Monday, August 03, 2015

Is Man a Thing?

If you're going to reject Darwin's theory of how evolution came about, then you're going to have to come up with a better idea.

And you can't just say "God," because that's not an intellectually -- or even spiritually -- satisfying theory. After all, you could say the same of anything: "Why did you eat the last cookie?" "Er, God!"

Yes, in an ultimate sense God is at the "beginning" of all causation -- he is the uncaused cause -- but this hardly means we should ignore all the many intermediate causes that go into a phenomenon. Science is the science of intermediate causes, not of the first and last, AKA alphOmega.

Obviously, there was a time -- or timeless -- that this cosmos did not exist. Likewise, there was a time that no life existed in this cosmos. And there was a time that man wasn't here. From the view of cosmology, it is as if man arose fully baked just yeasterday.

Being that man is now here, what we really want to know is how he got here. Neither believer nor unbeliever dispute the fact that man once wasn't here, so our present presence is in need of explanation.

That man once wasn't here is a fact. Likewise our current existence. Natural selection is simply one way to bridge those two stark Facts. Some people say Genesis is another way, but this is not necessarily so.

For example, Genesis 3 is more a lesson in why things are so fouled up than how we got here per se. And I have heard it said that even Genesis 1-2 are there more to impart important moral lessons -- for example, the importance of the sabbath -- than to provide a comprehensive explanation of how we got here. Not, as the gag goes, how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven.

Although I do not accept the Darwinian narrative of anthropogenesis, I could never get completely on board with the alternative either, at least in every vague detail. But this book on Thinking Beyond Darwin has given me a way to wrap my mind around the traditionalist view of How We Got Here.

If man is in the image of God, then this is a way of saying that he is not contingent, or at least not wholly so.

Rather, there must be some part of him that is made of "absoluteness," so to speak -- which cannot not be -- in contrast to the evolutionist view, which would say that man of course could have not been or could have been unrecognizably different (and everything in between).

In the traditionalist view, if God wants you to be, then it will take a great deal of effort to deny him. But that's what the left is for.

The traditionalist view holds that man is a very specific thingy, and that if he is not this thingy, why then he is literally no-thing, just an ephemeral accumulation of random genetic booboos.

For Schuon, "To say that man, and thus the human body, is 'made in the image of God' means a priori that the body manifests something absolute and therefore something unlimited and perfect.... The human form cannot be transcended for its sufficient reason is to express the Absolute, hence the unsurpassable..."

I'm trying to find the Traditionalist explanation of how we got here, but can't track down the exact one I'm looking for...

Schuon writes that "One must not tire of affirming this: the origin of a creature is not a material substance, it is a perfect and non-material archetype....

"Assuredly, there is a trajectory; but this starts not from an inert and unconscious substance, it proceeds from the Spirit -- the womb of all possibilities -- to the earthly result, the creature..."

For Lings, "the universe and its contents were created in order to make known the Creator, and to make known the good and to praise it....

The things of earth are "sent down in finite measure from the Stores or Treasures of the Infinite." While this or that animal incarnates an aspect of God, only man has the potential to manifest them all, for which reason the Perfected Man would be the most adequate image of God.

I can't find the exact passage I'm looking for, but it has something to do with animal forms, including man, being coagulations of divine archetypes. But the real point is that either man has an archetypal form, or he is truly nothing, just a bundle of accidents.

So, the deeper metaphysical question is, Is man something? Is he a thing? Or no-thing?

The first thing one wants to say to the Darwinist is, "okay, we get it. You're nothing. But how does an accidental nothing know an absolute anything?"

I apologize for the rambling, but I'm feeling a bit fuzzy this morning, like my archetype hasn't fully coagulated or something.

Let me get back to what is close at hand, Thinking Beyond Darwin. First, I would suggest that to think beyond Darwin is not necessarily to think against Darwin. Furthermore, there is a way of thinking with Darwin that is ultimately to think against him.

For if it were true that we couldn't think beyond Darwin, this would represent a weird backdoor way of codifying man's absoluteness, i.e., that man knows the absolute truth about himself, a truth which renders him absolutely relative. This is literal nonsense. And not the good kind.

I'll take a fresh stab at this thing tomorrow morning.

Friday, July 31, 2015

I Married a Monkey

One of our founding principles around here is that man is man, not an animal plus x. If anything, our closest cousins -- apes, gorillas, Clintons, etc. -- are man minus x, just as matter is biology minus y (or plus zzzzzzzzzz, forever).

This line of thought first came my way while studying psychoanalysis in graduate school. Lng stry shrt... if you've ever looked at the Gagdad profile, under the heading "favorite books," there's an idiosyncretistic list of authors and books that have had an enduring influence, from psychology to philosophy, theology, mysticism, esoterism, aphoristics, ethnobotany, indecipherable Irish literature, and terrestrial and celestial humor.

