Thursday, October 13, 2011

Exiting the Circle of Doubt

As we were saying yesterday, man is uniquely privileged to recognize the Absolute -- which is intelligible, even if never "containable" by any relativity.

But even more than this, "The requirement of recognizing the Absolute is itself absolute" (Schuon).

In other words, the very existence of the Absolute implies an absolute duty to recognize it, which in turn provides the trajectory of our life; for "if the Universe were not Knowledge, the way toward Reality could not be Knowledge" (Schuon).

We might even say that this is the ultimate and unsurpassable meaning of I am your God and You shall have no other Gods before me. The one follows the other, and is a key to man's dignity, because it means "that we accept Truth because it is true and for no other reason" (Schuon, in Oldmeadow).

In other words, man's intrinsic dignity is compromised if, on the one hand, he is like a robot or "logic machine" with no choice in the matter, or, on the other, if he only "knows" that which it is in his narrowly construed self-interest to know -- if, as the Darwinians believe, knowledge is just genetic self-interest in disguise.

Rather, man's dignity is rooted in a kind of "disinterested passion" to know truth.

Thus, God, or the Absolute, is always man's guarantor of dignity. Remove the Absolute and there is no ground or possibility of human dignity, for there is no reason whatsoever for man to be proud of error.

But nor should he be proud of his knowledge, since he can have nothing to do with it aside from recognizing it.

What this means is that man's dignity is not only rooted in truth but in will, in that we must nevertheless choose truth, which is to say, "there must be a participation of the will in the intelligence" (Oldmeadow).

That we can reject truth is, ironically, a seal of man's dignity. Indeed you may have noticed that this is precisely what animates many doctrinaire atheists, who are too proud and dignified to ever lower themselves to the level of religion.

But why should a modified ape even care about dignity, any more than a dog should be self-conscious about licking his privates in public?

Of note, the atheist conflates man's dignity with his ability to doubt. The latter is -- no doubt -- an aspect of his dignity, again, because man is "condemned to freedom" and therefore responsible; but it cannot be the whole story, for doubt has no virtue unless it is in the service of truth.

Doubt necessarily arises in the space between truth and freedom, but it is not an end. Rather, it is always, or should be, in the service of faith, i.e., the faith that Truth both is and is knowable (which amounts to the same thing).

There is no removing will from knowledge, which is a very different thing from willfulness, which believes what it wants to believe because it wants to believe it.

And faith "is like an 'existential' intuition of its 'intellectual' object" (Schuon), i.e., tacit foreknowledge of an as yet undiscovered world, which casts its shadow "down and back," so to speak. That being the case, it makes no sense to chase after shadows instead of looking to the object casting them.

Even so, the universal journey from the existential periphery to the ontological center is always a choice, even while it is the only realistic choice. For why would anyone choose to to turn away from the central sun and live in a shadowland of darkness and doubt?

As Schuon describes, "The capacity for objectivity and for absoluteness is an anticipated and existential refutation of all ideologies of doubt," because "if man is able to doubt this is because certitude exists" (ibid).

You might say that the atheist transforms a method into an epistemology and even an ontology: the Cartesian formulation that I doubt, therefore I am.

But clearly, I am not because I doubt, but because -- how to put it? -- because it is, i.e., because the Absolute is absolute. Any IS is a kind of absolute. To say that something IS is to say that it exists, and to say that it exists is to affirm that it abides in intelligible being, i.e., Truth.

If doubt were man's final end, it could not be due to his essential animality. Rather, it would reduce him to a station lower than the beasts, "since the intelligence of animals does not experience doubt concerning the reality to which it is proportioned" (ibid.). Again, doubt is a vehicle of our dignity, not the destination.

And this vehicle, although it journeys from the periphery to the center, is also a kind of inspiraling circle, in that "God's vision proceeds from Him and ends in Him, like a circle which originates and closed upon itself" (Schuon).

Thus it is finally nothing in virtue of which it is everything, in that "the world, insofar as it is not God, is reduced to nothing; but insofar as it is not nothing, it is essentially God" (ibid). These extremes -- nothing everything -- meet in the Incarnation.

4 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Indeed you may have noticed that this is precisely what animates many doctrinaire atheists, who are too proud and dignified to ever lower themselves to the level of religion.

And to what does their dignity bring them? Apparently, it literally puts them beneath the beasts.

Conversely, there is this very relevant observation about Yom Kippur (via Retriever):

"Judaism teaches that the human being is born with the ability to choose between good and evil, between actions that lead to life and those that lead to death.

...Judaism requires that every human being stand up and choose life, not just once and for all time, but in every situation and every action.

...On Yom Kippur we stop to remember our own power as free human beings, and reflect that our sins and failings come from evasion of that reality. And we dignify other individuals with similar agency, recognizing that they, too, are human beings capable of recognizing and choosing between good and evil."

The protestors stinking up Wall Street and other places have surrendered their human dignity; they want no hard choices to make.

10/13/2011 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Willfulness over truth. Choice cannot be our end, anymore than doubt can be. Rather, it depends on what one chooses and what one doubts.

10/13/2011 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wow.
And yes, exactly.

10/13/2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"I am your God and You shall have no other Gods before me."

Yea. My most favorite commandment. Proof against all addictions. Apply topically as needed. :)

"Rather, man's dignity is rooted in a kind of "disinterested passion" to know truth."

Something forgotten by Misanthropes. We are more than our animal instincts.

"But nor should he be proud of his knowledge, since he can have nothing to do with it aside from recognizing it. "

Yea, the truth is out there, its just not centered on the self.

10/13/2011 10:56:00 PM  

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