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Forest & Trees

Idealism versus materialism has been a conflict for perhaps as long as recorded history. Idealism is not about ideals, but rather is the philosophical position that physical things are contingent on mental. Materialism reverses those positions. Knowing little about physical laws, the mind was given free rein to imagine any system it wanted–butterflies and ideas are free. So to explain the universe we ended up six thousand years ago at an apple tree. The problem with concepts linked in the mind is that reason is only tethered to itself. Helium balloons tied together do not become more secure.
 
 
Nevertheless, idealism ruled until the Enlightenment in the sixteenth century. We did not know enough about the physical world to even generate hypotheses. That changed with Galileo and Newton. "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" took the place of apples and serpents. Science rose to challenge revelation, as did individualism versus authority. The enlightenment celebrated reason over revelation and personal freedom over state and church autocracy. Reason would be the vehicle to guide mankind to the promise land, and science could replace God. Copernicus may have removed us from the center of the universe, but science is going to promote us back to prominence as the only purpose in a causal world.
 
 
But after three hundred years the honeymoon is wearing thin. As Hocking stated in the previous post, the state is not a viable alternative for a Higher Power. Science can take lightening out of the hands of the gods, but one cannot create consciousness out of quarks any more than one can create acorns out of ideas. Both thought and perception are necessary for experience. As Kant put it, concepts without perception are empty, while perceptions without concepts are blind. But empiricism has the upper hand today. The pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. According to Kant, that makes us blind. Perhaps that explains how we fail to see how the sky really may be falling.  "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."--Albert Einstein
 
 
We need to check in from time to time with the forest. That is the only way to get leverage on what might be too close for us to see. We have apparently reached a point of diminishing return in the ascendency of perception over apperception. Smaller particles and larger government is not going to restore meaning and purpose to what is becoming increasingly estranged experience. Twittering to the world how our waffle turned out this morning is not going lessen our dissonance. It is part of the problem, not the solution.
 
 
This takes me to a conflict I have in writing this post. How far does one follow personal intuition versus external reality? Kant was insistent that people should have the courage to follow their own thinking. The Enlightenment itself was based on reason and personal worth over autocratic authority. At the moment, a trivial issue from the outside feels like a critical one from the inside. Do I side with evidence-based data or personal truth?
 
 
The issue was a comment on the blog. A reader stated he liked the posts but felt they were too short. Could I make them longer? At face value this is simple. I could simply tell him that there are 436 pages with the same issues in the two books offered here for free download. But as an example of the problem society faces today gains import. Do we miss the forests for the trees? Forest was stamped all over the book explaining this as a site for downloading books. Did I fail in my explanation .or did the reader simply not take his eyes of the trees? I think we are conditioned to do the latter. The ruling elite does not want us to see the forest. And what is worse, we are content not to look. They tell us lies, and we believe them. All we need to do is think positive. The longer this goes on, the greater the problem becomes. Ultimate responsibility always lies with the citizens. There are more of them than there are of leaders. Who else could possibly supervise the supervisors? The system always breaks without individual responsibility to guide it, and shutting down is always better than a train wreck at the end, but we are almost a runaway already. 
 
 
So much for freedom, what about God? In court, proof of innocence is not demanded; sufficient doubt about guilt is adequate. Similarly, in metaphysics we do not need proof of a Higher Power; we just need sufficient reason to believe in One. Think about it. With all the wonder in the world is none of it is sufficient to consider the possibility of God. What do we need, parlor tricks and dancing bears? Is it not pretentious of us to ask? For one thing our higher power is not likely to match our conception of time, space, and causality. Everyone realizes those concepts make no sense at the limits, but they refuse to seriously consider those implications. If time is infinite, then it never began. And if space is a real why does it not have structure like everything else that is real? It has to end somewhere–but what then contains that limit? The bottom line is that we are looking in the wrong place for God if we expect him to show up in sandals on a mountain top. In fact we are wrong to be looking at all. Internal experience might be a better venue. Schopenhauer thought music connected us to God, Hocking preferred consistent perceptivity. But evidence from the inside might have more do with the spiritual than sensory based data. Apperception appears to be outside space/time. Reason led to an apple tree six thousand years ago. "That’s my story and I’m sticking to it" appears a bit stubborn today. "Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."--Albert Einstein
 
 
Suggesting that the reader look at the books on this site settles the literal issue that started this post. Explaining why the reader might have failed to see the forest for the trees could be an example of where we go astray. Hiding in plain site is where we miss most of our targets. With science there is no purpose, no God and no immortality. (It always amazes me how science can say it is entirely a causal world, and yet they experience their science as having a purpose of seeking the truth. But if science and scientists themselves are just pool balls bouncing around, they where do they extract purpose for their efforts. They too are caused, and they too mean essentially nothing.) Science says we are supposed to ignore the issues we cannot understand, and focus on those we can. Half a glass is supposed to be better than an empty one, but not if cannot set the big issue down. I do not think our life is complete if we do not ask what the universe might mean? The question has a life of its own.  "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a
holy curiosity."--Albert Einstein
 
 
The answer to that question, tentative or not, also determines how we live. If we conceive of meaning to the world, then we will wonder what that is. Speculation will define our purpose. If there is no meaning to the universe then it all means nothing and eat, drink, and be merry makes sense. The problem is that happiness is not an end, the harder one strives for it, the further it recedes. Happiness is what happens when one is living his or her purpose. It is a gratuity, not an end. If there is a God, it follows there is a purpose to the universe, and hence a likely purpose for us. Perhaps we should be seeking that. Apathy might be the disorder and consequence of our "evidence-based" perspective. It ignores everything that makes us different from rocks. "The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life."--Albert Einstein
 
