Monday, December 10, 2012
Steam Vent Release - Here There Be Blitherings
(An unedited stream-of-consciousness rant that I had to get out of the way to finish reading Bruno Latour's Science in Action. It isn't his fault; this is just the sort of thing these readings tend to do to my head.)
What is like to be able to think that there is one and only one objective (and knowable) Truth? To think that perception, even sensory perception, is uniform and explicable, and exists independent of the way we are socialized to experience it?
It's all well and good for me to say that I agree with the notion of a single, objective reality, that there is a world that exists independently from interpretation, that it may or may not be a purely material state or that it may or may not be composed of monads, or atoms, or strings, or thoughts or angel feathers; what I can't understand is certainty about these things. I mean, yeah, I accept a lot of working assumptions so that I can go about my day, but when it comes down to it, I am philosophically inclined to believe that Truth, if such a thing exists, would be inaccessible to a discrete, corporeal, located being like I presume myself to be.
I think of all the steps people *skip* to get to the idea of God, and it boggles. How can you have come to the conclusion that God exists if you haven't even considered what God is? How can you consider what Godness is without thinking about what sort of reality we might live in, and what God would mean depending on how that reality might be composed, or whether one precedes the other, or whether one would need the other, or whether there is such a thing as consciousness, and if there is what is it composed of? If you say material, how does that turn into the sense of "self" that the majority of people seem to experience, and if you take the idea of "spirit" seriously, what is that and how does it interact with physicality and what does it mean in the context of Godness or what does Godness mean in the context of a world that seems to act according to a set of observable rules but might not be composed entirely of "things", much less things that follow those rules or are even explicably connected to those things in a way that is meaningful for conversation about the ontological state of thingness?
I clearly have "faith" in some things, like the basic beingness of myself and the general beingness of the "world" around me (whatever that is), but even then I feel like I should be couching my terms. These are thought-loops I typically don't bother to talk about anymore, because it tends to be met with derision, but the more I deal with academic discussions the more resistant I become to certainty (not something I've ever been a big fan of). Imagine, then, how completely baffled I am by the existence of people who not only have belief, but belief in something, *unquestioned* belief in something, *unquestionable* belief in something, belief so utterly unapproachable that the mere hint of scrutiny can be met with violence, belief so total that no other possibilities are allowed to be considered, and any attempt to do so is grounds for violent retribution, and everyone else should have that same belief anyway, because it is TRUTH and inviolate and not falsifiable and don't even look at it, except to say how true it is.
Now imagine that there is nothing that I hold exempt from this sort of bewilderment *including my own skepticism*. Imagine further that I have made a habit of accepting the existence of things contingently on a daily basis, that I am happy to be alive, that I'm willing to say that I'm happy and that I'm willing to entertain the notion that I'm "alive" even if I don't exactly know what either of those things means external to my own internal thought/feeling/belief systems, which I always assume are contingent. Think about the idea that at base I fundamentally don't know that I'm the same being from one moment to the next, that my current state of "mind" and "body" are always in flux and experienced differently according to both internal changes and external changes, that the very notion of "I" is something that is occasionally put into review and sometimes seems not to have been consistent, and imagine that if I can not be certain that "I" exist or understand things in the exact same way across what I presume to be time and space throughout my own life, how would it be possible to not extend the same sort of uncertainty to the multiplicity of I's that is called society.
The conclusion that I'm currently working with is that, lacking ontological certainty or at least my capacity to have such a thing, the next best thing is to look at relatively internally organized thought structures, epistemologies, as a way of functioning according to the experiences I constantly decide that I'm having, and take them lovingly, but with a grain of salt. Thus my parallel interests in science, magical systems, philosophy, and meditation, but not religion; the last one is just too sure of itself.
This kind of unraveling head-trip is the precise reason why reading Baudrillard, Foucault, Latour and the like is just as dangerous for me as I suspect taking certain hard drugs would be. Of course, being in the History of Science field means I'm just going to have to get used to it (I think I think I think).