Roger Peters Copyright © 2007
The Quaternary Investigation into the Evolution Toward the Uniqueness in Shakespeare
Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy
- the argument and evidence
Notes prepared for Ray Bradley following a visit to Omaha
(The diagrams referred to in this essay are covered by copyright and will be posted when possible.)
In these notes I will attempt to demonstrate where I think William Shakespeare's nature-based philosophy sits in relation to traditional apologetic and sceptical philosophies. I will be asking you to assess my claim that Shakespeare's philosophy contains a natural pattern or template unsurpassed by any other thinker.
Hopefully I can present a sufficiently clear outline of the philosophic relationships to demonstrate my case. The implication will be that Shakespeare intentionally published a substantial philosophy in his Sonnets of 1609 as the philosophy behind all his plays and longer poems.
A peculiar aspect of the case is that no one in 400 years has come near appreciating the highly structured presentation of the philosophy in the Sonnets. Hence I have the dilemma of communicating my discovery to a world that has never plumbed the depths of Shakespeare's sonnets and plays in these terms.
And the task of communicating Shakespeare's philosophy has not been made easier by my findings being based in part on a comprehensive study of the life-work of thinkers of the calibre of Charles Darwin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Marcel Duchamp. The degree of difficulty is reflected in the fact that the life-work of any one of these thinkers is usually approached piecemeal by scholars.
Your article 'Intelligent Design or Natural Design' and diagram
Because, to some, my claims appear 'extraordinary', it might be helpful to relate my findings to your article 'Intelligent Design or Natural Design' and its associated diagram 'Concepts of Design and their Logical Liaisons'. I have read the article and perused the diagram a number of times. I append two copies of your diagram on which I have overlaid my findings.
Before I advance my case, though, I do not want to be presumptuous about the type of understanding your diagram accommodates. I hereby allow for the possibility that the diagram intentionally itemises only 'concepts of design' and their 'logical liaisons'. This could mean it is even critical of those like Dawkins who feel obliged to replace anthropomorphic metaphors such as the 'Divine Watchmaker' with their deterministic counterparts such as the 'Blind Watchmaker' and the 'selfish gene'.
And you may intend to be critical, too, of those like Spinoza, Einstein and Hawking who are listed as acknowledging a pantheistic and, at least in Spinoza's case, a very 'male' God who Spinoza refers to frequently as 'he'. Their attempts to anthropomorphise 'feelings of awe' onto nature by claiming 'nature' and 'God' are the same is not sustained by the grammar or everyday use of the words nature and God (see below).
And under 'Metaphysical Naturalism', a link is made from the statement that 'mental properties are emergent from…complex natural organisms' to the claim that they 'cease to exist when those organisms cease to exist': then follows the claim that 'post-mortem survival is impossible'. I have to allow that you may be critiquing those who 'believe' in the evolution of all human potentialities from millions of forebears yet consider the death of the individual as final. At the very least the claim leaves aside the evolutionary way an individual survives in her/his offspring or in those of their near kin. Witness the myriad of physical and mental traits inherited by offspring from their parents and other near and distant relatives.
An aside - the use of the word 'life'
At this early stage I also want to draw attention to a problem with the use of the word 'life'. In your article the statement '…evolutionary theory itself doesn't pretend to explain biogenesis, how the first forms of life began', it sounds as if you accept the conventional distinction between 'life' and 'non-life'.
The appropriate distinction, it seems to me, should be between 'inorganic life' and 'organic life'. After all, every one of the 'forms of life' you refer to is constituted largely of inorganic minerals and compounds (the most ubiquitous being H2O). In contrast, the elements we associate peculiarly with organic life constitute only a relatively small percentage of an organism. And it seems that the closer we look the more blurred the distinction between inorganic life and organic life becomes.
The restriction of the word 'life' to organisms deemed 'alive' appears to relate less to scientific knowledge and more to the supernaturalist prejudice that the 'God who is everywhere' created 'life' on privileged enclaves such as planet Earth. So hunting for the moment of biogenesis might be like looking for the exact moment humans developed from the apes – the continuum of evolution over billions of years may preclude such a momentous punctuation (Gould).
Another related confusion promoted by supernaturalists is the distinction between 'life' and 'death' as if death is the end of life. But if inorganic/organic life is pervasive and unending then death is merely the cessation of the life of a particular entity or being. The more appropriate distinction is between birth and death. And a further distortion occurs when the religious rituals of 'baptism, marriage and funeral rites' are given precedence over the natural processes of 'birth, childbirth and death'.
