Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Middle Earth and the Cosmic Palace

It just popped into my head that "middle earth" would be a good name for the imaginal world discussed yesterday.

Again, there is the empirical/material world we encounter via sensation, and the intelligible world we negotiate via math and reason. In between is the imaginal world where vision, gnosis, theophanies, and other *interesting* phenomena take place. Just as the physical world is disclosed by (and clothed in) our senses, the imaginal world comes to us in the form or our religious sensibilities (in image, myth, archetype, etc).

This is really quite similar in structure to how Polanyi envisions science. One of the points of his philosophy is to demonstrate that the ideal of strict objectivity is an unrealizable abstraction, and that we can only know that from which we are not detached.

Rather, the object of knowledge emerges "only through our actual dwelling in its particulars," i.e., its subsidiary clues. There is no mechanical operation that can accomplish this. Rather, it requires a subject in order to dwell in and integrate the clues.

Yesterday I cited a few aphorisms that reflect this same approach, thus making for a surprising Polanyi-Dávila-Ibn Arabi nexus. Indeed, we might even surmise that if we dwell in all three long enough, perhaps a new reality will emerge from their joint integration, a la Polanyi.

Let's first dwell in a few more aphorisms. From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints. Or in other words, it is as if one has "touched" (or been touched by) the noumenal, which is clothed, as it were, in the art form. This is identical to how the imaginal works, in that, just as no one "sees" the realm of art as such, likewise no one sees God face-to-face. Rather, in both cases we have access to the forms which testify to the Formless.

Allusion is the only way to express what is intimate without distorting it. Allusion has a from-to structure, in that dwelling in the from gives access to an implicit and unstated to. This is precisely the structure of poetry, and why poetry reduced to prose generally becomes banal.

Ah, Nothing is more superficial than intelligences that comprehend everything. Such an intelligence consists of explicit knowledge only. It points to nothing and nowhere; it is enclosed within itself, or rather, it is the precipitate or crystallization of a mind that has closed itself to reality. Consequentially it is both dead and endeadening. It is experience reduced to a dogma -- or scientism elevated to religion.

Related: Man believes he is lost among facts, when he is only caught in the web of his own definitions. Has this ever happened to you? It happens to stupid people, but may become aggravated in bright people like yourselves who are more capable of abstraction. They are perhaps capable of building a bigger prison, but it's a prison nonetheless.

There's a gag by Kierkegaard to the effect that the philosopher builds a beautiful palace but is condemned to live in the shack next door. This goes to the essential grandiosity of such factsimians, whose imaginative eyes are always bigger than their existential stomachs. There is a palace, but you can't reside there without God's Moving Company.

Speaking of which, Christianity does not solve "problems"; it merely obliges us to live them at a higher level. Or in a bigger house, as it were.

Nor does Christianity deny the splendor of the world, but rather invites us to search for its origin, to climb towards its pure snow.

That is straight-up Ibn Arabi, for it is "the world to which the ancient Sages alluded when they affirmed that beyond the sensory world there exists another universe with a contour and dimensions and extension in space, although this is not comparable with the shape and spatiality as we perceive them in the world of physical bodies."

It is not that this higher world is "in" the lower, rather, the converse. The ontological direction -- involution you might say -- runs from imaginal, to rational, to empirical.

And that is all we have time for this morning.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Direction of Truth

Meaning "is always lost, sometimes for good, when in order to inspect them [tacit particulars] focally, attempts are made to withdraw ourselves from those feelings and perceptions, those particulars, within which one is dwelling in an act of knowing" (Prosch).

In other words, by rendering what is implicit explicit -- by turning it into the object of perception -- its meaning is lost: we see at instead of through, like a pair of dirty eyeglasses.

An aphorism or two pop into mind: for example, There exists no truth in the humanities that does not need to be rediscovered each week. And When things appear to us to be only what they appear to be, soon they appear to be even less.

