Friday, January 25, 2013

Clear Spheres & Rubish Cubes

"When two or more independent insights cross," wrote Henri Bergson, "a new philosophy is born."

That little gem was plucked from Gilson's Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge, which I would like to transfer from the cerebral inbox to the blogging outbox so as to move on to the next subject, which will likely be Meditations on the Tarot. But probably not Monday, since I'm going in for a nuclear treadmill early that morning. (It's my tri-annual Immortality Reassurance Tour.)

I can't say that I would commend TR & the C of K to your noggin, since it has an awful lot of inside beanball, meaning that he responds to critics of his Methodical Realism by chucking some chapter-length verbal heat right under those wagging chins.

However, history has already knocked these mediocretins off the plate by consigning them to the great Bin of Irrelevance, so it's like throwing chin music to Mario Mendoza. Why bother? Let Clio even the score. She's like Greg Maddux: looks easy to hit, but few thinkers can get it past the infield.

Now, that quote at the top goes to what we've been saying about the R --> L --> R --> L --> R brain-to-brain spiral movement. We routinely find ourselves in the position of harboring a couple of independent insights in the left brain. But how to reconcircle them?

Seems to me that it can only by accompliced via the right, which, according to McGilchrist, can take the left into consideration, while the left cannot reciprocate.

This is because the left brain is more linear, while the right is more spherical, so to speak, and you can fit any number of lines into that sphere (which, we should point out, is not a closed sphere, but open, so that its center is everywhere even while its circumference is nowhere, man).

Indeed, this is one of the reasons why O looks like an O, why my book is shaped the way it is, and why the slang term for the non-raccoon is "cube" -- as in "Richard Dawkins. What a cube!"

Conversely, some famous spheres -- in addition to Thelonious -- would be Pseudo Dionysius, or Maximus, or Eriugena, or Eckhart. Each of these men is quite spherical, and a couple of them got into some real trouble with the religious (and musical) cubes of their day.

Eckhart: "Being is God's circle, and in this circle all creatures exist." Or "In my flowing-out I entered creation. In my Breakthrough I re-enter God."

Similarly, Ruusbroec speaks of how "giving birth and flowing back into unity is the work of the Trinity"; or Eriugena of "the unexhausted diffusion" of the Godhead "from itself in itself back to itself."

Bernard "Bernie Mac" McGinn, Mr. 2000 Years of Christian Mysticism: "In the circle of love that forms the Dionysian universe we have a God who becomes ecstatic in procession and a universe whose ecstasy is realized in reversion."

I could go on and on, and would like to, but I'm starting to run out of linear time. Let me conclude with McGilchrist's circular argument for a commodius vicus of cosmic recirculation:

"The left hemisphere loves straight lines, not curves or circles."

In contrast, "the processing of the right hemisphere is that of the circle, and its movement is characteristically 'in the round,' the phrase we use to describe something that is seen as a whole, and in depth.... There are strong affinities between the idea of wholeness and roundedness."

Also, "the images of movement within stasis and of stasis within movement, are reflected in the circle, as they are in the movement of water, ever flowing, and ever reflected in the circle..."

Van Gogh: "life is probably round."

Yeah, probably. But not in a Nietzschean way, which he may not have realized, or else he wouldn't have tried to end it.

A musical dream of Thelonious Sphere:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Have to be All Man to Know the Whole Truth

What is reality?

First of all, even the ability to pose the question is fraught with implications. No other animal can ask the question. Therefore, we might say that reality is the thing human beings are able to ask about.

Here is why the question is not like any other question, and not susceptible to a cutandry answer: reality, whatever else it is, is singular, similar to the UNIverse. Now, our senses reveal to us the singular, but there is no knowledge of reality -- of totality -- at the level of the senses.

Conversely, the intellect deals with universals. But reality is not an abstract universal. Rather, it just is.

So, if we can't know it with our senses or with our intellect, how is it that we even have the word?

Along similar lines, Gilson asks "Why is there existence at all, seeing that the existence we directly know does not seem to have in itself a sufficient reason for its existence? And if it is contingent, does it not postulate a necessary existence as its cause and explanation?"

Yes or no?

