“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Theism/Atheism: Imagination and Ontological Openness

There is no need to oppose one possibility with the other. Speculative philosophy’s task is to overcome the dualistic limitations of sense-understanding (subject v. object, quality v. substance) by way of a schematic renewal of (or participatory intervention into) our habitual way of imaging the world. Speculative philosophy must hold the binary (God/no-God) together to form a coherent image of the universe. The question is not: “does God exist?” but “what is the universe such that God does and does not exist?” Theism makes no sense without the possibility of atheism, and vice versa: they are interdependent, sometimes parasitic, sometimes symbiotic modes of thought.

I would employ religious language by suggesting that “Faith” is a pre-requisite for knowledge of the speculative kind, whether banal or beatific. “Doubt” is a pre-requisite for knowledge of the scientific kind. Scientists don’t ask: “is it true?” but “can it be tested?” Without doubt, faith is blind; but without faith, doubt is closed to the experience of truth. How can philosophy hold faith and doubt, experiential potentiality and experimental verification, together? I continue to struggle to think their coincidence.

Speculation requires opening one’s imagination to the possible, so as to prepare oneself for the perception of what is actual. The search for “proof” is not the primary aim of speculative philosophy, since it operates on an imaginative plane of cognition interested in increasing the conceptual potentiality and aesthetic intensity of experience. Truth co-emerges with valuation and enjoyment, and so instead of attempting to prove anything, I aim only to express and suggest, to seek out exciting propositions whose “errors” (in Whitehead’s sense) are productive of greater beauty and goodness. The aim of speculative philosophy is the transformation of perceptual conflicts into novel conceptual contrasts. Then truth need no longer be opposed to falsity, since it is precisely because of its mistakes that the universe realizes itself as itself. The universe is not “really” a monadic God, or “really” an atomic aggregate. It is more like an unfolding process of nomadic cosmogenesis.







One response to “Theism/Atheism: Imagination and Ontological Openness”

  1. mary Avatar

    The “flat” ontologies do indeed seem to be the ones that close themselves to the actuality that by definition they exist by virtue of the interplay with that which they are not. Without the interstices of such conflict/contrast/complement, the novelties of new forms, or modes could not grasp a “hold”, such that the movement that deploys spiritual imagination “could bear in itself its own warrant of universality” (TWW). —-one thinks of autopoeisis,…one thinks of Steiner—“Beyond that region of the world for whose form of existence a means of cognition is present in perception, it is determined to acknowlege still another region, for which this means is adequate.” (Intuitive Thinking as Spiritual Path)….In this sense, one can see a necessity for such artifacts that become transparent to unity in truth, such that “no sound is dissonant which tells of Life” —-Coleridge (This Lime Tree, i think)
    “brilliant feats of explaining away”(Stengers) belongs to the deficient rational modes (Gebser). Logic as mode within Reason is law, and as such will always demand its lawful satisfaction, its conceptual justice, but the law is to be fulfilled, not destroyed, or baffled by its own myth….Reason as explicated by its deficiencies, demands it be the sole arbiter of truth, which creates the apparitions and superstitions of the “what it is not”.
    Coleridge writes”,….which wedding Nature, to us gives in dower, a new earth and new heaven…..undreampt of by the sensual (reduction without Idea)…..”and the proud” (deficient mental mode).
    As far as the oscillations of faith/doubt, from the Diaphaneity, it is within these “cultures of interstices” (Stengers), where novelty is void of closure to “Lure”, and there is no refusal of the sacramental (TWW), this is where gebser’s “praeligio” gains a “hold”, and fulfills reason as the Arational. It merely can appear as a leap of faith to reason, but to Waring (Gebser), it it an appropriate response to “attention to truth demanding sensitivity to new signs” (TWW), such that, as Coleridge wrote, “till that which suits a part , infects the whole, And now is almost grown, the habit of my soul.”

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