Thursday, April 29, 2010

Epistemic Closure and Ontic Collapse (5.16.11)

I guess I found a topic we haven't discussed. Have you been keeping up with the debate about whether the conservative movement has descended into epistemic closure? Ironically, it's been a big topic of discussion in the hermetically sealed intellectual world of the left, including in such shriveled organs as the Washington Post, New York Times, and New Republic.

Pot kettle black!

PowerLine discusses the matter here, and to a certain extent, all that remains is to laugh at the leftist who imagines that his ideology is not only the essence of epistemic, but of ontological, closure. For it is not just that the leftist lives in a closed intellectual world, but that he closes himself to whole worlds, i.e., the vertical world, or every ontologically real degree of being that transcends matter.

Many of my readers are former liberals who left the left precisely because of its narrow, closed, and cramped worldview, histrionically enforced by the femailed fist of political correctness.

One could list the many issues which are not debatable on the left -- e.g., that the Constitution is both a malleable document and unambiguous in its upholding of the sanctity of abortion -- but that is not the point of this post. For one thing, mocking the left in this conventional way is too easy. Rather, we wish to mock them in a more revelated and laughty manner.

In order to do this, we must begin at the very beginning, for again, if one's anthropology is wrong, then so too will one's political philosophy -- and everything else, for that matter -- be wrong.

For example, if it is true that man is just another animal selected by the environment through random mutations, he is by definition epistemologically closed, for he is limited by what his selfish genes want him to know (and we would have no way of knowing otherwise).

On the other hand, if man is created in the image of God, this places no limit on what he may know, since he partakes of the very substance of the Absolute.

Schuon notes that true -- or traditional -- philosophy involves "knowledge of the stellar world and all that is situated above us." But this is precisely where knowledge shades off into wisdom, the latter having to do with immutable ideas and archetypes, i.e., our Cosmic Clueprint. It is "knowledge of first causes and principles, together with the sciences derived from them."

This knowledge is both essential and true, hence, liberating: it is the truth that sets one free, but only so long as one both knows it and lives in conformity with it (for the latter implies that truth has mingled with one's own substance).

It is here that truth touches on intrinsic morality -- or where knowledge has its limits and responsibilities. For all normal men know that truth may be defined as that which we must know and are obligated to defend. Only an already lost soul believes that truth doesn't exist or that it carries no moral obligation with it.

But for the secular leftist -- or any profane thinker -- there can be no philosophy as such, only various parodies of it, such scientism, rationalism, Darwinism, existentialism, etc. Since the world of transcendence is a priori closed to him, the profane thinker (or infertile egghead) is reduced to "reasoning" about phenomena, or secondary causes (i.e., diddling around ønanistically with cosmic maya). Thus, his philosophy becomes the dry dream within a dream that Lao Tse warned us about.

Do you see the problem? Logic itself is a closed system -- for its conclusions arise necessarily from its premises -- but becomes doubly closed when one applies it only to the shifting empirical world of secondary causes.

Not only does the profane thinker try to reason in the absence of truth, but he seriously attempts to arrive at truth through reason, which no serious person would ever attempt to do. Such individuals imagine "that the norm for the mind is reasoning pure and simple, in the absence not only of intellection but of indispensable objective data" (Schuon). The problem, of course, is not logic, but knowing the purposes and the limits of logic.

Now, as a kind of compensatory mechanism, the secular thinker exchanges vertical openness toward the transcendent with a kind of faux horizontal freedom -- for nothing pleases the leftist more than to believe that he is a fearlessly "free thinker" who has thrown off the shackles of convention and tradition. He is the very opposite of those religious yahoos who believe in ontological realities transcending matter -- little things like truth, love, virtue, beauty, or Slack.

But how could freedom exist in any meaningful sense in the absence of truth? If there is no truth, then there is no freedom, only random or arbitrary movement. And if there is Truth, then by freedom the leftist merely means freedom from it. But you knew that already.

Again, the profane thinker is reduced to "observing causations in the outer world and drawing from his observations the conclusions that impose themselves on his sense of logic" (Schuon). This does not deserve the name "philosophy" any more than Keith Olbermann deserves the name "journalist." But the leftist cannot exclude what his impoverished philosophy tries to deny, so he necessarily lives in a world of ghostly demonic presences that he projects into the conservative.

