Friday Roundup (belated)

Before I get to some items of casual interest, I wanted to note some further unpacking of the concept or idea of holistic reasoning.

It was extremely interesting to read some of the comments, going back several posts, regarding my use of the term “holistic reasoning”.  One would have thought I had written “rainbows and unicorns”.  I was told over and over this was “my” method only and something peculiar to me alone.  No, not at all.  In fact, as noted again and again, it is the only method available to anyone who breathes, has brain waves (and no brain damage), and walks upright.  It is everyone’s method.  Welcome to the club.  Welcome to being human.

And, of course, I noted several times what I meant by the term.  Everyone, whether they are aware of it or not, whether it was “caught or taught” inhabits a narrative of belief, a philosophical perspective regarding the core truths of what they believe about existence, reality, themselves, others, and so on.  There is a story about existence they believe is objectively, factually, and “really” True.  True whether everyone believes it or not.  This is a fact, whether one is a religious person, an atheist, or agnostic.  How we arrive, how we become to inhabit these narratives, is complicated but they are initially adopted by faith.  We might liken it to falling in love with someone.  We simply believe it is right and True—capital “t” true.  For instance, when someone tells us the material is all that exists, and that morality is subjective and relative, they believe that to be objectively True, capital “t” true for everyone, in all times and places.  But that is only the beginning.  Whether or not we are really in love with this person, whether or not this narrative we inhabit is indeed True, is where the idea of holistic reasoning comes into play.

When we think about the process of reflection and reasoning (when we begin to ask ourselves why we believe what we do), because of modernity (another narrative), we normally associate it with pure logic, rational, analytical, linear, and objective.  However, even most modernists, even most analytical philosophers now admit this to be a very truncated and shallow, if not completely false, view of reflection and reasoning.  It is now admitted that much more goes into reflection and reasoning.  We bring the totality of ourselves to any reflection and reasoning.  There is a myriad of factors in play: Geography, family history, experience, culture, religion (or lack thereof), education, and personality just to name a few.  Intuition, our “gut” feelings are also an aspect.

We never approach a fact or information objectively, as if all of a sudden, we stepped outside ourselves for a moment and stood suspended in the air.  Now, does that mean we cannot be objective or fair?  No, of course not.  In fact, once we understand this postmodern realization, once we understand we are never as objective as we think, we are actually more likely to be objective and fair.  It is the person who can’t see their own prejudices who is the least objective.  Another aspect of holistic reasoning, is that it regards philosophy, and all that comprises the humanities as valuable sources of knowledge, and knowledge as important, if not more so, than that produced by science or empiricism.  This should be simple to see: What is more important, the scientific knowledge to build a gun, or the wisdom to know how and when to use such?  Or as the Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “We have guided missiles, but misguided men.”  Regardless, I doubt any reasonable person, presently, would object or doubt this is true as far as the fact we reason holistically and not in purely logical, analytical (although those aspects are present as well) ways or methods.

So, when I speak of holistic reasoning, I speak of a commonly accepted idea and concept—one held by the mainstream of philosophers, regardless the school.  Of course, those inhabiting the narrative of empiricism/philosophical naturalism are always suspicious of such a view because they know it undercuts their view that the narrative they inhabit is founded differently than all the others.  This essay, regarding the scientific method, notes aspects of my view regarding holistic reasoning, but it also notes the push-back (the writer’s response to comments toward the end) from those who, clearly missed his point.

As to holistic reasoning, an aspect already discussed is noted here:

“…My essay’s point, however, was to encourage us to think of good investigative thinking and problem solving as spread through all of the disciplines that comprise human knowledge. I realize that people who exclude, for example, poetry and philosophy from our collective human knowledge of nature and of ourselves, may be hard to convince…Many of those who have simply dismissed philosophy (and poetry and other nonscientific areas of inquiry and expression), including some prominent scientists, have done so without displaying any evidence that they’ve ever worked through what they’re criticizing. Scientists often react strongly when their work is criticized by those who know very little about science, often with good cause. This is a two-way street. It does not seem wise for those who are unwilling or unable to work through challenging philosophical theories (including theories of scientific method) to simply dismiss them all. Where’s the objectivity in that?”

