It won’t be long before pilots will be doing this

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Astronomy, formal and dialectical reason

fires_mccolgan_960

Formal reason:

‘Since fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet.’

Dialectical reason:

To consider this statement dialectically, one would think creatively – of the relationship between destruction and creation. Hegel did this from the idealist perspective –

‘Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite. We have before this (§80) identified Understanding with what is implied in the popular idea of the goodness of God; we may now remark of Dialectic, in the same objective signification, that its principle answers to the idea of his power. All things, we say – that is, the finite world as such – are doomed; and in saying so, we have a vision of Dialectic as the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay, however secure and stable it may deem itself.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, Trans., William Wallace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, Remark to §81, 118

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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13q

 

13.6.6 The cognition of absolute truth – God is a Proclean ‘syllogism’ (continued)

For the Neoplatonist, as discussed (4., 10.7, 10.9.1, 11.3.11.8, 13.6.5.1), there are two types of knowledge, discursive, that which separates and ‘unified’ or speculative. Plotinus believed that the intellectual object is the activity of thinking itself. Knowing that object, that activity of knowing, equates to (Divine) Mind’s knowing (itself). In the activity of knowing, the object must be diverse. The activity is driven by difference and the knowing is perspectival. Thinking is movement – Divine Mind gives birth to objects as the embodiment of its outgoing creative power and in its contemplative recollection of and desire to unite with the One.

Hegel believed that every content is something that thought has given to itself and Cusanus also believed that we know through our productive intellectual activity, a reflection of God’s activity. Cassirer wrote

Cusanus sets up and defends his basic view of knowledge, when he explains that all knowledge is nothing but the unfolding and explication of the complication that lies within the simple essence of the mind 1

Cusanus described that process

the mind both distinguishes all things and unites all things, [doing so] by means of a marvellous two-way progression in which (1) Divine and Absolute Oneness descends by stages in and through intelligence and reason and (2) the perceptible-contracted oneness ascends through reason unto intelligence.2

For the Neoplatonist, true knowledge is not only the knowledge of God, it must be an intellectual system – what Hegel described as ‘science’. He wrote in his Phenomenology that

knowledge is only actual, and can only be expounded, as Science or as system3

Redding noted the centrality of prose-poetic devices to Hegel’s ‘science’

Hegel employs forms of expression for the presentation of his own philosophical thought that are redolent with the type of imagistic and figurative locutions supposedly at home in religion. Moreover, the actual imagery employed seems to refer to the type of trinitarian version of Christianity that can seem antithetical to those forms of Christian thought that lent themselves to the sort of “demythologization” characteristic of the enlightenment attitude to religious doctrine. Such factors as these make it easy to portray Hegel’s philosophy as a type of irrationalist mysticism, or at least as a disguised theology with a content from revealed religion, and thus aligning him more to the spirit of the Counter-Enlightenment than the Enlightenment.4

Cassirer points to the roots of this in German culture

In the mystical theology of the fifteenth century two fundamental tendencies stand sharply opposed to each other; the one bases itself on the intellect; the other considers the will to be the basic force and organ of union with God. In this dispute, Cusanus sides emphatically with the former. True love of God is amor Dei intellectualis; it includes knowledge as a necessary element and a necessary condition.5

On the extent of possible knowledge, Armstrong wrote

Plotinus insists…that the One or Good is beyond the reach of human thought or language…Language can only point the mind along the way to the Good, not describe, encompass, or present It. As Plotinus himself says (VI.9.3), “strictly speaking, we ought not to apply any terms at all to It; but we should, so to speak, run round the outside of It trying to interpret our own feelings6

Proclus was consistent with Plotinus on this, but, with his henads, he also began to blur what was ‘god’ and where the limits of knowledge lay. Dodds wrote

(Prop. 115 [Every god is above Being, above Life, and above Intelligence]) seems to make it plain that whereas Plotinus puts ‘all the gods’ within nous (V.1.4), the divine henads are to be placed in the first of the three traditional ‘hypostases’ and not (as Vacherot, Simon and others assume) in the second. But it must be admitted that Pr. is himself responsible for a good deal of the confusion which exists on the subject, in that he frequently speaks of such entities as Eternity, Time, the (a word in Greek), and even the sensible world as ‘gods’, and of gods as ‘intelligible’, ‘intellectual’ or ‘intra-mundane’.7

Cusanus wrote that human reason cannot comprehend the infinite but it does proceed in finite steps on the basis of the entities it creates – ‘conjectures’, ‘surmises’ or ‘symbolisms’

as God is the Creator of real beings and of natural forms, so man is the creator of conceptual beings and of artificial forms that are only likenesses of his intellect, even as God’s creatures are likenesses of the Divine Intellect8

The ‘mind’ is the form of a world of conjectures – aids that we use towards a truth beyond reason. Truth is enfolded in infinite ‘Mind’. Our concepts share in that truth as never-ending approximations as they unfold – we can only know truth in its ‘otherness’. Just as we are unable to know the absolute truth of God, so we are unable to know the world with ultimate precision.

