Monday, June 20, 2011

Round One of the Culture War: Is vs. Isn't

This post is brought to me and you by a curmudgeonly passage linked at American Digest. It is what we call "self-evident," but no less profound for being so, for in the latter daze it is sufficient to utter truth with clarity to be regarded as intemperate.

In the words of the very private Don Colacho, "Intelligence, in certain ages, must dedicate itself merely to restoring definitions." To paraphrase another aphorism, while ideologies are surely "fictitious nautical charts," the reefs they shipwreck us upon are nonetheless real. Keynesian economics may be pure doo-doo economics, but that doesn't make the malodorous results an illusion. Some ideas really do stink.

Anyway, the passage: "At the very core of our national discombobulation, this very problem We no longer speak the same language. We don't recognize the same historical records. We don't share the same values, principles, hopes, dreams or morality. People like Maddow (as proxy for her ilk) are as fervent in their socialist dogma as we in our love of freedom. After years of agitprop by well placed activists, we're past any possible rapprochement."

"We no longer speak the same language." True, but it goes deeper than that, as implicitly recognized by the writer, for the failure to embrace the same values and principles is rooted in ontology, not mere linguistics or epistemology. To "recognize" a principle is not to invent one.

Rather, in our ontology, the principles are real and man is uniquely privileged to know and live in conformity to them.

Indeed, this is what we would regard as the central "drama" in the Adventure of Consciousness. In other words, our ontology automatically confers a meaning, and therefore purpose, both to history and to the individual life situated therein.

I hope this is clear. As always, we are not aiming at agreement, only clarity -- or clarification of differences.

I believe it is fair to see that the postmodern left is rooted in an entirely different ontology. It is admittedly a rather makeshift one, borrowing from here and there -- much of it, ironically, is purloined from ours -- in a manner that never adds up to "one," as any proper metaphysic should do.

In other words, in a functioning metaphysic, one = one; what this means is that there is an intelligible reconciliation between the many and the One, or between appearance and reality, time and eternity, vertical and horizontal, maya and brahman, etc.

Now, the postmodern left has fooled itself into believing that it has transcended metaphysics. This is a self-refuting claim, in that transcendence of any kind requires a metaphysic to account for it, for either the transcendent position is real -- or discloses reality -- or it is not.

The vulgar materialism of postmodern secularism insists that the transcendence is not real, which forecloses man's very ability to know reality. Therefore -- and this is a critical point -- secular fundamentalism necessarily forecloses reality-as-such, for there is no reality in a cosmos that cannot be known (truth and reality being synonymous).

Rather, existence would be "pure illusion," or "absolute relativity," both of which are intrinsic absurdities. These are analogous to an optical illusion, but with no reality underneath, or like a mirage floating over a desert of nothingness.

Which is why Don Colacho is correct in noting that "Revolutions have as their function the destruction of the illusions that cause them." For example, the real Obama has destroyed the illusion that was embodied in "Obama '08." He is a political suicide, as it were -- but unfortunately, he is taking a lot of people down with him.

What is the meaning of existence? What is Is?

First, I think we can all agree that what Is, is. What Is can appear to be what it isn't, but that's obviously just appearance, not reality. Man is the only being who is prone to systematic illusion and tenure, for the very reason that he is capable of adequation and truth. If the universe were not intelligible, man could never know it, for to know it is to at once render it intelligible.

So our dispute -- the "culture war" -- is not just about politics or values, but is ultimately rooted in competing visions of reality. It is actually an "ontology war," which, in the Judeo-Christian arc of history, has been going on since "the beginning."

Indeed, the ontology war is fully recognized and accounted for in the third chapter of Genesis. One might say that it is woven into our existence, or that history is constructed out of the warp and weft of truth and error.

Prior to man there is no error because there is no truth from which to deviate. There is no choice, which can only take place in the space of man's conscious being. Man is free to choose, which again opens the cosmic door to error -- not to mention ugliness and immorality.

Appropriately, in what I believe was his first encyclical, Pope Benedict speaks for us in making the bold ontological claim that God is love. In other words, love is ultimately what Is, and what Is is love. But how could this be? You've seen the world. What kind of ledbrained bag of hot air would suggest that it is really just a whole lotta' love?

First of all, this is not a "thought" about reality; rather, it is the reality itself. Embedded in it is a decision about the world, again, a free choice made in the transitional space of human consciousness.

To de-cide means to cut, to make a scission. In this case, it is that same cut referenced above, between the Trees of Life and Death. This fork in the ontological road is always before us, never behind us. One cannot choose not to choose.

