Archive for November 2009

Reply to a J.R.R. Tolkien Wave

This is a reply to a J.R.R Tolkein wave

This wave extensive discussed freewill in Tolkien’s universe.


I want to reply at the end but cannot reply there because of problems with this wave. So this message will be out of sequence.
I have been sick and that gave me time to read the later Silmarillion. Last time I was sick about a year ago I read LotR for the first time. I had read the earlier The Silmarillion previously. It kept me engaged while I was suppose to be resting so it was good for me. After reading LotR I then watched the movies again to see how close they were to the Novels in the extended versions. Anyway I have developed a deep interest in Tolkien and started a while back to read the critical literature the best of which in my opinion is that of Verlyn Flieger.
I come at this whole subject from a very different direction than most readers. I have done an indepth study of the Western Tradition under the rubric of Ontomythology which is seen in my electronic book The Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void at In that book I study following Dumzil western mythology from an ontological perspective. My great discovery was that the kinds of Being discovered by Continental Philosophers such as Heidegger, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty was encoded in the in the Indo-European tradition as the differences between the Indo-European Gods from the very beginning of the Western worldview which reflected the class structure of Indo-European society. Thus we can interpret Indo-European myth ontologically. And that interpretation of the differences between the gods coded into myth is pretty much the same for all of the Indo-European societies.
Anyway because of this study I am more aware than most probably of the different Indo-European mythic complexes from different cultures. And I cannot help but read Tolkien in this light. I believe that Tolkien has much more to say about the Indo-European worldview in general than most of his fans and readers suspect. He was utterly immersed in Indo-European mythology in all its forms. And so his stories are not just reworkings of myths from our Indo-European heritage but commentaries on those myths and on the Indo-European worldview in general.
For instance there is in this message chain the thought bolstered by Tolkien himself that his mythology was ultimately Catholic he came to realize, because that was his upbringing. But there is in the reinterpretation of the myths something much deeper that needs to be appreciated. This was about the time that Franz Cumont was piecing together the story of Mithrism in Europe. Tolkien it seems to me is not specifically thinking about Norse mythology as the backdrop for his stories as Zoroastrian mythology. He specifically calls Gandalf Mithrandir. From this we can begin to work out the mapping to Indo-European mythology based on the Vedas and the Zoroastrian traditions and then work forward into the Greek tradition and then eventually see how that relates to the Vedic and Zoroastrian tradition.
In the Vedas Mithra-Varuna are the old gods being replaced by Indra. The vedas are hymns mostly and we do not know the myths of the relations of these gods directly from those hymns of praise. However, a student of Dumazil figured out that the Mahabharata was the myth of the battle of the Gods that was missing that lay behind the Vedas projected on a human plane. Thus the great battle scene in the Mahabharata of a great cosmic battle is the back drop of the ware of the gods (titanomachia) which appear in all the Indo-European tradition. This gets sharpened in Zoroastrianism into the battle of Ahura Mazda and Ahariman the Good and Evil Gods which are at war over the world in each moment. In Zoroastrianism they had a late cult called Zurvanism which said these two brother gods had a common father Zurvan which is associated with Cronos (Saturn). Mithra became the servant of Ahura Mazda who led the fighters of the forces of light against the forces of darkness. Of course, this war was very palpable for Tolkien during the first world war. Later Mithrism became a Greek Mystery religions with Persian symbols and that became the religion of the Roman army from its battles with Mithradies the third over the control of the Mediterranean. Even Later someone called Paul who was Tarsus, the home of Mithrism became the founder of the Christian religion that was about the of a little known Jewish apocalyptic preacher called Jesus of Nazareth. Paul who was himself a Jew wanted to take this message to the Gentiles and thus he set out to combine the what were at that time the only two universalist religions in the Roman empire, Mithrism and Messianic Judaism about the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. Mithrism was about leading the armies of light against the darkness, and Messanic Judaism was about the apocalypse of which Jesus r was the first fruits. In other words both Jesus and Paul thought it would happen very soon, in the lifetimes of their followers.
