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One and many, the great balance, and how we live, think & act, 1

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — finally approaching a core understanding that has been accumulating across many posts here ]
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Briefly put: I’ve been thinking about the arising of the many from the one for quite a while, and think that in a lake or mirror with varying images reflected, arising and departing, I have a decent metaphor or analogy for that arising and it’s corresponding departing. Here I want to tie that highly abstract, poetic or philosophical understanding to a variety of more concrete dualities with which we need to come to terms:

  • the abstract and the concrete
  • the ideal and the practical
  • the individual and society
  • simplicity and complexity
  • top down and bottom up
  • divine breath (ruach, pneuma) and creation
  • and perhaps most important of all, as I hope to explain below,

  • global warming and the many lesser issues we need to tackle
  • Okay, onwards to the specific pairings.

    **

    First, I’d like to observe that it’s extremely interesting, and perhaps unexpected, that the abstract and the concrete (and for that matter, the ideal and the practical) should turn out to be analogs of the individual and society — the latter pair is central to political philosophy, but it’s provocative to think that an understanding of the other two — or at a more abstract level of the abstract and the concrete — might be able to shed some light on the (ideal) relation between the individual and society..

    **

    The abstract and the concrete

    The abstract and the concrete is a thinker’s issue. How shall the abstract clarities that thought provides us with be brought into a balanced relation with the perceived, brute facts of the world we inhabit?

    From a philosophical point of view, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us:

    Objects are Concrete; Properties are Abstract

    or at least that’s one view — philosophers vary: objects are things, qualities are, well, the qualities or attributes of things. And yet the qualities turn out to be, in moral an aesthetic terms, more significant than the things themselves — which the senses take very seriously, and which Samuel Johnson famously used in what came to be called his “argumentum ad lapidem” against the idealist Bishop Berkeley, telling the good Bishop to kick a stone, and see if he still felt the world was ideal and not concrete..

    Argument to the stone is now recognized as a class of logical fallacy, btw, dismissing an opponent’s argument without any real proof, just by saying it’s ridiculous.

    One of the finest balancing of opposites I’ve found is SI Hayakawa’s ladder of abstractions, which climbs from the concrete — a cow, Bessie — to the abstract — livestock, and eventually wealth. I’ve written more about it in A woman, a ladder, four goats, and a cow named Bessie

    **

    The ideal and the practical:

    The ideal and the practical bits anyone who possesses a conscience: The ideal is clean, pure sometimes morally in the sense in which the religious mind may say virginity is pure, but also in the non moral way in which we we can say higher mathematics is pure.

    What needs to be reconciled here can be presented in the form of a DoubleQuote from two of the greatest scientific minds of the last century: Richard Feynman said, in a Cornell lecture, 1964:

    It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

    to which we may respond, in the words of Paul Dirac — hey, both of them in turn were great contributors to quantum mechanics and electrodynamics —:

    I think that there is a moral to this story, namely that it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.

    Jiggling the idea of beauty with that of experimental verification until the two of them come into alignment is quite a challenge.

    Dirac himself came close to formulating the one-many duality in a manner antithetical to poetry:

    The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible.

    to which we may respond that Einstein formulated Dirac himself thus:

    This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful.

    Oh dear, what can I say?

    The dualism of lhe ideal and the practical is often in play when you see that phrase “that’s where the rubber meets the road”. In this case, the road is the practical, and the rubber, for reasons I have yet to fathom, is the ideal. Is that an aircraft landing metaphor?

    **

    I don’t want to extend this post any further, but I still have several dualities to compare and contrast — and consider. I’ll be with you shortly, insh’Allah and the creek don’t rise..

    Alchemies of church & bookstore, French Open court & gardens

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — two instances of somewhat unexpected balance ]
    .

    Here, first, something you’ve already seen — the Maastricht bookstore in a restored church, arguably an instance of word being made flesh:

    and the gardens now surrounding the clay court on which the French Open is played:

    **

    Sources:

  • Marcus Fairs, A shop in a church by Merkx + Girod Architecten
  • Gerald Marzorati, How the French Turned a Tennis Court Into a Garden
  • **

    I say alchemy because marriages of hard and soft, above and below, word and flesh, have it in common that they bridge significant metaphysical divides — like the fall of the Berlin wall, to take a political equivalent within living memory — and thus perform a healing work.

    Tikkun olam.

    Reciprocal: a term for form, symmetry, balance — and beyond

    Monday, August 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — weaving a web of mirrors, echos, neurons and mimetics ]
    .

    Magic: the Gathering — the game designers know this pattern well!

    **

    The Far Right And Reciprocal Radicalisation

    Could fragmentation within the Far-Right contribute to increasingly extreme responses to Islamist terrorism? There is increasing evidence of instrumental responses from some of the most extreme groups, which seek to encourage the strategic use of violence.

    Reciprocal radicalisation, or cumulative extremism, is a concept that suggests extremist groups become more extreme in response to each other’s activity. This means a group may frame violence as justified or necessary because they perceive an opposing group as extreme. Identifying how to respond to such a dynamic has become increasingly important, as terrorist threats from both Far-Right and Islamist groups increase, alongside increased hate crime and group membership.

    The nature of siloing would encourage a focus on ISIS violence alone, a terrorism subset of natsec foreign policy, or on alt-right violence alone, a terrorism subset of natsec interior policy, thus remaining blind to the possibility that the two comprise a whole system, with systemic interactions between the two. The UK Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats report whose header and intro paragraph I’m quoting here is dealing with a pattern in that system, huzzah.

