Re: [xmca] Response to DK about Volition

From: Steve Gabosch <sgabosch who-is-at>
Date: Mon Sep 10 2007 - 08:44:02 PDT

Where was I? LOL - good question, Andy - I am sure the molecules and
atoms I am composed of were getting into trouble somewhere or other
over those centuries! Meanwhile, as you point out, there were
ongoing debates over those years during the growth of modern
capitalist society and the dissolution of the old feudal culture over
the relationship of God to nature. What emerged as the mainstream
view, and still is the mainstream view, is the so-called deist
(pronounced dayist) outlook that God originally created nature and
its laws, which more or less independently run on their own. This
view allows modern people to believe in both God and science - which
most do, to one extent or another. In this way, a study of nature
can be both spiritual and empirical.

I personally take the atheist view that God never existed in the
first place. Bacon, although not an atheist, has been called the
father of British materialism. Like you I take inspiration from his
remarkable ideas and writing, which he developed in a time when
materialist ideas were more than just out of favor, they were
dangerous. I would argue that consistent materialism, a view not as
dangerous to espouse in many areas of today's world, can free itself
of any reference to God. However, in trying to be consistent, a
certain symmetry with aspects of consistent idealism can emerge. In
my view, such symmetry is quite different from proximity. However,
those that deny or downplay the historic contradiction between the
idealist and materialist poles in human thinking can miss this
distinction between symmetry and proximity in this historic
relationship. They find themselves noticing certain symmetries and
then lumping the materialists and idealists together in the way
Popper lumped Hegel and Marx together. In your own creative and
interesting way, Andy, I think you are doing something like that in
this discussion - you are creating an amalgamation between the
classical dialectical materialist view of nature, and the religious
view of God. I think you are being very sincere in your views on
this, views which I am not trying to change, just comment on. For my
part, I agree that there are indeed some symmetries, and I think they
would be interesting to explore. Substituting opposing nouns in
sentences is an interesting way to indicate certain linguistic
aspects of this symmetry. But as I see it, the charge of proximity
is unwarranted - dialectical materialist and religious views are
genuinely in dialectical and historical opposition, if one accepts
the historical materialist conception of history.

This, of course, is dialectical materialism commenting on dialectical
materialism. To be sure, there is a certain circularity to a
philosophical position evaluating itself. After all, Marx said to
not believe a what a man says about himself. This is the dilemma of
any philosophical investigation - it can only be done from a specific
philosophical position. All the more reason to make a serious effort
to reveal and critique our claims and maxims as we go. For me, this
is one of the most attractive features of the philosophy founded by
Marx and Engels - it makes every effort to explain, critique and
build on its foundations, observations and reasoning - to make itself
as explicit as possible. This could be considered still another
symmetry with religious doctrine, which can also try to make itself
explicit. But once again, symmetry is not the same thing as
proximity. That it often gets falsely lumped in with religious views
is not a new problem for Marxism to confront.

- Steve

At 11:40 PM 9/10/2007 +1000, you wrote:
>Where were you Steve during those centuries-long debates about
>whether God was knowable were going on? :) As Bacon, the founder of
>western experimental science, put it:
>"Lord God of heaven and earth; thou hast vouchsafed of thy grace, to
>those of our order to know thy works of creation, and true secrets
>of them; and to discern, as far as appertaineth to the generations
>of men, between divine miracles, works of nature, works of art and
>impostures, and illusions of all sorts. I do here acknowledge and
>testify before this people that the thing we now see before our eyes
>is thy finger, and a true miracle. And forasmuch as we learn in our
>books that thou never workest miracles, but to a divine and
>excellent end (for the laws of nature are thine own laws, and thou
>exceedest them not but upon great cause), we most humbly beseech
>thee to prosper this great sign, and to give us the interpretation
>and use of it in mercy."
>Really, I'm with you on this one Steve, but a Christian believes
>Nature is God's Works, and one can know God by seeing His Work, as
>well as by hearing His Word. A Pantheist believes God *is* Nature.
>The distance separating you from these views is much smaller than I
>think you believe. In everything you have said in these messages,
>you crossed out the word "nature" and inserted the word "God" it
>would still make perfect sense.
>At 05:45 AM 10/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>My point here is that a scientific approach to nature, full of awe
>and imagination, is entirely different from a religious view of the
>supernatural. One is based on empirical fact, the other,
>spiritualist faith. Nature is ultimately knowable; God is not.
>>- Steve
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