 
Kant sought to make the world safe for faith. He did so with his "Copernican revolution." Copernicus took what was thought to be objective, stars moving across the sky at night, and made them subjective. They did not move, we moved. The earth rotated which we misinterpreted not due to our change of position, but to a change in the stars. Kant took time and space, thought to be objective, and interpreted them as subjective modes of function necessary for us to convert physical stimuli into mental concepts. Space and time are not out there. They are inside us projected into and fundamental for us to have experience at all. Our data has to make sense for us to use it. That sense comes from the time and place we impute to all perception. We know only perceptions of things outside of us, not the real nature of these things. Kant made the world safe again for faith by granting science its physical truths about perceptions of things, but the things in themselves lie outside our ability to conceive them. That of which we can say nothing we must confine to silence. God, purpose, and immortality cannot be perceived. Perhaps they are in some way accessing through apperception (that which comes to us from within). But for our purposes, that of offering sufficient reason to believe in faith, it works to know they are just possible, if not probable. Remember, faith is a choice, not a requirement. Science can not disprove God, nor spirituality prove it. And faith cannot prove there is a God, which is probably how it should be. Faith being a choice makes it our own, which runs laps around following orders. "Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man."--Albert Einstein
 
 
There is a logic to this post. There might be a sense of pretentiousness also. Weighty issues should be perhaps reserved for someone like the President. On the other hand, the President appears too involved with the trees to have much time for the forest. A congenial smile and upbeat personality might earn votes; but we need principles, not just numbers. On the other hand, principles and numbers might work. We are those numbers. The buck stops with us, the citizens. And we likely need help from above. 
 
 
 
 
 

Ringer

Turning back recently to metaphysics from the therapy wars, I had struggled long enough with Kant (he is not comprehensible for mere mortals), and turned to Bertrand Russell and then David Chalmers for a style break. They are brilliant, run laps around me, but I became worried that all the newer minds might be atheists. I do not think we can survive in a meaningless universe. Without a purpose in the world, then it is truly dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Don’t stare at that too long.
 
So I pulled out a book from my favorite philosopher, William Ernest Hocking. He is brilliant, articulate, and compassionate. In fact he is my hero--I am not too old for that yet. He allowed me to sleep that night.
 
I was so impressed with his work that I am compelled to cite a few pages here. This is right on point to what we have been discussing recently, and it cannot be said better. Hocking feels we have been running an experiment on getting along without God for the past three hundred years and thought we should see how it is going. It is the battle between humanism and religion. Interestingly, it appears he is also describing the therapy war we have just been discussing. So I am going to toss him the ball and run up the score a bit. It’s called a dialectic,  i.e., to ride one’s hypothesis until it shows a fallacy–and if it does, then correct it.
 
 
 
William Ernest Hocking, from Science and the Idea of God:
 
"Experience as a teacher shows us a good many things we might not otherwise have thought of; but perhaps its chief excellence is that it reminds us of things which we might easily have thought of, and perhaps did subconsciously know very well. It is not otherwise with this "mortal god" of ours, whom we are experimentally setting up in a place of the immortal God. As long as the immortal God is there to fall back upon, we can endure the defects of the finite deity we call Society. But once we abolish God, we become acutely conscious that Society fails to measure up to the role. The death of God leaves Society in the place of the Absolute; and like many another potentate who falls short of omniscience as well as omnipotence, we realize that his pretensions are tolerable only when he is humble and recognizes a law above him. Once his will becomes the definition of good and right, once the corporate selfishness of the state becomes the rule of virtue for the citizens, the moral individual knows that he is shut out from the free sky of his own convictions, and that a principle of evil has entered history in the guise of deity. Just in the moment in which Society is made an object of worship, just by that act man is warned that Society is something he cannot worship.
 
Like God, Society protects us and comes to our aid, so far as its knowledge and resources allow. But how far do they allow? Society has its cruelty, arising from its limitations, the more severe because it intends so well. It is never perfectly just because there is an appalling amount it never knows an can never find out. It is only partly responsive because it acts through men whose energy and patience give out. It knows how to deal with the usual cases of hardship in moderate numbers. When hardship becomes general, unusual, excessive its hands fall helpless; it can only "do its best" like physicians fighting a pestilence. It is partly tolerant, but it feels safest with its own kind; it accepts strangers and its own inner strange folk with a reserve which delays adoption. In the end its best services command the price of conformity, and the nonconforming have to learn an aspect of repression which is in part born of fear. Society rests itself but little on the waters of "dangerous thought"–a strange timidity for a God!
 
Just for the deepest wishes of the human heart Society has neither understanding nor sympathy It provides for the group the current coin of culture: it brings to each doorstep the products of the thinkers and the artists; it offers amusements and the enjoyments of art: these are the daily bread for which its worshipers pray. The tame and common desires are ministered to: the wild are prudently trimmed away, and those who would cater to them are censored out of sight. This is as it must be in a world which must regulate itself by averages and probabilities. But there is another and fertile wildness, that of the best in man. That also is shut away. Society has not yet come in sight of the meaning of that best. Everyman somewhere finds the social pabulum limited, and is irked by the sense of an inner starving or warp which gets no relief. It is the total ciphering of Society at this point which begets many of those mental cases which then, by a weird psychiatric circle, are referred to Society for cure. But for all men, the Providence of Society is superficial. Even language, its most perfect product, conveys only the coin of market and forum. It is just the unique individual who cannot speak and remains somewhere the inner rebel and critic of the world.
 
