Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dumbing-Down of Unbelief and the Ascent of Stupidity

In his discussion of JP II's Encyclical Fides et Ratio -- Faith and Reason -- Ratzinger expresses the doctrinaire Raccoon view that philosophy "must recover its sapient dimension as a search for the ultimate and all-encompassing meaning of life," and realize a scope of "genuinely metaphysical range."

And prior to this, it must, of course, "attest to the human capacity to know the truth," or else it can never get off the ground floor of the cosmic telovator.

Anything less than this approach prevents us from circumnavelgazing the whole existentialada, for to say that man may know anything with certitude is to say that he may potentially know everything.

To put it another way, to "know everything" is to know that the knower may know the Absolute, or know all that is knowable of its prolongation in the herebelow.

More generally, "human thought cannot stop at the level of appearance but must reach beyond appearance to being itself" (Ratzinger), or from the passing phenomena to the eternal ground. This is the only type of philosophy worthy of the name --i.e., love of wisdom -- and in the absence of which man is but a child, a Darwinian storyteller, a tenured ape.

Try as he might, man cannot renounce the perennial philosophy without compromising his manhood to a greater or lesser degree. In such a frigid spiritual climate, he inevitably suffers an existential shrinkage that prevents him from being all that he could be and should be -- and more, by George!

False philosophies are not just cosmic nul-de-slacks, but psychospiritual walls that extend as high as stupidity, but fortunately, are as weak as love. I know this sounds sentimental, but allow me to explain.

Again, Wojtyla's metaphysic does not end, but begins, in humanness. Humanness is the first principle, as it were. In this regard, he is only explicitly acknowledging the prime real estate where any philosophy and all science are privileged to dwell: in the human knower.

For to be born into the human state is to follow the realtor's eternal advice of purchasing the worst property in the best neighborhood. Life -- or the civilizing process -- consists of improving your properties.

And it is a never-ending project. We are all fixer-uppers. Some may have more superficial "curb appeal" than others, but when you actually see who lives inside, or inspect the foundation, or consider how high the roof goes, you may be in for a surprise. Conversely, some rather modest shacks can be mansions inside.

If our metaphysic begins, say, with lifeless and mindless "matter," this principle immediately redounds to the unforgiving chance and necessity which cannot get here -- to the soul -- from there -- the willfully silly nihility of inconscient whatever.

In other words, such a "philosophy" simultaneously accounts for everything and nothing, since it reduces its knower to a meaningless iteration of its own absurdity. Truly, it is just one damn thing after another.

Now "chance" and "necessity" are none other than the cosmic inversions of Infinite and Absolute, respectively, as seen through the eyes of the tenured. Living by their lightwights, we are condemned to a life that is limited to "the sterile rigidity of the law and the vulgar disorder of instinct" (Don Colacho), which are again inverted categories of Absolute and Infinite.

For just as the imaginary abstraction called "matter" bifurcates into chance and necessity, O necessarily bifurcates into Infinite and Absolute -- or Infinite because Absolute, to be precise.

How do we know this? Because we cannot not know this if we *think* about it. Just as the One cannot not be, the One cannot not be Absolute and therefore Infinite.

If you do not *think* about it, then you are merely a subject living under the Tyranny of Appearances. And this tyranny is absolute, so there! You've locked yoursoph into your own little prison, and the key is right there in your pocket -- unless you're just happy to see me. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

For to plagiaphrase The Donald, the most naive unbelievers among us believe in many things in which they do not believe they believe.

Again, this primoridial truth is going to manifest in one's philosophy, whether one wants it to or not. As we know, one can chase nature out with a pitchfork, but she will always come back with a virus. The same applies all the more to God, who can be driven out of the pitch dark but whose Light always returns, even if the splendid blind beasts of the night can only see by darkness.

Back to our first principle, the human being. If this is our first principle, we must ask: just what is a human being, anyway? Is he just a statistically unlikely arrangement of matter? A chance conglomeration of genetic accidents, a kind of glorified earth defect? A clever ape? A good dancer with a smooth line of BS?

Here we must proceed beneath man's appearance, and get down to the core. Once we do this, we will see that man is not, and could not be, any kind of simplistic "one," i.e., a self-enclosed monad.

If this were the case, then man could never have come into being, not historically, ontologically, psychologically, spiritually, or in any other way. For beneath his oneness is always a twoness, and this twoness is always simultaneously rooted in, and converging upon, a third.

Abstract? No, not at all. Rather, this should be quite experience-near, if you can remama back to when you two had a touch of infanity, and were just learning how to use your opposable brains.

When a new baby comes into the world, a new world comes into the baby, and cosmogenesis is recapitulated in his very head and heart, or mind and body -- or mindbody, to be exact. For a person is being-in-relation, and this relational being mirrors the very inner life of the Godhead.

You might say that the "medium is the message." For human beings, our medium is the prior relationality that sponsors the human subject. In all we do or say or know, we are in relationship like Sam is to Dave. We are open systems at disequilibrium with the worlds of love, truth, and beauty, which we can forever exteriorize and assimilate, import and export, give and receive, without ever "arriving" at some imaginary final stasis.

Rather, we are quite literally the gift that keeps giving, on pain of a death that keeps dying -- both literal and metaphorical, or physical and spiritual.

