On Noetic Vision

In the following I’m going to be continuing now on the line of posts on free will (the last post is here) and discussions therein (which should also contain links to prior essays as well). To bring this up to speed, I’m trying on for size a notion of free will, that essentially boils down to asserting that if a being meets the common sense notions of free will … then it really does have free will. Additionally, pseudonymous commenter ‘Jewish Atheist’ had difficulty with a notion that a deterministic system could evidence free will because in his mind it was constrained by initial conditions. My assertion to the contrary is that true randomness is available to classical dynamical (deterministic) systems and that indeed further that coupling such a random (semiotic) input to an “expert/rule or other heuristic aesthetic system that by finding beauty in the true random noise that true creativity could be obtained by a deterministic intelligence. Since I fail to imagine how a being could at the same time not have free will while being truely creative … therefore an intelligence based on a deterministic system can be free willed. In the following this conversation and exploration is continued … below the dreaded fold.

Jim remarks with a really interesting response which is to say:

I dispensed Plato’s forms (and his irritating muse: Socrates), and Aristotle too (despite my bias that his eudomonea is as close to Jesus’ ethic – love God with “all” … – as a Greek got), and instead, I considered Epicurus. Forget Epicurean ethics for a moment. Epicurus introduced chance (tyche) at the atomic level. And he made the gods (humans) vulnerable to chance. Where Plato had only the “wandering cause,” Epicurus atomized chance. But, I don’t know the connection between tyche/chance and Epicurean ethics (more study?). I can’t prove that Epicurus’ tyche was a proto-positivism; but, I think it’s worth playing. The connection to positivism here is that all these Greeks shared a common mastery of ethical literature well funded by their middle active (and middle passive) voice! If you (Mark) build on this middle active voice, and allow for tyche/chance in the atomic bits of our choices, then a classical cause –> effect holds, because we’re self-determining, but chance means we can’t fully predict our vulnerable outcomes of ethical creativity. If we humans are vulnerable to chance in our middle active self-determinations, then the result (result: not just emergency) would be “unpredictable” novelty. How’s that?

It occurred to me that training our “expert system” or aesthetic is not the only thing going on here in our activities. It seems to me as well, our random systems are trained, or tagged at least. A poet’s when casting in to the sea of chance for phrase and words to write, the cook divining for recipe, or the mathemetician seeking a solution to a problem do not peer into the same pool. Or perhaps it is the same physical mechanism which which generates their random notions but the symbolic content is different. The poet’s froth is word, meaning, and sound; the cook’s is more of temperature, taste, and texture; and the mathematician delves in geometric image, abstract symbol, and other esoterica. Tagging the “froth” of random noise is a trained activity, it is work training transforming raw video “snow” to semiotic snow instead.

On a side note, Mr Rapp had noted as at the start of the quoted fragment that he would dispense with Plato’s forms. In the start of our discussions, Polanyi and Polkinghorne had both cited a connection with modern science and theology (respectively) and their Platonic roots. Not that they seek Plato’s forms … but that they have an essential Platonic nature. That is to say, if/when we talk of Schroedinger’s equation or of Trinity there is an implicitly assumption shared by those engaging in discussions of either that there is an underlying reality which is expressed in those respective languages. They stand astride and against the modern currents which would hold that truth is a constructed thing by asserting that there is indeed truth to be discovered and described which exists independent of our constructs.

In a futher remark Jim notes that perhaps God is the ultimate decider about what will is free asking two questions (I’ll look first at the theological):

Since I’m neither Calvinist nor Arminian for reasons owing exclusively to textual exegesis (I say the text is “indeterminate” – both free will and determinism are accentuated, but short of coherent systematic resolution), and, since my judgment on this question is strictly textual, and, my judgment is not determined by a “default” appeal to sciences outside the text for resolution – then, I’m constantly thinking like this engineer, that is, both Calvinism and Arminianism offer a sort of modal lens for working through many issues, subject to later discount! Not arguing this here.

Being “neither Calvinist or Arminian” is perhaps one way of interpreting my understanding of the (Eastern) Orthodox view, especially regarding our motion towards God and the Holy. One description of the Orthodox take on this is a synthetic one, that God via Spirit beckons, by our will if we choose we turn toward him and work together our will and his Spirit to seek God.

But … back where we started. As it happened, while riding my bike two things were colliding when I was considering this. One was that in Orthodox liturgical readings sometimes concepts that are more native (I guess) in Greek but which seem to fly by without a helpful pause for the native English speaker. The word “noetic” regarding objects or people is an example, this occurs in various Matins canons and for example the Akathist hymn by St. Roman the Melodist. The “noetic pharaoh” appears as a phrase but is translated as “symbolic pharaoh” in the version cited. Also this podcast and podcast commentary might be useful as well. The one half of the things that drifted across my noetic landscape (as it were) was how the notion of noetic vision might be seen if we take seriously the notion of the above “semiotic noise + aesthetic heuristic” process as a model for creative (and specifically perhaps even human) intelligence). It seems to me, that perhaps my “noetic vision”, that stage on which I discern and practice my aesthetic judgement is critical to what we (I think) view as the core of “self”. The second part that occurred to me (noted above), is that the training of discernment takes place not only in the training of my aesthetic appreciation and judgment (maths and beauty for example) but also in how I interpret and view the random bath. What I haven’t figured out is whether that is a change to the bath or a change to the noetic lens with which we view the bath (that where does/is the training located)? However, it’s not entirely clear if that question really matters at all ultimately but it seems to me “training a random noise generator” is an odd notion.

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