That second name, "R.D. Fairbairn," is the bloke to whom we are alluding, and he will -- I think -- have relevance to our discussion of the Missing Object of Virtue.

In general you will have noticed that there are two ways to approach a phenomenon, via analysis or synthesis. In reality these two are and must be complementary, but analytic science generally forgets this, which is how it descends into the vulgar scientism of the tenured, AKA wanker bee scientolatry. These drones forget their models are just analogies, and thereby fall into Whitehead's fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

At the time Fairbairn arrived on the scene -- his first important papers were published in the early 1940s -- the scene was of course dominated by Freud, who had a bad case of physics envy.

That is, Freud regarded the mind as a kind of combination archaeological site with layers of psychic material from new to old; and a hydraulic system under instinctual pressure. The first is the conscious/preconscious/unconscious model; the second the id/ego/superego model. Both are analogies, more or less useful depending upon the situation. But they are not reality.

In order to avoid pedantic tedium, I am going to cut to the chase. Fairbairn comes along and essentially says that when you cut a man into id, ego, and superego, and then reify your abstractions, that's no longer a man you're dealing with. Rather, you're just seeing your projected model. You are free to do that, just don't forget you're doing it.

It seems that Fairbairn was initially unpopular with everyone. Psychoanalysis is a bit like a church, with orthodoxy, heterodoxy, catechesis, initiation, confirmation, heretics, excommunicants, etc.

But without even realizing it, Fairbairn created a version of psychoanalysis that is much more consistent with Christian metaphysics, because he starts with the whole person, not with an animalistic id; he also begins with relation instead of isolation; and finally, he maintains that instincts ride piggyback on the need for love and relation, not vice versa.

For example, a classical Freudian would say that an infant only "loves" its mother to the extent that love is another name for instinctual release, satisfaction, and equilibrium. It is not a human passion in and of itself, just derived from other factors.

In short, for Fairbairn man is a social animal right down to the ground: there is no asocial monad "beneath" or "behind" or "deep down." Rather, to the extent that man succeeds in isolating himself -- what Fairbairn called the schizoid position -- then he has fallen beneath his humanness, generally not because he truly dislikes or hates people but because he unconsciously believes his own love to be dangerous, toxic, or repulsive.

This whole way of looking at things has innumerable implications. Sutherland writes that "what stood out irrefutably in [Fairbairn's] schizoid patients was the failure to develop a capacity to make normal relationships with others and with themselves, and this failure distorted the effectiveness of the person in relating to the world in general."

Note the subtle point(s): since all is relation -- i.e., man is irreducibly relational -- there is no "oneness" beneath the twoness (we'll leave trinitarian thinking to the side for the moment). Therefore, even the self is a relation -- with oneself!

Likewise, there is no world, only a relationship with it. Thus, context is everything. Thinking is relational; emotion is relational; and spirituality is most certainly relational.

The other day I was remembering when "sex education" entered the public school. This is a perfect example of the distortion we're talking about, and one can draw a straight line between it and the institutionalized ghoulishness of Planned Parenthood and of the left more generally.

If man is first and foremost man and not animal, then sexuality must be specifically a human sexuality. But for the cultural left, "sex" cuts across the animal kingdom, such that the most important things about it are those we share with other animals.

But one can literally know everything about animal "sexuality" and know nothing about human sexuality. And I do mean literally. If you even think for a moment about it, you'll understand what I mean.

The result is that a secular indoctrination on the subject of human sexuality erodes the very foundation of our humanness. For evidence of this, just open your eyes and look around.

For among other things, this means that human sexuality has a purpose, a meaning, a telos, that is entirely wrapped up with what it means to be human. To the extent that it is depersonalized, it is broken. The whole human is in each part of the human; this whole is orthoparadoxically relational, not isolated (here is where you might begin to intuit how man is indeed in the image of the Trinity).

This line of thought was provoked by a couple of books I'm reading, The Wholeness of Nature and Thinking Beyond Darwin. You might say that seeing the wholeness of nature is a consequence of thinking beyond Darwin (and vice versa).

For our purposes, what this means is that a human is again a human, not animal plus x. Contrary to Darwinian fundamentalism, man is not the sum of his accidental and contingent adaptations; or, if he were, we could never know it, because our mental life would be just a contingent adaptation. There would be no reason to believe that man somehow transcends his own contingency, for if he does, that puts the kibosh on Darwin.

We need to avoid the other extreme as well, for it is not as if man is like an immature seed that grows to manhood; it is not as if we are born a Little Man that simply grows in a linear manner into the Big Man. Rather, remember the principle of relation: we are always related, and our relations will to a large extent determine the man we become. And we are always becoming, because relation is to process as stasis is to object.