Nature as it is
With those provisos, I suggest there is a significant omission from your article and so from the diagram. There does not seem to be separate provision for those who simply accept 'nature as it is' and base their arguments in nature to show that all supernatural claims are products of the human imagination.
To explain what I mean by 'nature as it is', it might be instructive to consider the everyday generic use of the word 'nature' compared to the use of such words as 'universe', 'cosmos', 'god', 'world', 'belief', 'design' - in the English language at least. When talking of nature at large, we do not say 'the nature', 'a nature', 'this or that nature', 'many natures', etc. All the other words listed allow of such usages.
Hence 'nature' seems to have a special status for representing things as they are, unqualified. For instance, we can say something is '…true in all possible worlds', but not '…true in all possible natures'. So it seems we use the word 'nature' differently from any of the other words used in your article and its accompanying diagram.
It is this generic use of the word 'nature' that I consider central to building a 'logical' template with the correct 'multiplicity' to successfully represent the relationship between the world and our ability to see, understand and respond to that world. This was, as I understand it, Wittgenstein's ambition in both his earlier and later periods – an ambition he was unable to fulfil, except that in his last writings he argued that nature is a 'given' for the possibility of 'language games' or 'forms of life'.
If I accept 'nature as it is', and am completely unconcerned as to whether or not it is 'designed', or whether evolution is 'guided' or 'unguided', and am completely disinterested in deism, theism or atheism, etc., etc., (because the word 'god' has no such special status in language use), then the diagram as it stands does not accommodate my acceptance of 'nature as it is'.
'Natural Design' or 'Intelligent Design'
What would the diagram look like if it took account of your youthful acceptance of '…the universe, its contents, and the laws of nature, as brute facts neither needing, nor capable of further explanation'? What if even the word 'brute' was removed as it seems to reflect the language of those theists who find nature dark and harsh?
When I evaluate the use of the words 'nature', 'design', etc., within the context of the diagram, it looks as if those who think nature is designed by a supernatural being are setting the agenda. I have to ask whether, by not allowing for those who simply accept 'nature as it is', you are locked into a supernaturalist initiated debate that has no intended scientific outcome. Worse, the debate is frequently based on a disingenuous use of syllogistic methods (as when apologists justify their beliefs in 'metaphysical supernaturalism').
The deliberate seeding of pseudo-scientific ideas by supernaturalists into the scientific community has a long history. As you no doubt know, even the agenda of the 'Big Bang' was set in place by a Catholic priest and seemingly rational persons (such as Stephen Hawkins) bought into the religious agenda. This is despite the fact that the same question as to who created God can be asked about what happened before the 'Big Bang' (the infinite regress you argue against elsewhere).
So I am intrigued that, in your last box (bottom right), you are drawn into making an educated estimate of the age of the universe and earth, despite the fact that we have been invariably wrong in our estimates. It does seem strange that your logically organised assessment of the 'concepts of design' and their implications should conclude with the best yet estimate of the age of the universe (and the earth) - as if we can even be sure it makes sense to estimate the 'age' of the universe.
Also of interest is the shift from 'nature' or 'natural design' in your top left box where 'only nature exists' to the 'universe' and the 'earth' in your bottom right box. While we commonly say 'the age of the earth' or the 'age of the universe' we do not say 'the age of nature'. It appears that 'nature' does not have an 'age' whereas the 'universe' could have if it is synonymous with our local intergalactic environment. Hence my inclination to set up a series of transitions that follow naturally from the initial premise – 'nature'. Another nice irony is that the traditional biblical time-line for God's creation of the world about 4000 years ago acknowledges that around then the Hebrew world created the idea of the monotheistic male-based God.
Hence I question the use of the phrase 'natural design' in the first box of the diagram. In light of the above it seems like a defensive reaction to the imaginary claims made by those who believe in 'intelligent design' rather than a reasoned response free of the supernaturalist agenda. If I am right about the peculiar grammar of the word 'nature', then it seems a case could be constructed on the basis of that use without slipping into the anthropomorphisms typical of imaginary faiths.
Adding 'nature' to the diagram
What, then, would the diagram look like if those who accept 'nature as it is', and who do not need to identify nature with a male (or any) God, and who recognise the significance of inherited traits (genotype or phenotype) that survive an individual's death, were taken into consideration? What if another column of boxes were lined to the left and along bottom of your diagram to show the logical liaisons for those who simply accept 'nature as it is' and reject the naturalistic and supernaturalistic beliefs that are predicated on design, deterministic issues, and the various stances about the idea of God?
