Friday, September 11, 2015

Digging Up to the Foundation of Reality

Wittgenstein remarked that "when you discover the foundations, you find that they are being held up by the rest of the house" (in Barron).

It seems to me that this goes to the part-whole relations that everywhere characterize our cosmos, and also to its fractal and holographic nature.

Example. I used to think that the mother-infant dyad was about as deep down as one could go in human psychology. If there was a foundation to our humanness, then this dynamic relationship had to be it.

But then I realized that this foundation is being held up by the rest of the house, the ultimate house being the Trinity. Thus, the mother-infant intersubjective dyad without which we wouldn't be human is actually a kind of fractal-echo of the Trinity. I could think of more examples, but my brain isn't yet awake.

Think of scientism, in which things are ultimately reduced to mathematical quantities. That's all well and good, but what's holding up the mathematics? Only the cosmos itself, from which the math is abstracted and derived. If one forgets the real world, one is liable to fall into an infertile angelism that sees reality as a reflection of the theory rather than vice versa. This is literally pre-post-erous, i.e., putting the end (post) before the beginning (pre).

The same principle comes into play with regard to economics. This new book by Brother Sowell reminds us that a nation's income is not measured in terms of money, but is a reflection of its wealth. Actual wealth consists of the real goods and services produced by the country. The money is just an unreal measure of something real.

If you don't have money, it's because you are -- get this -- not producing a good or providing a service that anyone wants. Your input -- income -- is dependent upon your output.

The left turns this around and wonders why people who produce nothing of value have -- get this -- nothing to show for it. But you can't make a man more valuable by paying him more than he's worth -- otherwise Obama would have made us wealthier by piling up more debt than all previous presidents combined.

Back to Wittgenstein's comment. I have no problem with the idea that physics is the foundation so long as we stipulate that theology is the house that holds up the physics.

This is not "intelligent design," but far beyond -- or before -- it. That the world is intelligible at all is already a reflection of intelligence. "Intelligent design" is a pleonasm. Just say intelligent.

Barron quotes theologian John Milbank, who writes that "Any secular science, cultivated exclusively, may become dangerous to religion," on account of its narrow focus on one aspect of reality. We can say that God is a mathematician, so long as we stipulate that he's a bad one, in the sense that things never add up with him. Rather, everything is always more than the sum of its parts. Or just say wholeness: wholeness is the house, where the parts are the foundation.

Which leads to a nice segue to this book on The Nature of Wholeness, which I found to be entirely congenial to the Raccoon POV. I first read it when it came out in 1996, but it didn't resonate. For some reason I reread it a couple of months ago, and it was as if Bortoft had committed anticipatory plagiarism and stolen my ideas before I had had the chance to think of them.

Weird. I just flipped open the book, and I read this: "We can now recognize... that the fact that modern physics is true -- which it certainly is -- does not mean that it is fundamental. Hence it cannot be a foundation upon which everything else, human beings included, depends" (emphasis mine... and Wittgenstein's).

Importantly, our view does not in any way contradict science. Rather, it complements and completes it. It closes the circle which is otherwise an absurd line, or Bad Infinite. In the case of the Good Infinite, the parts converge on the whole -- the Infinite Good -- while the whole is constituted by the parts. To say part is to say whole, and vice versa. A part with no whole would be literally inconceivable. It certainly couldn't be part of this cosmos. Or any cosmos.

As Bortoft says, "Both can be true" -- the holistic/organismic and the atomistic/mechanistic -- "not because truth is relative, but because they reveal nature in different ways."

Thus, for example, "it may be useful to reverse the relationship and understand the local environment as being the result of the rest of the universe" (recall what was said above about infancy and the Trinity).

Or, think of the meaning of any text. "The meaning is the whole of the text, but this whole is not the same as the totality of the text.... We do not have the totality of the text when we read it, but only one bit after another." But it is not as if we add up these bits to arrive at the meaning -- the whole.

Instead, "the meaning of the text is discerned and disclosed with progressive immanence throughout the reading of the text."