Kranich makes an important point that is also raised in MOTT, only scientifically instead of... tarotistically. That is, in the absence of any knowledge of human beings, it would never occur to you that an ape is just a human waiting to happen -- a prehuman if you will.

On the opposable hand, assuming knowledge of human beings, then apes become understandable in light of this. Again, man is not ape plus x; rather, the ape is human minus y. And it is an awfully big y. Indeed, the variable y is infinite, such that the gap between ape and man is equally infinite. If you don't believe me, try talking to an ape about the square root of two, or how far pi extends, or why there is always a Why -- i.e., how we know we are incomplete in light of a Completeness to which (or to whom) we relate via faith and intuition.

In conclusion, the recovered psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple has a new book on How Psychology Evades Morality. One way it does this is by starting its analysis of man with something less than man. Only man can be moral, so if that bugs you, just divide him into various animal parts that operate in a deterministic manner. Problem solved.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Postmodern Calvinbrawlers

While preparing this morning's steaming restorative, a thought popped into my head. You know Churchill's famous line about America and England being two countries divided by a common language? Well, that wasn't it. Besides, G.B. Shaw is apparently responsible for that gag.

But it's a variation on the theme, to wit, that America has become a nation divided by a common tongue, in this case modern- and postmodernese. We conservatives are still proud of our plainspoken Modernese, while the left long ago abandoned this idiom for the cryptic and craptic language of postmodernism.

This being the case, it explains why we can't win arguments and why it doesn't matter that we always do. In short, you cannot defeat a postmodernist in an argument, because he is playing a different game -- just as you can't win a baseball game by playing football.

(Although some people try. I remember when my son played Shetland baseball at age six or something. A ball was hit to the third baseman and he proceeded to scamper with it toward the plate, trying to score a run.)

The left is not playing the truth game, but rather, the power game. Thus, you may bring the Knife of Truth to the game while expecting certain rules of conduct, only to endure a swift ringing of the berries:

Interestingly, the website from which I yoinked that image deploys it to illustrate the principle that THE RULES SAY I CAN CHANGE THE RULES, INCLUDING THIS RULE. Those are the rules we're talking about: the Butch Cassidy Rules of Politics.

Another name for it is Calvinball, "a game invented by Calvin in which you make the rules up as you go along." Thus, conservatives naively play x while the left cynically plays Calvinball.

Which might be part of the appeal of Mr. Trump, who plays his own loud and aggressive version of Calvinball -- not just against Republicans but against the other Calvinballers on the left.

Who are the best -- which is to say worst -- Calvinballers out there? I would say it's a three-way tie between politicians, MSM journalists, and academia. Academics work more in the shadows, so in the popular imagination it comes down to idiot journalists and amoral politicians. That Trump is happy to say Fuck You to both camps seems to give hope to the masses that we finally have a formidable Calvinbrawler on our side.

I don't see it ending well, however. It's one thing to Calvinbrawl as a tactic, but if it is not informed by truth, then it will be a hollow victory at best, just another name for losing.

This is precisely why I supported Giuliani in 2008. He is the last Calvinbrawling Conservative we've had on the national stage. Ted Cruz? I can't quite put my finger on why his style of brawling won't work.

Anyway, this does go back to the topic at hand, the Missing Object of Virtue. Again, we (or they, rather) have the fragments but have misplaced the thing itself. For the left there is no such thing, so it is a matter of course for them to pick up one of the shards and pretend it is the whole thing, for example, "a woman's right to choose."

Any talk of intrinsic rights must be grounded in natural rights theory, but there can be no natural right to kill an innocent human being. So that is a perfect example of elevating a shard to the whole. What's the word, Jeeves? Synedoche?

No sir, synedoche is not necessarily a fallacy. I believe the term you are grasping for is division -- the fallacy of division.

Hmm, let's see: "A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true for the whole must also be true of all or some of its parts." Natural rights theory (naturally) assures a "right to choose," AKA free will. But this right cannot be abstracted from the human person without negating itself.

As always, The left's theses are trains of thought that are carefully stopped before they reach the argument that demolishes them (Dávila). This is a quite universal truthism, which is why the left must play Calvinball, for the rules of Calvinball permit one to change the rules just before the train hits the wall. You will have noticed how Obama and Hillary do this All Day Long.

Another of my favorite aphorisms: Rather than an ideological strategy, the left is a lexicographical strategy. In other words, they do not rely on logic, ideo- or otherwise.

Rather, the real strategy lies in language itself, which is constantly redefined to suit present needs. The image comes to mind of the T-1000 in Terminator 2, or of eating Jello with chopsticks, or of biting a wall.