Most men surrender in large part to the commonplaces of Society accept a million petty compromises and ally themselves resignedly with the imperfect because the discover none but this imperfect God . They may happily find somewhere a relieving version of Society an individual friendship which gives breath to the suffocating regions of the solitary soul. A Society with personal love in it comes nearer God than a Society with nothing but social justice. But even so, this doubleness remains a defect in the deity; the halves of the soul are not brought together. It was this residual craving to which religion once brought its release. God was defined as he who knew "all men ignored in me". If then God becomes identical with "men" and their knowledge, this residual rebel called "the soul" must perish unsatisfied, and with it dies the most precious element of humanity, the growing edge of the self which is parent of the future.
 
It is one of the curious episodes of modern self-consciousness that Freud has well recognized and defined this function of religion, and then with a startling duplicity has poured scorn upon it. The strength of religious ideas he says is "due to the fact that they are the fulfillment of the insistent wishes of man". What are these wishes? One gathers that they arise from the common failure of both society and nature to sympathize deeply enough with the subjective kernel of the individual; and because of this the maturer man wishes that the domestic canopy which in childhood protected and spoke to just these deeper levels of selfhood should be projected in the great world as its essential attribute. God is the image of a heavenly father "created by a continuation of the child’s helplessness before his earthly father". Religion is thus diagnosed as an infantilism. Freud’s shaft strikes not religion, but first of all the human self and then the universe in which that self lives. His judgment is that the "most insistent wishes of man" would, upon maturity, properly cease to exist. And why? Because the universe has no satisfaction for them. Freud should be taken on as a patron saint of Humanism. But as a psychiatrist, I suspect that the prescription, "Extirpate your most insistent wishes," will achieve few cures, and that the cost of taking such advice would be the loss of all the poetry, all the art, all the unborn beauty of the future race.
 
The result of this first step of dialectic is that Society in the role of the "mortal god" is not a satisfactory substitute for the God of individual souls. When the sun is out of sight, the moon makes a brave and apparently independent show as a source of light; but if the sun were abolished, where would the moonlight be? "
 
 
 
Any questions?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In Review

This blog is a means to an end. The end is to finish the second book. Its title (A Republic, If You Can Keep It) is simple enough, but the underlying problem is not. I am after what mankind has sought since antiquity: God, freedom (of will), and immortality. The route to keeping our Republic lies in metaphysics, not merely social systems. And the issue is not failing to see the problem; it is looking away from it. Perhaps the title is a misnomer, but it keeps the focus on the practical--living this life, not waiting for another.
 
Having become enmeshed in metaphysics, however, silences me on this blog. The regress is almost endless. Kant spent ten years conceptualizing his major work, although it only took four months to write it. Something like that (minus the major work) could happen here. This site is fairly busy. People mainly read the blog. Ten years is a long time between posts. So I will try to do both.
 
 
The book should be relevant to anyone. The blog will be more personal and have more value for someone with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder because that is what colors my experience. The book will have to share time with the blog, but they should be complimentary. I would not be writing about metaphysics if I swam with the other fishes. No one in my town here is struggling with Kant or Hegel. However, something new typically comes from an individual working alone. Nothing innovative is ever created by committee.
 
So to track my current experience, I must reflect on my previous post. It needs revision. The interview occurred and did not go as I expected. It was not a battle between good and evil. It was simply some information about post-traumatic stress disorder. No one gave a political speech for the therapy offered to the new veterans. So erase the one to nothing score. But it missed the important message that what the veterans are getting is of dubious value and alternatives should be available to minimize the damage. We missed an opportunity to tell a message. My experience in this area pointed a finger of responsibility at me to express my perspective. That did not happen. We need an after action report to assess and improve. Somewhere I/we should have done better.
 
I know about post-traumatic stress disorder because I have it. So I get a view from the inside out. (Chapter One of Requiem.) Subjectivity can make one biased, but there is no doubt it adds to the data from which to theorize. And there is no doubt that the vets and I fit together because we share a similar problem. Helping them their issues helped me with my own. I would not have done the job as a volunteer, but the intrinsic benefits probably outweighed the financial. Burn out was never going to be a problem. Nor was listening to calamities. Hearing problems is not a stressor. Being unable to address them is the usual culprit, not unlike PTSD itself. However, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat has its moments.
 
So I understand PTSD because I deal with it myself, which helps with the connection. but one only lives well with it by having adapted one’s life to a new personal truth. Changes are required. Just as you could not lose your children on Christmas Eve and ever experience Christmases the same again, so could you never again walk blissfully in a park similar to that on which your buddy lost a leg. These things are forever. Such events change you, and you cannot pretend otherwise.
 
So what went wrong with the interview? The flip side of my understanding PTSD is having PTSD. Yes, it is attenuated, but only at the cost of living within limits. This might be similar to having diabetes. Unattended it can become unwieldy, but managed one can get by quite well. It takes me longer to prepare for an interview than someone with a clearer past. The station wanted me in a couple days, I needed a couple weeks. I have to consider more contingencies. Normal people and I almost speak a different language. If I attend to my issues, things can go well. But fail to do so, and I can arrive with my metaphorical blood sugar out of balance.
 
I wish I could have just walked in and done the interview, but I wasn’t comfortable without preparation. I can work around my issues, but not simply walk right over them. Knowing that, it made more sense to do what I felt necessary to give this story what it deserved. Twenty-four Iraqi/Afghan vets are killing themselves every day. The reporter did not realize how big a story we had. I felt it deserved my best. So we just passed in the night. I wish it could have gone better, but there was nothing malicious here. Perhaps next time.
 
Also, I need to rethink my position that metaphysics and post-traumatic stress disorder are separate issues here. Actually, they are intertwined. I see the world through PTSD. Nothing about my existence today fits the norm. Who reads metaphysics today? I would not be touching the subject but for my history. Also, my resolution for the possible salvation of humanity involves the concept of death as a form of existential post-traumatic stress disorder. That suggests we fail to see the truth because we can’t stand the truth. This view resonates with me because of my experience. Being subjective does not make it wrong–it may lend more credence.
 
