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inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #26 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Tue 19 Sep 00 10:51
    
Personally, I remain sceptical and agnostic on "purely spiritual"
entities like "qi" or "energy bodies."  If they do exist--and I grant
that they might, then in my opinion then fall under the rubric
articulated by Ludwig Wittgenstein as Proposition 7 of his _Tractatus
Logico-Philosophicus_, to wit: That about which we cannot speak, we
pass over in silence.

Even if these entities do exist, they are currently "invisible" to
science and likely to remain so just because they are of a substance
different from that with which science deals.  This means that anything
we say about them necessarily stems from belief, rather than from what
we would normally characterize as knowledge.

Even though I believe in the "deep structure" validity of intuition, a
la Jung, it's not clear that this type of intuition crosses the line
to allow us to claim scientific knowledge of these areas.  However,
scientific knowledge is not the only sort of knowledge.  I grant, for
example, the validity of what might be termd "poetic" or "mythic"
knowledge.  I just don't think we should confuse such knowledge with
science.

Thoughts Erik?
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #27 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Tue 19 Sep 00 10:53
    
I left out the word "must" in the quotation from Wittgenstein, which
should have read: That about which we cannot speak, we must pass over
in silence.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #28 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 10:54
    
They're not quite invisible to post-Newtonian science, I would say, and
they're certainly part of the mythos that Erik explores. 
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #29 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Tue 19 Sep 00 11:41
    
"Not quite invisible to post-Newtonian science?  Jon, you must know more
about this than I do.  And I was even thinking about post-quantum-mechanical
science, which is assuredly post-Newtonian.  Please elaborate!  You have
really piqued my curiosity!
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #30 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 12:58
    
Sho' nuff. When you get to the quantum level, where perception is elusive,
the question of visibility is altered... we rely more on intuition and
inference than clearly-articulated physical observation. Physics are
metaphysics align.

I was also thinking of the work of folks like Claudio Naranjo, Charles
Tart, et al focusing on altered states of consciousness and manifestations
of mind, subtle energies, parapsychology, all that jazz.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #31 of 44: Erik Davis (figment99) Tue 19 Sep 00 13:05
    
Well, I tend to avoid the frontal confrontation of science and
religion/mysticism, because the positions are already so well
articulated and the debate is so insanely ideological. They tend to be
battles of belief, and belief is not where the action is. In other
words, there is little to be gained, in my book, from assaults on
science. Rather one learns the trickster's art, because the modes of
perception that allow to acknowledge the fundamental "reality" of qi,
etc., are for many skeptical sorts modes that one suddenly just finds
oneself in -- without even worrying about "belief."

Let me explain with reference to the one aspect of Tony's response
that I disagree with (otherwise, I am pretty much on the skeptic side,
although I grant a wide room for the power of the mind/consciousness; I
remember a comment of the druid Isaac Bonewitz: "Sure we are
materialists -- we just have an expanded definition of matter.")
Anyway, here's Tony:



Even if these entities do exist, they are currently "invisible" to
science and likely to remain so just because they are of a substance
different from that with which science deals.  This means that anything
we say about them necessarily stems from belief, rather than from what
we would normally characterize as knowledge.

Wrong-o, in my book. Much of what we say about them stems from
experience, not belief. I actually have no real belief in qi, or prana
-- ie, when I hear New Agers or true believers go off, I just shrug.
Aint my game. But I know -- and I mean, know -- what these things feel
like. Science does not recognize the status of that knowledge for many
reasons, most of them quite positive and productive in my view. But
leaving that huge debate aside, science does err in denying the
science-like nature of "mystical" exploration -- that is, as Ken Wilber
wonderfully argues in the The Marriage of Sense and Soul,"
contemplative assertions about transpersonal dimensions, energy, etc.
arise from injunctions: do certain things, and certain things will
happen. This is what I believe: not that qi "exists," because we have
to get in a whole argument about what exists means. I believe that if
most people -- certainly not everyone -- honestly and attentively put
themselves through the motions, than experiences will arise that
strangely accord with the general accounts of mystics and
contemplatives. Of course, the details differ, which is where science
steps in to remind us of the problem of subjectivity, wish fulfillment,
all the skeptical sociology that you want. I love this skepticism; it
is part of my path. But it will never keep me from plunging back into
the experiential mode of knowledge acquisition -- on the "inside" as
well as the out.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #32 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 13:15
    
[Having some familiarity with Thomas Kuhn (_Structure of Scientific
Revolutions_), I'm pretty sure that science is about belief, probably as
much so as religion, though scientific paradigms tend to be supported by
experimental observation rather than what Erik calls 'experience,' which
is a way of knowing but subjective, therefore more difficult to peer
review, I reckon.]

