Friday, March 10, 2017

Intelligence is Not Enough

In the essay Prerogatives of the Human State, Schuon outlines an intriguing little schematic vis-a-vis our humanness. Recall that man is primarily defined by intelligence, freedom, and sentiment, corresponding to the True, Good, and Beautiful, respectively.

He then outlines what these characteristics entail in combination; for example, intelligence + will = "capability." As mentioned, he is quite compact here, not really drawing out the implications. But if you think about it, if you combine what you actually know with the will to accomplish something with it, the result is a hybrid called "capability."

For example, I may have the will to accomplish any number of things, but lacking the requisite intelligence, be incapable of seeing them through. Conversely, I may have the intelligence to accomplish them, but be too lazy, with the same result. Either way I am rendered one of the millions of Incapables. And our universities -- in particular, in the humanities -- specialize in cranking out baskets of Incapables, don't they?

Next, sensibility + will = "character." Since intelligence is not in the equation, it is obviously possible to be a decent person with average or below average intelligence. Likewise -- obviously -- intelligence is no guarantor of decency and good character.

Finally, intelligence + sensibility = "scope." This is a subtle one, because it explains how even the highest intelligence -- say, Albert Einstein -- combined with the wrong sensibility results in shallowness, or narrow-mindedness, or just the credentialed foolishness of the tenured. Conversely, the power and profundity of a great artist are a result of intelligence and sensibility.

Speaking of which, I just read a book -- When Reason Goes on Holiday -- that is filled with examples of how high intelligence minus sensibility = a warped and perverse scope. It's really quite remarkable. One of the worst cases is Bertrand Russell, whose "genius" no one can doubt. Which only goes to show what genius is good for in the absence of other ingredients for making a functioning human.

The book begins with a gag by physicist E.T. Jaynes to the effect that "It is curious that the greatest intellectual gifts sometimes carry with them the inability to perceive simple realities that would be obvious to a moron." Curious, yes, but as common as dirt.

One of the left's largely unstated objections to Trump must surely be that he has a very different sensibility from their own refined tastes. But what of the sensibility of a man who is actually intimate with Al Sharpton -- who values his advice and invites him into the White House on countless occasions? My sensibility would induce vomiting at the prospect of spending time with Al Sharpton. Then again, it would induce the same at the prospect of, say, beimg forced to read the speeches of Barack Obama.

The volume is appropriately titled "We Are the Change We Seek," an ungrammatical tautology that is as vacuous as the man himself. Let's see what some of the reviewers say. This ought to be insultaining.

Read it? Hell, I lived it; all eight pathetic years. I'd rather read a transcription of a bowel resection than be subjected to any more of his doublespeak.

I'm treating it as a good object lesson for the grandkids in critical thinking, the diagnosing of logical fallacies, and the dangers of accepting political speeches at face value.

I find the ultra soft & strong Quilted Northern more enjoyable. Not only was this product harsh and scratchy, it was nonabsorbent and difficult to read as it swirled towards its rightful place in my permanent library of all of Obama's works. I hope the memoir, for which Penguin Random House paid upwards of $65 million, is printed on better paper.

Sesardić describes one of those little ironic pranks of history, in that he, being that he grew up under a communist regime, learned to value "intellectual integrity and the uncompromising pursuit of truth." Note that "intellectual" is a modifier of "integrity," which goes to what was said above about sensibility and character. Reading such thinkers "helped us preserve our sanity in the world of constant lies that surrounded us."

In stark contrast, we live in a free society that is nevertheless permeated by fake news, malignant ideology, and tenured nonsense. A couple of posts ago, for example, I linked to the website of the American Psychological Association. I am surely an American Psychologist, but their sensibilities could hardly be more different from mine. There is literally no place for a conservative or traditionalist mental health professional in their cramped and ideologically conformist world.

Here is an example of Bertrand Russell's political genius: "In every part of the world the source of war and of suffering lies at the door of US imperialism. Wherever there is hunger, wherever there is exploitative tyranny, wherever people are tortured and the masses left to rot under the weight of disease and starvation, the force which holds down the people stems from Washington."

Okay then. Sounds like one of the sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Einstein was another piece of work. Of Lenin, he said that "I admire a man who has thrown all his energy into making social justice real, at the sacrifice of his own person." Yes, a perfect example of Christian self-sacrifice. "Men like him are the guardians and reformers of the conscience of mankind."

Well, he certainly reformed the conscience. Out of existence.

Wittgenstein is another Big Brain of the previous century. "The atmosphere of Stalinism contained something that attracted him." What might that be? "A total destruction of early twentieth century social forms was required (he thought) if there was to be any improvement." Eggs and omelets. How'd that work out?

Let's not even talk about Heidegger.

