08 May 2009

Pearls strung together

Winston Churchill said, 
You create your universe as you go along. The stronger your imagination, the more variegated your universe. When you leave off dreaming, the universe ceases to exist.
Albert Einstein said, 
... The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
Perhaps imagination weaves time and space to create reality: we are all engaged in a cooperative effort that results in the universe we experience.

I like this (from Encarta):
The dialectical materialists assert that the mind is conditioned by and reflects material reality. Therefore, speculations that conceive of constructs of the mind as having any other than material reality are themselves unreal and can result only in delusion. To these assertions metaphysicians reply by denying the adequacy of the verifiability theory of meaning and of material perception as the standard of reality. Both logical positivism and dialectical materialism, they argue, conceal metaphysical assumptions, for example, that everything is observable or at least connected with something observable and that the mind has no distinctive life of its own.
Again, perhaps I'm just stringing quotes together and not adding much to the discussion (as my English professor might have said). But this is not an essay: I enjoy having a digital memory of my delusions.


Peter McCombs said...

In my rambling opinion...

It is quite apparent that there is an objective reality, some portion of which is experienced similarly by all who have adequate senses for it.

It is also apparent that there is a subjective reality similarly experienced by people in general.

The value of materialism and positivism is that these systems admit that external things are actually real, thus they can really matter (as opposed to the way things might matter in a fantasy or in speculation). With materialism, things can be predicted and explored. Materialists recognize universal laws and forms, which enables them to work and exist in the real universe.

The problem with the materialist system is that it can't accept anything not sensed.

A psychologist once said that faith is powerful because it can help us see possibilities. But not for the materialist. They deny even the senses they don't understand, and some of them dismiss the religious just as the blind might dismiss (as deluded) those who have sight. Materialists are a lot like the blind: they can't see a lot of things.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, existentialists reject material reality and the universally positive logic of traditional philosophy.

Everything is perhaps real or perhaps arbitrary. It might matter, or it might not. It all depends on the subject. It is all internal. To the existentialist, the very words "true" and "false" are loaded with uncertainty and not to be trusted.

Existentialism is a useful system because it allows for new possibilities and recognizes subjective experience as a central principal.

The trouble with the system as I see it is that it becomes illogical, selfish, and impractical.

What I find interesting is the common ground where both the secular humanist (who fancies himself the ultimate dialectical materialist) and the new-age hippie (the consummate existentialist) meet: which is exactly at Dr. Bernard Mandeville's Licentious system.

See, the materialist has to ignore the nature of rights, morality, good, and evil. This is because he has no way to know about metaphysical things, no objective senses for them. Sure, he uses logic and reason as his mainstays (both are metaphysical entities), but he does not stop to examine these premises at all. If something does not suit him, he has an easy out.

Indeed, it is not uncommon for the materialist to be the least sensible and the least reasonable when forcing his ideology on others. He is empty, bitter, and so ironically similar to those who he criticizes the most: religious believers. Secular humanists are some of the most religious people I have ever talked to.

On the other hand, hippies have a terrific authority complex. They absolutely abhor universals and suppose that the labels derived for things like "good" and "bad" are merely subversive words used to control other people. It's the only time they seem to acknowledge external reality, when they feel they are being manipulated.

In the end, only one thing is certain for both the materialist and the existentialist: Whatever I feel like doing, that is right.

Dave said...

I think you generalize too much. You describe the extremities as if they constituted the majority.

Also, you say materialism and positivism admit external things are real ... yet, so do existentialists: it's just the subjective is equal with the objective. You seem to feel that for something to have value -- or really be real -- it must be able to be universally agreed upon by individuals who recognize themselves as separate from one another, and yet through something like reason are able to glimpse at unification transcendent of the mundane illusion.

You say the system seems "illogical, selfish, and impractical": I say logic is dependent on the reality system, and that what might be logical in one reality is not always so in another reality. At the least, we have a relatively feeble grasp at understanding the natural world (the local reality system). It could be that what seems illogical only seems so because it defies a very immature grasp of logic.

As for selfish: you're right in a way, but in another way I could argue that to say humanity is capable of anything less than selfishness is absurd; it's little more than romantic naivete. Altruism is merely the evolutionary adaptation for allied alleles to ensure continuation. Semantics drags that word right into a black hole. Yet, I don't see how the universe as a mutually co-operative endeavor can allow for selfishness: to me it seems the uninhibited assertion of one's uniqueness.

As for being impractical, I'm not sure anyone knows the most practical system. Maybe non-existence is the most practical system. I don't see why there should be anything at all. I don't understand why anything exists. And practicality to what end? The ultimate plan to uber-level in 40 hours to level 70 with the most elite equipment? "Practicality" seems a word best suited for things like financial planning, and even then likes to ignore the reality of chaos as much as possible.

Dave said...

Oh, and I forgot the last bit ...

"In the end, only one thing is certain for both the materialist and the existentialist: Whatever I feel like doing, that is right."

This is true. That is the full responsibility of creating one's reality. It is being, as Sartre said, "Condemned to be free." There is no authority to tell you the way it's going to be. You have to answer to the consequences of your own choices.

How insufferable would humanity be if it lost all decency just because there wasn't anyone to enforce shame and fear? I think it's notable that most people have a common decency no matter what they believe.

It's also more than just doing something because I feel like it: nearly everyone balances how they feel with a sense of reason. It's interesting to note that people who have lost an ability to emotionally feel can't even manage to make simple choices, and often make poor choices when they do.

Einstein said: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." I think it's similar with emotion and reason.