Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Case of the Missing Cosmos

Whole and part: one cannot refer (explicitly) to any object within the cosmos without alluding (implicitly) to the cosmos without it. Things don't only go on within you and without you; but any thing is necessarily within and without (or beyond) itself.

In short, parts are never independent atoms radically separate from the whole, but involved in a network of internal and external relations. And although these objects may not be biologically alive, please understand that this implicit organicism is the necessary condition for the very possibility of biological life. In other words, if the cosmos were not (as it were) a big organism, then the little ones would be strictly impossible. "Darwinism" could never get of the ground, because there would be nothing above the ground.

So, whole and part are always complementary. Another related complementarity is container/contained. Everything partakes of this relation, whether we recognize it or not. And importantly, it applies both in the objective and subjective worlds. For example, every thought in your head is contained and conditioned by a container. In fact, one might say there are levels of containment: as thoughts are contained by the soul, the soul is contained by God, the Absolute Subject.

Can we even imagine something without a container? No. Imagine, for example, a painting with no frame. Rather, it just goes on "forever." If that were the case, then there would be nothing to see, nothing to set it apart from its surroundings.

Interestingly, this also applies to time. Analogously, what if human beings had no spatial boundaries -- no containment -- but again went on forever. Then we couldn't see each other! Likewise if we lived forever: the price of being something is containment in time and space.

I can hear you now: can I buy some pot from you?

All of the above is also related to the complementarity of immanence <--> transcendence. Everything partakes of both, except that in the case of human beings we are consciously aware of having a foot in each camp. Every bad philosophy tries to eliminate one or the other, which is how we can know ahead of time that any form of idealism or materialism is wrong. It is also what makes the Incarnation possible, and is indeed its Whole Point: that it has pleased the Absolute, the MetaCosmic Person, to dwell in history and mingle among its relativities.

So, I am not at all surprised to read the following in No God, No Science:

Every conception of scientific knowledge harbors within itself a metaphysics and a [natural theology] that shape in turn both how the objects of knowledge are conceived and what knowledge of the universe itself -- truth -- is taken to consist in.

Thus, "the very idea of a universe remains irreducibly metaphysical and theological." Not to belabor the point, but no one has ever seen the cosmos, and no one ever will. No man can contain that which contains him.

To take an obvious point, even if physicists were to arrive at a Theory of Everything, in which the laws of cosmology are reduced to a single equation, one must nevertheless posit something like a divine mind in which the equation is contained. Otherwise it is like writing on an imaginary blackboard with invisible ink.

Interestingly, Genesis approaches this question in a unique -- and correct -- way. Other cosmologies posit a primordial substance with which God works, but this then reduces to the absurdity of two absolutes: God and the substance. But the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo teaches that the Creator at once creates both the blackboard and the equations written on it.

And this doctrine points back -- or up -- to the Trinity, such that creation down here is very much in the image of the primordial creativity that goes on upin there. As I have put it before, we live in an intersubjective cosmos because it is grounded in an intersubjective Godhead. Only because of this are truth, love, beauty, and other transcendentals available to us. If they're not available, then we're not even human. But we are definitely human, even if certain widespread philosophies deny the fact. Which is why secular humanism is an egregious form of un- and anti-humanism.

Exactly: "the ontology of scientific materialism, with its exclusion of intrinsic meaning, is tantamount to 'cognitive suicide' and makes ordinary experience miraculous beyond explanation." The good news: miracles are real! The bad news: they're absolutely meaningless if not frankly perverse, such that the only meaning of which we can be sure is the meaninglessness of it all. You can kill the cosmos, but human persons will be among the collateral damage.

Ultimately, the cosmos within is proportioned to the cosmos without. Which is how and why science is even possible. Every scientific discovery proves the point -- that our minds are in deep conformity with the nature of things, that "there is a single order of reality comprehensive of its own intelligibility, an order large enough to include us..."

But you will have noticed that scientism posits a universe that is not large enough -- or better, deep enough -- to contain its most vital and interesting content, AKA human persons. In short, it tosses out the vertical, such that there is no longer any space for humans to inhabit, or even any container for truth. How can scientistic minds posit scientism when the positer no longer exists? They never say.

Do you know why universities are the way they are -- which is to say factories of indoctrination into fragmentary shards of a once unified knowledge of being? Because

The universe as a comprehensive order of reality was the presupposition and impetus behind the original universities and their ideal of an order of knowledge that was comprehensive and nonreductive, unified without being uniform.

Instead, we see

The degeneration of the university into a 'multiversity' of disintegrated disciplines suppressing their own metaphysical character, refusing integration into a comprehensive view equal to the truth of human life and experience, and vying with one another to become a 'theory of everything'...

Parts pretending to wholeness, contained presuming its own containment, horizontal swallowing vertical, and ultimately man become God, AKA Genesis 3 All Over Again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Your Trial, Your Ego's Funeral

Continuing with yesterday's theme, it is simply The Case that no philosophy can determine the mind's limits without implicitly surpassing those limits. At the the very least, there always has to be an exception to your arbitrary rule.

For example, all thought is determined by unconscious motives except for Freud's; or minds are solely the result of selfish genes except for the theory of selfish genes; or our ideologies are a consequence of class interest except for Marx's. Which brings to mind a timeless Aphorism:

The left's theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them.

I have trained my son to recognize that all bad or inadequate philosophies do this -- that they always contain the self-refuting seeds of their own destruction. One can either proceed downward into an infinite regress, or upward in a progression toward infinitude. The word metanoia refers to the latter, i.e., to turning away from the shadows and looking out the cave door.

Here is a riddle: "What makes truth compelling? What is the force of reason?" (Hanby). The answer is that man is designed to know and love truth. That being the case, the pursuit takes care of itself. Except when it doesn't, for people are passionate in defense of the truth irrespective of whether it happens to be true or false. You could even say that this is man's most fundamental and persistent problem, the most obvious residue of the fall: passionate defense of the Lie.