Back to Schuon: capability (intelligence + will) bears upon "administrative qualification, organizational skill and strategy." Character and decency have more to do with "courage and incorruptibility" than just a hi IQ or ambition. And a profound and powerful scope is surely not a consequence of intelligence alone, or all smart people would be creative geniuses, when most of them end up being cognitive drones.

That's about it for today. Terrestrial duties call.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Barking Up the Right Tree

I suppose it's easy to get confused, being that man can know stuff that only a god could know. For example, man knows we inhabit a cosmos.

Like anyone could know that! Animals surely don't know anything about it. Rather, they live enclosed in their sensations, feelings, and instincts. The most intelligent among them may push the envelope but never achieve transcendence, such that they observe themselves from above and wonder why they're barking about nothing again.

That's a question I often ask my dogs: what are you barking at? There's nothing there!

Come to think of it, that's a question I often ask of liberals: what are you freaking out about? There's nothing there -- no fascists, no racists, no anti-Semites, no misogynists, no attacks on free speech. Like my dogs, they have no understanding that those things exist in their own heads.

Continuing with our main theme, we've been trying to specify what it can mean to say that All Men Are Created Equal. From one angle, No Man Is Created Equal, since we are created individuals. Therefore, each person is a special case. Nevertheless, we are entitled to ask: a special case of what, exactly?

In other words, we might say that man has two essences, one general and one particular. The particular essence is your unique and unrepeatable identity. However, this identity is a variation on a more universal theme. We ended yesterday's post with a delineation of the characteristics of man as such, including total intelligence, free will, and disinterested sentiment.

For example, my dogs are intelligent, but they do not possess total intelligence -- which is why they do not understand that we live in a vastly wider and deeper cosmos. The cosmos is the totality of objects, events, and laws, both interior and exterior, vertical and horizontal, past and present. Man has access to each of these dimensions, which is what it means to have dominion over creation.

Dominion connotes sovereignty, supremacy, ascendancy, dominance, superiority, preeminence, hegemony, authority, etc. In short, it again implies something godlike. No wonder man falls for the ruse and imagines he has dominion over creation, but with no one having dominion over him.

In Prerogatives of the Human State Schuon elaborates what it means to have total intelligence. This intelligence applies both horizontally and vertically. The former discloses the phenomenal realm and basically corresponds to science. You might say that if something there is knowable, then science can damn well know it.

The problem is, science has long since forgotten the Christian roots that render this boast comprehensible; which is to say that existence and intelligibility are two sides of the same coin. And that coin is called "creation."

Science also ignores vertical intelligibility, which is to say, "the metaphysical, hence principial, order" (Schuon). In other words, it ignores the very principles that render itself possible.

Which is okay, up to a point. We don't expect plumbers to understand the physics of laminar flow. Rather, we just want them to fix the leak. Likewise scientists. We don't expect them to dilate on the existence of God or the rights of man. Just make sure the planes stay in the air and the internet works. Leave vertical cogitation to the experts.

Now to say "total intelligence" is not to say that man "knows everything." Rather, it is to say that everything is knowable. To turn it around, if it isn't knowable, then it's not a thing, precisely. It is no-thing, an impossibility, an absurdity.

Similarly, to say that man has free will is not to say he is unconditioned and has no constraints. Freedom is not its own sufficient reason -- an error of libertarians -- but rather, has a source above. For just as the purpose of intelligence is to know Truth, the purpose of freedom is to choose the Good. Nor is this merely a subjective preference. Just as we don't create truth, nor do we invent the good.

"[T]o love a reality worthy of being loved is an attitude of objectivity," writes Schuon. Again, Hitler's dog no doubt loved him as much as my dog loves me. This is because dogs are unable to be objective with respect to the objects of their affection. In other words, they are unable to conceive of a disinterested love: they cannot love something because it is worthy of being loved, which is reverence.

I've never even met George Washington, or Winston Churchill, or Abraham Lincoln, but I revere them. I get nothing tangible out of the relationship. Rather, it's just the spontaneous recognition of a kind of hierarchical order.

Returning to the question of man's total intelligence, it couldn't be total if it resided in man alone. Rather, if that were the case, then we would be no less enclosed in an epistemological circle than any other animal. The situation would be just as Kant suggests: trapped in the forms of our own sensibility and whatnot.

But if you think about thinking for just a moment, you quickly realize that "Human intelligence is, virtually, the certainty of the Absolute" (ibid.). You might say that our intelligence is sponsored by something or someone that is its sufficient reason. Just as there is a "ground of being," there is a ground of knowing, and ultimately they are the same ground.

"The essential question is that of knowing, on the one hand, what the loftiest content of the spirit is, and on the other, what the deepest substance is." In other words, the highest intelligence conforms to the deepest intelligible.

"From this may be deduced the following definition: integral and primordial man is the Intellect and consciousness of the Absolute. Or again: man is faith and the idea of God; immanent Holy Spirit on the one hand, and transcendent truth on the other."

