidien world of subjects and objects.

        And spending time with a good collection of optical illusions should be sufficient to demonstrate that our perception is not all that veridical even when it comes to the world they have evolved to handle (inferring 3D shape from the 2D images we get on the retina, for instance).

        We call him the Tao, because he told us that he is the Tao (John 14:6).

        What you mean “we”, white man? The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

        I don’t think I want to get into a discussion of the compatibility between Christianity and Taoism – I don’t know enough. But tit seems like here’s one glaringly big difference – the Christian god is personal and the Tao is not. Seems significant! But again, this is not something I feel like arguing about.

        And they are – the One and the Many – mutually implicit

        That is a very nondual statement! I shouldn’t be surprised, because one of the tenets of nondual awareness is that you already have it.

      • If propriety allows your idiosyncrasies, then it certainly allows me to use metaphor. Sauce for the goose.

        Metaphor is OK with me. I use it all the time. I didn’t mean to say that your use of metaphor was improper per se. It’s just that in the context of your use of “legislate” it read as literal rather than metaphorical, because you were using it in a statement about current politics in the West, wherein literal attempts to legislate politically correct speech are in fact underway.

        I don’t really mind you or anyone using mathematical concepts as metaphors, or linking them with metaphysics, or whatever. Be creative, I approve of that. The problem is thinking that because you have loosely linked your ideas to something as strong as mathematical truth, you’ve said something equally undeniable and powerful, IOW claiming the authority of proof for something which is mere metaphorical speculation.

        The Lucasian argument that a naturalist TOE cannot be completed, and is therefore logically impossible, so that a supracosmic TOE (of every conceivable cosmos) is logically implicit in the intelligible order of our own cosmos (that science, philosophy, and indeed life all presuppose), is intended as a straightforward corollary of the Incompleteness Theorems. You will have to decide for yourself whether or not Lucas succeeds in showing that indeed it is. It seemed to me that he did succeed. In fact, once he pointed out that any TOE must be a consistent formal system if it is to function as an intelligible order in the first place, the conclusion seemed pretty obvious.

        The only thing I’ve thrown into the mix is the consideration that formal ideas can’t do anything to order a cosmos – cannot have an actual effect – unless they are themselves somehow actual. To me that seems obvious. A form that is not somehow actual cannot act. Where’s the difficulty?

        Proper representation – signal of any sort, as distinct from improper representation, which is only noise…signal is Gödel consistent, while noise is Gödel inconsistent …

        This is “not even wrong” level, it makes no sense whatsoever. Signal and noise have technical meanings and have nothing to do with consistency. They apply to different things and are of different types. Signals are time-varying values, noise is a statistical property of a signal transducer, while consistency is an either/or property of a set of propositions. “Proper” is a moral or social term, not a mathematical term, so is meaningless in context (sometimes it is used metaphorically to create math terminology, like “proper subset,” but that has nothing to do with any sort of value judgement). And there is no such thing as “Gödel consistent.” Gödel introduced something called ω consistency, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.

        Yeah, I was skating pretty fast in that passage. Because they can be ontologically concrete only insofar as they are encoded in time varying values like waves of sound or light, sequences of synaptic firings, or varying differentials in telephone lines, linguistic statements are themselves time varying values: it takes time to transmit any one statement from one transduction node in a circuit to the next. Brains are signal transducers, which in their trillions of signal modulations introduce to messages at least a bit of noise (if only so as to improve computational efficiency by means of approximation, or summation, or integration (or metaphor))(so that a great deal of cerebral activity must be devoted to detection and correction of noise).

        Improper representation somehow misrepresents. It therefore implicitly proposes the real truth – which is to say, the demonstrability in principle within a consistently ordered cosmos – of a proposition that is in fact contradictory to the real truth about that cosmos. So doing, it introduces inconsistency to our putative, operative model of the order of our cosmos, the logical calculus in view of which we order our acts – which for minds such as ours must be always tentative and evolving.

        Improper representation can occur at any point in an epistemic circuit, whether inbound to some transductive node (as with mirages or optical illusions, e.g.) or outbound from such a node (as with lies or bad inductions, e.g.). Improper representations increase the cost of achieving accuracy in computation, in thought, and so in act; and, thus, in society. They deform acts from what is apt to reality. The social and moral aspects of representational propriety then are derivates of the more basic propriety of representation to what is represented.

        “Proper” in the sentence then is used in its original Latin sense, as pro, for + prius, one’s own. I suppose we would express it in English by saying, “for or of the thing in itself.” Thus, e.g., it is proper to flies to have wings, and also to feel healthy and well ordered. It is improper for little boys to rip the wings off flies because their wings are proper to those flies, and the pain inflicted by the ripping is improper to those flies: a fly without wings and in pain is in a state that is wrongly ordered to its nature.

        In that example, we see how the social and moral evaluation of various ways we may properly treat flies derives from the properties that are essential to the nature of flies in an Aristotelian sense.

        It is in that Aristotelian sense proper to representation per se to be veridical. It’s right there in the term: re + presentation. What re-presents with a low degree of fidelity to the truth is insofarforth not a re-presentation in the first place. It presents what is not real; it presents what is not in fact out there to be re-presented. It is a misrepresentation. So, improper representation is just misrepresentation. It can be innocent (as with perceiving and reporting mirages) or intentional, ergo wicked (as with the woke devastation of grammatical gender).

        “Gödel consistent” was just a quick way of saying, “consistent in re a determination whether a logical calculus is completable on Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems.” I take Gödel’s ω consistency to be a sort of consistency more generally. I take a system of propositions to be consistent when it proposes no contradictions. Signal is consistent in that it proposes no contradictions to the current system of propositions – to the model of reality, or representation of reality, currently operative. Noise always introduces some contradiction, inasmuch as it cannot but mask or deform some of the signal that the transductive circuit would otherwise transmit without defect.

        When contradiction is introduced to a propositional system, it renders that system inconsistent, so that, while it can then be completed, it can also be used to demonstrate anything on its own terms, and so cannot properly (!) serve as a logical calculus for use in intellection of an intelligible cosmos.

        In the foregoing, I have again been skating pretty fast, so I might only have engendered even more perplexity.

        … supervenience as you’ve described it is an asymmetric relationship while “iff” is symmetric …

        Supervenience is symmetric. Or rather, I suppose it would be more proper (!) to say that venience is symmetric: what supervenes must be subvened, and vice versa. So, when I say that ‘y supervenes x’ can be expressed as ‘y iff x,’ I do not mean to say that y supervenes x iff x supervenes y, but rather to say that y supervenes x iff x subvenes y.

        The vention is symmetric. So, the right way to express it is I guess to say that ‘y venes x‘ is equivalent to ‘y iff x.’

        It is however also true that whether x subvenes y or vice versa can be the very thing in question. For example, cognitive philosophers generally presuppose that mentation supervenes changes in neural configuration and activity. But maybe it goes the other way.

        Indeed, there are good reasons to think that it does.

        … “there can be any number of ways that y iff x” makes no sense at all.

        Say that mentation does indeed supervene changes in neural configuration. Does that entail that mentation *must* come along with every change in neural configuration? No; for, perhaps the configuration of the neurons is changing because they are dead and are rotting, or are being blown to smithereens. It entails rather that when mentation does come along – when it does vene – it does so as a supervention of changes in neural configuration, and that, in such a case, changes in neural configuration are subvening mentation.

        If y is supervening, it must be subvened by something, and vice versa. But from this it does not follow that y entails the subvention of x, in particular; nor does it follow that x entails the supervention of y. X might be cooking along by itself without subvening anything; and for that matter, y might not stand in any essential need of subvention by some particular x, in order to subsist.

        NB however that a y that venes without supervening upon some x is without explanation, reason, or cause. Can there be such a thing? I doubt it.

        NB again: what venes must be contingent, for what has come along might not have done; and so it must stand in need of some explanation, reason, or cause. However, a thing that is not contingent, but rather is necessary, does not stand in need of any explanation, reason, or cause; for, it does not vene, but rather just is, eternally.

        Now, mentation might *also,* without contradiction, supervene changes in concentration gradients of neurotransmitters in synaptic gaps, *and* metabolic changes in the blood, *and* endocrine activity, *and* events in the gut ecology, *and* the local electromagnetic fields that surround and suffuse the body, *and* the Big Bang, *and* the mind of God, and so forth. So, there are lots of ways that “y iff x” might be true.

        Our ordinary minds are dualist, and nondualism usually is presented as something we need to achieve through strenuous exercise (or think we do). That doesn’t mean either is prior metaphysically, it’s fully attributable to the limitations of our cognition.

        The metaphysical difficulty that the nondualist must surmount is the brute fact that minds – not just ordinary minds, but minds per se – are *essentially* subjects. There is no way to be a mindless mind. There is no way to experience a zero of experience. So there can be no such experience as that of the zero of experience. So, when I suffer the experience that everything is One (or for that matter any other experience), it is I who suffers that experience. If there is no I to suffer that experience, then there is no such experience.

        Nondualism is strictly inconceivable. It proposes a contradiction to our system of propositions, and so renders that “system” capable of proving anything; which is to say that it renders that “system” incapable, period full stop.

        Now, I realize that pragmatic nondualists, as of Zen, would howl with laughter as they agreed with me wholeheartedly that our “system” of propositions is incapable, period full stop. I would join with them in their rision – partly on account of my own experiences, but also on account of what seems to me to follow inexorably from Gödel: namely, that the incapability of any propositional system we might possibly propose entails the infinite stack of logical calculi, which must be complete in toto and actually if it is to be in any part anywise actual at all (which, plainly, it somewise is). But what I would propose to them is that what they in satori experience as nirvana is in fact the Simplicity and Eternal Perfection in Act of the infinite Godhead. They experience the true relation of each creature to his Creator, who is the Ground of his very being. I rather doubt they would much controvert that characterization of our shared experience, which in the final analysis does not much differ from their own traditional take upon it. Not so much as is worth quibbling about, anyway. Nirvana is just Donne’s One Equal Music.

        The trick of reconciling dualism with nondualism is to be found in the careful Scholastic distinction employed in dvaitadvaita – and Christianity. My impression is that practical nondualism ends up there: first there is a Mountain, then there is no Mountain, then there is.

        Our evolved modes of cognition and speaking are indeed pragmatic, to a fault. They didn’t evolve to grasp the ultimate nature of reality, they evolved to grasp dinner. That we have taken our pragmatic abilities and learned to talk about all kinds of exotic and abstruse subjects like metaphysics is pretty wonderful, but it doesn’t imply that ultimate reality is necessarily structured like the quotidian world of subjects and objects.

        We would not be able to grasp dinner if our notions of reality – such as “grasping” (which, like so many of our notions, presupposes duality) – were radically defective. We’d have died off, replaced by an otherwise similarly equipped species that was not so epistemically hobbled as we.