In other words, the whole is in each of the parts. Like right now: you are reading these individual words without even being aware of them as words. Rather, they are transparent to the meaning I am conveying from my mind to yours. The words are like the radio waves that carry the meaning of the broadcast. I am right now focussed on the whole and trying to enlist or attract the words to transmit it.

"Thus we can say that meaning is hologrammatical," such that "the whole is present throughout all of the text" and "present in any of the text." A hologram, in case you don't know, is a three-dimensional photograph. Shine a laser into the holographic plate, and the image appears.

What is intriguing about the hologram is that if you break the plate into fragments, each part will nevertheless contain the whole, and be capable of reproducing the entire image, only less vividly. Thus there is a trace of the whole in every itsy bitsy of the hologram -- just as each cell contains the DNA necessary to reconstruct the whole organism.

As we were saying a couple of posts back, the transcendental of transcendentals is oneness itself. In order for something to exist, it must stand apart as a thing. But these foundational things only exist as things because of a primordial Oneness, such that each part is, as it were, like a little broken fragment of our venerable hologrampa: or as Joyce called it in his Hologrammatical Book of Fractals, Only a fadograph of a yestern scene.

We can never actually possess the whole; rather, we can only converge upon it. Under-standing is always a process, a moving-toward. Conversely, "When we do not understand, we merely pass along the parts." This is a profound observation.

I'm thinking of my own meaningless education, which was meaningless precisely in the degree to which disconnected parts were merely passed along. To be perfectly accurate, I have subsequently been able to confer meaning on many of those parts with reference to the nonlocal whole. But the parts that don't fit into the whole are simply meaningless, absurd, at a right angle to Meaning.

The parts are "things," while the whole must be no-thing. If you see the latter as a thing, then this thing is simply another part. I would say that this is a reflection of the fact that we can never contain God, because to do so is to reduce him to thingness, and this in turn redounds to the thingdom of heathen, AKA tenure.

Parts are a kind of passive presence, whereas the whole is an "active absence" which pulls us into its nonlocal attractor. Thus, -- and this is a key -- wholeness only manifests through our receptivity, our own active absence, so to speak. In the book, I symbolized this absence (o), which is a kind of hologrammatical fractal of the big O of which we are image and likeness.

I suppose the bottom line is that man is the cosmic foundation held up by God. This is not preposterous but properly postpreperous.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ignorance and Power: Is There Anything They Can't Accomplish?

In pondering these reflections on the last ravaged century, what strikes the reader is that we are making the identical mistakes that are putting us on course for more of the same. Instead of waking from the historical nightmare, the left is gobbling down more ideological Ambien and hoping the dream will be better this time.

Can these really be called "mistakes"? For example, Obama knows full well what he is doing with Iran, and he doesn't consider it a mistake. It's not fair to compare him to Neville Chamberlain, because Chamberlain would never have tried to appease Hitler and finance our own destruction with billions of dollars.

Either in this book or in The Dragons of Expectation, Conquest makes the point that the struggles with communism and Nazism weren't "good vs. evil," but rather, man vs. monsters. It's the same with regard to Iran and ISIS. The left forgets that because we are men, our society will never be perfect; and that because Islamic supremacists are monsters, their societies will never be decent.

Here is a psycho-political orthoparadox: "A democratic community enjoying political liberty is only possible when the attachment of the majority of the citizens to political liberty is stronger than their attachment to specific political doctrines." In practical terms, "on many controversial issues a certain comparative apathy must prevail among a large part of the population."

It used to be called tolerance, but mere tolerance of the freedom of others is the new intolerance. Our liberty is under a ceaseless assault by activists who are attached to only one form of freedom, which is no freedom at all. Freedom only works if I leave you alone, and you -- and your state -- leave me alone. Note the asymmetry of power, such that one of these is not like the other.

So, "all the major troubles the world has had in our era have been caused by people who have let politics become a mania."

I would love to not have to think about politics, but that doesn't mean politics isn't thinking about us. Liberals are always thinking and scheming about us, right down to reaching into the shower and adjusting the temperature. In Los Angeles County -- with some of the worst traffic in the world -- they have a new scheme to make the traffic worse by designating lanes for bicycle use only. Likewise, there's not enough water for existing residents, but they have sanctuary cities for illegal aliens who will only make matters worse.

