The Speculative Realist blogosphere has recently been alight with debates over the role of religion, God, theism versus nihilism, the secular and the “post-secular,” and other such things. Since these are topics I’m naturally interested, and somewhat invested, in, I ought to participate, but time constraints have made that all but impossible for me recently.

(One of those constraints is a trip this week to the Rachel Carson Center in Munich for “Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, and Ecocinema,” about which I intend to blog, and perhaps live-blog, while there. I leave tomorrow, so stay tuned for more on that.)

Adam’s post Knowledge Ecology provides a useful way into these discussions, but see also these posts at Footnotes to Plato (and this one), Plastic Bodies, Immanent Transcendence, Larval Subjects, and After Nature.

Just for the record, though, the process-relational ontology I’ve been carving out would see all such categories — religion, transcendence, deity, secularity, and so on (and let’s treat them as categories for the moment) — as products of the human process of making sense of real things, i.e. real experiences of things (phenomena of one kind or another) that are also real. So mine is a realism (of sorts). That means that religious experience is real experience, but that what it is an experience of is a matter of interpretation — which makes it a matter of Peircian thirdness, or Batesonian Creatura (as opposed to Pleroma). That doesn’t tell you much, but it’s a starting point.

I’m naturally sympathetic to the position that the process-relationally inclined theorists (Matt, Leon, Adam, et al.) are working out, and will have more to say about Leon’s book, which he sent me recently, in time.

Matt includes a useful summary of Whitehead’s cosmology here. Here’s a snippet:

Whitehead’s evolutionary cosmology, besides avoiding the bifurcation of nature into organic v. inorganic, attributes the experience of “enjoyment” to all enduring forms of order that arise amidst the cosmic process. Organisms [I would say "entities"] do not just stoically endure their existence by responding passively to the harsh givens of their environment; they feel compelled to take the speculative risks necessary to deepen their experience and enjoyment of existence.  Evolution is the story of the great successes of speculation of countless generations of diverse organisms to come before us upon this planet and within this universe. Every moment of our human experience as organized beings—as cosmotheandric organisms—inherits a relevant past billions of years in the making. Our human bodies are the accumulated achievements of the decisions of ancient bacteria. Within the nucleus of bacteria are the accumulated achievements of primordial hydrogen atoms who suffered a transmutation into heavier elements within the core of a prior generation of stars. Life seeks not just survival, but an increase in the intensity of its enjoyment, which is to say a refinement of the contrasts available within experience for conceptual valuation. In short, the more capable an organism is of perceiving and expressing truth, goodness, and beauty, the more evolved it is. The desire to move toward the end of heightened experience is described by Whitehead as an adventure of ideas. This desire, or Eros (divine lure), is the reason for evolution from simplicity to complexity. Deeper beauty, purer truth, and greater goodness are the ends of Eros.

His citing of Blake is also quite appropriate:

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

I’ve been involved in a debate in another (non-public) context over the relative virtues of pantheistic (God=nature) versus panentheistic (God is both immanent and transcendent of nature/the universe) metaphysics. The position I took there was that we ought to look at these not as stable and rival metaphysical systems but as generative Ideas, thoughts-in-progress. The edge of the blade where the two, pantheism and panentheism, meet is a very productive place for thinking. If panentheism is seen as an immanence that is open to transcendence — every becoming, which means every actual occasion, is an event of such opening from within an immanent field — and if pantheism’s nature is understood to be an open one, a nature naturing, a nature-in-becoming, then the two are really not that different at all.

Of course a panentheism so conceived, which is more or less Whiteheadian (where God is not a creator, but a “becomer” and a “saver”) finds few close friends among traditional monotheist creationists. (Polytheism is whole ‘nother story.) As for those committed to a non-theistic working out of these issues, I would think that the Spinozan move of equating God with the universe is at least a good starting point for dialogue. I certainly agree with Levi, Tim, et al. that the nihilist bogeyman is inappropriately being applied to speculative realisms like OOO.

 

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  5. After Nature
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