Friday, September 12, 2014

God Made Me a Loser!

"What better way to feed subjectivist belief," asks Rizzi, "than to propound that their belief is given by science?"

Thus, for example -- because he is such a reliable example of subjectivist assoulery backed by science -- "Once you throw out the brain as the creator of experience, it's plausible that the mind creates experience." Therefore, "Getting outside the brain is easy once you accept that the mind is running the show."

This would explain Deepak's militant leftism: it works perfectly so long as you disregard objective reality and accept that your thoughts and feelings "run the show." Again: if one begins in the mind, one ends up out of it.

Why not begin in the senses, as does every developing human, since there is no other alternative anyway? Ever see a baby begin with a feminist theory about the degrading role of mothers?

A human being is not a brain-on-a-stick, but an incarnation, or body-and-soul. That primordial idea is how the West was won -- or rather, how the West won. The adoption of its antithesis is why we are losing, or at least frittering away our victory. For to embrace subjectivism is to reject the world. But the world will not go away quietly; nor, as Obama is finding out, does it fit under his bus.

Is Obama really a subjectivist? Yes, and what's worse, like all subjectivists, he implicitly believes that his subjectivism is the last word in objectivity. Or, as he said,

"Implicit... in the very idea of ordered liberty was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or 'ism,' any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course..."

Got it? The slippery truth is forever etched in Jello. Or, our gelatinous principles are spelled out with wet noodles.

Subjectivism necessarily equates to nihilism, and furthermore, renders real community impossible, since each mind is an isolated monad. No longer is it THE truth, only my truth, which is of course no truth at all.

But the very existence of science itself "is a continual refutation of nihilism, because it continually trusts that the world is understandable; even more, that it is understandable by us" (Rizzi).

Thus, the exercise of science rests upon a very naïve, trusting, and childlike metaphysic -- in a good way! For just as we trust that our parents won't screw us, we innocently trust that mother nature will not steer us wrong and let us down. Deep down we know that nature will reveal her secrets. To believe otherwise is to be incapable of science.

Even so, "it appears that science has hatched, or helped hatch, a culture with elements that are potentially destructive of science" (ibid.), almost to the point of suicide. And this suicidal attitude is not coming from the right. You might say that leftists are not necessarily "anti-science" per se. But they are nearly to a man anti-the science-before-science.

Now, this science-before-science implies both a ground and a destination, or origin and end. Or in other words, the ontological assumptions that make science possible carry with them certain entailments that make God necessary.

To pretend to have the one without the other is to cut off one's train of thought before it arrives at its logical destination. But it works both ways, because there are indeed some fundamentalists who obviously believe in God but who reject the scientific -- or terrestrial -- implications.

I don't want to dwell on it, but I actually flipped through a popular evangelical book that shall remain unnamed, and read this arrant nonsense (which is as utterly nonsensical and anti-Christian as anything Deepak could come up with): God

"decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death.... God left no detail to chance. He planned it all for his purpose." There are no accidents or contingencies, just pure necessity, from the Holocaust to his child's suicide -- both are just part of the Big Plan.

This weird philosophy goes by another name: Islam. It is not Christian but Mohammedan. Quoting Allah himself, "No soul will ever die unless it is God's will. The length of each life is predetermined according to the Scriptures" (in Bynum). You're all just little cogs in Allah's big wheel, so don't bother trying to figure out how the cogs work. God only knows, and God is irrational, so science is an exercise in massive presumptuousness, a recapitulation of the Fall.

The Koran suggests that it doesn't matter, say, if you become a suicide bomber or a stay-at-home mullah, because "those of you who were destined to be killed would have died regardless." Absolute predestination breeds unrelenting nihilism and futility. Unless you're a little dense, or a global loser, in which case I suppose it will be some sort of consolation. Indeed, losers will be very much attracted to this philosophy, since it frees them of any responsibility for being one. God made me a loser!

Here we see how Islam and predestination merge with the neo-Marxism of the modern left, in that their first principle is that it's all someone else's fault! The left may not have a God, but they have a whole gallery of convenient demons to choose from in order to explain away their failure: race, class, sex, whatever. With leftism you are only free to choose your demon, while the demon is responsible for all the heavy shirking.

With predestination, whether Marxist, Mohammedan or modern Christian, human agency is eliminated; guilt and responsibility are God's business, not ours. So you can wreck the world and blame a mechanical demon of your own imagination. What deviant child wouldn't love that?

And if that offends you, don't blame me. God made me this way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Reality Before Reality and the We Before I

The first principle of the science before science is that "the world exists independent of us and of our understanding." You'd think this wouldn't be controversial, but that's because you're not a genius, like Descartes or Hume or Kant.

