The All-or-Nothing Cosmos
When I say that the world is seen as exquisitely intelligible, what I mean is that we've gotten to the point that we just assume -- correctly so -- that whatever or wherever we investigate in the cosmos, it will make sense, if not immediately, then if we put our minds to it.
This is science's unacknowledged legacy to stand on, of a Judeo-Christian tradition that insists upon the rationality of a world brought into being by a rational Creator. Faith in the rationality and intelligibility of the cosmos is faith in God once removed (non-Judeo-Christian cultures have no such faith, unless it has been imported from outside).
In this regard, as it bears upon ultimate issues, or limit cases, science is every bit as "faith based"as religion (except in a naive and uncritical way). What I mean is that, for example, science actually has no idea -- nor will it ever, on its own terms -- how a supposedly dead universe suddenly sprang to life 3.85 billion years ago. But most scientists seem to have a serene confidence that this ultimate discontinuity is unproblematic. Which is why I felt so fortunate to encounter the brilliant Robert Rosen during the years I spent puzzling over the problem of Life Itself (can't really recommend him to laypeople; he didn't live long enough to maybe dumb it down for us).
Likewise the transition -- or leap -- from (mere) animal to man. You will have noticed that in facing this question, science doesn't really work inductively from the actual evidence. Rather, it begins with a Darwinian conclusion -- for them, an axiomatic truth -- and deduces how this or that human trait must have come about via random copying errors naturally selected.
Yes, the results are comical -- for one thing, any overeducated fool can play the game -- but no more so than a religious person who, say, begins with the axiomatic truth that the world is 6,000 years old, and then tries to cram all the empirical evidence into that hypothesis.
We had a barmy twiteration of this the other day, in reader William's appeal to cosmic ignorance in support of his negative omniscience (similar to how scientism marshals intelligibility in support of absurdity). That is, in response to our belief that the universe must in principle be finite, he commented that he is
"limited in [my] perception of the observable universe by the space time coninuum in which [I] exist, and that [I am] able to perceive and theorize"; and that "The particle horizon -- the maximum distance from which particles can or have traveled in the age of the universe -- represents the boundary between the observable and the unobservable universe."
Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. The intrinsically absurd way. For example, is it even remotely true that man's perception is limited to the laws of physics, or to what is empirically present? If this were true, then we couldn't even know the laws of physics. More to the point, man is capable of pondering universal truths that operate in the realm of being as such, in any conceivable cosmos. To exist is to be in very particular ways.
In other words, in order for something to be intelligible at all, it must share certain characteristics (which I will discuss in a subsequent post). Therefore, to the extent that there are things outside our "space-time continuum," if they are intelligible, then we can understand them. If they are absurd, then we can't. Simple as. But there is every reason to conclude that "existence" and "intelligibility" are intimately related, and that to exist is to be intelligible. To put it the other way around, it is obviously impossible for us to conceive of something that "exists" in an unintelligible way. Such is analogous to the "impossible-possible," or simultaneously "this particular thing" and "no-thing at all."
We can go so far as to say that the cosmos is "fulfilled" in knowledge of itself -- which is simultaneously man's fulfillment, at least on the natural plane.
But even then, there can be no contradiction between Reason and Revelation, since both are "written by the same Author." Thus, in the face of apparent contradiction, we must re-examine and rethink the matter through. Atheists and other trolls never tire of raising these contradictions, precisely because they haven't thought them through.
While it is no doubt true that in premodern times epistemology was subordinated to metaphysics, in our day it is the converse, so that metaphysics is subordinated to positivistic science, a strangely oedipal scenario in which the child murders its parent (and yet similar in form to how the left wishes to place the Constitution in an old-folks home and euthanize western civilization in order to seize their priceless inheritance; to paraphrase Don Colacho, leftists are simply "impatient heirs" -- so impatient that they are now feverishly stealing from their descendants too, but that's the subject of a different post).
Clarke writes that man innately possesses an "unrestricted drive" to know "all that there is to know about all that there is."
Good credo for the masthead: All There is to Know about All There Is.
As such, our mind is by its nature "oriented toward the totality of being as knowable, as its final goal which alone can satisfy its desire to know." Further, this is a kind of "natural hope" -- to go along with our natural faith -- "in the radical intelligibility in principle of all real being."
In short, Mind is ordered to Being. Or haven't you gnosissed?
Blah blah blah yada yada, if you pursue this line of thought to its inevitable end, you are faced with a choice: "Either the universe is unintelligible," in which case you are dismissed, and are free -- or compelled -- to wallow in your own absurdity.
If not, then "there must exist one and only one Infinite Source of all other beings, both of their actual existence and all the perfections (goodness) within them.... Our journey of the intellect, in search of the full intelligibility of what it means to be, has now finally arrived at the single Infinite Source of all beings, of the whole community of real existents."
The original desire for the good takes its energy from the ever-pulsating momentum of that Origin in which man, answering the creative call of God, flew across the abyss which parts nothingness from existence. It is the moment with which the possible bursts forth with a roar into the radiant dawn of its first realization: the swift current of a stream that originating in the bright darkness of mere Nature and steadily fed by its source, crosses by the dictates of innate conscience into the realm of freedom. --Josef Pieper
I don't care what Kant says. Half a cosmos just doesn't appeal to me: