RE: Einstein vs Bergson, science vs philosophy and the meaning of time:At the risk of making the waters muddier, I think the problem we are all addressing by different methods is that of Dualism–the incompatibility of material and spiritual existence. When the Enlightenment put the emphasis of the objective experience, it produced an explosion of scientific and technological progress that misled the inte lligentsia into embracing Materialism.
The 20th century showed the fruit of a materialist, atheistsociety, which wasn’t pretty. But the solution–attempted many times, for example by Romanticism in the 19th century– of grafting a spiritual dimension onto the material, never really took. The graft just never got enough sustenance to survive, and so Romanticism, Gnosticism, Liberalism all failed to stem the monomaniacal nature of materialism.
What the 21st century began to do, was to show that Materialism was inconsistent on its own terms. The post-modernists didn’t argue that materialism was sterile, immoral, ugly, maniacal (as Chesterton does in his brilliant opening chapter of “Orthodoxy”), rather, PoMo argued that all these criteria were ethical and aesthetic criteria that are assumed by both Materialists and Theists. That is, Materialism is just one of many worldviews that cannot justify their own existence without invoking external ethical criteria. Ethics, the PoMo argues, is always external, always arbitrary, always a decision each person makes for himself.
Without entering into a debate with PoMo, we should observe what they are doing. They are using recursive logic to show that neither Materialism nor Dualism is complete, or linear, or necessary, or logical. PoMo are doing exactly what Kurt Goedel did to math, when he demonstrated that logic was
incomplete, non-linear, and arbitrary. After all, the desire for self-consistency is an external aesthetic, why should self-consistency be superior to any other arbitrary aesthetic criteria? For example, string theorists argue that their theory is superior because “it is so beautiful it
has to be true”, which is about as arbitrary as it gets.
Therefore, I propose that we stop trying to “fix” the Enlightenment paradigm by attempting to recover objectivity. The one thing that objectivity cannot describe, is recursive, self-referencing systems. The one thing that PoMo attacks over and over again, is this fixation on “objective truth” using subjective criteria. Nor can we fix “objectivity” by dividing the world into “objective facts” and “subjective feelings”. Nancy Pearcey has several books on this approach, and the short version is that it doesn’t work.
What does work? I would argue that it is a Trinitarian metaphysics, that gives equal weight to the objective, the subjective, and the personal, where “personal” is defined as recursive, self-aware systems. As I have suggested before, this neglected personal aspect of metaphysics changes the entire dynamics of the “objective versus subjective” debate, and avoids the “dialectic” destruction that plagues Hegel and Kant and Descartes solutions. It permits ethics to be developed from epistemics and metaphysics, connecting the “is” to the “ought”. It avoids the pitfalls of arbitrary “authoritarian” ethics. It is also very ancient–having been worked out in the 4th-6th centuries by the Cappadocian Fathers.
This does not mean that we lose objective facts like the speed of light in a vacuum. On the contrary, it allows objective facts to live happy, contented lives surrounded by a subjective universe that gives them meaning.
Nor does it mean that we lose subjective benefits like beauty, awe, and wonder. Rather it connects those subjective experiences into a mesh of interconnected persons, grounding that subjective experience in a community of self-aware beings that encompass all humanity, the angels, the seraphim and God. This is crucial, because it means we can’t invent our own transcendent experiences the way Burning Man does for Silicon valley workers, but rather subjectivity must also be objective.
So in the end, everything is subjective, and everything is objective, and everything has meaning. Even time is both objectively real — Einstein’s block universe — and subjectively real — the eternal now. But only because time is also recursive. If we use Einstein’s terminology, then the great metaphysical verses: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” combined with “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, becomes “I am the Space, the Causality, and the Time” because “I am the Meaning of Time”. Or saying this in 21st century terms, “The Truth is a Person” and now “Time is a Person” too.
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