Finally, as also noted in an earlier post, to discount or object to holistic reasoning would be self-defeating.  To do so, would require that one employ…holistic reasoning.  It is inescapable.  Again, it is not my method but the method of every human being with normal cognitive activity.

Okay, moving on…

If there is no evidence, is that evidence for something?  If so, what?

More on the “conflict” or clash thesis…

“…So, just to sum up. I believe that science gives us a distinct way of looking at the world and knowing about it, and one that’s of unique importance. But I regret the fact that, in order for this to be self-evident to us, it needs to be supported by the spurious idea that science and religion are in conflict. I think that idea says rather more about us as a society than it does about science and religion.”

As I write this, it is the inauguration of the president elect—Voldemort I believe was his name.  Whoops, I guess I shouldn’t have named him.  My bad.  A sad day for me, and no doubt the majority who voted (he lost the popular vote).  But I will pray for him and I do hope my prayers are heard.  Lord, have mercy.

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6 Responses to Friday Roundup (belated)

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    “There is a myriad of factors in play: Geography, family history, experience, culture, religion (or lack thereof), education, and personality just to name a few. Intuition, our “gut” feelings are also an aspect.”

    Yes, and this is why it is so defective, leading us to trite conclusions and archetypal alleys. Religion is a prime example of a belief system that is consonant with “holistic reasoning”, ie. all the kitchen sink aspects of gut and other resources. But if one sharpens ones’ analytical tool kit a little, and sticks to empirical reality with a bit of rigor, it all evaporates as complete vacuity- a psychologically powerful idea whose reality (i.e. truth) is simply unsustainable and unwarranted.

    This is why scientists and analytical thinkers in general strive to separate out variables and influences, rather than wallow in them. In this sense, holistic thinking is the enemy of clear thinking.

    ” In fact, once we understand this postmodern realization, once we understand we are never as objective as we think, we are actually more likely to be objective and fair. “

    That is not the way it sounds in your hands. You take faith as the best source of belief- the source and warrant for the most important belief you have. How objective is that?

    “Another aspect of holistic reasoning, is that it regards philosophy, and all that comprises the humanities as valuable sources of knowledge, and knowledge as important, if not more so, than that produced by science or empiricism.”

    A false dichotomy. The issue of god’s existence is squarely a scientific one. Is it true, or not? Is faith a proper warrant for correspondence beliefs about the reality about us, or not? Also, I have no quarrel with the humanities at all. Some of my best friends… (just kidding!). Most philosophers and humanists do not take their gut feelings and faith as warrant for completely unrelated categories of reality. For moral sentiments, and similar subjective entities, those form a very appropriate warrant. But for the existence of a supernatural realm, deities, angels, etc… not so much.

    This is all quite eloquently supported by your cited essay.

    Your “no evidence” link was sort of odd. Sometimes it indicates true absence (correspondence truth again!), sometimes not. Are you thinking about the absence of evidence for god? Another conundrum, for sure.

    Thanks for the science and faith link. My view is that historically, science and faith were the same thing, more or less, pursued by the same people. But as we became philosophically more sophisticated, (as the author alludes to) they have bifurcated, to the point that now they are rather strikingly at loggerheads, at least on the point of the actual existence of whatever it is that religious people think exists, for which they adduce poor evidence. Should religious claims be subject to rigorous analysis and proof, or, Trump-like, should they just be taken as a pleasant con job, not to be looked into too carefully, lest they evaporate entirely? What is the epistemological standard?

    “Like I said, the myth of conflict between science and religion is a social construct, because it supports the place of science in society.”

    I am sorry- this could not be more false. The status of science is not the problem. That is quite assured. The problem is as above.. now that we have this radically better standard for analysis, (which, as noted in your other article, is far from unique to science- see the higher criticism as a loose analogue), do we use it for religion. For example, around this same historical epoch, there was a lot of work on -the historical Jesus- summed up so extensively by Albert Schweitzer. What was the result? Not much- it was, sadly, very difficult to conclude anything solid about his historical nature at all, and the field sort of withered and died. The motivation was proper- in view of our new philosophical tools and templates. But the quest sadly did not (and does not) have the necessary materials to get very far.

    But as he says, this conflict varies tremendously.. with the religious claims at issue. There is very little conflict with universalist unitarians.