Consider the first: it explains why religious truth can never be discovered just once; rather, faith is more like a continuous process of discovery; indeed, you could say that the endless discovery is the discovery, right? You can never really arrive at the (explicit) place toward which the (implicit) clues are pointing, or you would be God. Thinking otherwise is a little like looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Likewise, consider the second: to focus on the appearance instead of the reality toward which it points is to literally reverse the direction of the human vector. It is the quickest and most efficient way to bar or undo meaning. Not to bag on the left, but this is what they do, and why their worldview is so unavoidably nihilistic (because it flees from real meaning).

In fact, it brings to mind another aphorism: The left's theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them. They must not go to where the facts and clues lead, or they would be paralyzed. Thus, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Period.

"B-b-but..." Zip it!

Along those same lyin's, The atheist devotes himself less to proving that God does not exist than to forbidding Him to exist. For one thing, it is strictly impossible to disprove the existence of God, so why waste time trying? This is why atheists construct their false gods which they then go about disproving. But in reality, if God doesn't exist, only He knows it.

While looking for those aphoristic nuggets of joy, I found several others, each looking at the phenomenon from a different angle:

To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which the poet sang. The scientistic/materialistic type must believe that the photograph is more "real" than the poem, but this only testifies to their own inadequacy, or lack of conformity, to the nonlocal object. It's like dogs, who presumably cannot hear melodies, rather, just noise. They cannot perceive, let alone appreciate, what the noise is pointing to.

Here is another malady that afflicts the left: Reducing another's thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it. Misunderstanding is one thing. That is obviously susceptible to correction. Disunderstanding is another thing entirely, and it is what the left specializes in. It is why they do not deal in arguments, only slander.

Here is how it works, courtesy Happy Acres:

Everything is trivial if the universe is not committed to a metaphysical adventure. Again, the adventure takes place in the space between tacit and focal knowledge, or between matter and (ultimately) God, if you like. As it so happens, this is precisely Ibn `Arabî's view, albeit expressed in slightly different terms.

That is, there is the empirical/material world and there is the intelligible/rational world. In between is what Corbin calls the imaginal world, and this is the space were religion "takes place," as it were. Importantly, it is not "imaginary," for which reason Corbin coined the term "imaginal."

We don't have sufficient timelessness to give a full airing of the subject -- that's a coming attraction -- but this space is where spiritual knowledge, visions, and theophanies take place. It is where (k) shades off into (n). And no, you cannot take a photograph of it. However, icons, cathedrals, and sacred music, for example, point to it. As does scripture, of course.

Which is why scripture functions in a manner similar to the Aphorisms: My brief sentences are dots in a pointillist painting. The difference is that no single mind can comprehend -- i.e., wrap its mind around -- scripture, and "see it whole," like a painting. Again, it provokes an adventure of endless discovery in its imaginal space.

Humanizing humanity again will not be an easy task after this long orgy of divinity. Oh my! You could say that when human beings are seen as merely human, they soon become even less. There is a kind of infinite space -- the imaginal space, to be exact -- between merely biological human beings and our innate deformity. But the distance between man and beast is but a single step. Or vote.

To deny God is to divinize man, because again, only a being with divine capacities can know that God doesn't exist. But man without God is no longer man, rather, just a randomly evolved primate. Man "takes place" in the space between biology and O. Which is why anti-religion leads to a toxic and destructive religiosity, every time. It brings about another kind of dystopian imaginal space we call Hell.

Friday, August 26, 2016

What Does Meaning Mean?

"The modern mind must continue to work its own destruction," says Polanyi, "so long as it fails to reach a vision of itself -- and of the universe itself -- within which the unlimited demands of the modern mind can be seen to require their own framework of intrinsic limitation."

This is what I meant by venturing through and beyond postmodernism as opposed to retrenchment to a pre-postmodernism that is never coming back. Traditionalism, for example, is fine on a retail basis, but the culture at large is not going to return to a premodern mentality. Rather, the task before us is to bring the past into the future: neotraditional retrofuturism. Failing that, then we are, as Polanyi warns, on a path toward inevitable destruction.

What are the "unlimited demands" of the modern mind? They reduce to two, "our unbridled demands" for objectivity and for moral perfection. Right away you see the irony, because the left believes in neither intrinsic truth nor objective morality, and yet, who is more blindly dogmatic and shrilly moralistic than the unhinged leftist? Their stance is utterly incoherent -- which is why it requires force to make people comply with it, right down to bathroom usage (because they even presume to control biosocial reality).

