Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Andrew Breitbart and Ultimate Reality

Hartshorne calls his approach to metaphysics "neoclassical," which only puts him at odds with two groups: the great majority of philosophers who devalue or reject metaphysics entirely (or pretend to, anyway), and the minority who still embrace traditional or classical metaphysics, e.g., Catholic Thomists or perennialist/traditionalists of the Guenon-Schuon school.

Let's begin by summarizing Schuon's conception, and then see if there is any way to tweak this toward a process view, something he would have admittedly abhorred, for reasons we will try to illuminate (mainly because it seems to imply an "evolutionist" metaphysic that always caused his blood pressure to spike to unsafe levels).

In the compilation Splendor of the True there is a helpful chapter entitled Summary of Integral Metaphysics (also found in the indispensable Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism). In the preface to the latter, he states that "there are truths inherent in the human spirit that are as if buried in the 'depths of the heart.'" As such, they may be thought of "as potentialities or virtualities in the pure Intellect" (i.e., the nous, not the profane ego).

In short, these ultimate truths are latent within us, but need to be activated by metaphysical understanding, which is gained either explicitly, via metaphysics as such, or implicitly, via revelation. In other words, what revelation reveals is the universal metaphysic -- or information about the nature of the Absolute: about ultimate reality and about how this bears upon our origins, our purpose, and our destiny.

Unlike animals, man may know -- or at least be aware of -- the Absolute, in the absence of which we couldn't think at all. That is to say, man's intelligence is not proportioned just to the physical world, or to culture, or to reason. Rather, it is proportioned to a transcendent reality that conditions all these lesser modalities, the latter of which fall "immensely beneath the scope of our intelligence."

The very principle of truth is unthinkable in the absence of the Absolute, which is why infrahuman metaphysics such as materialism and reductionism are non-starters. They are not "humanistic" at all, but rather, the opposite. There is nothing human about secular humanism, because to reject transcendence only ends up disfiguring man. A person without transcendence looks like the hideous Miley Cyrus, if not outside, then inside.

Thus, "our soul proves God because it is proportioned to the divine nature," which in turn reveals our purpose. In the absence of this divine-human dialectic (or dia-logue), human existence is of course absolutely meaningless (which is a contradiction in terms, but whatever).

In any event, "For the inferior man, only what is contingent is real, and he seeks by his method to lower principles to the level of contingencies when he does not deny them purely and simply."

But how can a purely contingent being presume to be so obnoxiously absolutist -- for example, like those aggressively tenured products of natural selection?

This is an example of what happens when one rejects metaphysics: one's thought has no center, no ground, no external consistency. Thus, metaphysical Darwinism is indeed internally consistent, i.e., logical within itself. It just can't apply to reality without refuting its own consistency and completeness.

Or in other words, if it is true, then it is false, for if only what is contingent is real, then there's no reality deserving of the name, and we're off to the deconstructive races, into diversity, relativism, and class warfare -- into the lightless world of unalloyed tenure.

As a very brief aside, I'm really enjoying Breitbart's last book, Righteous Indignation. It tells of his gradual emancipation from unthinking, default ambient-cultural liberalism toward the reality of conservative principles, and in many ways parallels my own developmental road trip.

And although our temperaments are very different, I think, had he lived, he would have eventually pursued those principles all the way to the toppermost of the poppermost, into the permanent metaphysical truths embodied in religion. If one keeps evolving at his rate, there's really no place else to grow.

There is an illuminating passage on p. 159, where he concedes that "I'm not religious, and I'm certainly no theologian, but if there is one thing in religion that speaks to me, it is the idea of absolute truth.

"In fact," -- sounding more than a little like a full-blooded Raccoon -- "the word truth has meaning only if it is absolute. And absolute truth will set us all free from the grip of the [Democrat/MSM] Complex, because the Complex lives in the clouds, in the theoretical heavens" of pure abstraction.

I mean, once you realize there's an Absolute Truth, you're knocking on heaven's door (or Toots' Tavern). Recall what Schuon said above about those virtual truths "inherent in the human spirit" that are "buried in the 'depths of the heart.'"

Now, one reason why metaphysics is foolishly rejected is because people imagine it is completely remote and abstract, unrelated to practical existence. But this is only half true. Yes, it is abstract, but as Hartshorne emphasizes, the abstraction is unthinkable in the absence of the concrete.

In this regard, it is analogous to Aristotle's correction of Plato's belief in an abstract and disembodied realm of pure ideas. Rather, we only encounter the form in the substance, and vice versa.

In reality -- ironically -- it is leftism that is purely abstract. This has been demonstrated time and again whenever the left has gained power and attempted to force their beautiful abstractions upon recalcitrant reality. What is Obamacare but a baroque abstraction that cannot possibly comport with concrete reality? To characterize this a priori mismatch in terms of "bugs" or "glitches" is analogous to insisting that phrenology will work just fine with a few tweaks. (Same problem with global warming: right theory, wrong planet.)

Back to Schuon's conception. Again, at risk of making him rotate in his sarcophagus, what I want to do here is find out if there is a way to reconcile his universal metaphysics with a more process view of God.

For Schuon (as for Breitbart!), "we must begin with the idea that the supreme reality is absolute and therefore infinite."