Buddha said there are only two ways to go wrong on the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting. That makes the choice easy, doesn’t it?
 
 
 
 

Point of no return

 
Thinking can, and apparently often does, conflict with authority or convention. Truth can be at risk. Consider Copernicus, Bruno, and Spinoza. Why did nobody for thousands of years ask what the sky would look like if the Earth was rotating, rather than the sky circling? Copernicus delayed publishing his revolutionary theory until on his death bed. Bruno was burned at the stake for thinking there were other solar systems. Spinoza delayed publishing Ethics until after his death. Today, why do so few question how we can spend our way to wealth? Physical science vouches for more truths today, whereas yesterday conviction was mandated through revelation and authority.
 
We typically grow up trusting our caretakers; natural selection tends to eliminate the skeptics. So there is natural law, that we induce from experience, and authoritative law of the "because I said so" type. The later usually ends any debate.
 
I do not intend here to make broad general statements about the nature of knowledge, but rather, again, have been recently focused on the issue related to my previous employment. I worked with post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Administration for twenty-five years, compiling about 170,000 patient hours of group psychotherapy. The number makes it hard for me to ignore the experience--it carries with it a certain responsibility. Once again duty called, although I no longer work there, and it raised the issue of whether I should present my reservations about the VA’s one size fits all PTSD therapy. A local television station will be doing a show about combat PTSD. I agreed to an interview and wanted to do everything possible to get ready for it. My message is important for the veterans, i.e., that they need an alternative approach. I modeled my preparatory activities on Bobby Knights’s aphorism that "the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." For three weeks I did little else but prepare, which made more sense than just showing up. Lives are at stake here. This is post-season play.
 
My life is not simple, although one would not notice that merely by observing my activities. I rarely leave the house. However, sitting at home before a desk need not equate to playing Slingo. It can be reading The Critique of Pure Reason. Kant might have an insight on eternity. Big fish might be out there in the dark sky. Still, it is hard for me to get a grasp on the issue that somehow in my unpretentious little existence something important could be happening. Yet following my personal truth has led me to see more combat veterans in group therapy than perhaps anyone else on the planet. I do not particularly like that fact, but neither can I can ignore it. Certainly, it was never planned.
 
The issue here involves reason versus authority. No one burns at the stake today, but they can burn out from the sheer effort of fighting Goliath. Yet the finger of responsibility apparently pointed at our group, or possibly just me. This group might have been the last one standing to oppose Cognitive therapy. We fought for our approach (Existential or "common sense") twice before and received support from Washington each time. Today’s conflict becomes a question of personal truth versus intrusive authority. The VA mandated that all treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder be Cognitive-Behavioral because of CBT’s claim to be scientific. This entails a major blunder, which goes as follows: 1) Science uses only data that can be seen or heard;  2) the mind cannot be seen or heard; 3) therefore, science cannot study the mind.
 
There is no getting around this. Science can study the brain, but not the mind. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put those premises together again.
 
Claiming to be scientific should send Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to the back of the class, not the front. I know what it is like to be a person because I am one. I do not have to walk out of the house and look in to see if anybody is at home. That is what science attempts to do. The psychology Emperor has no clothes. Someone needs to note that. The finger of responsibility pointed to me.  I even quit my job to buy back my opinion.
 
So philosophy was put on hold again for pragmatics. My interview now, in fact, will not even occur due to a logistical problem, the responsibility for which can probably be equitably distributed to both sides. I do not intend to run this drill again. This is the second such event. For the past three weeks Kant was set aside to prepare for the interview. I am retired now. The vets are in my rear view mirror. The mountains of Kant lie ahead, and they are where I need to go. I understand that something needs to be said about a plan that simply cannot turn out well, but not when no one cares. There is a price for persistence, and sometimes it is not worth it.
 
The last three weeks were all PTSD, but people do not want to hear what I have to say. Psychotherapy can make changes, but it cannot affect anyone who does not want to change. Change is paid for in blood, sweat, and tears. It is hard work, blocking and tackling, letting go, and starting over. The effort is worth it but does not feel like it every minute of the way. And motivation cannot be taught. Lou Holtz was asked how to motivate a football team. His answer was: "Get rid of those not motivated." I have something important to say, and have said it in Republic, but there is a point of no return. That is too bad. I feel sorry for the vets but am tired of the drama.  Authority,  1; Personal Truth,  0.
 
There is work to be done in metaphysics. It is a new team, and I shall get used to the surroundings. My intuition sees metaphysics as the last frontier for a possible chance at Man's salvation. Kant holds the possibility of immortality. The path would likely not be scientific, which might quite be why truth lies there. Some truths are more important than others. God, freedom (of will), and immortality sit at the top. Value is a qualitative, not a quantitative concept--another issue science deals with poorly. We have to stick with our personal truths. Authority should determine truth only for children.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About this site

This site was created to download a book that was in process, Requiem. That book is now finished and can still be downloaded by clicking the book cover on the Home Page or below. Requiem is about the state of the world and what we can do about it. It rests on 1) a premise that we are doing very badly, with a calamity of untold dimensions about to befall us, and 2) a premise that we will never get things right until we settle our metaphysics. Metaphysics deals with issues that cannot be resolved with empirical data--essentially the issues of God, freedom, and immortality. Reason necessarily tacks meaning onto the highest level of abstraction in its quest to find meaning. Whether or not a Higher Power exists anchors meaning to everything below it--which includes our entire physical existence. Inherent in this is our inability to come to grips with death. Ernest Becker wrote a Pulitzer prize winning book called The Denial of Death. He postulated that we cannot face death, nor leave it alone. Science lies in a parochial position which tethers us to material substance. It cannot provide evidence about God, freedom (of will), and immortality. And science offers little comfort against death, other than blind stoicism or blind faith (which of course is not science at all).
 