It is noteworthy that the science Polanyi knew and revered is not the science of today. Even it has been infected by the left, at least in disciplines outside physics, chemistry, and engineering. I forget the exact figure, but something like 70% of scientific studies cannot be replicated, meaning they are less than worthless, because people may take them for true.

Are all of these the result of the left? I can only speak of my own field, psychology, which is so pervaded by leftist biases masquerading as scientific conclusions, that it is pretty much beyond repair. Certain conclusions are mandatory, while others are not even to be wondered about. Curiosity is forbidden. I would be surprised if a psychologist with politically incorrect opinions about homosexuality, IQ, motherhood, daycare, and feminism could be hired in a liberal university. Or even survive grad school.

Science was once guided by a prescientific morality founded upon a love of truth. Science can no more function in its absence than a democracy can survive with an ignorant and immoral citizenry. Consider, for example, how science functioned in the Soviet Union: the conclusions were already known; only the details needed to be worked out. Scientific Marxism was correct, period. Conclusions consistent with it were welcome, while those running counter to it were a threat to one's health.

What a soul-deadening enterprise! And why? It starts with the denial of the soul and its innate epistemophilic drive, i.e., love of truth. "Such views as these thus set men free to subvert and destroy the old order of things with all the fervor of their subterranean moral passions." The point is, we cannot actually be detached from commitment, from moral passion, from subjectivity.

Much of this centers around Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge has a from-to structure, such that we perceive what it is pointing to without taking cognizance of the pointers, so to speak. Take an obvious example, the human face. We perceive the face holistically, such that it is always more than the sum of its parts. We do not additively see lips, nose, and eyes, and come to the conclusion that this is indeed a face.

And we can "know" or remember a face without being able to describe the parts of which it is composed. There can be no face without the features that constitute it, so we are obviously cognizant of them in some manner, but it is a tacit cognizance. As Polanyi would say, perception is constituted by a non-conscious seeing-from to a conscious seeing-to.

A useful way to think about it is to imagine what it must be like for an autistic individual who may perceive only parts but be unable to recognize the whole. Or, think of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which causes the individual to obsess over the trees to the exclusion of the forest. They literally lose the Big Picture.

More generally, perception is always "a meaningful but non explicit integration of many clues." This goes to why "artificial intelligence" is impossible in principle, because this is something no machine can ever do.

There is always a kind of living dialectic between parts and whole, between proximal and distal perception, between tacit and focal knowledge. Thus, there is always an element of subjectivity, because only a subject can dwell in the particulars in order to achieve an integration. Scientists who are committed to naturalism apparently don't like this idea, but there it is. There is no way around it.

Another key point is that focal perception is the meaning to which the tacit clues point. You might say that we look through and beyond the clues in order to perceive the meaning to which they point. Analogously, "brush strokes are meaningless, except as they enter into the appearance of the painting."

This applies to the distinction between semantics (meaning) and syntax (order) in language. Obviously, as you read this sentence, you are not consciously focussed on the letters or the words; rather, they are only tacitly present as you endeavor to grasp the meaning toward which they are aiming. "Without their bearing upon the distal they would be meaningless" -- literally just words.

Which opens up a whole can of wormholes vis-a-vis religious communication. I will stipulate, for example, that my words make no sense to our current troll, or even a kind of "negative sense," or destruction of meaning. I produce nothing of value except perhaps to weak minds, such that my "net contribution to humanity is deeply negative."

Suffice it to say that he not only doesn't see what we see, but generally sees in my words things I am not saying. In other words, he hallucinates things that aren't present. Meaning is surely present for him, only not the meaning I intend. He is like a dog sniffing my finger instead of looking at that to which I am pointing.

Now, meaning is really "a triadic term in that, in addition to the functionally different proximal and distal factors, there must always be a person, a user, an intender involved." Some people say that life is "meaningless." Is this true? Well, it's certainly true for them, as they do not see that to which all the clues are pointing.