What is the endgame of postmodern Calvinball? For Father Rose the whole thing is a "War against God, issuing in the proclamation of the reign of nothingness, which means the triumph of incoherence and absurdity, the whole plan presided over by Satan."

Remember the other day, when we alluded to Satan as the "nonlocal Object of Vice," which "can only be known via the surface structure of particular acts and beliefs. On the surface the acts may appear random and incoherent, but perhaps there is a secret order"?

As Rose points out, "Effective war against God and His Truth requires the destruction of every element of [the] Old Order," for which reason "violence is no merely incidental aspect" but "part of its essence." As they say, if you strike at God, you'd better kill him.

So it really comes down to the possibility of coherent truth knowable by man vs. an absolute relativism that seals man in ignorance and tyranny. Or just say Celestial Truth vs. Terrestrial Power, because I am out of time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Science Wars and the Restoration of Reason

MacIntyre imagines a scenario in which the sciences suffer the same calamity as has virtue. The schism might start with something like a secular reformation: "Widespread riots occur, laboratories are burnt down, physicists are lynched, books and instruments are destroyed."

Hey, wwwwwait a minute. Isn't this already happening in academia? The rioting started in the 1960s -- which is just a microcosm of power displacing truth -- while the efficiency of academic correctness makes it unnecessary to literally burn books.

Burning only calls attention to them anyway. Better to consign them to the Index Liberalum Prohibitorum, the Endless List of Books that Offend or Frighten Liberals.

And lynching? In the Jewish tradition the rape of a name is as morally reprehensible as physical rape:

"The Talmud, the set of books of Jewish law and philosophy that rank in Judaism second in importance only to the Torah, says, 'Whoever humiliates his friend in public is considered as if he has shed his blood.' That is why some rabbis call undeserved public shaming 'emotional murder.'”

I'm thinking of that scientist who made a joke about women and science, and was bounced from his job. So, maybe we won't find a cure for cancer, but at least these joyless feminists with no sense of humor will be... happy? Yeah, right.

Anyway, that's a different subject. Or is it? Since the Good, True, and Beautiful are intrinsically connected, you can't attack one without damaging the others.

Speaking of which, Julie just left a comment with a link to this piece with the headline Dante's Divine Comedy 'offensive and should be banned'.

(゜_゜)

Well, at least it kills three birds with a single stone: truth, beauty, and virtue.

As if contemporary college students read Dante anyway. I would guess they are no more familiar with it than with the Constitution or Book of the Subgenius.

Back to our imagined scenario. What happens after the scientific calamity? How do we put Humpty back together? Well, we don't. The original act of synthesis has been lost, and it is not possible to reassemble it with the fragments. The parts don't add up to the Summa, don't you know.

"... [E]nlightened people [will] seek to revive science, although they have largely forgotten what it was.... all they possess are fragments: a knowledge of experiment detached from any knowledge of the theoretical context that gave them significance; parts of theories unrelated either to the other bits and pieces of theory which they possess... instruments whose use has been forgotten; half-chapters from books, single pages from articles, not always fully legible because torn and charred."

I'm thinking of my racket, psychology. As we know, the softer the science the easier for activists to infiltrate and pervert, and it hardly gets softer than psychology. This is how homosexuality was unilaterally declared Wonderful in 1973. A hundred years of research and scholarly articles? Forget about it. Homophobic or something. There's a new Truth in town, so don't even refer to the science before 1973, or else.

The whole story of how that deal... went down is sordid beyond belief. In the highly raccomended Making Gay Okay, Reilly says "There are two fundamentally different conceptions of science -- one that is scientific and one that is not."

Or one that is scientific and one that is post-scientific: postmodern, post-literate, post-virtuous, and really post-human. The latter does not begin with things as they are, but rather, how the left would like for them to be. Once you've determined that, the science is easy: just backtrack from your abstract conclusion and invent a causal nexus.

Coincidentally, I just read a book on genetics that explains how this works in practice. Often all one has to do is perform a little word magic in order to transform one thing into another. (I recently read that the magician's formula abracadabra comes from the aramaic for I create from nothing. File under too good to check.)

Let's take the depraved folkers at Planned Parenthood. First of all, some plan. Second, some parents.

"Needless to say, a definition can serve a particular prejudice. If I want to perform experiments on embryos, it will be comforting" to regard them "as not yet human, just as I will deny humanity to the twelve-week-old fetus I want to abort." The point is that reality is one thing, the words we use to describe (or deny) it another.

I have a relative by marriage who is quite intelligent and even attended medical school. In a discussion of abortion, she actually insisted that an embryo is just an undifferentiated blob, not remotely human. Where to begin? One can't. She has already foreclosed the beginning before it even starts.

