This Post is Only Knowable to the Extent that it Isn't
Well, let's take an example: orthoparadoxical. Do you know of an existing word for something that is entirely orthodox and yet weirdly paradoxical? I can't think of one.
Here are some examples of orthoparadoxical statements. Each one is 100% true, and cannot be expressed in any less paradoxical way. After listing them, I will explain how and why they are true:
--There is only a Way because we cannot get there. If we could, there would be no Way to get there.
--Things are only knowable to the extent that they aren't.
--It is only possible to affirm the non-existence of God in a cosmos which he created.
--If we could completely know God, then he couldn't exist, but if God didn't completely know us, then we couldn't.
--We can know things because they exist, but they can only exist because they are known.
Each of these was inspired by Josef Pieper's The Silence of St. Thomas, which I read a few months ago and have been meaning to discuss.
Pieper begins with the subtle point that "what is self-evident is not discussed." Why should it be, when it is taken for granted? In the past, we have poked fun at atheists for naively harboring implicit assumptions that undermine their whole argument -- for example, the intelligibility of the world and man's ability to comprehend its truth. First they need to explain how these properties are possible before they can say anything else. You can't just assume such monumental principles and then forget about them, on pain of explaining away precisely what is most in need of explanation.
All arguments are either to or from first principles. As I've said before, if you want to trip up an atheist, leftist, or radical secularist, just ask them to explain their first principles. You'll usually find that they are either absurd or impossible to take seriously.
As Pieper says, our task is "to grasp those basic assumptions which, remaining unexpressed, nevertheless permeate all that is actually stated; to discover, so to speak, the hidden keynote that dominates whatever has been explicitly said."
The major way liberals get around this problem is by making their hidden assumptions sacred, inviolable and even "un-examineable" through the mechanism political correctness. As you know, you can never make a liberal squeal more loudly than when you have pulled the veil away from one of these squalid assumptions and shown it in the light of day.
For example, Glenn Beck recently violated one of these implicit assumptions by suggesting that liberals do not own black Americans. To even assemble where Martin Luther King once did was worse -- much worse -- than Muslims building a giant mosque for the purpose of exploiting 9-11.
There are two reasons why this is such a threat to liberals, one personal, the other political. First, it undermines their sanctimonious self-image of being the noble patrons of black Americans who would be helpless without them. And second, if they fail to garner some 90% of the black vote, liberals would be unelectable in most states. Obviously, they pretend that blacks need them in order to conceal the deeper truth that liberals desperately need blacks (just not the independent and successful ones).
We're getting a little sidetracked. Here is the paradox: "that the doctrine of a thinker is precisely the unexpressed in what is expressed." If we limit ourselves to understanding only what is explicitly expressed, we will very likely miss the whole point.
For example, there would be no way to understand what I'm writing about by reading only a few essays. Rather, by constant exposure to them, I'm guessing that another reality begins to come into view -- the reality from which the essays flow, i.e., O. Obviously I don't want people to be like dogs, and sniff my finger instead of looking at the moonbat to which it is pointing.
Note therefore a paradox: that is it quite possible to completely understand what is said at the cost of misunderstanding what is unsaid.
Conversely, it is quite possible to understand what is unsaid by ignoring the superficialities of what is said. The former is the position of our trolls, who never understand what I'm talking about, even when they do. The latter is the meat and potatoes of my racket, in which the therapist tries to discern the unconscious meaning -- and even author -- of what is said in the session.
This is all prelude to Peiper's examination of what is left unsaid in virtually everything said by Thomas, without which the rest won't make sense -- or, more problematically, will only make sense.
This fundamental idea, or master key, is creation -- "or more precisely, the notion that nothing exists which is not creatura, except the Creator Himself, and in addition, that this createdness determines entirely and all-pervasively the inner structure of the creature."
In my opinion, this is actually a two-way proposition, so that one could equally affirm that because existence both is and is intelligible, there must be a Creator, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Suffice it to say that there is a principial division between Creator and created, and which literally illuminates everything (for it is the only Light that is).
For Thomas, existence and truth are synonymous terms. Thus, only what is real may be known, but also, only what is known (or knowable) is real. This is a somewhat subtle point, but once you get it, it should become obvious and then impossible to not know: "Only what is thought can be called in the strict sense 'true,' but real things are something thought.... Further, because things are themselves thoughts and have the 'character of a word,' they may be called 'true,'" in the same way as one would call a thought "true."
It comes down to this: is reality true? Of course! What is truth if not reality, and vice versa? But what are the conditions that permit us to say that reality is intelligible and that we may know it?
It is because "a natural thing is placed between two knowing subjects." If we were to trace it schematically, it would be something like O --> Existence <--> Intellect. This is the minimum condition for real knowledge, or knowledge that is both real and true, or conforms to reality.
How is it possible for things to be true? How is it that there is truth in them, and that we are able to unpack it? In both cases we are dealing with truth, but from different ends. That is to say, we can know the truth of things because truth is known by someOne. Thus, "Do not think that it is possible to do both," to dispense with "the idea that things have been creatively thought by God," and then insist that they can still be known by the human intellect. We know because God knows (or, God is that which knows reality).
This is where much of the paradox enters the picture. First, as Thomas said, "Knowledge is a certain effect of truth." Thus, because things are real they are true, and we can have valid knowledge of them.
However, there is no possibility of us exhausting the truth of reality, "for it is part of the very nature of things that their knowability cannot be wholly exhausted by any finite intellect because these things are creatures, which means that the very same element which makes them capable of being known must necessarily be at the same time the reason why things are unfathomable" (emphasis mine).
Now you understand one of the orthoparadoxical statements at the top of this post, that "Things are only knowable to the extent that they are not." It is simply a truism that man cannot fully comprehend the essence of single fly, and yet, there is no end -- literally -- to what we may know about one.
And this cannot mean that the fly has no essence, or we wouldn't be able to know so much about them. Indeed, we couldn't even recognize or name them, again, because what is real is true, and vice versa. Anything that exists is knowable, and what is fundamentally unknowable cannot exist.
We might say that knowledge therefore begins and ends in God, from infinity to finitude and back. But can we ever arrive at the final deustination? Of course not! Thus the orthoparadox that "There is only a way because we cannot get there. If we could get there, there would be no way."
Indeed, "It is only possible to affirm the non-existence of God in a cosmos which he created," since we couldn't know anything of a non-created one, not even error (for error presupposes truth). And "If we could completely know God, then he couldn't exist, but if God didn't completely know us, then we couldn't." By now that can pretty much be left unsaid, and silence goes without saying.