Monday, August 27, 2012

Fumigating the Liberal Pestocracy with Truth

I've got this growing pile of books on my desk -- my blogging in-box, as it were -- that I'd like to whittle down, beginning with From Big Bang to Big Mystery, which is what started us down this road last April. Usually I'm able to keep the book-to-blogging ratio at roughly 1:1, but the former has raced ahead of the latter over the past six months, so there are at least a dozen important works on which I'd like to pontificate.

Maybe it's because the books are important that I've fallen behind. Unimportant books are just obstacles in the path, and one normally has to plod through a lot of those in order to find the occasional gem. Too many gems. That's what it is. That and not enough time.

Once I review a book, I can let it go. But if I don't review it, it's like I never read it. Or at least I don't consciously remember much about it. There is no intrinsic virtue in mere reading, since most of what people read is as disposable as television. But the Raccoon reads with a purpose and a goal. Call it wide-angle lectio divina.

Let's begin with an observation by a renowned scientist, who candidly -- and appropriately -- muses about his "horrid doubt" as to "whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

So wondered Charles Darwin. If only contemporary Darwinians could be so refreshingly Darwinian! But they have left their master behind -- or ahead, rather -- in favor of a kind of belligerent certitude to which no self-styled monkey could ever be entitled. If only they could grasp this critical -- self-critical, to be exact -- aspect of Darwinism, so many barrels of monkey mischief could be avoided!

To look at it from a philosophical angle, the Darwinian monkey reduces the whole question of epistemology to a biological problem: biology is not just destiny, but epistemology, because what we claim to "know" is a claim made by the genes, and genes don't actually claim anything. Thus, it's just an absurcular route back to nihilism, i.e., a nul-de-slack.

Purcell: "if human knowledge is simply one among the many expressions of zoological evolution, it can hardly claim to be knowledge in any meaningful sense at all."

Rather, just as each species has its unique physical form, it would also have its own distinct form of knowledge. Just as there is bee knowledge, lion knowledge, and snake knowledge, there is human knowledge. While there may be more of it, the underlying structure cannot be any different, otherwise there is an ontological rupture in existence, which absolutely cannot be explained with recourse to Darwinism -- or to profane science more generally.

In other words, there is nothing in Darwinism that permits us to draw a fundamental distinction between human and any other kind of knowledge. If there is such a distinction, then the theory falls by its own lights.

Conversely, if man is fundamentally distinct from -- even while continuous with -- other animals, then so too are biology and epistemology distinct. Importantly, unlike the Darwinian fundamentalist, we do not take a radical position on the matter.

Rather, we are happy to accept the evidence where we find it and to follow where it leads. Thus, there are some human traits and capabilities that do seem to be adequately explained by natural selection, others which cannot be so explained, to such an extent that you will look like an ass if you try.

I mean, c'mon. What makes it intellectually satisfying to reduce Mozart to monkey noises? I would contend that it is not intellectually -- let alone spiritually -- satisfying, only emotionally satisfying, so in that regard it is indeed more chimpish than human.

Think about a person who is willing to die for truth. Surely it is no coincidence that the foundation of western civilization rests on, and is perpetuated by, such individuals, e.g., Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Paul, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andrei Sakharov, and so many others. What can Darwinism make of the man who is ready to die for truth instead of just food and reproductive success? Is he an aberration, some kind of genetic defect? A fool? Insane?

Socrates, for example, devoted his life to "openly seeking the truth and encouraging his fellow citizens to do the same" (Purcell). Just as he "stayed at his post when doing military service," so too was he faithful to his charge "when God appointed me, as I supposed and believed, to the duty of leading the philosophic life, examining myself and others." To abandon this wisdom-loving guardhouse would be as cowardly and dishonorable -- albeit understandable -- as if he had let down the city by turning tail and fleeing his military post.

Purcell quotes the Polish thinker Stanislaw Brozowski, who wrote that "Our life, our self, is a sentry post; when we abandon it, the whole of humanity loses it forever." For what or who are we guarding against when we man this post? What is the battle, and who are the combatants? And what is the nature of this "territory" for which the two sides are contending?

I would suggest that it touches on the epistemological discontinuity alluded to above, vis-a-vis Darwinian infrahumanism and true humanism. Looked at from a certain angle, it becomes evident that the very nature of humanness is under assault from various directions. (You will see some of them discussed in the comments of the previous post.)

In the struggle to colonize the human space, there are fronts in virtually every field and discipline: law, politics, medicine, psychology, journalism, art, literature, even religion, for there is surely a kind of sub-religious religiosity as articulated by such illuminaries as Deepak Chopra or Jeremiah Wright or Oprah Winfrey.

