The Gödelian Limit of Political Formalism

It is a straightforward corollary of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem that no strict formalization of political theory can possibly adequate to the multifarity of human reality, either in the most general terms or, a fortiori, in the particular and peculiar. Only a very informal formalism respecting genera, types or sorts of political order – as democracy, monarchy, etc. – is practical. When it comes to the formulation of concrete policy for a particular concrete polity, then, only the most general recommendations can make good general sense. And even a good general recommendation based on the eternal verities of human society must be tweaked if it is to fit a particular society in its given historical condition.

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The Proper Terminus of Any Science

Explanations, and the understandings they mediate, must all terminate (at least in principle) upon *some singularity or other* if they are to hang together – if they are to succeed as explanations by satisfying our urge to understand. This is as true for explanations of singular phenomena as it is for explanations of regularities. Science then, of any sort, has no alternative but to adduce some singularity or other as the original fact or truth at the basis of all others. The terminus ad quem of the scientific project must be an account of the terminus a quo of all things: a terminal singularity. This, whether the posited singularity be a historical event such as the Big Bang, or a fundamental equation that can work as a Theory of Everything, or what have you.

But only one sort of terminal singularity can ultimately succeed – not at completing inquiry, for (per Gödel) that completion is not possible to finite beings, but rather at satisfying them that things cohere intelligibly. Only one sort of terminal singularity can set the scientist’s mind finally and fully at ease.

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Immergence

When a complex orderly phenomenon such as consciousness arises in matter, it is these days often ascribed to a mysterious emergence of properties implicit in those of its material substrates. But really it goes the other way. Consciousness – ordered form in general – does not emerge from the material substrate of our world. It rather immerges thereto, from elsewhere. Novelty of all sorts is added to history from without.

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Credo: Resurrexit

Except for a couple years when I was in the wilderness, I have partaken each Easter in at least one liturgical celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As a cathedral chorister, I have often assisted in the celebration of four or five in the year, beginning at 9 PM on Easter Eve and stretching to 5 PM the next day. So I have heard about – let’s see – about 114 Easter sermons. Never once, in any of those homilies, was the fact of the Resurrection ever directly addressed. They generally spoke instead about God’s love, and his power – working in us, of course – to make things in the world all nice and fair, and to heal broken relationships. At most, preachers refer to the Resurrection as the context for their message of hope for renewed worldly life, as if it were a literary device or a metaphor. They never grapple with it directly.*

This has always amazed me. On Easter morning, preachers have their best opportunity of the year, after Christmas, to tackle head on one of the biggest stumbling blocks to faith, before a large audience of unbelievers, or proto-believers, or quasi-believers, or wannabe-but-don’t-know-how-believers, or those who have fallen away from the faith but remember their homeland with nostalgic affection, and would like to return if they could see a way to do so. It is, i.e., a fantastic opportunity for evangelization – not to swell the attendance rolls, but to save souls. Yet they all seem to shy away from the main thing that Easter is about: a dead man come to life again. To a typical modern, the story of the Resurrection looks like – well, it looks like sheer nonsense, crazy talk about an impossibility. And that apparent insanity at the heart of Christianity makes the whole religion incredible, empty, vain, as St. Paul knew (I Corinthians 15:17). Credence in the Resurrection is crucial to conversion; without it, there is no such thing.

But preachers never talk about this difficulty. I cannot resist the conclusion that – perhaps because they are themselves typical moderns – most preachers simply don’t know how to think about the Resurrection, any more than their skeptical auditors on Easter morning. They may believe in it, but they don’t know how to talk about it.

This is a sad state of affairs, because there is nothing especially difficult about the Resurrection.

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Nature Cannot Explain Itself

In his brilliant, aphoristic demolition of the modern, Pure: Modernity, Philosophy and the One, philosopher Mark Anderson explains in a few short paragraphs why nature cannot explain nature:

A particle of matter is because of an act of existence for which it itself is not responsible. It is what it is because of its microstructure, the specific and stable organization of its constitutive elements – in a word, its form, which it itself does not produce. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of forces and laws of nature, which neither bring themselves into being nor cause their specific and essential character.

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