I believe that Tolkien saw this motif running through the Indo-European worldview of avatarism, the best example of which is Krishna who plays a central role in the Mahabharata as adviser to the Pandavas.. And also the deep myth of resurrection, which we see in Odin sacrificing himself to himself by hanging on a tree for nine days and nights in order to get the secret of the runes. I think that Tolkien saw this deeper motif and that lay behind the specifically Christian version of it and decided that this was the deeper meaning behind Christianity for him that then allowed him to attach his own Christian beliefs to the deeper and wider mythological stream of the Indo- European worldview.
When he talked CS Lewis into being a Christian he said that Christianity was a myth that was true. But this truth for him was a deep truth that is reflected in the full width and breadth of the Indo-European mythological tradition. And so to limit our critique of his ideas to just Christianity is to underestimate him greatly.
And because these structures that are reflected in the myth are still operative in our current worldview, it means that Tolkien is commenting on the deep structures of our present worldview as well which produces catastrophes like the First and Second world wars. Why do we have these great world wars occasionally as traced in the whole history of Middle Earth. It is because it is build into the worldview from the beginning. It is a cosmic war that must be repeated to prefigure the ultimate cosmic war of the Apocalypse.
I do not have a grasp on the complete picture that Tolkien is trying to give us by his reworking of Indo-European myth and thus its reinterpretation of it. But I think I at least have glimpsed the vast canvas upon which his reinterpretation was working. And I will try to share some of those insights with you as time permits. But my main message is that if you are really interested in Tolkien, you need to read a broad spectrum of Indo-European myth and study the work of Dumazil the preeminent scholar of cross cultural comparison of Indo-European myth. I am pretty sure there is not one key to understanding Tolkien, such as the fact that he was Catholic and that he realized he had Catholic themes in his work like the fall of man and elf. But rather his Catholicism pushed back to the dawn of the Indo-European tradition and read it in the myths of that dawn, in the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Iliad and Odyssey, and Greek myths, as well as Norse myths and folktales. I have just read an excellent book on Folktales by Max Luthi and from that we can see that Tolkien specifically transitioned between folktale and Legend elements in his work.
The key thing for me is that having just watched the PBS special on evolution, it is clear that there was a time not long ago when different kinds of humans were living side by side. And Tolkien’s work is an imaginary revisiting of that time when there were Others among which we lived that were very much like us but different species within the Homo line. The fact that they have discovered a species of human recently that was dwarf like Hobbits is an amazing thing which is giving Tolkien a laugh from beyond the grave at the prescience of his imagination. I think his imagination was prescient in other respects too. He is not being given the attention he deserves by literary scholars. But not just them, his fans are not taking up his own passions and studying Indo-European myth in detail and seeing the connections he was making between different mythic strata from different Indo-European cultures. These myths present the structure of our world which e keep repeating. World War One spawned World War two must as surely as Morgoth’s Battle spawned that of his servant Sauron. Tolkien’s history of middle earth is trying to tell us something about the inevitability of that. And I was surprised when I read the later Samillarion that he inserted more about emergence into that those later versions. And so he was aware of the dialectic between nihilism and emergence. But much of what he is saying I think must be understood in relation to what Deleuze says about Repetition and Representation in Difference and Repetition. So I think the readers of Tolkien to really understand him must also read some philosophy as well. Mythology by itself is not enough. And that is why I appeal to what I call Ontotmythology as a framework for understanding what Tolkien was alluding to in his artificial mythology which attempted to get at the proto-Indo-European mythological motifs.



