Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quotes from Goethe: Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life

From time to time I pick up a writing of Goethe and have fun with it.  Here's something from him about the stages of a person's life that I came across as a young man and it has always stayed with me.  It is interesting when he makes a statement from his temporal location in the 18th or 19th century which his life spanned that relates to something contemporary.  Here's what he had to say about "Boomers and Millenials".  Now, I'm half way through my kindle copy of:

Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Below are a few of some quotes that strike me as interesting.  Every year of my life from the fifties when I was a child till the present at age 64, I heard complaints about being too easy on our kids in school.

The case often happens, that, when the elements of an exclusive art are taught us, this is done in a painful and revolting manner. The conviction that this is both wearisome and injurious has given rise, in later times, to the educational maxim, that the young must be taught every thing in an easy, cheerful, and agreeable way: from which, however, other evils and disadvantages have proceeded.

So even in his times, there was a cleavage of views on education.

Every bird has its decoy, and every man is led and misled in a way peculiar to himself.
All that had hitherto taken place was tolerably modern: the highest and high personages moved about only in coaches, but now we were going to see them in the primitive manner on horseback. (He's reminiscing about a coronation from the 1760's.) 
But a momentary incitement often brings us, and others through us, more joy than the most deliberate purpose can afford.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

My Evolution on Evolution and the Future

Been reading Jack Whelan's After the Future blog and my words here result from thoughts welling up from reading his Sacramental Semiotics post.

He says in response to my comment,

I have been a Teilhardian since I first struggled with the Phenomenon of Man in the summer of 1969. The title of the blog, 'After the Future' is my way of paying homage to two great Jesuits, Teilhard de Chardin and Rahner, Teilhard for his Omega Point and Rahner for his idea of God as Absolute Future. Those ideas are in the background of everything that I write here..

Most Christians, most humans for that matter, operate with what McLuhan called a rear-view mirror imagination of the future, and Christians, particularly Catholics, seem to think that the past is in some way privileged in a way that the Future is not. Teilhard and Rahner point us, instead, toward the Future, which has always been the deepest orientation of Jews and Christians since the time of Abraham.

My introduction to the Phenomenon of Man was in the spring of 1971 in a Philosophy of Religion class.  I was a junior physics and math major at my Christian school, Harding University. However, I was still considering the ministry and thirsted for the knowledge I thought I might learn from the class.  Some in the class were assigned the book and the ensuing reports of it and the Omega Point seemed weird and contrived.  I did not understand where it came from.  I knew it assumed evolution.  Am not sure just what I thought about evolution at that point. I probably leaned toward old earth creationism but knew I had much to learn about the Bible, Science, and Everything. Was only 20 at the time.  After my experiences in Europe that summer and then my Biology class that fall, I became convinced of evolution.  This despite the fact that one of the two teachers of the class had written at least one book against it.  I came back from Europe with the rather pessimistic thinking that what people believed and how they acted was to a great extent dependent on where they were born, how they were raised and by whom  and other external factors besides actual truth.   The question of how there can be free will vexed me.  Biology seemed to confirm that also.  For instance, consider that how we feel and our emotions can be controlled by drugs. (I'm grateful for that, just had a dental implant recently and couldn't wait to get to the drug store for pain medicine.) I'm not giving the whole argument here but the direction.  After graduating and spending one more summer in evangelism work in order to give the faith of my tradition one more chance, I set out to explore other approaches.  All this time staying moored in body if not mind to my church customs.  It appeared to me while in my more depressed moods that it could be that we humans were just complicated machines, as Bertrand Russell says, an "accidental collocation of atoms."  Another important influence on me was my study of physics. We learned how to derive equations that explained so very much of how things in nature work.   And that approach has been very successful in improving our lives when implemented by engineering and technology.  

Laplace said:  

"All the effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws."

That and other things he said were the start of what came to be known as reductionism.  Everything that happens is a result of these impersonal mechanistic rules.  Free will is an illusion.  A previous post discusses this.  However, the nature of consciousness provides clues to resolution of this problem. 

In 1999 I read Ken Wilber's The Marriage of Sense and Soul.  He described the principle of emergence, Arthur Koestler's holons, and the Great Chain of Being.  A graph of the latter blew me away.  It shows clearly the direction of evolution both inner and outer of the individual, And other axes as well.  Then I later found other explications of emergence.  Briefly, each level incorporates the underlying level but also creates new features.  The universe becomes more complex and interesting and more conscious.  

Finally I've discovered some things that give me hope and which point to a resolution of the problem.  Chemistry and Biology cannot be reduced to physics!  Some of Nancy Murphy's writings have been helpful here.  Such as "Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics".   Also, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism:  How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.  

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