Erik, I always figured to be a skeptic who can appreciate the aesthetics
of belief in the way you might appreciate a Carl Barks comic strip, a
Matisse painting, or a Harry Partch symphonoid... is that sorta where
you're coming from?
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #33 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Tue 19 Sep 00 14:38
    
I don't we're so far apart.  I wouldn't deny the reality of experiential
knowledge at all.  In fact, Erik, you put your finger on the crux of the
argument.  It's not about whether or not experiential knowledge is valid or
not.  It's about the implications it has for what does or does not exist
from the perspective of scientific theory.  And since in the sentence of
mine that you quoted I was referring specifically to "scientific" knowledge,
like I said, I don't think we disagree.

However, Jon...I do disagree with you on your interpretation of Kuhns.
Certainly Kuhns credits the arational--the intuitive, again--with help to
lead to his famous (and overworked phrase) "paradigm shifts."  But I don't
think that Kuhns says that the resulting theories are "beliefs," at least as
that term is commonly used.  I think he would call them "knowledge,"
irrespective of their arational or intuitive origins.  In other words, we
can have a belief without any supporting evidence, etc.  Oh, gentlemen!  I
don't want to rehash this old and tired stuff.  Six years of it in school
was more than enough for me!  But me oh my...Jon!  Why do you say that
"perception is elusive" in quantum mechanics?  It's not about perception
being "elusive."  It is about perception altering the fundamental structure
of reality!
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #34 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 15:24
    
Well, first... I think it's Kuhn, not Kuhns, and I didn't mean to imply
that he sees paradigms as 'beliefs.' However, his book establishes that
the models of reality constructed by science, however rational, are
transient, and my own inference from Kuhn's proposition is that what we
call science depends on belief in the paradigm du jour.  Scientists have
"known" that the world is flat; from today's paradigm this 'knowledge'
looks like a rather quaint belief.

We seldom have beliefs without evidence, I think.

Perception is clearly elusive when you can't 'see' what you observe, even
more so when your observation alters the reality of the thing
perceived...no?
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #35 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Tue 19 Sep 00 15:42
    
Jon, you are, I believe, correct on the spelling of the name (I had
inadvertently to the name of one of my professors, Richard Kuhns).  

I'm not sure that I agree with you about beliefs without evidence. 
Unfortunately, we get into one of the situations that Erik mentioned in
which we place the burden of the discussion on the definition of
evidence.  Many would argue that there is little to no "evidence" for
the existence of God, for example, though many surely share a belief in
God.  I'll let it go at that.  But I also apologize for not reading
your previous post carefully enough--you certainly made the point about
scientific evidence there.

However, I don't think that perception is "elusive" when we can't
"see" what we observe.  I know that you do not mean "see" literally. 
But the point is that if a theoretical object is not scientifically
detectable, then its ontological status is at least uncertain from a
scientific perspective, irrespective of the theoretical arguments that
can be made for it.  In fact, much of what passes for "modern physics"
is an attempt to detect entities postulated by various theories. 
Presumably once such entities are intersubjectively detected, there is
an evidentiary basis for accepting them as "real."  Again, I don't see
any elusiveness there.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #36 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 19:15
    
You don't see it because it's elusive!

All perception is an act of faith, in a sense, because there is no direct
perception, so this entity we call 'self' depends on the mediating wetware
to pass on a more or less accurate interpretation of phenomenological
reality. We get sufficient evidence of the accuracy of the interpretation
that we *believe* it to be 'real,' however there is always room for doubt.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #37 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Tue 19 Sep 00 20:29
    
Jon!  Such a Kantian!

Of course what you say is true.  Descartes' famous "demon argument." 
But I don't think all perception is created equal, and at the end of
the day, you don't either!

Where's Erik?  I'm sure he'd get a laugh out of this exchange!
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #38 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 20:45
    
Bet he's not far away...!
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #39 of 44: Erik Davis (figment99) Tue 19 Sep 00 21:26
    
Well, again, this is the kind of debate I tend to instinctively
withdraw from, and watch the way one watches a tennis match: bobbing
your head at each point as they bounce across the fundamental
divide,however you consider that divide: subject/object, mind/matter,
apollo/dionysus...

Not that I dont have my ways of thinking about it. I do think that 
scientific beliefs, esp. current ones, have a different status than
other sorts of belief. The metaphor I use is technological: belief
systems, paradigms, organizations of experience, narratives, cultural
perceptions, etc, are like different machines. The subject (whatever
the hell that is) engages a particular machine, which produces certain
effects. Those effects are quite different when compared with one
another. The machinery of science -- peer review, falsifiability,
instruments, repeatability, disciplinary language -- is one mighty
mofo, and I am no longer interested in the leveling approach of
cultural studies/relativist critiques that claim that this machine is
just "the same" as all the other ones because it also depends on
beliefs which, on some level, "pre-select" which perceptions count.