        Seriously: try to grasp dinner without being there to do the grasping. I’m waiting; let’s see “you” “do” it. Go ahead: walk over to the fridge and grab something to eat without existing.

        It never ceases to amaze me that sophists don’t understand the redundancy of their own sophistry, when any little boy can see it clearly in the light of a summer’s day.

        The notion that our modes of language and cognition radically mislead us about reality ends by devouring itself. If our modes of cognition and language are radically defective, then any notions we might form or share as to that defection must be themselves radically defective. From, “We can’t understand reality,” it follows inexorably and obviously that we can’t understand that we can’t understand reality.

        I grow tired of making such an obvious, simple point. It’s worse than reminding an interlocutor that the sky is overhead, to remind him that he himself exists and can know.

        We call him the Tao, because he told us that he is the Tao (John 14:6).

        What you mean “we,” white man? The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

        So the Tao that has been named the Tao is not the eternal Tao. Cue hysterical laughter of Zen monks.

        I was invoking the ancient Israelite prohibition against pronouncing the Name – which, as a result, no one today knows how to pronounce. Lots of traditional cults forbid the utterance of the Name of the Most High. But what we can say is that “tao” means “way,” and Jesus called himself the Way – which is one reason (among several) why the Jesuit missionaries in Peking 400 years ago translated the “Lógos” of the New Testament as “Tao” – and why their Taoist interlocutors at the Imperial Court then knew exactly whom they meant to denote in so doing.

        “Jesus” is not the Name, quite – for, it means literally “YHWH saves.” So, “Jesus” invokes the Name without uttering or specifying it. The Tetragrammaton, see, is like “Tao” a stand in for the real Name; a way to denote that which transcends all denotation, by means of a place holder.

        I don’t think I want to get into a discussion of the compatibility between Christianity and Taoism – I don’t know enough. But it seems like here’s one glaringly big difference – the Christian god is personal and the Tao is not. Seems significant! But again, this is not something I feel like arguing about.

        The Tao that can be said to be non-personal – or personal – is not the eternal Tao. I mean, seriously, if you cannot even name him, how can you presume to characterize him? Or it. Either way.

        And they are – the One and the Many – mutually implicit …

        That is a very nondual statement! I shouldn’t be surprised, because one of the tenets of nondual awareness is that you already have it.

        Implication is not possible except on duality. You can’t have nondual awareness – you can’t have awareness at all – if nonduality is simply true. You can’t have anything if you don’t truly exist in the first place, so as to have things. If a.morphous does not truly exist, then a.morphous cannot think that he does not truly exist.

        You can cavil about this all day long, saying things like, “Well, a.morphous exists, but only as a participation of the One,” or some such. Fine, go ahead. You still end by saying that a.morphous exists, and everything that comes after that in the sentence is just qualification, rather than repudiation. And nothing less than utter repudiation of the existence of a.morphous will quite do, if nondualism is simply true.

        So where we end up with this is that nondualism is true in some senses, but not in others. Which is really not so much of a stretch, right?

        Perhaps we could say that for contingent beings, dualism is true literally, while nondualism is true only metaphorically.

      • Supervenience is symmetric. Or rather, I suppose it would be more proper (!) to say that venience is symmetric: what supervenes must be subvened, and vice versa

        Argh, you are still very confused. A symmetric relation (like equality) is one in which x = y implies y = x and vice versa. An asymmetric relation (like inequality) is quite the opposite, because if x > y, then it is NOT THE CASE that y > x. So “venience” is not symmetric.

        Don’t mean to be rude, but this is high school algebra level material, and if you can’t get this right you have no business messing with Gödel.

        cognitive philosophers generally presuppose that mentation supervenes changes in neural configuration and activity

        I’m going to take a pass on your stuff about representation. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. If it’s that representations tend to reflect the structure of the world, then we have no argument. If it’s that representation perfectly reflects the world, and we can unproblematically deduce things about the structure of the world based on the structure of our representations, then you are wrong.

        The metaphysical difficulty that the nondualist must surmount is the brute fact that minds – not just ordinary minds, but minds per se – are *essentially* subjects. There is no way to be a mindless mind.

        There’s a lot of Buddhist and other practice that would disagree with you. Certainly a mindless mind sounds paradoxical, but such practices deliberately employ the paradoxical to point at things that are beyond language and ordinary rationality.

        Whether one finds that interesting or is repelled by it is something of a matter of taste, so not something worth arguing about. But what else is religion for? If you want to deal solely with straightforward facticity, we have science and bookkeeping for that.

        Nondualism is strictly inconceivable.

        Yes! The Vimalakirti Sutra, which I’ve quoted here before, speaks of the “inconceivable liberation”, which one approaches through “the dharma-door of nonduality”.

      • I’m pretty sure venience is indeed symmetric: x venes y ↔ y venes x. Where’s the asymmetry? On the other hand it seems clear to me that you are right that subvenience and supervenience are indeed asymmetric, so that it was improper (!) for me to write that ‘y supervenes x’ is equivalent to ‘y iff x.’

        Note that my clumsiness in so doing, and indeed much of this whole discussion, arose from your request that I clarify the meaning of “supervene.” I’ve only been trying to characterize it in a way that would help you understand the usage of the term. I cannot help the fact that you find it confusing or improper (!) that philosophers use it in a number of different ways. They just do. And this is not rare in the usage of English words, even in technical jargons. I should think that anyone who advocates metaphor as you do, and who deploys it so freely and so well, would feel utterly comfortable with such homonymy.

        I personally find that homonymy a lot less confusing than your assertion that duality is nondual. Sorry, but I can’t see how to read that equivalence other than as a flat contradiction: x & ¬ x. I think it would help your case if you were to distinguish, in good careful Scholastic fashion, the ways or senses in which we may properly (!) construe reality as dual from the ways or senses in which we may properly (!) construe it as nondual.

        I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. If it’s that representations tend to reflect the structure of the world, then we have no argument. If it’s that representation perfectly reflects the world, and we can unproblematically deduce things about the structure of the world based on the structure of our representations, then you are wrong.

        It turns out that we have no argument, because my point of departure respecting grammar is only that our representations tend to reflect the structure of the world. Looking back I have a hard time seeing what all the fuss was about. I began only by suggesting that our grammar is one empirical datum among many that we may take as indicative of the structure of reality. But it would be foolish to suggest that we can *unproblematically* deduce things about the structure of the world based on the structure of our representations. To suggest that would be almost as foolish as suggesting that x & ¬ x.

        Well, no; it would not be nearly so foolish as that. But it would definitely be on the spectrum that ends in the absurdity of x & ¬ x. After all, while it is a daring speculation, it is not a contradiction in terms. And in its favor, we must remember that our representations of the world are all we have, and all that we can possibly have, to go on. For all purposes, practical or otherwise, our representations are to us, and must be, *nothing other than our world.* They are the only world we can have. And they are the entirety of our world. Their grammar then to us is, and must be, the grammar of the only reality to which we have access, or which therefore can be at all real to us.

        We cannot have a world except insofar as we enjoy some phenomenal seeming of a world. And this is just as true for what seem to be nondual phenomena as it is for what seem to be dual phenomena. Either sort of phenomenon is, hello, phenomenal; and so, is dual: is the experience of a subject.

        It’s all in Kant. Not, by any means, that all is in Kant. But still. This is all old hat. It was old hat even in Kant’s day.

        Notwithstanding all that, and as a realist, I do think that reality and grammar are both dual; and that grammar, having come along after being as such and at large – having, i.e., supervened being as such and at large – has been formed and ordered by its environing world ab initio, so that it is dual because the reality it struggles to adequate is dual. Which I think it is, and obviously – indeed, incontrovertibly. I think that it is not possible to be anything at all except by being something or other that is definitely itself, and not some other contrary thing as well. I can’t see why you find that suggestion so difficult. It’s almost as bare, obvious and axiomatic as x = x. It is the suggestion that x iff x.

        I wrote:

        … the veritable mystical insights of such disciplines as most schools of Vedanta (excepting dvaitadvaita) must be expressed in a language that radically controverts their nondual metaphysics, which deny the reality of the subject and the object of experience (dvaitadvaita accords with the traditional grammar of all languages). Their exponents cannot make sense of them under the terms of any language to which they might revert; on the contrary, given any language, the metaphysical doctrines of such schools are absurd. They are, rather, reduced to asserting that there is no such thing as sense to be made, or anyone to make it.

        It seems to me that this is exactly what has happened to you:

        Nondualism is strictly inconceivable.

        Yes!

        The nondualism you advocate is *by your own enthusiastic account* sheer nonsense. I confess that it is somewhat shocking to me that you (ably, rightly) quibble over the proper (!) use of iff when you then go on to asseverate your credence in a doctrine that you agree simply cannot be conceived, because it is a contradiction in terms. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that you do so quibble, for your quibbling has prompted me to a deeper, and I hope better understanding of notions I often employ. But, honestly, and as a friend: don’t you see that your advocacy of a plain and brutal – and, so far as I can in all charity see, insurmountable – contradiction in terms utterly demolishes any picayune concern you might have over the proper (!) deployment of logical operators?

        I mean, really: if you honestly think it can be true that x & ¬ x, then what are we to think of any of your other thoughts? If you truly believe an obviously contradictory statement, then is not all your thinking on every topic called into radical question? If x & ¬ x, then all bets are off. Are you not, if you really do believe that x & ¬ x, somewhat mad?

        A.morphous, I totally appreciate all the effort you’ve expended on this discussion, and on many others. And I thank you for it. Despite our profound differences, I consider you an old friend. You’ve been around here quibbling with us for years. You are my MacPhee. I think we’d actually have a pretty great time if we could hang out together over a few beers. I do not think you mad in fact. But I do think you deluded, a bit. I’m sure you return the favor. Perhaps I am of the same benefit to you, as are you to me.

        If you want us all to take you seriously, so that your work around here does some good in the end, I think it behooves you to do a careful job of clarifying in what ways we may properly (!) take reality to be dual, and in what ways we may not. For, I respect you too much to think you actually believe, simpliciter, that x & ¬ x. I appreciate that this will pose for you the difficult problem of explaining nonduality in dual terms, so that nonduality can be seen as an aspect of duality; so that, i.e., duality can be seen to be true literally, while nonduality can be understood as true only metaphorically. Or so that it can be seen that nonduality supervenes duality (NB: that y supervenes x does not mean that the existence or truth of y are somehow called into question). Or something like that.

        Sorry, not my fault: that’s just the lay of the land, in rhetoric as in reality, and for us both. There appears to be no way out of duality that actually makes sense. As you’ve insisted.

