Re: virus: Religion, Zen, post-structuralism, and the failureof logic

David McFadzean (
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 23:10:09 -0600

> From: John ''!Boolean'' Williams <>
> Date: Sunday, June 08, 1997 8:35 PM
> At 11:07 PM 6/5/97 -0600, David McF wrote:
> >I would agree to that. Just curious: is there any special reason you
> >substituted "paradigm" for "belief"? I think "paradigm" has connotations
> >of a fundamental set of beliefs which affects all others. Can't one have
> >faith in anything smaller than a world-view?
> I chose to substitute "paradigm" for "belief", because I see a paradigm as
> being an interconnected web of beliefs/assumptions/etc. A good substituting
> phrase is "way of seeing," or, more accurately, "way of interpreting
> experience."

Yes, I understand what you mean by "paradigm". You didn't answer
the question though.

> The "Deep Structure" is how people percieve Objective Reality; thus it
> cannot be Objective Reality itself. Consider structures to be patterns of
> thought. the Deep Structure is the struture at the core of all of these
> other structures, which are faulty. The Deep Structure is directly
> connected to the Objective Reality, and it is the obscuring of this
> structure that causes other structures.

So reality doesn't have any instrinsic patterns? Any organization that
we might perceive is imposed by the mind? (I don't agree, I just want
to make sure that is what you are claiming.)

> Now consider how this works with Logic. Logic is "the way the world works,"
> and there's not much question about it. Logic can be seen, then, as the
> "Deep Structure" that drives Objective Reality, and we are capable of
> percieving that Objective Reality only through correct and accurate use of
> Logic.
> You note that this assumes that we understand exactly how Logic relates to
> the universe, and that we believe that we have a complete grasp of it
> already, with nothing new to be added to our knowledge of Logic; and also,
> that no "interpretation" occurs when one is using Logic.

No, we don't understand exactly how logic relates to the universe. We
have evidence that logic accurately describes the way the world works,
but the reason why is still debated by philosophers of mathematics and
science (or more likely ignored).

No, we don't believe we have a complete grasp of logic, with nothing new
to be added. Fuzzy logic, for instance, is recent and still very controversial.

No, no-one claims that there is no interpretation when one is using logic
(that I'm aware of).

> The post-structuralist response would be one or more of the following:
> 1) How do we *know* that logic is the deep structure? It obviously can not
> be used to prove itself, as demonstrated earlier.

We don't *know* that it is but we do have good evidence that supports
that theory because logically valid predictions come true.

> 2) Assuming that Logic is a deep structure, how does one know that one is
> either applying Logic correctly, devoid of any sort of interpretation or
> bias?

Logic is never used devoid of interpretation or bias.

> This is what makes the Structure of Logic suspect. One cannot prove that
> Logic is actually the Structure. One cannot prove that they comprehend
> Logic enough to not have to rely on interpretation/emotion/bias. And one
> cannot prove that, in any instance, an individual is using Logic
> appropriately.

I agree that one cannot prove these things. Do you apply these same
extreme standards to religion or anything else?

> Of course, one can argue that truth is discovered through use of the
> Dialectic; and that one's logic can be checked against another's logic;
> however, this is using a potentially faulty measure -- and, since language
> is the only means of communicating concepts, issues of rhetoric cloud the
> issue. Did the "winner" win because the logic was better, or because s/he
> was a better speaker?

What is wrong with checking logic against reality? I'm aware that checking
predictions against observations requires interpretation at some level, but
subjectivity can be minimized to reasonable levels through corroboration and

> I like your bit about models. Consider, however, this concept: Logic, Math,
> Scientific understanding, etc, are all themselves models that we have
> created to assist us in comprehending Objective Reality. We, however,
> cannot test them for accuracy, primarily because the tests require the use
> of those models we are testing.

I concur they are models. I don't see why that means they can't be tested.

