L’élan vital

“Le mécanisme reprochera donc avec raison au finalisme son caractère anthropomorphique. Mais il ne s’aperçoit pas qu’il procède lui-même selon cette méthode, en la tronquant simplement. Sans doute il a fait table rase de la fin poursuivie ou du modèle idéal. Mais il veut, lui aussi, que la nature ait travaillé comme l’ouvrier humain, en assemblant des parties. (..)”,
H. Bergson, L’évolution créatrice, p. 90, Quadrige, Grands Texts, 1941.

[Amateuristic English translation below: “Mechanistic thought will, rightly, attack final causes for its antropomorphic character. But it doesn’t recognize that it proceeds following this same method, simply by leaving out a final cause. Without any doubt it makes tabula rasa with the objective sought after or with ideal models. But it wants, it as well, that nature works like the human worker, putting together piece parts.”

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 20-11-2009. This should be good.]

Going hard-core again. I apologize to those unwilling to dive deeply. It’s a ‘slippery slope’-mission which I’m about to embark upon. Nobody will be willing to wave the mechanistic flag but many will be willing to put anything – even remotely – Bergsonian out with the garbage of extraterrestrial, supernatural, or, extrasensory entities, or, beings, or causes. But, much worse than that (and here stoppeth the usual disclaimers because these religious bastards just won’t socially darwinize themselves into oblivion rapidly enough): the nut crew is all too happy to claim anything, knowing their own claims to be ludicrous.

There’s something rotten in neo-Darwinism. Hence there’s something wrong with the currently established logico-materialistic consensus. Something that shouldn’t – at the present moment at least – really bother us too much given the many billions that still believe the crap in which their less educated parents believed.

But still, it is something that at least gives an argument to the advocates of “there just has to be a certain ‘something’ or other” thereby protracting the agony of getting rid of all that bullshit (not that you’re personally very bothered by this agony, you being one that has the luxury of reading philosophically type things on the internet but just watch the news and you’ll see how literal the agony is in the South-East portion of the world).

And, eventually (but I’ll leave that unexplored, it’s a popular theme for the advocates of the nut crew anyway) it’ll do real damage also to us (on second thought: I do think it already does damage by the work ethics that are inspired by the amassing of ‘stuff’ – but see further).

“What’s wrong then?”, you ask.

“Read the bloody quote!”, I say.

OK, that was uncalled for. Let me take an unexpected example: the gene. What’s a gene? Can we individuate genes? Take one, turn it around and examine whether it’s selfish, or, less ambitiously, yellow? No, and that’s why there is a problem with them (no, you’re not getting any more disclaimers – so if you go off and imagine I’m saying what I’m not saying: have fun in the looney bin, there are a few rather decent works of Michelangelo I’m told): conceptually they work but on closer inspection … there is nothing to inspect. DNA, yes and bits and pieces of DNA that when handled in certain ways tend to have a certain range of effects but nothing quite as simple as we’re led to believe by the common noun term that has been coined to refer to … well, what?, what exactly?

It’s atomism & holism. It’s integers & reals. It’s Wittgenstein A & Wittgenstein B. It’s Quine. Them things simply do not exist! Subatomic particles don’t exist; at least not if it is a criterion for the identity of them that they aren’t also waves – and what could be further from particleness than waveness as undoubtedly many concluded before I concluded it.

Back to the drawing board then …… Or not! Because that’s it in the end, as much as we are drawn to drawing it out, preferably in minute specific detail; we can’t ‘wrap our heads around it’. There is indeed ‘something’ that [not who] resists being captured. No spirit – no essence – no ‘Sein’ & certainly no … (hint: the first dot is in capitals). Something, you know, that is true but that resists being proven. Dunno really – but something in the order of such an improvably true something. Nothing mystical, maybe that was a flaw of Bergson himself, I also don’t know, because it is something with which we are able to calculate. Indeed, this something will create new stuff, and that new stuff will get exposed to the existing stuff and out of that confrontation some stuff will prevail and other stuff will be lost (not material stuff of course – but stuff made out of those materials and nothing else). And so forth. And so on. Etcetera. Etc. Darwin.

Not the kind of stuff you can hope for. Not at all stuff that will come to your rescue and certainly not stuff that will listen to what you’re not saying. But maybe this is something that can be said of our stuff: that it is the type of stuff that will make sure that we have to do an effort not to end well.

Energy/Entropy comes to mind. What is entropy?

(I’m starting to sound like Wittgenstein; sorry, I’ll cut it out)

What I wanted to say when I started saying something here and wound up saying what is above: it’s not a mystical thing that we need, even if Bergson (and I – with less good excuses I have to admit, more than a century on) could only give it a mystical name – something ‘vital‘. But it ís vital because it does bring hope without the ‘Trojan’ virus that is so exceedingly well adapted to our discrete thoughts.

It brings hope because, looking back, we see its impetus is in the direction of better adaptation, the direction of improvement. If energy comes from suns, plants always tend to evolve to trees. It can take forever, maybe even literally (never happen – I mean): but trees will never evolve away from the sun.

Animals will tend to intelligence, and intelligent animals to socialization;  social animals to interaction and interaction with some luck to language and language to justice.

Oversimplified, I know, but you get the gist and the gist is everything I can convey – decadence is a logical impossibility – i.e. everything labeled like that has something we should identify and cherish. Or (strictly for later use) – from one thing always two.

One of the next times: Kant’s argument for the after-life and a new type of after-life. I kid you not.

[Whilst wirting this I was listening to Valentin Silvestrov, Metamusik and Postludium, ECM New Series.]

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