Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Freedom, Morality, and New Year's Revolutions (1.03.11)

It's interesting that this pagan festival, the "new year," follows right on the heels of Christmas. Since pagans lived in self-renewing cyclical time, it was thought that one could actually have a fresh start with a new temporal cycle -- which is undoubtedly why we retain the atavism of new year's resolutions, and why they usually don't work. The lesson of Christmas is that a much more radical intervention is necessary for true change to occur, and that to change anything, we only have to change everything, i.e., repent, which -- now, don't get the Jesus willies -- simply means to "turn around," or revolve in order to resolve and evolve.

In short, only a new year's revolution will suffice. If time is automatically turning around and returning to its source, then it's not really necessary for us to turn around. Rather, in order to renew ourselves and gain a new start, all we have to do is ride the absurcular coattails of time, and perhaps throw in a human sacrifice for good measure. But if you are a neo-pagan embedded in profane time, then so too are those nasty habits you are resolved to change. In this regard, most problems are ultimately spiritual problems in disguise, for example, using food for every reason other than that for which it is intended in order to fill some void or satisfy some hidden impulse.

True, since Jesus was probably born in the spring, Christmas was grafted onto pagan winter festivals. However, this was not in order to imitate them, but to sanctify them -- to cleanse them of their pointless cyclicality and introduce some linearity and teleology into the situation. Once the implicit idea is promulgated that a single human life forms the axis of history and the center of the cosmos, then we are no longer half-conscious, quasi-animal beings embedded in the rhythms of nature, but awake to the irreversible, future-oriented nature of time and therefore life. Well, some of us, anyway.

Yes, this does merge with our discussion of free will, for free will is an irreducibly spiritual faculty dropped into voidgin nature from above. You might say that free will is like the seed that makes our lives potentially fruitful. But like any seed, the proper conditions are required for it to grow and thrive.

Now, as Bolton points out, there is no such thing as absolute freedom on the human plane. In fact, such an idea is a priori metaphysically absurd, since freedom can only meaningfully exist within a context of restraint or limitation. To exercise freedom is to transcend limitation, not to abolish it or pretend it doesn't exist. It is to use limitation as a springboard to vault oneself "higher" or "deeper" into this thing we call reality (which we actually co-create).

For example, let's say we wish to be radically linguistically free. We will not advance our freedom by abolishing the limitations of alphabet and grammar, but simply destroy our ability to speak meaningfully. If you do this, you will not be more free, but less free, since you will have no freedom to move about within the higher dimensional semantic space that is disclosed by language, but built upon stable rules. At best, you will have a meaningless sort of horizontal freedom in which you are only at liberty to rant and gesture, like a dailykos diarist.

This is why, in order to properly speak the language of O-bonics, linguistic precision is so necessary. You will notice that when you pick up most any "new age" type book -- in fact, unfortunately, many conventional religious books as well -- the language conveniently goes "wobbly" just at that critical juncture when you most need it. These frauds use language in such a way that they make you feel as if the fault is within you, not them. Philosophers and academics pull the same thing all the time. But if you truly understand something, then it shouldn't be difficult to find the words to convey that understanding to another, at least assuming adequate communication skills, along with good will in the reader. (I might add that where the new agers use fuzzy language to conceal their ignorance, the conventionally religious often fall back on overly rigid and saturated formulas to cover over their lack of understanding.)

As Polanyi explained, true freedom results from a higher level exploiting the freedom left over by the boundary conditions of a lower level. This is why even a machine cannot be reduced to a machine. Rather, in order to create a machine, we employ the boundary conditions of physics and chemistry to manufacture something with a purpose, say, an automobile engine. With the engine, we are free to travel from here to there, but only because of the stable and deterministic boundary conditions of physics and chemistry.