Posted November 28, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Taking a Break from Thinknet Gwave creation

I feel as if my work is done of creating a semblance of the Thinknet project on Google Wave. This is a migration of some of the more popular DialogNet lists to waves. And the creation of some whimsical waves like the place for Analytic and Continental Philosophy approaches to fight it out once and for all. I was very frustrated by the destruction of the DialogNet elists by spam which I could not control and Yahoo did not seem to want to control on their elists. I started to move to Google and then I saw that the problem would probably be about the same there. So I found some Forum Software and set it up but by then everyone was off to blogging and the opportunity for restarting the dialog was past. I saw in Google Wave the opportunity to try the experiment again. It will be interested in now that it built whether anyone comes. Philosophy is such an esoteric subject.  However, when the flood gates open and Google Wave goes mainstream then there will be ready-made containers for discussion should any one care to take advantage of them. I usually searched to make sure that there was not already a wave before creating new ones. But on the other hand I wanted to offer a good representative selection of philosophers and subjects. For instance, there is an early modern wave, and so I skipped all the early modern period. There was a Phenomenology wave so I avoided Husserl, and then the person who had the Phenomenology wave created a Husserl wave.

Besides creating all these esoteric philosophical intersecting and interfering wavelets I have participated in several interesting discussions that were already ongoing. Of course, the kind of posts I make rarely get answered, I suppose they are intimidating in some sense because they are not chat, but normally make a strong point that would require substantive response if one were to respond. However, in doing this I realized that the problem I have had with blogging over the years may have been solved by Google Wave. I just don’t like writing out in thin air to myself  (like I am now). However, in recent blog posts I have reacted to waves and then posted my reaction, along with a link back to the Public wave. I think this might work out very well. I am not sure why I cannot really do the same thing with Blogs. The mechanism is in place to refer to a post and then connect back your reaction to the blog post itself. However the sense of engagement is missing. Also I am interested in the actual behavior of people in their conversations more than any particular thing they might have to say individually. I guess that comes from my sociological bent. At any rate this idea of reacting to waves, and then posting those reactions as blog posts I find entertaining and may try that mode of operation out for a while to see where it leads. I guess it is my rants that lend themselves to that sort of cross posting. It also gives people who are not on Wave yet access to the material.

But it is far from clear what the use of Waves might be. They seem to be better for collaboration and personal exchange. It is a kind of static chat container that can form a link between oneself and someone else. It sort of shows the superficiality of Facebook where you claim to be “friends” but then little actual exchange occurs. Rather waves seem to be containers for ongoing interchange, that stand there independently as an active channel. That channel will then characterize the relationship between the partners in the dialog across that channel. Seems like public waves are merely a diversion from this more basic model, they give us something to do while we wait for everyone to get onto Google Wave. Also, it will be interesting to see how it evolves especially since it is open-source, and others may come up with better implementations and interfaces to waves. Also when Federation gets going that may change the landscape considerably.

Posted November 27, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Response to a Wave on Philosophical Metaphysics

Interesting Questions are raised in a wave on Philosophical Metaphysics. I responded in the following manner.


Seems like the list of subjects above would be the sort of things that Analytical Philosophers would love to talk about. I am trying to start a flame war between Analytical and Continental philosophers, which I count myself as, so I can try to understand the issues that separate the two schools. I started a wave called Analytical Philosophy verses Continental Philosophy but have not gotten any takers yet. Nor have many people shown up yet who are interested in the many Continental Philosophy type waves I have started. So I guess the best thing to do in the meantime is to discuss my views of Philosophical Metaphysics here. Which will probably somewhat controversial because they are non-standard in the extreme.

In point of fact I try to blend Analytical and Continental philosophy in my own work, and have done so from the very beginning. For my first Ph.D. (U. London, LSE 1982) I considered continental philosophy and all the kinds of Being they were finding under every stone to Russell’s theory of Logical Types (cf I. Copi’s summary of the theory of higher logical types) which was taken up by G. Bateson and expressed as a hierarchy of meta-levels of learning. I found that if I considered the various kinds of Being that Continental Philosophers claimed to have found based on this model then I could understand what they were saying.

That scared me at first because it meant that I could no longer consider it non-sense. It is just so pleasurable to consider the thought of others nonsense, that it is hard to give up that superior vantage point on reality and admit that the Other might have something significant to say. Instead I realized that they were merely marching up the meta-levels of the series of types that Russell said must exsit if we are to avoid paradox, they were merely exploring the meta-levels of the greatest paradox of all Being. Of course, they did not know they were doing that. That is the odd thing. They did not recognize that these different types of Being were emergent meta-levels. And of course analytical philosophers assumed that Being had to be unified rather than fragmented, so different types of Being existing was not to be considered. Anyway all Metaphysical problems were merely illusions or defects in thought or language, at least that was the received wisdom of the Analytical Philosophers at the time.

