Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Absolutist Philosophy and Totalist Necrophilia

Yesterday I touched on a point that I had intended to expand upon, but -- look, a squirrel! -- got distracted and never fleshed it out.

Sometimes a topic is so large, that I can't just tackle it head on. Rather, it requires repeated approaches from various angles in order to metabolize it. The explanation can't really be linear, because -- to use a visual image -- the object of study is more like a pulsating, centrifugal center with rays extending outward. Trying to describe that center is difficult, because as soon as you latch onto one ray, it shoots you back out toward the periphery. But this is the only way to "think" about it, because to "be" at the center is to no longer think but to repose -- to relux and call it a deity.

Nevertheless, if you ride one of those centrifugal rays outward, they do partake of being, for the same reason that a ray of sunlight on earth is really not distinct from the Sun itself -- it is of the same substance. And, of course, you can always follow one of those rays back to the Sun -- which is why the traditional proofs of God are effective for the mind capable of tracking knowing back up to its source in Being, or (n) to O.

Anyway, I wanted to get into the question of why this debate about Darwinism is so important. I'm not concerned about the science, which will take care of itself. Just in case it's not obvious, I am much more concerned about the cultural, spiritual, and psychopolitical effects of Darwinism-as-religion, i.e., a totalistic explanation of man's origins, being, and destiny. For example, even if some fundamentalist denies the scientific reality of micro-evolution, his body still believes in it, so long as he takes antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective even for literal creationists.

A Raccoon is first and foremost an absolutist. Perhaps we need to come up with a better word, since this one seems to be tainted by certain unwelcome associations, but it is the key to the whole existentialada, i.e., that the Absolute exists and that it is prior to us.

Therefore, no human being has the right to pose as the Absolute, which automatically has certain psycho-political implications -- for example, in the words of our founders, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights. Under the terms of Darwinism, such a statement is unalloyed nonsense, because there is no "Creator" and no "rights" that are unalienable.

Thus, metaphysical Darwinism has its own kind of absolutism, but I think a better word is "totalism," which has the intended association with "totalitarian." It is a total explanation that is anything but liberating, if for no other reason than it renders spiritual freedom an illusion. Or, you could say that it can only be total at the cost of excising what is most dear to us -- eg., freedom, truth, unity, etc.

Now, what would be the difference between absolutism and totalitarianism? I don't think I want to get too deeply into that question because it's just too vast a subject, but it is beautifully addressed in one of my perennial raccoomendations, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, by William Gairdner.

A key point is that the Absolute does not deny our freedom, but is its first and last guarantor. Once you understand this, then you should immediately understand the danger of the left, which again replaces the Absolute with own totalistic and coercive orthodoxy. As indicated in the book's description,

"Current dogma holds that all cultures and moral values are conditional, nothing human is innate.... Challenging this position, Gairdner argues that relativism is not only logically and morally self-defeating but that progress in scientific and intellectual disciplines has actually strengthened the case for absolutes, universals, and constants of nature and human nature.

"Gairdner refutes the popular belief in cultural relativism by showing that there are hundreds of well-established cross-cultural 'human universals'. He then discusses the many universals found in physics -- as well as Einstein's personal regret at how his work was misinterpreted by the public's eagerness to promote relativism. Gairdner also gives a lively account of the many universals of human biology, including the controversial topic of universal gender differences or 'brain sex'.

"He then looks at universal concepts of both natural and international law, and ends by discussing language theory. He shows how philosophers from Nietzsche to Derrida have misused linguistic concepts to justify their relativism, even though a sustained and successful effort by serious scientists and philosophers of language has revealed myriad universals of human language, ranging from language acquisition, to word-order, to 'Universal Grammar'."

So, one of the "paradoxes" (not really, since it makes perfect sense) is that liberal relativism leads to the false absolute that in turn paves the way for totalitarianism in all its guises (eg., political correctness, speech codes, government regulation of "corporate" speech, the monomania of multiculturalism, cultural marxism masquerading as "diversity," the harsh intolerance of the tolerance mongers, etc.).

Here is one thing that puzzles me about our trolls. Let's stipulate that I am indeed a dangerous, deluded, and obnoxious assoul. That being the case, why on earth would you want there to be any possibility of someone like me micromanaging your life? Because it is for the very reason that I regard you as a dangerous, deluded and obnoxious assoul that I don't want you or anyone else micromanaging mine. Is that really so outrageous? After all, this is certainly what America's founders believed. Why don't we arrange a political system so that, say, neither a Keith Olbermann nor a Sarah Palin could have too much power over us?

As Dennis Prager often discusses, the history of the left is the history of the totalitarian temptation. And the reason the temptation exists is because the centralized power of the state is there for the taking, and gravity takes care of the rest. Again, the American political system was designed in order to prevent this from happening. It did not anticipate an Andrew Jackson, FDR, or Obama, who all diminished individual liberty at the price of increased personal power.

