Monday, October 09, 2006

Full Moon, Part II

The post on the full moon has elicited a number of corroborating responses, some quite fascinating.

In the Catholic Readers Society, we have been slowly making our way through Dante's Divine Comedy. Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to break before we get to Paradise (what should we read into that?). One of the motifs that has always been fascinating to me in the third book of this wonderful poem is Dante's effort to reconcile divine Providence with human free will. He resorts to a kind of astrological explanation: not to divinize the stars, but simply to demonstrate that as physical beings, we are affected by what happens in the natural world. He uses the Ptolemaic system of the universe to suggest that God's grace is naturally diffused throughout the cosmos by the motions of celestial objects (which themselves, in Dante's mind, are moved by angels obedient to God).

One of the faults of science from the age of Galileo and Newton to the modern age of Heisenberg (roughly the 1920's) consisted in scientists forgetting that we humans who observe the physcial universe are also a part of it. Einstein and Heisenberg, with the theories of relativity and the 'Uncertainty Principle', helped remind us that we affect most of the experiments we run, and therefore there is always something subjective about scientific observation (this insight has since been broadened by the likes of Thomas Kuhn to show that what is deemed worthy of experimental proof is culturally determined, so that science is always a human project, not simply a set of 'objective' explanations of the world). So we have come back to the realization that our minds affect the world. Perhaps we are also returning to the realization that the world affects our minds. I suspect that Evagrius and Cassian would be contented with this drift.

No comments:


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page