It would seem clear-cut, as Hopkins tells us, that for Cusanus we cannot know God, the Absolute – we cannot attain the complete knowledge Hegel claimed his philosophy gives us. But we are dealing with a highly philosophical mysticism in which nothing is simple or, as Hegel would put it, nothing is to be judged by the method of Verstand, by the method of mere analysis and what seems to be so.

Neoplatonism is a dialectically functioning whole of intertwined constructs conceptually centred on the process ‘God’. Recognising these aspects enables one to explore beyond the literal, surface meaning of Cusanus’ words, to how he advised we can know God, and to understand the ways in which Hegel developed on that method to attain knowledge in his own philosophy.

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Notes

1. Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, op. cit., 57
2. Nicholas of Cusa, De coniecturis (‘On Speculations’), op. cit., 1,4,16, 170
3. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit. 13
4. Paul Redding, ‘Some Metaphysical Implications of Hegel’s Theology’, paper given to the conference Hegel and Religion, University of Sydney, September 14-15, 2010, 1
5. Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, op. cit., 13
6. Armstrong in Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., vol. I, xv
7. Dodds’ Commentary in Proclus, The Elements of Theology, op, cit., 161
8. Nicholas of Cusa, De beryllo (‘On [Intellectual] Eyeglasses’), op. cit., 7, 794

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Lenin: the recent revolution in natural science, and philosophical idealism – part eight

A massive star in NGC 6357

A massive star in NGC 6357

“Matter has disappeared” (continued)

The opinions expressed by Bogdanov in 1899 regarding “the immutable essence of things”, the opinions of Valentinov and Yushkevich regarding “substance”, and so forth – are similar fruits of ignorance of dialectics. From Engels’ point of view, the only immutability is the reflection by the human mind (when there is a human mind) of an external world existing and developing independently of the mind. No other “immutability”, no other “essence”, no other “absolute substance”, in the sense in which these concepts were depicted by the empty professorial philosophy, exist for Marx and Engels. The “essence” of things, or “substance”, is also relative; it expresses only the degree of profundity of man’s knowledge of objects; and while yesterday the profundity of this knowledge did not go beyond the atom, and today does not go beyond the electron and ether, dialectical materialism insists on the temporary, relative, approximate character of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature gained by the progressing science of man. The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite, but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature’s existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 243

The first image (a 180 degree panorama) sent from another planet (Venus). Venera 9, 1975

The first image (a 180 degree panorama) sent from another planet (Venus). Venera 9, 1975

Opportunity at Santa Maria Crater, Mars, 2011

Opportunity at Santa Maria Crater, Mars, 2011

Philae on comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 2014

Philae on comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 2014

Flying past Neptune’s moon Triton

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Part eight/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd/3rd/4th

Into nature? Got a thing for drama? It’s waiting…

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This Halloween, take a tour with NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration site of some of the most terrifying and ‘mind’-blowing destinations in our galaxy. In this image, the nightmare world of HD 189733 b is the killer you never see coming. To the human eye, this far-off planet looks bright blue. But any space traveller confusing it with the friendly skies of Earth would be badly mistaken. The weather on this world is deadly. Its winds blow up to 5,400 mph (2 km/s) at seven times the speed of sound, whipping all would-be travellers in a sickening spiral around the planet. And getting caught in the rain on this planet is more than an inconvenience; it’s death by a thousand cuts. This scorching alien world possibly rains glass—sideways—in its howling winds. The cobalt blue colour comes not from the reflection of a tropical ocean, as on Earth, but rather a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere containing high clouds laced with silicate particles.

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Image (click to enlarge)

From the chalice of this realm of spirits

Dark Dunes on Mars (Horizontally Compressed)

Dark Dunes on Mars (Horizontally Compressed)

from the chalice of this realm of spirits

foams forth for Him his own infinitude.

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Our ‘minds’ are images of Infinite Art

Two cosmic jets beam outward from a newborn star. Half a light-year span across Herbig-Haro 24, 1,300 light-years away in Orion B molecular cloud complex.

Two cosmic jets beam outward from a newborn star. Half a light-year span across Herbig-Haro 24, 1,300 light-years away in Orion B molecular cloud complex.

‘…every mind…is a perfect and living image of the Infinite Art.’

Nicholas of Cusa, Idiota de Mente (‘The Layman on Mind’), 1450, in Nicholas of Cusa on Wisdom and Knowledge, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, 1996, 531-589, 13, 149

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NASA, ESA and a fine paragraph by William Franke

1. Flaring black hole accretion disk in the binary system V404 Cygni

1. Flaring black hole accretion disk in the binary system V404 Cygni

‘My own belief is that apophatic or negative theology holds in its keeping a key to the perennial vitality of philosophical reflection that does not simply define and then exhaust arbitrarily laid down, heuristic limits for its thinking. The willingness to let go of all definitions, to negate all its own formulations, opens thought to what is moving within it, beyond or beneath the definitive grasp of words and concepts. Philosophy at this level is not merely cognitive but also shades into and merges with other dimensions of human experience and being, such as the affective and conative (or wilful). In the ancient world, notably among the Neoplatonists, philosophy was so understood as a spiritual exercise involving all the human faculties of intellection and sensibility and praxis.’

