Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Theologia Mathematica: I (ctd)

[a continuation of this]

            To return to the thought:  It might not have been the case that all the (roughly, macroscopic) wobbles and writhings of the natural world  should coalesce into an austere mechanical description of quite general validity, but it turns out that (to a broad extent) they do.  Nor that the insane exceptions at the quantum level (mostly microscopic, but probably much beyond this  as we learn more and more) should line up in a wholly, almost unimaginably different  but still orderly system: but they do, though in a way not even dimly anticipated before our own era.  So now:  do noëtic events (the “supranatural”) likewise cohere into some larger system?  (We don’t strictly know, and intuitions have broken both ways:  the existentialists glumly nursing their absinthe, and Christians ecstatically tasting of the Communion wine.)  And if so, does this system in any respect resemble what previous thinkers and theologians have imagined?  Nescio; but I’ll say this:  If it does, it does so (I imagine) by grace and revelation, not by any logical necessity  arguing simply from the world as we find it.  I’m pretty certain (in the practical sense that I have laid a wager with Providence, and am on the line for standing a round of beers, win or lose) that it does cohere;  but I am not so certain, not so certain at all, that the coherence has a description  even in principle comprehensible to ourselves – beyond some almost infantile inkling, like that of a baby, still unseeing, scenting the milk of the breast.
            This negative possibility  --  apophatic theology, the “via negativa” -- is familiar from theologians – Jewish, Christian, NeoPlatonist, and Muslim alike  -- holding the view that God is beyond all predicates – neither hot is He, nor cold, neither long nor short, bearded nor beardless …
-- Bohr's "complementarity" is a sort of dual to this:  Both wave and particle are they; both causal (psi-functions) and acausal (classical-positivistic, as chastened by quantum mechanics).


Sidenote on the “via negativa”:

Besonders characteristisch für die “negative Theologie” der spekulativen Mystik  is die Unzahl der Bildungen mit Vorsilben, die den Inhalt des Grundverbums  ins Gegenteil verkehren … entsinken, entwerden
-- Fritz Tschirch, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (1969, 2nd edn. 1975), vol. II, p. 83

[more here]

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