File under plus ça change: "One principle basic to these regimes is that the parties concerned came to power while concealing from their rank-and-file supporters the inevitable sacrifices that would be asked of them."

Like, you know, I was under the impression that there would be enough water to go around, or that I could keep my physician, or my healthcare costs would go down, or we wouldn't be arming our sworn enemies with nuclear missiles, or racial healing!

True, but as Lenin said, "The victory of the workers is impossible without sacrifices, without a temporary worsening of their situation." So, if Clinton is elected president, expect another temporary worsening of your situation, at least until we elect the next leftist.

In the Soviet Union they had the Five Year Plan. Liberals have the Eight Year Plan.

The result of these revolutions is always "a lowering of the standard of living of the working class," but citizens need to know that they are making this sacrifice for the greater good of state bureaucrats, crony capitalists, and ultra-wealthy Democrat donors.

Is there some fundamental reason why they are so illogical and anti-scientific, and why they embrace frauds and pseudosciences like climate change and Keynesian economics? "There was and is a strong tendency among Marxists to accept pseudosciences. The mechanism seems to be related to the desire for complete solutions -- which are of course more commonly found in the pseudosciences than in the sciences proper."

I well remember that one of the appeals of leftism was that it "leads to the condition in which many people possessing it feel that they are already fully educated and, in effect, capable of judging any subsidiary studies without adequate humility or effort."

Yes, there was a time that I was young and stupid and lazy enough to be as omniscient as Obama.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Spinning In Coherence

Some random thoughts from and about Robert Barron's Exploring Catholic Philosophy. Feeling a bit fuzzy this AM. I'll just start typing, and with any luck Barron's stimulus will provoke an actual post with coherence and everything. You know, just let go and hope we get pulled into a nonlocal vortex.

Speaking of coherence, Barron reminds us of a bold statement by Wittgenstein to the effect that "the most puzzling problem in all of philosophy is how we manage to see something as something."

This capacity of ours must be a reflection of the first transcendental, Oneness, in that to perceive anything is to first abstract and isolate it from everything else. How do we do this? It's especially puzzling with complex and temporally extended things such as music, literature, even our own selves. Are we really one? Or only trying and hoping to be? If thine eye be single... Did that guy anticipate everything, or what?

Orthoparadoxically, however, everything is one, and yet, a part of everything else. Nor is this Everything Else merely a horizontal reality, but rather, like the body, there are wholes within wholes within wholes (as in body/organ/cell/DNA). Each part is a whole, but part of a more encompassing whole.

Where does this wholeness end? Or begin? For a pantheist it simply ends with the physical cosmos, and there is no doubt that he is partially correct. Modern physics demonstrates without question that the cosmos is indeed one, such that no part of it can be radically independent of any other -- both in time and space. See Whitehead for details.

But this only ends up conferring godlike properties upon the cosmos. There is also the perennial problem of how one obtains the greater from the lesser, that is, how man can appear in a cosmos that is less developed than he, for as a patient of mine once said, you can only get so much blood out of a turnip. To say "the cosmos did it" is the biggest philosophical dodge since "Darwinism did it." These are examples of what we call the "godlessness of the gaps," or "don't worry, there's nothing that can't be explained by the one-two punch of ignorance and chance."

As a brief aside, one thought that occurred to me while reading this book is that it is so full of truth, and yet, it would be quite difficult to convey this truth to someone who doesn't already believe it. And I don't mean "believe it" in a faith-based way, but rather intellectually. It's like any other tradition, whether religious or irreligious.

For example, it's impossible to swallow any of the left's nonsense unless one is already conditioned by Marxist assumptions about power, class, and economics. If you've assimilated those kooky things, then Obama doesn't sound stupid or deranged.