We've said before that if Satan can get an otherwise good person to believe the Lie, then his work is done. The person will do all of his heavy lifting. For it is written: The devil can achieve nothing great without the careless collaboration of the virtues (Dávila). Which is precisely why prudence is the highest virtue: thanks to the left, every day is a lesson in how justice minus prudence = tyranny. Likewise, courage minus prudence = oppression, or terror, or bullying.

Some things are true simply by virtue of their existence. They cannot not be, nor can we not believe them, at least implicitly. Of course, being that we are free, we are free to deny these truths, but only on pain of a primordial contradiction, as alluded to above. The contradiction is simply the price one pays for denying integral reality. This is all spelled out in Genesis 3.

In reality, "Philosophy in its aspiration to ultimacy is inherently open to theology" (ibid.). In other words, philosophy, in its pursuit of the ultimate principle, necessarily shades off into what surpasses philosophy. Here again, you may or may not see this, but it is you who are on trial, not the principle. The principle judges you, not vice versa. You might say that its ways are not your ways.

Any formal structure of philosophy "cannot be explicated without at least implicit reference to the absolute." Yes. I just said that. More to the point -- and this is the whole premise of One Cosmos, so pay attention --

Theology resides in the heart of philosophy because an intuition of the whole inheres in the apprehension of a part, because it harbors a legitimate aspiration to ultimacy, and because some form of the God-world relation is inherent in however it understands the subject.

You might say that theology/philosophy is an irreducible complementarity: engage in one and you are engaging in the other, so you might as well be explicit about it. Do you see this? If not, you are on trial.

Philosophy can never exhaust, much less contain, Being. You are again free to imagine otherwise, but a crack by Jesus comes to mind: he who loses his life shall find it, and vice versa. It is your self (or soul) vs. your ego, and only one can prevail. And to assimilate a truth is to die a little. In a good way.

"In the dynamic interplay between essence and existence, there is a certain bottomless depth, a certain infinity within the being of the creature itself..." (Hanby). This immanent infinitude answers, so to speak, the transcendent infinitude of God. We are an image, albeit an inverse one. In any event, you could symbolize this ultimate dialectic as O <--> ʘ; ʘ is not O, but nor is it not not O.

It's like the old Vedantic formulation: Atman and Brahman are not so much one as not-two. In our terms, the Son is not the Father, and yet they are one-in-love.

Left and right cerebral hemispheres. In a certain sense, you could say that profane philosophy is in the left, mystical theology in the right. But here again, our brains are one. We must always see the world stereoscopically, such that its infinite depth jumps out at us. Boo! We could no more demystify the world than we could remove the wetness from water.

The title of today's post was inspired by the immortal Sonny Boy Williamson:

Monday, January 15, 2018

True Ape and False God

The following will be a free-associational post on No God, No Science. Perhaps an order will emerge from my spontaneous bobbling. But there is nothing wrong with deferred meaning, in that we want to avoid the cognitive sin of eagerly grasping at a superficial answer in order to make the question go away.

Hanby say something in passing that is for us a Bottom Line Take, or Irreducible Cosmic Principle, that "because I always already belong to the world -- because the world and I are distinct poles of a single actuality -- there is no 'subjective experience' of myself that does not already include the prior objective order of the world..."

In other words, intelligence and intelligibility are not two unrelated things, but rather, spring from a single nonlocal source.

Note that I ended that quote with an ellipsis. This is because Hanby adds something -- a therefore -- with which we do not agree, that "there is thus no real possibility of separating subjectivity from this order." That very much depends upon where one is situated vertically.

Whereas scientific knowledge is always conditioned by the subject/object complementarity, there are metaphysical truths that are wholly objective, and which transcend science. These truths are of course known by the subject, but this higher subject -- the intellect -- is capable of objectivity, disinterest, and dispassion.

The other day we spoke of how modern man has a tendency to deny certain primordial complementarities, such that the denied partner always returns in some hidden form.

Thus, for example, scientism purloins the objectivity of the divine subject, as if science can account for its own possibility. But as Schuon says, "The rational faculty detached from its supernatural context" necessarily gives rise "to a way of thought and a form of life both of which are opposed to man." Or just say Prometheus. Or Icarus. Or Genesis 3. Or Earwicker.

If you need it spelled out, "Intelligence separated from its supra-individual source is accompanied ipso facto by that lack of sense of proportions which one calls pride; conversely, pride prevents intelligence, when it has become rationalism, from rising to its source; it can only deny Spirit and replace it with matter..." (ibid.).

Note that pride covertly contaminates objectivity with a passionate subjectivity. It reminds me of the absolute hysteria in the media over the weekend. A big reason why people despise the media is that it pretends to a detached objectivity while being the most histrionically partisan gaggle of teenage girls one could imagine. And the lack of self-awareness only aggravates the pride behind it all. Is there anyone more pompous or self-important than a News Anchor?

At any rate, as it pertains to scientism, "Rather than bow to the evidence of the Spirit, proud reason will deny its own nature which nonetheless enables it to think" (ibid.). And you know what that is? It's cutting off your nous to support your farce: "[T]orrents of intelligence are wasted for the sake of conjuring away the essential and brilliantly proving the absurd..." (ibid.). Nothing can be that shallow and stupid, let alone everything.

Back to NoGodNoScience: "the world must be so constituted in the first place that the soul and its activities of life are genuine possibilities within it" (Sachs, in Hanby).

Or in other words -- for those of you living in Rio Linda -- if something exists, that's a big hint that it is possible for this thing to exist. A cosmos is not just "what it is," but what it is possible for it to be; in other words, actuality does not exhaust being. Rather, there is also potentiality (or potency).

To take an obvious example, the cosmos appeared to be a lifeless blandscape for what, 10 billion years? Wrong. Then it seemed to be devoid of persons for another 4 billion. Wrong again. What other potentialities are tucked away and awaiting actualization? Only a rash man would claim that the novelty is over. More to the point, human creativity participates in the Divine Novelty, and that will never end, although Marxists tried their best.

Note that they too pretended to an absurd promethean objectivity. Suffice it to say that it simultaneously killed God while divinizing man. And of all the false gods, man is the most destructive by far.