    Such patterns — true reciprocity, which is a form of mirroring, and the kind of escalating reciprocity described here, which is more like an echo chamber with built-in feedback loop, are significant both because they cross-pollinate silos, in a system-friendly way, but also because they offer hints of a pattern language of forms that can be watched for and cataloged.

    **

    Wilder speculation:

    Speaking of mirroring — other readings of mine recently have brought to my attention the intersection of two “hot” fields of study — mirror neurons as a biological substrate for much in human behavior, including our propensity of violence, and Rene Girard’s mimetics as a psychological substrate for much in human nature, including our propensity of violence..

    The conjunction of the two, which I intuited, is explored in Vittorio Gallese, The Two Sides of Mimesis: Girards Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation and Social Identification.

    Again, we have a creative leap, again we have silo-crossing, and again mirroring is the form that lies behind the analogical possibility that creates the possibility of the leap.

    One serpent, one equivalence, for Trump

    Friday, September 1st, 2017

    { by Charles Cameron — the pardon ouroboros, the antifa / neo-Nazi equivalence ]
    ,

    A couple of issues of form cropped up for me this morning in WaPo — one from today, one from yesterday, carried over.

    Let’s start with Jennifer Rubin. Her headline, Trump may get bitten by his own abuse of the pardon power, comes close to calling Trump a serpent, if like me you think of “self-biting” in terms of the ourobotos. Of course, Ms Rubin may not think like me..

    I don’t see any further serpent references in Rubin’s piece, though, but I did find a Pharaoh reference:

    To the contrary, as far as I understand, most of Arpaio’s most egregious conduct will go unpunished. Combined with his frequent attacks on the judiciary, this latest episode will no doubt harden Pharaoh’s proverbial heart.

    There are serpents in the Old Testament too, Jennifer.

    Oh God, there’s an impeachment reference if the Dems take over the House.And reverends are already all but calling for civil war in that eventuality…

    Argh.

    **

    And then — back to issues of form — there’s Marc Thiessen, Yes, antifa is the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis. Moral equivalences are frequently contested. and often “read into” statements of comparisons that aren’t necessarily intended to imply equivalence. Here, the claim of moral equivalence is specific — it’s right there in the title.

    It’s interesting that the article itself bases the equivalence on terming Antifa communist:

    Mark Bray, a Dartmouth lecturer who has defended antifa’s violent tactics, recently explained in The Post, “Its adherents are predominantly communists, socialists and anarchists” who believe that physical violence “is both ethically justifiable and strategically effective.” In other words, they are no different from neo-Nazis.

    Well okay — communist equals Nazi, right? — from that oerspective, case closed.

    But are there other perspectives?

    Antifa equals Neo-Nazis, right? Could be — but my question is whether Antifa would exist if Neo-Nazis hadn’t already shown up. Does that make a difference? WHo struck th first blow, so to speak? Or is it a simple matter pof two forms of extreme violence, mirroring eachg other.

    Mirroring: another formal property to watch for,

    China as the balance between DPNK and the US

    Saturday, August 12th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — once again, it’s the formal properties that interest me here ]
    .

    You may agree or disagreee, but in two-party negotiation I’d say, speaking as a moderator, bridge-builder, peace-maker, there’s a natural parity between the two parties

    — this parity will be there, somehow, even if not immediately apparent, or something is seriously amiss.

    **

    Here, then, are two of countless ways in which China must handle disparities between the parties, if she is to maintain a balance between the US and Korth Korea:

    The population balance — or imbalance — is pretty extreme, and the nuclear arenal imbalance even moreso:

    **

    I’ve included the moderator (China) along with the two parties in my weightings above, pondering whether it makes a difference when the moderator is “heavier” than either party, or when one party “heavily” outweighs the moderator.

    I don’t know, I’m feeling my way towards an intuitive grasp of something here, not presenting a certainty of some kind.

    The WaPo article that brought me to these considerations is full of “balance” and “imbalance” imagery..

    At issue is “a series of threats and counterthreats by the U.S. and North Korean governments.”

    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said there had been an “overwhelming amount” of “belligerent rhetoric” from Washington and Pyongyang.

    Even-handedly:

    China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and it strongly reiterated that message Friday.

    In an editorial, the Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides that “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

    And considering how things can get worse:

    China hopes that all relevant parties will be cautious in their words and actions, and do things that help to alleviate tensions and enhance mutual trust, rather than walk on the old pathway of taking turns in shows of strength, and upgrading the tensions.

    And better:

    “The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions..

    **

    All this is, on the one hand, obvious, and barely needs saying — and on the other hand, fascinating and instructive in its abstract formalism. Of course, there are details that I’m omitting to bring that formalism front and center, but you have the WPo article to give you those.

    Most interesting, perhaps, is that final observation:

    “The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions..

    It reminds me of another quote I included in a post here on ZP recently:

    the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

    Paradox, too, is a matter of form, and thus of particular interest when it occurs in an analytic context.

    Metaphors, analogies, parallelisms, paradoxes — my stock in trade — are delicate matters, and should be treated with care.

    **

    Okay, now how do you diagram the balance mentioned in the WaPo article, In dealing with North Korea, Trump needs allies — not bombast?

    Tillerson’s impossible job: Balancing North Korea, China and Trump

    **

    Sources:

  • Business Insider, Where the World’s 14,995 Nuclear Weapons Are
  • Worldometers, Countries in the world by population (2017)

  • Washington Post, Beijing warns Pyongyang: You’re on your own if you go after the US
  • Hat-tip, btw, to xkcd for painstakingly providing the number graphics via the xkcd Radiation page.


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