Night Thoughts


“The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colours on his palette.”    Hermann Hesse – “The Glass Bead Game”

This page is for reflections that fall short of being an article – notes,  jottings, and suchlike. Some sections will become articles and disappear from here over into Posts, as has already happened with a few things.




(severely edited from a Facebook discussion, full exchange here. More was said by everyone. Thanks to all involved in the discussion, especially Amber Wolf, Mitz Undertow and Joe Broderick.)

I have some sympathy with this view [pantheism], and partly as a result of Sage Turner-Alvarado having expressed similar thoughts in another post here, I have started reading a book called Pantheism by Michael P. Levine, which purports to be the only recent book-length treament.
Though sympathetic, there is the problem that God is usually taken to be some sort of person – the pantheist might not mean that, but Schopenhauer argues that they are therefore not really talking about God. Now, I’m only a bit way into this book – the author seems to think that there is a legitimate non-personal account of God – but I’m wondering if there is another line, that the universe is indeed mind-like in some ways [Panpsychism]. This mind-likeness might not be quite what we mean by person, but then persons have all sorts of flaws.
I like your [Andrew Goldsmith’s] use of “expression” – God not as creator but as that which expresses itself in the universe – God as the essence of the Universe.
I want to write at greater length on this after further study.
Amber Wolfe God is energy… God is not a man sitting on a cloud looking to smite sinners below him
 David Ruaune I agree with the negative second bit, bit I think the positive first bit is imprecise, though on the right lines.
Mitz Undertow everything is technically energy but there is something missing to the first that characterizes our nature
David Ruaune Potential sources for mind-likeness of the universe – ideas of the universe as information, omega-point theory, both universe and mind being about patterns, evolution as being analogous to a learning process.
David Ruaune A sort of minimal pantheism slogan –
“Nature is worthy of reverence” – Where “nature” is understood in the widest sense, but if it has green / new age connotations, no probs for me. Or substitute “the universe”.
Amber Wolfe If stars, the air, the solar system are also defined as parts of nature as opposed to nature being limited to characteristics and properties of earth then yes I supposed I would agree with you.
David Ruaune Also cityscapes, scrapyards and pollution, but don’t tell the kids!
David Ruaune I’ve just thought a little further on the matter of the supernatural – mystical, supernatural or occult experiences fit quite well with pantheism, because unity is important to pantheism – mystical transcendence of the ego, union with G-d, relates well to this unity and undividedness, and supernatural or occult experiences (weird forms of action at a distance) might fit well in that framework of unity and undividedness.
David Ruaune Another potential support for Pantheism might be from stuff like Stuart Kauffman’s “At Home in the Universe” – some aspects of complexity theory indicate that we are not so different from phenomena intrinsic to the universe – self-organization – so that the physics of the world is not on the model of substance – res extensa as in the early modern period – but networks.
David Ruaune On the down side – pantheism might be afflicted as badly if not worse than theism regarding the problem of evil – I was a bit flippant earlier about pollution, but what of this –
The Moors Murderers, child torturers and killers from near where I live, did their horrific deeds in certain rooms in Hattersley. Were those rooms part of God? Completely?
The way out seems to be with recourse to the unity / totality, that it is the “partial” view which is evil – but imagine explaining that to the child!
Or – the God of Pantheism is not moral in the way that we might sometimes wish him / it to be.
David Ruaune I think there is probably a pantheistic interpretation of evil, but we’ve not clinched it here.
(1) Evil is to do with partiality and a splitting off from the unity / totality.
(2) The pantheistic God is the expressive energy of the universe, and is in some ways heartbreakingly unresponsive to human suffering.
(Note – I personally don’t feel the need right now to define g-d, as I think it would close off discussion – with the consideration of suffering, I’m focussing on a widely accepted attribute of g-d, namely benevolence, total goodness, etc.)
David Ruaune Yes, Spinoza’s the main guy for this, but I’m not sure that his substance metaphysics is credible for now.
 Joe Broderick Bohm with his concept of implicate order has the goods on substance metaphysics. The only separation (found in the illusory explicate order) is a hallucination of our nervous system
 David Ruaune Excellent point, Joe – I should have mentioned Bohm (and Spinoza) when I was listing possible resources; I remembered them later, in the pub! That’s exactly why I feel dubious about Spinoza, though I’m a great admirer of him – I prefer some sort of relational metaphysics to a substance metaphysics, and though Spinoza pioneered aspects of Pantheism, a relational metaphysics seems to sit better with it.
Joe Broderick Relational metaphysics being that everything is in a dynamic meta-state of ontological co-dependence? The universe is a verb…might you elucidate why you prefer relational metaphysics?
David RuauneErm, summat like that! – similar approaches are holism and dialectics, but the trouble is that it’s easier and clearer within our culture to engage in logical and physical splitting – it’s easier to talk that way, and when we try to formulate in words the unity / oneness / totality, it often seems vague, woolly, and soft-minded. Bohm is very difficult to understand – he at least tried to shape up some of these ideas into a scientifically respectable approach. Perhaps you could write at greater length about Bohm?
Ethics – 1) openness, the objective openness of the world through complexity and the subjective openness of creativity, or as we might call it here, imagination.
2) Integrity, here the moral form of a striving for integration.
Theology – as well as 1) pantheism, the metaphysical aspect of our theology, 2) the psychological aspect, the frame-break of the willingness to be open. Sometimes forced upon us by a life crisis, but a crisis in which we grow. The ethical and theological imperative not to take our ego as foundational, but to take the wider world as foundational, which is really the moral and spiritual corollary of materialism and realism. The true meaning if “Islam”. See also the Book of Job – God answers, in reply to Job’s complaints, “Where were you when I made the foundations of the world?”
The Great Game of Opposites
“The devil once leapt up on a hickory stump, right there in front of me, as I was walking down a road miles from nowhere, minding my own business, and he said that all things involve their opposites, and he said this straight to me and in my face, with an accusatory eye.”

