October 28, 2008

Knowledge and Love

One of the things that Mary Clara and I spoke about over lunch this weekend was the use of mystical systems of various sorts to give structure to a world. The coming of the Scientific Age offered a false promise, or at least a misunderstanding: that if we could only detail our knowledge of how the world works we would then come to know why the world works. But Science can never really tell us the why — and is even limited in the extent to which it can uncover the how.

This is where, in part, the difference between knowledge and wisdom comes in, or, as Roddenberry would have it, Data and Lore. One of the reasons Data was unable to become “human” was the same flaw that undercuts many efforts at AI: there is more to ones life than the abundance of information, and one can have catalogued all of the facts of the world without developing anything resembling a true “self.”

The Scientific Age, and its disciples, have added to our catalogue of facts, but the facts themselves have done little to nourish our souls, which require food that facts alone can not provide. This is not to say that facts do not have their place, and an important place it is. But they will not answer the plaintive question, Why? The atheist may say there is no answer; the agnostic acknowledge an answer may exist, but we do not know it.

I take the Christian answer to be true, as Julian of Norwich put it: “‘Love’ was his answer.” Or as Pascal, a scientist who was also a Christian, said, “L’amour a des raisons que la raison ignore” — Love has reasons of which reason is ignorant. Even a major contributor to the Scientific Age could see that much, I wager.

Tobias Haller BSG


6 comments:

JCF said...

This is where, in part, the difference between knowledge and wisdom comes in, or, as Roddenberry would have it, Data and Lore. One of the reasons Data was unable to become “human” was the same flaw that undercuts many efforts at AI: there is more to ones life than the abundance of information, and one can have catalogued all of the facts of the world without developing anything resembling a true “self.”

Oh my stars: in addition to all your other gifts, Tobias, you're a Trekker, too? Live long and prosper!

[But seriously: one of the formative "texts" for how I understand "human life (in abortion debates, etc, etc, ad nauseum) is the genius ST:TNG ep "The Measure of a Man". When Piccard lists the elements of humanity, w/ Data on trial for his LIFE (term used advisedly---in a way I wouldn't for a blastocyst w/ Homo sapiens DNA)? Chills! :-D]

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

I think the contrast of Data and Lore is more interesting than you let on to here.

Notice that Lore is nearly irredeemably wicked. (And "nearly" only because the viewer always hopes, not because any glimmer of hope was ever left by the writers.)

Data, by contrast, is a person, despite all appearances to the contrary and his own confidence that he is not. Data is hardly the flaw you point out, but the opposite. If Data stands for anything here, he stands for the principle that personhood is something even the person himself may not be aware of, and, even more, that personhood is something emergent out of information + relationship, and not something "extra" which you can add in.

Lore has, after all, whatever that "extra" is supposed to be. But he lacks the capacity for relationship--and as a result, if either of the two fails to be a person, it is Lore. (Though, in point of fact, he is a lost person, not a non-person, because he does have a semblance of relationships, and he does long for the connections he cannot have.)

And heck, that fits your conclusion too. Love is, after all, not an emotion! Lore, perhaps was capable of the emotion we call love, and Data, supposedly, not. But the spiritual reality of love goes the other way: Data has it, in abundance, demonstrated over and over again, while Lore simply lacks it--and apparently, lacks it completely and entirely.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

oh, and the irony is that we can just decide that answers to "why" questions are facts too. that's how i see it. the point is that science can only get at a certain subset of the facts.

when you realize that "why" questions, including those that involve intentionality, are important, you can find the errors in Wittgenstein's work--where he starts with, famously, "the world is all that is the case; the world is the totality of facts, not of things." W. is right--but misses the need to account for *all* that is the case, and focuses only on a subset.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, JCF and Thomas, for the further thoughts. I detect a tad of a "cheat" in Roddenberry's eventual and complete "humanification" of Data -- in fact, in his final act to the ultimate degree of laying down his "life" (which by then can go without the scare-quotes) for the sake of his friends! Profound stuff, there.

And I agree that Lore is a wounded and broken person -- but remember, he too is an android, not an andros, even if he seems more of an anthropos. He has "emotion" but there is more to it than that, to be fully human. In their own ways, Data and Lore are both failed experiments of Dr Soong, who attempted to make life in his own image. Data eventually comes to that (again perhaps by a cheat, but hey, this is fiction after all!) but it is an important part of the Roddenberry Mythos.

For the driving image that dominates all of Roddenberry's work is Pinocchio: the wonder of that which is not human but wants to be human coming at last to be human. The earliest form of this is Spock, the "phobe" who hates his incipient humanity; then we have the whole "Q" subtheme of TNG -- as even the crew themselves are on trial to see just how human they are. Then there's the Doctor, and 7 of 9 (who I always called, Six of One), the teenage Borg, and the Borg themselves, in a way -- quite an image of the folly of accumulating "facts" while losing "selfhood", no? And of course the shape-shifter in search of his identity on Deep Space Nine, able to be whatever he wants except what he wants most... Well, I could go on; but clearly the Star Trek Universe offers, in itself a typology as rich as the I Ching or the Ephemeris for an understanding of what it means to be a human being.

Anonymous said...

I think the quote is "Le coeur a des raisons que la raison ne connaît pas," but maybe you have another source?
Patrick

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Patrick. I've seen that version as well, with "coeur" and "connait pas" -- and as I lack a copy of Penseés I'm not sure which is authentic. It may be that both are Pascalian but from different sources.