Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whaddya Know? And Whodya Be?

O Wisdom which reaches with strength from one end of the world to the other and makes extremes one! --Jacques Maritain

It seems to me that everything hinges upon whether or not man may know. If we cannot know, then our whole pretentious house of cards collapses, and we are reduced to competing forms of nihilism, or survival of the frivolous. But if we can know, then...

To approach this question is truly to begin at the beginning, because no other questions can be answered until we establish the fact that questions are answerable -- i.e., that man may possess true knowledge of himself and the world.

Indeed, some thinkers believe we must go even further back, and first establish the existence of the world. For example, this is what Kant does, and concludes that it doesn't exist. That being the case, we cannot know anything about it. The end.

That's an exaggeration, but only an uncharitable one. The point is that Kant placed a dark line between What Is and What We May Know About It, which ultimately results in an unbridgeable chasm between being and knowing.

Yes, we can still know, but this knowledge is ultimately of our own neuropsychology, not of the Real. We don't perceive the world, only (through) our categories. We are in the position of a submarine captain who navigates by instrument but never sees or touches water.

Since truth is the conformity of mind to reality, the very notion of truth is poisoned at the root. Thought and Thing go through an ugly divorce, and Thing gets to keep all the real properties to herself, since you Kant take 'em with you. Man becomes closed upon himself, and tenure takes care of the rest.

The whole thing can be boiled down even further, which is why I developed my irritating system of unsaturated pneumaticons. For truly, it all comes down to O and/or Ø, does it not?

For Kant, O supposedly exists (hello, noumena!), except that there is absolutely nothing we can know or say about it. That being the case, it is but a small giant step backward to jettison O altogether, because even to say that we can't say anything about O is to say something about it. Therefore, it makes much more sense to simply dismiss O and stick with Ønly.

In short, Kant pulled his punches and tried to have his crock and eat it too. But you cannot eat from an imaginary crock pot. Likewise, you cannot have knowledge of an unknowable world. But still, these postmodern crackpots insist with a straight farce on calling it knowledge.

In approaching this question of knowledge we need to bear in mind Maritain's reference to the "freshness of vision that is lost today," to "the youth, the virginity of observation, the intuitive upsurge of intellect, as yet unwearied, toward the delicious novelty of the real."

Specifically, even if we ultimately conclude with modern man that we may only have knowledge of phenomena, we shouldn't start there, because we cannot start there. In other words all men -- as men -- start with the pre-philosophical and pre-scientific conviction that of course there's a real world, doofus. WTF are you talking about?

Indeed, it takes many years of schooling to eradicate this conviction and replace it with its converse. Of course, no one actually believes it, but that's the subject of a different post. Let's just stick with what people think they believe.

"Every metaphysics that is not measured by the mystery of what is, but by the state of positive science at such and such an instant, is false from the beginning" (ibid.). Man is uniquely instructed by O, which is why the rigorous discipline of Truth is a transfiguring and purifying process. For man, as he inevitably finds himself in the herebelow, is a mixture of substance and accident, or truth and error.

In other words, we all have an essential nature -- the soul -- but the exigencies of life and the imperatives of adaptation result in the importation of various impurities that we call "mind parasites," or a condition of (•••), of multiples subselves with varying agendas, the most fundamental of which is a desire to go on being. We might say that (•) is to world (or a world) as (¶) is to O.

Let us say that man may know. But what does this mean, to know? What is going on when we know something? The answer isn't obvious -- at least not anymore -- but for Maritain it is an irreducibly spiritual event through and through. For

"There is a vigorous correspondance between knowledge and immateriality. A being is known to being to the extent that it is immaterial."

This formulation, so obvious to common sense, is nevertheless filled with paradoxes that need to be resolved. For example, "to know is to be in a certain way something other than what one is: it is to become a thing other than the self..." Thus, knowledge isn't the thing, but nor is it the self. So what is it?

To be continued...

Being is, indeed, the proper object of the intellect.... [T]he intellect, if I may say so, "loops the loop," in coming back, to grasp metaphysically and transcendentally, to that very same thing which was first given to it in its first understanding of the sensible. --Maritain

23 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Iiiiiiimanuel Kant
Was a real pissant
'Oo was very rarely stable...


*ahem* Sorry - Monty Python has irreparably affected my view of a handful of philosophers...

As for the Whodya and the Whaddya, well, yadda, yadda, yadda, of course!

2/29/2012 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I'm just going to hang back a little (if I can) and wait for Van to loose the hounds on Kant and Descartes.

2/29/2012 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Don't mention the war.

2/29/2012 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Monty Python is OK, but pretty much all I know about philosophy I learned from Chuck Jones and Tex Avery.

In response to Verdiales on "Up", yes, I am an old man, and I cry during the montage every stupid time.

2/29/2012 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Inevitable: Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

2/29/2012 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom - re. "Up," me too. And yeah, Chuck Jones and Tex Avery were great teachers.

Re. the war, the idea of tying up trespassers with piano wire has a certain appeal. Or at the very least, "ethicists."

On a complete tangent, I learned something interesting about Casablanca today. I'd never noticed that it was filmed in 1941, during the war. Most of the extras at Rick's place actually were expat Europeans who had fled the Nazis. Hence the genuine tears during the singing of the Marseilles. They knew exactly what was at stake.

2/29/2012 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Regarding the ethicists in favor of infanticide, I suppose we should at least be grateful that they are being both honest and consistent. They are correct that there is no real genuine, logical distinction between abortion and infanticide. The only question is whether a parent taking a child's life for any reason is wrong. Since they have already decided it is not, the question of that life's duration becomes completely moot.