Eventually I read G. Basteson book Mind and Nature. And he explained what had happened to me. He said that he found that if he studied two unrelated subjects at the same time he got better information than if he studied only one subject at a time. From that I learned why it is so crazy that our academic disciplines are so segregated from each other. Anyway since I was studying Continental Philosophy in England which was at that time a virtual haven for Analytical Philosophy since Continential Philosophy was just then starting to get translated and becoming a threat, it was necessary and even essential for me to study both at the same time. And what was strange was that if you did that Continental Philosophy made lots of Sense within the context of Russell’s theory of Types.

But oddly Analytical Philosophy starting with Quine rejected the theory of types as too complicated. And oddly it did not get developed in the Analytical Tradition as far as I could find out. Therefore, Analytical Philosophy abandoned the key theory that would make what Continental Philosophy make sense. What is even stranger is that it also abandoned the later Wittgenstein as to enigmatic, and did not recognize the themes he shared with Heidegger especially seen in his precursor to Philosophcial Investigations which was Philosophical Grammar.

It took me a long time to find a book that actually went to the next stage beyond Russell. That was Logic of Sense by Deleuze.

Since LSE was a hot bed of Philosophy of Science at the time, I decided to apply what I had learned about Metaphysics to that subject. I was studying Emergence based on the work of G.H. Mead called the Philosophy of the Present. I realized that when we recognized that Being was fragmented and had meta-levels of typing that it was a description of the process of coming into being of Genuine Emergence. So that is what I wrote my dissertation about which was called “The Structure of Theoretical Systems in relation to Emergence”. It was about how emergent events occur at all different levels of scope, like fact, theory, paradigm, episteme, ontos, existence, absolutes within the Western Scientific Tradition, but how in each case the emergent event had to exemplify all the meta-levels of Being in order to be genuine, i.e. in order to cancel out the nihilistic background upon which the emergent event appeared.

Anyway that is a short introduction to my approach to Philosophical Metaphysics. You can read more about this very exotic viewpoint on my websites, cf It is a viewpoint that says that the Western Worldiview has structure based on the fagmentaiton of Being into emergent meta-levels with particular emegent characteristics at each level. It is these emergent characteristics that the Phenomenology on the Continent was interested in in the works of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Deleuze, Bataille, Levinas and others.

From this point of view Analytical Philosophy never gets out of Pure Being, what Heidegger calls the Present-at-hand mode of Being, i.e. the first meta-level, and thus they miss most of the depth of the world in their endless arguments over very small points of difference between conceptual angels on the heads of realistic pins.

Because Continential Philosophers and Analytical Philosophers never genuinely talk to each other, they don’t realize that they need each other. Continential Philosophers have discovered the meta-levels of Being an how they structure our worldview and influence our lives via the disruptive emergent events that occur, like the appearance of integrative media like Google Wave. Analytical Philosphers have varous tools that will allow us to understand what Continential Philosophers are talking about but they don’t use these tools in fact when they find a useful tool like type theory they abandon it for other sharper yet more dangerous instruments which are the machines of their wars of endless argument over very small points that do not really help us understand very much about the place of the human within our worlds.

So hopefully this statement is controversial enough to get things going here. What is Philosophical Metaphyscis anyway. Is it just a list of problems and topics that each taken separately tell us almost nothing about the human condition, or is it about the nature of Being and its fragmentation in the face of Existence?

I would like to know the answer to this question.

Kent Palmer

Posted November 26, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

A reaction to an interesting wave

This is a reaction to the wave Google Wave a Thought or a Website? started by Brian Cloward which is a particularly interesting example of what is possible in terms of dialog within the wave environment.

My entry:

I just read most of this wave, which I find interesting. The premise is that Waves are like thoughts and are different from other new media they try to integrate. It is an interesting analogy. Especially for someone like me interested in philosophy, see or search for the thinknet key word in the public waves.

I have been struggling with the chat like nature of Waves. See my blog page on this.