So, I will start developing my template by positioning a box to the left of the 'Natural Design' box. In the new box there will be just the word 'nature'. Nature, then, is a given of which we are not capable of accounting for in language – if only because language is a faculty that exists within nature – a fact attested by the possibly unique use characteristics of the word nature in language.
Evolution and creationists
Next, I note that the word 'evolution' occurs in all of the boxes in the top row of your diagram. And I see in your article that you question the tendency of 'Creationists' to '…pick on the unknowns of evolution.' You argue that evolutionary theory has good credentials, drawing on a much wider interdisciplinary base than other scientific theories and so in due course it should be able to fill the '…present gaps in our understanding'.
But, I would suggest, the 'Creationists' attack the theory of evolution more than any other theory because it cuts to the heart of their imaginary empire. When their God 'created' the world, according to the biblical myth of origins in Genesis, 'he' seems at first to have proceeded quite sensibly by first creating the world, then light and dark, then water and earth, then the animals, and finally humankind.
But their God got it wrong when 'he' created Adam and then Eve – and the idea that God is a 'he' is the giveaway. Evolutionary biology tells us that the male is an offshoot of the female. In all senses, including the formation of the foetus in the womb, the female is the originary entity. Why then does a male 'God' create the male first and then the female? Worse, why is the creation of man and woman in Genesis not biologically sexual – why is Adam formed from clay and Eve formed from one of Adam's ribs?
While it might be advisable to wait for science to quieten the qualms of the 'Creationists' by solving unknown aspects of evolutionary theory such as 'biogenesis', what if their objections to evolution are an ironical consequence of their inversion of the natural relation of female and male and even their arbitrary division of 'life' from 'non-life'. I suggest that the answer to piquing the 'Creationists' qualms lies in analysing their biblical myth of origins in which the male is created first and non-biologically. If I am right then we might be able to use philosophy to answer a question that science could take another few millennia to resolve, if ever.
Adding 'female and male' to the diagram
So, to establish the new box below the one for nature, we note the point at which the biological problem surfaces in Genesis – with the creation of male before female. I am not going to invent an anthropological metaphor to characterise the contents of the new box. I will simply place in the second box the evolutionary dynamic between female and male – in that order – female before male.
In terms of 'Gods', this suggests that Pantheism, Deism, Theism, and even Atheism, are logically inconsistent with the new box to the left if they do not accommodate the biological priority of the female over the male – and they cannot save themselves by inventing a Goddess rather than a God. If nature has a female propensity it is simply from the perspective of a sexual species (Homo sapiens) in which the female is the originary entity.
Certainly it would seem that 'Creationists' have every reason to be worried about evolutionary theory more than any other theory, if evolutionary theory directly challenges both the sex of their male-God creator and the veracity of their claims about the non-biological formation of Adam before Eve – issues central to their beliefs.
But, as suggested above, there may be an involuntary or even a conscious literary reason why the biblical myth of origin inverts the natural order. If we can account for the inversion then we may be able to both trump the male-based God syndrome and show why the syndrome is so pervasive throughout the cultures of the world.
The metaphysics of death - adding 'increase' to the diagram
Before we tackle those issues, however, there is the realm of 'metaphysics' to consider. What do we place in the new box to the left of the two boxes for 'metaphysics' in the diagram? We note that the bottom line in both metaphysical boxes is the status of 'post-mortem survival'.
In nature the only way in which a species can survive death is by propagating itself sexually. While food, shelter, and beliefs, (etc.,) may help an individual of a species to survive until death, life continues for the individual principally through reproduction or what I will term 'increase'. The word 'increase' better captures the simple requirement to propagate another generation whereas reproduction and procreation have too many associations with either 'copying' or 'creation'.
The human species is as dependant on increase as is any other sexual species. A simple test would be to prevent all members of a species from increasing and watch until the last member dies and the species becomes extinct. We see this often with species whose numbers are so reduced they are unable to persist. This means that any claims for 'post-mortem survival' other than through increase invokes a supernatural conceit, and any talk of the impossibility of post-mortem survival must envisage the cessation of increase.
Hence we will put the word 'increase' in the third new box on the left, as increase is the condition that renders the claims of the two 'metaphysics' boxes logically inconsistent with its biological requirement.
