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Poetic Naturalism

personperson Where is my mind?'Merica! Veteran
edited August 2016 in Faith & Religion

The physicist Sean Carroll coined a new phrase/idea in his recent book he calls poetic naturalism. It contrasts with the idea of reductive naturalism that reduces the meaningful things of life down to their microscopic components. So like love is just the release of oxytocin in response to phermones or biological impulses, what-have-you, or we don't have choice because our decisions are deterministic firings of neurons.

So he's saying we can still talk about a world of meaning with love, morality, choice... the big picture things while taking a naturalistic approach to the world without need for the supernatural.

Naturalism has been certainly been around for a very long time, but as more people become naturalists and talk to each other, their disagreements within naturalism are interesting. I thought there was a judicious middle ground, which I call poetic, between “the world is just a bunch of particles,” and “science can be used to discover meaning and morality.”
To me the connotations of “poetic” are that there’s some human choice that comes into how we talk about the world. In particular, when it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/godless-universe-a-physicist-searches-for-meaning-in-nature/

Would anyone here consider themselves a poetic naturalist? Or maybe being a Buddhist forum a religious naturalist

Shoshinlobster

Comments

  • This is intriguing. While time and circumstance preclude going into detail, :3, morality, meaning and truth are certainly not the same as Mr Carroll has stated. Again, we do indeed come to our realization/discovery of each in different ways.
    As to the question you posed, as a Buddhist, I tend to be in the poetic naturalist camp as defined by Mr Carroll.

    At the risk of oversimplification, science is, in general, the study of measurable phenomena while Buddhism can be said to be the study of one's self in relation to 'self' and one's interactions with the 'self' (or -for some - the 'non-self') and with one's environment, including interpersonal relations - for want of a better term, the phenomena of life.

    As usual, out of 'time' as 'life' imposes (naturally).

    Maybe this will get the ball rolling. (Or maybe not...)

    Good hunting and Peace to all

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited August 2016

    @person said:
    Would anyone here consider themselves a poetic naturalist? Or maybe being a Buddhist forum a religious naturalist

    Yes, I find it appealing, and I looked into this stuff at one stage: https://humanisticpaganism.com/religious-naturalism/

    To me it similar to Buddhist practice, observing "the world" carefully and closely, being more open and aware, feeling connected, and so on.

  • @person said:
    The physicist Sean Carroll coined a new phrase/idea in his recent book he calls poetic naturalism. It contrasts with the idea of reductive naturalism that reduces the meaningful things of life down to their microscopic components.

    Many thanks. <3
    Unbalanced science and scientists, like myopic mystics are unnatural and sometimes counter productive. I had not come across these ideas before and find them insightful and for many very applicable and hopefully natural.

    person
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited September 2016

    I in this vein I'd consider myself a naturalistic dualist. I love science and have developed a skeptical mind, but I have and do experience things which I can't explain away with solely physical causes and would need solid evidence to tell me that my conscious experiences aren't immaterial or how something physical can give rise to something immaterial, so I can't embrace physicalism. But I also can't accept all the explanations given by Buddhism or any religion for the way the world works.

    I've found the thinking of David Chalmers and Sam Harris (yes Sam Harris may very well be a dualist or at least strongly entertains the possibility) around these topics very helpful.

    lobsterKerome
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Careful you don't become a naturist though. :p
    But seriously, I am less concerned with these philosophical categories these days, and more interested in exploring the conditional nature of experience.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Naturalistic dualism to a certain extent describes my position as well, with a healthy mix of agnosticism on a range of subjects. The natural world describes a large number of universal principles quite well, which you would expect to find in any environment with those same kinds of constraints on resources. It is deep and worthy of study.

    But once you admit dualism and an acceptance of the possibility of a spiritual realm to parallel the physical, you can also envisage some of the things it might harbour. At that point things like the existence of the bardo's or the Six Realms as described in Tibetan Buddhism seems only a small jump.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Naturalistic dualism to a certain extent describes my position as well, with a healthy mix of agnosticism on a range of subjects. The natural world describes a large number of universal principles quite well, which you would expect to find in any environment with those same kinds of constraints on resources. It is deep and worthy of study.

    But once you admit dualism and an acceptance of the possibility of a spiritual realm to parallel the physical, you can also envisage some of the things it might harbour. At that point things like the existence of the bardo's or the Six Realms as described in Tibetan Buddhism seems only a small jump.

    Yes it is only a small jump to the rest but for me it is a step too far. Dualism itself isn't proven, it is still an untested hypothesis, a metaphysical assumption. So to take a step out from solid ground in science into something unknown like the nature of consciousness feels justified. Taking that additional step from the unstable place of dualism into other realms, karma, rebirth is actually still a big leap, naturalistically speaking.

    SpinyNorman
  • techietechie India Veteran

    Science has demystified this world to a great extent. Even a beautiful thing like a rainbow (or love) can be explained through science. The magic has therefore disappeared in the light of science. We feel empty. But we can't dismiss science. So we do our best to combine science with our innate desire (for otherworldly things). The result: poetic naturalism.

    SpinyNormanKeromeperson
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2016

    There is a demystification as @techie says. Buddhism and Sufism are sometimes known as The Fourth Way.

    Mind-Science - don't leave home without it.
    http://opcoa.st/PGYYr

    For those who prefer cultural fantasies ... Documentary on the Tibetan Book of The Dead

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @techie said:
    Science has demystified this world to a great extent. Even a beautiful thing like a rainbow (or love) can be explained through science. The magic has therefore disappeared in the light of science. We feel empty. But we can't dismiss science. So we do our best to combine science with our innate desire (for otherworldly things). The result: poetic naturalism.