Certainly we can agree that life is either meaningless or meaningful. There can be no middle ground, for if it isn't meaningful as such, than what we call "meaning" is just a trick of perception. If "God is dead," how did that happen? How did we un-meaning existence?

Polanyi says that meaning can be lost when, for example, we withdraw from focal awareness and focus instead on the particulars. Again, "brush strokes lose their meaning when studied focally," as do notes when taken in isolation from the performance -- by looking at instead of dwelling in.

Now, I take the position that God is that to which a multitude of diverse particulars are pointing. Thus, God is the meaning of things. Furthermore, I turn things around, such that because meaning obviously exists, therefore God does. The only alternative is to insist that God and therefore meaning do not exist. But that has no meaning, precisely. The One Cosmos we all see points to the one God we don't.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Blind Looting the Blind

Kevin Williamson touches on many of the points discussed yesterday about top-down control of complex systems. You can't plan for creativity, novelty, and upside surprise. Rather, you can only foster conditions that either permit or strangle them. Guess which conditions liberal politicians prefer? When is the last time you heard of a politician being accused of creativity -- except perhaps creative ways to peddle influence?

"If we were relying on the intelligence, work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurship, scientific prowess, and far-sightedness of the members of Congress to produce treatments for allergic reactions or any other medical problem, we’d still have a million people a year dying from smallpox and preventable infections. We’d also be starving to death."

It's not that Obama or Bernie or Hillary aren't productive and valuable members of society. Not at all. Rather, they are outright parasites:

"You know what Bernie Sanders is? He’s a bum. He was damn near 40 years old before he ever found his way into a full-time job, and that was in elected office; before that, he collected benefits, sold his creepy rape fantasies for left-wing newspapers at $50 a pop, and never lifted a finger toward any genuinely productive enterprise. He’s been suckling greedily at the public teat since way back when he could remember where his car keys are. Funny thing, though: Now he’s a bum with a third home on the waterfront of a Vermont island worth the better part of a million dollars. Every good apparatchik eventually gets his dacha."

If everyone contributed as much to society as Bernie or Barack or Bubba, we would be living in caves. And yet, their personal affluence ranges from the very comfortable to the royally decadent.

Yes, every apparatchik eventually gets his dacha. For it is written (by Don Colacho): The progressive's intelligence is never more than the accomplice of his career. And Revolutions do not solve any problems other than the economic problems of their leaders. Well done, comrades!

Yesterday we spoke of the moral inversion of the left, which essentially comes down to a kind of fevered religious passion in the absence of religion, and involving a combination of childish idealism (to the point of naive credulity) and deep cynicism. You might say they invert Jesus' counsel, in that they are as wise as doves and innocent as serpents.

Two prerequisites are required for genuine liberalism, the second entailed in the first: freedom from authority such that truth is not imposed but discovered; and a tolerance of opinion rooted in the existence of philosophic doubt. Clearly, nothing can be discovered unless there is a space for the existence of doubt, and where scientific and religious faith are free to roam.

Note that leftism eventually redounds to the precise opposite of these, most notoriously on college campi. Which is why it is so noteworthy that one major university is actually pushing back against the liberal fascists. It is a mark of how far we have fallen that in America -- of all countries -- and on university campuses -- of all places -- it has to be announced that

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

A "safe space" is not an intellectual -- and certainly not spiritual -- space, and an eggshell mind in need of trigger warnings is simply not prepared to encounter or cope with the Hammer of Truth.

Leftists seem to think that religionists are the ones with all the answers, but isn't faith just the bright side of doubt? In other words, a functional faith opens the space between man and God, allowing for genuine adventure, discovery, and exchange of energies. Likewise, in order to make any progress, a scientist must doubt the present state of knowledge, while at the same time having faith that a deeper understanding is just over the horizon.

Even -- or especially -- the catechism of the Catholic church is hardly meant to be some kind of intellectual prison, but rather, the road map for a liberating journey.

Now, there are some things that cannot be doubted without the whole edifice of western civilization crashing to the ground. So, never wonder why the left doubts them. For example, it is only traditional ideals such as a commitment to truth that "can uphold a right to freedom of thought."

