Re: MD Is the MoQ still in the Kantosphere?

From: Sam Norton (
Date: Sun Dec 12 2004 - 11:46:10 GMT

  • Next message: Mark Steven Heyman: "MD Understanding Quality And Power"

    Hi DMB,

    > dmb says:
    > I could have jumped in before this point but picked this late one out of
    > mercy for the readers. There are two main objections that spring to mind.
    > The first one concerns mixing Kant's epistemology with the assertions of
    > mysticism. ....

    The point I was making hinges less on Kant's conception of the transcendent than what Schleiermacher
    does with it - for it seems to me that Schleiermacher's position is James' position is Pirsig's
    position is your position. That is, it was Schleiermacher who, so far as I understand it, took the
    Kantian system and 'outflanked it' by resort to special feelings etc, and it was he who transferred
    the label 'mystical' to the result.

    > And so the distinction
    > between Kant's phenomenal and noumenal is just a particular form of
    > subject-object metaphysics. <snip>

    Yes indeed. My worry is that the MoQ still retains an inheritance from that conceptual shape. As I
    asked at the end of the essay, isn't DQ just the 'noumenal' - as described by Schleiermacher? And
    the static levels, the phenomenal? If not, why not? You've asserted that Kant's system doesn't make
    the transcendent into the ineffable - fine, I'll run with that for the time being - but it does seem
    to be what Schleiermacher has done. Hasn't he?

    > dmb says:
    > We have language and concepts available to us that didn't exist in the past,
    > but I'm quite certain that philosophical mysticism existed LOOOOONG before
    > Schleiermacher. Socrates spoke of that "divine madness" and the new
    > testament is littered with references to it. I could dig up a gazillion
    > ancient descriptions of the mystical experience and you'd still recognize it
    > as the same experience we talk about today. Its only natural that we use
    > modern language to discuss it today.

    Well, I think you're making a mistake here, and this is the absolute heart of our disagreements. I
    do not believe that we can simply say that Socrates was talking about the same thing that
    'philosophical mystics' today are talking about, without further explanation and justification. You
    think that we can, and so you bring in 'a gazillion ancient descriptions' thinking that they support
    your case, whereas I think that you have simply assumed your conclusions before you start
    investigating. Whenever I have challenged you to justify your position with reference to the
    tradition that I know a bit about, ie the Christian one, you've evaded the issue (despite claiming
    to be a Christian mystic yourself! That still astonishes me). Frankly I think you know that you're
    wrong on this and you're just afraid of exposing your assumptions to scrutiny. Why don't we explore
    Eckhart together, for example - he's even been given Pirsig's imprimatur, so surely you can't be
    that frightened of what you might discover? And if you claim to be a Christian mystic, is there
    anyone else who qualifies under that description with whom you would agree? I don't care who you
    pick, as long as it is pre-Kant, so let's say anyone before 1600. There are lots to choose from. If
    you continue to run away from this sort of serious engagement then I will be confirmed in my
    conclusion that you're argumentation is driven by fear not by a love of truth.

    The thing is, I believe it to have been demonstrated without any possibility of further ambiguity
    that the way in which mysticism is understood by the William James strand is radically different to
    how it was understood prior to Schleiermacher within the Christian tradition. I could be wrong, but
    you haven't come close to demonstrating it yet. You keep on dismissing this as the rantings of
    someone whose understanding is compromised by a religious faith. Well, I don't know what else there
    is to say. If you bothered to study the matter, and break out of your intellectual ghetto, you may
    (or may not) perceive that certain arguments have Quality, others do not, and you might learn
    something as a result. You just seem to have discarded all the norms of rational argumentation, ie
    looking at the original texts, giving some respect to what people say who have spent a long time
    considering the texts, exploring the historical context, trying to establish what the mystical
    thinkers meant by the words they were using - all trying to assess what makes sense according to
    whatever flickering light of Quality exists in our own brains. Does none of this carry any weight
    with you? If it doesn't, I think I'd better stop.

    Some briefer comments below.

    > dmb says:
    > I don't see how essentialism, Cartesianism or reductionism enters into the
    > equation. The assertion is simply that people have reported and described
    > the same experience and that they have done so regardless of their
    > particular culture, time and place. This is simply recognizing a pattern.
    > The only thing that can be reasonable in dispute is the meaning of these
    > reports. Nothing needs to be assumed. One reads account after account and
    > notices a common theme. Recognition of this common core is a conclusion, a
    > point of view based on evidence, not an assumptiom.

    When you say 'one reads account after account' - who has been doing the reading? If you have been
    doing the reading, does this include the Christian mystics? If so, please take up my challenge
    above, and let us explore one mystic in depth, and see if your analysis and description can be
    sustained. I don't think you've bothered to read them yourself, and I think you're dependent on - at
    best - compromised third-hand selections for your information, as was William James himself. Thing
    is, I'm no expert either, but I have read _some_ of the tradition in the original (eg Julian of
    Norwich), and I've read a lot of secondary literature on the subject, and it seems to me that you
    simply haven't bothered to investigate people who disagree with you.

    > dmb says:
    > I don't quite follow the reasoning here. But if I had to guess, you're
    > troubled by a seemingly inconsistent assertion that a mystical experience is
    > both ineffable and noetic, that it is beyond concepts and it imparts
    > knowledge at the same time. Is that about right? As I understand it, this is
    > only a problem is we are claiming that the knowledge we gain from such an
    > experience is conceptual, but its not conceptual. This is why we usually
    > talk about it in metaphors or in terms of what it is NOT. And you may recall
    > my explanations concerning epistemological pluralism. In those terms we
    > would say that concepts are seen with the eye of the mind rather than with
    > the eye of flesh and that the eye of contemplation is a third kind that is
    > neither. This 3rd one is the eye with which we "see" in a mystical
    > experience. So the apparent conflict here disappears when we say that the
    > knowlege gained from a mystical experience cannot be expressed in concepts,
    > but we do it anyway.

    In the above you are using the traditional vocabulary of apophatic mysticism with great confidence,
    but I don't think you know what you are talking about. The point is that when you use language to
    say that something is NOT something else, you are still making an assertion, you are still making a
    conceptual claim. So the Christian mystics (for example) were moving beyond that, making 'a negation
    of the negation' to get the mind to shut up. You're still operating within the system that they were
    explicitly criticising. Again, I've asked you to explore these things, take some time to investigate
    what I was saying further, but you've never bothered. You've had three years to do it - and if it's
    not intellectual cowardice that has stopped you, what is it?

    <snipping a load of stuff which I am too weary to go through with you again>

    > dmb says:
    > Well, yes, its pretty clear that Schleiermacher, James and Pirsig are all
    > talking about the same experience,

    Great, we have some agreement

    > but this is not particularly modern, does
    > not begin with Schleiermacher

    This is what you need to JUSTIFY not simply ASSERT

    > and doesn't rest upon Kant's epistemology.

    It rests on Schleiermacher's take of Kant's epistemology, as I understand it. See above.


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Dec 12 2004 - 11:50:51 GMT