It all comes down to "a proper understanding of creation understood (in its passive sense) precisely as a relation" (Hanby), an idea we will explicate as we go along. But relation is indeed a, if not the, key to the whole existentialada. For example, to say creature is to say Creator; to say man is to say God. If there is no God, then man is indeed just a prolongation of apehood, so there is no reason why we should respect him or his opinions.

Hanby mentions another one of our Bottom Line Takes, that "all cognitive beings also know God implicitly in any act of knowledge" (Aquinas, in Hanby). Thomas is correct. Maybe you don't see it. But bear in mind that Thomas is not on trial. You are.

Here is another point: "the theological standpoint revealed in Christianity purifies and deepens philosophy and does not negate it..." It most definitely negates certain philosophies, but we can negate most of these with pure metaphysics -- for example, the postmodern claim to absolute relativism.

It reminds me of what Slattery says about St. Augustine, who internalized "the wisdom that calls on man to travel to the utter frontiers of reason in the quest for life's ultimate meaning."

There is no intrinsic limit to what the mind can know; or, any limit we put there is manmade, itself a product of the mind. Put conversely, the mind transcends any limit it tries to place on itself, and it is in this transcendent space that we meet our creator.

Which is another reason why "the notion of a 'pure' science free from metaphysical and theological contamination is a fiction and therefore already the expression of a theology" (Hanby). Just a bad theology, or a theology unworthy of both man and God.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Truth to Power, Resistance to Shitheels

I read something in the biography of John Paul that reminds me of our current cultural crisis, and which indeed must be universal. However, there are degrees.

I'm referring to what Vaclav Havel called the communist "culture of the lie." It is like any other lie, only collective, systematic, and institutionalized. There are cultures that are a "total lie" (or Lie, in caps) -- for example, Nazi Germany and the USSR -- but the phenomenon exists along a continuum of spiritual lethality.

What makes the Lie total, and why does it exist to begin with? First and foremost, the Lie is a total repudiation of human nature, and more generally of "the nature of things." Every culture is more or less in conformity with the nature of things (or perhaps less and lesser).

Which is precisely why people from shithole countries want to come to ours. We could easily draw a shithole/in-conformity-with-human-nature matrix, and situate each country somewhere within it.

For example, during the Cold War, East and West Germany were situated in very different places in the matrix. If not for the Berlin Wall, most everyone would have fled the former from the latter. Why? Because East Germany was a shithole country.

The same thing would happen if we stopped enforcing our southern border. Obviously, Mexico is a shithole country. But the direction of the flight tells us something about human nature, as people spontaneously seek out places more in conformity with the nature of things, so long as they are free to do so.

For example, before he was pope, Wojtyla insisted that human beings have "a natural instinct for the truth of things, a built-in inclination to the true, the good, and the beautiful." Therefore, "To reduce those choices, as communism did, to expressions of class interest or other economic forces was to dehumanize the human person."

Simple as. But again, there are degrees, for this is precisely what goes on today in academia: the whole regime of identity studies is an institutionalized and systematic method of dehumanization. And they're clever about it, because they call it "progress" and "liberation." It is indeed the latter -- i.e., liberation from the constraints of human nature.

How does one fight back against the Lie? You will note that in the culture of the Lie, nothing is more forbidden than truth-telling. As someone said, political correctness is a "war on noticing." For example, we are not permitted to notice that the UN might more accurately be called the United Shitholes:

(HT Ace of Spades)

Weigel cites an old Polish joke, in which the party boss asks the worker how much is 2 + 2: "How much would you like it to be?" That is no joke. For example, Scholars claim that statistics 'serve white racial interests'. So, what percentage of violent crime is committed by blacks? What percentage of homosexuals suffer an early death due to their lifestyle? Er, what percentage would you like it to be?

In far left California I am immersed in the Lie. I well remember a psychological evaluation I conducted a couple of decades ago, in which the whole case hinged upon the fact that this patient had AIDS. However, the word was blacked out throughout the extensive medical file, nor was I permitted to utter it in my report! It was the key to the whole case, and yet, because of California law, I was prohibited from saying it. Writing the report was like an absurd Monty Python skit or Seinfeld episode in which everyone must linguistically dance around and deny the obvious.

If you must think twice before expressing an opinion about the obvious, then you are living in a culture of the lie, if not Lie. In most any social setting, I am constantly aware of just how far I can go. It's probably a big reason why I blog, because it is so freeing. But I wouldn't want my neighbors to know about the blog, any more than I would put a Trump sign on my house or car.

I guess that makes me a coward. How did Wojtyla deal with far worse circumstances? How did he help Poland escape from being a you-know-what country?

Communism was not just wrong; it was unnatural. It taught a false humanism, for men and women could only be free when they lived the truth about themselves, their communities, and their destiny. The truth about the human person was thus the most powerful weapon of resistance that could be deployed -- particularly in a situation in which proponents of the lie had a monopoly on other forms of power.

Even if we cannot publicly utter the truth, we need to preserve it and pass it along to future generations. This is one of the lessons of Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Helped Build -- and Can Help Rebuild -- Western Civilization

It is always the Middle Ages, and indeed, a Dark Age between oppression and liberation, darkness and light, the lie and truth. That is what History is and will always be.

I had intended to tie this all in with No God, No Science, but I'm pressed for time this morning. The wife is visiting the mother-in-law, so it's all on me, including a very active Great Dane puppy.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

No God, No Science

No God, No Science: Theology, Cosmology, Biology. Used to be that some things were just so obvious that it required a Ph.D. to not see them. But just as technology trickles down to the masses, so too does metaphysics, such that most any idiot can learn how to not see God -- or at least not understand the metaphysical necessity of God.

It reminds me of what has happened to the humanities, which is to say, the Victim's Revolution. It's not really a revolution, rather, a counter-revolution against ordered freedom and spiritual individualism, even against reality itself. As Bawer writes, because of the great affluence resulting from these two (freedom + individualism),

by the late twentieth century virtually every young person in America had the opportunity to acquire a real higher education -- to devote precious time not only to training in some practical science or skill, but also to the contemplation of things like painting and poetry, music and literature.