Antonymy – Steven Jones

antonymy, synonymy, hyponymy, meronymy

similarity and difference

dichotomous contrast

gradable antonymy, complementarity and converseness

Eco on Frank on Wilkins in “The Search for a Perfect Language” –

  • antonymy                            (good / evil)
  • complementarity              (husband / wife)
  • conversity                            (buy / sell)
  • relativity                              (over / under, bigger / smaller)
  • temporal gradation          (Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday )
  • quantitative gradation    (centimetre / metre / kilometre)
  • antipodality                        (north / south)
  • orthogonality                     (north-east / south-east)
  • vectoral conversity           (depart / arrive)

[I can’t see the 2 gradation classifications as opposites]

gradable and ? analogue and digital? uncountable and countable, with binary forming a subset of countable

This paradox of simultaneous difference and similarity is partly resolved
by the fact that opposites typically differ along only one dimension of
meaning: in respect of all other features they are identical, hence their
semantic closeness; along the dimension of difference, they occupy
opposing poles, hence the feeling of difference.
(Cruse 1986: 197) (but here he seems to speak only of gradable)

“However, this is not entirely true. Some linguists,
such as Lyons (1977) and Cruse (1986), apply the label of ‘antonymy’ to
pairs such as heavy/light, new/old and fast/slow, but do not accept that pairs such
as alive/dead, false/true and female/male are antonymous.” (gradable vs. ungradable?)

My point is, within a similarity of only two (salient?) different sub-types, the two sub-types tend to be regarded as opposites

Perhaps human thought tends to get dragged to an over-rating of the explanatory power of opposites with endeavours such as dialectics, because it is prone to oppositionality in the way its systems deal with the world. A linguistic approach to opposites (antonymy) might show that there is less unity amongst the various kinds of opposite or contradiction than dialectical thought promised. [Note Nietzsche but qualify it – some opposites are clear-cut] [The problem with dialectics is that it tries to get opposites to do too much work]

Aristotle’s Square of Opposition –

Square of Opposition



Political Theory Scratch-Pad

I think the state is necessary, and is at least in principle subject to democratic pressure. I see the the state as being, amongst other things, a way of reigning in the worst aspects of capitalism, but can’t see how for now we could get by without a free market, and conversely the free market exerts a pressure on totalitarian tendencies within the state. So I’m a mixed economy kind of guy, but specifically would like the state to reign in certain tendencies to chaos which develop within finance capital. Regarding bosses and workers, the state can extend workers’ rights and maybe market socialism (market without class divisions?) might work but I know little about it. Also, states vis-a-vis capital are territorially not big or powerful enough, so we need continental-size set-ups, though it seems our current EEC unfortunately operates as a cop of capital against the state, rather than the reverse.

I think unfettered capital is probably inherently unstable – it’s sort of too dynamic, whereas the state will tend to be too static, and also has tendencies towards concentration and centralization which render any dreams of a kind of smallholding capitalism a bit of an idyll – I sometimes think anarcho-capitalists and libertarians are as much in denial of what we could call “Actually Existing Capitalism” as marxists are in denial of Actually Existing Socialism. Another similarity is the “how to get there” question – it’s possible that some forms of anarcho-capitalism might be steady state, as might some forms of communism, but nevertheless that for contingent, historical reasons, we can’t get there from here. (I here treat steady-state as a good thing, economically, but that could be challenged as thwarting human creativity – but I’ll leave that)

It’s possible that in the future the state might wither away. As might the market. But we are not in that situation.

So what is to be done? Well, I’m fairly pessimistic, and if we add in the environmental problem, and the decline of the west, even more so. I don’t think human beings are good at getting a handle on their social systems so it’s possible that nothing really works, or if it does we can’t get there. I’m just a left-leaning reformist I suppose. Luckily, politics is not my central concern. I’m also in some ways influenced by conservative thought. (tradition and rootedness, civilization as hard-won, man’s nature as fallen). I say – the world should be fairer and stricter. (left and right)

Something I think would be useful is a cross-class survey of people’s perceptions of fair and unfair.

Another issue, which applies to both wings of anarchism, and to socialism, is that I think we have to have hierarchies of control – something like management – but that this can be democratized, roles swapped about, kept under democratic control, etc. However, this necessity + human corruption leads to a lot of our problems. There are ideas of heterarchy floating about, but I don’t know enough about them.

I think tendencies to base political positions on ethical theories, which these guys seem inclined to do, might be a bit misplaced – worth doing, but political differences probably don’t emerge at that basic level but are more to do with different perceptions of how the world is.

All very provisional, and up for retraction at the drop of a hat.

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