Descartes, for example, in looking for a good place to set up a philosophy business, started inside his own head (I-think-therefore-I-am) instead of with the outside world. It's amazing he had any customers at all, since the doors are permanently closed.

Thus begins a tragic bifurcation in the human spirit. It leads straight to Kant, who concludes that we not only begin in the head but can never leave there -- or in other words, all we ever "know" are the forms of our own sensibilities, AKA the ontologically closed nervous system. Epistemology is severed from ontology, and here we are imprisoned in the subjectivist hell of Obamaworld, with no appeal to the higher court of reality. That was fast!

"Subjectivism" means that we cannot consult the world -- objective reality -- to settle our differences.

Rather, perception is reality, and crouching behind perception is a beefy looking man slipping on brass knuckles. "I think therefore I am" soon enough redounds to "I think therefore you aren't."

Seriously, have we ever had a president so hermetically sealed in his own ideology? That he is "narcissistic" is somewhat beside the point, because that pertains only to the interpersonal plane, when he's closed on every level. He can't be reached by reality because his soul is unlisted.

The essence of narcissism is closure of the human subject. It is only a pretend closure, of course, because the narcissist still needs others, only not for their own sake. Rather, the narcissist needs others to serve as mirrors of his own grandiose narcissistic image. In the absence of this mirroring he will begin to experience an emotional depletion, since there is no energy "coming in." Thus, he is covertly an open system, but in an intrinsically pathological way.

Now, I believe that ultimate reality is Trinity, and one might say that Trinity is intrinsic intersubjectivity. Thus, even -- or especially -- God is an "open system." In his case he is open horizontally with himself (so to speak) -- i.e., Father-Son-Holy Spirit -- but also vertically, with the world.

For this reason, every part of the world, no matter how teenytiny, will reflect this fact (a part so ptee does duty for the holos --JJ). Everywhere we look we see an open exchange of matter, energy, or information. It is what makes the world intelligible, for what is knowledge but the precipitate of an open encounter between mind and world? The world is always instructing us in its mysterious allforabit, and how weird is that?

Look above your head at the One Cosmos mysthead, and what does it say? Life is Our School, The Cosmos Our Teacher, Truth the First Principal. In a way, that says it all, for life is our school and the cosmos is our teacher. And Principal Truth pops into class every now and then to make sure order is maintained and everyone is learning.

This is not the way it is in leftworld, where ideology is the school, feelings the teacher, and political correctness the obnoxious principal.

When we say the human being is an open system, we mean -- like God -- both horizontally and vertically. But for us -- in contrast to the Trinity -- verticality is prior, while horizontality must be a prolongation of this. A human, in order to be one, must be open to love, to truth, to beauty, to virtue. These verticalities are known as "transcendentals," so to be open to them is to be vertically open.

Contrast this with the psychological, philosophical, or political narcissist. Descartes, for example. To what is he open? Himself. For which reason he is the quintessential infertile egghead engaging in metaphysical masturbation.

I remember reading in a book by the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki that we begin with the plain fact that objects object. Here again, this seems like a trivial truth, but recall the adage that a tiny mistake at the beginning will lead to monumental mistakes down the road.

Descartes, for example, should have begun with the idiotically plain fact that "Objects object, therefore they exist." That is literally the eureka moment that makes all other eurekas possible.

Conversely, if your eureka moment is "I think therefore I am," you have consigned yourself to a closed system from which you will never legitimately escape. If your first principle is "me," you can never get to the real You.

In contrast, even secular psychoanalysis recognizes the primacy of the You. The I is only discovered in the space of the vibrant and living relationship between mother and infant. I guarantee you that an infant raised without human contact -- assuming it could live -- would never discover the I, let alone the I Think and the I AM. For truly, as the Son might say to the Father: You are, therefore I am. And We are, therefore the Holy Spirit is.

Hey now. Dramatic. That seems like a good place to end.

Well, at risk of deflation, I've got a little more time to make a few more ancillary points. I mentioned this in the book, but have you noticed how the subjectivists begin with normal science, and then twist it around in order to support their subjectivism?

This is especially done with quantum physics and by scoundrels such as Deepak Chopra. We only know about quantum physics because we begin with really existing things like rocks and tables and chairs. We don't begin at the other end of extreme mathematical abstraction, and then try to get from there to the ponderable reality of intelligible objects.

But in a fiendish twist, the pneumapathic Deepaks of the world start with the paradoxes of quantum physics in order to prove that the macro world is pervaded by the same sorts of paradoxes, such as "perception is reality." Thus, they want to have their scientific crock and eat it too: misusing science to support a crazy a priori ideology.

