Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stuff Not Even a Liberal Can't Not Know

Underneath it all, the fundamental division among Americans is between relativists and absolutists.

Which, of course, makes no sense -- it is absolute nonsense -- because who is more certain of the truth of his convictions than the sanctimonious liberal who knows all conservatives are racists, or the naive Darwinian who can explain everything but the explainer, or the hammerheaded atheist who regards God as the big nail in the sky?

So the real division is between absolutists and people who pretend not to be. Which means that there is always this make believe element to leftism, in that the leftist must pretend to not know things one cannot not know. In many ways, a college education -- I mean a thorough one -- systematically trains one to deny the undeniable and therefore promulgate the unthinkable. By which I mean sling the bullshit.

What distinguishes man from the beasts is this knowledge of the Absolute in all its forms. We may think of the Absolute as a kind of central sun, with its rays extending down into creation. Each ray is a "mode" of the absolute, for example, with regard to truth, beauty, virtue, justice, etc. "Judgment" is what allows humans to determine where a particular instance falls along the ray.

For example, to say that this is more beautiful than that is to locate the entity in question higher up on the spectral ray. Thus, the existence of absolute truth necessitates the existence of relative truth.

But the converse could never be true; and in fact, it could never be at all. In other words, absolute relativity is a contradiction in terms, because the relative is always testimony of the absolute.

The moment one realizes this -- assuming one really and truly does -- one understands that the human state is not and cannot be any kind of Darwinian "extension" of the animal state, but something fundamentally inexplicable on any materialistic basis.

Yes, there is continuity, of course, and it is the task of science to explain this continuity. But there is also irreducible discontinuity, and to the extent that science ignores this, it will generate ambiguity, absurdity, and paradox.

For example, let us say that man and chimp share 99.6% of their DNA, or whatever it is. Far from explaining the continuity, this only shows how DNA is powerless to account for the shocking discontinuity between man and beast -- unless one wishes to argue that all the painting, poetry, and music, all the novels, symphonies, games, and jokes, all of the science, religion, mathematics, and genetics is in that little accident of biology.

Is the study of genetics genetic? No, of course not. Humanness is in fact the gate of exit out of mere animality -- indeed, out of the relative cosmos itself. Humans are the "hole" in creation that permits knowledge of the whole of creation; in our heart is a mysterious absence that potentially holds all the Presence. To put it another way, man is an incomplete completeness, which is another term for our neoteny, or endless childhood.

Please note that there is this critical relationship -- and all religions speak of it -- between the absence and the Presence, the relative and the Absolute. Animals do not know this absence, which amounts to the recognition of one's relativity, hence one's dependence. But to be aware of absence is to know in an instant that one stands in relation. To what? Or, more to the point, Whom? I AM, for starters.

Having said that, it is eminently possible for human beings to deny the absence, which results in two conditions, both fatal. First, it forecloses knowledge of the absolute; second, it inserts a false absolute in the space the real one should occupy. In short, this is the zone of the graven image that exiles one from eternity.

For in knowing absolute truth, human beings may participate in eternity on this side of manifestation -- in the relative world. We do this by 1) aligning ourselves with truth, and 2) assimilating truth.

By "assimilating," I mean that we must metabolize truth so that it is interiorized and becomes mingled with our own psychic substance. We must "eat and breathe" truth in order to become it and live it.

Some people think Catholics are primitive, but we all practice theophagy in one form or another, even -- or especially -- coprophagics (and let's not even talk about chopraphagics. Disgusting!).

Now, the typical irreligious yahoo does indeed believe in the absolute, even if his metaphysic denies its possibility. For example, physicists believe there must be a "theory of everything" that unifies all physical forces and explains creation without remainder. Likewise, many biologists believe natural selection to be a universal principle that doesn't only apply to biology, but even to cosmology.

Indeed, most of us don't have difficulty with the idea that there are universal scientific truths such as E=MC² or the second law of thermodynamics.

But what about the moral law? And what about beauty? For some reason, even as science has penetrated more deeply into the physical laws that govern matter, people have backed away from the idea that man can also draw nearer to virtue and beauty (with exceptions, for example, physicists and mathematicians who are guided by a sense of "explanatory beauty" in their equations).

Since I'm almost out of time, I guess that was a longwinded introduction to Ten Universal Principles, by Robert Spitzer. In the thoughtful words of the ubiquitous Professor Backflap,

"How do we make sense of life? How should we treat others? How should we reasonably be expected to be treated by others? When human life is at stake, are there reasonable principles we can rely on to guide our actions? How should our laws be framed to protect human life? What kind of society should be built?