        Whether you decide to essay that project, or not, please rest assured that I, at least, am ready to take whatever you have to say with a full and honest and open heart. For, as certain of my statements in this thread should have been adequate to indicate, I do not take nondualism to be absurd per se; on the contrary, being myself a mystic, I take nondualism to be veridical, and indeed to be the verymost basic verity of verity. As a mystic, nondualism – which I would just call theism – looks to me like a forecondition of truth per se; and, so, of facticity per se. As a theologian, and as a metaphysician, I take the SupraPersonal Godhead to be logically prior to – albeit, not more real than, and in no way real other than – the actual manifestation of God in the Trinity. So that, the fact of the SupraPersonal Godhead does not render the Trinity, or the worlds he has created, irreal; on the contrary, the Trinity, and the Way he has created, are the Tao of the SupraPersonal Godhead.

        So, anyway, rest assured: you have in me a sympathetic audience, eager to arrive at some common ground, whereof and wherefrom we might both enjoy some profit.

      • Kristor, thanks for your kind words. I’m honestly not quite sure what the point of our conversations are; it’s hard to be intellectual friends when you are political enemies. But here I am! Nobody is forcing me to participate here, and you have been a very gracious host, even when I’m basically barging around like a bull in a china shop.

        But, honestly, and as a friend: don’t you see that your advocacy of a plain and brutal – and, so far as I can in all charity see, insurmountable – contradiction in terms utterly demolishes any picayune concern you might have over the proper (!) deployment of logical operators?

        One problem with the current conversation is that it is a tangle of (at least) two separate threads: one on mathematics, another on non-dualism. On the first, I feel very confidant of my ability to speak precisely and critique the confusions of others. On the other – well, not only am I entirely unqualified, Buddhist scripture states flat out that it is a topic best approached by keeping silent.

        So these two topics require very different modes of thought and speech. Mathematical logic is about as dualistic as it is possible to be. Mathematics requires formal clarity and precision, nonduality is about the nebulous and requires an indirect approach.

        So no, I don’t feel I’m being inconsistent by insisting on rigor in the domains where it is appropriate. These topics don’t actually seem to have much to do with each other. I can think of one effort to bridge them: G. Spencer-Brown’s Laws of Form, an interesting book which you might enjoy, but I don’t know how successful it is.

        I think it would help your case if you were to distinguish, in good careful Scholastic fashion, the ways or senses in which we may properly (!) construe reality as dual from the ways or senses in which we may properly (!) construe it as nondual.

        I’m not making a case (other than that nondualism is a major element in important world religions and thus deserves to at least not be dismissed as worthless nonsense). That’s the thing about nondualism, it is outside of the realm of cases and argument.

        I guess I see it as prior somehow to dualism and the universe of subjects and objects, and that seems to be where we disagree. But it’s not the kind of disagreement that can be settled by argument (again, the best I can do is point to established religions that take this view – not really an argument).

        we must remember that our representations of the world are all we have, and all that we can possibly have, to go on. For all purposes, practical or otherwise, our representations are to us, and must be, *nothing other than our world.* They are the only world we can have. And they are the entirety of our world. Their grammar then to us is, and must be, the grammar of the only reality to which we have access, or which therefore can be at all real to us.

        We’ll make a postmodernist out of you yet!

        Notwithstanding all that, and as a realist, I do think that reality and grammar are both dual; and that grammar, having come along after being as such and at large – having, i.e., supervened being as such and at large – has been formed and ordered by its environing world ab initio, so that it is dual because the reality it struggles to adequate is dual.

        That’s very well put. But still, I think, deeply wrong, and deeply circular: it presupposes what it is trying to demonstrate. It is saying, in effect, the dualist mind is formed by and sees a dualist universe, and thus dualism is baked into the foundations of both.

        This conveniently ignores the possibility that the universe is not particularly dualistic at its foundations, but minds nevertheless have to be dualistic in order to make useful representations of it, due not to the nature of the universe but to the nature of mind. Dualism then is an illusion and that can be dispelled via certain trans-rational practices (meditation and other “liberative techniques”).

        As a mystic, nondualism – which I would just call theism – looks to me like a forecondition of truth per se; and, so, of facticity per se. As a theologian, and as a metaphysician, I take the SupraPersonal Godhead to be logically prior to – albeit, not more real than, and in no way real other than – the actual manifestation of God in the Trinity

        OK maybe there is *really* nothing to argue about. We are pointing to and acknowledging the same thing, with some differences in the terminology and metaphors.

        In addition to the above big topics, there are threads about supervenience and another about the “SupraPersonal Godhead”. I don’t know anything about the latter. Re supervenience, I’ve dug around a bit in the philosophical literature and it strikes me as a rather impoverished way to think about the relations between different levels of description. To take an uncontroversial example, it is true I guess that my bank balance supervenes on the state of some magnetic domains on a disk somewhere in Wells Fargo’s computer systems. But that doesn’t tell me anything about how that *works* – that requires an understanding of the various domains (money and digital logic) and their causal interactions, including both human and computational acts of interpretation. “Supervenience” is just a label.

      • … it’s hard to be intellectual friends when you are political enemies.

        Talking about his studies with Dobzhansky, the late and notoriously argumentative Richard Lewontin said, “He and I spent three years of my Ph.D. fighting with each other. He liked it, and I liked it.”

        Mathematical logic is about as dualistic as it is possible to be.

        That had occurred to me after I posted my last comment. I thought about adding it, but you beat me to it.

        I think Brown did succeed, although it has been a lot of decades since I read Laws of Form, so it is hard to be sure that I am not mapping my own thought on his. He was an early influence, and as it were prepared the ground for my later study of Whitehead’s metaphysics. Both men argue that actuality as such is dual: to be actual involves being something in particular, rather than something different or nothing at all (this is so even for the One or Brahman or Void or SupraPersonal Godhead (these are so close to equivalent terms as makes no difference), which is itself and not something contingent or dual); so being presupposes the act of distinction between this and that, which Brown denotes with his famous Cross. Brown also agrees with Aristotle and Whitehead that to be something is to have done something: the distinction signified by the Cross is an action.

        Brown’s Void, in which the Cross is scribed, is nondual, and as the matrix of the scription is prior thereto, formally. But actually, the Void is manifest at all only as the matrix of a completed act of scription, for absent any scription there is nothing to it, and it just is not; so that the Void is in virtue of the scription. Thus is it actual only as the effection of duality. But the One is necessary, and so as being therefore perfectly in act cannot be inactual. So we see that a Many (at least of such as the Trinity) is necessarily actual, thus eternal; for the Many is the only way that the One can be actual.

        I cover some of that same ground in an early post here, about the scription of the XP.

        Notice that what I’ve just sketched out is a gesture (some might call it handwaving) in the direction of a careful Scholastic distinction of the ways in which we may properly (!) construe reality as nondual from the ways in which we may properly (!) construe it as dual. You write:

        I guess I see [nonduality] as prior somehow to [duality] and the universe of subjects and objects, and that seems to be where we disagree.

        We don’t disagree. I’ve just teased apart two sorts of priority: formal and actual. In formal terms, nonduality is prior to duality, so that duality presupposes nonduality; but in actual terms, duality is the forecondition of any manifestation of nonduality – for, manifestation per se *just is* dual – so that for nonduality to be real, duality must be real.

        I’m no expert on Buddhism or Vedanta, but what I have read of their scriptures does not disagree with this distinction.

        We’ll make a postmodernist out of you yet!

        Nah. Been there for a while when I was a sophomore, then moved on. First there is realism, then there is radical Kantian epistemological skepticism, then there is realism.

        Notwithstanding all that, and as a realist, I do think that reality and grammar are both dual; and that grammar, having come along after being as such and at large – having, i.e., supervened being as such and at large – has been formed and ordered by its environing world ab initio, so that it is dual because the reality it struggles to adequate is dual.

        That’s very well put. But still, I think, deeply wrong, and deeply circular: it presupposes what it is trying to demonstrate. It is saying, in effect, the dualist mind is formed by and sees a dualist universe, and thus dualism is baked into the foundations of both.

        Not quite. It is saying that actuality per se is dual, period full stop; so that actual things and their properties and acts and characters – including language, representations, and doctrines (such as the doctrine of nonduality) – are all dual. Duality is what it is like to actually be *anything whatsoever.*

        In Brown’s terms, the Cross can be interpreted as a negative (this agrees with Bateson’s observation that the germ of all communication is “no;” |n| being the negation of 0: |n| → ¬ 0), so that the first Cross is in effect the negation of the Void that is the empty matrix of its crossing, considered purely as such (NB: the Void is like – indeed, perhaps it just is – Aristotle’s Prime Matter: we can refer to it, but by definition it is devoid of actuality, thus of any character whatsoever; so that it has no actual existence: it is the zero of being). The first Cross says, “the nonbeing of the Void is not:” Exodus 3:14. And it effects that negation in act, and so in fact. So then is there being. The second Cross then negates the first. But to cross from distinction into indistinction – the double Cross – is to cross from being into nothingness. But it is impossible to enact nothing at all; the move can be accomplished formally, but not actually. To do or be anything, you must do or be some particular thing. This is why in order to actually be a nondualist, you must be; i.e., must be dual.

        To exploit your helpful scolding about my clumsy use of iff in my attempt to explain supervention, the supervention of grammar upon being is asymmetric, so that my reasoning in the paragraph you quote is not circular. This, at the same time that the vention of grammar and being is symmetric.

        NB: likewise, the vention of the One and the Many is symmetric, even though the Many supervene the One.

        This conveniently ignores the possibility that the universe is not particularly dualistic at its foundations, but minds nevertheless have to be dualistic in order to make useful representations of it, due not to the nature of the universe but to the nature of mind.

        I think it’s kind of a cheat to partition off mind from the rest of the universe so that mentation runs by its own, different rules. I fall into that trap all the time myself, but I don’t think it is legit. If there are minds in the universe, and integral thereto, and if the universe is likewise integral – is, i.e., consistent – then hello, the universe *just is* mental, and it behooves us then to figure out how that can be so. Somehow or other, the nature of the universe and the nature of the mind must be alike, in order for them to constitute a coherent system. I like panpsychism, myself.

        “Supervenience” is just a label.

        So are all terms, no matter how well we think we understand them, or how carefully we have defined them – in terms, NB, of other terms likewise fundamentally mysterious in their denotative meanings (which tend to outpass our prima facie notions). Supervenience finds its utility in its differences from emergence, epiphenomenonymity, and reductionist elimination. E.g., that the Many supervene the One does not vitiate the reality or verity of the Many; or again, that your bank balance supervenes memory registers does not mean you have no bank balance, or that your bank balance is an illusion due to the way your mind is forced to work. Supervenience is close to emergence, but for the fact that it does not treat what supervenes as less real than what subvenes it, or as entirely dependent upon what subvenes it. Supervenience treats entities at all levels of the explanatory stack as real in their own rights (bearing in mind that such things as heaps are not entities, but rather heuristics).

        Excursus: Brown’s Cross is not the Christian cross. But it is a way of denoting the Word, whom the Christian cross likewise denotes: John 1:1-5. So is it then also a way of denoting the unutterable Name, the Tao.

