Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Are there any more readers questions?

I am still open to writing posts based on readers' questions.

Questions could be sent as comments to this post (which will retained but not published), or emailed to me direct using the address brucedotcharltonatoutlookdotcom but using the appropriate symbols.



Thordaddy said...

Dr. Charlton...

Which shall reach true omnipotence?

He who will anything?


He who will do all right?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ThD - Please could you re-phrase the question, I don't understand what you are getting at.

knifecatcher said...

What do you think of Kay Redfield Jamison's thesis in "Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament"?

In Touched With Fire, Jamison marshals a tremendous amount of evidence for the proposition that most artistic geniuses were (and are) manic depressives. This is a book of interest to scientists, psychologists, and artists struggling with the age-old question of whether psychological suffering is an essential component of artistic creativity.

Kay Redfield Jamison (Author)

Thordaddy said...

Sorry Dr. Charlton...

Who is more powerful... The most omnipotent?

He who will DO ANYTHING?


He who WILL DO all right... Be Perfect?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ThD - I'm sorry - I still don't get it.

Thordaddy said...

Dr. Charlton...

I'm trying to reconcile your notion of a truly autonomous "soul" as co-eternal and thus not a creation of God (either Biblical or otherwise). To me, this reads radical autonomy and therefore renders your "soul" self-annihilating (ultimately impossible?). In others words, a truly autonomous "soul" NOT A CREATION of God conceives utter meaninglessness. The way to this conclusion seems to be rooted in the consequence of your "soul" not changing in essence in relation to hypothetically, antithetical gods. More to the point... Posit Perfect God and Radically autonomous God... Your "soul" is the same in relation to either final Truth. This to me suggests the instability of your conception of the soul. A soul co-eternal to The Perfect God cannot intuitively be equal to a soul co-eternal with a Radically Autonomous God or else God and all gods are less than all the individual souls and the "longing" indicative of what "we" viscerally know as "soul" is apparently motivated by "something" above and beyond either The Perfecf God, ie., the Christian God or The Radically autonomous god, ie, the Islamic and Judaic gods.

Finally, the decision to render your "soul" co-eternal and outwith Creation... Ergo, truly autonomous... Seems a coherent result of your conception of Omnipotence as the will to do anything, ie, be radically autonomous over the will to do all right, i.e., be perfect.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Knifecatcher - I will answer that here - I don't agree! I do not find KRJ to be an impressive thinker - but she follows many others in noticing that among people with *true* manic depressive disorder (not the modern 'bipolar' nonsense) there is a higher than expected proportion of high achievers of several types. The most plausible explanation for this - which fits it with other observations - used to be HJ Eysenck's from his book Genius (1996) - but this was not fully satisfactory to me, and the Endogenous personality is my (recent) modification of Eysenck's insights about the trait Psychoticism. This development is tracked on my other blog - if you word search Psychoticism - http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/

Bruce Charlton said...

@ThD - This is a matter of metaphysics, and I have written about it multiple times over the past two plus years; and I don't think I can be any clearer than I have been.

1. This is a matter of metaphysical assumptions. I am trying to explain the standard Mormon metaphysics (or one of the standard ones) in various ways, using various analogies.

2. All metaphysical systems have areas of relative incoherence, weaknesses, incompletenesses - because all explanations short enough to be comprehensible are incomplete and distorted, and probably because humans don't know the full truth about anything.

But If I can focus on what I think is the core of your criticism - it is vital to recognize the importance of 'relationships' in Mormon thinking. Relationship is the ultimate principle of coherence in reality.

So whereas classical metaphysics explains coherence in terms of sameness - everything coheres because ultimately everything in one, in God; in Mormonism everything is different and coheres because of relationships - most clearly, God and man are different entities of the same 'kind', and the coherence comes from us being His children - the coherence comes from that relationship.

Thus marriages and families are not just 'a nice thing' but are the organizing principle.

Odin's Raven said...

Why do the Orthodox seem to hate the Catholics more than vice versa?

Bruce Charlton said...

@OR - You state this as a fact, but I don't think it is true. Therefore it cannot be explained.

WhyFeartheTruthNow said...

First of all, thank you for the thoroughly interesting blog. Observers like Harry Dent have examined the demographic decline in most western democracies (which appears in concert with the decline you have discussed in "common sense" and basic morals). One can also see a great decline in public finances in these nations. Basic Math reveals that the debts of public institutions from the City of Chicago to the nation of Japan can never be repaid. Interest costs alone will eat up portions of budgets once reserved for national defense or national pension systems.