Speaking of which, one of the reasons the Mohammedans are so unfree is that their metaphysics does not permit the existence of unvarying boundary conditions free from Allah's constant meddling. In other words, instead of a rational universe that operates along the lines of fixed principles, they imagine that Allah is intervening "vertically" at every moment to directly cause everything. This is also why they are so fatalistic, which only undermines everything that religion is here to mitigate, which is to say, fate. The purpose of religion is to make us more free, not less free. But that freedom can only exist in a cosmos with predictable boundary conditions with which to build upward and inward.

By the way -- and I suppose this isn't a peripheral point -- this is why it is so absurd to suggest that liberals are "pro-freedom." I mean, we already know that this isn't true in fact, what with speech codes, political correctness, racial quotas, confiscatory taxes, etc. But these things only flow from the fact that liberalism is anti-freedom in principle, since it celebrates the elimination of all the time-tested boundary conditions -- i.e., spiritual values -- that have made Western civilization so extraordinarily successful. Truly, liberals are dreadful.

But so too are so-called libertarians who imagine they are faithful to reason but who actually erode its spiritual foundations. On Dr. Sanity's website there was a particularly disturbing example of this by an infrahuman commenter who ironically goes by the name of "A. Rational Human."

In this regard, there is no question that Randian objectivism can serve as a sort of philosophical disinfectant, clearing away so much dysfunctional and magical ideology. But if that's where you remain, then at best your mind will achieve a sort of adolescent cleverness, in which you are able to use the intellect to deny it -- or to confuse truth with method. Clearly, the most important truths are "above" reason, not subject to it (i.e., to lower, mechanical reason, not to Reason as such, i.e., the intellect or nous which "perceives" truth directly, not discursively). Transcendent truths are intrinsically true. Just because we can't reduce them to some intellectual pygmy's O-nemic, a-gnostc, and irony-poor idea of reason, that's no sane reason to throw them out.

Doing so results in moral and intellectual insanity, which is distinct from the purely emotional kind only in appearances. Such a person is just as crazy, but is able to "pass" as normal under the Reign of Quantity. Below are some examples; that this cretin says he's 70 years old only adds to the irony, because his life is a late-term celestial abortion (even though there is almost always time to "turn around," transcend nature, and embody Reason; it's just that this person's language reveals such a willfully bleak soullessness, that it is probably too late for him):

"The fact is the fetus is a total parasite by any rational understanding of the concept. It exists by virtue of what its host provides it.... If a fully formed and functioning human cannot own another human, how can a total parasite that is nothing but a POTENTIAL human own its host?

"It makes no difference if the needy one is an actual human, a potential human, a tree, a cockroach, or the earth itself.... Parasites enter the body as a result of voluntary and specific actions of the host: eating food, walking barefoot on infected soil, breathing, living with animals.... They live off the substance of the host. Sperm is NOT of the woman's body and enters by an act of sex. The fetus lives off the substance of its host. Its only a matter of rather irrelevant detail and not difference in fundamental principles.

"Not only is the woman considered nothing but a growth media and slave to the result for 20 years (sic) but also her life is to be sacrificed in the name of 'protecting' life. My my, what a really a 'loving' Christian idea. To save a life we must insist that the life of the mother be destroyed and that she has no choice in the matter.

"As for DNA, the father contributed only one half the chromosomes for the FIRST cell. The mother provides everything else up to and including birth. Give him one set of chromosomes to the father and his contribution is more than totally returned. The remaining 6 to 10 pounds came from the mother.

"I know the scientific method and by that method I can discover what is true and what is not. Belief is for those who want fantasy and myth to be true and to be able to evade what is in fact true. Science is for those who want to KNOW what is true."

*****

Yes, beneath ignorant and beyond creepy, irrespective of how you feel about Roe vs. Wade. Only a lost or dead soul could argue that abortion is actually a good thing because it eradicates parasites from our midst. Any intact soul knows that human life is sacred and that abortion is at best a necessary evil, but an evil just the same. A celestial abortion is also a calamity, but at least it's self-administered, i.e., cluelesscide. To forget what cannot be unknown is not a basis for life or liberty.

