Saturday, July 30, 2011

interesting James and Whitehead article

Interesting article on James and Whitehead, "James and Whitehead: Assemblage and Systematization of a Deeply Empiricist Mosaic Philosophy".  Link HERE.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

the upholding and sharing of value intensity

Everything has some value for itself, for others, and for the whole.  This characterizes the meaning of actuality. . . . Existence, in its own nature, is the upholding of value intensity.  Also, no unit can separate itself from others, and from the whole.  And yet each unit exists in its own right.  It upholds value intensity for itself, and this involves sharing value intensity with the universe
 – Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought

Friday, July 22, 2011

Maine travel blog: (final post)

(PHOTO: After Nature)
So I am leaving Maine tomorrow after what will hopefully be a shorter hike in the morning.  What a great trip: loved every minute of it.  

Incidentally, while here in Maine I became much more philosophically close to Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom many read as a literary figure rather than a philosophical one.  I disagree with such a read of him.  While high flown, Emerson certainly offers some unique insights and demonstrates that there certainly is more than one sort of philosophical naturalism ("naturalism" being a commonly used term these days, but much misunderstood to say the least).  

By and large I read a good sized chunk of Buell's Transcendentalism book, and I recommend it.  Transcendentalism, like existentialism, is just one of those things that isn't so fashionable yet which still has, and probably always will have, a special place for me in my philosophical outlook.

Upon return home to Pennsylvania I have some more packing to do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maine travel blog (post 6): hiking on mountain

Maine travel blog (post 5): heart of the woods and back to Midland Coast + some reflections

Back to the Midland Coast for some more hiking.  Biked seven miles yesterday and saw some unbelievable scenery - just incredible.

After having been ensconced in the wilderness for just this long I think that it is only natural that my mind be led to questions of beauty and value, creativity and deity.  So Peirce was right in his "Neglected Argument" - and abductive musement is alive and well.

Evening consisted of some work in the cabin, working on the A Philosophy of Sacred Nature: Prospects for Ecstatic Naturalism anthology.  I also had time to read some Emerson poems, prompted by seeing flowers of the same name: Rhodora.  Emerson's poem, 'The Rhodora', was exceptionally fitting.  Margaret Fuller's"Recollections of Mystical Experiences" (1840) was also nice to read.

After reading and work it was finally time to enjoy some good wine and (of course!) some '80s new wave/darkwave, dance party!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Maine travel blog (post 2)

After a long day of hiking decided that I had to post this photo of a clearing at the edge of the forest - just an unbelievable view.  I also thought that the below Emerson quote was fitting given the recent discussions in the blogosphere concerning metaphysics, God, and naturalism.  Emerson, in my judgment, was a theistic naturalist no doubt.

(click to enlarge - PHOTO: After Nature)
Mayne Reid was the great writer of books of out-of-door adventure. He was forever extolling the hunters and field-observers of living animals’ habits, and keeping up a fire of invective against the “closet naturalists,” as he called them, the collectors and classifiers, and handlers of skeletons and skins. . . . What is their deduction of metaphysical attributes but a shuffling and matching of pedantic dictionary-adjectives, aloof from morals, aloof from human needs, something that might be worked out from the mere word “God” by one of those logical machines of wood and brass which recent ingenuity has contrived as well as by a man of flesh and blood. They have the trail of the serpent all over them. . . . Verbality has stepped into the place of vision, professionalism into that of life.
 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maine travel blog (post 1): arrived to Maine - view from the trail during hike

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cold Cave interview


To say that humans are amongst beings and not correlates of beings, for some, means to say that humans are downgraded to the status of "objects."  The center-point of experience, namely: the subject, is thus treated merely as an object among other objects, merely one being among other beings.  If humans are nothing more than objects, in the eyes of some, this means that the human loses its unique place as something special in the universe - a special place inhabited by that being which can cherish meaning and value, pursue with intelligence goals and purposes, and create a life: all acts that enable the human being to be referred to as a distinct and special creature apart from others in the universe.  (Presumably other things, like rocks and pens, but also animate organic forms of life like flowers or puppies, do not inhabit such a central place in the universe because they cannot cherish meaning and value or pursue with great sophistication and intelligence goals and purposes like humans are able to do, i.e. through the ability to "reason.")  