The real problem is that you can't just tell a modern person, "here, eat this. It's God!" To modern ears, that doesn't just sound wrong, but insane. It takes an awful lot of groundwork to get to where that statement makes total sense -- i.e., is part of a completely coherent system -- but how many people are willing to do the spadework? And even then, the sufficient cause of the coherence is always God himsoph: understanding where God is coming from always comes from God, i.e., grace.

In Christian metaphysics, Jesus would be considered the local icon of the nonlocal Father. He is God pouring himself out into a human vessel for our benefit. This too sounds a little crazy, but on a more abstract level it is hardly different from scientism, whereby man presumes to speak for the entire cosmos.

Indeed, to even say cosmos is to intuit a transcendent oneness that no one has or will ever directly perceive. Similarly, when man pronounces that Darwinism is both the necessary and sufficient cause of man, man is speaking for the entire biosphere. But how? How is he transcending and standing above the rules that supposedly determine him?

Shut up, that's how.

The Christian metaphysical view is that "Jesus is the iconic representation of the very mind of God." Moreover, he is "the enfleshment of the pattern according to which God fashioned the universe."

Here again, while no doubt true, I think it is possible to formulate this in a more abstract manner that is not so shocking to modern ears. For example, few normal (or non-tenured) people would disagree with the assertion that the cosmos is intelligible and that man may know it. But if you accept this postulate, then it has implications that lead directly to the Christian doctrine of man.

For there can be no intelligibility without intelligence, meaning that these two are not just complementary but irreducible reflections of one another. Can they really be explained with reference to blind matter? I don't see how. Rather, they are explained with reference to a reality in which the two are united in One -- where existence and essence are not bifurcated. This One is what we call God. And this God is a personal intelligence because there can be no other kind. Intelligibility is the vapor trail of personhood.

Paul says that Jesus is the "image (eikon) of the invisible God." He is the firstborn over all creation and the one in whom all things hold together (in Barron). Thus, he is creativity, coherence, and intelligence. Unless you have a better idea of where these come from.

Barron writes that this icon is "the lens through which the whole of reality is properly read, the means by which we correctly see the universe as something." This is starting to sound not-so-crazy, because again, scientism affirms the same truth, only leaves it dangling from the cosmos with no coherent account of how it got here.

What I mean is that if man can account for the cosmos, then the cosmos cannot account for him. Likewise, if man can account for himself -- as in, say, Darwinism -- then Darwinism cannot account for man. Rather, the "account" hangs suspended in midair, without even the possibility of an explanation with the preconceptions at hand.

We mysteriously see the universe as a universe. In our opinion this is because a Person sees us as persons, or because we are intelligible to His intelligence, just as his intelligibility may be known by our intelligence. It's a relationship, don't you know, with give-and-take.

"... Jesus is the final and definitive pattern by which reality is interpreted -- the manner in which we 'get' God and the world, and the dynamics of our own spiritual transformation."

Crazy? Yes, if one forgets or rejects everything we have written thus far. For this is really a way of affirming that God participates in man, and man in God; or that the relative participates in the Absolute, and that a personal transformation takes place in the dynamic space of this relation.

This represents literally the most radical humanism imaginable. All others are number two or lower. Other humanisms stop at the border of the human, and thereby become less than human. In other words, all of the gifts that render us human -- truth, freedom, creativity, beauty, etc. -- are denied any source or referent. They might as well be anything. Which for the modern secularist they are.

"... [H]uman liberty is not suppressed by the proximity of the divine liberty but rather enabled by it. We are, in fact, freer the more fully we surrender to the divine will." Note that there are two wills in Jesus -- divine and human -- but that these function in harmony, or in wholeness; they are coherent, not at odds or battling to occupy the same space.

Man can and does experience an echo of this. For example, genuine liberty "is not so much self-expressive choice as the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible and finally effortless."

It is the same vis-a-vis the pursuit of truth. God forbid that I use my freedom to find my own truth, for this eliminates both! And any coherence will be forced and superimposed rather than intuited and harmonized.

"Christians know that all acts of knowledge here below are acts of re-cognition, thinking again what has already been thought by a more primordial knower." Which is why "it is absolutely no accident that the modern physical sciences emerged precisely in the universities in the Christian West...." So, you may believe the world and everything in it is one big accident, but your believing it is no accident, because only a Christianized mind would have the confidence to make such a totalistic claim about the cosmos.