Note that the commitment to truth is illogical, or at least cannot be established by mere logic. As we know, logic is ultimately tautological, in that something from outside it must furnish the premises it operates upon, and there is no strictly logical operation for selecting them. Only human judgment can do that.

This is a major reason why the Anglo-American world was spared the intellectual and spiritual rot that overtook the European continent (and is also why the left wishes us to reject our own heritage and imitate the latter).

Since Polanyi wrote, the rot has not only spread to America, but is entering its end stages, especially if the left prevails in November. Until now, the spread of the disease "was prevented in the Anglo-American sphere by an alogical reluctance" to reject truth in favor of an absolute relativism. Polanyi correctly surmised that this reluctance was due "to the distinctive religious character of Anglo-American liberalism [i.e., conservatism]."

Furthermore, "the establishment of democratic institutions took place in England and America at a time when religious beliefs were still strong, indeed dominant." This "gave effect to the moral principles that underlie a free society," and grounded our rights and complementary obligations in transcendent reality.

This too is an example of positive closure, in that to doubt it is to damage the foundation of the whole structure. Which again is why the left relentlessly subjects it to its corrosive cynicism: progressives have been attempting to undo and override the constitution for over a century. Achieve that, and our whole beautiful tradition crumbles.

Which is why this election is so cosmically important. America began with the promise of a new birth of freedom, even a relaunch of mankind -- of mankind 2.0 (not coincidentally rooted in a tradition that sees Jesus as 2.0 to Adam's bug-ridden 1.0). In America one would be free to be good, which is the only way to be good. A slave has no choice in the matter.

The healthy restraints that bind us to truth "were absent in the Continent," where the movement "was antireligious from the start." As such, it "imposed no restraint on skeptical speculations," such that unhinged reason prevailed over truth. When this type of moral inversion occurs, the guillotine -- or gulag or concentration camp -- isn't far behind.

Thus "there emerged a liberalism unprotected by either a religious or civic tradition," with no defense "against destruction by a logical extension of the philosophic skepticism to which it owed its origin."

Call our line of thought obscure if you like, but it points directly to why Europe is right on schedule to auto-destruct due to a pathological liberalism that has opened itself to barbarian hordes happy to exploit its rejection of the universal truths upon which a functioning liberalism must be founded.

If you do manage to free your society of the obligation to truth, don't be surprised if you find yourself displaced by people who have no such qualms about their own possession of absolute truth. Note that neither side -- leftists nor Islamists -- has the functional faith described above, only a myopic certainty of uncertainty at one end, and a blind certainty of certainty at the other.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Implacable Warriors for Impossible Dreams

One thing Polanyi found curious was that calls for social control and the diminution of freedom always came from the intellectual class, not the workers who would supposedly benefit from their prescriptions: "Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy."

Nothing has changed in the interim. Is it any wonder that Obama is our most educated indoctrinated president ever? Or that the more Americans attend college, the more strangled we are by political correctness and other obnoxious forms of thought- and social control?

One problem is that Reality is not an exact science. Therefore, the attempt to render it fully rational is the height of irrationality. It reminds me of a friend who is having a little trouble with her teenage daughter. It became clear to me that she is becoming frustrated, hurt, and angry because her rational approach is completely impotent against the vast power of female hormones.

Polanyi saw the irrationality of wishing for a planned economy -- indeed, "planned economy" should be understood as an oxymoron. Because the plan is impossible, it eventually redounds to totalitarianism, since nothing short of this can make the plan work. Since there is only one Plan, it must necessarily override millions of other plans, AKA individual freedom.

Thus, Obamacare, for example, is literally (lower case t) totalitarian, in the sense that it forbids you to make your own plans and decisions regarding your healthcare. If you do that, then it interferes with Obama's Plan to control you: "No individual has any justification to act independently under a State which alone knows the whole plans for the future welfare of the community."

It is not that leftists lack faith; rather, they place all their faith in the Plan: "Such faith is narrowed down to the point of idolatry and intensified to the pitch of fanaticism." And here is a key principle: "It produces a curious type of fanaticism, deriving its strength from the destruction of all ideals; combining fanatic passion -- in an entirely novel way -- with hardheaded, biting cynicism."