We say yes, and we call this necessary existence O. If not for the Necessary, we wouldn't even have the word contingent. In the absence of O, literally nothing makes any sense, and yet, O is again neither an object of the senses nor a concept in the melon.

But at the same time, O is -- in a manner of speaking -- the Concept without which there are no concepts. Or, call it the orthoparadoxical "empty concept," so to speak -- a sort of "structured nothingness" which we spend our lives exploring and unpacking.

O has diverse degrees and modes of manifestation, but it is the unity within the diversity; or, in the words of Gilson, it joins "the diverse modes of existence to Him" -- Him being I AM, one of the names of O. One God, one Reality, one Truth, one Love, one Mind -- each of these is necessarily related to the others.

If we invert the cosmos and try to begin with thought, there is simply no way back to oneness except in fantasy, for oneness is something we could neither invent nor discover in the absence of the real One.

Indeed, to even be wrong about God is to prove his existence -- hence Eckhart's crack to the effect that he who blasphemes praises God. The Divine One "is a negation of negations and a denial of denials." He is the light that shines in the darkness of every mind, and in the absence of which there is only darkness upon the deep.

Sure, you can run around with that little candle looking for darkness, but the only thing you'll ever find there is tenure.

About that implicit two-way pre-structure of world and thought: "It is a characteristic of thought to be faced by what is opaque," writes Gilson.

But "as soon as that wall of opaqueness becomes translucent, there is always a similar one behind it," such that "thought progressively assimilates what is intelligible in a world given to it from without."

We do not create -- nor could we ever create -- "the intelligibility and existence of that world." Nevertheless, Deepak will be happy to sell you a very expensive bridge that ends in a shadow world where you can relax in the comfort of your ownan delusions.

Speaking of which, "the birth of the concept presupposes fertilization of the intellect by the reality which it apprehends. Before truth comes the thing that is true" (emphasis mine). Our mental womb must be penetrated and fertilized by a, you know, thing, pardon my French.

To put it another way, we must begin with O, "with the whole in order to distinguish the parts." We cannot begin with one of the parts, "to be posited as the pre-condition for the existence of everything else."

This very much comports with what we were saying last week about left and right brian differences. We begin with the holistic experience of the right brain, not with the abstractions of the left.

If we try to start with the left, we are essentially trying to get from thought to being, and that is like trying to capture a sphere with a circle. All the circles in the world don't add up to one lousy ball (hey, didn't Himmler have something similar?).

Oh. About how we know reality exists even though it is neither sensation nor concept. Very simple. In the real world, there is neither sensation nor intellect. Rather, there are men, and it is the whole man who apprehends being.

You will have noticed that we don't actually find human sensation or human intellect existing abstractly, separate from one another.

For the same reason, it would be absurd to state that a heart, isolated from the body, "pumps blood." In reality, the whole human body pumps blood.

As with the interior of the godhead, we can speak of distinctions but not divisions: "Properly speaking, neither the senses nor the intellect knows; it is the individual man who knows by means of the senses and the intellect."

There is only the "one subject, one being who possesses distinct yet harmonious powers and produces these diverse actions": one man and one cosmos under one God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Logophobic President

What a perfectly loathsome and undignified diatribe. Have you ever noticed? Just when you forget all about your craw, a bunch of stuff gets caught in it, reminding you it's there. Here are some passages and phrases that are stuck in mine:

"Schools and colleges to train our workers." How about schools and colleges to liberate the mind and elevate the soul? I really couldn't give two f*cks if my son misses out on such "training." I mean, a man's gotta eat, but man surely doesn't live by bread alone. Men who aren't leftist flatlanders, anyway.

Besides, blowing harder on the higher education bubble helps no one but the colleges. On the other hand, at least Obama's policies will cause the bubble to burst sooner, so we can get it over with.

"A great nation must protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."

Hmm. Does that include protection from the most devastating hazard and misfortune of them all, the tyrannical and intrusive state?

Because if the 20th century taught us one lesson, it is that there is nothing more destructive than the all-wise and all-powerful state predicated on the fantasy that it will protect its citizens from all of life's unavoidable exigencies. I mean, just protect me from domestic and foreign enemies, okay? And stop violating with the Constitution. Then we'll talk.