Who could even count the number of human beings who have been martyred for truth, for refusing to bow to the lie? Truly, God only knows, and each sacrifice is of infinite value, even if it prevented them from passing their genes along and thereby achieving Darwinian success. Purcell mentions one, Sophie Scholl, who, with her brother, did what she could to tell the truth about the Nazi regime (by distributing leaflets), and was executed for it in 1943.

Who was this anonymous martyr, and what motivated such foolishly un-Darwinian selflessness? Her letters and diaries reveal a young woman who was already on "a profound quest for living in the truth," and for which she paid the ultimate price. Her Nazi interrogator even gave her the opportunity to recant and save her life, but she refused, telling a cellmate that their precious ideas, "in spite of all the obstacles... will prevail. We were permitted to be pioneers, though we must die early for [their] sake."

To live in Truth is to carry a cross, at least in this world. Stupidity seems to have so many advantages, beginning with the raw numbers. Purcell quotes the German writer Robert Musil, who wrote of the "higher stupidity" that afflicts the tenured. This "is the real disease of culture," and "reaches into the highest intellectual sphere." It is "active in every direction, and can dress up in the clothes of truth."

Lies come easy, but Truth must be endured, and the person who cannot endure it cannot endure himself (and vice versa). Thus, Musil writes of that well-known pest, the person who becomes a revolutionary because he "has been unable to endure himself."

Thus, we have to endure them by proxy. Until we put them out of our misery this November.

22 Comments:

Blogger chris m said...

I had two very good German teachers. They taught a lot more than just German. We read about Sophie Scholl in German.

I'm still working through the essay on Musil at the same time I just finished reading through the Fool card on MOTT. I'm almost through my first ever complete reading of MOTT. It's only taken about five years. It's going to take some sinking in to start making connections. I'm glad to read what you wrote about reading books.

On the Hausfrau front, there is something heartening and wonderful that you should know. I can’t count how many times these last few weeks I have encountered women, who in the course of doing business transactions and whatnot, lean towards me and whisper, “I’m conservative, you know.” And I whisper back, “So am I.” And then the conversation just takes off like you would not believe. Conservative women, who have been quietly going about their lives and doing their jobs, are becoming more vocal and quietly fighting.

8/27/2012 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Thank you for this post. It is very much in line with my current reflections re: "Men, Who Needs Them?" At the risk of seeming to exaggerate this article has been a very real wake up call for me.

Though the antihuman nature of the left has been well apparent to me for a while now, the pure concentration of vile disgust for the order of things presented in this article was something new. At least for me.

I struggle somewhat with how to respond to "it" i.e. not the article per se but the loathsome worldview that lies behind it. The disease seems at once so all-pervasive and yet simultaneously hidden behind a veil of enlightenment. Which we all know is no enlightenment at all, but its opposite.

My particular personal constitution aligns greatly with the Raccoon "Way of Slack" i.e. to offer whatever small measure of sanity that I can to the world. This under the assumption that the good, by nature, is self-diffusive. This site, we might all agree, is one such node of diffusion.

Yet I still wonder if it is enough. Perhaps it is a lack of faith or perhaps my Celtic heritage of pugilism, but there is something in me that wants to stand up and draw the line. Perhaps the two ways are not so mutually exclusive.

Anyway, thank you again for the opportunity to try to think "it" through from a (hopefully) higher level of Reality.

8/27/2012 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

But if I don't review it, it's like I never read it.

It’s like trying to teach something. It’s not that a teacher needs to be smarter or even more knowledgeable than the students. To teach something you have to assimilate it in a different way. It’s not just taking the material in – like you eat an apple. It’s more like being the ground for the apple seed, so everybody gets to eat an apple.

And, by the way, we really appreciate the fact that you must needs go through Samaria.

8/27/2012 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Taranto has a take on the foolish NYT piece discussed in yesterday's comments. Like him, I try to stay more bemused than outraged. Among other things, it proves our superiority to feminists, who are so brittle and have no sense of humor.

8/27/2012 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I was just thinking this very minute, that I need to learn better how to be a happy warrior.

Suggestions?

8/27/2012 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Start with the premise that the world is and always has been and always will be on the knife-edge between apocalypse and mere catastrophe.

8/27/2012 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

... and that the world will be the world, despite our little contribution. To paraphrase Schuon, the one thing we can certainly do is rid the world of one pernicious assoul. That being ourself.

8/27/2012 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Here's the best I can fathom at the moment:

That the false expectations inherent in the unconstrained/utopian/leftist worldview lead inexorably to joylessness and degradation. Or as Augustine put it, "a disordered soul is its own punishment."