Benedict says that the assertion that God is love is rooted in an encounter "which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." But unfortunately, due to the debasement of language, "the term love has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings."

Among the varieties of love, one particular type conspicuously stands out from the rest, the love between Man and Woman.

Now, "falling in love" cannot be willed, can it? Rather, it is to awaken to a kind of intimate knowledge of who and what the beloved Is. Absent the actual experience, it cannot be adequately conveyed to anyone else in such a way that it could reproduce the experience.

In a couple of ironic aphorisms, Don Colacho says that "We do not know anything perfectly except what we do not feel capable of teaching," and "Of anything important there are no proofs, only testimonies."

Reality surely qualifies as "important." That being the case, it cannot be communicated (without remainder) via language, mathematical equations, or empirical sensation. Rather, it can only be experienced and testified to.

Importantly, the testimony cannot be prior to its experience, but it can certainly be a signpost, or lamp, along the way. The saints, for example, are fleshlights who illuminate the path for us, but we still have to take the path. We can't just phoneme it in.

In a purely rational world view, falling in love must be a kind of inebriation, at least if we are to trust Mr. Spock.

Likewise, as Benedict notes, "The Greeks -- not unlike other cultures -- considered eros principally a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a 'divine madness' that tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience the supreme happiness" of knowing what it's like to be the volatile Captain Kirk.

And with that I must abruptly stop in my own treks, because I'm still overloaded with work.

25 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"In the words of the very private Don Colacho, "Intelligence, in certain ages, must dedicate itself merely to restoring definitions." To paraphrase another aphorism, while ideologies are surely "fictitious nautical charts," the reefs they shipwreck us upon are nonetheless real. Keynesian economics may be pure doo-doo economics, but that doesn't make the malodorous results an illusion. Some ideas really do stink."

... to high heaven.

6/20/2011 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I'm reminded of something Ricky said yesterday that rang the lo gong good and hard:

"You cannot be innocent if it is not possible to be guilty."

As to this:
In a purely rational world view, falling in love must be a kind of inebriation

Yes, and thus it is possible to be drunk on Spirit...

6/20/2011 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger swiftone said...

Has the very private Don Colacho gone so private that his site is no longer available to the hoi polloi? 'Sok, wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me anyway!

6/20/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That's a bummer. Could be there's a book on the way, in which case having it all online already kind of defeats the purpose. If I recall, the blog author didn't properly have permission, he just did it because there was no English translation of the Don's writings.

6/20/2011 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You would think anyone who grew up in the "space age" would recognize the necessity of transcendence. I will never forget seeing earth rising over the lunar landscape. As Archimedes understood, one needs a place to stand in order to move the world.

6/20/2011 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"So our dispute -- the "culture war" -- is not just about politics or values, but is ultimately rooted in competing visions of reality. It is actually an "ontology war," which, in the Judeo-Christian arc of history, has been going on since "the beginning." "

A point our trolls are only too happy to make on a Daily debased u.s. While we choose to conform to the reality that is, they choose not only to believe in a pliable reality which will conform to whatever they want it to be... but one where they can have their cake and pretend not to have chosen to eat it too.

All they need to feed their dogma is a true reality which allows them the freedom to choose to deny knowing what is true.

"In other words, love is ultimately what Is, and what Is is love. But how could this be? You've seen the world. What kind of ledbrained bag of hot air would suggest that it is really just a whole lotta' love?"

'...Wayyyyeeeee dowwwwnnnnnn inside... youuuuuuuuuu neeeeeeeed mmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.............', IOW, the song remains the same.

And it burns.

6/20/2011 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Presumably you are aware that was the Bush administration that claimed to be above and beyond what they referred to as "the reality-based community"? It is wingnuts who are truly in the vanguard of postmodern, make-your-own-reality thinking. They even have their own media empire to enable it.

This attitude on display here strikes me as positively anti-American. This country was founded on the principle that people of differing metaphysical beliefs could manage to coexist. In Jefferson's words " it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

But for you folks, if someone has a different metaphysics (apparently you can deduce this from whether or not they believe that Keynesian economics is a good idea or not), then not only can you not coexist with them, you can't even communicate with them, as if they were an entirely alien species or something.