        So we can use Brown’s first Cross to demarcate, and so to denote, the Second Person of the Trinity, in virtue of whom alone may the First Person be discerned: Luke 10:22. The second Cross nested inside the first would negate that first, and return being to the Void, an impossible motion to effect in act (for, once there has been a thing, nothingness is impossible (so the double Cross is devilish, and the devil’s project of rebellion is ontologically impossible)). So may we denote the Third Person of the Trinity by a third Cross nested inside the second, saying in effect, and so effecting, that God is actual, ergo effective. The Third Person is the effection of God, and the completion of his manifestation. The Third Person is called the Spirit because it is in virtue of the actuality of God which he completes that the Forms then become themselves actual (this is the creation of the angels), so that all other actualities can then participate and thus enact Forms. It is the Spirit who *moves* – who is the motion of God – upon the Face of the Deep: Genesis 1:2.

        I like to think that our political enmity is capable of resolution, provided we can reach a common understanding of moral reality. That may not be possible; don’t know enough about the ontological springs of your moral convictions.

      • I don’t doubt that you and I could put aside our political differences over a beer. But I am in despair at the prospect of ever seeing a fix for the larger political differences that divide our country and apparently all of humanity. If it is indeed part of a cosmic spiritual war (as one of your co-writers said recently) then it is not the kind of thing that a beer will fix. But I enjoy our disagreements and I learn something from them.

        I think Brown did succeed, although it has been a lot of decades since I read Laws of Form, so it is hard to be sure that I am not mapping my own thought on his. …Both men argue that actuality as such is dual: to be actual involves being something in particular, rather than something different or nothing at all

        Brown thought he would revolutionize the practice of mathematical logic, but for whatever reason he’s had negligible influence. He might have succeeded in his other goals though. He does not use the term “actuality” or “actual” and I think you are in fact pushing your own thoughts onto his. He does say:

        The theme of this book is that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart.

        which may not be that different from what you are saying about “actuality” (a term I also would never use).

        I should note that I was introduced to this book by hippies and Buddhists who might have imposed their own nondualistic spin on the text – they emphasized the somewhat arbitrary and fictional nature of distinctions.

        Brown’s Void, in which the Cross is scribed, is nondual, and as the matrix of the scription is prior thereto, formally. But actually, the Void is manifest at all only as the matrix of a completed act of scription[*], for absent any scription there is nothing to it, and it just is not; so that the Void is in virtue of the scription

        I followed this nodding in agreement up until the [*]. The void is *manifest* (that is, perceivable) only by introducing a distinction, but it is prior to distinctions, and real (whatever that might mean) prior to distinctions.

        It is saying that actuality per se is dual, period full stop; so that actual things and their properties and acts and characters – including language, representations, and doctrines (such as the doctrine of nonduality) – are all dual. Duality is what it is like to actually be *anything whatsoever…. the Void is like – indeed, perhaps it just is – Aristotle’s Prime Matter: we can refer to it, but by definition it is devoid of actuality, thus of any character whatsoever; so that it has no actual existence: it is the zero of being.

        Now that I understand what you mean by “actuality”, I don’t see much disagreement between us. At least I think I understand what you are saying. But I think we might have vastly different attitudes to and languages for the Nonactual Void or whatever we want to call it.

        From my perspective, nonbeing is prior to being and thus a proper object of spiritual attention. Perhaps the only one. We are ordinarily part of the dualistic world of being, and our ordinary minds are well-adapted to it. The nondual world thus appears as exotic, foreign, and difficult. But it is in fact perfectly coextensive with the dualistic world of ordinary experience. It’s invisible to us. Like a black hole, we can’t see it (definitionally!) but we can make inferences about it from its effects.

        I think it’s kind of a cheat to partition off mind from the rest of the universe so that mentation runs by its own, different rules. I fall into that trap all the time myself, but I don’t think it is legit. If there are minds in the universe, and integral thereto, and if the universe is likewise integral – is, i.e., consistent – then hello, the universe *just is* mental

        Once again I feel we have unaccountably switched sides; you are seemingly arguing for a naturalist view of mind and I thought that was my job. Anyway, I don’t see why it’s a cheat. Minds are a perfectly natural part of the universe but there is still a difference between reality and an image or model of reality. You are saying, in effect, that because books are made of words and letters, the world they describe must also be constituted of words and letters.

        I think you actually *do* believe something like this; that is what the Aristotelian view of mind amounts to, compared to the modernist/materialist/cybernetic view. Hm, this difference explains a lot of our mutual incomprehension, we are talking from very different fundamental assumptions and definitions. For instance, your use of “integral” or “consistent” above just sounds like noise to me, because they aren’t appropriate to describe the cosmos; they only make sense for minds or texts, maybe other works of art. But you don’t see much difference between those.

        I put my thought badly with __“Supervenience” is just a label.__, I should have said that I don’t think it’s a very good concept for clarifying the relationship between mind and nature or anything else.

        E.g., that the Many supervene the One does not vitiate the reality or verity of the Many; or again, that your bank balance supervenes memory registers does not mean you have no bank balance, or that your bank balance is an illusion due to the way your mind is forced to work….Supervenience is close to emergence, but for the fact that it does not treat what supervenes as less real than what subvenes it, or as entirely dependent upon what subvenes it

        I think I may completely agree with you here (except for your characterization of emergence, which makes no particular claims that one form of existence is more or less real than another – at least in my view; there’s a lot of confusion around that word).

        I like to think that our political enmity is capable of resolution, provided we can reach a common understanding of moral reality. That may not be possible; don’t know enough about the ontological springs of your moral convictions.

        Politics is deeply connected to morality but not at all the same thing. In fact it typically involves abuse of morality – perverting genuine moral sense into fearful tribalism and shit-slinging, which is at best a tired and dysfunctional game and at worst the prelude to the existential violence of war.

        I don’t really care that much about “the ontological springs of moral conviction”. I’m interested in actual not theoretical morality, and actual morality is less a matter of philosophical justification and more a part of practical social reality. The springs of actual morality are a combination of re innate and universal human responses, and others based on developmental experience and thus different for everyone. The way we achieve the shared, political, public morality that we need to live together is through compassion, tolerance, and respect for the individual person.

        That’s just very vanilla liberalism; currently on the ropes. Like in Germany 100 years ago, it is weak in the face of movements and ideologies with stronger convictions.

      • I was convinced to order Laws of Form by Heinz von Foerster’s review in the Whole Earth Catalog. So, yeah, hippies who were into cybernetics. Not Buddhists, though.

        [Brown] does not use the term “actuality” or “actual” and I think you are in fact pushing your own thoughts onto his. He does say:

        The theme of this book is that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart.

        which may not be that different from what you are saying about “actuality” …

        I do indeed by “actuality” mean to indicate the same thing I take Brown to be indicating. The space is not severed or taken apart *by itself* – for, it has no self – but by some one who is different from the space: the Cross. The severance is an *act* of a *being,* by which being itself is effected. The Void is *empty.* It is *not a being.* It is *nonbeing* – it is nirvana, which translates literally to “no spirit.” It is without property, character, or agency. It is not an it. So it can’t *do* anything. It is not; so, it cannot.

        Excursus: the Forms can’t do anything either, for even though they are not without property or character, they are in and of themselves without agency.

        Granted of course that, having severed the Void, the Cross is an aspect of the matrix of its scription. But, once the Cross is scribed, the matrix of that scription is no longer void. It is, rather, a plenum.

        There is an unfathomable mystery in the primordial severing in virtue of which something or other comes to be in distinction from the logically prior Void. The Void cannot do anything, including severing. It is *nothing.* So who was around to accomplish the first primordial severance? The only way out of that mystery is the supposition that the primordial severance is itself, like the Void it severs, eternal. The Void and the Severing are both eternal – this being the only way anyone might have noticed the Void in the first place. So you get both duality and nonduality, eternally – even though the Void is prior formally to its actual severance.

        Brown’s Void, in which the Cross is scribed, is nondual, and as the matrix of the scription is prior thereto, formally. But actually, the Void is manifest at all only as the matrix of a completed act of scription[*], for absent any scription there is nothing to it, and it just is not; so that the Void is in virtue of the scription.

        I followed this nodding in agreement up until the [*]. The void is *manifest* (that is, perceivable) only by introducing a distinction, but it is prior to distinctions, and real (whatever that might mean) prior to distinctions.

        I’ve been meaning for several years to write a post about the different sorts of reality: formal, virtual, actual, factual, etc. I should get around to that. Suffice to say for now that actual and factual reality are concrete, while formal and virtual reality are not. That raises the question of the nature of concreteness, but let’s hold that in abeyance for the nonce.

        To be perceivable – to be manifest – a thing must be somehow factual, so that it can be manifest or perceivable to some mind. This is so even of the phenomena of dreams and hallucinations: even something that is only a phenomenal product of a processing error in the CNS is still *in fact* a real output of a CNS control system: mistakes are concrete reals. It is impossible to perceive something that has no reality whatsoever – that is *absolutely nothing.*

        The Void is *absolutely nothing.* You can’t say or perceive anything about it at all. Here then is the problem: you cannot even say or perceive that the Void is void, if you can’t say or perceive anything about it at all. Even its nothingness then is presupposed by some concrete thing that is not the Void.

        So while the Void is prior to the Many formally, it is not prior to the Many in fact. No actual scription, no possibility of any manifest Void. The scription is the terminus a quo of the Void, and the Void is the terminus a quo of the scription: they convene, so that their relation is symmetric: scription iff Void. I wrote about this a few years ago, saying that absolute nothingness is formally impossible (so that there is no difficulty about why there is something rather than nothing (there being no alternative to something), and also so that God exists necessarily (because while something must necessarily exist, no creature necessarily exists)).

        Once again I feel we have unaccountably switched sides; you are seemingly arguing for a naturalist view of mind and I thought that was my job. Anyway, I don’t see why it’s a cheat. Minds are a perfectly natural part of the universe but there is still a difference between reality and an image or model of reality. You are saying, in effect, that because books are made of words and letters, the world they describe must also be constituted of words and letters.

        My naturalist account of mind supervenes a supernaturalist account of nature, which notices that nature cannot suffice to herself formally, ergo actually. This was explicit in the original post.

        There is indeed a difference between reality and its images. All I’m suggesting is that reality is built of images. Things are images of their actual pasts. They are more – therein is the ingress of novelty to an otherwise closed causal system. But then, that ingress is accomplished by a concrescence of as yet unactualized forms in a new actuality; by, i.e., an image of those forms. So, it’s images all the way down.

        Excursus: an image is a participation and instantiation of a form.

