The Skeptical Philosophy

“The Skeptical Philosophy”, as it is sometimes known, tends to overlap with (if not being identical with) The Mechanical Philosophy. “The Skeptical Philosophy” is, by and large, an alternate name for the Cartesian method of “radical doubt”. This methodological attitude towards life and the world often ran afoul of the “defenders of the faith” and the articles of faith. It was also often itself attacked by William Blake as belonging to “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”: “If the Sun & Moon should Doubt. Theyd immediately Go out.”

Nonetheless this emergent skeptical attitude towards the oral tradition and the authority of faith (Socrates is the precursor here) is not the same skepticism as what is called “skepticism” today, which has degenerated into cynicism. The originators of The Skeptical Philosophy were, despite the methodological attitude of radical doubt, very devout men and women. Typically, the early natural philosophers and scientists adhered to a theological stance called “Deism”, which was often attacked by Blake and others.

This emergent skeptical attitude, most often associated with the name of Rene Descartes, is, in effect, the early confrontation of the new mental-rational consciousness with the mytho-religious consciousness structure. But contrary to the contemporary rationalistic myths about the “martyrs of modern science and reason”, the early advocates of The Skeptical Philosophy were not atheists. Descartes, Galileo, Newton, LaPlace, etc were all very devout men. The fact that they felt there was no need to appeal to divine intervention to explain the appearances (the phenomena) of the world, and that God was an hypothesis they could do without, did not mean they were atheists. Not at all. Their own “faith”, as it were, was that the Great Clockmaker or Architect had created a rational and logical world order that could be interpreted and understood rationally and logically without reference to divine election or intervention (except, in Descartes’ case, to the problem of time which Descartes believed was a daily miracle performed by God). A rational God had created a rational world and then retired to watch it wind down. This faith in a rational order of the phenomena (appearances) as the objective product of divine Reason is still that attitude demonstrated by Einstein, when he insisted that “God does not play dice with the world”. In other words, Einstein felt that all explanations or descriptions of reality that appealed to “chance” or “accident” to be completely irrational and not properly scientific at all.

(Contrary to popular belief also, Buddhism has no role for “chance” or “accident” in a world governed by the karmic law of action and reaction. As one Buddhist monk put it, “chance is just ignorance”. In that sense, the Buddhist worldview is that the world is rational in the sense of “reasonable”).

In the long term, “divine election” lost favour as an explanatory principle in favour of  “natural selection”. And also in the longer term, if a Creator existed at all, the Creator simply became irrelevant, and irrevelant eventually became “non-existent”. The new faith of the rationalists was that the appearances of the world could be explained logically without reference to divine intervention. But contrary to contemporary belief also, this wasn’t the position of many of the foremost early scientists and natural philosophers. “Reality” was the product of God’s mind. God was Reason Supreme. Therefore, his creation was entirely reasonable. Reason itself was of divine origin, and in studying Nature, one was also interpreting the Mind of God.

That the world was a machine — a Clockwork — was initially a useful metaphor or convention. It helped very much in clearing the mind of clutter, but over time the metaphoric character of the world machine (the machine as model) became confused with the reality, as often happens with our metaphors (“heaven” and “hell” were initially metaphors). Over time, the very success of the metaphor came to be confused with “the-way-things-actually-are”. Today, the Clockwork Universe metaphor is starting to lose respect in favour of the universe as a computer.

Before the machine metaphor was the “tree” metaphor — the Tree of Life. The World Tree also figures prominently in many cosmological myths. And probably, in the Flammarion woodcut called Urbi et Orbi, the lone tree in the engraving is the Tree of Life, standing there in contrast to the machine world “beyond”.

Urbi et Orbi

Urbi et Orbi

The skeptical attitude is a very important aspect of the mental-rational (or logico-mathematical) structure of consciousness, but which has nonetheless deteriorated and is now confused with cynicism (which is a form of nihilism). This is one aspect of what Jean Gebser referred to as the mental-rational consciousness structure now entering into “deficient mode”, in the sense that it has become self-devouring. If we speak of a “healthy skepticism” it’s because we also now know what is “unhealthy skepticism”, which is cynicism.

So, when we speak of “integral consciousness”, it’s not to denigrate the skeptical attitude, which is an important element of reason, but to recognise its proper place. In this world of competing propagandas for this way of life or that way of life, the skeptical attitude (“suspicion”, Nietzsche calls it) is a critical part of our mental hygiene. But we must insist on recognising the “faith” that underlies the skeptical attitude and sustains it  — the faith that, after all, our reality is logical and reasonable and not so absurd and insane, even if we haven’t yet fully discovered its true logic.

 

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7 responses to “The Skeptical Philosophy”

  1. Risto says :

    Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and it has gave me many new insights. So first of all: thank you!

    I came across this article couple of days ago which I think links with your post.

    http://boingboing.net/2015/01/28/a-beginners-guide-to-the-red.html

    Another manifestation of mental-rational conciousness gone rogue?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hi Risto. So you’re the mysterious Finlander that keeps logging into Chrysalis! I often wondered who that might be.