It is the same if we start a conversation about homosexuality with "love" instead of nature, reality, and natural law. This actually goes back to the Misplaced Object of Virtue. In this book on How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, the author reminds us that the Catechism refers to natural law as "immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history," "written and engraved in the soul of each and every man" and "established by reason." So there it is: the missing Object.

Reason. Remember that? It too is a kind of natural law that touches the threshold of the supernatural, and "cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man." Yes, it can be rejected, but since it is part of us, to vanquish it is to defeat ourselves.

So, it would appear that Right Reason cannot only guide us to the restoration of Truth and Virtue, but to their proper marriage.

I will conclude with this thoughtlet: if you cannot convince another with your reasons, it probably means you never actually convinced yourself, rather, only asserted it. Thus, the leftist begins by bullying his own intelligence and conscience before moving on to the enthralling fun of overhauling yours.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Conservative Exodus and Liberal Slavery

As promised, the quest for the nonlocal Object of Virtue continues.

What do you mean, "nonlocal Object of Virtue"?

Well, it reminds me of the title of one of Dávila's collections of aphorisms: Annotations on an Implicit Text. In other words, it is as if these timeless nuggets are the footgnosis of a text that isn't here.

Where is it then? It is everywhere in general and nowhere in particular. It is available to every man, by virtue of being one. The annotations on it were true yesterday and will be true tomorrow, suggesting that their textual object is also trans-temporal and hyperdimensional.

Or, it is like language itself. As Professor Chomsky proposed before sanity and decency abandoned him (or he them), language has a surface structure and a deep structure. All humans have the same deep structure, whereas a particular language furnishes the surface structure.

The deep structure is as it were noumenal, in that it cannot be directly perceived. Rather, it is implicit in language itself. One cannot speak the deep structure for the same reason one cannot hear musical theory.

This would imply that, say, the Ten Commandments are local expressions of the nonlocal Object of morality. They are not the thing itself and should not be worshiped as such. They are still phenomenal, and indeed, the second commandment might even be seen a self-referential joke warning for us not to turn morality into a soph-reverential idol. We are frankly in love with Wisdom, but she is not God.

There are also the four cardinal virtues and their opposite number, the seven deadlies. The latter imply that there is also a nonlocal Object of Vice.

Uh oh. Could this be the entity called Satan? Perhaps like language, Satan can only be known via the surface structure of particular acts and beliefs. On the surface the acts may appear random and incoherent, but perhaps there is a secret order. We will no doubt return to this idea.

Right now. Because it really reminds me of psychoanalysis, in particular, of the discovery of the unconscious. It's been a long time since I thought about it, but while others had noticed that man is driven by "irrational" subterranean forces he doesn't understand, Freud was the first to propose that they emanate from a deeper order -- that the outward disorder has an invariant deep structure.

Today we call this a "personality disorder," but the latter word -- disorder -- is a bit misleading, or at least ambiguous, because we're really talking about an enduring order, albeit one that leads to chaos in one's life.

You could even say that it is very much analogous to the oxymoron of a "planned economy" or centralized state. Indeed, these are collective versions of individual pathology, in that they are orders that inevitably provoke chaos.

To pretend to plan an economy is to attempt to do something that not only cannot be done, but will engender misallocations, shortages, surpluses, price distortions, black markets, etc.

Similarly, a rigid personality disorder will be recognized by the chaos it generates in the persons's life. The chaos follows them like the dirt cloud around Pigpen. Psychological health lives in the shadowland between order and chaos. Too much of either makes life unlivable -- either for oneself or the people around oneself.

Note also that just as excessive topdown order generates chaos, excessive chaos will evoke order -- as in how the chaotic breakdown of the black family calls forth the police which they then complain about. Hey, feel free to police your own children, because we really really have better things to do.

Here is where the liberal desire for topdown control meets with the chaos which liberals simultaneously create and promise to remedy. As George Gilder puts it, liberal policies ensnare the poor

"in a welfare state for women and children and a police state for two generations of black boys. Some seventy programs annually dispense close to $900 billion mostly to single-parent families totally incapable of raising boys." As a consequence, "as many as a third of black makes under 35 are in prison, on probation, or on the lam."

Now, the welfare state is the indulgent mother, the pathological Matriarchy. The police state is the Father after it is too late. Rather, he can only come in amidst the wreckage and try to impose some order after the fact. But since the source of the disorder is in the psyche(s), there's not much he can do.

Look at the Gentle Giant of Ferguson. Strong-arming store owners and charging police officers is prima facie evidence of a deep disorder, of no impulse control. I am not advocating shooting every person with poor impulse control, but you can well understand that if a person cannot stop himself from acting out violently then someone else will have to. I suppose we could shoot them like animals with tranquilizer guns, but the animal always wakes up behind bars in the zoo, where he belongs.