To rephrase: the thought is that ecological thinking is nihilistic because somehow humans are "brought down to" the level of objects if other beings are granted similar subjectivity once only afforded to humans.  Thus, what is special about being human is lost.

Perhaps humans may value experiences, create meanings and so forth, but that just doesn't amount to much in the grand ecological scheme of things if other creatures, in their objectivity, are just as much subjects as are human beings.  In the end we are objects as much as we are subjects - but also subjects as much as we are objects: a basic point brought home by the German idealists and the existentialists. 

In the end however the question posed (the more interesting question) is: does the fact that human beings in their cherishing of meaning and pursuit of goals make human beings somehow *more* valuable or unique than other meaning-valuing creatures? Than other objects endowed with a subjective life?  Ecologically speaking, of course the answer should be "no."

the dark side

As I lay awake unable to sleep, in order to grow more tired I do something that I know that I am not supposed to do: go to the computer ... (this and television are stimulants, they are the last things that one should toy with for sleep).

So, quickly: the reason that I am sleepless is due to pain.  With all due discretion I'll forgo details, but those close to me know about my health issues and can tell you that I am no stranger to pain.  Reflecting on some of my posts below that celebrate the ecological ethic of life and relation, growth, and empathy with other beings' perspectives, it is times like these that I am starkly reminded of "the dark side": we should acknowledge, too, the extinction of perspectives, of pain and death.  See for example my post on Schopenhauer, another one of my favorite philosophers.

Robert S. Corrington, creator of the school known as ecstatic naturalism, states that we should be careful not to "sugarcoat" nature - that is we should not over-emphasize a strictly comfy place in the cosmos for the human.  It just takes one jolt, an experience (Dewey and his naive optimism) to quickly remind you that we are all finite, we die, and its all part of the process (thus one other way to establish ontological parity - that in the sense that our singular existences can be extinguished at any moment, contingently - death is a reality equally shared).

Perhaps this adds even more value to what we may want to cherish.  Pain and suffering are alive and well, and they, too, serve as methods of contrast in the aesthetic experience of value.  

Hopefully I'll be able to get some sleep.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

the causal closure of nature: a mathematical concept

Immanent Transcendence hits it again.  What does it mean to say that "nature is closed"?  See this post.  When I was working on my dissertation, and I honestly forget if this made its way into the Peirce book or not, I had alot to say about set theory and how it fits into the picture of thinking about nature ...

Some would like to say that nature is "closed," as in "finite," a bound "set of all sets," a container of some sort that holds all things.  But, then, does this make nature (being a container) the ultimate thing?  Is nature thus a thing or not?  And so by treating nature as an object we are left with Russell's paradox.  Nature is not an object. Without an explanation of change, nature itself (whatever that means) is drawn asunder into the Newtonian pile of objects.  To have an account of the closure (or non-closure) of nature is to take a position on whether nature is an object or not.

If nature is *not* an object (my position), does it follow that nature can be "closed" in *any* sense?  This may play out on two levels: the categorical (I'll call this the general, as in applying universally) and on the level of objects themselves, as in particulars.  The layout may look something like this ... I hypothesize:

Categorical closure, as in fundamental modes of being (there are three: ontological or real possibility, sometimes called existential possibility - what is first; actuality - what is second, as in a reaction, what exists; and generality - what is third, established as the meaning of the interaction of the first two, or generality and law, this seems to evolve over time); where in total these modes are closed only in that they hold to what reality does (process) and is (objects), as part of what reality means - its own nature.  This is the universal.

