Ashers
 
Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 04:26 pm
What do you take from or understand by the following statement from the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:

Quote:
If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.


My thoughts are muddled but:

As I take it, it's a very interesting perspective on faith and I wonder how believers at large relate to it. I’m not particularly familiar with Kierkegaard beyond a decent overview but I think a key idea of his concerned “subjective truth” which I guess is one of the things that relates him to later Existentialism. It seems he is saying that the objectivity of a religious “truth” is irrelevant but it is my relationship in contemplation of the statement that matters. Not whether Christianity is true in social discourse but whether it is true for me as an affirmation of an unknowable. I don’t understand it, nor can I, but I embrace it rather than recoil from it.

At this point I think of this as a kind of “base faith”, the fundamental contemplation between subject/object, man/world. Whether we call the world: reality or god, it’s all the same because it’s not the world understood as its constituent parts but the living experience of it in any given moment. And of course in this sense the faith act in Kierkegaardian terms seems to be of existential importance as an act of unification between those poles. But something happens which is that this “base faith” is nearly always encased in the (communicated) details, whether that is Jesus Christ resurrecting or what have you. But for Kierkegaard it seems that these details are treated no differently because religiously speaking: they aren’t objective statements to be discussed but points of origin for the “leap of faith” which is utterly personal.

So you have these two threads linking faith, irrationality and subjectivity on the one hand and knowledge, rationality and discourse on the other. Looking at the statement again, “wish to preserve myself in faith”, “holding fast the objective uncertainty”. Therefore for the faith act to be genuine it must constantly be weighed against ongoing objective knowledge about the statements and the world at large. That leads me to wonder about two ideas of faith, 1) believing what you cannot know and 2) believing what you know isn’t so. I’m not sure whether this distinction is meaningful or how it relates to Kierkegaard.

From what I’ve understood and in spite of the uncertainty element I suspect the greater the absurdity, the greater the leap of faith, the greater the religiousity for Kierkegaard (see his knight of faith/princess example). I don’t know though. It just seems a big difference to believe in something one cannot know and believing in something that seems to fly in the face of knowledge. This is very problematic for me especially in light of when this is all displaced into the social arena surrounding current issues so it’d be interesting to hear how people balance knowledge and faith and how if at all the two relate for people.

Appreciate any thoughts!
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 01:23 am
@Ashers,
Ashers,

Nice to hear from you !

It seems that you are mulling over the essential entanglement of ontology and epistemology. I havn't read Kierkegaard but I assume for him "faith" is an attempt to transcend that entanglement and yet maintain "self integrity". Simplistically I would argue that such a move is a psychological reaction to the terror/futility of a potential existential "void". i.e "Faith" is the choice by "self" to chose "closure" in preference to an infinite regress of "unknowing". Such a move is irrelevant in a scenario of "self-dissipation".
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 06:22 am
@fresco,
Hi fresco! Smile

Does closure rest on objectifying the infinite in the known while paradoxically holding the object to be “in itself” so as to close the regress? But an object can never be of itself hence it is a delusional act?

From what I understand of Kierkegaard, mainly looking at Fear and Trembling at the moment, it seems he is attempting to explain something which he himself holds as unexplainable. A game I have some sympathy for! He describes temptation as trying to explain the unknown instead of remaining silent. In his knight of faith elaboration he uses the example of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham remains fully committed to the sacrifice despite his inability to understand it rationally and does not fall into temptation by trying to couch the action in rational terms but remains steadfast to the absurdity. It’s this absurdity, this state of total wonder without context dependent rationale that I think is actually self-dissipating however (?). It cannot be talked about but must be talked around.

It seems to me however that with this acknowledgement, his entire writing rests on this problem, his entire work is a fall into temptation. This creates the problem of how to understand Abraham either as a murder plain and simple or as something somehow beyond. At the same time, hence why he falls into temptation in my eyes, he wants to draw attention to the problem of placing social importance beyond religious transcendence, caging the latter in reason and thereby losing it altogether. For me, despite the examples, the principle at stake is a complete trust in oneself that is beyond reasoning. Can someone live and act “for itself”, that’s the question.