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    • Burk,

      “There is a myriad of factors in play: Geography, family history, experience, culture, religion (or lack thereof), education, and personality just to name a few. Intuition, our “gut” feelings are also an aspect.”-Darrell
      “Yes, and this is why it is so defective…”

      No, it is why it is so human. If it is defective, it’s defective for you and everyone. It is not defective when we realize all these factors are in play—it is defective only when we do not.

      ” In fact, once we understand this postmodern realization, once we understand we are never as objective as we think, we are actually more likely to be objective and fair.”-Darrell

      “That is not the way it sounds in your hands.”

      Well, sorry it “sounds” that way to you (making my point), but it, in fact, is just a true statement. The only way to truly be objective, is to understand one’s prejudices and blind spots.

      “You take faith as the best source of belief…”

      No, read it again. I assert no such thing. To engage Burk, you at least have to try and understand what is being asserted.

      “Another aspect of holistic reasoning, is that it regards philosophy, and all that comprises the humanities as valuable sources of knowledge, and knowledge as important, if not more so, than that produced by science or empiricism.”

      “A false dichotomy.”

      No, the false dichotomy would be that one is opposed to the other, which is exactly what you believe. Wisdom is clearly more valuable than knowing information, right? We both know that empiricism/science cannot comment on ethics, or wisdom. Facts, information, are completely neutral in that regard. My examples should have made it clear that wisdom and ethics (which are philosophical domains) are more important than simply knowing information and facts (do you doubt wisdom is more important than simply knowing how a gun works?).

      “The issue of god’s existence is squarely a scientific one…?”

      How could you possibly ask that at this juncture? I have stated over and over it is not. Remember Hart and his salad? Again, God is not a physical object or force, one item among others in the universe. Such is the only area science can comment or study. Why do you keep asking—when you know the answer (whether you agree or not)?

      “Most philosophers and humanists do not take their gut feelings and faith as warrant…”

      Nowhere have I written they do such, nor do I. Read the post again. Read.

      “Your “no evidence” link was sort of odd. Sometimes it indicates true absence (correspondence truth again!), sometimes not. Are you thinking about the absence of evidence for god? Another conundrum, for sure.”

      Not everything I link to Burk is a hidden argument for God’s existence or epistemological theories. I simply found the essay interesting.

      “What is the epistemological standard?”

      Well, it depends upon the question or topic. If we are asking how far it is to the moon, empirical standards are best. If we are talking about morality or God’s existence, non-empirical standards are best.

      “Like I said, the myth of conflict between science and religion is a social construct, because it supports the place of science in society.”-From the link

      “I am sorry- this could not be more false.”

      I disagree. I think it certainly true. The conflict had to be imagined—created. It never existed in any true sense. As noted, any supposed conflict says more about us, people and our perceptions, than it does anything regarding actual science or religion.

      Thank you for your comments.

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      • Burk says:

        Hi, Darrell-

        Let me take up one point.

        ““The issue of god’s existence is squarely a scientific one…?”

        How could you possibly ask that at this juncture? I have stated over and over it is not. Remember Hart and his salad? Again, God is not a physical object or force, one item among others in the universe. Such is the only area science can comment or study.”

        I take it up because it is of fundamental importance to your views and approach, and because your view here is so clearly incorrect, and an example of wanting to have your argument both ways.

        One the one hand, you make the claim that god is real, is some kind of undergarment for the universe, and that Jesus was/is divine and was resurrected. On the other hand, you also claim that god and supernaturalism in general are not approachable by science because they operate on some “other” plane of reality. As you state above, science is only physics.

        Not so. The fact is that science is merely the disciplined use of logic to approach any question of reality. Social facts are very much in the remit of science, as are phantoms, gouls and all other invisible as well as visible claims about existence, plus its undergirding garments. Love is a scientific entity, even if our immeditate experience of it owes nothing to a scientific analysis.

        It may be that the tools we have in the scientific corpus do not allow us to approach or adjudicate the speculations put forth on behalf of god, but that doesn’t put those claims outside of science in principle. And such a situation also impeaches whatever evidence or logic its proponents call on to support their claim, since their tool set is a paltry shadow of, and a subset of, that which scientists can currently bring to bear on such questions.