Don't believe that people can be so systematically stupid? Here is one of Deepak's latest garbled mixtures of truth and fantasy. He writes, for example, that Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions "shattered the notion of objective progress in science by arguing that given their starting assumptions, every scientific scheme for explaining Nature -- what he called a paradigm -- is right on its own terms."

Or in other words, we begin with the paradigm, not with the objective world. Does that truth apply to Kuhn's paradigm? No, he gets a special exemption, so his paradigm is true.

"[N]o one has rebutted Kuhn's point that we view Nature through our own paradigm, our worldview, and that the history of science is a constant stream of shifting paradigms, one after another. There is no way to step outside the paradigm you totally believe in."

Er, I think you just stepped out of it, Deepak. Or into it, rather. The rest is just a pool of blather filling in the crater produced by the initial misstep.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reality is Simple but Not Simplistic

I've been meaning to discuss another book in conjunction with Koestler, that is, The Science Before Science. It's not a very well written book, but it does highlight the scientific fact that there can be no science in the absence of a metaphysic that makes science possible.

And this metaphysic is some version of the Aristotle-Thomist tradition that emerged in the Christian west and nowhere else. The irony is that even the most bigoted anti-religious scientistic loon is, in all likelihood, implicitly operating out of this matrix, which is just Common Sense laid out in a somewhat dry and sometimes tedious manner.

You might say that as soon as the scientist thinks -- coherently, consistently, and deeply -- about what he is doing, he runs into Aristotle and Thomas walking toward him in the distance. They've been there before you. The idea that their approach can be "surpassed" is absurd, because while science itself always changes, the science before science never does. If it did, then no science would be possible. Analogously, the surface structure of language constantly changes, but not the deep structure of grammar. If it did, we couldn't say anything intelligible.

Indeed, this is one of the central reasons why science did not develop in the Muslim world, as it is entirely foreign to their dysfunctional metaphysic. There can be no stable "science behind science," because if there were, it would imply a constraint upon Allah's radical freedom -- one might say whim -- to do as he will. "Occasionalism" is the word for this cognitive pathology, and it is shared by the "everything happens for a reason" crowd.

This latter is nothing less than a rejection and undoing of the very metaphysic that allows us to explore and understand the world, in the confidence that God made it intelligible and us intelligent. I'm all for intellectual humility, within reason. We don't have to go all the way to absolute stupidity to make the point.

Interestingly, sometimes there is a direct connection between theology (not metaphysics per se) and science, as in the case of Kepler, who was convinced that the sun had to be at the center of the solar system for the same reason that God is at the center, period. As Koestler writes, Kepler's answer not only "came before the question" but "was the answer that begot the question." And as we know, there is much more light in a good question than in a dim answer.

However, for the same reason, Kepler had a hard time assimilating the idea that the planets don't run in perfect circles. But although not as beautiful as circles, at least oval orbits "cleared the Augean stables of astronomy of cycles and spirals, and left behind me only a single cartful of dung" (Kepler).

In other words, it would have been an example of bad metaphysics to start with the principle that circles are the perfect form, and deduce from it that planets therefore must run in perfect circles. There's always going to be a bit of dung left over, but perhaps we should think of it as cognitive fertilizer. For example, in modern physics there is quite a large pile due to the fact that special relativity cannot be reconciled with quantum physics, or the macro with the micro, but at least it keeps a lot of fertile minds busy.

I suppose the great discovery was that the same laws apply to both the terrestrial and celestial worlds, so the same force that holds the earth in its orbit causes a stone to fall to the earth. But it seems to me that this should be a direct deduction from, or consequence of, the fact of creation. If this is truly One Cosmos Under God, then it should operate with one set of rules and principles. Otherwise, we're back in Whackistan.

Speaking of which, Rebecca Bynum's Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion, is pretty timely, isn't it? That's a bold statement coming from someone who no doubt prefers to have her head attached to the rest of her -- or who rejects the head-body dualism of the Islamists.

All religions are the same? Let's be honest: Islam is nothing like Christianity, and is in many ways the very opposite. The Islamists certainly see this. Why can't we? Who benefits by the conflation?

The left benefits, that's who, because their overriding goal is to discredit religion, so if Islam and Christianity are the same, then Christianity is crazy if not evil. But the Islamists also benefit, because if Islam is just a religion like any other, then what's the problem?