Conversely, a constrained and tragic worldview i.e. living in accordance with Reality, would encourage a certain kind of flourishing via participating in its very fragility. Truth, Beauty, Goodness, inasmuch as they are embodied and lived out--even in and through suffering-- are their own reward. That reward is joy.

In short, trust the self-diffusion.

Something like that?

8/27/2012 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Or perhaps more concisely:

The attempt to rid the world of gnosticism is itself a form of gnosticism.

8/27/2012 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

"Once I review a book, I can let it go. But if I don't review it, it's like I never read it. Or at least I don't consciously remember much about it."

For a period in my life I was very active in my church and spent a number of years leading Bible studies. I found the time spent in preparation to be the deepest Biblical learning I've ever experienced ... and I miss it.

8/27/2012 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Stanislaw Brozowski wrote "Our life, our self, is a sentry post; when we abandon it, the whole of humanity loses it forever."

That's a lot to think about.

8/27/2012 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Exactly my experience, ER. My pastor caught me one day, handed me a teacher’s copy of the Sunday School quarterly, and said, “Teach this.” I said, “You do know I’m little better than a foul-mouthed heathen with a morbid fear of public speaking?” “Yeah,” he said. “You’ll figure it out.”

8/27/2012 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Hey Mushroom, I'm with ya on the whole public speaking thing - pallid, petrified and perspiring profusely - now overlay that on an overweight old bald guy and that completes the pretty picture of me public speaking.

It was actually OK for the Bible studies because they were in open rooms with folding tables which I arranged in a circle. It seems my public speaking phobia is a problem only when everyone is facing south and I'm the only one facing north. When I'm just one of the crowd I can blab like there's no tomorrow.

8/27/2012 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Think about a person who is willing to die for truth. Surely it is no coincidence that the foundation of western civilization rests on, and is perpetuated by, such individuals, e.g., Moses, Socrates, Jesus, Paul, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andrei Sakharov, and so many others. What can Darwinism make of the man who is ready to die for truth instead of just food and reproductive success? Is he an aberration, some kind of genetic defect? A fool? Insane?"

Indeed, that's the only way a scientistick could explain it, if they were being consistent with their theory.

And yet the results speak for themselves for all who have ears to hear.

The fools that say western civilization somehow just got lucky by mere chance simply reek of idiotic ingenuity.

The results of those in service of the lie are legion.
Hoping man evolves to surpass his failings (or sins) without the truth is the stuff dinks are made of.

How spectacular the results of truth is!
It truly is aweinspiring to think about the infinite value of the truth these great men and women endured and were willing to die for.

And it's humbling to say the least to think about what these folks faced (and are facing) all in the name of truth.

When I think about how bad it is in the world I try to remind myself to think about how bad it was for our furbears and yet, they endured, for the sake of truth.

When people are shouting it's hopeless and all is lost, just thinking about what George Washington endured inspires me.

It's a good thing to think about those who chose to stick with the truth no matter what.
Good training for raccoons because one day any one of us (or all) may be faced with similar circumstances.

8/28/2012 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...

"Start with the premise that the world is and always has been and always will be on the knife-edge between apocalypse and mere catastrophe.

... and that the world will be the world, despite our little contribution. To paraphrase Schuon, the one thing we can certainly do is rid the world of one pernicious assoul. That being ourself."

Great advice!

8/28/2012 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

From the Taranto link:

"In Hampikian's world without men, every last burden would rest on women. And good luck finding a plumber."

Or somebody to pick the food boogers from the sink drains.

8/28/2012 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Raccoons spread dangerous diseases in Europe.

FREEDOM!

8/28/2012 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, they're scared and they should be scared.

8/28/2012 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

The Big Bang is of course what used to happen on ones wedding night - in the good old days! Or on the first time that you get to do it. Sometimes one becomes pregnant - even on the first time.

If of course one is unfortunate enough to get raped either on the first time, or later on, we now know, courtesy of one of the "wise men" from the GOP that the a woman's body will not allow pregnancy to occur. The particular "wise man" even had a degree in religious studies or "divinity" from a reputable university.

Rapists of course always go off - with a Big Bang - which is devastating for their victims.

8/28/2012 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

William: a Boy Named Sue.

8/28/2012 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Is this more of "my cat died!" rage?

8/28/2012 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Let's begin with an observation by a renowned scientist, who candidly -- and appropriately -- muses about his "horrid doubt" as to "whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

So wondered Charles Darwin."

You'd think, that he'd think, "Would a monkey's mind be concerned about having a monkey's mind?"

9/01/2012 07:49:00 AM  

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