Wednesday, December 04, 2013

I Loves Me Some Wisdom!

Back in Olden Times, philosophy wasn't the province of the tenured, but rather, of a special group of pneumanauts with the bright stuff, dedicated to the proposition that the unexamined life is not worth living. The operative word here is living, because philosophy was and is a way of life, not some static doctrine, let alone a state-sponsored gig for unfireable mediocretins.

You might well say that philo-sophy -- the love of wisdom -- is not a noun but a verb: it is a lifelong passion and pursuit. Here again, the operative word is love; thus, it is a living and loving of Truth above all else.

One might even say that it is the religion of pure truth. Truth is one of the names of God, and if we have faith in this ultimate truth, it does have the capacity to save. Of course, we also require revelation to fill in certain inevitable manmode lacunae, but if we aren't first oriented to truth we won't recognize it. In order for it to be assimilated, it requires "man's free perceptual reaction to revelation."

Very few great philosophers have ever been among the tenured -- certainly none of my favorites. Rather, they are usually gentleman slackers and men of vertical leisure with a passion for the eternal. No organization or institution would have them, nor is it likely that a philosopher would feel comfortable among credentialed idiots and tenured apes, let alone young adolts.

(I'm picturing Schuon, at the end of the term, solemnly leafing through his "student evaluations," or being forced to undergo sensitivity training for his views on homosexuality.)

"Philosophy cannot endure the herd," writes Berdyaev. Nor can it endure the immature, for which reason it generally wasn't considered an appropriate pursuit until one reached middle age, or before one had a few miles on the O-dometer. (There are exceptions, of course, Berdyaev being one of them. He had little interest in school, but in his free time blew through Kant and Hegel when he was around 14.)

So, Berdayaev is the traditional type of philosopher; he left no systematic doctrine, only his own pneumatic contrail, or logostream of contemplation: "Philosophical knowledge is a spiritual act, where not only the intellect is active, but the whole of man's spiritual power, his emotions and his will."

Now, what is a man but intellect-emotion-will, or head-heart-hands, or truth-love-freedom? "Only a free spiritual being whose roots go down to the bottomless depths of existence, can strive for final freedom, is able to fight for it: an un-free piece of nature would remain in slavery to the end of the ages..." If there is no freedom -- in particular, vertical freedom -- there is no philosophy.

Philosophy is vertical movement par excellence. Conversely, leftism is the quintessence of vertical stasis, or an exchange of vertical adventure for empty promises of horizontal comfort: the latter strives "to make men happy, to calm and organize them," so "they will forget their irrational freedom, will renounce their right to absolute, supra-mundane truth." Such "is the way of the Grand Inquisitor. It leads to the ant-hill where there will be neither freedom nor personality" (again, personality, or individualism, is freedom lived).

The Inquisitors of the left stand with one hand opening "the door to human happiness" while the other closes "forever the door to freedom." In reality, "we need relative, outward, social freedom for absolute, inward and mystical" freedom. Again, the horizontal is for the sake of the vertical, not vice versa, otherwise we mistake means for ends.

Man has inalienable rights to life and liberty. But what is life + liberty? Again, personality: thus, there is an "inalienable right of personality," of being, not just doing and having. You could possess all the world's riches, but what good will it do if you're not yourself? Rosebud...

Now, man's first property is himself, but it seems that this self actually belongs to another -- or is at least intrinsically ordered to the great notSelf, O: "In the creative, knowing act of philosophy there is an upsurge towards another being, another world, daring to approach the ultimate mystery."

The object of philosophy is the subject who pursues it, and all this implies. In this quest, reason is a tool, not the master. It applies without ambiguity only to middle earth, not vis-a-vis the Beginning or End. This is because reason is ultimately circular, and therefore not free; caught in its web there are no ends but arbitrary or false ones.

