Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And the Melody Became a Note, But the Other Notes Didn't Hear It

Speaking of wholeness, Barron implies that Thomas was one of the most holographic thinkers in history, in the sense that "it is usually quite possible to show the variety of ways that any one section of the Summa relates to any other." It's a micro-cosmos, a uni-verse (one turn) in itself.

Now, I don't want to pretend I've read the whole thing. That's not my job. But I am intrigued by this vast nocean of the wave being contained in its particles. Indeed, a fundamental orthoparadoxical question is how the whole can be "contained" in the part. How is it that something vastly smaller can contain what is immeasurably larger?

....

I can think of many ways, and we're not even talking about the eucharist. For example, a library that has one good book -- say, the Bible -- contains something infinitely larger than itself. Indeed, perhaps this is one of the appeals of libraries per se: the illusion that we can somehow contain and assume mastery over knowledge which is in reality infinite.

Back when my brain was coming on line and I was randomly reading everything in sight to try to catch up with mankind, I even read some of the fiction of Jean Paul Sartre, including Nausea. In it there is a character, the self-taught man, who spends all of his time trying to read everything that exists.

Beyond that I don't exactly remember the point, but it must be that the autodidact is trying to make up for his -- and our -- intrinsic incompleteness by swallowing the entire library -- as if this will redeem and render him whole. But this would merely lead to a bad case of existential indigestion.

One suspects that tenured ideologues attempt to do something similar, but it is essentially the opposite movement, in that they elevate a trivial part to the whole. This is what the left always does, despite the fact that it cannot be done.

Which is interesting, because when I say it cannot be done, that is an absolute, isn't it? Therefore, it is an example of containing the uncontainable in a healthy and realistic way. To be aware of Hayek's knowledge problem is to be aware of the limits of knowledge -- just as to be aware of Gödel's theorems is to be aware of the limits on man's theorizing. Conversely, to not be aware of Hayek and Gödel will lead to unlimited delusions of containment and mastery.

To put it another way, man can contain a lie or a partial truth. But he is always contained by Truth. Which is not the same as relativism; yes, man is always relative, but relative to the Truth that precedes and transcends him.

The two errors are 1) rejecting Truth, as in moral relativism, academic diversity, and multiculturalism; and 2) imagining one contains or possesses it in the absolute sense. Again, to the extent that we possess Truth, it is only because it has first possessed us. Numerous biblical passages reflect this metaphysic, and indeed, the experience of metanoia -- repentance -- involves being turned inside-out in this holo-fractal manner.

I suppose what I want to emphasize is that you can know a lot by knowing a little. In fact, I am always on the vertical trail of that itsy bitsy that is the key to the whole existentialada.

Again, the Way of the Self-Taught Man is a non-starter, because no matter how much one knows, it is always a tiny fraction in comparison to what can be known: you may know a lot, but only about a little. I guess you could say that a headfull of the things that happen to be true is no replacement for a soph-taught heartfull of things that must be true.

Or as it says plain as night in Finnegans Wake, when a part so ptee does duty for the holos, we soon grow to use of an allforabit. I suppose I'm always on the lookout & -in for that allforabit. Conversely, Somedivide and sumthelot but the tally turns round the same balifuson. A bally ball of confusion I'm tempted to sing.

Again, the holos is always grander than the summa the parts. It's why in marriage, for example, 1 + 1 = 3, whereas in its homosexual counterfeit 1 + 1 = 1. Unity without unification. Big difference!

Barron comes at the knowledge limit from another angle, noting that although "truth concerning God can be discovered through metaphysical speculation," this truth is always asymptotically over the subjective horizon. "Thus, paradoxically, both the mind and the will need to be drawn beyond their own powers in order to realize their proper ends..."

Here again, it is a relationship with Truth, through which the supra-stance of Truth is assimilated into our own finite sub-stance; it is part-icipation in that which con-tains us -- something no part could do in the absence of the transcendent whole of which it is a part.

As Bortoft writes, "the plot is not another detail in the story and the tune is not just another note..." But what if the cosmic plot could become one of its characters, or the Song Supreme one of its notes? What if the Absolute could become relative, or eternity enter time, or Creator enter his own creation, or theory assume its own facts?

We might say that the facts speak for himSelf: "The theory is the facts when these are seen in another dimension.... This transformation from an analytical to a holistic mode of consciousness brings with it a reversal between the container and the content" (ibid.).

We can all agree that facts are external. But external to what? Which is to say, whom?

"[I]n science, as in art, truth is active and not passive, as the dogma of factualism implies.... The scientist is an active participant in scientific truth, but without this meaning that truth is thereby reduced to a merely subjective condition" (ibid.).