The question arises, when will confidence stutter, sag and fail? When will the buyer stop coming to the bond auctions? And then, if such events happen a la Greece, will a major collapse ensue? I am amazed at how many people say thngs like, "In 25 years, it will get interesting." Isn't the wolf at the door right now? And also, will it not take a complete collapse to restore values that had been so important to the long advance in western societies?

On a related note, I have attached a URL to a video of the designer of the F-16 speaking of the decline in quality of the new F-35 fighter. I do this because it appears to be another confirmation of the decline in technology you have seen over time and have so fittingly discussed in another blog. https://digg.com/video/the-designer-of-the-f-15-explains-just-how-inanely-stupid-the-f-35-is

Bruce Charlton said...

@WFtTN - "The question arises, when will confidence stutter, sag and fail? "

That I don't know. Of course, since it can't go on - collapse will happen. From what is visible, collapse should always have happened - therefore I infer that there are factors unobserved which are so far holding things together. I don't know what these are.

As far as I know, it could happen today, tomorrow, or any time up to... I don't know. The longer the collapse is delayed the worse we will cope with it because our generic, especially problem-solving, capability is visibly declining and already well below what it used to be.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Sorry, I can't answer those questions. I just don't know.

David said...

@ Bruce - Fair enough. I suppose I couldn't really expect you to know everything. It is just sometimes tempting to think of you as some kind of Oracle on arcane subject matter :-)

Perhaps a clarification then of your previous post (s) in relation to metaphysical assumptions would be appreciated (but only if you have time, I don't want to monopolise your time, sometimes posting here helps me clarify my own thinking). When you write about the 'mouse utopia' thought experiments or about genetic mutations reducing IQ over the last several hundred years you naturally take the biological science stance of assuming 'randomness' as underpinning these processes (At least I assume that you do?!) but when you discuss things such as personal destiny, divine intervention to determine the 'situation' individual souls are incarnated to experience mortal life (specific families, relationships, possible destinies, etc.) and the overarching scope, purpose and destiny of mankind, then the metaphysical assumptions are of an entirely opposite, purposive nature and the metaphysical assumptions appear to be being used in a utilitarian way to suit different argument's: to put it another way; like wearing one hat for biological arguments and another for the theological/spiritual argument's. Again, natural and understandable, but in effect seems to be saying that reality is foundationally random at the genetic level, in terms of entropy and physical processes but also entirely coherent, meaningful and there are no coincidences at another level. Perhaps I'm just not intelligent enough to understand these finer points but there seems a paradox here to me centred around the operation of very different metaphysical assumptions - chaos vs ordering principles (or perhaps 'quantum' vs 'classical' physics thinking). From a theistic perspective I take it then that the inescapable conclusion is that Einstein was wrong and God really does 'play dice'?

More succinctly put, can multiple foundational different metaphysical assumptions operate in a coherent explanation of observed reality without any fundamental contradiction or mutual exclusivity? Or are we not then trying to mix oil and water?

Bruce Charlton said...


Your are correct that one or other explanation - -Christian or biological - is primary; and that is Christianity.

But although biology is necessarily incomplete (it leaves out most of reality in its explanations) we should also recognize that it does have some significant predictive validity. Just that it only explains a narrowish range of things.

I think what you are implicitly asking is how the biological process of mutation accumulation fits into God's plan. There are various possible way - but the simplest is probably that it is a Tower of Babel phenomenon: God is constraining Man's power, because He knows that Man will very probably misuse excessive power.

IF Man had better used the power and capability generated since the industrial revolution, then perhaps things would have worked-out differently in ways we cannot comprehend - through non-biological factors, presumably, However, we have misused our power - we have used power, efficiency, capability, prosperity, the abolition of absolute poverty etc - to deny God and adopt an anti-religion of moral inversion. Clearly Man is now extremely corrupt and would certainly abuse all its power - so Man must be, will be, stripped of power. Mutation accumulation is the mechanism.

I am not saying that the above IS the explanation - but offer it as the kind of explanation which includes both biology and Christianity.

David said...

I woke up yesterday with this question on my mind and felt compared to share it of you are at leisure or inclined to muse upon it:

If you could ask God any three questions what would you ask and why?

Bruce Charlton said...

I don't really have any big questions of general interest. Perhaps some very specific and personal ones...

David said...