        The notion that the world is constituted of dead meaningless particles of stuff bumping about is far less credible than the notion that it is constituted of meaningful messages – at bottom, of words and letters, of some sort – for *it exiles mind from the cosmos entirely;* so that it *cannot even begin to account for mind* (this is the Hard Problem of Consciousness identified by David Chalmers). When you exile mind from the cosmos – when you partition it off from the rest of the cosmos – you end up mindless.

        … your use of “integral” or “consistent” above just sounds like noise to me, because they aren’t appropriate to describe the cosmos; they only make sense for minds or texts, maybe other works of art. But you don’t see much difference between those.

        Yes. The cosmos is obviously a work of art. Its past is like a text; its present is like a mind reading, or rather (and also) a congeries of minds reading. The only way that minds can read – i.e., the only way that minds can be minds – is if there is something for them to read that is a meaningful message – an instantiated form, which concretely manifests the order thereof. Thus my hunch that the cosmos is constituted of meaningful messages and their receptions, modulations, and transductions. It helped me when I tried to understand exchange of momentum as an exchange of information.

        If the cosmos is meaningless nonsense – the only alternative sort of view – then so is everything that you or I might say. If the cosmos is meaningless nonsense then “the cosmos is meaningless nonsense” is meaningless nonsense.

        Politics is deeply connected to morality but not at all the same thing. In fact it typically involves abuse of morality – perverting genuine moral sense into fearful tribalism and shit-slinging, which is at best a tired and dysfunctional game and at worst the prelude to the existential violence of war.

        O my gosh that is so true. Politics as such is the first harbinger of war. I very much fear we are bound to war. I hope that we of our several sides may sit down to a few beers together and so discover that we are all in the end just humans trying to make sense of things, and each making a terrible mess of it, so that we are then able to care for each other. I know that if you appeared at my door saying, “I am a.morphous, and they are coming for me,” I would take you in. I trust you would do the same for me, knowing from our intercourse here that I am just a guy trying to make sense of things, and not a subhuman who ought to be wiped out for reasons of mere social hygiene.

        Qua men, we are not at bottom inimical. Our true enemy is hatred. It is not of either of us, but comes rather from an exogenous source, that has infected our species (so perennially and so persistently that, I admit, it appears to be endemic). It is of us only insofar as we defect – as we *decide* to defect, NB – from our true natures, which – as men, and so as at some deep level as brothers – should incline us to enjoy and care for each other.

        I don’t really care that much about “the ontological springs of moral conviction.” I’m interested in actual not theoretical morality, and actual morality is less a matter of philosophical justification and more a part of practical social reality. The springs of actual morality are a combination of innate and universal human responses, and others based on developmental experience and thus different for everyone. The way we achieve the shared, political, public morality that we need to live together is through compassion, tolerance, and respect for the individual person.

        We’ll make a Christian of you yet! Indeed, it is evident that you are already a practical, cultural Christian. If you had not grown up in a fundamentally Christian culture, you would feel differently; all other cultures have.

        You may say that you don’t care about the ontological springs of your moral convictions, but they care about you, in the sense that (even if they are not angelic beings who desire the best for all beings under their proper (!) sway) you cannot evade ontology. No ontological springs of morality → no practical morality. Indeed, no ontological springs of morality → no morality, period full stop. The ontological springs of moral conviction urge our attention, willy nilly. If you can’t make a case for the ontological basis of the liberal charity – the Christian charity – you nobly and rightly espouse, why then, you have no case at all. Practical morality then reduces only to success in the projection of mere Nietzschean power – an all too easy and all too typical analytical perspective of the Left.

        Scaping goats is just a lot less computationally taxing than moral introspection. Certainly too is it far, far easier than repentance and reform of life.

        If you don’t have an ontological basis for your moral feelings – which feelings, I do not at all doubt – then, hello, your moral feelings are simply groundless. They are not properly (!) moral at all. They are, rather, only what you like to feel; a sort of moral solipsism.

        I bet that your moral feelings are genuine, and well founded, so that in fact they *do* have a basis in some system of ontology (even if, like most people, you have not yet parsed them out thereto). I think your moral feelings are probably grounded *very* well in the facts of being as such, so far as you can apprehend them.

        Now, all this presupposes that morality, both practical and ideal, is based upon the true and objective value of this or that. If you believe that there is no such true and objective value, why then, “do what thou wilt is the whole of the law.” Such is the teaching of Aleister Crowley. Such, i.e., is the teaching of Lucifer.

        It is evident that you do not ascribe to the “moral” “code” of Lucifer. I conclude that in practice, and when push comes down to shove, you are a cultural Christian.

        Now then to those ontological springs, vis-à-vis politics. Politics are a symptom of deranged and incoherent culture, that cannot agree on what it is now right to do. That disagreement is the matter and urge of politics. Politics are, i.e., downstream of culture. And culture is downstream of cult. If we cannot all agree about First Things, we shan’t be able to agree about much else, except by accident. So we’ll be constantly at war with each other, to some degree. And none of our corporate motions will then be quite as efficacious as they might, in respect to their ostensible goals.

        The present political crisis of the West, then – which, because the West is the civilization of the globe is just the political crisis of humanity – boils down to a divergence of cults. The West cannot endure – no culture can long endure – except under the aegis of a single cult, that propagates a unified and coherent doctrine about First Things, so that everyone can then figure out second, seventh, tenth, and twentieth things.

        There will always be disagreements – and there will always be practical room, reasons, and indeed advantage, for disagreements – about 20th things. Cultures must discuss the proper way to do this or that, given exigent circumstances. But a people that cannot agree on First Things won’t be able to agree on anything else, other than happenstantially, the way that a broken clock agrees with the time of day twice in every day. A people that cannot agree on First Things is, like the broken clock, dead. Its culture is inoperative. Like the broken grandfather clock, it will remain standing for a while in the hall. But eventually it shall vanish.

        That is why vanilla liberalism is on the ropes. That is why I spend so much time writing here about First Things.

      • I was convinced to order Laws of Form by Heinz von Foerster’s review in the Whole Earth Catalog. So, yeah, hippies who were into cybernetics. Not Buddhists, though

        Heh me too. But Whole Earth has close ties with Buddhism. The late cybernetician Francisco Varela was one of the few people to do follow-up work based on Laws of Form, and was a Whole Earth contributor. You might enjoy this: https://web.archive.org/web/20111014170445/http://www.autopoiesis.com/documents/Varela%201976.pdf

        The only way out of that mystery is the supposition that the primordial severance is itself, like the Void it severs, eternal…So you get both duality and nonduality, eternally – even though the Void is prior formally to its actual severance….I’ve been meaning for several years to write a post about the different sorts of reality: formal, virtual, actual, factual, etc. I should get around to that. Suffice to say for now that actual and factual reality are concrete, while formal and virtual reality are not.

        All I can say is, you seem to have a greater faith in the ability of words to capture these finely-graded metaphysical abstractions than I do. They all seem like mistakes to me (but I don’t have the energy to explain why; its ground we’ve been over before).

        To be perceivable – to be manifest – a thing must be somehow factual, so that it can be manifest or perceivable to some mind. This is so even of the phenomena of dreams and hallucinations: even something that is only a phenomenal product of a processing error in the CNS is still *in fact* a real output of a CNS control system: mistakes are concrete reals.

        For example. This just seems to be a confused way of talking about the relationship between neural events and whatever external objects they might reference (or might not).

        So while the Void is prior to the Many formally, it is not prior to the Many in fact.

        I think what you are saying is that there is not a temporal relation between the void and the many; so it would be literally incorrect to say that the void gave rise to the many, or that there was a time before the existence of the many. I guess I have no quarrel with that (except there is no possibility of anything being literally correct or incorrect in this sphere; all we have are metaphors).

        There is indeed a difference between reality and its images. All I’m suggesting is that reality is built of images…So, it’s images all the way down.

        I’m not sure what you call that position – idealism? But once again I find myself surprisingly more realist than you, since in my universe reality is built out of nature and images come along much later.

        The notion that the world is constituted of dead meaningless particles of stuff bumping about is far less credible than the notion that it is constituted of meaningful messages – at bottom, of words and letters, of some sort – for *it exiles mind from the cosmos entirely;* so that it *cannot even begin to account for mind*

        We’ve been over this ground and I don’t see much point in further iterations of the same arguments.

        The cosmos is obviously a work of art.

        Isn’t it pretty to think so?

        If the cosmos is meaningless nonsense – the only alternative sort of view – then so is everything that you or I might say. If the cosmos is meaningless nonsense then “the cosmos is meaningless nonsense” is meaningless nonsense.

        Why is it so impossible for you to imagine any other alternatives? I don’t get it. You are saying, in effect, that either meaning had to be baked into the universe be a creator, or nothing can possibly be meaningful. That’s dualism, it assumes that meaning is separate from nature and can’t arise from it. Yet you accuse me of dualism, but I don’t consider mind to be something separate from nature, you do. I don’t need a creator to add meaning to the physical universe, mind is a natural product like anything else.

        I would take you in. I trust you would do the same for me, knowing from our intercourse here that I am just a guy trying to make sense of things, and not a subhuman who ought to be wiped out for reasons of mere social hygiene.

        Great. I would hope as individuals we would do the right thing. But politics is not about individual righteousness; it’s about group cohesion and group conflict.

        Since we are being friendly I will refrain from saying what I think about the groups you are affiliated with, but look at some of the writings of your co-authors on how they see the left. Tom B says elsewhere:

        Leftists want to abolish creation — simply because they didn’t create it and anything that they didn’t create offends them.

        And Bruce Charlton speaks of a spiritual warfare unto the death. I don’t see much hope of finding common ground here.

        We’ll make a Christian of you yet!

        Don’t hold your breath (but feel free to pray for a miracle)

        Now, all this presupposes that morality, both practical and ideal, is based upon the true and objective value of this or that. If you believe that there is no such true and objective value, why then, “do what thou wilt is the whole of the law.” Such is the teaching of Aleister Crowley. Such, i.e., is the teaching of Lucifer…It is evident that you do not ascribe to the “moral” “code” of Lucifer.

        I don’t believe there is a true and objective morality, and if this makes me a Luciferian, well Hail Satan. Lucifer is of course the model of rebellion against authority so from that perspective he’s my man. I don’t think you understand Crowley, whose widely-misunderstood message is not “go ahead and be an asshole”, but pointing out that you are free, there is no authority, and if there is going to be morality it will have to emerge from human thought, it’s not to be found dictated by a creator.

        No ontological springs of morality → no practical morality.

        In some sense this must be true, but what I meant is simply that people manage to be moral (or not) without having a well-worked out philosophical theory – that is what practical morality means. I think I even saw a study to somewhere (here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09515089.2019.1587912?journalCode=cphp20& ) but it’s kind of obvious, since higher primates and primitive humans have politics and morality without (one presumes) philosophizing about it.

        Politics are a symptom of deranged and incoherent culture

        Utterly wrong.

