Intelligibility, Information, and Beauty
What is information? Information expresses something. It is intentional and so not random, right? A Youtube collaboration between VSauce and Veritasium presents an interesting argument that information is random, or rather, entropy:
But is that right? Information is random? If so, wouldn’t it be unintelligible?
When transmitting information, you can compress all that which is a pattern or predictable. This means that whatever cannot be reduced or compressed is pure information. At the same time, pure information without pattern and order is meaningless. It is just white noise. So it seems that intelligibility is not the same thing as information, at least when it is defined as entropy (as it is in this information theory). Meaning emerges from patterns of information. The random must be ordered and patterned in ways that we can decode and understand. So intelligibility or meaning is the confluence of information and order.
The video makes the neat point that our scientific theories are really just attempts to compress the information we find in nature. It is interesting to note that scientists often prefer theories and equations that are described as “elegant” or “beautiful”. In certain sense, the idea that intelligibility, or meaning, emerges from patterns of random information can help us to understand why we find these compressions beautiful.
In an earlier post, I had defended the beauty of the Trinitarian God over unitarian gods on the grounds that the Trinity has both unity and distinction, i.e. a simple unified divine substance that is three distinct persons. I argued that we can objectively define that which is beautiful as that which is unified, harmonious, and ordered while admitting distinctions.
If information is maxim entropy, it contains an irreducible unity. That unity of information becomes intelligible when it is ordered into patterns and brought into harmony with other bits of information. It becomes meaningful. So whatever is intelligible is inherently beautiful. Thus, there may be something metaphysical underlying the idea that a scientifically true formula or equation is objectively “elegant” or “beautiful”. We find that it is “elegant” or “beautiful” because it is a simple unity, yet it has the power to explain a wide variety of our data by revealing patterns. The more unified and simple an equation is, and the greater amount of distinct phenomena it captures, the more beautiful it is. This also hints at the fundamental unity between objective truth and beauty, which I believe we find in nature as a reflection of what is fundamental to the Godhead.
How is this fundamental to the Godhead? If God is Being itself, or Being must truly, then God must be perfect, simple, and irreducible. Whatever is perfect in Being must be truly Good, and indeed, the Father is Good. Goodness is opposed to ignorance, as ignorance is a source of evil, so if the Father is Good, he must know His own Nature, and so must be thought thinking itself. Since the Divine Substance is absolutely simple, the Father cannot abstract a genus or species to comprehend His Nature propositionally. Instead, He must comprehend or grasp the Divine Nature Itself in a concrete way, or else He grasps nothing. And in doing this, conceives of the Divine Substance distinctly from the One who is conceiving. If God’s knowledge is accurate, he must conceive of the same exact concrete Substance that He is. So his eternal conception of the Divine Substance is the same substance that He is, it is the grasp of the Truth of God’s Goodness. And we call this eternal conception, or this eternally begotten grasp of the Divine Substance, the Son, who is the Truth itself. As the Father knows the Divine Substance, the Divine Substance is essentially intelligible to the Father. There is a distinction between knower and known and a pattern of sameness that makes the Divine Substance knowable to itself. Thus, Beauty is intrinsic to Divine Substance in its self-intelligibility. Since Beauty is that which is desirable in itself, the Will of God is directed towards the Divine Substance. So another relationship exists between God’s Will and the Divine Substance, which is desirable because of the intrinsic beauty of the Divine Substance as a Self-Intelligible unity. So the Divine Substance, which is the object of the Divine Will, proceeds from the Father (as Knower) and the Son (as Known), and must be distinct from these Two. We call the object of the Divine Will, which is God, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is true Beauty. And so there is a Trinity of Persons that is the Godhead.
If the Divine Substance is Being itself, it is also the representative of the transcendentals of Being: Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Interestingly, those three transcendentals are convertible with Being but remain distinct from one another. So we find that the Persons of the Trinity are convertible with God, but are distinct from one another. This is not to say that the Son is not Good or Beautiful, or that the Holy Spirit is not True or Good. Rather, I am saying that the Persons of the Trinity relate to one another in terms of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. But they are far more than these transcendentals. I think it is a helpful way of understanding the relationships among the Persons in the ontological structure of their relationships (unbeggotten, begotten, and proceeding). The relationship among the Persons of the Trinity and the Divine Substance is ultimately mysterious, but an analogy to the trinity of transcendentals is a helpful image to have in mind.
Of course, whenever I reflect on the Trinity, I fear that I might stumble into heresy. Nonetheless, I am drawn to thinking about it, like a moth to the flame. How could I not? There is nothing more mysterious, more beautiful, and more true. So, if my comments are in error, I humbly submit them as a mere reflection that is subject to revision.
Posted on December 14, 2014, in Nature of God and tagged aesthetics, beauty, Elegance, God, Goodness, information, simplicity, transcendentals, Trinity, Truth. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.