An 'uninvited' but hopefully not 'unwelcome' Christmas question:

Christmas is traditionally a time of giving and receiving gifts. A time in which we attempt to humble ourselves and give of ourselves instead of take. In mortal life it seems, heavenly father has gifted us with varied potential talents and abilities that vary enormously between his children. I have found myself pondering recently about natural gifts, talents and abilities in myself and other people. Many of us seem to have talents that remain latent but never fully developed in life (I wonder if by some principle of compensation we are able to develop these gifts beyond the veil if not in life? Or if not, why do we have such unfulfilled longings to develop talents?). Many of us imagine we have talents that we actually do not possess and could spend a lifetime of futile yearning for their absence without ever fulfilling the longing. Still others have very few talents at all, and blissfully aspire to none, and therefore are unmolested by thwarted aspirations towards achievement or development. It seems a blessed contentment may be found particularly with the later case; if not a shallow or underdeveloped one. So perhaps gratitude despite personal limitations is more spiritually edifying than a reach beyond ones grasp?! But yet we are here to grow and develop and so there is a difficulty here somehow. What qualities of development are to be prized and those discarded as folly some?

I find myself wondering why God's children should be so seemingly unequal in capacity and individual circumstance to walk the same mortal stage before eternity; why do some get a *head start* in life and others are born into situations of absolute poverty, profound physical and mental disadvantages and with their *fellowship* scattered and hard to find or identify. In the book the God who Weeps, Fiona and Teryl Givens offer the potential explanation (the best I have ever heard) that we might chose a disadvantaged mortal incarnation because of the greater potential to develop Virtue and character, that a more affluent or 'easy' set of life circumstances would not inculcate so effectively - "So choose wisely!" - we are told. This seems like a reasonable consolation for the heavily *burdened* souls among us in mortal life; if indeed it is alas still just an entirely unknowable hypothesis to explain the difficulties of life. But this explanation does not seem to work for me when I consider the case of those whose ability to learn is impaired itself, such as in cases of profound developmental disorders. (Part 1)

David said...

But of those of us who are gifted with sound minds why are so many of us so fundamentally mediocre? Destined for almost inevitable mediocrity? And what is the proper reaction to this?

To illustrate, the case of Antonio Salieri's experience of mediocrity (and the despair, envy and pride this eventually induces) in contrast to Mozart's genius in the excellent movie Amadeus, seems to aptly illustrate the *potentially* erosive spiritual effect of mediocrity:


Amadeus (1984)

Antonio Salieri: All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing... and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn't want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?


Salieri's question seems like a good one.

So my question is this: Why has God created a world of Salieri's and very few Mozarts? Clearly in the movie it is Salieri's inability to accept his mediocrity that drives him insane and leads to his corruption, and yet the inception of this state of mind appears to be so understandably human and traceable when we watch the movie; his earnest longings for accomplishment are not rewarded and the bawdy, mocking and frivolous Mozart makes Salieri's efforts seem all the more futile and pathetic; compared to his effortless abundance and genius. We all probably know a 'lesser Mozart' in the midsts of our own social networks whom stands in stark contrast to our own short - comings.

So what then is the best hoped for response to this recurring life situation? What does God hope for that the mediocre will learn from this difficult life-long lesson? If there was an alternative ending for the movie in which Salieri had repented and grown spiritually through the experience of being Mozart's obvious inferior, what might the character look like and how would he be spiritually richer for the experience? Might he be allowed his desire for ability in music composition post - repentance for example? The reward finally being obtained when Salieri is worthy? When Salieri is resurrected perhaps? But then Mozart was hardly an exemplar of piety and Christian virtue to begin with so why would God gift him with Genius instead of Salieri?

Sometimes it seems humble pie is the hardest Christmas dish of all for many of us to stomach or make sense of why you should wish to eat it at all.

Merry Xmas,


Bruce Charlton said...


I think the key is Arkle's insight that God wants us each to be indiviuals and different - and people run into problems when they are trying to follow a 'blueprint' derived from others.

If the imagined Salieri really did feel like that, he would be deep in error and mastered by a false self-understanding.

I think if each person was honestly able to earn to set aside their false and automatic selves then he would be clear enough about what he ought to be striving for.

(For some people, perhaps many, their task is to survive in the right way, to cope in the best possible spirit - to die without clinging to life.)

Of course, his striving would be haphazard, trial and error - but such a person would not be expecting perfection from himselfand would also learn from his mistakes.

Earthly life is not a time for sustained perfections but for striving, failing, and glimpses of perfection.