Here again, this describes Obama right down to the ground: in him resides the combination of irrational dreamer and hardbitten cynic. Dreams From My Father. Implementation from Saul Alinsky. He combines a cynical absence of empathy with a deep passion to Help Us, thereby assuring that he will give us an abundance of what we don't need, good and hard.

This also characterizes the Social Justice Warrior more generally. As Hayek wrote, the idea of "social justice" isn't even wrong; rather, it's just nonsense. But warriors they are, nevertheless. What do you call someone who is a warrior for an impossibility? Yes, insane and dangerous. No one minds much if they are just yelling in parks or on street corners. But who would be foolish enough to grant them the power to pursue and enforce their war on reality?

Every genocidal movement of the 20th century was characterized by this insane combination of the impossible dream and the implacable warrior. Polanyi noticed that "if you scratched... a purely scientific and objective Marxist, he bled moral passion profusely." On the surface he has complete contempt for the realm of transcendent values, but underneath is seething with a passion that turns him "into a fanatical, dedicated, and self-sacrificing proponent of the changes" he regards as "immanent in the world."

For Obama, the moral arc of the universe bends toward Social Justice. Or else.

"Greater love of tyranny surely has no man than this: that he is prepared to lay down not only his life for it, but his personal integrity as well." Look at all the ritual self-denunciations of people who accidentally say something to offend the left. For example, no Democrat is permitted call Black Lives Matter what it is: a terroristic and racist hate group.

Polanyi refers to this as moral inversion: "the presence of moral passions so strong as to move those who hold them toward an immoralism in the means they adopt to satisfy these passions." They are armed bohemians, or weaponized hippies, or power-mad student body presidents.

But a genuine liberal (not leftist) society "entrusts its fate largely to forces beyond its control." This sort of trust is much closer to faith than it is reason per se; or, it is a higher from of rationality to understand the limits of reason to plan or even understand a complex system.

Leftists have no faith in the free market to solve problems, despite the fact that nothing invented by man has ever come close to its effectiveness in raising living standards for everyone. At the same time workers in England were doubling and tripling their wealth, Marx was coming up with a system that would freeze progress in place.

It is useful to imagine the counterfactual of what would have happened if socialist policies had been implemented at a given point in history. For example, if we had socialized medicine in 1900, today everyone would have access to the best medical knowledge and technology of 1900. Like a public school education, it may be worthless, but at least it's free.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Diagnosis and Treatment of Man

Sorry. This bloated and slow-moving post didn't proceed as far or as fast as I had hoped, and now I have to get ready for work...

What is wrong with man? Other animals may do damage, but it is within limits, whereas man's possibilities for mayhem seem boundless. It must have to do with our being conformed to the Absolute. That being the case, we are unbound at both ends, for both good and evil, intelligence and stupidity, beauty and depravity.

All religions -- and I suppose all philosophies -- begin with a diagnosis, although the worst ones tend to give man a clean bill of health, and instead diagnose the system in which he is embedded.

For example, Black Lives Matter finds nothing whatsoever wrong wrong with black people. To the extent that there is something wrong, it is 100% due to white people. So white people earn the diagnosis of being racist oppressors. And if you deny you are racist, that only makes you more racist -- just as a mentally ill person who doesn't know he's mentally ill is that much more insane.

You will have noticed that this reflects a larger pattern, in that the left never diagnoses man as such, but only a class of men. For Marx, you could say that the proletariat class was free of disease, whereas all classes above were sick and in need of treatment, up to and including literal eradication. For feminists, men are the problem, never women. It is written into Islam that non-Muslims are the problem, not Muslims.

Conversely, conservatives always begin with universal human nature, for both good and ill (the dividing line of which runs through the human heart). The left denies that there is any such thing, but this means there is an absurdity at the very foundation of their worldview, for if there is no such thing as human nature, then there can be no such thing as a deviation from it. The left can call its opponents "greedy," but on what basis can they say that greediness is wrong? So it's really a bait-and-switch operation, such that they deny human nature up front, only to impose their own version of it through the back door.