To not know this is to not know the answer to every question, which is, it all depends. To be "dependent" means to be in the orbit of something more or less "independent," as child to parent, appearance to reality, time to eternity, and man to God. Thus, the truly modern Independent Thinker is the very instantiation of the dumbing-down of unbelief.

A modern man is a man who forgets what man knows about man. --Don Colacho

16 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Rather, this should be quite experience-near, if you can remama back to when you two had a touch of infanity, and think about your opposable brain.

I'm reminded of something I learned recently about crawling and dyslexia. Apparently, kids who skip the crawling stage are far more likely to become dyslexic because their left and right hemispheres don't learn to play together properly, never having to coordinate the opposing motion of hands and feet. So one of the treatments for dyslexia is to make the kid start crawling, no matter how old he is. Nice to know, since it suggests that it's never too late to establish a connection...

6/14/2011 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Why...me and Mush were just playing around with 2 Kings 4 the other day at the shoppe:

"And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there."

I mean, if we rub even half our heads together, slack needs a slackatorium, no?

6/14/2011 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A Love Shack, baby.

6/14/2011 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

You're playing our song!

6/14/2011 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Try as he might, man cannot renounce the perennial philosophy without compromising his manhood to a greater or lesser degree. In such a frigid spiritual climate, he inevitably suffers an existential shrinkage that prevents him from being all that he could be and should be -- and more, by George!

Speaking of compromised manhood...

6/14/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

These Catholics. I was reading The Decent Films Guide "Tree of Life" review just before dropping in here.

Greydanus says: The riddle of existence is not a riddle the universe poses to us, but one we pose to ourselves, as Malick does in The Tree of Life. We are the riddle, and the very fact that we ask the questions we do is one of the best clues we have to the answers we seek.

Sounds like he's been sneaking over here to OC.

6/14/2011 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Warren-G said...

Not to embarrass you, Bob, but this is a really beautiful post. Not just the content, but the language itself. You're flirting with poetry here, and very good poetry to boot.

6/14/2011 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Love Shack or perhaps a Cabin in the Corner of Gloryland.

By the way, don't hit that link if you are offended by hicks and hillbillies. Those guys are authentic, especially Speedy.

6/14/2011 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of Speedys and ones-in-two.

6/14/2011 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That is a good one. As Bob Wills would say, "The last word in steel!"

6/14/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

If you do not *think* about it, then you are merely a subject living under the Tyranny of Appearances. And this tyranny is absolute, so there! You've locked yoursoph into your own little prison, and the key is right there in your pocket -- unless you're just happy to see me. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

I'm put in mind of this post at Father Stephen's, wherein he quotes Dostoevsky:

"Beauty! I can’t endure the thought that a man of lofty mind and heart begins with the ideal of the Theotokos (Madonna) and ends with the ideal of Sodom."

6/14/2011 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

What baffles me is not so much that people think they are insignificant and nothing really matters; but rather that they think it so important to convince the world of this.

6/14/2011 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"...philosophy "must recover its sapient dimension as a search for the ultimate and all-encompassing meaning of life," and realize a scope of "genuinely metaphysical range.""

What in the heck is the point of it without that?

I know, their point is there is not point... but what in hell is the point of bothering with the with it if there is no point?

How they don't realize that there is no point to their point... is astonishing.

6/14/2011 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I think, without the hope in the good, worldly philosophy is pointless. So much of what happens, RE: misosophy, makes a lot of sense. We are told that 'wisdom leads to sorrow' - to the worldly sorrow is a kind of death, but to those otherwise inclined, every type of death is a passage; sorrow into joy, confusion into clarity, darkness into light, foolishness into wisdom, and so on.

I guess you gotta recapture the ontos, the esse, chu know what I mean ese.

6/15/2011 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Try as he might, man cannot renounce the perennial philosophy without compromising his manhood to a greater or lesser degree. In such a frigid spiritual climate, he inevitably suffers an existential shrinkage that prevents him from being all that he could be and should be -- and more, by George!"

LOL! But it's SHRINKAGE!!!

Incidently, Congresscritter Weiner (little d) should
change his name to Vienna Sausage.
Just sayin'.

6/15/2011 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

“If you do not *think* about it, then you are merely a subject living under the Tyranny of Appearances. And this tyranny is absolute, so there! You've locked yoursoph into your own little prison, and the key is right there in your pocket -- unless you're just happy to see me. Not that there's anything wrong with it.”

Reminds me of something I read recently... might have been in Bonhoeffer, words to the effect of ‘Peace cannot be gained through safety, Peace is reliant on Truth, and that is never quiet and safe’. What would the idea of ‘peace’ have to be, to think you could attain it by being ‘safe’, timid, clinging to an unchanging state (one without ATM’s, no doubt). To keep such a ‘peaceful’ life... what would the state of your soul necessarily be? Continually and forever fearful of any change, any further and deeper understanding of Truth (for that always brings change)... talk about locking yoursoph in prison.

Ugh.

True Peace comes from committing to Truth and the outwardly chaotic ride it will take you on will develop a state of unruffleable Peace within you, no matter the tempest without. Or you can huddle in timid safety, and go down with the ship within yoursoph. The key is right there in your pocket.

6/15/2011 09:57:00 PM  

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