      Thanks for the article on the “Redpillers”. I think I know a couple of people who resemble that — skeptical of everything but their own beliefs and convictions.

      • Risto says :

        Yeah, I guess it’s me… Unless there are more finnish blogstalkers coming here, my presence is now unveiled.

        Your texts have addressed many things I’ve been mulling over lately and brought tons of more to consider, perhaps that’s why I keep coming back to Chrysalis.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “A rational God had created a rational world and then retired to watch it wind down”

    LOL, I love it 🙂

    We really do need Skeptical Philosophy nowadays more so than ever because of the enemies of humanity have thoroughly mastered how to operate under the guise of religion, media, law and order, peace, and so forth. It is an indispensable tool in a world based on illusions of sensory perception – that which Seth called “lovely liars.”

    I entirely agree with the assertion made in the video entitled “universe as a computer” that “mathematics is a language to describe the universe.”

    That’s pretty much it, and in that sense mathematics has the ability to transcend physical attributes of the universe and peer into multi-dimensional non-physical worlds that compose it.

    Last I heard/read, some mathematician had proved the existence of 11 dimensional realms. I haven’t been able to get my head around our four dimensional reality (including time), let alone more dimensions than that. Nevertheless, for some, the subject is the most wonderful sanctuary.

    • Scott Preston says :

      In the human dialogue with Nature, mathematics is the language of discourse, the lingua franca, as it were. It’s often debated whether mathematics is just a language of description or expresses the real structure of the universe. Well, it’s both. I prefer the notion of our “dialogue with Nature”.

      There are different “languages” in the human repetoire to dialogue with all aspects of reality — mathematics for the outer, poetry (or art, music) for the inner, prophetic speech and political speech. The four “Ps” I call philosophy, poetics, prophetics, politics, for these are the representatives of the four structures of consciousness that comprise the human totality — the mental-rational, the magical, the mythical, and the archaic, and these correspond to the “Four Directions” of the Sacred Hoop and to “The Guardians of the Four Directions” in Buddhism. They also correspond to the four functions of consciousness as conceived by Jung — thinking, sensing, feeling, intuiting (willing should be in there somewhere?). Every language has developed a “specialist” jargon for expressing these functions, and sometimes overdeveloped them at the expense of the others.

      This overspecialisation of consciousness function is expressed as the tyranny of one of the four Ps. This is how we diagnose the wellness or sickness of a society ie, it’s lack of integrity. Integrality is really the balance of the four Ps in the daily circulation of speech — through the four directions, the four guardians. That’s why a mandala is a more appropriate symbol to represent our reality than the pyramid.

      There’s a new science — or a new sociology — waiting in the proper interpretation of grammatical speech, for we don’t really speak one language per se, but these four — a philosophical-scientific language, a prophetic language, a poetic language, and a political language. They are four because the human form is fourfold.

      Only on rare occasions in human history have they achieved balance. One of those occasions was the Renaissance. In what we call “Golden Ages” they all tend to flourish together.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        A most wonderfully rich response to my post. Thank you!

        “There are different “languages” in the human repetoire to dialogue with all aspects of reality — mathematics for the outer, poetry (or art, music) for the inner, prophetic speech and political speech.”

        Mathematics as a “human repertoire to dialogue” with “the outer” aspect of reality is a quite concise and illuminating way of referring to the subject. I remember I was taking this math course with this most brutal and notorious teacher. I had no choice, because it was the only section of the course being offered at the time. At one point, it took me several weeks to master a lengthy method and understand the reason to what happened in every step. But one thing remained: I didn’t know what the method was achieving!!!!!

        So I ran to my teacher’s office-hours and explained my problem.

        That brutal guy smiled and said: “Suppose you are an alien who knows all about mathematics but knows nothing about how waves behave. With that method, you are showing that the wave phenomenon has reflective property.”

        Describing mathematics as a human repertoire to communicate with the “outer” aspect of reality indeed captures the very essence of the subject.

        “This overspecialisation of consciousness function is expressed as the tyranny of one of the four Ps. This is how we diagnose the wellness or sickness of a society ie, it’s lack of integrity.”

        It has taken me years to understand that from your essays about the work of Jean Gebser. Had I had that knowledge some 30 years ago, I would be able to avoid much confusion in what was happening around me and in the world.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    The balance of the four Ps, the language is the primordial source,numbers are one of the tools. Lately I am busy with the koranic manntras,specially when I read Aleef Laam Raa is the way the book of the universe is formed and detailed by the Wise and the Expert. Channeling of the knowledge from the Source is a well-known process , all prophets used it and remind us of it and some in our time is activating it, take Seth. Aleef Laam Meem is the way of drawing down the divine knowledge to the human sphere.We are living in time of mental bangs.It is time to warn.Scott is a warn-monger in both directions up and down. Retreat , renew and rejuvenate and Blake said it, beware the tyranny of the single vision.

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