Archive for May, 2015

Apophatic atheology

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Hume says that beauty is produced by the conformation of the human mind, and is not an intrinsic character in the world. I think this derives from Locke. Anyway. The interesting point is whether we can even conceive of a world that could be otherwise, that was not shaped by the character of our minds. I think not. I think that meaninglessness is literally inconceivable. What is meaningless cannot be mapped, compressed, or translated into forms the human mind can grasp. It is what it is. If it could speak, it could only say “I am what I am”. And because of that, we can’t know what forms it would take if it were translated. We can’t say with confidence that the universe does not care of us, only that it behaves as if it didn’t or sometimes does.

See here MM’s critique of Barrow etc

The opposite of beauty is ugliness; this means there is a temptation to suppose that if beauty is removed from the universe, what remains is ugliness. But this doesn’t follow from the Humean claim. Ugliness is just as much produced by the conformation of our minds as beauty is.  A genuinely alien and meaningless condition would empty the universe of all human sense, including the thing about not making sense.

“Objects have absolutely no worth or value in themselves. They drive their worth merely from the passion” – this is true, but it implies that that the true state of things is worthlessness, and that implication must — again — be false. The world could only derive its worthlessness from the passions as much as it derives its worth. And, of course, our passions are themselves part of the world, and arose from it through a process of evolution. They don’t stand aside in judgment.
And the world, if Hume is really right, is not just beyond good and evil; it is beyond value and worthlesness, beyond beauty and ugliness.

I say that this may be true, but it is not a state which we can comprehend. We don’t have the characteristics that would allow us to do so. Reason is the slave of the passions, so if the world ultimately is independent of our passions, we have no way of grasping it. To resent, to despair, to feel anything about its remoteness from our passional ends is to interpret it through them.


[This is just a scrap that I found when sorting out my hard disk. I never knew what to do with it, though I suspect it belongs in my yet unwritten masterwork on God and the Grateful Dead, perhaps in the bit about bad trips and chaotic jams]