Hmm. How's that working out? The fact is, in order to make higher education accessible to "virtually every person," we've had to dumb it down to the point of miseducation. And because of the inexorable law of supply and demand, there is a tremendous demand for idiot professors to indoctrinate an uneducable horde that has no interest in, or capacity for, higher education.

"This ignorance is not their fault. The simple fact is that they live in an almost historyless society in which nobody" -- least of all the educational establishment -- "has ever explained to them just how fortunate they are to live in the time and place that they do." Indeed, they are taught precisely the opposite, that they are -- of all things -- victims! Attending college in order to be indoctrinated into victimhood is truly like going to the hospital in order to get sick.

Nobody has ever helped them to understand just how different their lives are from those of their great-great-grandparents, and why. Nobody has ever told them that only a few generations ago, the lives of most human beings in even the richest countries in the world were poor, nasty, brutish, and short; that most people were illiterate; that there were far more teenagers working themselves to exhaustion in factories or on farms than sitting in classrooms reading Shakespeare.


Education is the very essence of slack, and yet, so few people realize it:

Indeed, from the beginning of recorded history until a time that is still within living memory, only relatively few people anywhere in the world had the time and the means to sit for hours at a spell.... Only a few had the privilege of being able to read great books, experience great art and music, and discuss these things seriously with others.

It reminds me of how police go to where the evil is, whereas satan goes to where the good is. Is it any wonder that he is most easily encountered in the blighted world of higher education? That's not ironic. It's inevitable. It is why academia is the leading edge of the Culture of the Lie: "the replacement of a true education in the humanities by identity studies is a betrayal, in the profoundest sense, of the promise of America."

Indeed, the purpose of the liberal arts is to liberate the soul; it is to equip the person "to make the fullest and freest use of one's mind." Instead, students are seduced into a spiritual servility through which they transform existential constraints into political categories, and project their self-imposed chains onto their imaginary oppressors. The snowflake movement is just the inevitable end result of this demonic trend.

How does it all start? It has to be with the elimination of God -- or, let us say the vertical -- which results in the flattening of the cosmos. Then, a being designed for transcendence is confined to immanence. No wonder they feel oppressed! Who wouldn't be?

It just so happens that I'm reading part 2 of the biography of our recent Pope Saint whose early life revolved around finding ways to nurture transcendence within two truly oppressive regimes that did everything possible to enclose man in immanence.

In this context, spiritual liberty -- verticality -- is both impossible and a crime. This is just the other side of a Marxist paradise that is both inevitable and must be forced upon us. For communists, "ideas were ephemera, the exhaust fumes of economic processes, and intellectuals were by definition incapable of coping with the 'real world'" (Weigel). Good thing we defeated those malevolent fools.

D'oh! American higher education is dominated by an identity politics that likewise reduces thought to race, class, and gender. So it's the same old prison, the same war on freedom and truth. Something tells me that this war will not only always be with us, but that our lives take place at its front.

So: no God, no science. How so?

First, not only does science always already presuppose a theology which is tacitly operative in its conception of its objects, but also it requires a true theology to be adequate to its own nature and to the world.

For, what does science presuppose in order to get off the ground? Well, for starters, that science is possible. And how is it possible? We'll get to that as we proceed.

Second, the content of this true theology is already operative to some extent within scientific reason despite its best efforts to deny it, because science and its objects are creatures.

A lot of this comes down to what Freud called (in a completely different context) the return of the repressed. In this case, it is the return and revenge of the missing complement, for example, Creator <-> Creature. Other irreducible complementarities include Subject <-> Object, Intelligence <-> Intelligible, Individual <-> Group, Time <-> Eternity, Absolute <-> Relative, God <-> Man, and Freedom <-> Order. In each case, people tend to default to one side of the complementarity and then deny the other. But it always returns.

I'm not sure what could be more absurd than the use of intelligence to deny intelligence, or of spirit to deny spirit. It's like birds using flight to deny wings, or a fish that swims in order to prove water doesn't exist.

You will note that in the case of each primordial complementarity, one side is ontologically prior, even if they are never (from our side) seen apart; thus, Subject, Intelligence, Individual (or better, person), Eternity, Freedom, and Absolute all give rise to their partners, for the converse could never be true: no amount of time, for example, adds up to eternity, just as no amount of matter adds up to the subjective experience of matter.

And no creature adds up to his own creator, even all the selfish genes in the world -- as if there are no prior conditions necessary for genes to even exist.

Bottom line for today: "because the world and I are distinct poles of a single actuality," there is "no real possibility of separating my subjectivity from this order." Indeed, "the world must be so constituted in the first place that the soul and its activities of life are genuine possibilities within it."

In short, it makes no sense to deploy a tacit scientistic metaphysic that renders both science and scientist impossible. To paraphrase Alan Watts, that's like jumping into a hole and pulling the hole in after you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pre- and Postmodern Extremists Meet

This is the last post on Inventing the Individual. I don't normally recommend myself, but I think it's pretty interesting, and worth a read:

The Great Disentangling

One theme that emerges from the book is that while it took centuries for the individual to be disentangled from the group, it has been the work of less than a century for the left to re-entangle us.

For both Siedentop and Berman, 1075 is a truly revolutionary, world-historical turning point, for that is when Pope Gregory insists on the independence of the church from secular authorities. As a consequence, the king, at least in theory, is demoted to a mere layperson instead of combining spiritual and temporal power in his person. Indeed, he can't do that, because only Jesus does. And Oprah.

As always, timelessness takes time: it was the work of centuries to incarnate "Gregory's vision of a social order founded on individual morality" instead of "brute force and mere deference" (Siedentop).

In this new humanistic vision, "relations of equality and reciprocity are now understood as antecedent to both positive and customary law." Thus, law is disentangled from custom, and seen more abstractly as a universal category. This constitutes a "reversal of assumptions," such that "instead of traditional social inequalities being deemed natural... an underlying moral equality was now deemed natural."