From what I can see the whole flow of his thought is more easily understood when you take into account the conflict involved with his irrational love of Regina Olsen tempered with the rational responsibilities of marriage. I think he's a very interesting thinker though.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 09:33 am
@Ashers,
Quote:
Does closure rest on objectifying the infinite in the known while paradoxically holding the object to be “in itself” so as to close the regress? But an object can never be of itself hence it is a delusional act?[/quote

My concept of closure comes from systems theory which gives the epistemological picture of a succession of nested hierarchies operating between two levels of description. Thus "body cells" cannot be adequately be "known" except with respect to "body organs" and they in turn to "the body and so on. So mathematically we can argue for an infinite regress of hierarchies or an "op succession", but psychologically we may be drawn to a closure at the level of "the Absolute". (I'll try to dig out a reference on this later today).

"Evidence" for our desire for closure comes perhaps from perceptual studies in which the night sky as seen as a "flattened ceiling".


fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 11:07 am
@fresco,
http://www.thehope.org/Bernard_Scott/Abs-Intro.html

Reference as promised. (Don't know why the quote above included my post !)

I note BTW , that according to Wiki, we need to understand Lutheranism to see where K is coming from.
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 05:24 pm
@fresco,
Wow, cool link fresco, thanks. I really enjoyed that.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 03:39 am
@Ashers,
Hmm, that link seems to be down now. (You can get the reference by googling Bernard Scott cognitive methodology).

Note that Scott takes a theistic line but is interesting in his attempts to link to Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Fritjof Capra (Web of Life) takes a more neutral line (verging on Buddhism perhaps) in his discussion of systems theory.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:04 am
@fresco,
Fresco, what about going in the opposite direction; instead of an infinite *reductionist" REGRESSION to a "productionist" (what's a better term?) PROGRESSION--e.g. from the smallest subatomical elements making UP atomic ones constituting the molecular contents of organs which in turn produce organisms. I guess this progression is less infinite unless you consider the organisms to be contents of progressively larger organizations until we arrive--if ever--at forces and bodies on a cosmic scale.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:57 am
@JLNobody,
JLN,

That's exactly what I was getting at. There is no reason why epistemology is not "open" at either end.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 01:16 pm
@fresco,
Agreed. Isn't the most pernicious regression that of the self/ego standing as subject behind all the "objects" of experience? Schopenhauer commented that the "I" in the theorem: "I am free to will what I will" presumes an "I" behind that "I", and an "I" who stands behind and perceives that "I' and so on all the way back.
0 Replies
 
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 06:53 pm
@fresco,
Few questions:

1) What is the significance of a system being organisationally closed and how does this link in with the idea of "circular causality"? Is the latter a reference to the holistic way of analysing behaviours, i.e. A and B simultaneously and mutually co-define each other and hence their respective organisation. How does "information-tight" fit in, or the notion of information itself in this context?

2) What's your take on "undecidable questions", "limits to knowing" and:
Quote:
By deciding on the answers to in principle undecideable questions, we can choose who we wish to become.

I guess this takes us right to the point of "choosing" closure again. Do these questions relate to "language going on holiday" and truths relating more to groups and meaning rather than verification? When discussing the question of god my "self" expresses its deflating relationship and another expresses their positive relationship? This is why I think it's funny when certain atheists try to use evidence to change the others opinion. Evidence breaks down as a communicatory tool in this type of conversation between believers and atheists.

3) What do you think regarding the authors views of systems theory as a transdiscipline approach, has this bore fruit? Do you know much of current approaches?