In the pre-PC world, people could be candid about the differences without fear of intellectual violence from the left and physical violence from Islam. For example, just last night I read a crack by Chesterton to the effect that "Everybody knows" -- everybody! -- "that in the very darkest hour of of the Dark Ages a sort of heresy had sprung up in Arabia and become a new religion of a military and nomadic sort, invoking the name of Mahomet. Intrinsically it had a character found in many heresies from the Moslem to the Monist."

Now, when Chesterton uses the word "heresy," he's talking about intrinsic heresies, i.e., modes of thought that are inherently dysfunctional, either because they are self-refuting, or prevent human happiness and flourishing, or render the world unintelligible, etc.

Specifically, it is "an insane simplification of religion, because it simplifies all to a single idea and so loses the breadth and balance of Catholicism." One such simplistic idea is alluded to above, i.e., the notion that everything is directly caused by Allah, with no secondary causes and no human freedom. That's insane, but it is also believed by materialists (minus the Allah part), Marxists, and those Christians who claim to believe in predestination.

Thus, Bynum is correct in noting that "when Islam is analyzed philosophically it reveals itself to be much closer to ideologies such as material determinism, nihilism, and even social Darwinism than it is to either Christianity or Judaism." Why can't we all just agree about this instead of going insane when someone points it out?

Another obvious difference: "In the Western tradition, legality and morality are two different things," whereas "In Islam, they are one and the same." Every Muslim knows this, so how come liberals don't? If only Islamists didn't so hate the West, I suspect that liberals would notice the homophobia, the misogyny, the racism, the inequality, etc. But since leftism is a doctrine of hate, there is a deeper unity on that basis.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Habit-Forming Realities and Mind-Altering Ideologies

Koestler provides numerous examples of the eureka experience, of the joyous discovery of, or insight into, a new reality.

I wonder if it's like that for Obama, as he slowly discovers what everyone else knows -- that ISIS isn't a JV terror organization, or that Iraq isn't so stable and self-reliant, or that al Qaeda isn't on the run, or that Benghazi wasn't caused by a YouTube video, or that dealing with a tyrant isn't as easy as resetting your TV, or that there's more than a smidgeon of corruption in the IRS?

Note that, as with Obama's problems, scientific discoveries are by definition "always there"; they aren't acts of creation but of apprehension. It's not as if E didn't equal MC squared before Einstein noticed that it did. And yet, failure to notice the connection isn't a priori evidence of carelessness or sloppy thinking.

Rather, it required an act of genuine creativity, or in other words, playing around with different frames of reference in order to escape habitual thinking.

In the scientific moment of discovery, "two previously separate matrices" are "fused into one," in Einstein's case, the matrices of mass and energy. Who in their right mind could imagine that mass and energy are forms of the same "thing" -- whatever that thing is?

Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it turns out that that pervasive Thinging is much closer to Aristotle's "prime matter" than believed by his modern intellectual superiors who rejected the medieval synthesis without ever truly understanding it, just as a liberal rejects a conservatism that exists only in his own head -- not for the purpose of gaining insight into the world, but for the purpose of elevating himself in his own eyes.

It is simply impossible to understand liberalism without first understanding the sociobiological matrix of chimps and their hierarchy.

Note also that that which is seen is difficult to unsee -- i.e., once fused, it is difficult to de-fuse ideas. For example, only a handful of human beings have ever actually seen that, yes, the world is round. The rest of us take it on various degrees of faith, and yet, we all have the picture in our head, the evidence of our senses to the contrary notwithstanding.

That image is relatively harmless, but what about images of more complex realities, such as cosmogony, biogenesis, evolution, etc.? Supposing you have an image of the "big bang"; if so, you can be certain that it is wildly wrong. Likewise some sort of picture of horizontal evolution, as in those posters with a series of images leading to man.

Such pictures are more or less pure fantasy, but man is in need of an image of reality, no matter how distorted. My nine year-old already knows that the image of Adam and Eve is more strictly accurate than the high school poster, if the latter is taken literally. One image is packed with truth about humans, the other merely with human truth.

Koestler writes of the "visual pun," whereby a single form unites two different functions. For example, Einstein's most famous insight occurred when he imagined himself riding a light beam. But this is really just an extension of man's very first visual pun, which was whatnow?

No one knows, but I imagine we can reimagineer the conditions by observing how a Stone Age infant gradually discovers -- and synthesizes -- human reality. Of course, we can't "observe" what is going on in their minds, but we can appreciate how they are constantly making connections, i.e., new fusions of previously separated experiences.

Science itself is nothing but the formalization of what humans do, which is the serial reduction of multiplicity to unity. And it can only take place because Unity is prior to multiplicity, therefore God. God is always Godding. We just surf the waves toward the divine shore.

That sounds like a joke, but if reality is a process of becoming, then each moment represents the minting of a new synthesis, which is Whitehead's central point.