Moreover, this Great Disentangling "freed the human mind, giving a far wider scope and a more critical edge to the role of analysis. It made possible what might be called the 'take off' of the Western mind" (emphasis mine), vaulting mother Europe "along a road which no human society had previously followed." Vertical liftoff!

Here we can see how the left's regressive project involves a Great Re-entangling: again, it took thousands of years for "individuals rather than established social categories or classes" to become "the focus of legal jurisdiction." But now, thanks to the left, the individual is subsumed into race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and we're back to where we started: post-Christian necessarily redounds to the pre-Christian.

"The papal claim of sovereignty" furthered the transition to the "meta-role" of the individual "shared equally by all persons." Seen this way, the self is the essence, while social roles become mere accidents instead of being in the nature of things. Pre- and postmodern extremists meet. Not so much a self-styled Victim's Revolution as their reactionary counter-revolution.

This idea of disentanglement and differentiation is key; it reminds me of how the fertilized egg first divides into two, then four, eight, sixteen, etc., becoming more complex and specialized along the way. There is still unity, of course, but it is a deeper form of organic unity because the diversity is unified on succeedingly higher level.

Just so, once the secular-spiritual cell divides in two, this initiates further divisions and distinctions. For example, philosophy becomes distinct from theology, and more generally, "logical studies" develop "with astonishing rapidity during the twelfth century."

Likewise, a new distinction is seen between the moral and physical elements of crime. Because of the new interiority, the concept of "intent" or motive comes into play: "intentions had scarcely been distinguished from actions in 'barbarian' justice." "Degrees of guilt" are perceived, and punishment becomes distinct from mere vengeance and retaliation.

Marriage changes too, as measures are adopted to ensure that it is "based on consent rather than coercion." Politics as well: instead of authority flowing in one direction only, from the top down, "The authority of superiors thus became a delegated authority. Authority is again understood as flowing upwards."

If we stand back and look at the overall arc, we see that "under way was nothing less than a reconstruction of the self, along lines more consistent with Christian moral intuitions." This ushers in "a new transparency in social relations," for now we relate to another person, not just his role. Conversely, "in societies resting on the assumption of natural inequality," this interpersonal transparency is obscured.

Another major development is the distinction between free will and fate, choice and necessity. If human beings are personally accountable to God, then this emphasizes not only our moral freedom, but the need for political freedom so that we are free for the one thing needful, which is to exercise moral choice.

In other words, nothing less than eternity is at stake, so the freedom to do good becomes a matter of urgent necessity; for what is free will but "a certain ability by which man is able to discern between good and evil"?

Note that if people are fundamentally unequal, then we can make no generalizations about them: there is one law for the sheep, another for the wolf; or one law for us, another law for the Clintons.

With this new self, there is a kind of interiorizing of the logos: instead of the logos being only a an exterior reason that controls events, it is "understood as an attribute of individuals who are equally moral agents." Here again, in the post-Christian world we see a regression to determinism, for example, the idea that we are controlled by genes, or neurology, or poverty, or race. The left always controls its victims in the guise of a pseudo-liberation.

The empirical becomes distinct from the general, induction from deduction: "The Christian preoccupation with 'innerness' and human agency," or "between the will and the senses," leads to "a growing distrust of the coercive potential of general terms or concepts, if an extra-mental reality is attributed to them."

Conversely, leftism is always rooted in the projection of an abstraction onto the world, thus giving it the illusion of an "extra-mental reality" or self-evident fact. Scientism, materialism, metaphysical Darwinism -- each elevates an uncritical naïveté to the highest wisdom.

Come to think of it, this is one of the major themes of The Great Debate: conservatives begin with the world as it is, whereas the left begins with the world as they wish it were. It all comes down to an atavistic desire on the part of the left to undo the work of centuries and re-entangle mind and world, individual and group, state and citizen, time and eternity, freedom and compulsion, messiah and politician, executive and legislature, class and guilt, etc.

The Past: An Interesting Place to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There

Let's race through the last 100 pages of Inventing the Individual in order to mine any final insights.

Insights into what? Into how something as utterly strange and unlikely as "you" or "I" came to exist. There are so many necessary conditions for the eternal I AM to manifest in time that it bobbles the Bob.

Which raises the question: would different conditions have caused another "subjective entity" to emerge, something so different from our familiar selves that we can scarcely imagine it?

This is similar to asking if it is possible for a different form of life to exist, something not based on carbon. What would it be like? Who knows? Likewise, what would a universe with different laws be like? It is unimaginable, because for one thing, imagination is only a feature of this universe. It is very unlikely to exist in other universes.

It's the same with the desire to discover "intelligent life" elsewhere. The necessary conditions for life to emerge on this planet are so insanely specific, that I can't imagine they are found anyplace else. You may find one, or ten, or a hundred of these variables, but they all need to be proportioned to one another. For example, earth has a much larger planetary wingman, Jupiter, to attract all the cosmic debris, so it won't plow into us and destroy our little floating biology lab.

Even knowing as much as we do about antiquity, or about the Middle Ages, our ability to project ourselves into these periods hits a kind of wall that we cannot venture past, for the same reason we cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat or a cow. The reason why we can't break through the wall is that we have to jettison a part -- the central part -- of ourselves that wouldn't have existed at the time, or would have only existed in a weak or nascent form. This probably sounds more controversial than it is, but it strikes me as self-evident.

For example, we all know that it makes no scientific sense to ask what came "before" the Big Bang, because time is supposedly a function of the Big Bang. Therefore, there is no before, so ignore that man behind the curtain of tenure and stop asking childish questions.

What is actually going on is that the scientific model simply breaks down at that point. It is similar to what happens at the quantum level: anomalies and conundrums arise because our common sense models simply don't apply. Thus, with no model, there is no way to imagine what is going on down there. We can invent purely mathematical models to try to tie up the anomalies -- which is what string theory is all about -- but these are more like pre-Copernican speculation about planetary epicycles. In other words, the 26 (or whatever it is) dimensions of string theory "save the appearances," as did epicycles for geocentrism.

