Monday, January 13, 2014

Jed McKenna's Theory Of Everything IV

Scott Bradley

McKenna offers us this syllogism: Truth is all; Consciousness exists; therefore, Consciousness is all. For the conclusion to be 'true' the two premises must be 'true', and McKenna makes some attempt to demonstrate their truthfulness, but in the end they are really simply a priori, assumed to be true, or as I would put it, to be taken on faith. He might say, self-evidently true.

Before continuing, it needs to be said that I have neither the formal education nor the innate intelligence to deal with these matters well; I can only address them within my limited capabilities.

McKenna's proof for the premise that "Truth is all" seems be some form of the ontological argument for the existence of God. Anselm (1078) is thought to be the originator of this creative piece of reasoning, while Descartes and others made their own modified use of it. Anselm began by defining God as "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". Since this idea exists in the mind, it must be true, for if it were not true, then there would be something greater than the idea. Where's Woody Allen when you need him? There are, of course, many cogent counter-arguments to this "proof" made by esteemed philosophers but I needn't wade into those here.

For "Truth" we can substitute God, or the Ultimate, or any number of other terms intended to designate the Absolute. "Truth", to my thinking, is an unfortunate choice (though by far the most favored) since it would seem to suggest that whatever the Absolute is, it is understandable and articulable. McKenna, I would guess, would say that it can, in truth, only be experienced, but having brought it back across the river, he now tells it what it is.

In reading this argument for the premise that "Truth is all" I experience a bit of vertigo — I can't really put my finger on it, but something seems all wrong. I just seems so narrow and presumptuous —so human. Zhuangzi's simple response to such presumption suffices for me: "However, there is a problem here. For our understanding can be in the right only by virtue of a relation of dependence on something, and what it depends on is peculiarly unfixed." (6:5; Ziporyn) There is no sure foundation upon which anything can be said to rest, which is why he suggests we depend on nothing at all.

Jed McKenna tells us he has experienced "perfect knowledge" and I am in no position to dispute that; only I would say that if his intention is to help facilitate a similar experience in me (which I presume he is, for otherwise he is simply trying to separate me from my cash) then he would do better to not ask me to proceed on the basis of reason.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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