 
Central banking (that which grants counterfeiting privileges to the chosen elite) is now world wide. There is no escape from it. The world has never faced that before. What awaits us now has more potential for damage than anything humanity has ever experienced. Division of labor allows a geometric increase in our capacity to produce. Take that away and we cannot support one tenth of the current world population. Take away money, which is what the central bankers are doing, and you take away markets, which will reduce everything to barter and eliminate the division of labor. Do the math.
 
There should be no question about what social system works best, capitalism or socialism. The United States was capitalistic in the nineteenth century and produced enough to transcend marginal existence. Communism essentially collapsed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It produced armaments and little else. But socialism is taking over the planet. It promises the moon but pays for its handouts with counterfeit money. No country attempts to pay for entitlements out of taxes; they all borrow, which ends up being paid for with counterfeit money. The money is legal, but it is sterile. It is not the product of someone’s production. There are no commensurate goods introduced into society. It is just created out of thin air and paid for by the inflation that devalues the money of everyone else. There is no free lunch. Store up something while there is still time.
 
Requiem is intended to increase the individual’s capacity to survive. First we need to know our short comings. We cannot win this war when fighting the last one. My Vietnam vets cannot face today while they still have bumper stickers about Jane Fonda. We must resolve those things from the past that continue to demand our attention. Most of us have them. I offer mine as an example in Requiem, but Requiem is by no means an autobiography. That section is merely an example of unresolved issues that most of us need to resolve to be suited up for today.
 
The second part of Requiem concerns what we are. Are we mind and body, or mind, body and spirit, and how does either group function? This is important because purpose is essential to make any sense of human experience, and yet science excludes purpose. To science we are merely pool balls, not people. And what do we do with God and immortality? We may not be able to vote yeah or nay on these issues, but our implicit beliefs determine our total experience. Meaning flows downhill. If there is purpose in the universe we can have some hope; if it all blind chance then perhaps we should grab for all the gusto today. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.
 
Once we have done all we can to resolve issues of our personal histories and come to grips with a workable metaphysics, we are capable of organizing society. The facts are incredibly simple. Our limits are not due to ignorance. They are about intransigence. If the sun is not shining, we ask for the moon. The sun cannot shine until we come to grips with death. Is it simply dust to dust, ashes to ashes? If so, then we are doomed. Yet if there is more, blind faith does not seem to convince us. Faith needs some sort of marriage to belief. But belief on God, freedom, and immortality is outside of the bailiwick of science. We do not have the answers, but we need to know that we must somehow address those issues. Twenty-two thousand square feet homes are not going to bring comfort, nor an idealized other, nor international fame. There is no answer in substance. Is that because we are also spirit?
 
I wrote the above because the comments I receive on this site are about the blog. That is cool, but the books are the issues here, not the blog. People typically say that they appreciate the posts and look forward to more, but my blog posts are just comments relative to the more complete works. I get that the comments are on the front line today, but if anyone wants more, go to the books. Requiem has four sections. Do not get lost in the subjectivity of the first section. At issue is the universe, not personal experience; but, curiously, everyone of us can only experience the universe subjectively. Where ever we go, there we are. So let’s examine that for parallax and realize that objective is not the only game in town. Do not lose the camera in the pictures.
 
Book two, A Republic, If You Can Keep It, is in progress. It continues the same themes. Read the books, not just the blog.
 
 
 
                                                           Click on book for pdf.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

transitions

I  no longer work with the vets. That is a big transition, going from pragmatic issues to theoretical. My focus now becomes the new book (A Republic, If You Can Keep It.) The new:
 
 
Metaphysics is the division of natural philosophy that deals with ontology, cosmology, and epistemology. Translated this means: the nature of being, the order of the universe, and the structure of knowledge. A simpler and more dramatic explanation would be that it deals with God, freedom, and immortality. Also, it can be said that it is the division of philosophy that deals with issues that cannot be resolved objectively. Science is objective. It’s data must be evidence-based. This means it must be perceived as well as conceived. It gets its license by entry through one of our physical senses. We do not simply conceive science; we must also perceive it. For example, zebras and unicorns are both subjective, but only zebras are objective. Zebras might be just as unlikely as unicorns—but there they are. Science cannot deal with unicorns. Metaphysics does not deal with zebras. 
 
Evidence-based data has a legitimate cousin in pure thought called a priori, which means prior to experience. A priori reason is not the product of experience; it is the other way around. A priori reason is built into the system, without which experience would not be possible. If we were DVD machines, this is the part of us that turns electromagnetic waves into movies. It is this connection that gives a priori its legitimacy. Science gets its legitimacy because it reads signals. A priori gets its legitimacy because it allows us to read signals. Without a priori reason, science has no signals to read. Space, time, and causality are examples of a priori reason. They are part of our receivers, not part of the signals. This was what Kant called his Copernican revolution, that reason is not a product of the signal, but signals are product of our reason. Welcome to quantum psychology. There are laws to reason, just like there are laws to physics. The idea that "what it seems is what it is" (subjectivity) and "what it is is what it seems" (objectivity) is the holy grail that opens a new world to something more than unicorns. 
 
That more is God, freedom, and immortality. This is where it gets scary. Kant said there is a form to conception (subjectivity) than conforms to perception (objectivity), a hand in glove experience, the mind to body experience. Darwinism kicked aside the major prop to faith by suggesting that everything in the world could have occurred by blind chance. A person could previously look at the wonder of a creature like a dog and not conceive it could have come into being without a designer. Darwin said it is all just chance, pool balls to infinity. 
 
