Monday, May 16, 2011

Liberalism and Ontological Closure

I don't reasonably have time to climb to Upper Tonga to procure a new post, but I do have sufficient slack to randomly select a previously cogitated one to bang into shape. It has a fair amount of new material, so please don't think you can just skip it:

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.


Blogger mushroom said...

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.

Exactly. After all epistemic closure is related to deductive closure.

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"

Apparently this Julian Sanchez had a little problem with the recoil on his generalization rifle and did some scrambling to explain why epistemic closure really applies much more to conservatives than to liberals. The cure for us dwellers in Plato cave is, according to the left, wider exposure to the "real" world -- you know, the "objective" one they inhabit, pretty much exactly as Schuon would predict.

I am also reminded of a young man I worked with who was happy to tell me about all the various spiritual experiences he pursued, such as participating in a Native American sweat lodge ceremony. He quoted a clever proverb from some shaman he had encountered. You should have seen the starch go out of him when I laughed and told him that his "shaman" had quoted Proverbs 27:14.

5/16/2011 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Ghost of Davinci said...

I believe the left has mutated and largely abandoned totalitarianism and materialism.

The leftist masses have now fixated on quantum "entanglement" The Newtonian universe is gone.

The new buzzwords are "Singularity Consciousness," "Synchronicity," "Cosmic Mind," and many more.

Spinning off from this shift are the spectrum of leftist beliefs like Gaia, space aliens, UFO's, Atlantis legends, PK, ESP, channeling, ghosts, chakras, different planes of being, and hundreds more.

Much of it is fluff but a very small percentage of it is starting to hit the actual target-- spiritual development.

They have already re-invented or re-interpreted accurately much of the Vedas and this without any external reference. It has to be a real elephant they are feeling up randomly.

It can be basically summed up as intuition.

Unlike the Leninist cadres of yore, the neo-leftist is no materialist or socialist; she is bent on becoming an intuitive freak of nature.

They are in their millions out of the trenches and moving forward towards that siren call.

I ask myself: have I entrenched myself in a philosophy that is true and valid and will always be so, yet still I cannot remain here?

One cannot rest. One must keep moving.

Do I know where the next objective is?

That is the question on my mind.

5/16/2011 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger David R. Graham said...

@ Ghost of Davinci


5/16/2011 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Ghost of DaVinci said...


To Summarize:

There is a war here, the raccoons versus the leftists. Whoever attains greater spiritual elevation wins this war.

We have religion; the leftist has his new age fancies.

I am evaluating the two sides and I fear we are coming up short.

And you? Which side do you hail from good sir?

5/16/2011 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"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)."

I pity the poor fool who feels that imposes upon their liberties... they'll never know what they're missing.

5/16/2011 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are in the end right and all that, but the whole brouhaha about "epistemic closure" was obviously fraudulent and lll-educated poppy-cock in the first place. Powerline, and, to a degree, even yourself also make similar errors here.

It does really matter whether or not you imagine that reason can tell us "truth". Even if you do believe this, what is being "discussed" has nothing to do with "epistemic closure".

Epistemic closure has absolutely nothing to do with "diversity of opinions" or "closed-mindedness"; It is a technical concept about the condition or state of knowledge in entailed (i.e, implied) propositions or operators in propositional logic.

It also has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual "content" of "knowledge" in formal logical system--"meaning", as it where, which is what I think you mean by "truth". This, in more limited sense that your usage, would be covered by the actual working out of the logical calculus of the propositions, that is, their mappings to "truth tables" (here I am obviously simplify matters). Closure in this sense is a statement about the relationships of those propositions to what is "known".

(BTW you err in conflating the
notion of "truth" or "knowledge" in "reason" (logic?) with your notion of "higher truth" by which you appear to mean "meaning". You are rather putting words in logicians' mouths here. They are mostly concerned with the former and not the latter, which is a good thing. They often are not making the claims you imagine that they are.)

Now as to the liberal "arguement": the "amount" of propositions in the propositional set does not have anything to do with the "amount" of closure or the "breadth" of the ontology of the propositions. What this sort of closure is concerned with is what can be known from related and/or entailed propositions. The issue would come up with any set of propositions.