If you look at the Phenomenology or the Husserl waves you will see that I tried to label the content I was adding. I also started to tag the waves I created and added wikipedia links to help people who had no idea what the esoteric subjects were about.

My model is not a thought, but a subject area. You will see that many waves are about random questions or disciplines. My idea as with email lists previosly is to make the waves centered on an author or a recognized subject that people might share in common. Also I have always believed in grouping these together to form a community which I have called here thinknet. So my analogy is what I have done on my email lists from the start, try to create a community of related subjects that can be discussed. Given this analogy I think the thoughts are these frames into which we write. And so the entire wave is a dialog when it is at its best. And this wave is one of the best dialogs I have run into yet.

The real difference with email is that the container stands there and is added to simultaneously by users, rather than being passed back and forth with content replicated. Just like email, one can see what has been said before and has been copied, and insert one’s own comments in the stream. But I think this has much more potential than email because one can insert other new media within the wave, and thus integrate different types of expression together.

But because it is realtime it has a much more chat like style and that means there is much more clutter. So I think that restructuring of waves will be an essential feature in the future.

Let me suggest that thoughts are not in our minds but arise in interaction and dialog. If we think of thought as intersubjective first, and then solitary and solipcistic second, then we can see the wave as an intersubjective thought that is refined through dialog.

On the other hand I suggest you might have a look at Delueze’s What is Philosophy where he describes what a concept is. He says a concept is a structure of sub-concepts that we pass over with infinite speed so they beocme a continuity. Getting from the individual contributions to this wave to its gist is a difficult task. There is a forest and trees type of problem, where we cannot see both at the same time.

But here the wave started with a metaphor that the wave is like a thought. And we are developing that metaphor. I am contributing by pointing out the metaphors that I was trying to work with to grapple with the and meaning of waves, as well as their usefulness.

Perhaps we need multiple metaphors to come to terms with this new integrative media. We are part of an avalanche of new media being created very quickly in succession. But this is the first integrative new media that trys to combine them all. So it is at least a new form of expression that combines all the other forms of expression we have come to enjoy on the web. But whether it is a model for a thought is still a question. For me the question is whether it enhances the possibility of serious and sustained dialog. I think we need that and we need less chatter.

What I like about the posts in this wave is that they are short, unlike mine, but they do not lose the thread of the meaning that is being pursued in this wave.

Thanks for this demonstration of what might be possible in other waves if we learn how to understand the media and ourselves within the environment created by the media.


Posted November 26, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Emergence, Creativity, and Systems Theory Waves

More waves on . . .

  • Human Creativity
  • Emergence
  • Complex Systems Theory
  • Advanced Systems Theory

Posted November 26, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

thinknet community wave created

Created a Thinknet community wave and here is the initial post.


Thinknet Community Wave—


Discussion of the Thinknet of Waves.


These are mostly waves connected to and But there are also other related waves on subjects of particular to the creator of this set of waves.

The concept is to have waves on specific subjects but which form a family so that those interested in different subjects can interact in different forums on different topics but still be part of an overall community. This was tried first early in the development of the web and has evolved over time resulting finally in the lists at But these lists died of spam overload. So now we try again here in order to see what happens in this new inteegrative medium created by Google called Waves.

The concept is to try to sustain serious and ongoing communication about thinkers in our culture, in this case mostly philosophers. To find the Waves in the family of Philosophy waves search for the key word thinknet.

The website associated with the set of waves is at

The blog associated with the set of waves is at

On twitter the name is @thinknet

What we would like to discuss here is the ongoing status of the itself, and changes that might be needed. Also the question is how Google Wave could better be used, or modified to better support serious ongoing dialog.

Also it is suggested that similar efforts be made in other disciplines to provide topical waves centered around authors of importance or broad key subject areas.

At the moment waves are discipline oriented for the most part. Disciplines are too broad to sustain serious .

Are we destined to only have superficial chat as the limits of our discourse?

Kent Palmer


Posted November 26, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, etc on Google Wave

Have you noticed that everyone clusters to their own disciplines immediately. To counter this tendency I have created a Google wave on interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and just talking to someone in another discipline.

Posted November 26, 2009 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized