Did Wagner intuit concepts in modern physics?

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Re: Did Wagner intuit concepts in modern physics?

Post by alberich00 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:43 pm

Dear Feuerzauber, Parzival, and all other interested parties:

A little note of interest apropos Wagner's employment of the concept "Wahn" in "Mastersingers." It seems to me that he employs this term in two totally different ways. From the Schopenhauerian standpoint, during Sachs's Wahn Monologue early in Act 3, Sachs obviously describes Wahn in its Schopenhauerian sense as the illusion (veil of Maya) of individuation, which deludes independent egos into striving against each other in the will's internecine strife. But Wahn is employed also in its purely Wagnerian sense as a description of artistic illusion, and Wagner's music-dramas in particular. Wagner notes in a number of places (following Feuerbach) that the distinction between religion and art is that the artist, unlike the religious man, stakes no claim to the truth, but professes his art an illusion, and for both Feuerbach and Wagner, this is art's advantage over religion, because religious claims to truth are destined to be contradicted, whereas, in art, which stakes no claim to the truth, there is no fear of contradiction. This, by the way, is a key reason why Siegfried does not feel fear, but Wotan does. A curious aspect of this argument is that Schopenhauer (if memory serves) describes music (at least authentically inspired music) as a direct transcript of the will, i.e., the thing in itself which stands autonomous from Wahn, yet Sachs describes Walther's inspired art, which is a union of word and music, (Wagner is of course actually speaking here of music-drama) as Wahn.

I've written a book-length account of "Mastersingers" which construes it in extraordinary detail in light of the world-view which I impute to Wagner's "Ring" in wagnerheim.com. However, it needs to be brought up to date to be worthy of publication, and I will need help from those familiar with its score to bring a revised book-length version off. I do intend, however, to include a lengthy chapter on "Mastersingers" in the paperback-worthy, briefer version of "The Wound That Will Never Heal" which I hope to complete by 2013, if I can find the time and the space. My take on "Mastersingers" will surprise everybody who reads it, but it differs in almost all respects from the other studies current. The Feuerbachian/Wagnerian distinction between religion and art is key!

Just one example: Sachs's Act II confession to Eva in his cobbling song (his marking of Beckmesser's love-serenade), in which he draws a parallel between Eva and Adam's Eve in Paradise, the authoress of the "Fall," is modeled on Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde, which in turn is based on, yet deliberately contrasted with, Lohengrin's refusal to make confession to Elsa (who parallels Eve in Paradise in pursuing fateful knowledge).

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul alias Alberich00
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Re: Did Wagner intuit concepts in modern physics?

Post by feuerzauber » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:34 am

Schopenhauer (and Wagner, I believe) articulate that change of cognizant forms is inevitable, but reject the notion of historical "progress," a revolution of human understanding, as a result of that process. In other words, light simply enters through a different window, illuminating the same eternal Ideas from a different aspect.
It was possible in the pre-Darwinian days of Schopenhauer's youth — when the universe was made of Newtonian planets circling stable suns; when nature's processes were reversible; when biological species were fixed: when the earth lacked a geological history; in short, when Nature endlessly repeated itself — to hold the philosophical view you impute to him.

But Schopenhauer's master, Kant, already surmised that the solar system developed by gravitation out of a gas cloud — that nature itself was probably directional and in part irreversible. These are the hallmarks of progress.

Progress — considered in terms of development — is characterised by positive degrees of directionality and irreversibility. As such, it is neither good nor bad, but simply is.

Scientifically cognized "forms" (like the "Universe", "Stars", "Species", "Big Bang", "Plate Techtonics", etc.) are by no means readily grasped. They are not direct products of common-experience, interpreted by common-sense. They are indirect products of very uncommon scientific experience and are interpreted within very uncommon scientific frameworks.

It is not immediately obvious that all our conceptual "forms" are historical constructions, just like our languages, our social institutions, and our scientific frameworks. Otherwise they would be miraculously derived from idealistic (i.e. purely ideological) hypotheses like Plato's "Forms", Kant's a-priorism, Hegel's "Idea".