What are life's worst hazards, anyway? Probably the same they've always been: war. Famine. Disease. Poverty. So, why don't we cure hunger by imitating the Soviet Union and putting the state in charge of food production and distribution? While we're at it, why doesn't the federal government create millions of pretend jobs and lavish its worthless employees with absurdly generous wages and benefits?

Oh, right. I guess Obama noticed how effectively that model is working here in California. Hence the thriving economy in and around Washington DC.

"A decade of war is now ending."

Rrrrrright. First of all, I think he means 40,000 years of war, or however long it has been since man has been fully man (in other words, war and humanness co-arise). Still, good to hear that it's ending. Someone needs to inform the Algerians, Afghans, Libyans, Malians, Iranians, and the peace-loving Palestinians. Not to mention the city of Chicago.

"An economic recovery has begun." Indeed. Just as war is ending. This calls to mind Zeno's paradox, doesn't it? With this logical fallacy, it is possible to prove that the runner is always beginning, without ever reaching the end. Thus, with four years of Obama's economic policies, the unemployment rate has plunged from an intolerable 7.8% down to a more modest 7.8%.

Nevertheless, there's still a lot of work to be done if we want to drive it further down to 7.8%. Given the worsening economic conditions, the only way to accomplish this will be to force even more workers to permanently drop out of the labor force.

"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity."

Actually, no. Not if you mean that our dignity is conferred by the state. Dignity is like class. You either have it or you don't, and it certainly has nothing to do with income, as proved by Obama's many conspicuously undignified Hollywood friends. How about Al Sharpton? Who stole his dignity? Jesse Jackson? Joe Biden? Keith Olbermann? Piers Morgan? The free telephone lady?

"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit."

Memo to Obama: the country made that hard choice in 2008 and 2012, and voted for skyrocketing healthcare costs and massive deficits. In other words, bigger and more intrusive government. Besides, healthcare costs what it costs. You can manipulate the price, but that will just end up increasing the overall cost.

"But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."

That's a coincidence. We reject strawman arguments that create the illusion of reasonableness by denouncing arguments that no one actually holds. For example, I REJECT THE BELIEF THAT WE MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN LOVING OUR CHILDREN AND EATING THEM.

"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."

And others will deny the overwhelming judgment of science that none of those things have any link to "climate change."

"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."

Yes, but here's the tricky part: our enemies believe that a lasting peace requires perpetual war. Or submission to the caliphate. So at least we have a choice.

"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts."

If that is the case, then our journey is over. And what a banal journey it was! It seems that history ends with neither bang nor whimper, just a crappy job and your children raised by strangers. But that's okay. At least every little girl can dream of some crappy job in her future. The circle of life!

It's a matter of priorities. The Raccoon -- and the supernaturally Natural Man more generally -- must have Slack. That most of us must work in exchange for Slack is just a sad fact of life. So let's not pretend that the purpose of Slack is to work, rather than vice versa. Let's not invert the cosmos.

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

In this version, history ends when the state has successfully mandated that my aunt is a trolley car, just because my uncle likes it that way.

Wait! There's another auger, straight from the goat's entrails: "Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote."

Let me translate that for you: history will end when voter fraud becomes so easy and so widespread that we'll have a permanent liberal majority.

Here's a good one: the journey will be over when all children "are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm."

I used to kinda sorta believe that until I actually had a child, and discovered that no matter how much you cherish, care for, and protect them, they have minds and wills of their own, and are bound to reenact the ancient patterns. In other words, just when you thought history was over, the next generation will start up the whole catastrophe all over again. Especially if they have tossed out the perennial wisdom of religion.

The Marxist hacks at Reuters naturally applaud the totalitarian instincts of our dear leader, noting that he demands "a more inclusive America that rejects partisan rancor and embraces immigration reform, gay rights and the fight against climate change."

Or, in non-Newspeak, a less inclusive America that rejects alternative points of view. Nor can we "treat name-calling as reasoned debate," you bunch of science-denying, homophobic, war mongering, elder abusing, child hating misogynists.

What? Logophobia?