The status of the boxes added so far
So far the three boxes we have added to the diagram itemise entities that exist without the need for human consciousness. Nature is self-subsistent, the female and male are sexual types evident in the simplest of organisms (such as Darwin's famous barnacles) and increase is the natural consequence of the differentiation of male from female. Increase can occur without conscious intervention, even for humans.
Another way to appreciate the status of nature, the sexual dynamic between female/male and increase is to realise that we as humans cannot alter nature at large. We have no way of influencing the constitution or activity of most of the universe in its multi-galactic expanse. Nor can we change the sexual dynamic – being female and male is our lot. And in a limited sense we cannot alter the requirement to increase if the species is to persist – we are all here because of increase. But we could decide en masse not to increase and bring about the extinction of our species. It is at this point that consciousness and the possibility of language intervenes.
Each step in adding boxes to the left of your diagram follows naturally one to another. Nothing has been invented – rather only palpable entities have been considered for inclusion. And neither has it been necessary to counter supernatural conceits – the entities are self-evident compared to the notions of design, a pantheistic God or the impossibility of post-mortem survival. If these palpable entities were questioned then, as Wittgenstein argued, the whole of our understanding would be rendered groundless.
Emergent mental properties - adding 'consciousness' to the diagram
So, only now can we begin to consider 'emergent' properties of the mind. The 'Metaphysics' boxes in the 'Concepts of Design' diagram mention 'mental properties'. Consistent with your claims for 'metaphysical naturalism', Darwin argues that 'mental powers' (and the 'moral sense') are, as you say, 'emergent from … natural organisms'. What then is the motivation for 'metaphysical supernaturalists' to consider minds independent of the organisms that have them? Can we account for the competing claims as we add further new boxes down the left?
The transition, it seems, from inorganic life to organic life and the development of sexual species eventually brings with it the development of the brain and consequently of the mind. When this occurred in the evolutionary process is immaterial – we are eminently conscious beings, at least for most of our waking hours. The possibility of the transition from insensate to sensate is crucial for our ability to become cognisant of nature, to appreciate the significance of the sexual dynamic of female and male and the requirement for increase if we are to persist as a species, and thence to understand the constitution of our minds.
Darwin argued in his early notebooks that the sexual dynamic (as he observed it in barnacles for instance) has all the potential required to account for the mental powers and moral sense of Homo sapiens. The direct link from the sexual dynamic to the mental dynamic may be the key to accounting for the salient features of the mind and for explaining such anomalies as the supernatural belief in the inverted male/female dynamic and non-biological sex in traditional myths of origins.
So I will enter the words 'transition to consciousness' in the fourth new box down the left side of the diagram. The 'consciousness' box acknowledges the transition from nature and the sexual dynamic to Darwin's 'mental powers' and 'moral sense' – the precursors for the current level of cognitive and affective capacities of the human mind. In effect, the dual female/male characteristic of the sexual dynamic seems to have the appropriate multiplicity to account for emergent properties of the mind such as the Law of Excluded Middle, etc.
Adding 'sensations' to the diagram
Before we can discuss the properties of the thinking mind, though, we have one more step to take down the left side of the diagram. The most direct or unmediated inputs to the conscious mind – possibly the original pricks to consciousness - are the multiple incoming sensations such as sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.
A sensation such as pain impinges directly on the consciousness – it is an aesthetic effect in that it is unmediated by thought or spoken language. Hence sensations from the external world are placed in the last new box on the left, before we take account of the thought/language processes that dominate your diagram.
Adding 'ideas – true and false' to the diagram
Only with the next step do we enter the realm of ideas that your diagram elaborates upon logically. We can now add the box for 'ideas – true and false', which is the basis of thought and language. We place it to the right of the box for incoming sensations and underneath the boxes for 'Methodological Naturalism' and 'Multiple Well-Attested Scientific Facts and Theories'. The box 'ideas – true and false' accommodates all human language-based activities like the scientific hypotheses and explanations that are organised according to the formal logical principles in your diagram.
Any thought process or any articulation of thought in speech or writing is represented by the box 'ideas – true and false'. As your diagram attests, some of the most decisive determinations between true and false (in which the principal criteria are verification and falsification) occur in science and logic.
Not included in your diagram, though, is the interrelationship of language and ethics. As the words true and false also suggest, the realm of ideas that enables scientific attestation of true and false is simultaneously the realm of ethics and the source of moral edicts. When an ethical deliberation is made it is often concluded with an agreement in language that is legislated, avowed or sworn – the making of laws, vows and acts of swearing being the most deliberate forms of language we use.