But intuition or gnosis cut through the muddle of the mount and go straight to the begending. One purpose of revelation is to provide symbols to kindle this direct intuition. Thus, "in philosophy intuition is the ultimate: logic, the penultimate." (To paraphrase Schuon, revelation is public intellection, just as intellection is private revelation, so to speak; or, something isn't true because it is rational, but rather, rational because it is true.)

Only intuition can reveal the meaning of being. If truth were confined to the necessity of logic, it would render meaning impossible, for necessity leaves no space for freedom. Man himself is living proof that 1 plus 1 sometimes equals 3.

Philosophy has always been a break-through out of this meaningless, empirical world that crowds and compels us from every side, to the world of meaning, to the world beyond...

(All quoted material from Berdyaev.)

21 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

(I'm picturing Schuon, at the end of the term, solemnly leafing through his "student evaluations," or being forced to undergo sensitivity training for his views on homosexuality.)

Imagine a typical weenie facilitator looking up and seeing that granite and fire face above a "Hi, I'm FRITHJOF" name tag.

Instant incontinence.

12/04/2013 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I'm picturing Schuon, at the end of the term, solemnly leafing through his "student evaluations," or being forced to undergo sensitivity training for his views on homosexuality.

Ha - it would almost make for a good sitcom, if one could come up with a reason that he'd be forced into teaching a college course...

12/04/2013 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:D

Hi Mush!

12/04/2013 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That's funny.

12/04/2013 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Schuon could be played by the Fawlty Towers era John Cleese -- comically superior, contemptuous, and disdainful of the lowbrows he is forced to deal with.

12/04/2013 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, he'd be able to do a good version of The Stare.

12/04/2013 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...forget their irrational freedom ...

Irrational freedom is a powerful phrase. Freedom isn't really rational. It's, what, supra-rational? It's the ground from which one reasons.

12/04/2013 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For Berdyaev it must be ir-rational, because it is completely outside necessity. Not saying he's right, but this is one of his consistent points. It is an appealing idea.

12/04/2013 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, I think he goes too far with the idea, and even saw things like marriage and children as impeding his freedom! He definitely has some peculiar ideas. He was far from perfect.

12/04/2013 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I was about to ask if he tried it 9marriage and children, I mean), but then figured that even if he did, he was probably doing it wrong...

12/04/2013 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I found his autobiography both illuminating and troubling. Maybe it's a Russian thing. They tend to be a few centuries behind.

12/04/2013 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

A few centuries behind, and nuts to boot. Thanks to Sippican, I'm starting to think their national slogan should be, "hold my vodka and watch this!"

12/04/2013 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I have a good friend at work who is a Russian. He has a great, warped sense of humor. Probably why we get along so well.

12/04/2013 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Part of the problem with academics is that they're not rewarded for wisdom, if indeed they have any.

In the humanities, they're rewarded for publication and non-negative student evaluations. These two incentives are perfect predictors of what you'll get: publication disjunct from any real world necessity and a debauched grading system. (In the hard sciences things are a little different.) Result: prevailing meh. Not a great environment, and rarely exciting.

I've been in academia for a few decades and can count on one hand the number of faculty I'd describe as happy. (One was born just south of Russia, heh.) They were wise. The rest have been shrewd but, surprise surprise, unhappy.

Having kids, I now have the bad habit of seeing the children in the men and women I know. Many unhappy academics struggle with very low self-regard. They've been evaluated all their lives, look anxiously at their peers, are often fragile and jealous to a fault. Lonely, therefore. Many are clinically depressed, particularly in English departments.

Farmers and free-range philosophers? Now we're talkin'.

12/04/2013 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

...now THAT's entertainment!
Next Sundance entry just happ'd upon:

The Foxy Merkins/ U.S.A. (Director: Madeleine Olnek, Screenwriters: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Madeleine Olnek) — Two lesbian hookers work the streets of New York. One is a down-on-her-luck newbie; the other is a beautiful—and straight—grifter who's an expert on picking up women. Together they face bargain-hunting housewives, double-dealing conservative women, and each other in this prostitute buddy comedy. Cast: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Alex Karpovsky, Susan Ziegler, Sally Sockwell, Deb Margolin.