That's a spiritual disease involving an irrational abuse of language, or the deployment of language to destroy meaning. Our journey will be over when we find a cure for it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

One Big Error, Countless Problems

A few more points from Gilson's Methodical Realism before the bus moves on -- either to the next topic or back to the previous one (which we never finished), or possibly in another direction altogether, a circular revisitation of Meditations on the Tarot.

Regarding the latter, several weeks ago the Office of the Cosmic Dispatcher received a request that we embark upon another chapter-by-chapter field trip into that classic work of esoteric Christianity, so those of you who don't already have the book may want to pick up a copy. If you want to ride along on the bus, that is. And don't forget the signed permission slip from your guardian angel.

You may have noticed that modern philosophy has mostly devolved to a lot of pretentious windbaggery and nut-numbing obfuscation. It is a dreary factory system in which tenured hacks pretend to publish important ideas for other tenured hacks to pretend to read.

No light results from this verbal jirque du cercle, but that's obviously not the point. The point is -- well, we're seeing it in today's reimmaculation of His Royal Pain in the Ass: the successful displacement of truth by raw power.

Remember what was said at the end of Friday's post, because there is indeed a "practical" element to postmodern thought. The thinking itself is of no practical value, i.e., in assimilating the truth of reality.

Rather, its practical application lies in defining reality so as to appropriate power. It's similar to Lenin's crack to the effect that "who controls the past controls the present."

Likewise, who controls indoctrination more generally controls the indoctrinated.

So, as mentioned at the end of the previous post, "once we detach ourselves from reality, it follows that we no longer know what the individual is or what he is for."

"The result is a monadic individual who exists only for himself -- this is the selfish and amoral side of leftism -- and the need for a leviathan state to control all these selfish and amoral monads. This ends in a combustible mixture of moral anarchy and tyrannical collectivism, each reflecting and aggravating the other."

As in the class warfare of the left, this type of thinking results from the reification of a pair of "false opposites," in this case, individual and collective. In reality, there is no abstract "individual man," nor is there a purely collectivized one whose identity can be legitimately subordinated to the state.

Rather, man is a social animal (ultimately because of his trinitarian structure that orders him to love), and in the absence of culture, there is no such thing as a man. There is no prior "state of nature" in which man appears, unshaped by culture. Our individual-ism and social-ism (in the non-political sense) are two aspects of one being.

But Gilson points out that Hegel, for example, "lives by" such antinomies, "and thinks that the effort to surmount them is what constitutes philosophy."

Conversely, the task of realism is to avoid such false dualisms, but to harmonize them in the real unity of the human person. (In psychoanalysis we call it the development of mature dependency as opposed to immature dependency or pseudo-mature independence.)

Because that is the simple reality: again, human beings unproblematically harmonize any number of dualities, both vertically and horizontally.

For example, we harmonize religion and science, or sense and intellect, or lust and love, or mind and matter. It is only when the thinker abstracts and reifies one or the other that the appearance of a "problem" emerges. But it's a pseudo-problem caused by one Big Error in methodology.

Gilson: "if there is a single initial error at the root of all the difficulties philosophy is involved in, it can only be the one Descartes committed when he decreed, a priori, that the method of one of the sciences of reality was valid for the whole of reality."

Thus, for the left, ideology defines all. First they sunder reality by superimposing their favored abstraction (e.g., race, or class, or gender), and then do violence to the person by placing him in one of their abstract categories.

The result is a genuine death culture: death to the spirit, death to the intellect, death to beauty, death to love, death to the human vocation (because we cannot actualize our vocation if we are denied our vertical station). You can still "develop," but only toward nowhere and into nothing.

So: "Consequently, it goes without saying that the fate of metaphysics as a science is sealed in advance. Deprived of concepts, it no longer has anything but ideas and finds itself irrevocably trapped in their antinomies" (Gilson).

And the most undignified antinomy of all is the one that creates millions of little guys who are dependent upon the only really actualized men -- those benevolent liberal fascists who control the levers of state power.

But if you actually imagine that the state can render you anything other than the pathetic little guy it sees you to be -- and helped create for its own purposes -- then your auto-degradation is irreversible. Party on! The Big Guys will gladly foot the bill.