Thanks for any feedback.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 02:13 am
@Ashers,

Ashers,

To some extent “answers” to your questions depend on what we might mutually consider to be axiomatic. Note for example that at one level of systems theory (Maturana’s autopoiesis) what we are doing here is (merely) a form of social dancing, or what Wittgenstein and Heideegger call “idle chatter”. At the other extreme, that of meditational holistic unity, we are all part of each other, and verbal communication becomes redundant. So bearing those two extremes in mind, I will now attempt “answers” to your points.

1. To understand “informational closure” and “circularity” we need to think phenomologically, i.e. that “an external world” is never directly accessible and may not have any essential ontological status at all. In such a system an “organism” merely adapts to “perturbations” to its structure. Successful adaptions imply “life” and unsuccessful ones “death”. (See the Von Glasersfeld link which I may have merntioned on previous threads). http://www.oikos.org/vonobserv.htm

2. My take on “knowledge” is that I define it as “successful prediction and control”. It is a by-product of a cognitive (life) system which utilizes language to co-ordinate its adaptatations. The abstract permanence of “words” do not reflect “reality” per se but construct a relatively permanent reality with “self” as one component which “can act”. “Closure” comes in as soon as we postulate an “origin for life” implying an “origin for language”. The implication is that we can avoid the infinite regress of words defining words. Atheists who seek “evidence” don’t realise that that word itself implies a hypothesis concerning “origins”, and that is the main “unanswerable question” because systems could evolve either spontaneously (Prigogine) or be “tweeked by a deity” (Polkinghorne).
"Knowledge of God" is the delegation of our limitations of "prediction and control" to an omnipotent sub-contractor.

3. Systems theory in general, and autopiesis in particular, has had some success in social organizational theory, and forms an alternative “scientific approach” to ecological concerns. My personal belief is that physics post Heisenberg may turn to it to attempt to understand the relationship between observer and observed. Watch the “collider news” and the attempts to observe the “God-particle” !

JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 04:28 pm
@fresco,
I have the hunch--and it's no more than a way of looking at the issue--that systems theory does not produce knowledge of what's outside a system. Complete systems are, by defininion, hypothetical constructions and only about themselves, and their closure is their principal property. The internal causations within systems are best thought of as functions, and their functions are the contributions they make to the perpetuation of their systems.
In the natural world all non-hypothetical or actual "systems" are no more than partial or quasi systems because they are always open to environments. All actual quasi-systems relate in varying degrees to all other actual quasi-systems.
There is, it seems to me, only one complete, actual, or natural system; that is the Cosmic Totality, assuming it exists. If it does it has by definition no environment, for it is all things. .
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 06:31 pm
@JLNobody,
Correct. "Totality" implies closure without enclosure.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Dec, 2009 01:48 pm
@fresco,
Because "enclosure" implies an enclosing environment?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Dec, 2009 06:13 pm
@JLNobody,
Exactly.
0 Replies
 
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Dec, 2009 06:35 pm
Very interesting guys, I really appreciate your elaborations. I enjoyed von Glasersfeld’s maturana explanation too, particularly the comparison with the pragmatists and the inescapable reflexive nature of maturana’s system if that’s the right way of putting it. That seemed the key to me. The bit on memory and representation was also interesting. I don’t know if this is an asinine question or if the following makes sense but where do you suppose the notion of a “totality” originates from? I don’t mean that as in the universe but as in “the complete system” possessing no boundaries.

In that 2nd link, the bit involving reflection on existing and new links of the system and what that implies in so far as distinctions between objects and object relationships, does this give rise to the sensation of flow/time which is the sense of the totality itself? A flow which cannot be held like an object but which is an inescapable implication that our notions of objects in time/space give?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Dec, 2009 01:57 am
@Ashers,
I tend to think that "totality" is experiential rather than analytical. It involves an "observerless" state, or perhaps what Krishnamurti called "the cessation of thought".

Your second paragraph brings to mind recent physical findings on "non-locality". You might find this link interesting.

http://www.fdavidpeat.com/bibliography/essays/nat-cog.htm
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