The point is that naively projecting ourselves into the past is more problematic than we may realize. For me, reading history often provokes WTF?! moments of stark incomprehension.

I'll give you a little example. I'm reading in Berman what pre-Christian law was like. While I understand the words, I find it impossible to actually put myself in the mind of a person for whom the following form of justice would have made perfect sense:

In pagan Germanic society there were two types of ordeal to determine innocence or guilt, trial by water or trial by fire -- fire for elites and big shots, water for the rest of us. "Originally these were invocations of the gods of fire and water.... Those tried by fire were passed blindfolded or barefooted over hot glowing plowshares, or they carried burning irons in their hands."

Exactly what does this have to do with justice? What, it's not obvious? "If their burns healed properly they were exonerated."

The other type of ordeal involved either freezing or boiling water. "In cold water, the suspect was adjudged guilty if his body was borne up by the water contrary to the course of nature, showing the water did not accept him." Excuse me, but WTF? Accept him?

"In hot water he was adjudged innocent if after putting his bare arms and legs into scalding water he came out unhurt." Again I respectfully ask: WTF?

Yes, this form of justice is "one way of looking at things." But is there any part of you that can really look at it this way and agree that it makes perfect sense? Nevertheless, the folks were content with it. Even with the influence of Christianity, "there was considerable resistance to the abolition of ordeals in the thirteenth century." You know, why mess with a system that is perfectly adequate?

That is just one teeny tiny example of how the past is a very different country. I could easily find more extreme examples, but you get the point: we can only pretend to understand much of the past.

"It is difficult for us to re-enter a social world where so little was shared." In other words, not only are these people different from us, but they were all different from each other. There was no "universality," because "In the twelfth century each group -- whether of feudatories, serfs, or townspeople -- was a world unto itself. People did not locate themselves in a world of commonality."

This has direct contemporary relevance, because, for example, we do not live in the same world as the Islamists. Here again, we can only pretend to understand people who torture children, burn Christians alive, and decapitate journalists. Well, maybe we kind of get the last one, but the point is that they are "missing" something we take for granted. Liberals pretend the terrorists simply want what we have, or are angry at us for something we did 500 years ago, but they are actually motivated by an entirely different mentality. The terrorists too.

Speaking of the moral insanity of the left, look at how they equate Chris Kyle -- the Sniper -- with Nazis and terrorists, as if he shares the mentality of our enemies and is motivated by the same ends! For Michael Moore, the imaginary sniper who murdered his make believe uncle is no different from a real sniper who kills evil people who want to destroy civilization and every person in it.

It is no different than equating trial by fire to trial by jury. But if you are a multiculturalist, that's what you do. We are "invaders," "occupiers," and "torturers," just like ISIS.

So, that's about the size of it. We'll end this series with a quote by Siedentop:

[T]he defining characteristic of Christianity was its universalism. It aimed to create a single human society, a society composed, that is, of individuals rather than tribes, clans, or castes.... Hence the deep individualism of Christianity was simply the reverse side of its universalism. The Christian conception of God becomes the means of creating a brotherhood of man, of bringing to self-consciousness the human species, by leading each of its members to see him- or herself as having, at least potentially, a relationship with the deepest reality -- viz., God -- that both required and justified the equal moral standing of all humans.

You say you want a revolution? That is a revolution, the most consequential ever. And it is ongoing, because there are reactionaries everywhere.

Monday, January 08, 2018

It's Hard to be Somebody

We're almost done re-Inventing the Individual. Sorry for the length, but it's not as simple and straightforward as we've been led to believe.

Your Right to Reality

Do we have a right to live in reality? For most of human history, the answer has been no, in the sense that people have been forced to live in someone else's vision or idea of reality.

It reminds me of what Thomas Sowell says about planned economies: every economy is planned. It's just a matter of who does the planning, unaccountable elites or private parties.

It indeed comes down to knowledge and power -- the power to be the Decider. For example, Obama and the Democrats have the power to define what constitutes economic knowledge of medical costs. However -- similar to Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle vis a vis position and momentum -- the more centralized power one exerts over economic realities, the less knowledge one has of them. Total power -- as in totalitarian states -- equates to total ignorance of price signals, and therefore of economic realities of supply, demand, scarcity, etc.

Moreover, the power is only illusory anyway, because there is no way for any human being, or even the most powerful computer, to ever calculate the potential interactions of millions of mutually dependent prices. That knowledge is essentially infinite, and therefore requires omniscience to calculate. It is not even calculation, just -- to use the technical term -- bullshitting.

To which Obama responds, "your point being?"

A Freehold in Reality

The left has spent the last century or so trying to replace the west's cosmic narrative with their new and improved version, but the problem there, as alluded to at the top of this post, is that it is simultaneously "unconstrained" (Sowell) while at the same time being highly constraining because it is forced upon us. It is like being forced into freedom -- freedom from reality. Which is no freedom at all.

It again goes to what was said above about who gets to define reality, but more importantly, who gets to define the reality in which we are all forced to live. For example, I live in California, a one party state in which no one has any input except for the unconstrained visionaries who want to control every aspect of our lives.

In California the Democrats even veto God, and insist that we decide what sex we are and that others recognize the delusion. So it's really "unconstrained for thee but not for me." The hypocrisy is built in, because it's never "power to the people" but "power to the right people." Liberal privilege, institutional stupidity, structural madness, and nonwhite supremacism are all very real here.

The other day I mentioned the obnoxious book on Indians my son is being forced to read. That's because in California it is against the law for a textbook to tell the truth -- or to not speak with a forked tongue -- about any officially sanctioned victim group.

That little preamble was provoked by the following passage in Inventing the Individual:

Since the time of Paul, Christian thought has been directed to the status and claims of humans as such, quite apart from any roles they happened to occupy in a particular society." Therefore, "It is hardly too much to say that Paul's conception of deity provided the individual with a freehold in reality (emphasis mine).