But Darwinism presupposes materialism. Analytic dissection of the term produces an equivalent statement that the whole universe can be explained on the basis of physics, which is totally causal, i.e. materialism. The world is blind chance, with no design and thus no designer. Darwin’s world had tired of kings, with their divine right, ordering everyone around. People thought they could do better directing themselves rather than trusting in corrupted faith. Chance looked better than tyranny. So they viewed Darwin as an improvement, but he never established there was no God. He simply ruled God out of bounds in such in his system and suggested how chance might result in a dog. (Sorry, I cannot escape my subjectivity here.) Darwin had a one horse race. No one seemed to care. He did not disprove God, he disqualified Him.
 
If Kant is right, Darwin is in trouble. Materialism says everything is just little objects bumping into other little things according to physical laws and becoming bigger things. But there is nothing other than randomness of little atoms or quarks. Kant expands the playing field to include thought, whereupon Darwin becomes impotent. Little particles are all there is. Atoms cannot bump into thoughts, quarks into the number four. Objects live in time and space, numbers live in conception. Cast where ever the atoms might be, they can never touch a number. How do we then explain the magic fit between conception and sensation? 
 
The apparent answer is that we again have a two horse race: causality versus purpose, materialism versus idealism, man alone versus man and God. Interestingly, I did not ask for much in the previous chapter—just that we keep an open mind to both positions. That makes sense here also. Those who corrupt science, like those who corrupt religion, need absolute power to defend themselves against inner doubt. Power, whether through science or religion, corrupts. Reason does not such limit itself. Science cannot rule out faith today, any more than faith could rule out science yesterday. Some day they will not hate each other. 
 
God, freedom, and immortality are the major issues in life today, as they have been since man could reflect. My basic premise for this quest is that we can only pretend to accept finality—i.e. death and disappearance. Being polite and gracefully stepping aside to make way for a new generation does not do it. Interestingly, my work with post-traumatic stress disorder leads to the conclusion that out of sight is not out of mind. I simply generalize here (as well as follow the lead of Ernest Becker) that death is a horror for all living creatures who can grasp the concept— a systemic post-traumatic stress disorder situation. The implication is that without a handle on death we spend our lives defending against it, and these defenses cause incalculable damage. If five million dollars does not provide security, then neither will five billion, if death is what that security is needed to prevent. Greed might lead to the five billion dollars, but Earth is a finite pie and much of that money comes at the expense of others.  
 
Basically, either we stand and face the existential problems of existence or we will destroy ourselves. A Higher Power alone does not appear to provide the requisite security. Perhaps faith needs a push from reason. Kant tries to provide that reason. For sure, we need to grasp these issues. The discipline called upon to do that is metaphysics. It involves dealing with the issues that cannot be solved by science, yet which will also not leave us alone. The question is whether we have some reason to believe in more than dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Perhaps faith and facts do not need be in perpetual war. Maybe we just need better facts. Facts alone (atheism) is never going to be enough. Faith seems to need some help. Kant started us out on that journey. Let’s follow.  
 
 
 
 

Trading Up

Opinions are not always free. This one was recently bought and paid for. I think it was worth it.
 
 
Truth and Consequences: 
 
Physical science has made great progress in the past three hundred years. Psychology has not. Three hundred years ago Descartes said there were two types of substances in the world, mental and physical, each of which affects the other. But no one has been able to figure out how they interact—perhaps because they do not. Maybe they are mediated through something else, like spirit or soul. Three hundred years ought to be enough time for us to rephrase the question.
 
Psychology is trying to catch up to the magic of physics. They are trying to be scientists of the mind. But they have a problem. Science eliminates subjective in favor of objective. However, experience is all subjective. So they eliminate their subject. Science can study the brain, but not the mind.
 
Nevertheless, the Veterans Administration has bought into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as the only treatment for PTSD because of its claim to be scientific. They are putting all their eggs in one basket, and, frankly, the basket has holes in it. Regardless of orientation, the only thing that has ever correlated with psychotherapeutic success has been the quality of the patient/therapist relationship. Yalom said that all therapy can be summarized in the verb "to be". CBT, however, is about ideas, not relationships. Ideas are not strong enough to support the weight of combat.
 
Our group logged about 170,000 patient hours. That is probably more than any other outpatient combat PTSD group in the country. We formulated some principles from those hours. One is that PTSD is chronic. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Seeing PTSD as chronic is not failing to aim for a cure; it is stopping the bleeding. The worst thing to do is to try to go back to life before the trauma. One has to let go of those days and craft purpose and relationships consistent with one’s new personal truth. Living pretend is not living at all. It leads to empty, and empty leads to disaster. Resolution of PTSD is common sense and hard work. It is blocking and tackling, letting go and starting over. There are no trick plays to victory.
 
CBT sees it that ideas have a causal effect on action. They believe this even though no one can explain that process. If they are wrong, they are wrong all the way down. As mentioned, not finding the answer in three hundred years suggests there might be an alternative explanation. Quantum mechanics is revolutionizing physics. Perhaps someday quantum psychology will give us an explanation. Until then, all positions are merely conjecture.
 
What matters here is not who is right or wrong. No one knows that today. What matters here is that the government is taking a one-size-fits-all approach. It could produce a one-size-fits-none result. It is essentially cost free to offer both approaches. So let the patient choose. People are supposed to be ends, not simply means. Are psychologists such experts they can take away a veteran's option to choose? It is the veterans's life; let him or her make the choice. These soldiers fought for freedom; they deserve the opportunity to express it.
 