The problem is, a reality is not only habit forming, but can become addictive. Obama seems to have a particularly addictive personality, because he simply cannot free himself of the mind-altering ideologies he imbibed in his youth. Just about everyone experiments with that shit in college, but most of us move on to the responsible use of ideas, while others fall into the downward spiral of tenure or politics.

But in any event, "discovery often means," writes Koestler, "the uncovering of something which has always been there but was hidden from the eye by the blinkers of habit." Americans are eager to find out tomorrow what Obama has discovered under his nose. Or if he's really kicked the habit of ideology, which seems doubtful, short of an extended in-patient deprogramming followed by lifetime involvement in AA (Apparatchiks Anonymous).

When life presents us with a problem it will be attacked in accordance with the code of rules which enabled us to deal with similar problems in the past.... [R]esponses will become stereotyped, flexible skills will degenerate into rigid patterns, and the person will more and more resemble an automaton, governed by fixed habits, whose actions and ideas move in narrow grooves. -- --Arthur Koestler

Monday, September 08, 2014

Humorous Discoveries and Important Jokes

Sometimes I feel a little self-conscious about our freevangelical pundamentalism -- about being a practicing jehovial witticist -- but Koestler assures us that while the idea "that the Jester should be brother to the Sage may sound like blasphemy, yet our language reflects the close relationship."

In a footnote he elaborates on that etymological relationship, suggesting that "wit" is ultimately related to videre and to the Sanskrit veda, which is knowledge, big time -- you know, not just any knowledge, but the ultimate metacosmic gag.

Well, first of all, that's Too Good to Check. But it makes me think that maybe the jester is really the geister, the purveyor of spirit.

Speaking of spirits, you are being lied to about the benefits of grog. Fact is, we need to face some cold hard truths about drinking, no matter how pleasant they are: reduced mortality, cognitive benefits, fewer heart attacks and strokes, etc. Nor should you take any chances, because too little is worse than too much.

Could the pathologies of Islam be related to the misuse of alcohol? After all, their prophet, sage, and geister -- actually, this is Allah talkin'-- sezeth: O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, and [divination] are an abomination of Satan's handiwork. So avoid them in order that you may be successful.

That's a pretty stark contradistnc... conradidest... counterdis... difference: either beer exists because, as Ben Franklin said, God loves us and wants us to be happy; or because Satan despises us and wants us to be miserable and unsuccessful.

Granted, wise use of alcohol is predicated upon a level of personal autonomy and responsibility that may be absent, or even actively suppressed, in Islam.

But wouldn't it be better for those crazy adolescent jihadis to blow off a little steam by getting bombed at a kegger instead of blowing off limbs with a bomb from Qatar?

Koestler writes of "a continuous series" that stretches "from the pun through the play of words to the play of ideas." This is one thing I try to impart to my son when he sees me reading (or writing): I'm not reading, I'm playing. And that's not beer, it's medicine.

Not to devalue the latter, but "Reading is the unsurpassable drug, because more than just the mediocrity of our lives, it allows us to escape the mediocrity of our souls."

Yes, "True reading is an escape. The other type is an occupation." Nor does a book "educate someone who reads it to become educated"(Dávila). Which is one way the secret protects itself from the eager clutches of the tenured.

So, it seems that "getting the joke" is very much related to "solving the problem." I suppose you could say that a joke is an infra-discovery, just as a discovery is an ultra-joke.

One difference, according to Koestler, is that the joke generally involves a collision of matrices, wheres a discovery will result from their fusion. Thus, a really important discovery will involve a "permanent fusion of matrices of thought previously believed to be incompatible."

In contrast, the really, really important joke...

That was a joke!

Or maybe not. Could there be such a thing as an important joke? No, Joe Biden doesn't count.

The first thing that occurs to me is how, in the Soviet Union, it was only possible to discuss certain important truths in the form of generally mordant humor, e.g., "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

And now that I'm thinking about it, the same would be true of certain vital truths that are not to be discussed or even noticed under a logophobic regime of political correctness.

Note also that "the history of science abounds with examples of discoveries greeted with howls of laughter," only later to be confirmed. You know, they all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round, just as they snickered at Marconi that wireless was a phony. Same with Whitney and his gin, Fulton and his boat, and Hershey and his bar. But who's got the last laugh now?

With no global warming for 17 years, I'm not sure we can wring any more humor out of that joke.

This post was interrupted by a commute to school so the wife could sleep in. I've told her in the past that every time this happens, it sets back the progress of cosmic theology 24 hours, but she just rolls her eyes. I guess she's heard that joke too many times.