Another problem with philosophical Darwinism is that it is not really about life -- which it does not even pretend to understand -- but Death. Death becomes the absolute, the great shaper of mankind. Again, natural selection doesn't produce anything "positive" per se; rather, it only produces random copying errors, and Death selects the lucky winners. Everything, no matter how sublime, is to be explained in this manner: error + death.

Love? That only exists because humans who didn't have the illusion of love died off and didn't pass their genes on to the next generation. But the same literally applies to any human capability or accomplishment, which in the end is just a tribute to the grim efficiency of Death. One doesn't thank God or anyone else for one's life. Rather, it is only thanks to the ruthless economy of Death.

For the absolutist, it is the other way around. We locate Mind, Life, and Spirit at the top. Furthermore, the only reason evolution in our view is possible is because of the prior involution of these things, so that, for example, mathematics is discovery, truth is recollection, and spirituality is a recovery of Self. We do not believe that matter can possibly be the absolute, for if it is, then so too are death, falsehood, illusion, disintegration, confusion, instinct, will, and chaos.

For the absolutist, each of these things -- death, falsehood, illusion, et al -- is no less a reality. However, in our system they take on a relative reality, in the same manner that catabolism and anabolism are complementary sides of metabolism. Yes, bodily tissue breaks down in order for life to continue, but that is not the purpose of your life. Nor is stupidity the purpose of intelligence, at least outside liberal academia.

19 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

A few days ago, you replied to a question about "proper aim" by suggesting that one "align oneself with the Absolute."

Sometimes I notice the extent to which 2.5 years of exposure to your ideas has aligned the "directions" of my thinking, making it more congruent, I'd say.

For instance, today you wrote:
"We locate mind, life, and Spirit at the top ... so that, for example, mathematics is discovery, truth is recollection, and spirituality is a recovery of Self." And it's not just that I agree, but that my thinking about those -- and many other -- subjects, line up, i.e. work together to -----> "coherence."

Such things are important to me, so, "Thanks, again!"

Here's an illustration from Belmont Club's Richard Fernandez about how the philosophical underpinnings of the Left play out in Real Time.

2/09/2010 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

walt:

Richard has demonstrated a level-headed, fair-minded consistency and overall level of integrity matched by few people I've come across.

When Glenn Beck attacks the Left it's time for a yawn (even if I agree with much of what Beck says).

When Richard Fernandez characterizes the Left in this manner (from your link) it really makes me sit up and take notice. Too often we feel the need to be "respectful" of the hard left, when history is replete with reasons to treat them instead as possessed by demons.

2/09/2010 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

And before the trolls come spilling out of the municipal sewage system: it is the hard Left we -- or anyway I -- despise and resist, not everyone calling themselves "liberal", and certainly not everyone who voted for Obama.

The point-source of hard (pure) Leftism (the metaphysical phenomenon, not individual human beings) is Hell.

2/09/2010 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly. Very few Democrats are actually leftists -- which is why independents are fleeing Obama in droves. I don't excuse them for being seduced by this demagogue, but that's hardly the same as being evil.

2/09/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger grant said...

Well, I'm (finally) grasping exactly which beliefs, and the people who actualize them, are "the problem" as studied on this blog.

Darwinism per se is not the problem; it has a limited truth. Rather, it is the idea that stems from it that random chance is sufficient to run the show, that there is no guiding consciousness in the cosmos.

The clueless nonreligious mass consumers are not the problem; they just haven't thought things through. They follow the creed of meeting their needs and desires as best they can. Another partial truth.

Scientists are not the problem; they just work with partial solutions also.

The religious fundamentalists are not the problem; they just don't grasp the big picture.

The people who ARE the problem are the "intentional atheists." They have thought things through. They are intelligent. They make choices based on the premise that there is no God. They have carefully considered whether their might be a God and have determined there is not. They seek power for power's sake. They do not care about other people, because ultimately nothing matters to them, because we're all going to die. So they might as well grab as much power, prestige, money, and sensual delight as they can, and damn anyone who gets in the way.

Oh, THOSE people.

Then there are the people with the whole picture; the Absolutists (raccoons of any stripe). The Absolutist believes in God and acts accordingly; her first principle will be love. The Absolutists oppose the Atheists and vice versa, just as Matter and Antimatter must be antagonistic. It is a natural antagonism.

In balance is the fate of history.

2/09/2010 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

It never ceases to amaze how impervious very smart left-wing people are to rudimentary common sense. For the umpteenth time socialism is being given a go, this time in Venezuela. Despite being blessed with a huge abundance of fuel, this country is currently experiencing the collapse of it's power grid. Predictably the Chavez leftists are cracking down hard and fast on anything remotely free or democratic.