This is a remarkable development, for among other things, it "laid a normative foundation for the individual conscience and its claims." Truly, this turned the world upside down -- or brightside up, rather -- because it placed previously unthinkable limits on the state's power to define reality and force it upon the restavus.

Reality has many dimensions, both horizontal and vertical. For example, thanks to the state, we are never even freeholders of our own land, in that (at least in California) we must pay an annual property tax to pretend to call it our own. Nor do children have a right to the truth about, say, American Indians, or Islam, or homosexuality. As such, it is as if the state has a claim on that part of your child's mind.

I'm just about out of time for today, but the thought occurs to me that if we knew in 1900 what we know today, the left could be declared unconstitutional on first amendment grounds. Why? Because the economy is an information system that continuously conveys the facts about economic reality via prices. Therefore, to interfere with the economy in a massive way -- as in ObamaCare -- is equivalent to burning libraries full of books.

Leftists invert the old gag about knowing the value of nothing and cost of everything, in that they have no way to calculate the cost of what they value. No wonder the cost always rises, and is never enough.

Inward Mobility

The new interiority of Christianity had to deal with an existing world in which "people still celebrated bloody sacrifices, indulged in fortune-telling and magic, placed their faith in amulets and soothsayers, sought salvation through spells, and believed in superstition." Each of these represents an exteriorized from of religiosity. Only gradually was "the magical interpretation" of the world "robbed of its allure." And the temptation to regress is always there, as exemplified by every false god from Moloch to AGW.

Even the language of the the Middle Ages is difficult for us to comprehend, or to "think our way into," since its users were so different. As Friedwrites, cognition tended to be rooted in a situational and concrete as opposed to abstract and universal mode of thinking.

Likewise, familiar tools and concepts such as formal logic and cause-and-effect "were largely absent." Sometimes this resulted in failure to differentiate image from God: iconography easily descended to idolatry: "Many a simple-minded believer may well have identified the image with the subject depicted."

Again, this doesn't mean our forebears didn't know anything; rather, that they knew a very different world: "Within such a framework, no unity could be identified." Nor was there "any figure of abstraction separating the private from public realms." In this context, one can see the developmental leap required to intuit monotheism, which is another name for the ultimate transcendent unity of things, or their single ground and cause.

I've mentioned before how the severely mentally ill person can provide insight into the relatively sane, since his psychic content and defense mechanisms are so visibly hypertrophied and externalized. Just so, we can see how each and every one of these prior modes of thought persist today. We don't so much abandon them as integrate them into a more comprehensive system. I can have an icon of Christ on the wall without confusing it with Christ; we can be religious without conflating it with magic; we can believe in science without confusing it with ultimate reality.

"Individual" and "private" co-arise in history, as they are two sides of the same development. Just as liberty and private property are entirely bound up together, so too are individual and private self.

This lays the foundation for the profound political changes to come, for the unit of politics becomes the person instead of the family or group. Compare this to, say, the Arab-Muslim world, where the primary identification is still to kin and tribe, while morality is not a private matter but public conformity to sharia law.

The latter is quite different from the Christian view, in which the individual was encouraged to undertake a "strict accounting of himself" (in Siedentop). We must try to look at ourselves as God sees us. Indeed, "moral authority ought to imitate the condescension of God, seeking out and inhabiting the depth of the human condition." God goes all the way down and in, so if it's good enough for him, it should be good enough for the likenesses of us.

New Principles, New Worlds

New principles lead to new uprisings (to deploy one of the left's favorite buzzwords). This is because the mind must first rise up to a new vertical principle before awareness of it provokes a horizontal uprising -- or better, a down- and out-flowing, i.e., a clamoring to see the principle instantiated in the world.

For example, people have to first intuit that all men are created equal before regarding inequality as problematic instead of just being in the nature of things. Legal equality is a discovery, not a given. And once discovered it needs to be real-ized in the world, for which reason the Constitution follows the Declaration as effect to cause.

The moral intuitions prompted by Christian beliefs provided just such a basis "for an appeal against injustice that had not been available in the ancient world" (Siedentop). Thus, "the universalism of Christian aspiration had a subversive potential" unknown to that time, and still at work in the world today.

You could say that the universal subverts the particular, just as in science, whereby a more general theory subsumes disparate phenomena: ice and clouds, for example, are just different states of water.

Against this truly progressive approach is the modern superstition of multiculturalism, whereby the particular subverts the universal: for the left there is no objective or universal good except for the conviction that there isn't. Except when there is. I know. It's an inverted form of Gödel's theorems, whereby you get both incoherence and incompleteness from a leftist.

Regarding the invention of progress, "The idea of a more 'open' future was a symptom of Christian moral beliefs affecting the population at large." This was accompanied by "the rejection of fate and advent of hope," but this cuts two ways, since the new uncertainty brings with it new anxieties.

As someone once said, if you have no alternative then you have no problem. But the dawn of an open future that can be shaped by the individual brings with it a new burden of responsibility which some people, understandably, don't want to bear. Nowadays we call them liberals.

Today we talk about "upward mobility," but this was preceded by awareness of a new inward mobility. As Siedentop writes, people began realizing "that salvation did not depend upon social status," which contributed to a new "kind of imagined mobility, a moral standing that could be achieved rather than inherited."

Now, here's an ironic one: a critically important factor in the development of a common European identity was the contrast with a violent and expansionist Islam. The presence of a common enemy can cause people to appreciate a shared identity.

For example, leftists everywhere are proclaiming that "I am Charlie Hebdo." But it shouldn't take a mass murder for leftists to realize that they too are nihilistic peddlers of pornography, only more craven.

A better example is their universal hatred of Fox News, which is the only major media outlet that actually does critique Islam, only in a far more informative and measured way than Charlie Hebdo.

But you will never see hypocritical leftists proclaiming I AM RUPERT MURDOCH!, because their identity depends upon this shared hatred of conservative heresy. They will shout I AM ISIS! before admitting any common values with conservative liberalism.