Back to the Object. Again, MacIntyre's point is that the Object of Virtue is broken and fragmented, such that it is "no longer possible to appeal to moral criteria in a way that had been possible in other times and places"; and that this represents a "moral calamity."

First of all, it is not a calamity to the left. Rather, it is what they call "liberation." And an opportunity.

I do dwell on this problematic from time to time. For example, can you think of a single person who is so universally morally esteemed that his condemnation would be sufficient to end the career of a politician? Liberals of course try to do this, but to comical effect, for example, bowing before the moral authority of Jimmy Carter, or Michael Moore, or Ted Kennedy, or Als Sharpton and Gore.

Why isn't Obama universally morally condemned? Because the world is a morally sick place. Speaking of Gilder, one has only to consider the Israel Test to appreciate how morally deranged the world is. That this anti-Semitic turd is our president not only speaks to our moral deterioration, but more problematically, to our literal destruction, since those who bless Israel are blessed, just as those who curse it are cursed.

Now, what does that really mean? Yes, we love Israel -- the country and people -- but more important is Israel the Idea. And this Idea goes back to the Object of our interest, since the whole idea of Israel was and is to fashion a people in conformity with the divine order. Christianity is simply the prolongation of this one story bildung of metanoia, redemption, and soph-improvement.

Remember too that in one mishnavious version, the cosmic purpose of Israel is to put back together those fragmented shards of light and return them to their brightful owner. Certainly America's founders were aware of the fact that they were attempting to continue the Exodus into freedom and light.

Seems like a good place to end for the day.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Adamnesia and the Misplaced Object of Virtue

Didn't care for the book overall, but the author does raise a critically important point before veering into turgid academese in order to address it. Or maybe it was just my mood. Impatient. Then again, life is short. Out with it. Get to your point or get out. Be pithy if you wish to opine. Yes, there is a place for promiscuously beautiful writing, but you are not Shakespeare. I don't understand half of what that brainy bird says anyway.

At the other end of the spectrum of literary economy is our own Señor Dávila, who only says those things that must be said, and in the fewest possible words consistent with a rigorous and austere beauty. And if other people were saying these things, he would gladly step aside and move on to other subjects. Here, for example, on this blog, you won't ever find me speculating on who will win the election in 2016, because there are millions of other bloggers and worse servicing that market.

The writer who does not torture his sentences tortures his reader.

The first step of wisdom is to admit, with good humor, that there is no reason why our ideas should interest anybody.

To write honestly for the rest, one must write fundamentally for oneself.

Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas.

Write concisely so as to avoid making the reader sick.

Clarity is the virtue of a man who does not distrust what he says.

Mere talent is in literature what good intentions are in conduct. The road to tenure is paved with good intentions!

And so on. We've adverted to some of those aphorisms before, but words do not communicate, they remind. In this case me.

So, what is the problem MacIntyre raises? To put it succinctly, it is the question of whether or not morality is convergent. For if it isn't, then we are ineluctably in the land of relativism and moral chaos. Moral chaos would be the norm, which in turn evokes the Stark Fist of the State in order to tame.

For it would also mean that man cannot govern even -- and therefore especially -- himself. Democracy would be analogous to multiples of zero, for 300 million ungovernable souls would be no different than one, only worse -- because they can do so much more damage than the loon wolf.

A related point for MacIntyre is the fragmented nature of morality. I'm going to paraphrase, but it is as if we once had the thing itself, but this thing has broken into a thousand pieces, such that this or that group or person picks up the pieces he needs -- not in order to transcend himself, but often in order to do precisely the opposite: to provide an excuse, a permission slip, or an alibi.

Here again the Terse One has many pointed things to shove between our ribs:

There are two kinds of men: those who believe in original sin and idiots.

The fool, seeing that customs change, says that morality varies.

The same fool does not content himself with violating an ethical rule: he claims that his transgression becomes a new rule.

But A decent man is one who makes demands upon himself that the circumstances do not make upon him.

And The higher part of ethics does not deal with moral behavior, but with the quality of the soul.

Besides, Evil, like the eyes, does not see itself. May he tremble who sees himself as innocent.

But if you should fail, hey, just invoke a right to that which you failed to achieve: The preaching of progressives has so corrupted us that nobody believes that he is what he is, but only what he did not succeed in being.

In any event, forgive them Father, because they know not what they do. No, really, for the leftist cannot lament the disappearance of something of which he is ignorant.