Does this change the mind of even a single leftist about the desirability of this form of government for America?

2/09/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

But socialism is fair!

2/09/2010 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Sowell:
"Unfairness is often blamed on somebody..."

Hence the utility of the concept.

2/09/2010 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The quintessential leftist commentator.

2/09/2010 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Fairness is vastly overrated.

2/09/2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"A Raccoon is first and foremost an absolutist. Perhaps we need to come up with a better word, since this one seems to be tainted by certain unwelcome associations, but it is the key to the whole existentialada, i.e., that the Absolute exists and that it is prior to us. "

Cooncur, the Whole Truth must come first, or only fragmentation would be possible (and truthfully, not even that).

"A key point is that the Absolute does not deny our freedom, but is its first and last guarantor. Once you understand this, then you should immediately understand the danger of the left, which again replaces the Absolute with its won totalistic and coercive philodoxy."

and,

"Thus, metaphysical Darwinism has its own kind of absolutism, but I think a better word is "totalism," which has the intended association with "totalitarian." It is a total explanation that is anything but liberating, if for no other reason than it renders spiritual freedom an illusion. Or, you could say that it can only be total at the cost of excising what is most dear to us -- eg., freedom, truth, unity, etc."

As your great great grand uncle William drew Rousseauism out into Necessitarianism, it necessarily denied the possibility of free will, putting society and the environment into the roll of the pin ball wizard whose supple wrists alone would be responsible for batting the individual pinballs into scoring positions. That also meant that any attempts by individuals to think without conforming, to attempt to make individual decisions and purposefully develop virtuous habits, was something which only hampered the wonders which would 'just happen naturally' if you'd just shutup, stop being so uptight and let the totalism totally take over. Like most later day enlightenists, Godwin praised the words 'truth', 'reason' and 'justice'... but their philosophy gutted them of any and all meaning, one where people obviously needed to be 'forced to be free'.

2/09/2010 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Again, the American political system was designed in order to prevent this from happening. It did not anticipate an Andrew Jackson, FDR, or Obama, who all diminished individual liberty at the price of increased personal power."

Well... it did anticipate and fear a debased posterity harking to a 'man on horseback'(Jackson personified), but it trusted to the American's love of Education, to keep them from being susceptible to such a one's siren song. What they didn't anticipate, was a system of 'education' that suppressed truth and imposed falsehoods as ideals, or the possibility that the state would mandate that everyone should slip it's noose around their own necks.

"Another problem with philosophical Darwinism is that it is not really about life -- which it does not even pretend to understand -- but Death. Death becomes the absolute, the great shaper of mankind."

What else could a system which opposed integration possibly revere, but that greatest of disintegrators, Death?

"Nor is stupidity the purpose of intelligence, at least outside liberal academia."

ROFLOL!!!

2/09/2010 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

What Walt said @08:44:00 AM, lining up right off the bat.

2/09/2010 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said "For the umpteenth time socialism is being given a go, this time in Venezuela. Despite being blessed with a huge abundance of fuel, this country is currently experiencing the collapse of it's power grid."

Even more of an irony rich die it, showed up whn Venezuela, home of the Mountain Grown coffee bean... has a coffee shortage.

No coffee... no oil... that's a lot of irony to digest without a morning cup of coffee....

2/09/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "Fairness is vastly overrated."

Ohhh... come now, that just not fair.

ahem.

2/09/2010 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Grants said: The religious fundamentalists are not the problem; they just don't grasp the big picture.

Indeed -- my friends don't like to think too much, but they are generally better than their theology. In the end, most of them will side with personal freedom over the government control. If more libertarians would take Van's approach -- put down the Ayn Rand crack pipe -- we could all work together and put los federales in their place.

2/09/2010 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Don't get me wrong, I think fairness has a place. It's just that to many people, particularly to leftists of all stripes, the notion of "fairness" has come to trump the Absolute standards of right and wrong. It's become a morality based either on equality of outcome or simply on whatever anyone feels is unfair. Unfair = doubleplusungood, therefore it's perfectly okay to hack off the tall guy at the knees so the short guy doesn't feel bad. In short, fairness is usually envy disguised as a moral form.

So screw fairness. And if any of youse guys ever catch me whining about the unfairness of anything, I hereby demand that a cluebat be used to put me out of my misery.

2/09/2010 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Derbyshire linked this at NRO

First Things ^ | February 9, 2010 | Stephen Barr

The End of Intelligent Design?

2/09/2010 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

God's fairness is to forgive everyone.

That's not socialist 'fairness' - their system resembles more a worship of the wheel of fortune: 'What is up must come down! It's only 'fair'!'

2/10/2010 07:14:00 AM  

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