 
Robert Andersen, M.D.
January 18, 2013
 
 
 

Immanual Kant

I have been lost in Kant. He is perhaps the critical philosopher of the last several hundred years. People thought about life in the 1700s, not about distractions. The issues were not esoteric. They were/are the big issues of life: God, freedom, immortality. To me, anything less is not worth our time. For sure, I am not foraging around in all this abstraction to discover a better way to spend my leisure time or win at Blackjack. We either get God, freedom and immortality right, or we fail—all the way down.
 
 
Kant is essentially incomprehensible. Confronted with material I cannot grasp, I can go in two directions: one is to presume it is narcissistic drivel and leave; the other is to accept my limits and double my bet. Kant is a pretty cool guy. I like him. I just don’t understand him, which leads me to stay in the game. Slow progress is being made. I nibble around the edges, reading what others say about him, jumping from book to book and even to different philosophers as they interacted with Kant.
 
Kant did three big things. What he called his Copernican revolution was to remove the real from reality. He did this by viewing our experience of the world as mere phenomenon, something that we create out of ourselves. Specifically, we organize data into a meaningful system on the basis of time, space, and causality. None of these things are out there in the world; they all get into our experience from our own minds. Plato’s Republic, with the scene of people able to see only shadows in front of them from light projected by a fire behind the real objects behind them, is an analogue of Kant’s understanding. In essence, we never see the objects themselves, only a projection on some holographic matrix in our mind. It is almost impossible to explain the mechanics of this, as we somehow go from physical sensations to mental images, amd no one knows how that trick happens. Kant says we see images, not the real things. He divided the world into images (phenomenon) and "things in themselves" (noumenon). We read phenomenon as outside of us, and we conceptualize noumenon as the cause of phenomena. Reality is not what we perceive. There is more to reality, Horatio, than perceived by our sensations. Kant thought we can never know anything about noumenon. Wittgenstein said, "that of which we know nothing, we must consign to silence." Depressing. I have spent five or six months on this stuff and end up with sensations and silence.
 
So Kant said time, space, and causality are not out in the real world, but rather, are projections from our minds. I think he is right. In the Critique of Practical Reason he rescues purpose from determinism, and in the process offers a rational basis for God and immortality. He makes the world safe for faith, gives us genuine purpose, and hope for more than dust to dust. These issues are the whole ball game, so we cannot leave Kant out. The rest of my life might fall into this quest for understanding. The project gives me a sense of purpose, which is all one can ask of life; but it comes at a price--I might not have the capacity for it. Kant gave one of his best friends a copy of The Critique of Pure Reason. The friend returned it saying that he had to stop midway, for if he were to continue he would have most certainly shot himself. I have some guns.
 
Here is the difficulty with Kant The following is simply one sentence:
 
"From what has been said it is clear that all moral concepts have their seat and origin completely a priori in reason, and indeed in the most common reason just as in reason that is speculative in the highest degree; that they cannot be abstracted from any empirical and therefore merely contingent cognitions; that just in this purity of their origin lies their dignity, so that they can serve us as supreme practical principles; that in adding anything empirical to them one subtracts just that much from their genuine influence and from the unlimited worth of actions; that it is not only a requirement of the greatest necessity for theoretical purposes, when it is a matter merely of speculation, but also of the greatest practical importance to draw its concepts and laws from pure reason, to set them forth pure and unmixed, and indeed to determine the extent of this entire practical or pure rational cognition, that is, to determine the entire faculty of pure practical reason; and in so doing, it is of the greatest practical importance not to make its principles dependent upon the special nature of human reason—as speculative philosophy permits and even at times finds necessary –but, instead, just because moral laws are to hold for every rational being as such, and in this way to set forth completely the whole of morals, which needs anthropology for its application to human beings, at first independently of this as pure philosophy that is, as metaphysics (as can well be done in this kind of quite separated cognitions); well aware that, unless we are in possession of this, it would be—I will not say futile to determine precisely for speculative appraisal the moral element of duty in all that conforms with duty, but—impossible to base morals on their genuine principles even for common and practical use, especially that of moral instruction, and thereby to bring about pure moral dispositions and engraft them onto people’s minds for the highest good in the world."
 
I am not going to see it to Kant’s credit that he never comes up for air. If something is going to change the world, it has to make sense to a lot of people, not just an esoteric few. To his credit, Kant was more concerned with getting the ideas down, than in making them accessible. But that is not good enough. Maybe that is where responsibility takes us today. In any case, I personally, do not have a choice. This stuff has got to make sense. I doubt many people in Missouri are reading Kant this evening. Someone has to do it.
 
Kant got into trouble with the authorities only one time, but it was on the issue of God. He believed in a higher power, but was trying to explain humanity as being outside the causal circle and capable of acting on purpose, with that purpose making a real difference in the world. Given that humanity got intoxicated with the concept that we did not need a God, that science can lead us to the promise land, people tried to follow suit. Laplace could respond to Napoleon that he left God out of his book because "he had no need of that hypothesis." Frankly, that might be precisely what we need, and if Kant is right about our never knowing the noumenon, a hypothesis might be all we ever get. Still, we have to use  it.
 
It is Kant’s proofs that leave us mere mortals in the dust. They are largely designed to replace authority with reason. Authority then was God. Today we worship the State; we have regressed. Still, I think we can find our way. We can concede that Kant somehow offers reason as an agent, without understanding a word of what he says. But I fail to see how reason itself can ever interface with objects. This is the mind-body problem in disguise. There is physics, there is reason; but adding them together is mixing oil and water. Kant cannot reduce a Higher Power to reason any more than Newton could reduce one to energy. That of which we know nothing we might have to consign to silence, but that does not mean it does not exist. And "that of which we know nothing" defines knowing empirically. Perhaps we know God through ourselves. If our sense of purpose is real, we might learn something about God. We would share purpose.
 