"Many people rely on their religious beliefs to answer these questions. But not everyone accepts the same religious premises or recognizes the same spiritual authorities. Are there 'public arguments' -- reasons that can be given that do not presuppose agreement on religious grounds or common religious commitments -- that can guide our thoughts and actions, as well as our laws and public policies?

"In Ten Universal Principles, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer sets out... ten basic principles that must govern the reasonable person's thinking and acting about life issues."

And so he does. And so we will. Tomorrow.

17 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

For example, to say that this is more beautiful than that is to locate the entity in question higher up on the spectral ray. Thus, the existence of absolute truth necessitates the existence of relative truth.

I'm reminded on an eye test Ace linked in one of his overnight threads a few months back (here). The first couple were easy, but they did get more challenging. For some people, I'm sure, the difference between swatches was literally un-seeable after a point.

Of course, with eyes and color perception, we're pretty much stuck with what we have. With knowledge of the Absolute, it is possible to move from ignorance to truth, to where the continuity - and the gaps - become clear to that Other eye, the more we metabolize that which is true.

1/25/2012 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, being full-bloodied raccoon, I just hit the score button without moving any colors.
:-)
I scored 964 but couldn't make out if that was good or not since It's all "normal" to me.

1/25/2012 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob,
What's your short-answer on the Scruton book?

1/25/2012 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

OT: Bob, in regards to a past thread around the integration and evolution of political theory... Just read Walter Russell Mead's piece on "The Once and Future Liberalism" (http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1183). Excellent lay out on the prior political orientations and what may lie ahead for us. Highly recommended.

1/25/2012 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The Scruton book: maybe. I pretty much left through the same door I entered, but others may feel different.

1/25/2012 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

" So the real division is between absolutists and people who pretend not to be. Which means that there is always this make believe element to leftism, in that the leftist must pretend to not know things one cannot not know. In many ways, a college education -- I mean a thorough one --systematically trains one to deny the undeniable and therefore promulgate the unthinkable. By which I mean sling the bullshit."

Nailed it.

1/25/2012 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Wish I could keep up with your reading list. Just finished Landes' Heaven on Earth. Excellent read, but I need more slack to keep up!

1/25/2012 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's an important book, but it's almost like he's a field unto himself.

1/25/2012 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Thanks, Bob.
I was enjoying Scruton's BBC documentary again last night. The one on the importance of beauty. Maybe the book is mostly a regurgitation of the documentary. Not a bad thing...

1/25/2012 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Alan McCann said...

"But what about the moral law? And what about beauty?"

The funny thing about this is that most people I know have become hyper concerned about physical beauty but not about moral beauty (or virtue).

Physical obesity is a central concern of our society while "moral obesity" is not even talked about or a consideration.

Upside down, if you ask me.

1/25/2012 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Aloysius said...

I know it's a tangent but let's talk Newt, the nasty auto-immune disorder of the right. His mob is the vulgar mirror image of the leftist rabble. They think that Jimmy Swaggart was sincere, that pro wrestling is sport and that porn is sex. They are full of lusts and their itching ears are anxious for scratching by the nastiest con man around.

Alinsky and like lower forms are chortling in their graves. Nancy only has one foot in and she can hardly contain her self until the nomination.

1/25/2012 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

U knead to putt in mur pixtures und cartunes and stuf.

1/25/2012 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger vanderleun said...

No mur buks. U R kneading two man-knee buks.

1/25/2012 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Exactly the comments I have about American Digest. That vanderleun seems like a really smart guy.

I kind of like Jimmy Swaggert. A family member met him on a plane ride (1st class), and he was very friendly to her. Of course, she and her daughter are both stunning beauties built like brick outhouses, so a lot of men are friendly.

1/25/2012 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I got 36. I had trouble with blue, but I have a nasty cold or something. I'll have to try it again when I feel better.

1/25/2012 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I scored a 16. Last time I did it, I think I got a 7; must be slipping :)

1/25/2012 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

What distinguishes man from the beasts is this knowledge of the Absolute in all its forms. We may think of the Absolute as a kind of central sun, with its rays extending down into creation. Each ray is a "mode" of the absolute, for example, with regard to truth, beauty, virtue, justice, etc. "Judgment" is what allows humans to determine where a particular instance falls along the ray.

For example, to say that this is more beautiful than that is to locate the entity in question higher up on the spectral ray. Thus, the existence of absolute truth necessitates the existence of relative truth.

But the converse could never be true; and in fact, it could never be at all. In other words, absolute relativity is a contradiction in terms, because the relative is always testimony of the absolute."

Absolutely! Well said, Bob!
It's so obvious one has to go to absolutely extaordinary lengths to miss it.
All the while confirming it.

There's so much irony missed by those who miss this evidence that it's no wonder they ain't shittin' magnets.

1/25/2012 11:28:00 PM  

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