> Again, consider Religion. For a great long time it was considered as the
> Only Model, and it was believed to be a true and accurate model of reality.
> Deviance from the model was not tolerated.
> Along comes Logic. Logic, in many cases -- especially analysis of physical
> phenomena -- appears to work better. But instead of learning from Religion,

It does work better. Unless you insist that planes only appear to fly.

> Logic makes the same mistake. It insists that it is the Only Model, and
> devience from Logic is not permitted. :-) It is, indeed, a Sin of the
> Church of Virus.

Science (I think you are talking about Science here), if it could speak
it would admit it is not the only model (obviously there is religion), but
it would insist it is the current best model (if by best you mean most
accurate or effective). Moreover, it possesses the best method for
improving itself since it is not, and very likely will never be, perfect.

> Science has those tendencies, but it also has the tendency to give those
> concepts lip-service only. Many scientists say "well, nothing can be
> proven," and then happily insist that this or that or the other can't
> happen/doesn't exist/shouldn't be applied because it's contrary to Logic.

Contrary in what way? Entities which are logically incoherent? Postulated
events that contradict accepted laws of physics? Irrefutable claims?

> And Logic, of course, is never questioned; only an individual's application
> of it.

Are you talking about philosophers, working scientists, people off the
street? In any case I think it is mostly a matter of expediency. How much
effort do you want to put into questioning basics? Would you criticize
someone for assuming that reality exists?

> >> What this does, essentially, is reduce all major schools of thought and
> >> discipline to "ways of seeing."
> >
> >Yes, but that doesn't mean they are all equally good or accurate or
> >useful.
> Agreed. But how does one measure? One better be able to, if one is going to
> insist that there is only One Way.

Effectiveness. Which paradigm allows you to do what you want most

> [snipage]
> >No, I don't think Science ever claimed that. It merely claimed to be
> >more correct. Big difference.
> Whups! I see a difficulty here, and it's my fault. In many cases, I've used
> the term "Logic" and "Science" as synonyms. This is incorrect. I've been
> doing this sort of thing because I see Science as being an application of
> Logic, and it is generally Science that attacks religion, not Logic itself.
> I appologize for the wasted time here -- I'll have to re-draft the post to
> make sure I make that correction.

Yes there has been some confusion over terms here, especially
"logical", "rational", "reasonable" and "scientific" used interchangebly.

> In this case, I should have said that Religion and *Logic* both insist they
> are absolutely true.

No, logic is a formal system for manipulating propositions. It says only
that if your axioms are true and you follow the rules precisely, then
your conclusions will be true.

> >> Where does this leave us? It leaves us in a rather sticky perdicament. One
> >> might consider trying to determine which method of seeing is "better" than
> >> the other, but how would we judge it?
> >
> >Logic and experience. (Depending on your criteria of course. Logic never
> >got anybody into Heaven or saved a soul.)
> How does one interpret experience? And how do you know Logic never got
> anybody into Heaven? ;-)

In my experience (:-) consistency makes a good measure of how to
interpret experience. I know others on this list don't agree that
consistency is all-important, but I don't think they realize what they
are giving up.

All accounts of Heaven I have read are logically incoherent. Perhaps
you have another concept of Heaven?

> Observational data that has been analyzed and gathered under the assumption
> that Logic is completely understood, that it *is* the Accurate and True way
> of percieving Objective Reality, and that it has been applied correctly. I
> am suggesting that at least one of these is suspect in every instance of
> application of Logic. I am questioning the concept that Logic is either
> accurately percieved or that Logic is, indeed, the way the world works.

I admitted as much when I said that the observational data are just
nodes in the self-referential net (in contradistinction to the empiricist
view that experience forms of foundation of knowledge). I concede
it may be mistaken, but I have yet to see something better.

> There is much so-called "observational data" and "empirical evidence" for
> the existence and involvement of God, but it is often discounted since it
> is assumed that "Logically," no such Being exists.

No, it is discounted because if you allow that kind of proof for God,
you also have to believe in ESP, Bigfoot, alien abductions, witchcraft,
crystal power, the Hindu pantheon, aromatherapy, and the prophecies
of Nostradamus. And I'm sure some people do.

> >That implies that we believe our perceptions are connected to reality
> >without any clear evidence (by your definition at the beginning of this
> >message). I don't agree.
> I challenge the concept of there being any clear evidence that it is
> connected to reality.

Science makes predictions that come true. Technology works.
Planes fly. QED.

> >Though I agree there is no way to prove it,
> >I think it is wildly implausible that our perceptions are not connected
> >to reality.
> I agree; however, I would say that all of our perceptions are filtered
> through interpretive, linquistic, and sensual processes which remove our
> understanding of Reality from being clear or completely accurate.

I agree (and never claimed otherwise). But we don't need a clear or
complete understanding of reality to have clear evidence that our
perceptions are connected to reality.

> >> For example: science works just fine defining how things work. But when it
> >> comes to some issues, like Free Will, the Meaning of Life, and the like,
> >> science can't offer much of an explaination.
> >
> >Cannot or does not currently? What if meaning is intimately tied to
> >causality and life can be described in terms of complexity?
> Expound, please. I think I know where you are going, but I want something
> to work with here. :-)

I'm suggesting that currently metaphysical matters (such as the
meaning of life) can be cast into scientific terms (like causality
and complexity) and thereby enter the realm of science (not unlike
the formerly metaphysical matter of cosmology).

> >What terrible things do you think would happen if everyone was
> >reasonable?
> Are you equating Logic with reason here? I can make a case that it is not
> reasonable to rely 100% on Logic. :-) Indeed, I feel like I've already made
> it.

I'm saying that reason is based on logic, but with reasonable beliefs
and goals addeds as axioms. Given that definition, when is it reasonable
to not rely on logic?

> >OK, I guess I would agree that any variety of Science that claimed to
> >have The Truth was annihilated by Post-structuralism.
> Actually, any*thing* that claims to have the total truth is annihilated by
> Post-Structuralism -- and that means, unfortunately, Logic as well.

Unless Logic makes no claim to have the total truth (being just a set
of rules I don't see how it could).

> >Is it possible to face the death of loved ones without religion?
> I certainly hope so. Is logic particularly comforting? I'm sure it is to some.

Personally I found the belief that meaning=effect to be comforting
after the death of my grandparents last year. Things that I had heard
before now make sense: that I can continue to add meaning to their
lives by remembering them, letting their lessons, values and wisdom
affect me today. It is not the rules of logic that I find comforting
(at least not in this particular context), it is the application of logic
to reasonable (as opposed to mystical) beliefs and goals (adding
meaning to their lives, as opposed to pretending I will meet them
again some day in a perfectly nice place).

> >What is the One True Conviction? Didn't we already dispense with
> >ultimate truths a couple paragraphs ago?
> The One True Conviction is that we can know something or achieve any sort
> of enlightenment.

Well... that sounds reasonable. (But not religious, in that I don't think
faith is required.)

> That conviction is the only thing that allows us to discuss this stuff at
> all; even Post-Structuralism requires it -- as I'm sure you've noticed,
> Post-Structuralism insist that *it* has the truth as well; and this entire
> exercise has been a codifying of a process through which we can observe
> Objective Reality; ie, the creation of a New Structure.

I think Post-Structuralism would insist it has a truth (a useful model),
not *the* truth.

> This is paradoxical and completely logical.

No longer paradoxical.

> >What if emotions are logical? What if rationality depends on emotion?
> What if the rational explaination for miracles is "God did it?"

Then I would like to see a reasonable defence of that claim. (I can
provide ones for my claims above.)

> >> What do ya'll think? Think this might be a viable "accent of the future?"
> >
> >I think we may be heading in the right direction...
> Of course we're not; but it's a direction. :-)