Let's get back to this idea of the Fragmented Object of Virtue. It so happens that this touches on a central mishnah of the Rabbis, if I can find it. Which I can't. Something like a cosmic fall that results in all these shards of light.

You know how a hologram works? Break up the holograph, and each fragment will contain the whole until the point that the image becomes fuzzy, indisctinct, and discontinuous. The original image will still be there, only unrecognizable. Like our constitution.

Here is how Rabbi Kushner expresses it in Honey From the Rock: there existed "A light so powerful that it shattered earthly vessels," and is "imprisoned in the shards of this created world, waiting for us to free it. Returning itself to the Creator."

This is no doubt what Petey has in mind with the gag about those banged-up and thunder-sundered images of the One on p. 248. And it is also all over -- you guessed it -- Finnegans Wake. Indeed, this is one of its central themes, starting in the third paragraph and then ad gnosiam:

"By its fall, the shell of the Cosmic Egg has been shattered.... Finnegans fall from the ladder is hugely symbolic: it is Lucifer's fall, Adam's fall, the setting sun that will rise again, the fall of Rome, a Wall Street crash. It is Humpty Dumpty's fall, and the fall of Newton's apple.... And it is every man's daily recurring fall from grace...." (Skeleton Key). The whole thing is structured around the Fall, the Wake, and the Rise (or fallagain, wakeagain, and riseagain).

We will continue our quest for the nonlocal Object of Virtue tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Brave New World of Left Wing Clichés

Being a victim of graduate school, it took me a while to understand Aquinas' gag about all knowledge beginning in the senses. Rather... gosh, I've never before tried to trace the line of confusion and reconstruct how I ended up where I did: left, bereft, and effed, psychopneumatically speaking.

I suppose like everyone else I was sucked into the vortex started by Descartes and codified by Kant, such that knowledge begins in my own melon. But this attitude was probably more shaped by my immersion in Buddhism and Vedanta, which don't place much importance on this maya-ridden world. And the whole innerprise was capped by my psychoanalytic training.

I'll try to cut to the chase and avoid boring you with details, but, just like everything else, you could say that psychoanalysis has a "left" and a "right," at least in a manner of speaking.

In this case, it would come down to the importance of reality, or of the external world. The school of thought to which I was most drawn was the Kleinian, which, you could say, emphasizes psychic reality, almost to the exclusion of reality. It's not what happened, but your unconscious phantasies about what happened, that count. (The "ph" distinguishes these from conscious fantasies.)

At the other extreme would be where I sit today, which is in attachment theory, which is very much rooted in real world experiences with caregivers. Then again, what I've really done is blend the two, for they are complementary, not antagonistic: obviously there is an exterior reality and a psychic reality, and the distance between the two is a measure of psychopathology.

Obvious example. I'll disguise some details, but some time ago I saw a young man who had been abandoned by his father before the age of five. He was left with his mother who, although hardworking, was alcoholic and depressed. When home from work she would drink and stare at the wall with tears streaming down her face. They were also poor and moved around quite a bit, so he was never able to form stable compensatory attachments to peers.

His father re-entered his life when he was 15 or 16, and he remembers this as a kind of blessed time. He felt loved and wanted by his father. He was more confident, and began making plans for the future. But something happened that caused his mother to give him an ultimatum: your father is an asshole. He abandoned you. I'm the one who raised you. You must choose: him or me.

Painfully conflicted -- to put it mildly -- he choose mother. His father tried to maintain contact, but he shut him out.

What happens next is the interesting part: he starts to develop mysterious aches and pains throughout his body, that no doctor can explain. One even says "they're in your head" but he rejects the possibility. He goes "doctor shopping," and eventually finds an alternative healer who tells him what he wants to hear, that he must have been bitten by an insect a number of years ago, and is suffering from the effects. Like Spiderman, only bad.

Meanwhile the effects continue to morph. He starts imagining he emits a horrible smell that causes others to keep their distance. Then he convinces himself they are talking and laughing about his odor. After that they sneak into his phone and install software that allows them to see and hear everything he says and does. He has even wondered whether he is imagining this, but no, he has abundant evidence that this is really happening.

So, this is an extreme case of I Think Therefore I Am, or of reality starting in the head instead of in the world. Rather, the world is simply enlisted as the psychic furniture for his malevolent dreams.

In the past we have discussed at length how the left is a collective and institutionalized version of this pathology. This is why you cannot argue with them, any more than I could argue with my patient. Knowing this, I remember thinking to myself, "what can I say that won't make him suspicious that I don't believe him, or that I'm part of the conspiracy?"

I said something like the following: Please don't take this to mean I don't believe you, but I was wondering what you would say if I could hypothetically prove to you that no one has tapped into your phone and you don't emit a wretched smell? I mean, just for the purposes of exploring alternative explanations? Can you imagine that?