Now, where was I. Yes, not only does true spiritual freedom depend upon the boundary conditions known as eternal values, but it requires knowledge of those values. For example, A. Rational Human Being possesses no vertical freedom for the specific reason that he is utterly ignorant of the boundary conditions which make it possible.

As Bolton explains, "the same observation applies to all morally bad or defective actions. Their necessarily lower degree of freedom argues a lower degree of responsibility and guilt, or would do so if there were no such thing as culpable ignorance. Some such previous failure of free will is normally a necessary condition for worse things." And as Augustine recognized, "the saved in Heaven would no longer be able to sin, owing to their will having become perfectly free" (Bolton, italics mine).

Even if only interpreted allegorically, the point remains: we are only truly free to choose the good and know the true, unless lies and truth are interchangeable.

34 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

The paragraph about O-bonics was particularly interesting. So often when following an author's line of thought, it will seem to be leading to something, to some sort of greater understanding - and then it sort of fizzles, and falls into generalities, inclusiveness, or unitarian generalities - as though the author suddenly realized his book would be sold in a global marketplace!

Rather than lifting your understanding, you just absorb the "wobble."

Many times, religious books (regardless of tradition) seek to explain their ideas by repeatedly referencing passages from various scriptures, or sutras, or ancient texts. These are people who "enjoy the sound of their own verses." But it doesn't feed the reader much.

But O-bonics has been one of the consistently useful and enjoyable aspects to this blog. It is my native language but uses words I am unfamiliar with, so a dictionary is part of the game. Linguistic precision, plus O-bombs and depth charges, make for lively reading!

My aim for 2008 involves "alignment." For me, that would be revolutionary!

1/01/2008 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Cooncur, Walt. I couldn't have said it better.

1/01/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of language, I found a facinating thing on You Tube yesterday, an audio tape of James Joyce reading a passage from Finnegans Wake. (If you have the book -- which you need to have to appreciate the reading -- it's the conclusion of chapter 8, beginning with the third paragraph from the end.) It's amazing to hear, because it sounds so smooth and organic, like a real language. Also very musical and poetic, funny and dramatic. This is what I was aiming for at the beginning and end of my book. Perhaps I should produce an audio of me reading it....

1/01/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Perhaps I should produce an audio of me reading it....

All in favor of a daily OCUG podcast say Aye Yi Eye (the revolution will not be televised)!


where there's spoke there's tire
new age books go round and round
wobble-sabi smoke

1/01/2008 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Perhaps I should produce an audio of me reading it....

Yea, put that at the top of your to do list.

1/01/2008 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know if I want to make a big to-do out of it....

1/01/2008 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Didn't you do a podcast once, with the Sanity Squad?

1/01/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Here you go -- here's the passage to read along with Joyce's audio, beginning with "Well, you know..."

1/01/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I did do one of those podcasts, but I really couldn't get into my element, since it was about current events, and current is already too old for me. Couldn't really go with the instantaneous mind jazz, as it were, as I can do with the writing....

1/01/2008 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

There will be intense competition for the movie rights, as well...

1/01/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Happy New Year! Looking forward to another year of Olluminating insights!

Obligatory nudge to try Pilates if you are interested in alignment, Walt...;)

1/01/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

I wonder if his (A contemptuous mow-ron) children, if he has any, have abandoned the old bastard to his misery.
If even one were able to live through that sort of mechanical, worse than fatherless childhood and come out at some point relatively unscathed in forgiveness, we'd probably have another Saint on our hands.
Maybe the good Dr. needs a troll eradication program.

1/01/2008 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

You parasite is awfully cute!

Aras Human is just spouting his version of Original Sin & has to carry thru his lifetime the burden that before he was born, he was already a parasite.

Way to go knucklehead.