Recall from a few posts back that diabolos is the scatterer, and that to scatter is to oppose coherence. For example, when political operatives put a spin on what you just saw or heard, they are attempting to scatter truth far and wide. They are devils in human form. Or maybe the devil is a human in Carville form.

We are all spinning in the void. But there is the centrifugal spinning of the scatterer, and the centripetal spin of love. Or as Frank sez, In a spin, loving the spin that I'm in / Under that old black magic called love.

Jesus' entire preaching and ministry should be read under this rubric of the great gathering.... to live according to the coinherence that constitutes the grain of the universe.... Without knowledge of Jesus, people are like actors who don't know what play they're in (ibid.).

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Hope, Change, and Suicide

Liberalism, as James Burnham observed 50 years ago, is "the ideology of Western suicide." And although Glenn Beck will never be our cuppatea or muggagrog, he is correct that we are speeding down the historical highway, oblivious to the washed out bridge up ahead.

Which got me to wondering: why do people commit suicide? And more to the point, is there any analogy between individual and collective suicide?

I have only one book on the subject, but I've never read it. I think I picked it up at a library book sale for a buck. It's by the Father of Suicidology, so it looks sound. Let's see if we can learn anything about why our cohorts are so bent on the destruction of western civilization.

Before cracking the book, here is what I know about suicide just based upon personal experience. Obviously it is related to depression, but what is depression? Clinical depression is often characterized by sadness, but more often it is marked by a pervasive sense of meaninglessness. The severely depressed person is devoid of meaning; or, to put it another way, his only meaning is relentless pain. But while it is a psychic pain, it is so intense that it is perceived as physical. Such a person may harbor ideas that he is riddled with cancer or suffering from some other fatal illness. Depression "feels" like death.

One of the most common features of depression is anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure, satisfaction, joy, or any other positive emotion. It is a kind of living hell, because in the absence of pleasure, the person literally doesn't know which way to turn. He can do this or he can do that, but it doesn't matter, so he ends up doing nothing. The doing of nothing is just an outward reflection of the inward nothingness.

The last severely depressed person I evaluated was completely anhedonic. Not only did he have no positive emotions, he didn't have any "negative" ones either. He just felt dead. While not actively suicidal, he didn't care if he died, and had passive wishes that death would simply "take him." It was as if he were pervaded by an absent-positive as opposed to a present-negative.

America is not a sad place. But it is an anhedonic place. To get a sense of this, one would have to "participate" in contemporary America, which the Raccoon refuses to do. When I say that America is anhedonic, imagine being strapped to a chair and being forced to watch its television, or listen to its contemporary music, or read its popular fiction. Any normal person would soon fall into despair and give up hope.

As it so happens, on Saturday I ran out of books. While I have several in the mail, the earliest they would arrive would be today, so that meant two days with no innertainment. Therefore, I did something I hadn't done in many years, which is to set foot in a bookstore. What a dreadful experience! It was the local Barnes & Noble, and it was about as uplifting as shopping for books in Soviet Moscow. The crap people read! It was like being in the cathedral of the Death Culture.

It did yield one important lesson for the boy, however. He's always hearing about how important it is to read, but it all depends on what you're reading. Like anything else, 95% is worthless at best.

Back to suicide. Shneidman makes the important point that suicide didn't exist before the mid 17th century, because it would have been impossible. What he means is that belief in the afterlife was universal, such that killing oneself wouldn't be the end of one's difficulties. Indeed, one might find oneself in even deeper in the soup: "It was simply not possible to extinguish oneself forever," because "the essence lived on."

This implies that only a secularized society can truly destroy itself, for "only those who believe that this life is the only life [can] commit suicide." Conversely, overtly suicidal Islamist movements and regimes aren't suicidal at all, because they are convinced they will be rewarded in the afterlife.

This puts an interesting twist on the "clash of civilizations," because we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back. In other words, Islamists fight with both this life and the next (as no doubt do most of our actual fighting men; it is just that they are led by the likes of the one-worldling Obama).