In other words, for the true leftist, the transcendent is collapsed into the immanent and located in the malevolent other, who becomes the essence of everything he denies in himself. Only in this way could a doctrinaire leftist flatter himself by imagining that he lives in an epistemologically open world. Whereas a normal person vertically "brings his troubles to God," so to speak, the leftist projects them horizontally into demon teabaggers, anti-immigrant nazis, Obama-hating racists, and other malign figments of his ontologically closed imagination.

29 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

"...it is the truth that sets one free, but only so long as one both knows it and lives in conformity with it..."

While never a "leftist" per se, my early life was lived in and near San Francisco, and I surely tried on many liberal stances and positions to see whether they would fit me. As I recall, they all seemed to "bind," one way or the other.

But in my case, it wasn't just the substance of the argument, but the people, that inevitably would turn me off -- specifically, all the lies associated with leftists. The sheer disregard for honesty repulsed me.

wv sez "It's greal to have you back!" and I agree.

4/29/2010 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes. The most repulsive character traits must include intellectual dishonesty, ingratitude, and pettiness (or small mindedness), each of which enforces horizontality in its own way.

4/29/2010 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

You have accurately described my former leftist mindset with great accuracy; it was a dangerous and evil time that created havoc for myself and people around me.

I got out from under it with only the greatest of difficulty and it cost me a marriage and almost a career.

To free oneself from leftism, one must have a religious conversion. Belief in God is a prerequisite to accomplish this.

Conversion is a mysterious thing; I think mine was orchestrated by God.

4/29/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No doubt. Even the desire for conversion is orchestrated by God. It certainly doesn't come from man, except as a recollection of something lost or missing.

4/29/2010 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

For all normal men know that truth may be defined as that which we must know and are obligated to defend.

That's what she said...

4/29/2010 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger greyniffler said...

For all normal men know that truth may be defined as that which we must know and are obligated to defend.

I'm sure it has been said many times, many ways, and it probably should be obvious ... but please cue the joke about the math teacher and "Yes. It is obvious that ..." So it would profit me (at least) if you would hold forth a bit on the "are obligated to defend" part. Actually, iy is obvious to me, in my gut, but defending it as part of a coherent, morally sound, philosphy is a bit harder. And, for better or worse, if you can't defend it, you can't argue for it.

In a sense it answers itself, but it would help to have more. Or, perhaps, to have it grounded in such common sense as to which we might be able to drag a not-completely-dissolute thinker.

4/29/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Greyniffler,

Clarity, please - are you suggesting that truth needs no defense? Or that it doesn't need to be known?

For starters, Thou shalt not bear false witness...

4/29/2010 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Bob wrote: "For all normal men know that truth may be defined as that which we must know and are obligated to defend."

greyniffler replied: "...it would profit me (at least) if you would hold forth a bit on the "are obligated to defend" part. ...it would help to have more. Or, perhaps, to have it grounded in such common sense as to which we might be able to drag a not-completely-dissolute thinker."

Does anyone think we'll find any "normal" men either

here, or

here?

4/29/2010 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Meeting with money people tomorrow re new venture. Over the past couple weeks I've become convinced that the Democrats fully intend to transform the US in ways which are truly hard for most people to fathom. If they are successful in every effort the US will rank significantly behind many other Western nations as a place to do business. Irony abounds: just as Obama's neo-socialists are busily cutting all the struts which support the American engine of prosperity, countries like Canada are doing exactly the opposite by undoing decades of socialist regulation which have strangled their innovation and productivity for decades.

If Chris Dodd's bill passes I can scarcely think of a single young entrepreneur who would initiate a new business in the United States, unless there was no option. For example, section 412 calls for raising the asset requirement for accredited investors (in startups) from $1M to $2M. Meanwhile Canada is abolishing such restrictions altogether (anyone can legally invest in a startup in Canada).

This may seem trivial, but small business has always driven job creation in the US, and Obama is consciously attempting to kill that process.

2012 can't come soon enough for those of us who WANT to create new jobs.