Adding 'sensations in the mind' to the diagram
But just as your diagram does not give separate consideration to the given of nature and its natural correlates the sexual dynamic, increase and sensations, it also compresses into the jurisdiction of logic and science the sensations peculiar to the mind. These are the sensations, such as the idea of God (or the ideal), the spark of intuition, or poetic effects, which are incited wholly within the mind in thought through language processes.
So, rather than concluding these additions to your diagram with speculation similar to those in your boxes at bottom right, where you anticipate the solution to biogenesis and make educated guesses about the age of the universe and the earth, the new bottom row ends with a box titled 'sensations in the mind'. I suggest that only by recognising the peculiar nature of the mind-based claims made by deists, theists (and atheists?) can the dynamic of the mind be fully represented, and so fully understood.
Your diagram pits those with a scientific world view against those with a religious world view. And correctly you show that the religious world view is logically inconsistent with scientific understanding and frequently improbable. But that does not explain why those with a supernatural world-view hold so religiously to their inconsistent beliefs in the 'supernatural'. Can, then, the addition of a box for 'sensations in the mind' accommodate the apparent contrariness?
The usefulness of the equation '1+1 = 2'
Before I examine the connection between beliefs in the supernatural and sensations in the mind, I want to consider a claim you made when I visited you at Omaha. Correct me if I am wrong, but you said that mathematical equations such as '1+1 = 2' are logically 'true' in any possible world – they are not dependent on human minds. Hence they were not, you said, 'human constructs', as J. S. Mill called them. You drew a distinction, I think, between such logical 'truths' and the contingent status of empirical 'truths'.
We can use a standard thought experiment to show that in practice '1+1 = 2' is dependent on contingencies. We can see, for instance, that one apple plus one apple equals two apples is not a relation of equals because each apple in nature is different in weight, colour, ripeness etc., etc., so no equation of real apples is possible.
Similarly, when we write the equation '1+1 = 2' (or construct it by adding sets with the number 1 as the first set) we do so in real time using ink (or pixels) so again the elements of the equation are different. In short the equation in reality, in writing or in thought exists in space and time and so seems contingent. It appears that '1+1 = 2' is, at best, an approximation or abstraction from real relationships between things in the world that look the same on the surface but are necessarily different because, at the very least, no two things can exist at the same time in the same space (Aristotle).
So, I ask, is it possible to visualise or conceptualise '1+1 = 2' at all without resorting to the space/time continuum? What does it mean to say, for instance, that '1+1 = 2' is a logical truth or necessity that is true in all possible worlds when it is entirely dependent on contingent factors for it to be perceived or expressed in this world? (I was talking to John Paterson - ex Massey University Philosophy Dept - and he said he would avoid claiming an equation was true in all possible worlds.)
I also want to ask why you think '1+1 = 2' is a necessary 'truth' or is 'true' in any possible world. It seems to me we should ask why it should be called 'true' since it cannot be 'false'. Does it make sense to say that '1+1 = 2' is true when by definition an equation cannot be false - or for that matter to say it is a necessary truth. Is anything more being conveyed by saying the 'equation' is 'true'? And if anything more is intended to be conveyed by those making the claim is that because they have extra-logical reasons for saying so.
So is an equation, of which '1+1 = 2' is a very basic example, more than a tautology of the general form 'a = a'. If we consider equations such as F = ma and E = mc2, we know that they are special instances of the more general forms 'F' is proportional to 'm' and 'E' is proportional to 'm', where a and c2 are added as constants. Acceleration under gravity is not constant and the claim that the speed of light is constant is falsifiable as there is every chance it varies even if slightly over the extreme distances of inter-galactic space.
So, is the general form of an equation 'a = a' simply 'a is proportional to a' in all contingent situations? Is '1+1 = 2' the special case of a general form such as 'a á a', where '1+1 = 2' has a use value as do F = ma and E = mc2? Rather than being a logical truth that is true in all possible words, is '1+1 = 2' just a special formulation of a more general form that needs to be readapted to natural kinds as are F = ma and E = mc2 in practice.