For example, what the left calls "homophobia" is probably a part of human nature -- and for obvious reasons if you believe in natural selection. This hardly means it must redound to oppression, let alone violence, but it does mean that it's something that cannot be legislated away. Likewise sexual differences. To imagine they can be eliminated is to have utterly misdiagnosed mankind.

This book on Polanyi is divided into four main sections: diagnosis, prescription, treatment, and evaluation. What does Polanyi say is wrong with us? And is there anything we can do about it?

"Many people today suspect that something ails the modern mind." Yes, problems have been amplified over the past century, but this is mainly due to mankind having the means to do what in the past it could only dream of. Would the Romans have nuked Carthage if they had had the means to do so? The effect was the same, only it took a lot more man-hours to to accomplish. Nor did the Romans -- unlike the US -- extend a hand of friendship and help the Carthaginians rebuild a thriving nation. When the Romans nuked you, you stayed nuked.

What if the caliphate had had nukes when they were thrown back at the gates of Vienna in 1529? Same thing. As a matter of fact, Levin highlights a problem we've discussed here, and that is a people possessing a technology that it could have never developed on its own. Which is why we don't worry about Israel possessing nuclear weapons, whereas Islamic nations possessing them is an entirely different matter.

Polanyi points out that "it was intellectuals... who played the largest part in destroying those very things" that make the intellectual life possible. The list of infertile eggheads who spoke well of communism and fascism is a who's who of modern progressivism (AKA liberal fascism), despite the fact that no intellectual life is possible in the absence of freedom.

As early as 1940 Polanyi wrote of the "prevailing progressive obsessions" which "led him to believe that the modern mind was not well." There must have been something in the air, because this is around the same time Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom, and both men ultimately touch on the nature of complex systems that are beyond the reach of intellectual knowledge and control (even though this was prior to the emergence of complexity as a separate scientific discipline).

It turns out that the same intellectual pathogen that resulted in fascism and communism was very much present in the west. Now that I think about it, this pathogen can be traced all the way back and down to Eden, in that it is the presumption of a kind of omniscience that is absolutely barred to man. Any form of socialism is rooted in three delusions about mankind, which come down to the problems of incentive, the problem of knowledge, and the problem of calculation. These three not only make socialism difficult, they make it strictly impossible.

Nevertheless, there was a "concerted movement in England in the 1930s to deprive science of its autonomy and to make it responsible to society and for its welfare." This ends up not liberating science, but constraining it -- very similar to the billions of dollars governments spend on subsidizing the global warming hysteria that inevitably results in greater government power. Can you imagine the state subsidizing research -- or even paying for an education -- that calls for its shrinkage? That's like enlisting cancer to fight tumors.

To be continued...

Monday, August 22, 2016

No Cosmos For Old Men

Might as well continue our review of this Introduction to Polanyi. Like the Tommy Lee Jones character in No Country for Old Men, we "always like to hear about the old-timers. Never miss a chance to do so. You can't help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Can't help but wonder how they'd have operated in these times."

I'll just flip through it and highlight some of my highlights. Here is one that gets right to the heart of the nub of the gist: "Popular thought seemed to imply that only scientific theories were capable of verification (i.e., proof), and that moral or ethical or political or religious ideals and principles were essentially unprovable, mere matters of emotional preference."

Well, not so fast. The existence of both a free science and the free society it depends upon are not themselves scientific principles. Rather, they rest "upon freely held beliefs in ideals and principles that not only could not be proved, but could not even be made wholly explicit." But just because they cannot be proved hardly makes them unworthy of belief.

We'll have more to say on what he means by explicit knowledge as we proceed, but think of it as analogous to one of those magic-eye 3D pictures. The three-dimensional picture is "composed" of the thousands of little two-dimensional dots, but cannot be reduced to them. The dots may be compared to implicit knowledge. Many if not most of our explicit beliefs and convictions are of this nature, such that we cannot specify all of the implicit clues that point to this or that belief.

Come to think if it, this goes to the overall purpose of this blog. We are always trying to understand how the countless clues surrounding us may be reconciled with the whole existentialiada. This is the very meaning of One Cosmos. It is why the book begins with the quote by Richard Weaver, comparing modern man to someone "furiously beating the earth and imagining that the finer he pulverizes it, the nearer he will get to the riddle of existence."

