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Reply To: Temptations of Clarity,” with Mark C.E. Peterson, Ph.D.”



I typically understand boundaries as moments of mediation rather than as clear demarcations… My own name “Mark” derives from Mars and Mars as god of War,  makes pretty good mythological sense as the god assigned to boundaries and lines of de-mark-ation. ;^)  But, alas, I see pretty much everything dialectically at this point in my life.

But I completely agree with what you’ve said here about the need for clarity — without it we don’t get digital watches or computers or science!  What worries me, and increasingly, is the crack cocaine of Certainty (with it’s partner, Necessity) that infects both academic writing, but also (increasingly) society as a whole.  That kind of certainty is at odds even with how we come to know about the world and ourselves.   My context here is a chapter in AJ Ayer’s little Molotov cocktail “Language, Truth, and Logic” called “the Problem of Induction.”  The problem is that induction always provides, at best, probabilities, right?  The truth of any inductive statement depends on the data available to support it.  Now, this is how science works — and one of the reasons why it’s self-correcting over time.  What happens, of course, is that at some point the inductively confirmed truths become set in stone and are then used, deductively, to predict outcomes.  Now, since the originals are themselves probabilistic, any deductions that follow from them also end up as contingent — but they aren’t always treated that way.  What can happen is that the deduction that got you there is taken as imparting certainty and necessity to the end result — and that’s where crazy begins, whether in religion or politics.

Anyway, that’s the background radiation to my initial comments.

When it comes to mathematics then I’ve also come around to a contrarian position. :^)  There’s a tendency, culturally and intellectually, to grant mathematics (applied deductively) the status of Platonic Forms, and to assume that the universe as we perceive it (& known inductively)  is a mere approximation of those principles.  I think this is precisely  backwards.  I think mathematics is the approximation and that the universe, which can only be known in terms of probabilities, is the reality mathematics attempts to clarify.

As long as math keeps this in mind, no problems.  When mathematics is granted god-status however, you start to produce quantum flapdoodle.

I think this analysis applies perfectly to your description of alchemy here… the boundary layer between conscious and unconscious is never fixed and never clear — except when poor-old-consciousness remains fixated in order to avoid further growth… or the pain that can accompany listening to ones unconscious. :^)  I’m reminded of Jung’s comment to the effect that it is the function of organized formal religion to prevent people from having religious experiences. ;^)  Those formalized structures depend entirely on the (false) orthodoxy of fixed and clear distinctions.

Grin, anyway, that’s where my mind usually wanders off too when I think about this stuff!

Thank you so much for your comments here!!