Intuition does not occur in steps, it jumps. Perhaps we are just updating our personal dynamics to quantum theory. In any event, my life course is planned. By tying me down it sets me free. On to the Critique of Judgment. Wish me/us luck.
 
 
 
 

PTSD

 
 
 
If you are reading these books for the post-traumatic stress disorder component, it will be found in the Addendum of Requiem and in Chapter Two of Republic. Iraqi and Afghanistan vets might especially profit from Chapter Two of the second book.

progress

The world seen as a causal system, the scientific perspective as we presume today, gets stuck on first cause. For example, we explain the world as coming from the Big Bang, but that simply begs the question for in a causal world everything has to have sufficient reason and that reason has to be a prior situation. In essence, there is no way to start a sequence that is part of a causal chain, because there is nothing to cause the first cause.
 
Reason can fly around with confidence only so long as it too does not look at beginnings. Reason follows laws of logic, but the top of that algorithm simply hangs on a presumption. If, for example, all the balls in a barrel are green, and you pull out a ball, you can be confident the ball will be green--but if, and only if, the statement about the balls being green is true. Given a true major premise we can guarantee minor premises, but nothing guarantees the first in line. We hang deductive truth on skyhooks.
 
Chapter three, for which much of my time is now spent in reading, is going rather slowly, but everything depends on being right. We are working here on the original premise, deductive's analogy to first cause. Get this wrong and nothing turns out right. Get this right and sound reasoning can work its magic, even though getting it right is never certain. Still, close works in deduction, as in horseshoes. In metaphysics, right might have something to do with Immanual Kant. He basically says that objective is part subjective. Objective and subjective combine to produce experience, which has a correlation to reality but differs fundamentally from reality based simply on sensation. Basically, things are not as they seem, but close enough to forage in this world. We can be sure, however, that materialism cannot be totally right because if everything is cause then nothing can ever get started, and if everything is expanding into itself then expansion loses its meaning. An acorn cannot become a tree inside of itself.
 
I do not find this stuff enjoyable, other than necessity seems to carry its own satisfaction. Someone had to cross the Atlantic to find the new world, and all of us yet need to explore the video pictures we create in our heads from the wave forms existing outside of them. The first step to Carolina better be different from the one to California if you do not want to end up on the wrong coast.
 
Sooner or later in my effort here, input and intuition should merge into something I can write down. We do not need perfect to pursue our destinies, but we certainly need the best tools we can provide. It must be a little like exploring for gold.
 
 
 

Let the games begin

Chapter Two of Republic addresses the most pressing specific responsibility of my life. Chapter Three appears to be dealing with the most pressing general responsibility. If so, let the games begin!
 
 
Robert Andersen

progress

The editing of the first two chapters has proceeded to the point where the work is presentable. Six or seven more revisions await, but they become progressively less intensive.
 
Chapter Three will require much more reading. Hopefully, it will be worth the trouble.
 
 
Robert

Download Problem

Apparently there was a problem downloading Requiem. The new book crowded it out somehow. That was inadvertent and is now corrected. Both are currently available, although Republic is a work in progress. 
 
Robert
 
 
 
 

Interim Report

I used to have an audience in Heythuysen, Netherlands that visited the site thirty or forty times a day for about six months. They apparently were reading the book and eventually finished it. I felt a responsibility to keep something going, since a new book was not about to sprout up overnight, and thought the blog might offer an avenue to continue thoughts from the previous book.
 
But they did not return and the blog now just seems to go out there, or nowhere, and I would rather work on the new book, which has years left to go. So let me just summarize here what this site is about, since most readers are likely to be unfamiliar with it.
 
This is basically a place to download books. The first book, Requiem, is a metaphysics for living. It covers just about everything, and at this point does not appear to have made too many missteps along the way. The assumptions in Requiem can be right or wrong, but they will remain metaphysics because they do not have an existential truth value–i.e., the premises cannot empirically be shown as right or wrong. No matter, the book continues to pop into my head as I move along, which intuitively suggests it has some value.
 
The second book is an elaboration of the first. I am trying to formulate a metaphysics with which to underwrite our experience, and this matters because without such a base one can only move with hesitancy or bluster. The premise of both books is that we can ill afford not to look at the big picture, even if we have to struggle (perhaps mightily) for answers.
 
So these books are a quest for conceptual stability and perhaps for a wormhole to eternity. Piggybacking on this noble adventure is an immediate practical issue involving combat veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder. This area fits into the larger scheme because everything does, but issues, abstract and concrete, always coincide, and this specific one becomes something of my responsibility. So there are, in both books, a section that addresses contemporary applications of the larger quest. I have now finished that aspect. The most recent chapter in the new book should conclude my efforts with respect to post-traumatic stress disorder. Chapter Two, Border Wars, can be read for its own value (or lack thereof). It becomes essentially a self contained section offering my perspective on working with combat veterans having this disorder. That responsibility falls to me because I have perhaps run more out-patient combat PTSD groups than anyone else in the country. That deserves to be recorded, and it now is.
 
At this point in the new book I am faced with months of reading before anything more goes into it. That did not work so well when I had the Huythuysen audience, but I can run at my own pace now–which is all one can do anyway.
So this site is to read books. One is finished, the other along the way. Click on either for a PDF download. The practical application for the specific issue mentioned is out there and can be viewed on its own. The other, God willing, continues.

Linked

There is now a link to the new book. It is just a beach head, but it is in the design format and work continues regularly. (Go to "Second Book" page, click on cover.)
 
Chapter one has started. The work is going up relatively unedited, and it will be gone over innumerable times to make it more intelligible, but I had promised something by Christmas and this is better perhaps than nothing.