Suffice it to say, he couldn't imagine it. He thought about it briefly but concluded that no, what you say is impossible. The sinister coincidences are just too thick. It would mean I would have to ignore that mountain of evidence.

Let's shift gears for a moment to the political sphere. In my adult life I have never seen so much racial, sexual, and class paranoia coming from the left. Really, as recently as the 1990s I thought we were past all this, but somehow it's gotten worse than ever. In my view this is because, as with the patient above, psychic reality is detached from external reality.

Example.

I always enjoy working in our Ventura office, because they publish a local rag up there that has a loony left wing editorialist. I suppose he's no more loony than the rest, but I don't go out of my way to visit those dark precincts anymore, whereas in idle moments I flip through this broadshite and check out what this Mr. Freeman has to say.

This week he has an editorial with the clever title Brave New World. As usual, it vilifies Republicans for everything from eating all our steak to causing his bad smell. Crazy as it is, there is nothing in it that deviates from the mainstream left, and in fact, it provides a useful primer on the left's view of what has happened to the country over the past 45 years, since Reagan ruined everything. It could have been written by Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

And I have to admit, I actually believed some of this stuff myself once upon a time. Hey, I despised Reagan as much as the next grad student or professor. I didn't know anyone who didn't. Well, one. But he didn't move in my circles, and was the friend of a friend. (Excellent. For our convenience the editorial is posted online.)

"America’s Brave New World is run for the benefit of the select few in the upper classes."

Hmm. If that is so, why is the Fortune 500 composed of completely different companies than 50 years ago? Why didn't they control things so they could stay on top? Some ruling class.

"Almost all" of the income "has flowed up to the top 1 percent (the Alphas) due to 'trickle-down economics' or 'Reaganomics.'" Here again, this is a kind of hallucination that the 1% of 50 years ago are the 1% of today, but if that were true, Bill Gates would still be toiling in his mother's basement. I'm hardly in the 1%, but it would also mean I'd still be stocking shelves in the supermarket.

"Economics professor Robert Reich, Clinton’s labor secretary, says the average worker is underpaid by around $49,000 per year (the calculation is easy)." Oh, I'm sure it is -- for a marxist professor who has never run a business or signed a paycheck. What a great way to make everyone wealthy! Just force McDonalds to pay all of its employees $75,000 a year. What could go wrong?

Reality has some sad news for Professor Reich: paying someone more than he is worth does not increase his value. True, misallocating resources in this way may benefit the overpaid worker, but it simply drains the wider economy of wealth and makes us all a little less affluent.

For example, I suppose the VC Reporter could pay Mr. Freeman a six figure salary -- or even a salary -- but this would exceed its entire budget, such that it could no longer purchase the ink and paper to publish his fantasies.

How did conservatives tap our phones and when did they start laughing at the way we smell?

Reagan "was the finest practitioner of the art of picking your pocket with a smile. Feeble-minded Americans voted for Ronnie because his delusions made them feel good."

This is rich. The state picks our pockets for several months, right through Tax Independence Day, whenever that falls. Conversely, I engage in voluntary exchanges in the private economy, where I am always looking for ways to pick a pocket and gain an edge.

What I mean is that, for example, in just the last week or two I've purchased about ten books (and a bunch of CDs), most of which cost as little as one cent, whereas I would have once had to pay full price if I could find them at all. There is literally no way to measure this incalculable improvement in my life, and there are many more.

We are all beneficiaries of such amazing efficiency. It's the same with computers. What once would have set you back $12,000 or more is now available for under $500. The examples are too numerous to relate, but this book on Popular Economics is highly recommended. Without the tax cuts of the Reagan years, all those technological IPOs that now employ so many people and generate so much prosperity wouldn't have happened.

"Next, Ronnie’s crew got control of the media."

Okay. Right. I remember that.

Don't argue. You cannot reason someone out of something he was never reasoned into.

"Ronnie abolished the Fairness Doctrine. We now have the 'furnace doctrine,' with conservatives free to blow smoke and white-hot lies."

The first amendment covers conservatives? WTF? That's not right. Is that what all those conservative soldiers fought and died for?

Well, the left is furiously rolling it back to the world Boy George fought for, so he shouldn't fret so much.

"The middle-class purchasing power of yesteryear, powering a mighty industrial economy, has been severely crimped."

Right. That's why Gordon Gekko's cell phone cost only $15,000 while ours, with then-inconceivable features, have skyrocketed to $500. Or why Costco is so darn expensive. Or why books are so much cheaper in a brick-and-mortar store than on amazon. As I said, I could go on, but I need to get some work done before a bunch of books arrives in the mail and I can dive into them and enjoy this horrible Brave New World.