1/01/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob said: "In short, only a new year's revolution will suffice. If time is automatically turning around and returning to its source, then it's not really necessary for us to turn around. Rather, in order to renew ourselves and gain a new start, all we have to do is ride the absurcular coattails of time..."

I'm in complete agreement with the above. I would only add that the biblical narrative is conveying essentially the same. That is, there is no returning to the paradisical origins by going back in time. Rather as El Christo commands: Pick up your cross and FOLLOW me, which is forward in time...

1/01/2008 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob said: "But these things only flow from the fact that liberalism is anti-freedom in principle, since it celebrates the elimination of all the time-tested boundary conditions -- i.e., spiritual values -- that have made Western civilization so extraordinarily successful. Truly, liberals are dreadful."

As Tomberg has paraphrased in The Covenant of the Heart, the above is nothing more than sucumbing to the temptation of the evil one: ye shall be as gods. Attempting to live without limits is to take a bite of the apple. Not only is this is seen in leftists but also in the present generation,s embrace of technology as a panacea for life's ills. All built on silicon (silly con). Perhaps the Apple logo is right on...

1/01/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"In this regard, there is no question that Randian objectivism can serve as a sort of philosophical disinfectant, clearing away so much dysfunctional and magical ideology. But if that's where you remain, then at best your mind will achieve a sort of adolescent cleverness, in which you are able to use the intellect to deny it -- or to confuse truth with method. "

Oh... so true. Having of course come from that route, I must agree. Although, and this keys on the duration of 'if that's where you remain', for me, it brought me to the point where I could look at the world and examine the ideas prevalent in it for myself, rather than for them. It also got me to a position to see that ... it was self limited, yes Objective Reason is the greatest too we have, but hello, it is a tool to be used... by...? - and that, along with a few of these posts, led me to the inwardly ourtwardness of the [de-Jesus willied] Spirit. Like musical scales, it provides boundaries for Music to flourish, but the scales are made for the purpose of the Music, not vice versa... some old dead (probably) white guy once said that 'the Sabbath is made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath." (Nomo: go ahead and correct that for me if you will... afraid the egg nog's making one valiant last stand at the moment here).

In the Objectivists defense (sort of), the portion of that things quote that said "The fact is the fetus is a total parasite by any rational understanding of the concept." is taken almost word for word from Rand and Piekoff, the rest I suspect is his own creation... which... I suppose... is probably the point.

That view of a child as a parasite, not bothering with any legal reasoning about why the Mom's uterus is pre-emptive of the reach of societies law, and so is her own awesome (in all the dark and sublime implications of the word) moral decision to make - which is my position, but the strident instance that it isn't HUMAN in any way shape or form or worthy of any kind of consideration as such - that was one of the parts that alerted me to the fact that disinfectant is fantastic for cleaning and killing germs, but it provides no sustenance.

There comes a point where you have to move on and inwardly outward - or try to sustain yourself on disinfectant - and I think A. Rational Human illustrates that horribly well.

"And as Augustine recognized, "the saved in Heaven would no longer be able to sin, owing to their will having become perfectly free" (Bolton, italics mine)... the point remains: we are only truly free to choose the good and know the true, unless lies and truth are interchangeable."

There you go, now that's a good foot to start off this Year's trek on.

BTW, that's one fine looking parasite you've got there.

1/01/2008 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

(Van) "...some old dead (probably) white guy once said that 'the Sabbath is made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath." (Nomo: go ahead and correct that for me if you will...)"

Glad to - he wasn't a white guy.

Nog 8*)

BTW Van - I've been plodding through Atlas Shrugged for at least the last year (I tend to read a bunch of different things simultaneously - short attention span). Don't know about all that Randian Objectivism stuff - I just like the characters and the story.

