Humble Brag and Grandiose Humility
Sure there are more important things. But "Thinking that only important things are important hints of barbarism" (NGD).
Besides, "I do not speak of God in order to convert anyone," writes the Aphorist, "but because it is the only subject worth speaking of."
I guess I'm just built this way. It's in my nature. I am my own argument against Darwinism, because where's the utility in selecting for traits that have nothing whatsoever to do with survival? And my most conspicuous traits are absolutely good for nothing. Just ask my in-laws!
I suppose artists feel the same way about their non-utility. Or should, anyway. But more often than not, their art is mingled with their narcissism, resulting in more, not less, self-importance. Toss stupidity into the mix, and you have an incurable liberal: the triple threat of uselessness, self-importantance, and stupidity.
"No one is important for a long time without becoming a fool" (NGD). And no one can be a celebrity for even a short time without becoming a jackass. Conversely, "Even if humility did not save us from hell, in any case it saves us from ridicule."
The temptation is always there to diminish God and elevate oneself. But some circumstances make it easier to do that -- fame, power, money, intelligence, any gift, really. For some people it isn't grand enough to be in the image and likeness of God. Rather, they want to be God.
That's got to be the ultimate humble brag, right? Not the Creator of the universe, only the image and likeness. And yet, between these two is an infinite abyss that prevents it from being a boast, for anything not-God is by comparison nothing.
Now, what is the relationship between being and God? "Being is ‘ambiguous,’" writes Schuon, "because it is at the same time absolute and relative, or because it is absolute while being situated in relativity, or again, to express ourselves more boldly though perhaps all the more suggestive, because it is the ‘relative Absolute.’"
Being is ultimately the object of thought. Again, Kant severed this link, such that our knowledge is no longer "about" anything but itself. Being is rendered noumenal, completely beyond any human knowledge.
Like anyone could know that! Again, Kant is committing the error we discussed in last Friday's post -- that in order to limit thought, one must think both sides of the limit.
You have two alternatives as to where to begin your cognitive adventure: to begin in being, or to begin in thought. But if you begin in the latter, then the adventure is over. Or at least it is guaranteed to go nowhere, since it can never recover the being you have cut off at the outset.
One of the ironies of modernity -- or whatever you call this era through which we are living -- is that people simultaneously accept the Kantian rupture (e.g., "perception is reality") while implicitly holding to a scientistic paradigm that presumes to know all (at least in principle).
So, is science about being? Or just about itself? The deconstructionist must regard scientism as naive (i.e., pre-critical), while the scientist must regard the deconstructionist as an intellectual buffoon (as if quantum theory, for example, is just words about words).
Well, they're both wrong in their own ways, and deserve one another. Scientism is naive; and postmodernism is pernicious buffoonery.
Being that I am the twisted product of an extensive modern education, I didn't completely sort this out for myself until... let's see... until 1999, when I read philosopher of science Stanley Jaki's Means to Message: A Treatise on Truth. And even then, it didn't completely sink in, because that was before I would have been able to connect it to the whole western -- which is to say, Christian -- tradition.
What was once plain common sense is now a revolutionary statement: that objects are prior to the subject. Jaki: "A book with the subtitle, 'a treatise on truth,' must... convey its author's resolve to face up to the question: 'What is truth?'"
And by truth he does not mean opinion. But nor does he mean "dogma." It's more like what I was saying the other day about 1) man being entitled to truth, and 2) Bob not wising to get into arguments with people over the nature of truth. Rather, there is only one logical path -- or one that doesn't end in implosion, absurdity, or self-refutation -- and this is it. To be sure, there are any number of alternative paths, but they necessarily end nowhere.
Our first step -- whether we admit it to ourselves or not -- is "the registering of objects." If not, then "the philosopher will be guilty of a sleight of hand, however sophisticated." For "he will have to bring in through the back door the very objects the use of which his starting point has failed to justify." The man with the umlaut strikes again!
Recall the crack about any radical dualism ending with a bit of one side on the other: "If objects are not presented as a primary datum, some other factors will expropriate that role.... For objects will not cease claiming their rights to be recognized for what they are: objects and not their disembodied conceptual factors."
There is no way out of this truth except via deception, self- or otherwise: "This truth cannot be evaded, let alone refuted, because the refutation itself is an act of communication, an implicit" appeal to an objective means whereby other subjects may be be reached.
This goes to the reality of communication. In this post, for example, I am communicating to you via objects called words. Therefore, even before anything else I say, I must implicitly believe that my readers will register these objects and decode their meaning.
Which, as it so happens, mirrors the structure of reality: intelligible objects transmitting their meaning to intelligent subjects.
To express it baseballically, "The pitcher is the philosopher, the ball he throws is the book in which his treatise on truth is literally embodied. And since he throws that book... at his fellow philosophers, his treatise on truth must be such as to assure rigorously the reality of that book or ball."