But that direction is not only away from meaning, but renders any logically consistent meaning impossible. Thus, "No synthesizing truths lie in that direction. It is in the opposite direction that the path must be followed..."

How is this latter even possible? Or, more to the point, is the meaning we attain real or only imaginary? This cuts right to the heart of our postmodern dilemma. Postmodernists have no problem per se with meaning. Rather, meaning is anything we want it to be. The text of the constitution means one thing to you, something entirely different to me. So, meaning exists. It's just that it's arbitrary and horizontal, pointing to nothing objective.

One thing Polanyi accomplishes is the reconciliation of our intellectual freedom and objective truth. As such, he is the best cure for postmodernism I've ever discovered. Instead of denying it and fortifying an intellectual position "prior" to it, he blows right through and past it. Truly, he is uniquely post-postmodern.

When I refer to myself as a neotraditional retrofuturist, this is what I'm referring to: I don't want to defend Christianity by denying current sensibilities, but by picking them up and carrying them through to safety. Falling back on mere dogma is fine -- at least it'll keep you out of trouble. But this is explicit knowledge, and it is always pointing to a gnosis that is its fulfillment, AKA (k) --> (n).

Here again, this is the meaning of verticalisthenics and mental gymgnostics. We are not like bodybuilders who only exercise their muscles in order to make them bigger. Rather, we exercise them in order to do something and get somewhere (and be someone). We are spiritual athletes playing a game. The glass bead one, to be exact.

From the first post that pops up:

It reminds me of Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game, which, if I recall correctly (it's probably been 30 years), is about a league of gentlemen slackers who play a sort of game in which the point is to unify diverse strands of knowledge, say, a Bach fugue with the laws of physics.

Here, let me look it up... Yes, here's the description: "Hesse's final novel is set in a 23rd-century utopia in which the intellectual elite have distilled all available knowledge of math, music, science, and art into an elaborately coded game."

Another review says that it is "about humanity's eternal quest for enlightenment and for synthesis of the intellectual and the participatory life. Set in the 23rd century, the novel purports to be a biography of Josef Knecht.... Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy. This he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi," or Master of the Game.

Our quest for truth is motivated by an inbuilt passion for it. Think about this orthoparadox: sober science doesn't really get anywhere unless it is drunk with passion -- specifically, "a passion to attain comprehensive and meaningful wholes..." For Polanyi, organisms are "primordially meaning-seeking centers." The very first iteration of life had the ability to detect "meaning," if only the distinction between self and not-self.

Now, the mind, no different from the heart, lungs, and kidneys, is an organ. But it is different from the latter, in that it is obviously invisible. However, it is no less real, for it is our first hyperspatial organ. It is clearly multidimensional, operating transtemporally from past to future, vertically up and down, and horizontally in and out.

That's a lot of dimensions to juggle, but reductionism simply drops the colored balls by reducing their movement to brain activity. The brain too is an organ, but the material brain can never account for the transcendent abilities of our hyperdimensional minds. Truly, that is to reverse the arrow of meaning -- to deny what it is pointing toward and to aim it backwards. With this soph-defeating approach we deny ourselves the ability to novelgaze around the ocean of being.

This is no better than changing street signs in order to create a new world. This is what the British did in order to confuse the Germans in the case of an invasion. If the Germans landed in England and tried to use their maps, they would be utterly confused. Not only would they be meaningless, they would point in the wrong direction.

Is it any wonder that the postmodern beneficiaries of a liberal education are similarly confused, only in the transcendent realm? With a liberal education one internalizes all sorts of signs which either give bad directions or point nowhere.

In reality, the human being "points" to the God who is its sufficient reason, its meaning, its ground and destiny. Take away that vector and the human being is reduced to an absurdity. Postmodernism tries to come to the rescue by saying man is anything we want him to be (even a her), but that only exchanges absurdity for nihilism (a void which is immediately filled by power).

This is a job for which only a child is qualified, for in the child we so vividly see the mind transitioning from meaning to more comprehensive meaning as its world (both interior and exterior) expands. Reminds us of Heraclitus' old gag that The Aeon is a child at play with colored balls. So, amen for a child's job.