Thomas Kuhn investigated the genealogy of socially-constructed scientific frameworks. Out of this came his theory of highly-directional highly-irreversible paradigms, in which science develops more by outward spiralling than by eternal orbiting:
  • stasis (normal science under old paradigm)
    crisis (revolutionary science)
    resolution (normal science under new paradigm).
Theorists of evolution by "punctuated equilibrium", Gould and Lewontin, explicitly acknowledged the influence of Kuhn's historically prior idea. Darwin and Wallace explicitly acknowledged the influence of Malthus's historically prior idea. Malthus, being a parson with a non-scientific agenda, plagiarised his historically prior ur-idea and hoped to conceal its real authors. Such are the historical patterns of cross fertilization.

If we consider the genealogies of the various social "formations" of our own species, we also discover positive degrees of direction and irreversibility. Once our neolithic ancestors embarked on a social formation based on farming, it became increasingly improbable for its members to revert to their earlier social formation of hunter-gathering. In part because their social "forms" of cognition prevented them from going back.

Similar patterns characterise the arts.

Didn't Wagner "stand on the shoulders" of Beethoven, Weber, Gluck, and a dozen others (including Bach, for his Meistersinger chorale)? Isn't Wagner's achievement directional (leading to 20th century music) relative to theirs? Isn't music "no longer the same" (= substantial degree of irreversibility) after the Tristan Chord? Such things constitute plain old non-judgmental progress.

Wagner, supreme artist of the modern era starting roughly with Adam Smith and the American Revolution, reflects an extraordinarily remarkable intellectual phenomenon in his works — German classical philosophy. But, we are only compelled to believe in aspects of that philosophy in the theatre, where he subordinates it to his overwhelming art.
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Re: Did Wagner intuit concepts in modern physics?

Post by feuerzauber » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:21 am

Parzival wrote:
[Thomas Kuhn] regards the history of ideas and science as a dialectal historical process of shifting paradigms; there is no metaphysical significance behind this at all.

Thomas Kuhn freely investigated scientific practice, unencumbered by explicit metaphysics.

Kuhn brought out into the open the fact that scientific practice necessarily imprisons our conception of Nature — but not indefinitely. Inevitably, scientific practice yields up experience that confounds contemplation. Eventually such barriers are surmounted by the same mechanism that raises them — contemplation of scientific practice.
  • • The clock ran 1400 years too long for scientific practice to be able to defend Ptolemy's planetary calculations any longer. Resolution required transforming physics relatively, but ditching heavenly-perfection and Earth-centric metaphysics absolutely.
    • The pristine biology of the remote Pacific was sufficiently pure for scientific practice to be able to defend permanent species any longer. Resolution required transforming biology relatively, but ditching Creation metaphysics absolutely.
    • Modern physics contemplates an expanding Universe that was tinier than a grain of sand when time itself was born. This grain has expanded to 40 billion light years (cosmic horizon) in 13 billion years. How could Kant, who knew a Newtonian universe, anticipate a relativistic quantum universe that confers an a-posteriori history upon his metaphysical a-priori space and time?
Kuhn's work reveals that science and metaphysics have almost completely opposite historical destinies. If science is strengthened by crisis, metaphysics is weakened by it.

For this reason, science refuses to submit to metaphysics. If so, by openly rejecting metaphysics, doesn't science fall prey to the worst kind of unstated metaphysics?

The answer is that science only knows what it gets through contemplating the experience of its practice. Its metaphysics arise from that alone. Hence scientific metaphysics (if such there be) differ from domain to domain — dictated by the piece of Nature under investigation. As such, they are just as much a social product as science, and just as subject to revision.

But surely science ultimately relies on some bedrock metaphysics — surely it must stand upon something beyond science?

In response, science circularly applies its own methodology to itself (= scientific recursion). As Luther might have defended it: "It can do no more!". Science is not going to jettison the methodology by which it comprehends, harnesses and partly controls Nature.

The ability to comprehend Nature by contemplating practice — virtually a definition of science — is presumably a survival mechanism evolved over the eons in our eternal struggle with mother Nature. We have finally learnt how to outwit her. She educated us by employing plain old time-and-space-on-its-side natural selection.

Alberich00 sums us up as being a part of Nature that has learnt to know her. Science might add (despite Kant's metaphysics) — to know her intimately, and at bedrock by her own means.

Perhaps Wagner's is the last great art that is able to take deep philosophical metaphysics seriously as being truly life-and-death determining. Wagner seems to have lived and breathed his metaphysics with an earnestness that takes our breathe away — something his works transmute into flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. I take revealing this process and its origin to be among the many fine scientific objectives and services of this wonderful wagnerheim site.
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