Can we ask the same question of philosophical logic and set theory? Are they also ultimately based in the contingent? If not, in what sense are they not contingent without resorting to an imaginary Platonic ideal ('real') form. Is the claim that '1+1 = 2' is a logical necessity true in all possible worlds no more than a Platonic assertion that cannot be proved? It seems to me that all possible worlds exist within nature and that nature is the basis for the possibility of being able to say that the abstract equation '1+1 = 2' is true in all possible worlds.
Sensations in the mind – aesthetics and myth
Now, returning to my question about the connection between religious beliefs and sensations in the mind. Though I am unsure what it means to say a tautology is 'true', I reflect on Wittgenstein's determination in the Tractatus that propositions with sense are bounded by contradictions and tautologies. Wittgenstein suggested that the pseudo-propositions of ethics, aesthetics, etc., are not propositions with sense. In effect they are mere words or noises that point to things that cannot be expressed in language.
One unfortunate consequence of Wittgenstein's life-long residual need for his Catholic faith was his confusion about the difference between ethics and aesthetics. As I have suggested above, ethics is the determination of true and false in language while aesthetics refers to any sensation unmediated by thought. So Wittgenstein's claim in the Tractatus that 'ethics and aesthetics are one and the same' seems to be a non-starter driven by the residuum of his supernaturalist agenda.
We have already considered the difference between the aesthetic effects of external sensations such as sight and sound on the mind, and the aesthetic effects of those sensations in the mind evoked by language in the form of poetry, etc. It is the second tier of sensations or aesthetic effects that Wittgenstein confuses with ethics. Does this mean then that tautologies like 'a = a' or 'God is absolute goodness', which form the outer limit of propositions with sense, also form the boundary from beyond which words or signs can either involuntarily or deliberately evoke sensations in the mind.
At this point I turn to the investigations of Marcel Duchamp into aesthetics. While Duchamp recognised that external sensations entering the mind and the sensations generated within the mind share the common property of being singular effects unmediated by language, as an artist interested in 'ideas' his principal focus was on sensations generated by language effects – verbal and visual – in the mind.
So, Duchamp was not concerned with the aesthetic effect of immediate sensations from the external world (which he dismissed as 'retinal'). Instead he was interested in the possibility of evoking singular 'ideas' in the mind as sensations in the mind that he called the 'aesthetic echo'. Every poet or artist works to deliver such an experience to his public. He attempts to break beyond propositional language into the singular effects in the mind to evoke anything from involuntary humour, to the sublime, to mythic expression.
So the box I have labelled 'sensations in the mind' contains any and every form of 'aesthetic' affect generated from within the human mind through language or art. But I suggest that the deepest and most enduring form of art that evokes sensations in the mind is myth. Duchamp's project was to analyse various myths of origins to discover the common criteria that need to be fulfilled for an art work to register a mythic effect. Duchamp's project was not religious but rational. He wanted to create an art work whose 'aesthetic echo' was mythic without resorting to supernatural anthropomorphic metaphors. He achieved this in his The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (aka the Large Glass).
We have already noted that the biblical myth of origins has God creating the world, light and dark, etc., and then has 'him' creating Adam and Eve non-biologically. Also in Genesis, Adam and Eve gain the 'knowledge of good and evil' or acquire language. Part of their punishment for acquiring language is that the female is 'cursed' to bring forth children and be 'ruled over by her husband'. Later, God denies humankind a single comprehensible language when they are reduced to a Babel of languages. The 'confounding' of language could, in part, be an attempt to explain language-based aesthetic effects in the mind.
So, not surprisingly maybe, Genesis (as a classic myth of origins) has all the elements I have added to your diagram. But, as we have noted, the way the elements are formed by a male creator God are jumbled to say the least. And it is that very jumbling that provides the clue to the status of Genesis as a story that self referentially recognises its status as a story by its inversions to the natural sequence I have listed against your diagram. (See the 'Nature' and 'God' templates below.)
From the sexual dynamic to erotic desire
If we examine myths of origins (from whatever culture) we find their principal protagonists are created non-biologically. Further, if myth is the deepest artistic expression of the relation between the world and our minds, as attested by the role myths of origin play as the founding articles of faith of cultures (Genesis in the Bible), then the non-biological aspect must say something about its status vis a vis the sexual dynamic in nature. If such myths are deep aesthetic expressions that evoke mind-based sensations, then the non-biological constant should tell us something about its status as art/literature.