Nature may be causally closed in that objects, being discreta, are indeed finite and capable of being totaled, numbered at any given time, and thus by having some present existence of being actualized carry a current actual material and efficient cause.  So there is closure in that sense; meaning that those causal limits have been defined and are now individuated through particulars, through objects as finite singulars.  Formal and final causes would be categorized as open (though they may be looked at as closed in the respect that *being causes* they are what they are): why?  Thinking Whitehead (and Deleuze) here: the Ideas, though being specific, contain an infinite degree of power in their generativity - and that power is indeed what makes for the openess, i.e. processural nature of nature.  It would seem that at the very least formal cause applies here, with short range final cause being malleable to the evolutionary selective pressures introduced by the ongoing actualization and change of materials and their efficient causes.  

Jason mentions Tom Alexander quite abit with reference to naturalism (and naturalism's apparently closed ontology - but for some forms of naturalism the ontology is open). I quite explicitly remember Alexander remarking during a Dewey seminar once, something to the effect of, "Once we forget that the forms change, we begin to forget God and God dies." 

Nature, I believe, is closed in some respects yet open in others.  Just as its quite misinformed to maintain *only* a "flat ontology" without depth, it is as equally naive to maintain all depth, all hierarchy, without a proper sense of univocity. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is nature causally closed?

Just got done reading Jason / immanent transcendence's post on the causal closure of nature.  Wow, what a great post.  Now, I follow his line of thinking - but beware, read slowly to follow it.  Some twists and turns and this turns out to be one of the more subtle posts you'll read in quite awhile.  It left me wondering more deeply about the topic, which is exactly the sort of thing that I enjoy to read.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

more on Whitehead's God

Over the past few days the blogosphere has been looking at Whitehead's process God, given the "interesting" treatment of Whitehead and religion in Stengers' book, Thinking with Whitehead - something under scrutiny lately (I'd have to point out the very few references to Hartshorne in the book, less than a half dozen, if that; important if any discussion of Whitehead's God is underway).  See my review of the book here.

So in response to the buzz, here is a rather (lengthy) chapter/article by Shaviro on Whitehead's God.  Overall very good, and a nice touch of a comparison between Whitehead and Deleuze.  Of course there is ALOT out there on the subject, but I appreciate the up-to-date and contemporary feel of the article.

As a side note: the article only bolsters my thought that any comparative talk about Whitehead and Spinoza is utterly stupid.  To quote Schelling (and not Lessing's positive use of the phrase), Spinoza is as good as a dead dog.

Whitehead's God and a Naturalistic Panentheism

Good posts by footnotes to plato.  Check out his read on Stengers' Whitehead book, with much to say about Whitehead's God; and a good article titled "Religion and the Modern World: Towards a Naturalistic Panentheism."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Caputo on Deleuze Reading Group: Post 6 of 7

Caputo finishes Ch. IV "Ideas and the Synthesis of Difference" (pp. 169-222) and goes over Ch. V as well (rather quickly).  This is his last lecture of the course, and it is probably my second favorite from the series overall.  Caputo hits on some of the major process thinkers here, and he sets up a good discussion about Schelling and Schelling's relationship to Whitehead (an interesting mix, but it fits).  My favorite lecture from this course was on "Difference in Itself" - see that post with comments here  but, again, this particular lecture is definitely a close second.  I'll be wrapping up the reading group with a seventh post by next week - offering some reflections on the course and what I learned from it.  I actually have quite abit to say concerning Deleuze, Whitehead, Hartshorne and process theology, philosophical ecology, etc.  I'll also have some remarks on Meillassoux and process-relational philosophy.  This reading group was such a success that I plan to run another one soon.  Audio lecture here.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pocono Mountains visit

I'll be visiting family in the Pocono Mountains for several days and so this means the opportunity to visit the forests of Delaware Water Gap and the wooded hills of Cherry Valley (now a nature preserve, where I grew up).  

Of course it will be good to see my family again and I am looking forward to the holiday.