Comments on “Unity and diversity”

Comments

Throwing a camel at a birthday party

I think there’s a liberating nature to that concept […] It allows for a playfulness and an engagement in life that is more enjoyable than the alternative. I’ve aspired to convey some of those things for a long time now, maybe not so clearly before because it hasn’t been so clear to me. But I do believe that the greater ability you have to tolerate ambiguity, the more successfully you can steer your life. The alternative point of view—the complete dismissal of ambiguity, trying to rationalise irrationality—can be very destructive.

Jeff Tweedy - musician.

I just found out this cite today while listening to Wilco and I think you may like to know it. Coming from a somewhat popular person, you could say that “participation” is in the air too. Perhaps you are working in a direction that could resound among many more people than it seems.

Great quote!

Thanks, that’s a great quote! Here’s another one, from your second source: “I adore the meaninglessness of the ‘this’ we can’t express.” Enjoying meaninglessness is one of the main themes of this site.

The whole interview is interesting—I’d recommend it to anyone who has a couple spare minutes.

I don’t know Wilco’s music at all. This has motivated me to check it out when I get a chance.

YouTube

Thank you very much!

I don’t have broadband access at the moment, so I can’t watch these immediately, but I’ll come back to them when I get to wifi.

Process vs. Essence

James Hansen's picture

Excellent post David (along with ‘Boundaries, objects, and connections’). I don’t know anything about the world of philosophy, so I’m curious to hear your take on something. I often tend to think of this division between monism and dualism as being related to the division between Essentialism and some Process-oriented view (I don’t know a convenient, consensus term for the latter, so maybe you can help with that as well). Are these related?

If so, are they both confused stances in a similar way that monism/dualism are? I.e. reality is neither composed solely of essential elements nor is it only a confluence of processes, but both descriptions should be folded into a complete stance.

Essences and processes

Hmm, which way around are you lining up essence/process vs monism/dualism? By the order you mention them, it sounds like you are thinking essence and monism go together, and process and dualism?

FWIW, Whitehead’s “process philosophy” has strong monist-eternalist tendencies, so in that case processes go with monism.

I think probably in general there’s no particular alignment of the process/essence distinction with the monism/dualism one.

I.e. reality is neither composed solely of essential elements nor is it only a confluence of processes, but both descriptions should be folded into a complete stance.

Well… in terms of ontology, I think it’s a mistake to take either essences or processes as fundamental. I think it’s probably a mistake to take anything as fundamental—because “fundamental” isn’t well-defined, and it usually leads to some sort of eternalism.

If we have to take something as fundamental, it could be the hypothetical Unified Field Theory. Except it doesn’t exist yet, and might never exist, and it wouldn’t explain anything we care about. So better not to go down that route either!

Lining Up

James Hansen's picture

Indeed, Monism would correspond with something like Process Philosophy (beneath all the diversity of the cosmos is an underlying dynamic whole) while Dualism relates to Essentialism (the diversity of the cosmos is the diversity of essential units).

“I think probably in general there’s no particular alignment of the process/essence distinction with the monism/dualism one.”

I’m glad to get your feedback on this. Is this because they pertain to different areas (philosophically)?

“I think it’s probably a mistake to take anything as fundamental…”

Agreed; there is meaningness, but not ‘the meaning’.

“…it could be the hypothetical Unified Field Theory.” But then we are no longer discussing ontology, correct? Regardless, it’s interesting to see physicists discuss the seething foam of the quantum vacuum (non-duality of emptiness and form?).

Ontology is mostly nonsense

Monism would correspond with something like Process Philosophy (beneath all the diversity of the cosmos is an underlying dynamic whole) while Dualism relates to Essentialism (the diversity of the cosmos is the diversity of essential units).

Yes, I guess that does make sense!

On the other hand, processes are diverse, and monists are often essentialists—it’s just that everything has the same essence. (“Everything is really Mind” or some such nonsense.)

“…it could be the hypothetical Unified Field Theory.” But then we are no longer discussing ontology, correct?

Uh… why not?

Regardless, it’s interesting to see physicists discuss the seething foam of the quantum vacuum (non-duality of emptiness and form?).

FWIW, I think this analogy is misleading (because it’s only an accidental and superficial similarity).

Being/Doing

James Hansen's picture

“Uh… why not?”

I have no idea. As I mentioned, I know nothing about philosophy, so I posed this question as a matter of curiosity.

“FWIW, I think this analogy is misleading (because it’s only an accidental and superficial similarity).”

If you’re referring to my mentioning ‘emptiness and form’, I’m only familiar with these applying to a broad range of codependent definitions. Unless you’re alluding to the hasty comparison of physical phenomena with subjective experience, in which case I totally agree. Despite the vaguely poetic intention, it was probably not even worth mentioning those terms.

I don't disagree, but I would

Bad Horse's picture

I don’t disagree, but I would phrase it differently. It is not that there are objects out there in the world, and we are deciding whether they are separate things or all one thing. There are phenomena we observe, and in order to make predictions, we hypothesize objects and categories. The question is how firm the boundaries of these objects and categories are. Your “dualists” are what I call “rationalists”–people who believe that it is possible to describe a section of reality with a logical description, based on atomic symbols with Boolean truth values, without losing information.

The anti-rational, monist movement of post-modernism is actually only an anti-Rationalist movement, but it thinks it has deconstructed rationality in general, because its members are classically but not scientifically trained, and so are unaware of any alternative methods of rationality.

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