Back when religious leaders weren't appeasement-mongering invertebrates, "The appeal by Pope Urban II for volunteers to halt the expansion of Islam... created in Europe a new consciousness of itself." Prior to this, "Europe had never been excited by one sentiment, or acted in one cause; there was no Europe. The crusades revealed Christian Europe."

No wonder leftists can't forgive the crusades and Muslims can't forget them.

Once again Islamic terrorists are trying their best to bring about a unified response, but leaders such as Obama refuse to even name the enemy, for it would engender the wrong kind of unity, i.e., a patriotic love for our way of life.

Rather, Obama's leftist worldview revolves around despising our way of life, so in that sense he's implicitly in agreement with the terrorists. This is a guy who spent two decades in a toxic mosque church that taught exactly this doctrine, i.e., GOD DAMN AMERICA! and all the rest. Terror is just leftism by other means.

So, "The crusades were truly a universal event, involving all strata of the population," revealing "'a people' with a shared identity."

Again, this is very much in contrast to the reigning dogma of multiculturalism, whereby the only thing that unites us is our differences (along with an unacknowledged, implicit unity derived from hatred of universalist conservatives).

If Islamists had wanted to invent a divide-and-conquer strategy, they couldn't possibly have come up with something more effective than this principled divisiveness of the left.

Liberal Distinctions, Leftist Con-fusions

One thing that comes through in Inventing the Individual is how the so-called middle ages ushered in so many vital cognitive distinctions that we take for granted. But man didn't always have these distinctions, nor do all men have them even today. To put it mildly.

In fact, Fried says much the same thing, although neither author devotes a separate section to the subject. Rather, the evidence is scattered throughout both books, so I'll attempt to pull some of it together here.

This probably sounds like a slightly dryasdust subject, but it definitely isn't, because it goes directly to our vision of the world. Without the proper tools, that vision can only be so deep, complex, and comprehensive.

Consider what happens when we chuck religious tools from our cognitive bag of tricks. It is not as if a hammer can replace the work of a wrench or screwdriver. But if that's all you have, you'll end up trying to pound religious screws into place with a hammer, which makes for an ugly and probably dysfunctional end product.

A big one is the distinction between secular and spiritual authority. Prior to this distinction there is only authority -- or power -- period.

But there is more to it than just keeping these two domains apart, because for one thing, they cannot be kept apart. That is to say, they are complementary, not "opposite." To imagine the latter is be a leftist.

But the leftist only pretends to deny spiritual authority while actually usurping it. In short, he regresses to a state of mind in which the two are still fused, and then subsumes the religious into the secular, thus ending up with either the omnipotent state or the cult of personality (or both, as in Castro or Kim). Put another way, he denies a primordial complementarity and then subsumes one side into the other.

As Hartshorne has explained, this is a common strategy for all kinds of tenured foolishness. You might say that pre-Christian neo-Platonists tended to default to the spirit side, while post-Christian sophists default to the material side. But how can one even begin to describe reality without including both?

And while it is possible to regard one side of a complementarity as the more fundamental, these folks always choose the wrong side, as, for example, Marx did to Hegel; a pox on both, but at least Hegel gives spirit its props, since it can theoretically account for matter while the converse is impossible without millions of corpses.

Again, once there is a distinction between the secular and religious realms, that is not the end of their interaction. We are still left with the question of what constitutes legitimate authority, and that is a question that cannot be answered by mere power, i.e., the secular arm.

Rather, that is always a spiritual question, for which reason the American founding is thoroughly grounded in, and legitimized by, spiritual principles, i.e., Nature and Nature's God. While there is of course secular authority, if it should become divorced from spiritual authority, the founders say that this invokes the natural (i.e., God-given) right of rebellion.

The purpose of government is to secure our God-given rights. And if government becomes "destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them." Again, secular power is not self-justifying; rather, power is grounded in transcendent truth.

While we (conservative liberals) take this for granted, it took a very long time for mankind to draw these distinctions and to work out the political implications. As Fried writes, as of 1000 AD, "lords did not think in 'political' categories," for "the habit of thinking in categories was still only in its infancy then."

Thus, "There were no conceptions of 'domestic' or 'foreign policy,' or of 'politics' and 'the state.'" Indeed, "nobody would have understood them as templates for interpreting the world or for acting in a particular way, nor could anyone have associated a particular attitude with them or have advocated such a mind-set." Among other things, man had yet to recognize a clear distinction between mind and reality, or God and world.

As such, rulers looked to the world for signs and augurs; these "were everywhere to be seen for those who knew how to read them"; think of them as the pundits of the premodern world. Like our pundits, they all had opinions, usually wrong and immediately forgotten. They looked "to the sun, moon, and stars in the sky, in the natural world and among people, and even animals." The wrong decision might bring on the object lesson of a natural disaster, which "skillful interpreters could always be relied upon to proclaim their import with hindsight."

As man slowly individuates from the womb of nature, language undergoes a profound change, "engendering whole new sets of differentiating terminology, and bringing about advances in perception and an increase in the sum total of cognitive capacity." A new mode of thought emerges; you could say that this mode is capable of being critical because of the critical distance between subject and object.

Now, this critical distance between subject and object is a kind of "space" through which "new perspectives on and approaches to the complexity of the world and cosmos opened up." "[T]hings that had never even been imagined came into peoples' purview, while familiar things were seen in a new light" and "placed in a new relation to one another" (Fried).

From our privileged perspective, this space is "everything." Eliminate it and what's left, obedience to the state, or adherence to some state-funded ideolatry? Or perhaps a pre-political life of simply obeying one's impulses.

One implicit point made by both Fried and Siedentop is that freedom tends to emerge and flourish in the interstices between competing powers. But it took until the American founding to make this principle explicit. That is, the framers recognized that freedom is only safe when power is dispersed among competing interests. "The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen," as Dennis Prager says.

Which is precisely why the left sells us chains it relabels "freedom," as in "you're not really free if you don't have health insurance, therefore the state has a right to your body." To which we respond: why can't we have health and freedom? Why revert to a time when there was no space between ruler and ruled? Why deprive us of our God-given slack?