Monday, April 21, 2014

51 Genders and No Men

No time for a real post. Just this freely associated crap.

You sometimes hear people cite that crack in the Bible about there being nothing new under the sun, but is it so? Is it all really the sameold sameold -- or the same underlying reality in a new guise?

And if we do believe it's all just an absurcular exercise in eternal return, does this make us cynical or wise? One could approach a movie or novel in the same jaded manner, but it certainly wouldn't enhance our enjoyment. On the other hand, if a person wiser -- or more cynical -- than us can see the predictable myth we're living out while hoping for a different ending, it would be foolish to ignore him.

For Schuon -- and implicitly for any religious person, or believer in the perennial wisdom -- "there are no such things as 'problems of our time' in the philosophers' sense of the expression."

Perhaps the most immediate -- and annoying -- practical implication of this is in the dismissive liberal attitude toward the Constitution, which for them is just a local expression of its time and place. It has no contemporary relevance, unless it is absolutely convenient. There are just too many new problems that the Founders could not have foreseen -- for example, James Madison had no idea that there are 51 genders but no men -- so we shouldn't allow it to prevent liberals from doing what they know is best for us.

This is not to say there aren't new questions, such as, How did man go for 100,000 years without knowing about the other 49 genders? That doesn't say much for man's perceptiveness, does it? However, once you have the idea of gender as arbitrary cultural construct, it doesn't matter if you have two genders or two hundred, because the deeper foundation of the idea is that All is Relative, a very old idea.

Not only that, but it is an expression of utter cynicism with regard to "given" truth. If we can't agree that there are only two sexes, then it's doubtful we can agree on anything, because there is no mutual foundation at all.

Even a crock is right once or twice in a lifetime. In Keynes case, it was when he remarked without irony that, "starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end in Bedlam." And Bedlam is another name for -- yes, Krugman, but also the contemporary looniversity bin, where they don't "put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom.’”

In other words, "academic freedom" is just a transparent pig leaf for White Privilege, so who needs it? Can't we just get on with the Social Justice? After all, Marx said that other philosophers waste their time trying to understand the world, when the point is to change the world. So, as presidents go, Obama has been a pretty effective Marxist philosopher.

Continuing with Schuon's line of thought, he writes that there can be "no thought that one could describe as 'new' in its very foundations." Again, is this true? I'm thinking of Whitehead, who remarked that all of Western philosophy was just a footnote on Plato. What does that make me, a bunion?

I think it is true, in the sense that man is everywhere and everywhen confronted with certain irreducible orthoparadoxes. We've discussed them on many occasions, e.g., time/eternity, form/substance, field/particle, individual/group, part/whole, change/continuity, freedom/constraint, etc. The ONLY way to resolve these is to collapse the complementarity in favor of one side or the other, which is what any "new" philosophy inevitably does.

In fact -- and this is the subject of a different post -- I think it is accurate to say that Christian orthodoxy, on a metaphysical level, is devoted to preserving and balancing these orthoparadoxes. Every heresy I can think of involves the false resolution of one of them, e.g., Christ as God or man instead of God and man.

In any event, Schuon concedes that there can be new questions, even if there can be no radically new problems. One of our most prominent new questions has to do with the breach between science and faith. These two existed side by side for all of human history and prehistory, until just a few hundred years ago, so I guess that's a new problem.

Except that what we call science didn't actually exist prior to modernity. This is addressed from another angle in this mediocre book on Money. Martin suggests that a sort of world-historical Big Bang occurred with the invention of writing, which resulted in "an unprecedented intellectual revolution" revolving around "an emancipation of thought by the new ability to quantify, to record, to reflect, and to criticize what was written." This was nothing less than a clear distinction between the objective and subjective worlds, and with it, "the emergence of abstract rational thought."

However, I think that what occurred with modern science -- or scientism, to be precise -- is a devaluation and eclipse of the subjective pole of that complementarity. Which is why subjectivity covertly returned through the back door in the form of the hyper-irrationalism of the left.

8 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Martin suggests that a sort of world-historical Big Bang occurred with the invention of writing, which resulted in "an unprecedented intellectual revolution" revolving around "an emancipation of thought by the new ability to quantify, to record, to reflect, and to criticize what was written." This was nothing less than a clear distinction between the objective and subjective worlds, and with it, "the emergence of abstract rational thought."

And then we invented the internet, where even the most barely-literate troglodyte can spout forth infectious ideas that require very little thought to spread from brain to brain, which are transmitted at the speed of light and are antithetical to abstract rational thought.

4/21/2014 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The latest economic irrationalism from the left: "Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do," therefore you need to make their decisions for them.

4/21/2014 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Their latest economic crock star.

4/21/2014 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I saw that Ace link this morning. One can only hope that, even though Klein and his ilk are too stupid to actually comprehend what they're cheerleading, perhaps some of the graduates who now face a brutal job market and a worsening economy might actually learn something from their commencement speech.

4/21/2014 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the Picketty book, there's a good paragraph in the Clive Cook review that boils it down quite nicely:

"So what's the problem?

Quite a few things, but this to start with: There's a persistent tension between the limits of the data he presents and the grandiosity of the conclusions he draws. At times this borders on schizophrenia. In introducing each set of data, he's all caution and modesty, as he should be, because measurement problems arise at every stage. Almost in the next paragraph, he states a conclusion that goes beyond what the data would support even if it were unimpeachable."

4/21/2014 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

AEI has a nice response to Picketty.

4/21/2014 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Here's a man. VDH is practically writing a eulogy.

Makes you kinda pine for a cabin somewhere.

Until they find you, of course.

4/21/2014 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, VDH is on the money. I was thinking about all these people who have never even seen an honest day's work done, let alone done one themselves.

4/21/2014 08:45:00 PM  

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