      • All I can say is, you seem to have a greater faith in the ability of words to capture these finely-graded metaphysical abstractions than I do.

        There are two quite distinct steps in any attempt at an adequate formalization: first, define your terms carefully, so that you can then ascertain whether their meanings entail some inconsistency internal to the scheme of formalization; second, test the scheme of formalization so to ascertain its adequacy to the explananda.

        The substance of the original post should suffice to show that I am absolutely convinced that any consistent scheme of formalization – any logical calculus – must be inadequate to its explananda. But that this is so does not mean that we may not understand anything even a little bit by recourse to schemes of formalization – to, i.e., systems of representation, or logical calculi. Obviously, we can.

        But it is harder to do so if our schemes of formalization are inconsistent.

        It is tempting to think that our model of reality is complete, and therefore adequate, and so reliable. Such is the temptation to Pelagianism, and to the teaching of Lucifer; to the sin of pride. But a complete model can’t be consistent, so such temptations are to an impossibility: to inconsistency, then to nominalism and the sinistrification of names, then to chaos, and so to spiritual disaster.

        … even something that is only a phenomenal product of a processing error in the CNS is still *in fact* a real output of a CNS control system: mistakes are concrete reals.

        … This just seems to be a confused way of talking about the relationship between neural events and whatever external objects they might reference (or might not).

        Actually I was only making the point that even the apprehension of what turns out on further inspection to be a mirage or an hallucination is nevertheless an apprehension of a congeries of real events in the CNS. What is manifest must be real, *somehow;* even if it is really mistaken. If I were to tell you I am in Prague right now, I’d be feeding you a mistake. Nevertheless my telling you would be a real event. Likewise if your CNS tells you there is an oasis in the distance, when really there is not, nevertheless the telling of the CNS about the oasis is a real event.

        None of this is really at issue between us in this discussion. All of it was in support of the proposition that *any apprehension whatsoever* prerequires a subject and an object: dualism. No subject of phenomenal experience → no phenomenal experience; likewise, no object whatever of phenomenal experience → no phenomenal experience. None of that should trouble you at all, if you are sane.

        I think what you are saying is that there is not a temporal relation between the void and the many; so it would be literally incorrect to say that the void gave rise to the many, or that there was a time before the existence of the many.

        That is indeed one of the things I am saying. It is inapposite to adduce a temporal relation between time and eternity. Eternity does not – indeed, cannot – cause time efficiently, for in that case eternity would be itself temporal.

        All I’m suggesting is that reality is built of images … So, it’s images all the way down.

        I’m not sure what you call that position – idealism? But once again I find myself surprisingly more realist than you, since in my universe reality is built out of nature and images come along much later.

        It’s panpsychism. Unlike idealism, it does not deny the reality of matter. And it is realist. But anyway, who says ideas are not real? Granted, they are not real in the same way that a ham sandwich is real, but still: if there are ideas at all, then ideas are somehow real. From them, we get the idea of the ham sandwich; and from that, we are able to cobble together a nice lunch. Hold on a minute while I instantiate the idea of a cold beer standing next to that sandwich.

        You are saying, in effect, that either meaning had to be baked into the universe [by] a creator, or nothing can possibly be meaningful. That’s dualism, it assumes that meaning is separate from nature and can’t arise from it. Yet you accuse me of dualism, but I don’t consider mind to be something separate from nature, you do. I don’t need a creator to add meaning to the physical universe, mind is a natural product like anything else.

        Well, from the fact that the universe is ordered, teleological, artful, meaningful, intelligible, and so on – in the final analysis these all amount to, or rather point to, the same thing – it does not appear to follow directly that it is the work of an *exogenous* artisan. But to show that it does is a matter of another and different deliberation. It might, as you say, be the work of endogenous artisans. But, whether the cosmos is in any degree the work of an extracosmic artificer is not first at issue. What is at issue first is whether the cosmos is indeed teleological, ordered, meaningful, and so forth. If it is not, then the proposition that it is not is – being an aspect of that very cosmos – itself completely meaningless nonsense.

        We may conclude then that, the alternative being strictly meaningless, the cosmos is indeed a work of art, on the part of *some artificers or other* – to include intracosmic artificers. In no other way might meaning have been baked into it, or got into it in any other way.

        Having settled that, we may then proceed to deliberation on the character of the artisans who bake meaning into events.

        By no means do I think that meaning is separate from nature, or cannot arise from it. On the contrary, as I wrote:

        All I’m suggesting is that reality is built of images … So, it’s images all the way down.

        I.e., it’s meanings all the way down. Whether the meaning of the cosmos is the work of endogenous or exogenous artificers – or of both, as we here all think – we may therefore infer that it is intrinsically meaningful. Whether God bakes meaning into things, or someone else does, they are meaningful, as plain as day. That was all I meant by writing that the cosmos is obviously a work of art. If meaning were not intrinsic to the cosmos, we could not meaningfully apprehend any meaning therein. All our apprehensions of meaning would in that case be hallucinations, and all our conversations then moot.

        Leftists want to abolish creation – simply because they didn’t create it and anything that they didn’t create offends them.

        And Bruce Charlton speaks of a spiritual warfare unto the death. I don’t see much hope of finding common ground here.

        The common ground is indeed dwindling. No argument there. If the rhetoric now propagating abroad (about how white male Christians are evil and ought to be eradicated) is any indication, the coming war is shaping up to be corporeal as well as spiritual. I therefore view your regular presence here as somewhat heroic – viscerally, as well as intellectually. They know you frequent this site, and abet its work by providing an adversarial interlocutor.

        So, when they come for us, it is not unlikely that they shall come for you, too.

        Bruce is only reporting the impression of the Right that the Left is out to destroy us, utterly. When your adversaries have declared that your sort ought to be eliminated from society, that’s tantamount to a declaration of war to the death. And we on the Right see that sort of declaration just everywhere these days. *We* did not declare that war. We don’t want it. We would prefer sweet reason, and civil dialogue, hoping by them to convert our adversaries to our way of thinking – to awaken them from their delusions. But the Left rules out dialectic. It traditionally has.

        Surely you know this about the history of your own side, no? Surely you know about the Terror? Surely you know about the NKVD, the gulags, the reeducation camps, the killing fields, and so forth? Honestly, what is it about you guys, that you are not willing to recognize this stuff? Given that Leftist notions regularly result in mass murder – and, indeed, so often advocate it – why do you not reject and ardently abhor Leftism? Are you in *favor* of mass murder?

        Do not pretend that this is not personal, when push comes to shove. If your ideology were to prevail in society generally – as seems now to be happening – it would mean my death. Is that what you would?

        If so, what then, with your ideology? Is it not a doctrine of death to its opponents? Whence then any surprise that those opponents begin at last to wake up and realize their case – and decide that, since it is to be a fight to the death willy nilly, they shall fight to the death?

        Excursus: On your notion that there is no true morality, there could be nothing morally problematic about the awakening of the Men of the West, or their victory, or their annihilation of Leftists.

        The moral praeparatio for civil war – and for mass murder – is evident in such considerations.

        There is a tight analogy to Islam versus everything else. Islam declares that all infidels must either be converted or killed. So, Islam makes everyone else a mortal enemy of Islam – whether he likes it or not, and only in virtue of the Islamic insistence that everyone else is Islam’s mortal enemy. It’s very simple. Islam provokes in its adversaries a simple, single option: Islam delenda est. In no other way might they survive.

        Likewise with Leftism. When Leftists declare that they intend to eliminate everyone like me, why then, I find myself in a fight to the death with all Leftists, whether or not I have any interest in any engagement with them, of any sort.

        It is the same with all totalitarian ideas.

        The notion that Leftists want to abolish creation because it is not of their own invention, so that – thanks be to GNON – it stubbornly controverts and frustrates them at every step, follows directly from such sentiments as:

        I don’t believe there is a true and objective morality, and if this makes me a Luciferian, well Hail Satan. Lucifer is of course the model of rebellion against authority so from that perspective he’s my man.

        So you are totally in favor of the dawning rebellion of the Right against the more and more tyrannical authority of the Leftist Establishment, correct?

        Dude: if you believe that there is no true and objective morality, then you believe it is *perfectly OK* for someone to kill you, rape and murder your wife and kids, and then take all your stuff. You won’t *like* it if they do those things, of course, but your liking is on your account of moral reality no more dispositive than their liking of their rapine, murder and pillage. So, not dispositive, period full stop. Indeed, utterly irrelevant.

        Face it. If you think x is wrong, you believe in true and objective morality. That being so, you are bound sooner or later to account for your thought that x is wrong. If you want to convince someone that it is wrong for him to kill you, rape your wife and kids, and take all your stuff, you are going to have to come up with something pretty doggone convincing. Pro tip: it must rely not at all on your personal preferences. Otherwise, your wife and kids are totally fair game, ripe for the plucking.

        I have a hard time believing that you really believe it is perfectly OK *in reality* for oligarchs to exploit the working class. For example. If there is no true and objective morality, then slavery is OK, right? And rape? Oppression of women, murder of gays, evisceration of those who miss a spot shaving: no big deal, indeed no deal at all, right? Human sacrifice? Genocide? The Holocaust? The Holodomor? Whatever, knock yourself out. Do as thou wilt is the whole of the law.

        Leftists are *outraged* at this or that injustice, as indeed we ought all to be, at all true injustice. But if there is no true and objective reality, as so many Leftists insist is so, then Leftists have no basis for their outrage. Rightist outrage meanwhile is on solid ground …

        I don’t think you understand Crowley, whose widely misunderstood message is not “go ahead and be an asshole,” but pointing out that you are free, there is no authority, and if there is going to be morality it will have to emerge from human thought, it’s not to be found dictated by a creator.

        Believe me, I understand Crowley quite well. Despite his manifold depravities, I doubt he would shortchange a cabbie. Wouldn’t be proper (!), see?

        Crowley’s dictum is indeed that of Satan. This has been the teaching of the Church for 4,000 years.

        There is a crucial difference between Crowley and all that is humane and truly good. It is captured in the simple difference between Crowley’s dictum, and that of Saint Augustine, whom he aped, so mocked, and who in his 7th Homily on the Letter of John: 8 wrote:

        Love, and do as thou wilt.

        “Love” translates caritas. In paragraph 10 of the Homily, he writes that “God is love.”

        Do you not see the plain difference between these two teachings?

        … people manage to be moral (or not) without having a well-worked out philosophical theory – that is what practical morality means. [I] even saw a study, but it’s kind of obvious, since higher primates and primitive humans have politics and morality without (one presumes) philosophizing about it.

        Sure. But if there were no ontological springs of morality – if there were no true and objective moral reality – then there could be no way for innocent, unreflective minds (or any other sort, for that matter) to apprehend and approach it, whether philosophically or otherwise. There can be no politics, or a fortiori any morality, that is devoid of some sense of what is true and right, *objectively.* It is not possible to propose a moral or political argument that does not presuppose some notion of the true social good.

