Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quote from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

There are probably more (grass-root) pantheists than Protestants, or theists in general, and pantheism continues to be the traditional religious alternative to theism for those who reject the classical theistic notion of God. Not only is pantheism not antithetical to religion, but certain religions are better understood as pantheistic rather than theistic when their doctrines are examined. Philosophical Taoism is the most pantheistic, but Advaita Vedanta, certain forms of Buddhism and some mystical strands in monotheistic traditions are also pantheistic. But even apart from any religious tradition many people profess pantheistic beliefs-though somewhat obscurely. Pantheism remains a much neglected topic of inquiry. Given their prevalence, non-theistic notions of deity have not received the kind of careful philosophical attention they deserve. Certainly the central claims of pantheism are prima facie no more "fantastic" than the central claims of theism-and probably a great deal less so.

I found this entry to be quite interesting. For you empiricists out there (and you know who you are) who feel that the views expressed by yours truly are somehow based entirely on fancy and are a extremely minority view I would bring your attention to the following. Obviously, given the accuracy of the information above, the view held by yours truly, if it be fancy, is one of the most wide-scale hallucinations ever conveived. How is three religious seekers experimenting with the inner world and sharing data any different than three scientists experimenting with the outer world and sharing data? Why must the physical, outer existence be given more weight?
--kv 3-2-05


At 2:20 AM, Blogger Codesuidae said...

I would not suggest that pantheism is a minority view, both because I don't know how many others believe it and because popularity does not make a belief more credible, and so popularity is irrelevant to my analysis of the merits of a belief system.

I have no more problem with introspective, subjective observation of the mind than I do with external, objective observation of the world. The problem is that observation of ones own mental processes is inherently difficult and error-prone, and much more difficult to compare to others observations. With objective observations two people can compare the same thing (although care must be taken that it is indeed the same thing, re. the blind men and the elephant). With introspective observation each person observes and reports on something no one else can (currently) observe. This can easily lead to problems (re. blind men and the elephant). While both are observing a human mind, we do not yet have any way of knowing to what extent there are variations. Analogously, are we dealing with comparisons between Paper Birch and Yellow Birch, or between Baobab and Duckweed?

I believe that due to the extreme difficulty of observation and experimentation the science of the mind is still very immature and unreliable. Psycoanalysis has gone through many dramatic revisions, and while I'm no expert in the field, I get the impression that it's still more art than science. Theories of the mind are easy to find, and often confict or have little predictive power. This is evidence that the principles that underlie the mind are not well understood. If they were, there would be more agreement between theories and theories with strong predictive power. (Of course, its possible that experts in the field have a better grasp than I anticipate and awareness of that knowledge simply hasn't filtered into the general population.)

Another indication of the immaturity of the science of the mind is the vocabulary. Established 'hard' sciences have a clearly defined vocabulary that those skilled in the field use to communicate essential concepts. The words are well defined and plentiful. There is often a correlation between the number of words specific to a field of knowledge and the strength of knowledge in that field (there is research pertaining to this available on the net if you care to investigate deeper). The science of the mind lacks a rich vocabulary (at least, as far as I have seen, which admittedly ain't that far), which indicates that those studying this science do not have wide agreement on the objects and events observed, and the theories used to describe them.

The claims of sciences of the external are more credible partially because they are simply easier to make reliably and repeatably. Given that introspective analysis is probably the hardest and most error prone type of observation, and the apparent lack of widely agreed-upon theories, I have a difficult time believing claims made by amatures in the field (this includes pretty much everyone, with a few possible exceptions, some of whom who can often be found clothed in orange), particularly claims as to the basic metaphysical nature of existence. The leap from basic meditation and 'broken watch'(NB) experimentation to claims of strong knowledge of basic principles is analogous to tossing stones into still water, observing the ripples and then claiming to have a Grand Unified Theory of physics. I believe that most theories of the mind have about this degree of sophistication. No offense intended to said reasearchers (present company included), but there have been very, very few explorers of the mind to achieve the kind of status afforded to the likes of Newton and Euclid (pardon my ignorance of truely great intellects outside the field of math).

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mean this to be in any way a discouragment of your explorations. We cannot progress without learning what those who have gone before have discovered and building upon it. I think the field is very important, and I think that you have put more serious study into it than the vast majority of humanity. We also cannot progress if you do not share your ideas, mix them with the ideas of others and distill the results.

Please do continue your research, and continue to share your thoughts on the matter so that all may observe, learn and possibly contribute. I certainly don't have the answers, and the only knowledge I feel truely secure in is that I am no Euclid of the mind, I am profoundly ignorant of the complexity and nature of the mind, and it is almost certain that I'll never contribute anything significant to the science, much less push the boundaries. The only thing I can really offer is a warning. When standing on the sholders of giants, one should be very careful to take very small steps, and check ones footing frequently.

NB: Regarding 'broken watch' observations; by this I mean the investigative technique of breaking or partially breaking a thing in order to learn about its function through observing its malfunction. In particular, one can learn about the normal function of the mind by deliberately (and hopefully temporarily) breaking that function and observing the results. This can of course be extraordinarily error prone due to the fact that one is doing the observing with the same instrument that one is attempting to observe and document. A bit like examining a (broken) microscope with itself. (Out-of-Band: You'll have to excuse my long posts, I don't mean to be overbearing or rightous, its just that I haven't the clarity of communication necessary to reduce them to a more clear and concise form. I also hope that my defense of my position does not come across as an attack, and that I am not unconciously using argument tactics that would serve to discourage further discussion. If so, it is certainly not my intent. If at any point my tone sounds too agressive or insulting, please temper them a few ':)' as appropriate. )

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Codesuidae said...

Here's an idea tickler for you. recently reported on an experiment in which the double slit experiment was conducted in the time domain. Instead of using a spatial slit, the slit is formed of one and a half wavelengths of light striking a gas and emitting an electron. The time at which the emitted electrons hit a detector forms an interference pattern.

One of the possible implications is that the electron travels not only all possible spatial paths as we see in the original slit experiment, but all possible temporal paths as well.

Feynman considered the possability that there really is only one electron, and that it travels all paths at all times. When travling backwards in time an electron appears to us as a positron. He dropped the idea because it did not explain the darth of antimatter.

It's a compelling idea I think, only one of any given particle, with time describing only another place for it to be and allowing it to interact with itself in such a way that it appears to be many seperate things, when in fact it may be only one thing?


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