2/29/2012 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

To "grasp" something as we did in our first understanding of what was first given to our sensible understanding...

Babies in the womb have sensible understanding. I well remember poking my wife's belly, and my (first) son poking back. He also kicked when I sang to him. I must have sounded like an invisible whale, singing to him in the watery distance. He interacted with me. He was sensible of it. He understood call and response.

My other children did not react in the same way under the same conditions. My first son's understanding was particular to him.

2/29/2012 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"In other words all men -- as men -- start with the pre-philosophical and pre-scientific conviction that of course there's a real world, doofus. WTF are you talking about?"

Anybody remember the SNL skit "Chochise at Oxford?" Unfortunately, I can't find a link.

Didn't think it was very funny then but now I see the humor 33 years later.

As for the beginning of "UP", after my wife and I cried through that we said there was NO WAY we were going to bring that DVD over to her elderly parents for everyone to watch.

2/29/2012 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

I always liked Dr. Johnson's response to David Hume's skepticism. He kicked a stone, which hurt, and exclaimed, "Thus I confute him, Sir."

Being a sensible beefy person, he wanted to get on with things, -- like dinner, the dictionary, arguing about something practical, etc.

I once worked with a guy in a steel mill who heard me talk about college and said, after he spit out some Skoal, "yeah that'd be the life, sittin' back, goin' to school, readin' books, and hittin' all that college p*ssy."

He knew how much overtime to work to be able to afford property in central PA so he could go hunting. Anything else was rich people's problems.

2/29/2012 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

" It seems to me that everything hinges upon whether or not man may know. If we cannot know, then our whole pretentious house of cards collapses, and we are reduced to competing forms of nihilism, or survival of the frivolous. But if we can know, then..."

Exactly. That we can know, and then how we can be assured that we know is so, then knowledge, understanding and imagination are set free.

Without that... then your're more likely to complain and demand you be cared for for free. Sad how it always comes back to the tenured, isn't it?

2/29/2012 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Indeed, some thinkers believe we must go even further back, and first establish the existence of the world...."

Which puts your own ego above and prior to that of the world and all that's in it (including Understanding itself), demanding that reality must come to you and beg for approval and recognition.

"... For example, this is what Kant does, and concludes that it doesn't exist. That being the case, we cannot know anything about it. The end.

That's an exaggeration, but only an uncharitable one."

Oh, I dunno, I think that was fairly charitable, I mean, you didn't come out and call him 'an insufferable rat bastard, personally responsible for incomprehensibly vast amounts of misery and destruction the world over', sooo, IMHO that was fairly decent and charitable of you.

2/29/2012 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"In short, Kant pulled his punches and tried to have his crock and eat it too. But you cannot eat from an imaginary crock pot. Likewise, you cannot have knowledge of an unknowable world. But still, these postmodern crackpots insist with a straight farce on calling it knowledge."

And even worse, they claim that the sludge left over from such sewage, is something that imagination could arise from, as if imagination could spring from where truth is unknown. How? You're left with sensory shock and nothing more, whether it's the senselessness of a Picaso, or the "Crazy pajama day" of my kid's schools... it is taken as an article of faith by it's fauxbelievers, that anything that is juxtaposed without rhyme or reason, MUST be a source of unleashing 'imagination and creativity!', which her school assumes will result from wearing pajamas to school.

"In approaching this question of knowledge we need to bear in mind Maritain's reference to the "freshness of vision that is lost today," to "the youth, the virginity of observation, the intuitive upsurge of intellect, as yet unwearied, toward the delicious novelty of the real.""

Yup.

2/29/2012 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie @8:53, Ha! ;-)

2/29/2012 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom @10:24, lol, getting a bit predictable am I?

;-)

Actually, when Verdailes brought up Rousseau the other day and I was heading to reply, I giggled imagining the poor 'Coon-O-sphere groaning 'Oh-oh, here comes Van for sure...'

2/29/2012 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It's because we love you and love to read your comments.

Sometimes I will admit that I feel like I just went down a really washboarded road and had my brains shaken loose, but it is always worth the ride at the end.

2/29/2012 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@Van. What Mush said. Predictability is not necessarily a bad thing. I rather like a bit of order and predictability in my life.

2/29/2012 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ah, thanks guys, I appreciate it, and same back at ya.

2/29/2012 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Wow, Andrew Breitbart. That guy's not replaceable. He was like a big, banging power forward. Every team needs someone like that in order to be successful.

I thought he looked older than 43. That's usually a bad sign, plus, he had such a warrior personality. Probably stressed out all the time, dealing with death threats and what not. A good day for Obama and the left.

3/01/2012 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, he actually seemed to enjoy jumping into a herd of leftist thugs and getting into it with them on their own terms. Can't imagine George Will doing that. Rush is feisty, of course, but lives behind those thick walls in Florida...

3/01/2012 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

He most definitely enjoyed the battle. A number of us were to have dinner with him one night as he was passing through St. Louis & I had to cancel... I was kicking myself then, and the next morning as I heard all about the dinner, and now as I'll obviously never be able to cash in my raincheck.

An incredible guy.

3/01/2012 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

RIS, Breitbart. Lord knows he earned it, but the future looks that much more grim without him.

3/01/2012 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

i wish it was a month later
[then perhaps just a lefty dream-joke]

3/01/2012 08:44:00 AM  

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