        To fob this all off on holistic reasoning, as if undisciplined intuition were better than careful analysis by which extraneous and gut ideas are separated from those with far more merit … is merely to admit implicitly that the claim has nothing to do with reality at all, but is a construct of a psychologically comforting nature… a trump-fact, as it were.

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  2. Burk,

    You are spouting scientism, or the belief science can address every question and should have the last word. I disagree for all the reasons I’ve noted on these pages over the years. Further, it is a minority belief and one not held by the mainstream of scientists or philosophers.

    Science is wonderful. But it can only speak to physical objects and forces–that which can be measured or detected. Social facts and philosophical questions are outside its purview, while, at the same time, sociologists, philosophers, theologians, historians, and others in the humanities consider all that science brings to bear in each area. But “science” does not get the last word as to questions beyond the merely empirical or informational.

    As to God’s existence, ethics, teleology, purpose, and meaning, science is neutral and has nothing to say, other than how those employing its findings choose to interpret and “see” those findings—which is holistic reasoning. You are quick to only focus on “intuition” which I mention as only one aspect of all the others. It is telling you need to do this, as you clearly can’t deny that we do bring our entire selves to any significant question. Nowhere do I state that holistic (thus the ‘holistic’) means just intuition. Again, you should at least try and address my actual point and definition rather than a truncated caricature. Clearly you cannot.

    “One the one hand, you make the claim that god is real, is some kind of undergarment for the universe, and that Jesus was/is divine and was resurrected. On the other hand, you also claim that god and supernaturalism in general are not approachable by science because they operate on some “other” plane of reality.”

    There is no “on the one hand” and on the “other” hand here. I’m sorry this seems confusing to you, but to the vast majority of theologians and philosophers (whether they agree or not regarding the actual claims) it is all of one piece. God is the ground of all being, not a being among other beings or things/forces in the universe. The Christian story is that, this Being, this God, became a man, like us. Historically, we know (most agree) that this man lived in Palestine some 2000 years ago. If God does exist, if this God became man, then a resurrection is completely possible and even logical. To argue against such, one would simply have to assert no God exists, which is fine but question begging. So, what is the problem?

    As to the rest, I will post it again:

    “Did Gopnik bother to read what he was writing there? I ask only because it is so colossally silly. If my dog were to utter such words, I should be deeply disappointed in my dog’s powers of reasoning. If my salad at lunch were suddenly to deliver itself of such an opinion, my only thought would be “What a very stupid salad…” (Hart)

    There are important arguments to make here about ideology, epistemology and background assumptions, but Hart registers a more elementary objection: As “Augustine or Philo or Ramanuja (and so on) could have told” Gopnik,

    God is not a natural phenomenon. Is it really so difficult to grasp that the classical concept of God has always occupied a logical space that cannot be approached from the necessarily limited perspective of natural science?”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/ct-prj-splendid-wickedness-david-bentley-hart-20160818-story.html

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    • Burk says:

      Hi, Darrell-

      From IEP:
      ” Theism is the view that there is a God which is the creator and sustainer of the universe and is unlimited with regard to knowledge (omniscience), power (omnipotence), extension (omnipresence), and moral perfection. Though regarded as sexless, God has traditionally been referred to by the masculine pronoun.”

      Here we have several clearly physical and science-related properties of god: creator of universe, sustainer of same (whatever that means), has lots of power, including physical powers, lots of presence.. like anywhere and everywhere.

      It must be someplace, right? And doing something, right? The point is that there are two theories applicable here. Either the concept, is, as you say, specifically engineered to occupy a logical space that insulates it from critique by logic and empiricism. And this is because it is, as one can sense from the above definition, a psychological and imaginary construct to be the father figure bigger than any other father archetype. With the logical consequence that it indeed has no effects on this reality, as we find empirically.

      Or, one is really serious about all these properties, as the theistic naturalists were up to one or two hundred years ago, and seriously try to find and establish that these extraordinary properties are truly present, objectively existant, and a part of our world / reality. Which implies, as they all believed, and rightly, that theism is a fully scientific concept.

      It is just complete malfeasance to try to play it both ways- that you get your resurrection (and your second coming), but not any scientifically approachable logical space for this entity to exist. And a lot of snark from Hart doesn’t make him or you look any better.

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