        What we find empirically is that *every culture whatever* has a sense, and indeed a more or less finely elaborated doctrine, about what it is right or wrong to do. There could not otherwise be social order, or therefore society. So we should not be surprised that even the most primitive societies, as of pack animals, herds, and primates, are all informed by custom, ritual, altruism, and fairness; by some notion of justice, enacted.

        No notion of justice → no society whatever.

        Indeed, even the transactions within and between cells of a single animal body can be characterised as customary, ritual, and – even at the chemical level – fair. Chemical transactions must *balance.* They must be *just.*

        Politics are a symptom of deranged and incoherent culture …

        Utterly wrong.

        Show it. Give us an example of a culture that was at perfect peace, and that nevertheless engaged in partisan factional politics. Pretty tough challenge, no? It’s to say, “show us conflict that is peaceful.” Another contradiction in terms, which in logic you are prevented by your preferences – so far as we can yet tell, your entirely unwarranted preferences, which must therefore appear to us as insane – from surmounting.

        NB: that there might be no example of a culture at perfect peace would not show that politics is not a symptom of deranged and incoherent culture. On the contrary: it would show that coherent sane culture is hard to achieve. It would show that peace is hard. Who would argue with that?

      • Likewise if your CNS tells you there is an oasis in the distance, when really there is not, nevertheless the telling of the CNS about the oasis is a real event.

        I think we are in agreement on this point.

        It’s panpsychism. Unlike idealism, it does not deny the reality of matter. And it is realist. But anyway, who says ideas are not real?

        Images are perfectly real, the issue is if they are foundational: “images all the way down” as you said.

        Frankly, I am basically an antifoundationalist so any statement that the cosmos is made up of x seems misguided (at best) to me. Whether x is particles or images or anything else. Max Tegmark says the world is made up of mathematics, and while that theory has an the most appeal to me, it also still seems to have something wrong with it. My antifoundationalist attitude applies equally to metaphysics and morality, and opposed in about the same way to your naive realism.

        What is at issue first is whether the cosmos is indeed teleological, ordered, meaningful, and so forth. If it is not, then the proposition that it is not is – being an aspect of that very cosmos – itself completely meaningless nonsense.

        What an odd way of thinking you have (from my perspective – I suppose it’s actually pretty basic and I’m the odd one here). You invent this binary predicate (either the cosmos is teleological and all the rest, or it isn’t). In doing so you tie a bunch of terms together, implying that they are equivalent to each other, or at least so tightly linked that they rise and fall together (teleology, order, meaningfulness…and so forth).

        That just seems like the wrong way to think about meaningfulness. It may or may not be a property of the cosmos as a whole. In real life, it’s not a binary and it’s not global and it’s not objective. Meaningfulness is local, produced by the interaction of a mind with its environment. Things may be more or less meaningful, and since meaningfulness is inherently subjective, different people will have different adjudications of meaning.

        Sense and nonsense likewise are not global properties of the universe, but real local productions of actual minds.

        This is what we can observe from the universe around us. What your religion does, AFAICT, is to take this remarkable but quite concrete human ability to detect and create meaning, and project it onto imaginary beings. To assume that because human-scale art objects have a creator, so must the universe as a whole. To presume because we can locate meaning in our lives, there must be a meaning to the universe as a whole.

        These all seem like extremely dubious leaps to me. It’s pretty to think so, but not consistent with observations.

        Surely you know this about the history of your own side, no? Surely you know about the Terror? Surely you know about the NKVD, the gulags, the reeducation camps, the killing fields, and so forth?

        That isn’t my side. I’m a mix of hippie-anarchist and bog standard liberal, and thus opposed to all of those; they are on the other side, the side of the state and the side of authoritarianism. I would take insinuations otherwise as a personal insult, but I have to realize that someone like you has no real clue what they are talking about in this area, and your brain has been damaged by the rightwing disinformation system, so that you probably actually can’t tell the difference between, say, Elizabeth Warren and Pol Pot. All the same side to you.

        Furthermore: if I can have the crimes of Stalin hung around my neck, how about I hang those of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, and our own homegrown ersatz would-be dictator Trump around yours? Those criminals have had a direct impact on my family, unlike the imaginary communists you think are coming for you next week. We are talking actual murders here, not hypotheticals.

        I don’t think this conversation can go on if we both think of each other as trying to murder the other, or allied with such murderers. Pity, I’ve enjoyed the intellectual sparring, but there are limits. As you point out, I’m abetting your cause, and that is not something I care to do, nor can defend doing.

      • Frankly, I am basically an antifoundationalist so any statement that the cosmos is made up of x seems misguided (at best) to me.

        OK. I can respect that. It behooves us to regard any scheme of reduction with a fair degree of skepticism. But, good luck with making sense of the cosmos as intelligible on the basis of the supposition that there is *nothing at all* that is common to all creatures. Reality must have *some foundation or other.* Antifoundationalism as a methodological axiom amounts in the end then to anticognition.

        My antifoundationalist attitude applies equally to metaphysics and morality, and [is] opposed in about the same way to your naïve realism.

        This is not surprising. Antifoundationalism carried out to its logical terminus amounts to complete ignorance. So, it stands in contradiction to any sort of realism, naïve or otherwise – and to any sort of knowledge, of understanding, or a fortiori of wisdom.

        Antifoundationalism is the zero of understanding; for, it asserts that there is no foundation for understanding, and so no possibility of understanding.

        Any account of reality has to start *somewhere or other.* No foundation, no account; no account, no basis of action; so, no action. But, action. Ergo, etc.

        NB: I know perfectly well that you, a.morphous, are not in truth or in practice an antifoundationalist. Because why? Because you try to reason with me. You are to be sure rightly *skeptical* about this or that foundational scheme. But you cannot proceed to type one character after another except under the presupposition that there must be *some foundation or other* that grounds all things, so that it can ground the next character you type. Acts per se are implicitly foundationalist.

        Notwithstanding all that, I totally get your skepticism about this or that foundational scheme. It is correct, and apt. And I do not by the foregoing intend to convince you of my own foundational scheme. All I mean to do is to indicate that *any scheme whatever* cannot but presuppose some foundation or other. Even antifoundationalism presupposes a foundation, for it cannot be expressed except by way of foundational terms it repudiates; such, e.g., as “foundation.”

        The repudiation of truth cannot arise other than as a supervention of truth. No truth → no denial of truth. If there is no truth, then there can be no credence in the proposition that there is no truth.

        What is at issue first is whether the cosmos is indeed teleological, ordered, meaningful, and so forth. If it is not, then the proposition that it is not is – being an aspect of that very cosmos – itself completely meaningless nonsense.

        What an odd way of thinking you have (from my perspective – I suppose it’s actually pretty basic and I’m the odd one here). You invent this binary predicate (either the cosmos is teleological and all the rest, or it isn’t). In doing so you tie a bunch of terms together, implying that they are equivalent to each other, or at least so tightly linked that they rise and fall together (teleology, meaningfulness, order, and so forth).

        Wait, no, it’s way simpler than all that. If the cosmos is meaningless nonsense, then – because they are all intrinsically cosmic – so are all our notions meaningless nonsense, including the idea that the cosmos is meaningless nonsense. Period full stop. If the cosmos is meaningless nonsense, we can’t meaningfully think that the cosmos is meaningless nonsense. But, since we *can* meaningfully think that the cosmos is meaningless nonsense, therefore *the cosmos must be meaningful.* To be meaningful, it must also be ordered, teleological, and so forth. Etc.

        … meaningfulness … may or may not be a property of the cosmos as a whole. In real life, it’s not a binary and it’s not global and it’s not objective. Meaningfulness is local, produced by the interaction of a mind with its environment.

        Sure. But, if there is no meaning inherent to the environment of a mind, and so objective thereto, then any meaning that such a mind might see in it could be no more than a delusion. It could not even be wrong. It could be only *meaningless.*

        What your religion does, AFAICT, is to take this remarkable but quite concrete human ability to detect and create meaning, and project it onto imaginary beings.

        As I have already shown, we cannot detect meaning that is not there to be detected. To “create” or “detect” a meaning that is not otherwise real is just to lie, or at least to fall into radical error; into delusion about what is real. It is mental illness. The meaning we do apprehend in things then is obviously prior to us, and must therefore arise from beings prior to us. Ergo, etc.

        That we are able to form an image of such beings in our imagination nowise indicates that such beings are not real, or that our images of them are inaccurate. You can form an image of your coffee as it stands before you. Does that mean that there is no coffee?

        Honestly, this is all so basic. Sheesh.

        To presume because we can locate meaning in our lives, there must be a meaning to the universe as a whole.

        If there were no meaning to the universe as a whole, there could not be any meaning to any parts of it. I mean, think: if the universe as a whole is totally meaningless, then … it is meaningless through and through, no? That’s just what “totally meaningless” *means.* If there is no meaning to the cosmos, then hello, *there is no meaning to the cosmos,* or so to any portion thereof. Period, full stop. Then, all our intimations of meaning are just illusory.

        That isn’t my side. I’m a mix of hippie-anarchist and bog standard liberal, and thus opposed to all of those; they are on the other side, the side of the state and the side of authoritarianism. I would take insinuations otherwise as a personal insult, but I have to realize that someone like you has no real clue what they are talking about in this area, and your brain has been damaged by the rightwing disinformation system, so that you probably actually can’t tell the difference between, say, Elizabeth Warren and Pol Pot. All the same side to you.

        I’m something of a hippie anarchist myself, so I’m not totally out of synch with you. But, then, I’m no longer a bog standard liberal, so …

        Nevertheless, I am with you opposed to all tyranny. Hail fellow, well met!

        Anarchy can’t work, of course. Next best thing, closest thing, and best thing overall, is subsidiarity. Yay, Church, Tradition, and Reaction!

        Subsidiarity is libertarianism and liberalism baptized, domesticated, and *subjected to hierarchy.* So that they can all work.

        I do of course see that Elizabeth Warren is not the same as Pol Pot. She was raised Methodist, for heaven’s sake. God bless her earnest little angry heart. But I do of course see also, as any idiot must, that she is of the school that tends and inevitably ends in the Terror, and the killing fields. If you can’t see that, well, so much the worse for you; those guys will, as I indicated, be coming for your ilk, too, you imperialist running dog lackey. They’ll come for Warren, too. Then, they’ll devour each other. Viz., Robespierre, Trotsky, et alii. Rock on you Leftist fools! Destroy your Revolution!

        Face it, my dear: your only hope of survival is with us. The Revolution will devour you, as it devours itself. We won’t.

        Furthermore: if I can have the crimes of Stalin hung around my neck, how about I hang those of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, and our own homegrown ersatz would-be dictator Trump around yours?