Thinking in terms of geometry, absolute may be thought of as a kind of adamantine point, whereas infinite may be thought of as radiating out from this central point. This would appear to encompass both sides of God, in that the absolute "is solely and totally itself," whereas the infinite "is not determined or limited by any boundary." Rather, "it is in the first place Potentiality or Possibility as such," and "hence Virtuality." Thus, without this "All-Possibility there would be neither Creator nor creation..."

Ah ha! Did you see that? I think I detect a little opening for process to get an edge in Word-wise. But right now I'm out of time, so to be continued.

20 Comments:

Blogger Open Trench said...

Hi Bob:

My gut tells me yesterday you nailed it. Your blog IS pleasing to God, and adds to His/Her/Its spendor. I always felt it was and did.

Everyone's path is going to be different and God enjoys the variety.

I feel my fate is to diverge from conventional mental life and go on intuition alone. This is the green field beyond the fence.

With your decision of yesterday, you have decided on intuition also; you don't like the conventional view and you won't have it. Good.

God, life is good. Thank you.

10/09/2013 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...the word truth has meaning only if it is absolute.

When you read that, you think that should be obvious, but we seem to have come to some sort of implicit agreement that we will ignore it.

10/09/2013 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I remember how some of the guys had trouble with Euclidean geometry. They were so put off by the abstraction of the axioms that they failed to grasp it as a way of explaining what they already knew.

Everybody knows what parallel lines are. They don't cross, ever, but we need a "language" to understand it.

10/09/2013 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

to get an edge in Word-wise

Leslie, does Bob talk this way in real life?

Is conversation in your house pretty much one constant pun-fest?

10/09/2013 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

Magister wrote:

Is conversation in your house pretty much one constant pun-fest?

Which would make Bob a fun-pest, if overdone.

Another question is whether Leslie likes to be tickled.

That's the tactile form of punning.

10/09/2013 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom at 11:30, so many people have swallowed the convenient lie of "personal truth" that the idea of an absolute truth is genuinely shocking for many people. Especially in regards to metaphysics.

10/09/2013 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I think that the issue is that there is "personal truth" in the sense that we have distinct personalities.

Maybe we need a better phrase.

In any event, it's not like I get to vote on actual truth.

Maybe that's what process theology means to some people. That they get to vote on truth and that if everyone votes together they can overrule God.

10/09/2013 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Mr. Trench is being particularly annoying today.

10/09/2013 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

If prOcess is true, doesn't it mean O is time-bound, and, given an infinite amount of time in the past, at some point may not have been O?

Or am I just a flat-earther?

10/09/2013 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Good question. I believe the exact answer is "yes and no."

10/09/2013 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, O, or God is indeed necessary being, but aspects of that being are unspecified, so you might say there is contingency within necessity.

10/09/2013 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

James O'Keefe seems a solid sort in the Breitbart mold and so-o-o-oo- despised ---just check the suspiciously-weighted neg. results of googling his name

10/09/2013 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

JP wrote:

"Mr. Trench is being particularly annoying today."

Mr? I'm flattered.

I'm just trying to be a cunning linguist and say clever things.

Bob will erase this comment and then all of the rest I've left. I can sense when he is fed up, even from a distance.

I cannot behave. I've tried.

10/09/2013 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of Breitbart, his widow is being sued by Shirley Sherrod. Or rather, the harpy is still trying to take a chunk of his estate, which amounts to the same thing.

I hope it backfires.

10/09/2013 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

STUDY: Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools Causing Students To Bully More...

seems to fit today's post

10/09/2013 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Off topic, via the Anchoress, just go listen, and be amazed all over again at the sound of creation.

I am surprised, but too awed to make a sound.

10/09/2013 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Oddly enough, Hartshorne was also a world expert in birdsong -- speaking of the abstract manifesting in the concrete.

10/09/2013 08:12:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Hm, so if this is true, the crickets are basically singing I-IV harmony: G E C (C major triad, second inversion), and then A F C (F major triad, second inversion). It may be a coincidence, but the IV-I chord change is often called the "Amen" cadence.

So the crickets are singing "Amen, amen, amen," in grand chorus, endlessly.

10/10/2013 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Magister, also however:
'Do ya feel like makin' love?'

10/10/2013 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"There is an illuminating passage on p. 159, where he concedes that "I'm not religious, and I'm certainly no theologian, but if there is one thing in religion that speaks to me, it is the idea of absolute truth.

"In fact," -- sounding more than a little like a full-blooded Raccoon -- "the word truth has meaning only if it is absolute. And absolute truth will set us all free from the grip of the [Democrat/MSM] Complex, because the Complex lives in the clouds, in the theoretical heavens" of pure abstraction.

I mean, once you realize there's an Absolute Truth, you're knocking on heaven's door (or Toots' Tavern). Recall what Schuon said above about those virtual truths "inherent in the human spirit" that are "buried in the 'depths of the heart.'""

Yep. If that regard for Truth is there, then their errors are just... errors, nothing more. Those are people I can get along with, no matter our other differences.

Breitbart came to speak at one of our local events, and I was supposed to go to the after event get together, but had to pass - there's a regret.

My post on
his passing and earlier post on 'Righteous Indignation'.

10/10/2013 08:39:00 PM  

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