6/20/2011 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

anunce said "This attitude on display here strikes me as positively anti-American. This country was founded on the principle that people of differing metaphysical beliefs could manage to coexist. In Jefferson's words " it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

While it’s amusing that you use the word principle, what Jefferson had to say, and which makes up the very core of Americanism, rests upon the self evident metaphysical truth that Reality is, it is what it is and cannot at the same time and in the same way be something else, and as such you are capable of attaining knowledge of it and of choosing to abide by that - or not.

Because of that fundamental, exclusively Western insight into metaphysics, Jefferson & Co. were able to know that men have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which as a result of the nature of man, and fully capable of being understood, enabled them to recognize the principles of Natural Law and the Individual Rights which universally follow from them.

If you choose to abide by Jefferson's metaphysics, you are free to believe in whatever sense or non-sense you'd like, even the Keynesian assexertion that effects can precede causes... you are even free to practice many sorts of this non-sense amongst yourselves... so long as you don't force your mystical beliefs on others and violate the rights inherent in the nature of man, that of property rights in particular.

If you do choose to violate that metaphysical principle, you have chosen the behavior of a thief - a criminal, a thug. Because you have convinced enough others to believe such nonsense, even enough to fill a popular political party or two, does nothing to change the self evident truth inherent in the nature Jefferson spoke of - you are marxed as a thief and a thug, and in the final analysis, anti-American to the very core of your being.

Move along.

6/20/2011 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If someone insists he heard "the Bush administration claim to be above and beyond what they referred to as 'the reality-based community," is he delusional or just lying? I say delusional. A lie wouldn't be so clumsy.

6/20/2011 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

??? The quote is very well-known:

Suskind, Ron (2004-10-17). "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush". The New York Times Magazine.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

6/20/2011 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You left out the most important passage that puts the aide's statement in context::

'I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore.'' '

If an anonymous aide cited in a partisan rag represents some broad claim to be above and beyond the "reality based community," the point is simultaneously dubious and uncontroversial. If it just means that the real world surpasses the simplistic models and narratives of the "reality based" tenured and state run media -- which it surely does -- then I wholly agree.

Obviously, everyone believes his views are correct and therefore more reflective of reality, or he wouldn't hold them. You're reading waaaay too much into this banality.

6/20/2011 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/20/2011 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Wow, that was a mighty impressive attempt to utterly twist the meaning of that remark. He did not say his views were *reflective* of reality, he said that he and the state apparatus had the power to *create* reality. Very different.

It is true that this was an offhand remark, not official policy. Nonetheless it seemed quite telling as an explanation of some of the Bush administration's more idiotic moves (like attempting to claim that torture wasn't torture, and sending green but ideologically pure 20 year olds to rebuild Iraq's social infrastructure -- after all, they had been blessed by the state and thus could create reality at will)

6/20/2011 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos the post, VDH today:

"You cannot fly to Costa del Sol on solar panels. The light switches might not go on at Vail without coal burning somewhere. The Holder or Obama children might not be safe in the Stockton or Parlier city schools. Some right-wing nut in the Dakotas is still necessary to pump the oil to refine the gas for Air Force One; there is no golf without an irrigation system and a supply of either ground or surface water."

6/20/2011 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anon: Got it. The "Bush administration" believed that the president and "state apparatus" had the power to "create reality."

I rest my case re delusions.

6/20/2011 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - also apropos, Neo (on Kennedy conspiracy theorists, but it fits just as well with other beliefs):

"I have noticed a pattern now too often for it to be a coincidence: people who believe in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories cling to them in the face of all evidence to the contrary. In fact, when they are offered evidence to the contrary, they often will not even look at it. Why let the facts get in the way of a good (or bad) argument? It’s easier to just raise more objections, or to repeat the original assertion."

Now save your breath, anon (or William, or any other troll); I know you would claim that we are the crazy ones who won't look at facts, yadda yadda. The point is, there are two sets of perceptions. One of them conforms with the truth; the other does not. People who hold these opposing viewpoints are extremely unlikely to convince each other that they are right, and the opposition is wrong. Nonetheless, one side most certainly is correct, and the other most certainly is delusional.

Ultimately, the only way to know is experientially, when reality comes in the form of a thief in the night, stealing your tools and copper wiring and tax dollars with no fear of punishment.

6/20/2011 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

anunce quoted "The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will..."

Being an aninnymouse as you are, haven't you learned that 'anonymous sources' shouldn't be taken as reliable sources? Especially from a NY Times person? But beyond the question of whether or not the source was an actual person rather than, in true NY Times fashion, what Suskind just made up because he just knew it must be true, it wouldn't surprise me to learn the quote was a largely ‘reality based’ one.

