Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Eros or Oops?

On the first page of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995) Wilber sets the stage for what is to come by comparing his philosophy to the prevailing scientific outlook.

To Schelling's burning question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?," there have always been two general answers. The first might be called the philosophy of "oops." The universe just occurs, there is nothing behind it, it's all ultimately accidental or random, it just is, it just happens--oops! The philosophy of oops, no matter how sophisticated and adult it may on occasion appear--its modern names and numbers are legion, from positivism, to scientific materialism, to linguistic analysis to historical materialism, from naturalism to empiricism--always comes down to the same basic answer, "Don't ask."
On wonders, isn't the very nature of science to continue to ask and investigate how things have happened and evolved? Wilber continues:

The question itself (Why is anything at all happening? Why am I here?)--the question itself is said to be confused, pathological, nonsensical, or infantile. To stop asking such a silly or confused question is, they all maintain, the mark of maturity, the sign of growing up in this cosmos. I don't think so. I think the "answer" these "modern and mature" disciplines give--namely oops! (and therefore "Don't ask!")--is about as infantile a response as the human condition could possibly offer.
Or, is science just saying that it is fine to ask such questions, but that it is not within the competence of science to answer them? Note the strong emotional tone of Wilber's comparison of the two viewpoints. Meyerhoff's psychological analysis of this key passage is illuminating.
Wilber continues:

The other broad answer that has been tendered is that something else is going on: behind the happenstance drama is a deeper or higher or wider pattern, or order, or intelligence.... Something else is going on, something quite other than oops…. This book is about all of that "something other than oops.
Throughout his subsequent works, Wilber will refer to that mysterious force that turns atoms into molecules, molecules into cells and cells into organism as Eros. For example, in his recent book Integral Spirituality (2006), giving his current take on neo-Darwinian evolution (and Intelligent Design), Wilber writes:

That drive—Eros by any other name—seems a perfectly realistic conclusion, given the facts of evolution as we understand them. Let's just say there is plenty of room for a Kosmos of Eros.
But does Wilber really understand the facts of evolution? First read Lane, "Wilber and the Misunderstanding of Evolution", again Lane,"Wilber on Evolution Revisited", Chamberlain, "Wilber on Evolution" and Falk, "The Age of Wilberius".

Isn't the proposition of a Kosmic force which magically accomplishes everthything that asks for explanation, as much, if not more, a philosophy of Oops? Of not asking and investigating further? I believe the answer to this question determines one's outlook on life.

As Richard Dawkins has reminded his audience on many public occasions when science and religion are compared, and religious objections to the coldness of science were raised, the question to ask is not "Does it appeal to me?" or "Is it comforting?" but "Is it true?"

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once walked in the supermarket, pondering the same question 'why is there something at all', till suddenly the answer came through...
There is something at all, because it is absolutely impossible for nothing to exist.
I know that answer sounds too simple to be true, but I still find it hard to refute. It is impossible for NOTHING to EXIST. So there is something, because it's inevitable.

Thank you.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"is science just saying that it is fine to ask such questions..."

Any question that can be tested objectively is a scientific question. The idea of objectivity in science usually implies, at a minimum, repeatability of observations/experiments. .

Wilber is advocating a theory of intelligent design. I see a clear distinction between intelligent design and ‘oops’

I tend to think that both Wilber and Lane are wrong about evolution. The first living cell had a ‘designer’ and a ‘set of blueprints.’ Eros doesn’t cut it in my book. Eros is a tendency, not a recipe. The latter being required to accommodate the complexity of the cell, IMO. I tend to agree with Behe.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Algernon said...

Matter is best understood as form. Form is best understood as being a concept or identification which is empty. The attempt to explain the nature of things from the point of view of the individual is ultimately limited. Evolution happens from the individual's point of view. It doesn't happen from the point of view of emptiness, because it has no point of view. Two truths. Whether Wilber understands evolution or not, it's important to remember which truth you're coming from. The concept of Eros seems to acknowledge both truths. Although, any word or concept uttered is inadequate. This is the stuff of poetry.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consciousness is depth.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

matter is form. form is consiousness. consiousness recognizing itself is evolution and play and game. where is the conflict between sience and spirituality. spirituality is the practice of recognizing the nature of science. right and left practicing the recognition of their unity.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do we say "oops" when we decide to play a game? it takes an individual to SAY oops. and it takes an individual to say that there is a point to it all. discussion itself necessitates the individual. the absolute has no standpoint, no individual. yes, no, both, neither... ya, ya, ya, ya...

what would david bowie do?
dance. under the moonlight. ....

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has always been Ken's first mistake--ALL his work arises from not coming to grips with it.