This liberal compliant here, and I am being charitable in my assumptions about their understanding of what logical closure is, seems to be that conservatives are not "open" to new ideas because they assume a "closure" where there is none. But that has nothing to do with epistemic closure in any real sense. The liberals making ths calim certainly do not offer an example of this.

It is a complete misuse of the term. What s being said is completely nonsensical from the POV of formal logic/

It sounds to me that someone had a buddy that had picked up the term in a intro philosophy or logic survey course, and just liked the sound of it.

5/16/2011 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

Is Obama an illegal muslim socialist, the Truth? No, no and debatable. Yet up to fully half of voting conservatives believed such. Was Bush fully or partially responsible for 911? No and debatable. Yet look at all the yahoos who unequivocally believed it. Is Truth for these people merely a projection of their inner selves? Perhaps.

Lets get down to basics. I respectfully request that the Mighty Van (or equivalent substitute) itemize Truths in such a way that even the Yahoo will understand (Since, you know, there’s an awful lot of them out there and they vote). I’ll start.

1. Freedom of the individual and property rights.
2. (any takers?)

5/16/2011 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

funky flunky said "Lets get down to basics. I respectfully request that the Mighty Van (or equivalent substitute) "

Heh, yeah, as if...
(Wo... now Cuz... put the pliers down... I was only joking... Cuz?... Ah! Run awayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy)

5/16/2011 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

funky flunky said "...itemize Truths in such a way that even the Yahoo will understand (Since, you know, there’s an awful lot of them out there and they vote). I’ll start.

1. Freedom of the individual and property rights.
2. (any takers?)"

Allow me to translate: funky flunky said "Lets make truth easily understandable to those who reject it, by nailing down a few simple steps anyone can follow in the footsteps of. Now, for our first step, lets make it easily accessible by placing it about seven floors above our heads... what? What are you staring at?! What?!"

5/16/2011 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

Well, I quess that eliminates Van.

Any other takers? Remember folks, America is "We The People".

5/16/2011 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlotte Tain said...

I have found the very intuitive pathway you describe. Just have your credit card ready and call 555-5555 for more information.
We "Holders of the Flame" need to stick together.

5/16/2011 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

funk, truth is not equivalent with fact, and you can't treat some of the highest and deepest conceptual truths, as if they were a series of flattened tick marks, like pebbles to be used for discussing 1+1=2... the opportunity for unidentified errors in such deductive rationalism is massive - see Descartes for reference - and no real communication could occur.

IOW, suggesting that we start the discussion of Truth with individual rights and property rights, is like attempting to teach an introduction to mathematics by starting off with the Pythagorean theorem. It's pointless.

However, (O.C. regulars are heard to smack their foreheads and groan...) being a flogger at heart, and this being a favorite subject, I'll play along if you'll agree to start with me at the beginning. The beginning being with three philosophic axioms which have to be accepted prior to the possibility of proof and cannot themselves be proved, since any attempt at proving them requires using them, and would be circular... hence their status as axioms.

Ready? Here we go:
1. Reality - it exists.
2. Identity - What exists, exists as something, and cannot at the same time and context be another thing.
3. Consciousness - through our awareness of what existence exists as, we become conscious of the fact that we are conscious, and are able to identify the world around us.

This is the necessary starting point of being able to arrive at and agree on facts, and the necessary precursor of being able to arrive at any Truth (at least implicitly, if not explicitly).

If you'll agree with that as a starting point, further discussion might actually be interesting, and I'll play along.

Without that agreement though, there's no point, and we might as well save each other, and everyone else, the bother.

Your turn.

5/16/2011 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

Tell me you didn't just eliminate God from Truth?

5/16/2011 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

On the contrary, I acknowledged that Truth is infused with and inseparable from God.

Baby steps.

5/16/2011 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

anon @ 12:24:

I appreciate your point, but I was simply responding to the manner in which liberals (mis)use the term, not its technical definition.

5/16/2011 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

Myself, I cannot prove that God exists. But I can prove that God does not not exist. Maybe you know better?