        Sure. Except for Hitler and Mussolini, who like you were socialists. And the victims of Franco must of course be balanced by the victims of his adversaries – let us call Spain an even trade, tit for tat, given the thousands of religious and laymen killed by the Republicans. But I’ll gladly take for our party the few thousand (?) victims of Pinochet and the zero victims of Trump, in exchange for the 50 million+ victims of Stalinism, Maoism, and … hell, Pol Pot barely even registers compared to those guys.

        Honestly, a.morphous. The true Right, as we understand it – the traditionalist, Christian, monarchist hierarchical, aristocratic Right – has killed almost no one, in comparison to our adversaries. Those adversaries – your party – have killed *millions.* How do you get around this, a.morphous? Millions upon millions, all victims of your ideology. How do you encompass that? *How the fuck can you possibly go on with your commie bullshit?*

        I am indeed sorry for the political murders your family has suffered. Nobody in my family has yet been murdered on account of my postings here. But that does not mean there shall be no such murders in the offing; indeed, that sort of thing looks all too likely right now. Regardless, the murder of millions upon millions of other victims of your ideology are no less real.

        Take the historical consequences of your notions, *and pay for them.* You might as well. For, you shall indeed pay, sooner or later. It’s a plain consequence of all the conservation laws of physics, also known as karma. Eat it, dude. There is no choice about that.

        On the other hand, you could repent. Consider it; a cheap way out.

      • Let me explain something to you. In the current US political environment, there are basically two parties: the Republicans, who have been moving steadily towards fascism and recently attempted a violent overthrow of the government, and the Democrats, who have many flaws but nevertheless have come to stand for that which is opposed to fascism, that is to see, modern liberal cosmopolitan civilization.

        The closest thing we have to communism in mainstream politics is Bernie Sanders, who is fighting tirelessly for scary things like paid parental leave and universal health coverage. Might he and his faction seize power and send undesirables to re-education camps? I suppose it could happen, but it seems like a fairly remote possibility. It’s not on my radar of things to worry about, while fascist insurrection has actually happened, and right-wing violence has killed hundreds of people in the last few decades.

        I view fascism much like you view communism, or Satan – it constitutes an existential threat to my life and values. Due to its nature, it makes no sense to argue with fascists – they have to be defeated either politically or in the worst case, militarily. The fact that you personally may be a peaceable guy who just wants a good old-fashioned monarchy ruled by a wise and just king is completely irrelevant to the political actuality.

        It’s also a puerile fantasy, which in itself is pretty harmless, but to the extent it provides cover for the real powers at work in the world, it’s anything but.

      • LOL. Dream on, you wee precious credulous snowflake. Classic Leftist projection. You don’t know about the White House project to shut down all “misinformation” on all platforms. You didn’t notice. Because why? Because you only read Establishment propaganda, you only notice what the Oligarchs want you to notice. You buy the whole Party Line, together with the hook and sinker. You are a good little apparatchik, another tiny pathetic useful idiot.

        Not in my eyes, of course, but rather in the eyes of your masters. We all here have more respect for you than they.

        Liberal cosmopolitan civilization, my ass. The Fascists are in charge *right now.* They are not Republicans. They are your guys: the Party of the Clampdown. Heterodox opinions of all sorts, and on all topics, are being crushed *right now,* by your guys.

        Meanwhile I know all about Bernie Sanders. I know he’s really just a harmless benign old coot, who will *never* be allowed into power by your masters, because he is too honest, and too fundamentally kind; such is his tremendous appeal, despite the manifest inanity of his policy proposals.

        Do not think for a nanosecond that we of the Right do not see through the guys purportedly on our side, either (such as Fox). Most of them are shills. They take us for idiots, but again they are projecting.

        Do not think for a nanosecond either that you will not sooner or later be swept up and clamped down upon. Your sort’s revolution always devours your sort – all those of your ilk who truly mean well, like you and Bernie Sanders. If your side wins, we here are all doomed – including you. That’s just how it works, when your guys get into power.

        You do see this, right? You’ve read some history of what happens when the Left gets into power?

        I renew my question: how *the hell* can you put yourself on the same side as that? Do you *want* to line up with the likes of Ceaușescu?

        No snark or sarcasm, now; no flaccid weak minded gestures in the direction of a fatuous tu quoque. Just answer the question, boldly and forthrightly. Show us your moral *argument.* What is your coldly reasoned case for the justice of the Terror?

        Oh, wait, no, never mind: you don’t believe in morality, or therefore in such fantastic bourgeois delusions as justice, forsooth. So, when your side comes for you and your family, you won’t be able to mount any objection; you’ll just meekly trundle off in the tumbril to the gulag – or to the gallows.

        We’ll see you there. We’ll be there under protest, singing psalms and so reproaching the whole procedure unto death; you’ll be there as a quisling, an approving accomplice; a Wormtongue.

        I’ll take my destiny there over yours; better a martyr to Truth than a willing victim and servant of the Lie. But I’ll be interested to hear how you manage to bear the thought of yours.

      • Well, if we ever find ourselves imprisoned in the same gulag we can have that beer we keep talking about. Until then…adios, thanks for the conversation. To the extent that we seek the same things, I wish you the best.

        One last correction: you said in your last comment that “I don’t believe in morality”, which is of course untrue. I said somewhere in this very long back-and-forth:

        I don’t really care that much about “the ontological springs of moral conviction”. I’m interested in actual not theoretical morality, and actual morality is less a matter of philosophical justification and more a part of practical social reality. The springs of actual morality are a combination of re innate and universal human responses, and others based on developmental experience and thus different for everyone. The way we achieve the shared, political, public morality that we need to live together is through compassion, tolerance, and respect for the individual person.

        That you would take this as a disbelief in morality as such is indication to me that that my words have been falling on deaf ears.

      • By no means would I ever demean compassion, tolerance, and respect for the individual person. Indeed, they are praught and adjured by my Church and my Lord, under the heading of the Second Great Commandment: Matthew 22:39. Nor would I ever suppose or want to suggest that you do not your best to abide by those values from one day to the next; your comport here is testimony to the fact that you mostly do (despite your wonted snark!). After all, you are a civilized man.

        Nevertheless, a purely practical code of behavior – if that is even a coherent notion – can at most be only adventitious, and indeed tendentious. It cannot be founded upon any notion of suprapersonal – or, even, supramomentary – justice relevant to the individual. It therefore leaves the individual morally adrift, and that quite utterly. It must reduce at last to mechanical dependence upon a mere schedule of happenstantial personal preferences.

        Only sociopaths make decisions in respect only to their personal preferences, untrammeled by any considerations of suprapersonal justice. You are not a sociopath.

        So, yeah. When you tell me that you don’t care about the ontological springs of moral conviction, I don’t believe you for a minute. It’s not that your words fall on deaf ears, but rather that they are vulnerable to logical parsing by the temporal and cortical regions of the CNS, which report that you must in logic after all care about the ontological springs of moral conviction, at least implicitly, so as to arrive at moral feelings in the first place, and then so as to make decisions and take action in your own life.

        If you did not suppose that your moral notions had a basis in ontological fact, you could not decide between bad or good, or then make any decisions; for, in that case, you could have no confidence that your personal preferences had any relation to real outward goods or evils, and so could have no way to evaluate various courses of action, and decide between them. You do make decisions, ergo etc.

        Decision per se presupposes an objective gauge and measure of success prior thereto. If you don’t have a good to aim for, prior and superior to the moment of decision, you’ve no way to make the decision, because you’ve no way to know what you are aiming for.

        To hell, then, with purely practical morality.

        I mean that quite literally. Hell is what you get when you found your life upon falsehoods.

  2. The intuition of these things, even where they are not articulate as yours, likely accounts for the popularity of fantastic literature and film. I have possibly stated this before, but it has long occurred to me that “escapism” should not be a pejorative; whatever is “escapist” has to be measured against from which it seeks escape. I have made another small, and perhaps private or subjective discovery, namely that my immersion in the fantastic during my adolescence prepared me to read and to be fascinated by Platonism later in life. There is a direct link between my fascination for Burroughs’ “Princess of Mars” and my fascination for “The Phaedrus” and “The Cloud of Unknowing.”

    • Likewise. For me, the turning point came with Ogier the Dane, when I was about 12. I had by then read all of the Narnia books, Tolkien, the Greek and Norse myths, and the Arthur legendarium. Oh, and Robin Hood, of course. When I got to the Chanson de Roland, Ogier was so attractive to me – he made so much sense as a human being – that I found I just could not take him to be totally fictional. The scales began then subtly to tip toward the plausibility of the idea that there might really be other worlds wherein such tales were simply true; and that such worlds might not be utterly inaccessible to or from our own.

      That was when I began to suspect also that there might be something to tales of dragons, ghosts, fairies, and so forth, even in our own world.

      The upshot was that I began to see angels and demons with a more open eye, and began to wonder how to think about … well, about all those things, in such a way as to make room for them in a coherent and intelligible cosmos. One does not bother with such deliberations over things that one has seen cannot be real, such as a square circle.

      The last domino to fall was incredulity in the factual character of the miracles reported in Scripture. It was then that I stopped trying to force an understanding of such unusualities under the terms of the Standard Model. That then opened the door to the possibility that the doctrine of transubstantiation might be literally true.

      • “The upshot was that I began to see angels and demons with a more open eye, and began to wonder how to think about … well, about all those things, in such a way as to make room for them in a coherent and intelligible cosmos.”

        Seeing as how I grew up near Zuma Beach, I also began to see angels, mostly angels, in my adolescence. It’s true — there were a few demons. The angelic vision made me appreciate how coherent, intelligible, and curvy was the cosmos! (See my essay on pin-up art.) I later saw quite a few angels on Bruin Walk at UCLA.

      • Given beauty, angels follow, pretty much.

        That said, let it be noted: angels are masculine, albeit not male. So, the beauties you observed in LA were I suppose *generated* by angels – at some remove, perhaps.

  3. This is interesting.

    Since in Godel’s proof of his incompleteness theorem, his unprovable statement is fairly artificial, a natural question would be, are all unprovable statments of this kind – is incompleteness just a curio?

    But in fact, there are other natural questions that are unprovable within a particular system, such as the Continuum Hypothesis, which corroborates the idea of this post that there is something deeper going on with Godel’s Theorem.

    The “stack of worlds” is something I believe in as well. It makes sense of how the spiritual relates to the material.

    About two months ago, I wrote something about the stack of worlds from a less rigorous, more speculative perspective: https://nolongerreading.blogspot.com/2021/05/the-symbolic-truth-of-medieval-cosmology.html

    • Thanks, NLR. Your post covers some of the same ground I am planning to cover in my next on this topic.

      Statements in logic are necessarily purely formal, and can seem at first to have but little bearing on life outside the discourse of logicians. But then a JR Lucas comes along and furnishes quite a concrete and pragmatic consequence of the otherwise completely abstract Incompleteness Theorems.

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