I wonder of we could have defeated the Soviet Union (or Nazi Germany) had it not been for the fact that they were unyielding this-worlders while we were still mostly both-worlders back then? Was the atheism of national and international socialism a kind of cultural suicide?

Conquest's Reflections of a Ravaged Century is the finest postmortem of the ideological wars of the 20th century I've ever read. What does he say about the subject?

Why does the revolutionary embrace revolution to begin with? It must be because he feels hopeless about the present but hopeful about the radical transformation he wishes to bring about. Hope and change are the lingua franca of every revolutionary, but they are always grounded in a hatred of the present. This is why they become even more hateful after the radical changes, because they never result in the hoped for utopia. Look at how much more transparently hateful Obama has become over the past eight years. It's all he has left.

Conquest cites the example of the celebrated Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who was asked in 1994 whether the Soviet... experiment had been worthwhile, or if he nursed any regrets in supporting it: "You didn't have the option. You see, either there was going to be a future or there wasn't going to be a future and this was the only thing that offered an acceptable future."

In other words, he was utterly hopeless about the world as it existed before the Revolution. The interviewer then asks about the millions of deaths due to famine, and Hobsie responds that even in hindsight, "the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing."

To put it in contemporary terms, if only the magical hope were justified, then all of this destructive change would have been worthwhile!

Indeed, if we continue our present course, someday an Obama supporter will be able to say: "true, we hastened the destruction of western civilization, but if only you could appreciate the magnificent vision of what we had hoped for, you would see that it was worth it!"

Returning to that interview, Hobsbawm is asked, "What it then comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?" Without hesitation he responds "Yes."

So, that's the mentality we're dealing with. I mean, this guy was in the upper echelons of the tenured.

The point is that the secular leftist doesn't have hope for an afterlife, but this hardly means that he lives in "reality." Rather, he just displaces the hope and ends up living in un-reality. Conquest talks about the "unreal assumptions" that drive such people, "a quite different set of motivations, based on a different political psychology."

This being the case, we fundamentally err if we simply project our own psychology into these people, and imagine they have the same motivations. We cannot do it vis-a-vis the left, just as Obama is delusional in doing it vis-a-vis Iran. Such rubes "assume that the light of their own parochial common sense is enough. And they frame policies based on illusions."

These are the same people, mind you, who never shut up about multiculturalism, but Obama treats Iran like the Harvard department of Middle Eastern Studies. He thinks he's dealing with Edward Said.

There are other reasons for suicide, but one can see how they tend to flow from an anti-Christian metaphysic. For example, some suicides occur "when an individual's ties to his community are too few or too tenuous." Being that man is trinitarian and relational right down to the ground, it makes sense that life might be perceived as not worth living outside conditions of intimately relational love.

Sheidman also speaks of a kind of suicide "deriving from excessive regulation of the individual, where the individual has no personal freedom and no hope." Think of Winston in 1984. Is life worth living in the absence of Christian freedom? "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). Therefore, where there is no liberty, God cannot get his Word in edgewise. There is no space for the divine freedom. I can imagine feeling suicidal under such dreadful conditions.

Here's another interesting type, what he calls ageneratic suicide: it relates "to the individual's 'falling out' of the procession of generations; his losing (or abrogating) his sense of membership in the march of generations and, in this sense, in the human race itself."

This very much reminds me of the function of Tradition, and also of Chesterton's comment to the effect that we live in a democracy of the dead, or that our true community includes those who preceded us and those who will follow. The left obliterates this thread, thus the casual dismissal of dead white males and the callous destruction (and sale) of living black babies.

There is also aggressive suicide, AKA ultimate payback. I can't help thinking that Obama's anti-American aggression is of this nature.

Then there is the anhedonic suicide alluded to above, which Sheidman calls "apathetic suicide": it "results from a sense of worthlessness," "in a desire to manifest self-contempt, to reject oneself, to put oneself down.... One's life is seen as having a negative value..." It reminds me of this little exchange at Happy Acres: