(urth) OFF LIST Re: Wolfe and Materialism
crushtv at gmail.com
Fri Feb 11 09:32:23 PST 2011
Dude! You should post this.
On 2/11/2011 10:42 AM, Craig Brewer wrote:
> Whoops. I obviously forgot to change the address line. My apologies.
> I'll add something substantive, then:
> The interesting thing about approaching Wolfe from the direction that
> Lane outlines below is that the "spiritual" meanings of what can
> otherwise be seen as merely physical phenomena in Wolfe can be seen as
> at once physically real AND spiritually meaningful. And we can do that
> without just saying that they are metaphorically or symbolically
> For example, when Sev brings the New Sun, it could, physically, just
> be a complicated Hiero/grammate plot to travel backwards in time and
> ensure that they were created by whatever humans eventually evolved
> into (or whichever version of that "alien conspiracy" story we
> currently believe). But that evolution could also be literally
> spiritual, even if it isn't quite up the level of actual salvation.
> My difficulty with finding real spiritual/supernatural events in the
> plot of New Sun has always been that I could figure out ways that what
> happens is metaphorically full of religious meaning...but it so often
> seemed possible to reduce it to some other
> physicalist/materialist/Hiero conspiracy explanation. With Lane's
> model, though, when Sev brings about Urth's evolution/salvation, it
> can be at once a mere physical event but also a step on the ladder of,
> as he says, "reconciling spirit with matter."
> It would take me some work to find textual evidence that this is what
> Wolfe thinks is what's going on, but I think it's an idea worth
> sticking with for a bit.
> *From:* Craig Brewer <cnbrewer at yahoo.com>
> *To:* The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net>
> *Sent:* Fri, February 11, 2011 10:30:09 AM
> *Subject:* (urth) OFF LIST Re: Wolfe and Materialism
> I'll write off line so as not to bore the rest with non-Wolfe stuff.
> But I almost wrote my dissertation on the relationship between Spinoza
> and Milton's materialism, with a lot of reference to other early
> modern materialists. But I found out that a couple of others were
> doing the same thing. There's a fascinating book by one of my
> advisors, though, about Milton's philosophical relation to other
> "materialist" debates of the time: Stephen Fallon's _Milton Among the
> Philosophers: Poetry and Materialism in 17th Century England.
> And, years ago, I had to teach a course on Philosophy of Mind. I had
> the same suspicions about Kim as you said. And speaking of Phil of
> Mind, there's no better book to enrage undergraduates than Ryle's
> _Concept of Mind_. It provides such a succinct conceptual and
> argumentative structure for responding to any and every objection that
> it drives them crazy when they can't get out of its circle. Been
> awhile since I've thought about that book, so thanks for making me
> free associate a bit!
> On Wolfe, though, I love this:
> >> The sense of redemption or of reconciliation of matter with spirit
> is then a heroic process that runs counter to the natural inclinations
> of things.
> That actually makes a fair bit of sense and is worth rethinking what's
> going on in New Sun, I think. It's also very Miltonic, so
> automatically like it. :)
> Thanks for the great post!
> *From:* Lane Haygood <lhaygood at gmail.com>
> *To:* The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net>
> *Sent:* Fri, February 11, 2011 10:17:38 AM
> *Subject:* Re: (urth) Wolfe and Materialism
> The modern usage of materialist as ontological naturalist/physicalist
> is an unfortunate hangover of a terminology shift. Two hundred years
> ago people that believed only in physical things would be called
> materialists because we did not have any idea about atomic science.
> Now we call them physicalists because "matter" seems so inadequate,
> however they mean the same thing (unless one talks to Jaegwon Kim, who
> is really a dualist but too scared to admit it).
> I wouldn't even call Milton's position materialism, as it sounds much
> more like Spinoza's version of modal monism, or even something like
> Leibniz' monadology.
> We could, of course, be approaching this from the wrong side, starting
> with matter, when we should be starting with spirit. A pure and
> eternal unchanging essence (eidolon, spirit, universal soul) is a
> common top-of-the-ontological-pyramid feature of a lot of the
> mythic/philosophical systems Wolfe pirated for BOTNS, as well as a
> defining feature of the ontologies of the early church fathers.
> That pure Spirit substance is then filtered or refracted or corrupted
> as it leaves the Ain Soph Dei or whatever and gets down the lowly
> earth-world of imperfect, temporary and flawed beings such as us,
> where it is now instantiated not as eternal and unchanging spirit but
> now base matter.
> The sense of redemption or of reconciliation of matter with spirit is
> then a heroic process that runs counter to the natural inclinations of
> On Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM, Craig Brewer <cnbrewer at yahoo.com
> <mailto:cnbrewer at yahoo.com>> wrote:
> Just a note that there are quite a variety of "materialisms" out
> there. Perhaps
> one that would be interesting to think of in relation to Wolfe
> would be Milton.
> Milton was a materialist. But he was also, obviously, not an
> atheist. For
> Milton, matter and spirit were on the same continuum, and spirit
> was just
> "refined" matter. Technically, Milton gets categorized as a
> "monist" meaning
> there's only one substance, rather than a dualist who says that
> mind/soul and
> body are two different "things."
> In his theological writings, Milton says this right out, but you
> can also get a
> much more beautiful version in Paradise Lost (5. 469-490) when
> Rafael explains
> it to Adam. I'll quote it below, but I'd point out that this kind of
> "materialism" might be interesting to think about, particularly in
> relation to
> the notion that, with Wolfe, mimicking something can help you
> become that thing.
> Perhaps, like Milton, Wolfe is saying something along the lines
> of: "lowly
> matter gets refined into a more spiritual state when it behaves
> like something
> more pure/moral/spiritual/whatever."
> Rafael to Adam:
> O Adam, one Almighty is, from whom
> All things proceed, and up to him return,
> If not deprav’d from good, created all
> Such to perfection, one first matter all,
> Indu’d with various forms, various degrees
> Of substance, and in things that live, of life;
> But more refin’d, more spirituous, and pure,
> As nearer to him plac’t or nearer tending
> Each in thir several active Spheres assign’d,
> Till body up to spirit work, in bounds
> Proportion’d to each kind. So from the root
> Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves
> More aery, last the bright consummate flow’r
> Spirits odorous breathes: flow’rs and thir fruit
> Man’s nourishment, by gradual scale sublim’d
> To vital spirits aspire, to animal,
> To intellectual, give both life and sense,
> Fancy and understanding, whence the Soul
> Reason receives, and reason is her being,
> Discursive, or Intuitive; discourse
> Is oftest yours, the latter most is ours,
> Differing but in degree, of kind the same.
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