12/04/2013 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Kurt said...

"...a break-through out of this meaningless, empirical world...to the world of meaning, to the world beyond..."

That is just beautiful. It brings tears to my eyes just to picture that moment...truly, free at last and home again!

I guess it's no coincidence that so many times truth is clothed in beauty, and that it speaks to the mind and the heart at the same time.

Thanks, again, Bob, for your labors through all these books, sharing these precious jewels with all of us.

Kurt

12/04/2013 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"The object of philosophy is the subject who pursues it, and all this implies. In this quest, reason is a tool, not the master. It applies without ambiguity only to middle earth, not vis-a-vis the Beginning or End. This is because reason is ultimately circular, and therefore not free; caught in its web there are no ends but arbitrary or false ones."

Bob, would it clarify or change your meaning, to restate this:

"In this quest, reason is a tool, not the master."

as,

"In this quest, reasoning's primary method, logic, is a tool, not the master."

, and,

"This is because reason is ultimately circular, and therefore not free"

, as,

"This is because logic is ultimately circular, and therefore not free"

?

I ask because I think Reasoning is what we are doing whenever we are engaging our minds, isn't it? Can we engage our minds without reasoning?

Reason, in my view at least, is the tripartite human activity which employs Imagination, Method, and Reference (to either memory or perception), to what our awareness is focused upon. This applies whether the person in question is raised in 1750's America, a modern school system or a stone age tribe in New Guinea (but I repeat myself).

What has set the West apart is what we've adopted as our primary method, logic (as well as longer range references), which is further affected by whether that logic properly employs deeply integrated premises, or the disintegrated logic chopping of modern rationalism.

But in either case, logic is but the tool most often employed as Reason's method, and though many fail to realize it, logic is not the only tool than can be used in its method, as you indicate here. It is very, well, reasonable, to advise changing up the method of reasoning, but I have a hard time imagining the human mind being used without reasoning.

12/04/2013 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Van:

For me, lower case reason is logic, which is encompassed by Reason. So in the absence of Reason, we wouldn't even know what to reason about. As you say, logic is a method, but it cannot furnish its own premises, so in that sense it is circular, a la Godel. I suppose you could say reason is closed whereas Reason is open, which is why reason can never really close the circle. A rationalist is someone who thinks he can.

12/05/2013 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van,

I have a hard time imagining the human mind being used without reasoning.

*ahem*

I happened to read the comment thread last night following your Facebook post about the growing polar ice caps and the welfare of polar bears. I think the neurologist(?) who kept going on about the the poor bears was a pretty good example of that...

12/05/2013 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Bob, agreed. I figured that while we were reasoning alike, our descriptions were being separated by uncommon capitalizations.

;-)

12/05/2013 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said " I think the neurologist(?) who kept going on about the the poor bears was a pretty good example of that..."

Oh, you've got that right! Whatever he may or may not have studied (or studied well), in his Marxist-agitator college days, he is a professional politician of the far proRegressive variety today, and enthusiastically supports every socialist policy, and vituperative condemnation of all things conservative or WalMart, but always with his namaste-like signoff "Regards, Karl".

He's also one of those who likes to cherry pick a classical or Founders quote, with which to piously condemn the non-marxist inclined. Which was how I first came into contact with him... it was pretty easy pickings to show that the quotes he chose clearly had the exact opposite meaning and intent, from what he was trying to paint them as meaning... and he's been 'Namaste-ing' away from me ever since.

The few times I've gotten him to explain his positions in some depth, he'd try to hide behind the label of being a 'Melliorist', but for him, that simply means a cover for presenting his whims and very little (and chopped) 'r', as being Big "R" Reason. Which also means that as soon as he can't avoid giving definitions that tie him to reality... he 'gets busy' and leaves the thread.

They're out there.

And towards your neck of the woods Mushroom, Columbia MO.

12/05/2013 10:55:00 AM  

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