When we reflect on Darwin's early understanding that the sexual dynamic leads directly to mental powers and moral sense, can we characterise the non-biological constant accordingly. Maybe it was not unintentional that Darwin followed his account of the evolutionary development of 'mental powers' and the 'moral sense' in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex with a lengthy discussion of secondary sexual characteristics that involve visual and other sensuous displays. If the erotic is mind-based desire, Darwin effectively acknowledged the importance of the dynamic of erotic desire for sexual selection.
Duchamp concurred with Darwin by demonstrating that all art is effectively 'erotic' because art at the mythic level, where the world and mind intersect, is always 'erotic'. In his Large Glass he recognised the non-biological constant of myth by having his quasi-mechanical female and male fail to consummate their erotic fore-play. He considered the erotic dynamic of the Large Glass as central to every other art work he made. And all his art works have proved diversely seminal for modern art.
The implications of understanding the criteria for myth
Hence we are now able to account for both the scientific/ethical function of the mind in language and the artistic/aesthetic function of the mind in mind-based sensations. An immediate consequence of this finding is that we can say that all myths of origin reveal themselves as erotic stories that are founded in the sexual dynamic in nature.
So there is no need to dismiss or show logical inconsistencies in the myths that form the basis of traditional male-based beliefs because their erotic form is an admission that they are stories that aim to evoke in us the erotic equivalent of our sexual origins in nature. Duchamp's Large Glass lays out the criteria for myth in such a way that he identifies the erotic conditions that have to be fulfilled for a story to be a myth. He successfully achieved what you suggest Aristotle aspired to do with his desire to 'put the competing demands of all belief systems into some sort of perspective'.
The corollary of the erotic status of myths of origin and hence of language for sexual beings, is that believers in religions whose rituals vivify a mythic story are satisfying the 'erotic desire' that is a natural consequence of being a sexual being who is capable of generating sensations within the mind. In other words, the clip-on of faith gives the believers a sense of satisfaction because they 'complete' the sexual/erotic inter-relationship.
The need to believe in a mythology as a package of mythic events (as in the New and Old Testaments) is experienced by a varying proportion of the populace. Depending on the demographics of personal dispositions, a number of the members of a society require mythic stories to function successfully, a number are able to act without the top-up of mythic stories, others position themselves as opposed to the agenda of mythic beliefs and a few others have arrived at a comprehensive rationale of the sexual/erotic dynamic – in my experience Duchamp and Shakespeare being the most insightful.
Hence there is no logical conflict between 'science and all those creation myths' if science/ethics is appreciated as pre-eminently language-based or verifiably or falsifiably true and false and myth self-confesses its erotic dependence on the sexual dynamic. The apparent conflict only arises when believers claim their stories are literally true – or if scientists/philosophers claim tautologies are 'true' in all possible worlds when they are not strictly 'true' of things in this world.
This means that the categorisation of beliefs as probable or improbable best applies to scientific 'beliefs' that can become 'knowledge'. Myth-based beliefs in contrast were never intended to be probable or improbable – they are stories whose eroticism says they were not intended to be the basis for empirical knowledge. Myths are never true or false. As primarily aesthetic expressions they evoke singular –albeit deeply affective - mind-based sensations.
Synopsis of Wittgenstein, Darwin and Duchamp
By way of synopsis, I see the later Wittgenstein wrestling with this question as he came to terms with the failure of the Tractatus (his assessment) and looked for another way to account for the logical relationship between the world and its representation in language. He began to formulate his new views in his later writings where he used metaphors such as 'language games' and significantly 'family resemblances', 'forms of life', and in his last writings he considered 'nature', 'parents', etc., as the non-metaphorical givens or grounds upon which the possibility of language is founded.
I do think Darwin had come to appreciate 'nature as it is' – hence the near absence of speculation in either The Origin of Species or The Descent of Man about the beginning of the universe (or life in general), or the origin of organic life and the origin of humankind. Instead Darwin resorted to Whewell's philosophical process of vera causa in which he examined artificial selection in empirical detail then hypothesised about the course of natural selection over evolutionary time.
And I have little doubt that the French artist Duchamp was at ease with 'nature as it is'. At one time he snapped back at an interviewer that he had no interest in theism or atheism. Instead he was interested in another possibility entirely. Duchamp's Large Glass lays out his view of the world in those terms.