14 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

...it must be that the autodidact is trying to make up for his -- and our -- intrinsic incompleteness by swallowing the entire library -- as if this will redeem and render him whole. But this would merely lead to a bad case of existential indigestion.

"The place where I come from is a small town.
They think so small, they use small words.
But not me! I'm smarter than that;
I worked it out.
I'll be stretching my mouth
to let those big words come right out..."

Or in other words, it is possible to be an intellectual glutton...

9/15/2015 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Beyond that I don't exactly remember the point, but it must be that the autodidact is trying to make up for his -- and our -- intrinsic incompleteness by swallowing the entire library -- as if this will redeem and render him whole. But this would merely lead to a bad case of existential indigestion."

That comes embarrassingly close to describing my first intentions, read Everything from Homer to Lord of the Rings. But that goal contains is ends, and that ends with both "Is this all there is?" , and "More!", which both succeed only in expanding the empty.

If you miss the depth, if you mistake external positioning, for internal principals, you'll only and ever wander about in the Many and miss out on the ever present One.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still gleefully scooping up quantities - that's just fun - but I'm just aware that More doesn't add anything to the equation of 1+1=3.

9/15/2015 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Indeed; it's not that it's necessarily bad to seek out knowledge, only that if the knowledge is not informed by that which is higher, then it may cause one's mind to expand without causing the mind to also elevate. Kind of like an ever-spreading puddle that has no water added.

Or again, it's the difference between seeking knowledge and seeking wisdom.

9/15/2015 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said "Or again, it's the difference between seeking knowledge and seeking wisdom."

Yep. Or...even thinking that you could. Seeking knowledge, without seeking wisdom, is seeking only nihil with a fancy label...or title. Aka: Tenure.

9/15/2015 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I was just reading in some other book that the sin of curiositas has nothing to do with healthy curiosity, but rather, the pointless or destructive kind. As long as curioisity converges on reality and wholeness, you're good to go.

9/15/2015 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Again, the Way of the Self-Taught Man is a non-starter, because no matter how much one knows, it is always a tiny fraction in comparison to what can be known: you may know a lot, but only about a little. I guess you could say that a headfull of the things that happen to be true is no replacement for a soph-taught heartfull of things that must be true.

I suppose Thomas summed this up when he said, “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.”

9/15/2015 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

That quote is referenced on p. 261 of the Coonifesto.

9/15/2015 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

From the department of FWIW:

Chesterton's take was that St. Thomas had seen, in his final confrontation with Siger of Brabant, "the possibility of the perishing of all idea of religion, and even of all idea of truth." That he had come back "with a sort of horror of that outer world, in which there blew such wild winds of doctrine . . . " (p. 115, St. Thomas Aquinas, "The Dumb Ox").

The quote Chesterton offers is, "I can write no more. I have seen things which make all my writings like straw."

If accurate, I think I know where he was coming from. I feel pretty much the same way after I argue with a liberal.

9/15/2015 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yeah.

Another Planned Parenthood video came out today. In some ways, it already doesn't matter: those who have dismissed the previous nine videos will not be swayed by a tenth; those who still consider a child in the womb to be less than human will call it "good" that the body parts might be "made useful" and provide a little profit for those who procure them; those who recoil in horror at what is happening will find that nothing will be done - and again realize that we are all tainted by this evil. Eventually, all the efforts against it do indeed seem like so much straw.

God help us.

9/15/2015 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Maineman, My interpretation of the Thomas quote has always been quite different. I believe later in his life Thomas had a profound realization of the Godhead. I'm sure this humbled him in such a way where he saw all his metaphysical speculation and intellectual jostling falling short of this Truth.

9/15/2015 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think of it as the ultimate reward for his tireless efforts in deepening the God-man dialogue.

9/15/2015 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

I like your interpretation better, Ted. Surely, Chesterton's view was colored by the fact that he clearly saw the scatterer's fingers prying apart every aspect of western civilization.

The question would be whether St. Thomas somehow saw that coming. It evidently happened during a mass, which gives it a ring similar to that famous moment when Pope Leo XIII is said to have heard the conversation that prompted him to pen the prayer to St. Michael.

9/15/2015 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I had always understood it that way as well; it occurred to me after Maineman's first comment that the one doesn't necessarily exclude the other. After experiencing the Godhead and realizing all his words were useless to even begin to touch the Mystery, would he not also have felt some measure of frustration at his inability to speak the truth in such a way that the people around him could see it? Perhaps it would be like taking a draught of Living Water - or even just the smallest droplet - and finding it impossible to pass a drop on to anyone else, to share the experience. It might be at once deepest joy and deepest torment.

9/15/2015 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

t'which I say,

"t'was the straw that broke the ox's back"

That's some straw!

9/16/2015 07:43:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home