That said, my critique of science is largely ideological: in *this*
society, the machine of science is coupled far too tightly with all
sorts of other, more nefarious machines: capital machines, repressive
machines, authoritarian machines. So Im also no longer interested in
the sacrosanct approach to science vs other ways of knowing the world.
Whatever E.O. Wilson wants to proclaim, scientific knowledge *is not
integrative* in itself. That is, it may integrate vis a vis other
domains of science (though what we actually see, in actual practice, is
a multiplication of perceptions, technologies, "facts,"
specialization, etc), but it is not integrative vis a vis the human
subject. And it is the human subject, and the way it -- we, I --
respond to various machines of belief and perception, that interests
me.

For example, I just wrote a piece on Descartes and The Matrix for an
Australian cyberculture journal. I love the demon, but what interests
me is not the "philosophical" problem the demon poses about skepticism,
the status of knowledge, the ontological status of the subject, etc.
What interests me is the "existential" problem the demon poses: that
is, if you *actually* engage Descarte's thought experiment (Which no
one studying philosophy actually does), how does that make you feel?
What does it do for your experience as a subject? This question is not
idle, because I take Descartes' demon to be foundational: he lurks at
the very basis of these sorts of debates about science and reality,
grinning, licking his chops.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #40 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 19 Sep 00 22:20
    
Yeah, well.

I reckon Bouwsma sniffed the demon, or at least gave him flowers. You can
think in circles with this stuff, but I've tried (though not always able
to reason from the deception) to be both skeptical and present, and to go
for the bare attention.

While you seem bored with postmodern relativism, you (and Tony) also seem
to move from one ideological template to the next without casting
anchor. Could be that we're all on different parts of the same stormy sea,
completely untethered.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #41 of 44: Erik Davis (figment99) Wed 20 Sep 00 09:38
    
I think that postmodern relativism adequately describes the crisis of
knowledge, or of subjectivity, or of the stormy sea. I am just not too
interested with it as a merely critical tool that "shows up" science
for just being ideology, power, discourse, etc. In other words, how do
we map the stormy sea, understand its flows, the patterns of the spume?
To do this work is no longer simply postmodern. Bruno Latour is
someone who does this remarkably well -- a "science studies" guy who
has no belief in sacrosanct science, but also gives it the specific
anthropological reality it deserves, understanding it as a specific
function of instruments, institutions, discourse, training -- all the
anthropological structures that construct science and its statements.
And he also insists that these structures are social and historical,
that they do not possess the "god's eye view" on the field. But he does
not reduce them to mere "discourse," but sees them as profoundly
productive structures that carry on, rather than revolutionizing, the
work of human understanding.
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #42 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 20 Sep 00 09:55
    
For the record, when I characterized science as a belief system, I didn't
mean to seem dismissive. I think our contention started over a question of
the visible, and what is or is not outside the realm of scientific
inquiry. Along the way I tried to make the point that 'science' and
'belief' are not antonymns.

I think (believe!) that science is undiminished in its power to define
and explain when we acknowledge that no paradigm is absolute... no?

To my mind, science is just a rigorous examination of 'beliefs' to
determine whether they are valid, and how they are valid, and to construct
a model of the world that is viable based on analysis of the
evidence. An assumption of the absolute truth of any paradigm is
counterproductive, I would think, because it is a barrier to further
inquiry. I guess this is Fortean thinking...
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #43 of 44: Tony Barreca (tbarreca) Wed 20 Sep 00 10:55
    
I sense convergence here approaching violence in its rapidity, since
even I granted the validity of other knowledge domains informed by
other mechanisms (i.e., "poetic" or "mythic" knowledge.  Personally, I
think these forms are essentially "deep structured" or "hard wired"
into our nervous systems, and in such a way that the proposition that
they are may turn out to be not susceptible to analysis by any of the
physical sciences.  But that's a whole other conversation.)

Erik, I really like your metaphor of different machines yielding
different results.  However, I must ask you to elaborate with any
thoughts you may have on how we can integrate the whole, given that
science itself is non-integrative.

Jon, your comments have been a tremendous, and much-needed,
contribution to this discussion!  Thanks, and keep 'em coming!
  
inkwell.vue.86 : Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information
permalink #44 of 44: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 20 Sep 00 10:59
    
Thanks, Tony! This is a great discussion!
  



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