4/29/2010 12:41:00 PM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

Walt said:
"all the lies associated with leftists."

So it is. And the liers are always drawn to each other, so they are quite easy to keep an eye on. They also tend to hide behind the most obvious lies.

Like the Democratic Party you have, or the the Social Democrats we have, and how East Germany was called a Democratic Republic...

/Johan

4/29/2010 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

"They also tend to hide behind the most obvious lies."

That always cracks me up. The People's Republic of China, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, etc. The most corrupt, brutal, non-republican places on the planet.
It's as if when the name republic appears, you know it's some backward shithole. Maybe that's what's so confusing to leftists. They don't really know what a republic is since they have had to lie about it for so long.

4/29/2010 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

"In other words, for the true leftist, the transcendent is collapsed into the immanent and located in the malevolent other, who becomes the essence of everything he denies in himself. Only in this way could a doctrinaire leftist flatter himself by imagining that he lives in an epistemologically open world."

Agree, but would describe it as those tribally associating with one another to prove how independent they are to others. I view the leftist in our society as those generally traumatized by the high school experience. Maybe one too many wedgies or something? They seem attracted to the most pedestrian fetishes. They view the world as some personal charm bracelet that displays their current deep feelings for the new token. God help last years token.

There is always one constant with them and thats their assholiness right to anger. They are truly an unhappy lot, even when they get their way.

Good to have you back.

4/29/2010 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Northern Bandit says:

"For example, section 412 calls for raising the asset requirement for accredited investors (in startups) from $1M to $2M. Meanwhile Canada is abolishing such restrictions altogether (anyone can legally invest in a startup in Canada)."

That's not a problem that 100% inflation cannot solve.

The startups were more necessary at the last part of the innovation wave in the 1990s. We are in a trough in terms of technological development. Google already exists.

We need debt destruction before anything else at this point in the credit cycle. If we get lucky, the debt will be destroyed over time and without severe trauma. If we get unlucky, then something particulary unpleasant will happen.

At the moment, we appear to be on the "particulary unpleasant" track.

Obama seems to be setting himself up to be some variation of Herbert Hoover II.

4/29/2010 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger K. F. Peters said...

Helplessness gives us insight into what is most holy.

It's how we are inclined to react to helplessness that revels our nature.

I think our nature can come from two places, from scarcity or from abundance. From man (satan?) or God. Each would react to helplessness in a different way.

4/29/2010 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

JP:

"That's not a problem that 100% inflation cannot solve"

Heh.

"100%" inflation is at the 100% mark for a day, if you're lucky. It's 101% the next day, 110% the next week, 200% the next month until BANG! Brownshirts galore.

Tech startups are one small aspect of the job-creation engine. In America for the past 75 years or so large corporations shed jobs during recessions, and these jobs never, ever come back. All prior recessions ended when small business, entrepreneurial agents and others at the margins took risks and created the next crop of jobs. Big business does not do this--never has.

Obama and his crew are intentionally (could it be otherwise?) undermining a core feature of what has made America the greatest wealth-creation engine in modern history. Just think back to earlier recessions: jobs came back fast in the mid-1980s for example, and again in the 1990s. That isn't happening this time, and won't as long as the current trajectory continues.

George Bush didn't exactly help matters, but his biggest mistakes look like Obama's few "successes" in comparison. Obama's biggest mistakes... *shudder*

4/29/2010 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger Matteo said...

Well, if your struggle is not "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms", the only thing left is "flesh and blood" (Eph 6:12). Hence the leftist body count.

4/29/2010 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"On the other hand, if man is created in the image of God, this places no limit on what he may know, since he partakes of the very substance of the Absolute."

Goes so well with Walt's comment,

"But in my case, it wasn't just the substance of the argument, but the people, that inevitably would turn me off -- specifically, all the lies associated with leftists. The sheer disregard for honesty repulsed me."

Doubly well said.

4/29/2010 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

greyniffler said "...So it would profit me (at least) if you would hold forth a bit on the "are obligated to defend" part..."

For one thing, don't try to defend it while giving a pass to what you know are falsehoods and lies.

If you use or fail to challenge what is politically correct, don't complain about the greyish difficulties involved in 'defending' what is True.

