…I’ve been holed up in bed with a cold. On Thursday I got soaked by Kyrill and now I’m suffering the consequences. Colds that keep you in bed give you a chance to reflect. Spinoza has been keeping me busy with determinism, so perhaps it had to be. Many of the phrases people often use in Amsterdam seem to owe their origins to Spinoza. “It’s all one.” “It had to happen.” Well is it and did it? The weather is one of the most complex systems we know. Lorenz was working as a meteorologist when he developed the mathematics of chaos. To the ancient Greeks it meant “the primal emptiness, space”. Chaos is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root “ghn” or “ghen” meaning “gape, be wide open” (compare “chasm”) and my mind leaps staight away to the “God of the gaps” of modern philosophy.
Some Polish friends had braved the storm and arrived in Amsterdam last night and so I’ve just had a delicious lunch of pierogi, homemade of course. Every time we get visitors from Poland they always bring delicious food with them. Just the thing to fill the gap. Chaos theory describes the behavior of nonlinear dynamical systems that under certain conditions exhibit a phenomenon known as chaos. A characteristic of chaotic systems, is sensitivity to initial conditions (sometimes called the butterfly effect). As a result of this sensitivity, the behavior of systems that exhibit chaos appears to be random, even though the system is deterministic in the sense that it is well defined and contains no random parameters. However, in contrast to the human notion of chaos, chaotic systems, with no central control, are able to create “order”, which is the pattern that humans recognize. Biological systems are well-known examples. So this week a self-organising weather system came and created chaos, and people’s lives were lost. This event was no mere abstraction. When the Lisbon earthquake happened in 1755 it destroyed the city and had a profound effect on the history of Portugal. It was widely discussed by European Enlightenment philosophers, and inspired major developments in theodicy and in the philosophy of the sublime. As the first earthquake studied scientifically for its effects over a large area, it signaled the birth of modern seismology. Geologists today estimate the earthquake approached magnitude 9 on the Richter scale. Whether the storm of the past week will have such profound philosophical implications is a moot point.
My own thoughts at the moment are on the nature of mind and while reading Antonia’s blog Flowerville I noticed her habit of referring to herself as “you” and realised I also say “you” to myself when I am thinking. Yet who am I talking to? Chaos? The Goddess? Or myself? So I have at least two selves, the thinker who says you and the whoever it is I’m adressing internally. A case of split or multiple personality? I’ve noticed while observing acute schizophrenics that they are capable of maintaining multiple roles in a dialogue. Perhaps a metaphor for our dialogue with nature.