Polanyi on the Need for Tradition in Science

Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, 63-64.

“Let me display the inescapable need for a tradi­tional framework first in one example of great mod­ern endeavor, which may then serve as a paradigm for other intellectual and moral progress in a free, dynamic society. My example will be the pursuit of the natural sciences. This may be surprising, for modern science was founded through the violent rejection of authority. Throughout the formative cen­turies of modem science, the revolt against author­ity was its battle cry: it was sounded by Bacon and Descartes, and by the founders of the Royal Society in their device, Nullius in Verba, What these men said was true and important at the time, but once the adversaries they fought had been defeated, the repudiation of all authority or tradition by science became a misleading slogan.

“The popular conception of science teaches that science is a collection of observable facts, which any­ body can verify for himself. We have seen that this is not true in the case of expert knowledge, as in diagnosing a disease. But it is not true either in the physical sciences. In the first place, you cannot pos­sibly get hold of the equipment for testing, for ex­ample, a statement of astronomy or of chemistry. And supposing you could somehow get the use of an observatory or a chemical laboratory, you would probably damage their instruments beyond repair before you ever made an observation. And even if you should succeed in carrying out an observation to check upon a statement of science and you found a result which contradicted it, you would rightly assume that you had made a mistake.

“The acceptance of scientific statements by lay­ men is based on authority, and this is true to nearly the same extent for scientists using results from branches of science other than their own. Scientists must rely heavily for their facts on the authority of fellow scientists.

“This authority is enforced in an even more personal manner in the control exercised by scientists over the channels through which contributions are submitted to all other scientists. Only offerings that are deemed sufficiently plausible are accepted for publication in scientific journals, and what is re­jected will be ignored by science. Such decisions are based on fundamental convictions about the nature of things and about the method which is therefore likely to yield results of scientific merit. These be­liefs and the art of scientific inquiry based on them are hardly codified: they are, in the main, tacitly implied in the traditional pursuit of scientific inquiry.”

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Lamentations 2:13-22

This is an continuation of my alliterated Lamentations translation, the rest of which can be found here:

1:1-6 // 1:7-12 // 1:13-22 // 2:1-6 // 2:7-12

The aim of this translation is to produce something like “aesthetic faithfulness” to the original, or at least to get a bit closer. I’m not sure I’ve encountered other English translations that have set out to do this.

Metaphors fail for you, daughter Jerusalem
What does your suffering mean? What can I say?
What could bring comfort do you, virgin Daughter?
Who can heal wounds deeper than the sea?

Nugatory and sham visions the prophets imagined
Not exposing your vice, restoring your fortunes
For you they saw, false fortunes, comforting chimeras

Onlookers mock you with jeering gestures, passing by
Leering heads hiss vicious cuts at Jerusalem, Daughter
Did we call this place Beauty realized? Joy of our land?

Pompous enemies spread yawning jowls jeering
Hissing, whistling, gnashing, baring yellowed ivory
Their cry, “we have swallowed her!”
“For this day we hoped, it came, we taste!”

Resolutely YHWH has done what he purposed
His words, fulfilled, have knifed, threats from long ago
He has no pity on us; the enemy has joy over us
He has exalted the might of those who kill us

Squall and shout from your hearts to YHWH
You broken defenders of daughter Zion
Let your tears run the channels of the river
Day and night, do not stop their flow
Neither allow your eyes relief

Take your place on broken ramparts to sing your grief
During early hours, when watchmen would worry
Pour out your heart like water before the Lord
Lift up your hands to him…over children starving, dying
On every street

Under the gaze of YHWH, these children die, Look! See!
Who have you ever treated this way?
Should women eat their own fruit? The children they love?
Should someone be slain in God’s sanctuary? Priest? Prophet?

Wasted in the dust of the earth
Are the corpses of our men, boys and aged
Virgins and suitors equally emptied by the sword
You slaughtered them in the day of your anger
You butchered them without pity

You summoned as if to a celebration my terrors on every side
Not on this day, the day of YHWH’s anger
No one escaped, no one survived
Children I held in my arms, and raised in hope
My enemy has destroyed

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”

Hopkins_TackGlory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Joseph Ratzinger on Suffering

“Pain and disease can paralyze one as a human being. They can shatter one to pieces, not only physically, but also psychologically and spiritually. However, they can also smash down complacency and spiritual lethargy and lead one to find oneself for the first time. The struggle with suffering is the place of human decision-making par excellence. Here the human project becomes flesh and blood. Here man is forced to face the fact that existence is not at his disposal, nor is his life his own property. Man may snap back defiantly that he will nevertheless try to acquire the power that will make it so. But in so doing, he makes a desperate anger his basic attitude to life. There is a second possibility: man can respond by seeking to trust this strange power to whom he is subject. He can allow himself to be led, unafraid, by the hand, without Angst-ridden concern for his situation. And in this second case, the human attitude towards pain, towards the presence of death within living, merges with the attitude we call love.”

Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology, 95-96.

“Husbands, love your wives”

It’s relatively easy to entertain and please a woman over a cup of coffee on a relaxing Friday afternoon. It’s much more difficult to do it consistently for fifteen years. The former takes a sacrifice of $2.05 and your best stories in exchange for a beautiful smile. The latter takes the willingness to encounter your worst self—the part of your way-of-being that causes her pain—and to expose it regularly to examination. For the latter we get not just beautiful smiles but also her must painful sacrifices, perhaps, her body for children, friends, family, vocation, dreams.
 
In my experience, women are much more inclined to self-giving sacrifice than men. But this is not an inexhaustible resource; women must be loved. The greatest mistakes men regularly make are taking this devotion for granted as ego-building (she loves me vs. she loves me) and failing to cultivate the glory of the the woman’s self-giving love by committed loving in return. My worst self is a loveless, self-consumed egoist.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
– Ephesians 5:25

A Lament of Online Falsity

There are some problems that are as apparent as daylight, but as hard to describe as utter darkness. That there is something off is obvious. Just what are the contours and complexities is less evident. In the absence of pure clarity, I wish to register a lament about online life.

I hate that it makes personal correspondence public.
I hate its inability to foster trust, which is the glue of society.
I hate its ability to inspire fear and rage.
I hate its false pretenses about local, regional, and global problems.
I hate its cheap moralizing without personal consequences (only political).
I hate that it fosters posing and posturing.
I hate that it makes us cowards.
I hate that it makes us brands.
I hate that it inspires very little love.
I hate that it cannot communicate what an embrace does.
I hate its false problems, its merely online problems.
I hate its false promises for dialogue.
I hate its speed, its generalizing, its inability to linger for three hours.
I hate that it gives us only other people’s best and worst moments.
I hate its loneliness.

Here’s to real life, and theology that is content with local presence as it’s platform.
Here’s to caring for people who are in front of you and signing off.
All of the best conversations I have ever had have been face to face, and some of them with people I might not have “followed” if they weren’t near me.

“I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”

Web-log, March 27, 2017

Last Week

I mentioned that I sent off my paper last week. I am in process of writing the next chapter, but stalled a bit on some questions that I have about immortality. I have roughly ten pdfs open at the moment to be read and document. Add to this an extra trip to TEDS to hear Michael Allen speak, an eye exam, and taking a half day for my family, and last week wasn’t great for productivity.

I did send myself about twenty emails by text last week. I do this usually from the bathroom or from the church pew. For whatever reason the shower and the morning song time are fertile ground for ideas. I take in so many details that putting it together takes the mental tranquility required for creative leaps. Anyway, I have one pictured on the right. Here’s a rough idea of what I’m trying to say.

unnamedIf someone wants to argue that Calvin has a Platonic view of the soul they will run into a few difficulties. First, he explicitly says that Aristotle is the shrewdest when it comes to the powers of the soul. He seems to accord a great deal of respect to Aristotle while rejecting him. Second, he does not hold Plato’s tripartite view of the soul and explicitly rejects Augustine’s. He holds a simple two faculty view. His soul seems to be somewhat Platonic (immortality and dualist with regard to body/soul)  but mediated by a debate within a largely Aristotelian tradition that refined the faculties of intellect and will. Calvin is a humanist and biblical scholar who wants to avoid being pressed into more detail than he is comfortable with. 

The other very productive thing I did last week was writing my ETS paper. I meant to write the proposal, but I hit “flow,” so I went with it. Three hours and 3,500 words later, I had something I can work with. I’ll submit the proposal this week.

Set Up

I’m hunkered down at Starbucks on 50th Street today (pictured: due for an upgrade). There are better atmospheres for work, but this is a regular stomping grounds because it is about a 3 minute drive. It’s one of those mornings where the weight of what I have to accomplish pushes away traveling very far.

unnamed (1)The guy who looks like Bill Murray is here again today. He’s here about 75% of the mornings that I come here. He’s outside smoking at the moment, hence the two empty chairs pictured. I have formulated various theories to explain what he does here. He almost seems to be a well-to-do homeless man. He certainly is a recluse, preferring not to be spoken to. He sits, drinks his coffee, plays video games on his tablet, and sometimes scribbles notes on blank lined paper. Last week he dropped some, and when they came to rest by my feet tried to stoop to help him pick them up. He obviously did not want my help picking up his papers, scrambling to get them before I could. He remains a mystery.

The Plan

  1. Work on job stuff; try to find a job
  2. Clean up email
  3. Clear away PDFs
  4. Try to avoid thinking about getting my car inspected, selling my other van, filing taxes, etc.