4/29/2010 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

And since some might be "confused" by our oft-used reference to Liars, let's provide Exhibit A.

4/29/2010 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "That's not a problem that 100% inflation cannot solve... We need debt destruction before anything else at this point in the credit cycle."

You're not serious are you? Debt destruction might seem rosy to the debtor but it means wealth destruction to the creditor and the destruction of any long term plans he may have had for that wealth... bring that about through legislation or orchestrated inflation, and I'll guarantee you that particularly unpleasant things will follow.

4/29/2010 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said "100%" inflation is at the 100% mark for a day, if you're lucky. It's 101% the next day, 110% the next week, 200% the next month until BANG! Brownshirts galore."

That's one particularly unpleasant, and not unlikely, possibility... to follow such a scene - especially if you raise the hue to Green... the cries of change will follow....

4/29/2010 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Debt destruction in the real sense is a function of foreclosures, business failures and bankruptcies. It's an unpleasant but necessary balance to bubbles. Unfortunately, the Fed and the Treasury thought we were playing kick the can. Productivity increases -- like we've had with the exponential growth of computing power -- were supposed to make up for it before we caught up with the can.

In the end, it turns out we were pushing snowballs up a very long slope. The further up we push it, the bigger and more destructive will be its descent.

4/29/2010 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

To follow up Walt's comment, here's Exhibit B.

I have to say, "the world's largest clapper" is an amusing mental picture, no matter how one's mind presents it...

4/29/2010 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger phil g said...

Northern Bandit:

The left never wants small business to succeed as small businesses are uncontrollable compared to large corporations who are entwined with government.

Small businesses can't afford a VP of Diversity and associated staff, don't have time or resources to publish all kinds of silly training and communiques to help us old white insensitive bigots accept perverse life styles as normal. I've even had to take a whole day class called 'Subtle Biases'. You know those little biases against transgenders, openly flaunting gays that we just can't help but harbor. They've come to accept the fact that we quite obviously are dealing better with the Indian, the Hispanic, the African American...but us prudes still flinch at the man who decides he really should be a woman or the lesbian or gay or cross dresser who feels a need to shout out their alternative life style. Yes we are the bigots to not openly accept with no reservations these wonderful life style innovations.

Small businesses don't join unions. Small business are not large reliable political contributors.

Small business tend to hire people they believe will add value to the firm versus filling an ever expanding racial/gender/lifestyle quota requirement.

People who own and work for small businesses tend to participate in subversive movements like Tea Parties.

A fascist form of state and business just can't afford to have small businesses around.

4/30/2010 03:09:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Oh, hey Julie, I see what you did there. Heh.

:o)

wv: pesca; fishing for links?

4/30/2010 04:23:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Many of my readers are former liberals who left the left precisely because of its narrow, closed, and cramped worldview, histrionically enforced by the femailed fist of political correctness."

Indeed. I had some of that stinkin' thinkin' myself.
Particularly in the form of bitterness and envy.

Once I looked in the mirror a morrorcle occured and I realized just how absolutely destructive and ugly bitterness and envy was.

The realization of that and my revulsion of it (or turning away from; Repentence) was only the beginning of my journey towards Truth.

Once yer eyes are opened you can't simply close them again and forget what you saw.
You can't undo Truth without destroying yourself, and even then Truth still remains.

Great post Bob!
Bravo Zulu!

4/30/2010 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

You are on a roll, do you know that?

4/30/2010 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Hi Joan,
not fishing, but when they land in my boat anyway I like to share the bounty ;)

4/30/2010 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Phil g said "Small businesses can't afford a VP of Diversity and associated staff, don't have time or resources to publish all kinds of silly training and communiques to help us old white insensitive bigots accept perverse life styles as normal."

It was when I contracted at Anheuser Busch, about 10 years ago, that I began to realize that Corporations, far from being bastions of right wing capitalism, they are the strongholds and purveyors of the 'heart and soul' (figuratively speaking, of course... as if they have such a thing... lol) of leftism, and it began with a barrage of HR programs on diversity, etc, that I had to sit through, sign off on, and agree to comply with... it was eye opening and disgusting.

4/30/2010 03:49:00 PM  

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