Liberalism and Ontological Closure
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 impotently sealed world of the left, in such shriveled liberal organs as the Post, Times, and New Republic.
Another case of the liberal pot calling the kettle a "cooking receptacle of color."
PowerLine discusses the matter here, and after our laughter has subsided, there's not much left but to dismiss the liberal who imagines his ideology to be anything other than a dogmatic grid superimposed on the reality he rejects. For contemporary liberalism is the very essence not only of epistemic, but of ontological, closure -- a much more serious matter.
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. A certain degree of "horizontal closure" is necessary for vertical openness, in the same way that self-control is a prerequisite of self-liberation.
Think of it: the liberal's whole world is just our bottom floor. The horror!
As we will proceed to explain, epistemic closure is really neither here nor there as compared to ontological closure.
As it so happens, our epistemic world can be relatively "closed," and still be quite effective for the exploration and colonization of higher worlds. This is for the same reason that our alphabet can be closed, and yet, still quite useful for coming up with sentences and words.
Indeed, if the alphabet weren't closed, we would have no stable means with which to build anything higher or deeper. This is one of the principle purposes of "dogma," which is there to close certain avenues of thought, so we can get on with the exploration. Only in extraordinary circumstances should they be reopened and renegotiated.
An example is the first sentence of our founding document, which affirms the transcendent source of our liberty and other natural rights. If I say that I am not open to renegotiating this dogmatic statement, does it make me epistemically closed? Very well then, I am closed. It is precisely such truths which the conservative wishes to conserve, and to which he must always remain open, for to close one door is to open anOther.
You will have noticed that the left, especially after 1968, succeeded in reopening and weakening virtually all of our founding principles and traditions. This is something they must do in order to replace them with their own beliefs and dogmas -- for example, the redefinition of marriage, the replacement of American culture with multiculturalism, the obsession with race over colorblindness, the pursuit of "criminal rights" over justice, etc.
Many of my readers are former liberals who left the left precisely because of its narrow, closed, and dogmatic worldview, histrionically enforced by the femailed fist of political correctness.
But how and why is it this way? In order to understand its deep structure, we must begin at the very beginning, for if one's anthropology is wrong, then so too will one's political philosophy -- and everything else, for that matter -- be wrong.
If it is "true" that man is just another animal selected by the environment through random mutations, he is by definition epistemically closed, for he is limited by what his selfish genes constrain him to know (and we would have no real way of knowing otherwise).
On the other hand, if man is in the image of his Creator, this places no limit on what he may know, since he partakes of the very substance of the Absolute. He is by definition open to reality. Indeed, a CRITICAL POINT is that there can be no "reality" at all in the absence of God, only opinions that have no ultimate ground.
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 MetaCosmic Clueprint. It is "knowledge of first causes and principles, together with the sciences derived from them."
This knowledge is both essential (i.e., partaking of Essence) 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; one does not merely "know" it but "undergo" and "become" it).
It is here that truth touches on intrinsic morality -- or where knowledge has its limits and its 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, metaphysical 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 his own organ of knowing). Thus, his philosophy becomes a frustrating dry dream that is simultaneously all wet.
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 -- 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). Placing reason prior to Truth is to place man in front of reality, with disastrous consequences (e.g., the French Revolution and most every leftist revolution since).
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, and 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). 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.