1/01/2008 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

Mr. Marx is a (figuratively-speaking) fat, controlling parent who created a false world in which the kids can stay kids, avoid reality, avoid real responsibility (only servitude to him), and which gives the appearance of removal of real consequences. His kids are lazy. He is lazy. The firm limits of the state put all responsibility energy in that basket so it is done for you. It is like drugs. It cuts you off from interacting with reality. The lure, I don't know. To any sober mind it is not attractive, not worth a second look. Why do people get sucked into it? The power of it once someone gets sucked is seriously close to heroin. One gets that pleasure of relieval of responsibility and it's hard to get back. Of course it is nothing that a quick reality-check can't cure [because this can't shake a measly, miserly fist at the heavyweight champ, (the deliciousness of) Truth] but it is a dangerous game.

If drugs are often taken to ameliorate real pain, then what bruise created this vacuum for leftism, in the US especially? Or was it a slight of hand whereby people didn't know what they had and traded their duties for something else (thinking of the 1930's.) Maybe it was simple deception. Some people decide God is not as trustworthy as their senses and bang - materialism and its friends are the logical result.

Jefferson warned that people should be heartily educated so as not find their freedoms in jeopardy. The freedom-responsibility/security-control
coin can be taught but is this enough? I guess empirical result could show that it is better. But how to alleviate false guilt that it is "capitalism" that is the problem rather than human internal folly? so as to avoid attraction to try create a "utopia" since "man is basically good" rather than the truth that man is fallen?

I realize that is a mouthful. And rawther on the topic of politics, but it is really on the topic of maintaining conditions required for spiritual freedom.

sorry for the explosion of a mouthful. uggh. sorry again.

1/01/2008 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo said “BTW Van - I've been plodding through Atlas Shrugged for at least the last year (I tend to read a bunch of different things simultaneously - short attention span). Don't know about all that Randian Objectivism stuff - I just like the characters and the story.”

I’m always amazed by who does and who doesn’t like it… but I think you have to like old black and white movies to like it, that’s sort of the style she writes in – not surprising, since Rand used to be a screenwriter for old black and white movies.

Wait till you get to Galt’s speech, good stuff – just keep in mind that whenever mysticism & religion is mentioned it’s the literalist, hucksterish, Ayatollah variety, and you'll get through it just fine.

1/01/2008 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Voltron said...

Pamela's a cutie though...

1/01/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Elephant, I can tell you what the lure is, at least for some people. I once took a class on economics and World War II, with a professor who was a rare treasure (not a raving lefist). One of my classmates was a socially awkward, overweight LGBT member who thought communism was a great idea, and would frequently opine that the world would just be better if we'd all just share. In his mind, it was a way to put himself on equal footing with everyone. He was painfully aware of his own perceived inadequacies, but instead of seeking ways to better himself his wish was to make everyone else just as awkward (and therefore just as inclusive) as he was. Basically, it was another facet of envy. And no matter how much my teacher strove to convince this kid that his ideals were not just wrong but doomed to utter failure and immense harm, this kid didn't get it. Fortunately, a great many others of us did.

1/01/2008 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie - Nailed it! The desire for the appearance of substance, without the necessity of producing substance, or more simply - Envy, is at the root of it all.

1/01/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Elephant said: Why do people get sucked into it? The power of it once someone gets sucked is seriously close to heroin.

For all the blather about sharing & equality, that's only meant for the masses. The hard-core envision themselves on the top of the heap, In charge, directing traffic & thus exempt from the miserable life they would impose on the rest of us. After all, we should be grateful for what they deign to do for us.

Don't fool yourself, it's all about the power to tell other people what to do. Mediocre minds, who can't make it in the real world, bossing & forcing their will on others.

1/01/2008 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

so the busier people are becoming who they really are, the less likely they will want socialism/leftism?

i realize this one's a little short-winded. but it goes back to the post i think.

1/01/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

i phrased the first part of that last comment in question form, but it really was intended to be more statement-ish.

1/01/2008 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

But yes, that's it in a nutshell :)

1/01/2008 09:17:00 PM  
Anonymous at said...