Although I liked Bush 'as a person' & think he tried to do his best as President, I disagreed with most of his domestic policies (too proregressive), much of his foreign policy (too soft and proregressive) and voted against him in the primaries because it seemed obvious (and it was if you pay attention to principles) that he would do just what he did do: No Child Left Behind, Medicare Prescription drugs, immigration, bailouts, TARP, etc, and worst of all, his belief that he ‘had to abandon the free market in order to save it’ and letting Paulson loose on the financial industry - an actual case of fascism.

But assuming it was a real quote, note that the aide is speaking to a member of the 'reality based community' and gives a good description of the leftist approach to making decisions: pure pragmatism. The 'judicious study of discernible reality' (I’d bet ‘judicious’ was either snidely said or was an author insert) means to abandon principles and try this and that in order to see what looks like it will work (aka rationalizing your feelings in a attempt hide that you’re only going on your feelings). This is pure leftism, abandoning the wealth of history and wisdom of Western Civilization, in favor of trying some smart uninformed fools best guess about what to do next based on the range of the moment.

Where's the shocker there?

However, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality..." shows that whoever said that paid far too much attention in college and suffered mightily for it, accepting that some version of a Hobbesian right as being the only alternative to the radical left - that's not Conservative thought, that's little 'r' republicanism, little more than warmed over Teddy Roosevelt proregressivism, which, like John McCain, occupies the plodding right lane, vs the leftist passing lane, on the same highway to hell - same destination, just a slightly slower pace.

6/20/2011 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Here's some more on The Republican War on History from Rick Perlstein, who has written histories of how the rise of the right wing "unraveled" the American postwar consensus.

6/20/2011 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - unsurprisingly, they don't honestly believe their own ontology. Or at least, they don't think it applies to themselves, just all the little people who don't actually matter. Little people who don't appreciate the importance of "authentic" artisanal pizza baked on a properly heated stone.

6/20/2011 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Damn. If only conservatives hadn't unraveled our beautiful post-war consensus, we wouldn't be stuck with this limited constitutional government. Is there nothing we can do to get back our bloated state of the 1950s?

6/20/2011 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Weren't we talking about this just the other day? Just think, it may soon be possible for lefties and others to know even more of what just isn't so.

" Imagine you can insert a memory card in your brain and go all Keanu Wow, I know Jiu-Jitsu! Reeves. It's actually not that far away: Scientists have created a chip that allows rats to instantly know things. It's amazing....Dr. Berger's description is almost frightening:

"Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget [...] These integrated experimental modeling studies show for the first time that with sufficient information about the neural coding of memories, a neural prosthesis capable of real-time identification and manipulation of the encoding process can restore and even enhance cognitive mnemonic processes."


Looks like the main article is here.

6/21/2011 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van - interesting article. Sounds like the technology would be very useful, but I can think of lots of ways it might be misused as well. If memories become downloadable and transferable, how long will it be until the first murder case where the victim's own memories implicate the killer? And how long until some gets framed by that sort of "infallible" evidence?

Or how long until movie production becomes memory production - and think of the ramifications there... if one could download "memories" of being married to one's favorite actor or actress, for instance...

This sort of technology could be used for edification and cognitive therapy, but that won't be where the real money is made. It'll mostly be about entertainment and fantasy.

6/21/2011 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

I think there was a slightly bizzare Robin Williams movie some while back, where he was a sort of a videographer mortician... he'd go through the deceased's memories, and extract... or edit... them into a spiffy and flattering movie of their life.
But of course he'd have to see, fastforward and rewind, through all of the person's memories to get the 'useful' memories.

Imagine the privacy issues on that sort of issue!

Do your memories belong to you, or to the person being remembered? Would you have to pay royalties to remember something? How about publishing?

Just what the dating world needs... not only could you pick up a nasty virus... your nasty could go viral, no camera needed.

Don't you just love brave new worlds?

Another question soon to follow, would be if you can figure out the chemical sequence to add or remove prosthetic memories... how long until it's figured out how to do the same to organic memories? Or how to enhance simple fantasies into high impact memories?

What dreams may come....

wv is keeping it horizontal:
bedings

6/21/2011 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Thanks, Julie :-)

Built another today. Goes like this:

A Godless man dies an animal.

6/21/2011 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Julie said (a couple days ago)... "Could be there's a book on the way..."

I hope... That would be quite useful. And wonderful. A great idea!

6/22/2011 02:37:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home