What do we expect from Science? What do we expect from the other ways we seek to understand our individual and collective experience: art, poetry and the domains of endeavor people think of as "spiritual"?
Once in a commentary on the poet Mary Oliver I found the following definition
"Poetry is what takes us to the boundaries between the expressible and the inexpressible"
Its been years since I read that but it has always stayed with me. It articulates a sense that there are aspects of human being, aspects of our experience, that can be deeply felt but not codified into a statement whose truth-value can be parsed and then evaluated discursively. This can seem like a weird thing for someone who has spent a life-time in science to say. As I kid I was attracted to science specifically because it promised an absolute knowledge of an absolute (I was a platonist early on it seems). But as got older this seemed more like an idealism (no pun indented) that a true description of the situation.
I am, of course, still in love with science and but now I think it offers us a more local kind of certainty embedded in a global question that it beautifully exposes. The world is out there and it pushes back. Of that there is no doubt. But in the totality of human experience how many ways are there to know to its shape and form?
How do we embrace the irreducibility of of our own experience conditioned by our personal narratives, with the sense that there are constants guiding that experience. Science reveals a world of exquisite order and subtle patterns that can be articulated with precision. How we respond to that order is about reason and our other myriad faculties.
I would argue that in our response such "revelation" we are taken to the boundaries of what can be expressed in language (mathematics included) and what eludes expression. The question is this: how to acknowledge such a boundary while staying close to world which shows itself to us. In the comments to the last post the metaphore of a gyroscope was offered. That can be quite useful. There is a great quote from the Buddhist tradition which could also be said of science: "The purpose of any practice is to not fool yourself".
That is the work.
The Great Pant Rip Episode of 2012
4 years ago