Bob--have you ever heard this man before? I just found him tonight on YouTube....

http://youtube.com/watch?v=bbqIm9DILdg

And what do you make of Ken Wilbur's leftist idealism?

1/01/2008 11:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Kaffepaus said...

Just as Van did, I also started out on the libertarian/objectivist (I had exactly that confused view of method/truth) path before I ran into OC. How ever I still enjoy reading Rand, maybe most because of her way of so accurately describing the bad guys, their actions and their (twisted) virtues. Rand did a great job putting morality into capitalism and market economy, although, as I understand her, she didn't get it from truth, but rather from method (reason). She totally rejected religion as anti-reason, and I can actually not blame her that much, since too often that’s the only way religion is presented to us.

Since Aristoteles logic and reason was the very foundation for her thinking, I would really like to see what she had to say about St. Thomas Aquinas. A quick look at wikipedia tells me that she approved of both Spinoza and St. Thomas Aquinas...

Johan, cosmic Swede

1/02/2008 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Johan,
Yep, still enjoy reading her too.
Her real value, I think, was in her theory of Concept formation and with the CCD(Conceptual Common Denominator) and Measurement Omission - with those, all else follows, and old Philosophical difficulties like the 'Problem of Universals' disappear.

Excellent disinfectant.

1/02/2008 06:05:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

AT--

Yes, I have a giant edition of Manly Hall's "Secret Teachings of all Ages," but haven't seen that video. I'll check out out later. As for Wilber, I don't know. He lost his edge a long time ago, and now he's pretty much just a new age celebrity guru.

1/02/2008 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, when I said Rand was a good disinfectant, I meant it, and that's no small accomplishment. But ultimately her ideas were incompatible with the conservative intellectual movement. Buckley published a novel about this a few years back, that went into how and why the movements had to go their separate ways in the late '50s - early '60s. Can't think of the name....

1/02/2008 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Humm.. Seems like 'A. Rational' forgets how intrusive morality really is.

For instance, do we assume that the teenage couple who has sex before marriage and has a child out of wedlock does so out of malice? Of course not. Does that make it right? Again, no.

Clarity is, the side rails always feel .. arbitrary, but the reality is that the straight and narrow high way is paved, even as the off-road is not. It is easier to bowl with bumpers, but in the end we must take them away. More realistically, the bumpers must become intangible, present in spirit while invisible to the senses.

The libertine is fooled by their absence to believe that we now, enlightened as we are, can go in any direction as long as we do not 'harm others'. Of course, this relies on a materialist metaphysic; whenever we sin we pollute the world at large, and in a trickle-down our personal sin will damage others. But again, this is personal choice. Without personal choice to not sin, the act is meaningless.

This is not something to fear per se, but at least to acknowledge. The goal is to overcome it, and you can't overcome something by becoming consumed by fear.

Besides, nobody wins bowling by rolling a bunch of gutter balls. You can have some fun, but my experience is that you only have fun if everyone is bowling gutter balls. All it takes is one person who gnos what they are doing to ruin it for all of the libertines. Envy....

Guess that's why we've got martyrs.

1/02/2008 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

The thing that often puzzled me about Rand, especially in the last OC couple years, is that as oriented around Heirarchy and context as her entire Philosophy is, that she never saw the difference between a horizontal, literal interpretation of 'Talking Snake' stories, which were the cheif target of her attacks, and the vertical, metaphorical/spiritual interpretation of 'Talking Snake' tales.

I suppose she was so focused on an Objective, visible link, and growing up in turn of the century Russia with all the worst aspects of religious mystics, and atheistic determimystics, surrounding and impacting her and her family, that she drew her conclusions from that, and that was that.

The Irony is, that her Philosophy meshes perfectly smoothly with Religious thought, if done so in the proper context.

1/02/2008 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

But as A.Rational Human makes plain, that context pretty much isn't engaged in.

1/02/2008 11:39:00 AM  

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