Thursday, July 02, 2009

Writing activity from the past several weeks, Pt 3

Post subject: Re: Carrying thought patterns across disciplines

One pattern that has deeply ingrained itself into me, via philosophy, is consciousness of the hierarchic order of being. I have a personal theology integrated with my religious orthodoxy, that it is inequality, not balance, which is prime.

A symbolic illustration would be the nautilus shell versus the Yin-Yang as an all-encompassing microcosm of nature. With all due respect to Taoism, I feel that the nautilus more completely represents how complimentary and quantitative difference and tension create beauty--such as the difference between the accelerating rate of growth combined with a merely constant rate of change, the cause of logarithmic spirals.

It's a pattern that I am more or less convinced is determinative not only for physical phenomena and aesthetics but also for truth in philosophy, politics, and religion. I know that sounds vague and like I haven't really thought this through--and boy does it need better elucidation. But it's the way philosophy fundamentally shaped my perception of everything.


I would imagine this would also apply to social hierarchies? Hierarchies of wisdom? I have to go to work at the moment, but I like this line of thought. I'd like to know where you see certain things and phenomena in such a schematic


Part of my difficulty here is that I'm not really pushing for "hierarchy" necessarily, or most deeply, in the sense of the Catholic clerical hierarchy or the Hindu caste system or the corporate ladder or academic hierarchy--such instruments of governance are as good or evil as their members. I am oddly enthusiastic about social hierarchy, but only when it takes natural analogies of interdependence as a model.

Re: hierarchies of wisdom, I believe truth is hierarchic in terms of depth, scope, urgency, precision, etc; but I also believe that there is a real analogical relationship between higher and lower orders of truth. I am an analogic realist--I believe that true analogies point beyond themselves toward a fundamental intelligibility of being; they are not merely constructs. I also think that analogy is entirely different, deeper than, and prior to both science and deductive logic, whose methods depend on it.

I am a spatial thinker, and whenever I read an opinion, a critique, or an essay, I can almost see its lines of connections with similar ideas on higher or lower orders of truth. Often I need to ask the author questions to avoid misunderstanding. But when I learn a new idea, it's not like one more coin to add to my coin collection; it's more like a fossil that more or less resembles this part of that dinosaur's skeleton; correcting past excesses and adding completeness to an inexhaustible and difficult corpus of knowledge.

I defintely disagree with the aesthetics. Symmetry and balance seem to be the most commonly recognized forms of beauty, across humanity.


Good point. And yet the bilateral symmetry of animals is always partial. A minority of humans are ambidextrous. The brain hemispheres have slightly different functions (not as radical as often supposed, but still). The way hair parts on a person's head usually favors one or the other side. The heart is appropriately asymmetrical.

I wouldn't dare say that these modest, often vital imbalances always and everywhere follow the golden ratio; but more significantly, I am captivated by the way these imbalances create a relationship of mutual interdependence. And moreover, the term "equality" starts to lose its cash value when you're talking about such a relationship. Which side of the heart is more important? Well, the left ventricle is stronger. But who's going to argue that the right atrium is expendable? It seems silly to speak of a competition between heart chambers.

This also gets me into trouble with feminists. I think that the whole concept of being the equals of men is broken on the most fundamental level--not because males are superior, but because it's like demanding that the right atrium be the equal of the left ventricle. When a practice or an idea violates the absolute human worth of women, then I'll get pissed.

Am I right in assuming you believe political and societal stability is only obtainable through imbalance of power?

Yes and no. You're right in that I've come to view the value of "equality" as something of quaint artifice, and you'll rarely hear me use the word in earnest (I'll instead speak of absolute human worth). I believe political and social stability is only obtainable through difference and mutual interdependence, equality be damned. Absolute human worth is prior to this belief, of course (injustice isn't about violating equality or discriminating, but rather violating absolute human worth, which sometimes takes the shape of one of the former). But still, I believe that it's erroneous to aim for equality as a value sui generis.

Does the yin yang symbol illustrate "quantitative difference?"

No, quite the opposite, if I understand correctly; everything I've read has emphasized that Yin Yang is a balance of opposite equals. That's exactly where I differ with it. Natural homeostasis rarely if ever involves an encounter of any two things that can sensibly be described as "equal" in any way. They are both vital, and if you want to play word games you can call them equally vital, but being "vital" is not something that differs in degrees--you either need it, or you don't.

But the philosophy, itself, asking for trouble, socially (er, well, it always has), the same way that eugenics did.

I've exhausted myself. But I'll just say that it's the difference between "Power Over" and "Power With". C.f. Foucalt.

Attached is a graphic I just did. I've been thinking of designing this for a while. It's not perfect (stupid pixels always want to round my divine proportions!) but it's sort of a synthesis.

First, a version that I did not create:


And my version.

Both illustrate nicely the concept of mutual interdependence and a certain "happy subordination" which is not "power over" but "power with".

The reason I would still give preference to my own version is that I am attracted to the symbolism of the open spiral vs. the closed circle. Closed systems (in any sphere of being, including relationships) are subject to the law of entropy. Ideologies are closed systems. Wisdom always points infinitely outward and inward, never exhausting truth, yet still hinting at it.

I also position myself against a merely circular view of time. But it's a little bit of a caricature to state that western religions have a linear view of time; it's more accurate to describe it as a progressive spiral. The snake never swallows its tail.

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