Shakespeare's Sonnet philosophy
It should come as no surprise, then, that the philosophical outline I have given above, which fills in the new boxes to the left and bottom of the diagram, replicates exactly the philosophy Shakespeare lays out in his 154 sonnets of 1609. Shakespeare not only explicitly sets down the relationship from nature, to the sexual dynamic, to increase, to the transition to consciousness, to sensations, to ideas –true and false, to sensations in the mind, he, even more than Duchamp, lays out the criteria for mythic expression that is self-reflexive and hence not liable to be taken literally. Hence my claim that Shakespeare's philosophy provides a logical pattern or template unsurpassed by any other thinker. (See the second overlay to your diagram.)
My most significant claim is that Shakespeare articulates a detailed philosophy in his Sonnets completely in accord with a view that accepts 'nature as it is'. Even though nature and the relation between female and male provide the major structural organisation in the Sonnets, the 154 sonnets make no argument for the status of nature or for the sexual dynamic of female and male – they are givens.
But Shakespeare does argue at some length for the significance of increase and at considerable length for what he calls 'beauty and truth' as immediate sensations and language respectively, and at even greater length for 'truth and beauty' or language and mind-based sensations. He uses the word 'beauty' to refer to both forms of sensation because both rely on singular affects and 'truth' for any use of language that involves the deliberate 'saying' of true and false. Further, because such a philosophical formulation does not exist in any other literature, I have taken the liberty to refer to Shakespeare's comprehensive insights as 'natural logic'.
According to my added boxes, the scientific method and the procedures of formal logic have their use zone in the box titled 'ideas – true and false'. If your original diagram represents the application of science and logic, and if the boxes I add lay out the evolutionary dynamic correctly beginning with nature as a given, the sexual dynamic, sensations and ideas in an order that accounts for both rational insights and the deepest artistic expression in a way that contextualises your diagram, then I feel there is some justification in referring to the consistency and explanatory power of Shakespeare's philosophy as natural logic.
A comparison of the mythic dynamic and religious myth
In Volume 1 of William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy, I generate a template from the organisation of the 154 sonnets to present Shakespeare's philosophy. I show first that the natural relationships are there to be seen in the Sonnets.
Nature Template (Sonnets)
I then translate the Sonnet terminology into more familiar philosophic terms.
Then, by attempting to invert the template it is possible to see that religious belief uses the same components as the nature template but reorganises them to create its mythology. But it is not possible for the religious dynamic to be represented accurately because only the nature template has a natural development of elements.
The American Constitution – applied natural logic
When Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence, he was completely convinced of the need to separate Church from State. His deism allowed him to conceptualise a world in which any God was outside the world and the world operated according to the 'Laws of Nature'.
The notes I put before you argue that religious myths cannot form the basis of governance in the natural world because they invert the relationship between nature and mind-based sensations. A further consequence of the findings is that it may now be possible to develop a nature-based logical pattern that characterises all mythologies as erotic so giving definition and colour to the base instrument of the American Constitution that separates Church and State.
We need only consider Shakespeare's plays to see that he anticipated such a possibility in his critique of male-based idealism and mythologies and the recovery of the natural dynamic of female/male partnership. I know of no other thinker who so comprehensively critiques traditional beliefs and institutes a consistent philosophic program for the current global human demographic.
While I have detailed the philosophic relationships from the Sonnets in William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy, from our conversation at Omaha it seems that we cannot begin to communicate until I can establish a bridgehead to your understanding of philosophy and logic. By relating the broad brush of my discoveries in Shakespeare's Sonnets to your article and diagram, I am hoping you might better appreciate the nature of my philosophic approach.
When I presented a polemical draft based on some of these insights to the journal of the NZARH, I presumed that members of the NZARH would be well versed in Darwin's logical arguments in Origins and Descent. I was not so sure that they would also be familiar with the two periods of Wittgenstein's philosophy that move from an attempt to construct a purely logical world to an acceptance of the role of logic in nature for humankind through language. What I am discovering is that this is just about universally not the case.
The problem is magnified when I turn to the presentation of the conditions for mythic expression in Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass. It seems that most have bought into the simplistic explanation that Duchamp's readymades (such as the inverted 'urinal' on a pedestal) argue that anything can be a work of art by the performative act of declaring it so.
Then when I turn to Shakespeare, who you agree has a deeply philosophical dimension to his plays and poems, and I claim that his Sonnet philosophy anticipates the nature-based arguments of Darwin, Wittgenstein and Duchamp for the human dynamic, it seems that very few are ready to countenance such a claim.
I am hopeful that these notes will be the beginning of a critique and dialogue out of which I may eventually construct a series of informative articles for the journal.
Roger Peters Copyright © 2007
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