William Franke, A Philosophy of the Unsayable, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 2014, 200-201

2. The sparring Antennae galaxies

2. The sparring Antennae galaxies

3. A cosmic couple - the star Hen 2-427 and the nebula M1-67 surrounding it

3. A cosmic couple – the star Hen 2-427 and the nebula M1-67 surrounding it

4. The Veil Nebula supernova remnant

4. The Veil Nebula supernova remnant

5. The Little Gem Nebula - planetary nebula NGC 6818

5. The Little Gem Nebula – planetary nebula NGC 6818

6. The barred spiral galaxy NGC 986 discovered in 1828 by James Dunlop

6. The barred spiral galaxy NGC 986, discovered in 1828 by James Dunlop

7. NGC 7714

7. NGC 7714

8. The ‘anaemic’ spiral galaxy NGC 4921

8. The ‘anaemic’ spiral galaxy NGC 4921

9. The Tadpole Galaxy, Arp 188. Its tail is about 280 thousand light-years long.

9. The Tadpole Galaxy, Arp 188. Its tail is about 280 thousand light-years long.

10. NGC 5972 - ghost of a quasar

10. NGC 5972 – ghost of a quasar

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Images: 1./2./3./4./5./6./7./8./9./10.

Nicholas of Cusa on the world

1. This artistic illustration is of a binary black hole found in the centre of the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231, 600 million light-years away. The central black hole is estimated to be 150 million times the mass of our sun and the companion weighs in at 4 million solar masses.

1. This artistic illustration is of a binary black hole found in the centre of the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231, 600 million light-years away. The central black hole is estimated to be 150 million times the mass of our sun and the companion weighs in at 4 million solar masses.

‘Who would not admire this Artisan, who with regard to the spheres, the stars, and the regions of the stars used such skill that there is – though without complete precision – both a harmony of all things and a diversity of all things? (This Artisan) considered in advance the sizes, the placing, and the motion of the stars in the one world; and He ordained the distances of the stars in such way that unless each region were as it is, it could neither exist nor exist in such a place and with such an order – nor could the universe exist. Moreover, He bestowed on all stars a differing brightness, influence, shape, colour, and heat. (Heat causally accompanies the brightness.) And He established the interrelationship of parts so proportionally that in each thing the motion of the parts is oriented toward the whole. With heavy things (the motion is) downward toward the centre, and with light things it is upward from the centre and around the centre (e.g., we perceive the motion of the stars as circular).

With regard to these objects, which are so worthy of admiration, so varied, and so different, we recognise – through learned ignorance and in accordance with the preceding points – that we cannot know the rationale for any of God’s works but can only marvel; for the Lord is great, whose greatness is without end.’

Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (On Learned Ignorance), 1440, II.13, in Nicholas of Cusa on Learned Ignorance, Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1990, (online) 100

2. A massive black hole hidden at the centre of nearby galaxy Centaurus A, feeds on a smaller galaxy in a spectacular collision.

2. A massive black hole hidden at the centre of nearby galaxy Centaurus A, feeds on a smaller galaxy in a spectacular collision.

3. Large Hubble survey confirms link between mergers and supermassive black holes with relativistic jets

3. Large Hubble survey confirms link between mergers and supermassive black holes with relativistic jets

4. A ‘rose’ made of galaxies. Interacting galaxies Arp 273

4. A ‘rose’ made of galaxies. Interacting galaxies Arp 273

5. Spiral Galaxy M96 from Hubble

5. Spiral Galaxy M96 from Hubble

6. Hubble observes merging galaxies’ evolution in slow motion - NGC 3921

6. Hubble observes merging galaxies’ evolution in slow motion – NGC 3921

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Images: 1./2./3./4./5./6.

Imagine

W5: Pillars of Star Creation. Double-click to enlarge. ...Are we thinking Dante?

W5: Pillars of Star Creation. Double-click to enlarge. …Are we thinking Dante?

Gustave Doré’s 1855 illustration for The Divine Comedy: ‘Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean’.

Gustave Doré’s 1855 illustration for The Divine Comedy: ‘Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean’.

‘How is that Power present to the universe?

…Conceive it as a power of an ever-fresh infinity, a principle unfailing, inexhaustible, at no point giving out, brimming over with its own vitality. If you look to some definite spot and seek to fasten on some definite thing, you will not find it. The contrary is your only way; you cannot pass on to where it is not; you will never halt at a dwindling point where it fails at last and can no longer give; you will always be able to move with it – better, to be in its entirety – and so seek no further; denying it, you have strayed away to something of another order and you fall; looking elsewhere you do not see what stand there before you.’

Plotinus, The Enneads, Third ed. Abridged, Trans. Stephen MacKenna. Penguin, London, 1991, VI.5.12

Imagine if someone inverted this philosophy, giving it a material basis – a basis in the objective world.

Marx did this. He stood it on its feet.

In doing so, he took this theory of knowledge to its most developed stage.

Now it must be taken further.

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