    True, so do we need to find a better expression of the magical in our scientific world? Many children are brought up in the magical, and slowly transition out of it as they get older. By the time they are 20 dreams of Santa Claus have been replaced by dreams of working their way to the top of their profession. Many adults get cynical later in life, when those dreams have passed.

    I think one's relationship to the magical is very important. It's one of the key things that keeps hope alive in one's life.

  • This reminds me of Humanistic Paganism which was far too complex for me to wrap my head around but they sure have some interesting ideas.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @Shim said:
    This reminds me of Humanistic Paganism which was far too complex for me to wrap my head around but they sure have some interesting ideas.

    It's rather similar, I referred to it earlier in the thread, a naturalistic approach rather than polytheistic beliefs. Though modern Paganism is mostly reconstruction anyway.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Kerome said:> I think one's relationship to the magical is very important. It's one of the key things that keeps hope alive in one's life.

    I think it is good to keep an open mind to possibilities, but I'm not sure that a tendency to magical thinking is very productive.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Kerome said:
    I think one's relationship to the magical is very important. It's one of the key things that keeps hope alive in one's life.

    I think it is good to keep an open mind to possibilities, but I'm not sure that a tendency to magical thinking is very productive.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking

    Magical thinking isn't really what I had in mind... One needs to be firmly rooted in reality when considering the real world, the other direction just takes you further into the realm of delusion.

    But a connection with the magical and the mysterious in the realms of the mind and dreams is not quite the same thing. One can imagine many places where perhaps the rules aren't quite the same as they are here, in novels and other media.

    Even in Buddhism many tales involve teachers with mysterious powers in far away or mystical places, such as the stories of King Milinda and Nagasena, or the Jataka Tales.

    Stories of the numinous somehow gladden the heart. It is a joy to watch a movie like Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which is an enchanting tale of a girl who travels to a bath house in a spirit realm. It transports you to a different realm, maybe reminiscent to us of the time between worlds before we were born, a glimpse of the extraordinary showing through.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @person said:

    @Kerome said:
    Naturalistic dualism to a certain extent describes my position as well, with a healthy mix of agnosticism on a range of subjects. The natural world describes a large number of universal principles quite well, which you would expect to find in any environment with those same kinds of constraints on resources. It is deep and worthy of study.

    But once you admit dualism and an acceptance of the possibility of a spiritual realm to parallel the physical, you can also envisage some of the things it might harbour. At that point things like the existence of the bardo's or the Six Realms as described in Tibetan Buddhism seems only a small jump.

    Yes it is only a small jump to the rest but for me it is a step too far. Dualism itself isn't proven, it is still an untested hypothesis, a metaphysical assumption. So to take a step out from solid ground in science into something unknown like the nature of consciousness feels justified. Taking that additional step from the unstable place of dualism into other realms, karma, rebirth is actually still a big leap, naturalistically speaking.

    I agree it is a big leap. But you have to consider that dualism is not exactly a new idea, it goes back to people like Descartes and Jung in the west. And all the people who explored these subjects before us - if they were right about this, then perhaps they might have been right about some of the other things?

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:

    @Kerome said:
    Naturalistic dualism to a certain extent describes my position as well, with a healthy mix of agnosticism on a range of subjects. The natural world describes a large number of universal principles quite well, which you would expect to find in any environment with those same kinds of constraints on resources. It is deep and worthy of study.

    But once you admit dualism and an acceptance of the possibility of a spiritual realm to parallel the physical, you can also envisage some of the things it might harbour. At that point things like the existence of the bardo's or the Six Realms as described in Tibetan Buddhism seems only a small jump.

    Yes it is only a small jump to the rest but for me it is a step too far. Dualism itself isn't proven, it is still an untested hypothesis, a metaphysical assumption. So to take a step out from solid ground in science into something unknown like the nature of consciousness feels justified. Taking that additional step from the unstable place of dualism into other realms, karma, rebirth is actually still a big leap, naturalistically speaking.

    I agree it is a big leap. But you have to consider that dualism is not exactly a new idea, it goes back to people like Descartes and Jung in the west. And all the people who explored these subjects before us - if they were right about this, then perhaps they might have been right about some of the other things?

    I've learned about Cartesian dualism but have really only focused my attention on David Chalmers work. So I decided to read the Wiki on dualism and realize that my own views are different than what is presented there. All dualism isn't the same, I disagree with most forms I see there.

    I agree with the arguments against the dualism that views mental events occurring "out there" and the brain acting like a receiver of sorts for the mind. How does something immaterial have a causal effect on something physical? The physics doesn't add up. There are lab examples using magnets or electrostimulation that cause mental states to arise, so that puts the causal point of origin in the brain.

    My view is that the mind is more like a mirror. Imagine standing in front of a mirror, in the example you and your actions are the physical brain and the mirror is the non physical portion of mental events. So everything that appears in the mind (mirror) is a result of physical processes (the brain). But unlike physicalist accounts, the fact that physical processes give rise to the behavior of the reflection (consciousness) it isn't wholly dependent upon the brain, something additional is required. Then, even though the reflection from a mirror wouldn't have a direct causal role in your behavior, if the brain was aware of what appeared in consciousness (the reflection) it might behave differently.

    I don't know if that makes sense or is too convoluted. But I think it addresses the "hard problem" while avoiding the causal problem of most dualism. I haven't had much in the way of push back on the idea so there may be an argument against or some weakness I haven't thought of, but for now its where I am.

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