Before Darwin the entire history of our species was floundering in the dark. After Darwin we now the vital pieces of the puzzle we were lacking. Still it doesn't make for comforting reading.

Billions of years of evolution have quite literally stumbled into the production of us. The waste and suffering which surround us and comprise us is exhibit A for the lack of any telos.

Ken should basically get out more and see what's really happening. As an example, does he know that Eshel Ben-Jacob and Itay Baruchi have recently coded neurons to fire in sequence, allowing us to see how memory is just a pattern of chemicals in our heads...just like every experience (spiritual or otherwise) is too?

The simple fact is that there is no god or no intelligence running or guiding anything. You may consequently find process but not any genuine pattern.

Ken is a little boy that wants Santa to come back. He wants stories about the sorts of Gurus, who can appear in two places at once, to be true and not just fictional.

Silly man and his cause is already dead. I'm personally glad to see it ruined.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...memory is just a pattern of chemicals in our heads...just like every experience (spiritual or otherwise)..."

Just a pattern of chemicals..? Back up a second. Is Van Gogh's Sunflowers just a pattern of chemicals on a bare canvas?

Is the taste of ice cream just the activation of taste receptors in the nervous system?

Is the sensation of slamming your fingers in a door just the reaction of nociceptors to stimuli?

I'm no Wilber fan, but I think your meaning mechanism has failed to recognise its own abstractions.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

the question is ..was life in the form we know it intentionally created?if so who created the creator?etc ..infinate regress etc,who,what, did this? science can answer questions on the mechanisms of observables,the questions above are not observable ,how life evolved once it got started is.Darwinian explanations and evoloutionary theories show biological complexification,concommitant with this conciousness has 'evolved'[science in our age is cognitively very complex, more so than other epochs less than in those to come].However it could be said science is only ever going to find more 'surfaces'in respect to the above questions.Some meditative practices reveal [it is claimed] a 'pure' conciousness[leaving aside whether as a 'state' or 'stage']in which 'objects'[observables]can be experienced in flux and without the usual sense of identification of 'self'much how a scientist observes 'observables'..this consciousness is said to be empty and all things that arise impermanent[resolving into emptiness]etc..this is a deep subjectivity a kind of objective subjectivity if you will..compassion for all that is arising abounds and the conciousness is felt to be or experienced as timless and ever present[even when its not!].It seems reasonable to infer that this 'capacity'is as old as sentience itself as it matters not the 'complexity' of its 'arisings';so this conciousness did not evolve..kw does seem to conflate god and buddha and dao and aham-brahman and spirit etc..[i realize this is a simplification hope you get the drift]possibly leading to the impression of a creationist buddhist stance. To me it seems the position might be put that as 'pure' conciousness doesn't seem to have evolved it is prior to that which has evolved,if you tag this 'pure' conciousness as god or aham-brahman you get something that smells like intelligent design or creationism.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eros is the reason for your being. It isn't a philosophy of "oops" like the scientism Wilber's referring to in that beautiful and powerful passage from SES that you try, in vain, to mock. Eros is the force and intelligence behind the entire manifest universe. You experience it at every level of your being, from sexual desire to mental creativity to spiritual yearning. It isn't hard to find, and it's silly to deny.

10:10 PM  
Blogger DGA said...

Anonymous says:

"Eros is the force and intelligence behind the entire manifest universe. You experience it at every level of your being, from sexual desire to mental creativity to spiritual yearning. It isn't hard to find, and it's silly to deny."

You make a positive claim here, that there is one force and one intelligence that animates all gestalts... like the wind in Coleridge's Aeolian Harp, "one intellectual breeze... at once the soul of each and God of all." Claim that for a personal theological doctrine if you like. Such is your choice, your adherence to a doctrine. No one should trouble you over your beliefs.

The second part of the quoted material above is problematic, and frankly, nothing other than fundamentalism. You are saying that if anyone disagrees with your metaphysical doctrine that one intelligence manifests all phenomena, then that person is "silly."

Call me silly, but I don't find your assertion (or Coleridge's, or Wilber's) convincing. How do you know there is one force and one intelligence manifesting everything from my erection to my resurrection? Demonstrate clearly that it is the same force, and that it is intelligent; don't just assert it, prove it. You could rely on Hegel if you want or the Hegelian stylings of Aurobindo Ghose, deferring your responsibility onto a putatively enlightened Great Mind, but then you simply invite me to show how Hegel was full of it in his theory of Providence, which leaves you with nothing.

I persist in remaining open-minded about this. If you or anyone can convince me that there is a singular consciousness of the type Wilber describes as referenced above, I remain willing to be convinced. Just try to be competent about it.

Daniel Gustav Anderson

10:12 AM  

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