A side note, semi-related. There was once a blog called “Dr. Sanity”, owned and operated by a nearly-lifelong agnostic objectivist. Once, I witnessed her most prolific commentor, a guy nic’d “A. Rational Human” proclaim that in addition to being an objectivist he was also an atheist. He was mercilessly hammered by every other commenter as “a liberal”, “a loonie lefty”, and similar. Me, I was just a lowly lurker trying to figure out what Truth was, but was appalled that nobody stepped in, including the blog owner, on his behalf.

5/16/2011 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

flunky said "Myself, I cannot prove that God exists. But I can prove that God does not not exist. Maybe you know better?"

In my view, to ask for proof is to misunderstand the question; to seek proof, is to seek for some sequence of facts to make the decision for you, which is to evade the most fundamental issue involved, that of judging for yourself, and being answerable for your own judgment alone.

" addition to being an objectivist he was also an atheist. "

In the view of Objectivism, there is no 'also', it is de rigueur. As a former (by their definiton) Objectivist, without renouncing any of the fundamental principles, I believe that I found the escape hatch here, the door inwardly outwards, which lets the sonshine in, without compromising the structural integrity of the architecture in the least.

But numbers 1, 2 & 3 are still required first steps.

5/16/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

1,2,3: We have the ability to identify components of reality to be what they are... with some personal limitations, depending on case by case basis, methinks.

“(Fox News and National Review... talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck have) become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately.” – Julian Sanchez, Cato Institute

"I could give a flying crap about the political process... Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage... We're an entertainment company," – Glenn Beck, Glenbeckistan

Sanchez asserts, then Beck demonstrates, that tribalism is overtaking Truth?

5/16/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

funky flunk mouthed "...with some personal limitations, depending on case by case basis, methinks..."

Uh-huh... that's about all I was afraid you were capable of. It was worth a shot though.

"“(Fox News and Natio..."

Jeez funky flunk, have you no sense of decorum? At least pull up your shorts before turning tail and running.

Move along.

5/16/2011 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

"with some personal limitations, depending on case by case basis, methinks..."

You win. Baby Trig can get reality as well as Van, or Glenn Beck for that matter... but poor flunky will never make the grade.

And it was you were imagining my bare ass while I was trying to steer back to the post topic. Reality again?

5/16/2011 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

You gave a mealy mouthed answer and dodged the issue back to your familiar security blanket of soothing hatred for fox news.

You are well named flunky, I'll give you that.

5/16/2011 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

If I promise to bring my issues with Glenn Beck and fox news to God, and never whine about what Cato people say ever again, will you learn me about Truth?

5/16/2011 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Rand's philosophy is an excellent acid wash to remove the accreted gunk of modernity... but if you don't move on, looking wider and deeper, one day you'll find yourself looking very foolish to yourself. Been there, done that, not pleasant.

The first time you try and match her statements about Aristotle, to Aristotle... should be the dawning of your interest in leaving her launch pad.

Doesn't mean her fundamentals are wrong though, by which I mean her views of concept formation - brilliant. Her political novels are like philosophical film noire... illustrative and exciting in their starkness, but a starting point, not an end.

And I would cite her personal life as evidence of that too, though most of those making the accusations, the Brandens, etc, are examples of far more failed lives than she was on her worst day.

5/16/2011 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Any of you Raccoons familiar with St Francis de Sales? Can I assume he is one of the good guys? He certainly looks like one of the good guys in the quotes I've seen, but flowery and possibly a bit emotional for a Catholic scholar? If he's really a patron saint of writers, I suspect it behooves me to get to know him..

5/17/2011 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

well said and informative as ususal. thanks

5/17/2011 04:10:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

St. Francis de Sales is a good guy.
He was primarily an apologist/catechist, so his style is popular, instead of scholarly. He is the patron of journalists- take that how you like.

May I ask the prayers of the group for Mother Juanita Marie, the superior of the Carmel that hosted our Mass community. She has an aggressive type of cancer and will have surgery today. Thank you!

5/17/2011 05:04:00 AM  

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