Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Impenetrable


        
- You've nothing pressing to do? You have time?
- Yes.
- Because I can't guarantee what I'm going to say makes sense.
- It wouldn't be the first time. What do you want to say?
- First, that it is a fact that human nature is such to be free and creative.  Everything good about human life is the direct result of creativity and freedom. Do you agree?
- Yes.
- But though this seems to be an obvious fact of human nature, scientific thinking is not capable of saying anything at all on this subject.
- Why not?
- A 17th century English philosopher* put it this way: the soul is penetrable and indivisible; the body is impenetrable and divisible.
- And science studies bodies, things which are divisible and impenetrable.  Atoms, things like that.
- Yes. Things are not sensitive to the world. They do not respond, freely and creatively, to the world.
- And souls, our minds do.
- That is the argument. What is divisible is defined. What is defined is repetitive in response to other defined things. Take the claim that there is progress in the world. In China the average income is way up. In the U.S. there's been some improvement in relations between the sexes and races. But Americans are isolated from each other, isolated in divisive self-identifications into races and sexes and isolated in their work by the fixed obligation to be obedient to employers' orders. And what do the people feel, how is their sensitivity to the world to be characterized? Do they feel unable to freely and creatively respond to a world of separate classes of wealth, race, sex, and occupation? Are people happier now they slave for wages in factories in vastly polluted cities than when they were small scale farmers in a village? How do Americans feel now that, not even more rich, more of them are wage slaves, isolated from each other by social media and these last months by the epidemic lockdown imposed without consideration of its social, economic, political, personal effects?
- They feel bad.
- Unfree and uncreative.
- Yes.
- Defined and dull rather than open and responsive. Do you know who often brings up this 17th century English philosopher?
- Who?
- Noam Chomsky, the tireless MIT linguist and political activist. I just finished watching** an interview with him about the Israel Palestine conflict. Chomsky is on record with statements like 'all states do evil, the more powerful they are the more evil they do.' In his mind the Palestinians are having evil done to them in their dispute over land because they are weaker. Asked what Palestinians should do to be more effective in putting pressure on Israel, Chomsky answers that Palestinians must do something about their unjust, repressive, violent society which currently is an obstacle to making connections with progressive organizations around the world.
- The Palestinians are defined by their relative weakness and losses in the battle for land, not by repression, violence, injustice.
- Yes. The repression, injustice, violence of the Palestinians is to be ended for the sake of gaining more power in relation to Israel, it is not to his mind part of the discussion of the dispute itself, nor is the obviously greater justice, freedom, and peacefulness of Israel compared with its neighbors including the Palestinians.
- Strange. He's Jewish, raised by parents who were both Hebrew teachers.
- He's thinking like a scientist.
- Thinking about a world which is divisible and impenetrable.
- Yes. A world that is about power, obscure forces which move around the bits and pieces of things that are unresponsive to the world.
- In the case of Israel he ignores the surrounding world of violence, injustice, and repression*** because these conditions, like freedom and creativity, can't have a part in the analysis he practices. Still...
- What?
- Chomsky both openly questions the scientific thing/force description of the world and openly identifies himself as a political anarchist, demanding of authority that it justify any restriction of individual freedom and creativity. I don't see how the position he's taken regarding the Israel Palestinian conflict fits in.
- I don't either.

Further Reading:
The Faurisson Affair
Totalitarianism & The Lesser Evil
______________________
* Henry More, The Immortality Of The Soul
** Noam Chomsky Interview
*** 'No necessary relations between internal and external affairs of a country.'