And yet, most of the tenured class regard problems that can't be solved with a hammer as ultimately unreal. Which is ironic, since most of them -- or their knowledge -- are so uselessly abstract that they couldn't even operate a real hammer.
In any event, "the mechanical picture of reality" results in the arbitrary and peremptory foreclosure of "a great number of questions that a truly rational culture should leave open" (Hart) -- or should at least stop pretending to have solved with the Hammer of Tenure.
It reminds me of when I was putting myself through graduate school by working in a supermarket. I was chatting with an elderly customer who happened to be a retired psychiatrist. I half-jokingly asked if he'd ever cured anyone, and he immediately bellowed "HELL NO!" That's the difference between abstract and concrete: one man helping put food on the table while another man pretends to heal souls.
Not to shift gears too violently, but we're just about done with The Experience of God. We've been discussing it for several weeks, and it's time to move on. But what he says above about epistemology and method has a lot of implications vis-a-vis Obama's extraordinary assault on our healthcare system. Only now -- when it's almost too late -- are Americans starting to wise up and ask themselves, "exactly what does this tool know about healthcare, and why is he trying to fix it with a hammer and sickle?"
As to the first question, he knows nothing; or worse, what he thinks he knows is disastrously wrong; as to the second, the left, by definition, has only hammers made of theory, for which reason they know how to destroy but not build. They can appropriate and redistribute with the Hammer of the State, but that hammer is useless for creation or innovation.
As it pertains to Obama, the questions truly become, what didn't he know, and when didn't he know it? The frightening answers go well beyond this or that particular issue, but to the very metaphysical heart of liberalism.
John Hinderaker at PowerLine summarizes it well in a piece conveniently entitled What the Obamacare Shipwreck Tells Us About Liberalism:
The ACA is, "to put it mildly, complicated. It is over 1,000 pages long and has many moving parts that interact in various ways.... Reading and interpreting statutes is something that I have done for a living for several decades now, but there is no way that anyone can hope to read the ACA and understand how it is intended to work, or... predict what will happen when all of its many interlocking requirements, mandates and prohibitions come into contact with reality. And that is before you get to the thousands of pages of regulations that have been issued to implement the law" (emphasis mine).
In other words, even if one were to do the impossible and memorize the law by heart and know it backward and forward, this would not represent knowledge, since 1) it would be irrelevant to the irreducible complexity of the interacting parts, and 2) even a theoretical model of the system would be revealed as totally inadequate once the law came into contact with reality, i.e., when the theoretical shit hits the concrete fan.
In this regard, it is very much like models of global warming, which work just fine in theory. Just don't ask them to accurately model reality.
Like those models of the climate, "Obamacare is a vast Rube Goldberg machine that, it turns out, doesn’t work at all -- an airplane that has crashed on takeoff" (ibid.).
"One obvious lesson" -- which liberals will never learn -- "is that liberalism fails to appreciate the complexity of the world. The hubris required by the Democrats’ attempt to reorder not just a large sector of the economy, but an important part of the lives of millions of strangers, is breathtaking" (ibid., emphasis mine).
So yes, it's complicated. But not really; rather, it is complex, which is another thing entirely. Math is complicated, but it can be sorted out with patient application. But some things are irreducibly complex, such that rendering them merely complicated destroys them.
But liberals are undeterred by reality: "Recognizing, at least dimly, the difficulty of the task, the Democrats responded by trying to draft a law whose complexity would match that of the reality that it tried to control. That made the situation worse, not better: the more convoluted the statute became, the more unworkable it was" (ibid., emphasis mine).
Likewise, imagine what would happen if the governments of the world actually took seriously the models of the Warmists. Global chaos.
Another critical lesson: "Obamacare also illustrates the inordinate faith that many liberals have in the power of words. Various aspects of reality are not as liberals would like them to be. What is the solution? The magical power of words: reams and reams of paper covered with sections and subsections, commands and requirements. If they can only get the words right, reality will certainly fall into line, just as liberals want it to be!" (ibid.).
As we see, language is their hammer. Which is fine in certain circumstances. But the virtue and the danger of language lies in its very abstractness. Hartshorne sheds some light on this issue, noting that we must not permit language to eliminate the real distinction "between actual and possible, or concrete and abstract," respectively.
In order for language to "work," it must embody universals, without which it is unintelligible. But if we take this to the extreme and attempt to explain all particulars as mere instances of the universal/abstract, it also fails. Consider the violence done to reality -- for example, concrete human beings -- by the abstractions of the ACA. Its ruthless application of universality results in injuries to the particulars it presumes to help.
Hartshorne locates the key to this dilemma in the temporal structure of experience. Think about the basic contrast revealed in experience, "between the actualized happenings of the past" vs. "the possible or probable but not actual happenings of the future." In short, "particulars are all past." I mean, right? The past is what it is, and cannot be changed. Conversely, "there are no future particulars." For which reason, "to think of the future is to think in more or less general terms."
No one can predict the future, except in regard to extremely simple and linear systems that are easily abstracted and modeled.
Therefore, "there is no such thing as a fully particularized plan, purpose, or potentiality. Always much is left for the future to further define or determine." Thus, "futurity and generality are two aspects of the same basic mode of reality" (ibid.).
To bring this back to the concrete -- to liberalism in general and to Obamacare in particular -- in the insane effort to particularize the future, it is generating chaos in the present.
But it gets worse. Again, the past is what happened; it is particular, not general. But what do liberals derive from the past? General theories, theories such as Marxism, or feminism, or patriarchy, or multiculturalism, or demand-side economics. In other words, they simply use the past to superimpose their theories, and pull out whatever particularities fit the case.
So they have their metaphysic precisely backassward: generalize the past and particularize the future. This is why, to paraphrase Orwell, "he who controls the past controls the future," and why people living under communist tyranny would joke that "the future is known. It's the past that keeps changing."
Thus, remember back then, when Obama promised that you could preserve your health plan, keep your doctor, and pocket $2,500 in the process? That past is now inoperative. Present needs require a new past, in order to pave the way to our glorious new future of vibrant Health for All.
To bring this discussion further down into the concrete-particular, how does one rescue a child from the clutches of a soul-destroying liberalism? Dennis Prager suggests that "when possible, it is best that your child not go to college immediately after high school. One reason colleges are able to indoctrinate students is that students enter college young and unworldly. It is very rare that adult students are convinced to abandon their values and become left-wing.
"Why? Because they have lived life and are much less naïve. For example, someone with life experience is far more likely than a kid just out of high school to understand that the best formula for avoiding poverty is personal responsibility -- get a job, get married, and then have children -- not government help.
"Teenagers who spend a year before going to college working -- in a restaurant, for a moving company, at an office -- will mature far more than they would after a year at college. And maturity is an inoculation against leftism."
To summarize: the left proposes beautiful abstractions to save us from life's inevitable particularities. It is effectively outside time, which lends itself to the religious fervor of their faith and its resistance to correction.
Greenfield's The Left Side of History makes some similar points:
"Everything wrong with Obama’s attitude can be gleaned from his quote. 'If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.'
"It’s the sort of quote that sounds inspirational if you don’t think too much about the implications of a world leader who already claims to know what the right path is and believes in determinedly moving down it, without regard to consequences, because he is certain that if he persists, progress will come."