So it's a matter of barking up the right tree -- the one whose roots are aloft and branches down below -- not greedily snatching at the wrong one and pretending to be God.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Equal How?

That all men are created equal obviously cannot mean that they are equivalent. If that were the case, then we would be justified in treating them as replaceable ants -- or, as in Lenin's (I think) charming phrase, "bags of wet cement."

So there can be a problematic side to that little claim. In fact, looked at from one angle, we could say that the differences between left and right hinge upon the meaning and implications of "equal."

"Equality," writes Hayward, "is the central obsession with much of the intellectual class, though it is understood in simplistic terms, measured quantitatively, and used chiefly as a cudgel against existing institutions and social structures" (emphases mine).

I emphasize those three words because they go to what we've been saying about demonic influences on the left: simple instead of hierarchical; quantitative instead of qualitative; and cudgel instead of reason. The result is the obliteration of the vertical, which redounds to a kind of worthless equality.

But as the Aphorist writes, Every non-hierarchical society is divided into two parts; and When the exploiters disappear, the exploited split into exploiters and exploited. In fact, he has another aphorism that goes to simplicity: A vocabulary of ten words is enough for a Marxist to explain history.

And the left always gives an implicit sanction to violent coercion, since it is the doctrine that teaches that what is yours is mine. Resistance to handing it over is not tolerated.

It reminds me of VP candidate Tim Kaine's son being arrested for violence at a Trump rally:

It took three cops and a chemical spray to subdue the youngest son of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, Saturday after he was identified as one of the counter-protesters who allegedly used fireworks to disrupt a rally in support of President Donald Trump at the Minnesota State Capitol.

My son has known to "use his words" ever since... ever since he learned how to speak, really. Isn't one point of words to symbolize actions? He's never resorted to picking up the cudgel to get his way. If he ever did that, he knows it would constitute prima facie evidence of failure as a human being (his and probably mine as well). Wouldn't it be nice if the son of a U.S. senator could be the recipient of the equality and justice he preaches by doing some hard time in prison?

The proposition that "all men are created equal" is "the most problematic and mischievous phrase in American political thought," such that "understanding the nature and limits of equality is the most crucial intellectual and political task of our time" (Hayward). More particularly, the problem is "how to keep modern majorities from transforming equality into reckless egalitarianism, the age-old bane of democracy."

Shifting gears for the moment, last night I was thinking of how ironic it is that Schuon's conception of Man strikes me as so much deeper than anything I learned in graduate school. Being that I am a "licensed psychologist," I ought to know better than anyone else what a man is, right?


Left to psychological knowledge alone, I wouldn't only be ignorant -- as in lacking knowledge -- but positively filled with nonsense. It is no coincidence that the American Psychological Association is at the leading edge of left wing lunacy -- of redefining deviancy as normality, and vice versa.

I just looked up their website, and it's really quite repulsive. Notice the absolute obsession with sexual deviancy: "Bullying and Safe Schools for LGBT Students," "Transgender and Serving in the Military," "The Lives of LGBT Older Adults," "Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community." Excuse me but WTF?

I'm trying to think back on who and where I was (vertically speaking) when I entered graduate school in the early 1980s. Did I have any ideas about Man when I commenced? Not really. Frankly, I don't think I had any principles at all, at least explicit ones.

One of the first courses I took involved various models of the mind. Each week or so we'd cover a different theory: behaviorism, psychoanalysis, gestalt theory, et al. There wasn't even any discussion as to which one was correct, because it was assumed that no one could know that. Rather, all we have are models that help make sense of the phenomena. (Recall Fr. Rose's comment to the effect that It is corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth.)

I remember the professor using the analogy of a watch. Imagine we couldn't open the watch to see what's going on inside. All we can observe is the phenomena of the second, minute, and hour hands moving at different rates of speed. Therefore, we propose models to account for how that is happening -- similar to how early astronomers came up with various models to account for movement of the stars and planets.

Let's get back to first principles. In what sense can we say that All Men Are Created Equal? As I was saying the other day, Schuon's The Play of Masks presents his ideas -- which he would never claim as his own, being that they are timeless, universal, and pre-existent -- in the most compact and concentrated way possible. The first chapter is called Prerogatives of the Human State, and is not only vastly superior to any merely "psychological theory," but the proper ground of any such theory.

Try this on for size: "Total intelligence, free will, sentiment capable of disinterestedness: these are the prerogatives that place man at the summit of terrestrial creatures."

Boom! At a stroke he cuts through centuries of error and walls of tenure. Man can know truth, otherwise his intelligence is pointless (and not even intelligent); he is free and therefore responsible -- he has intrinsic rights and corresponding duties; and he may stand outside and above himself, proving transcendence.

This is the sense in which all men are created equal: "Total intelligence, free will, disinterested sentiment; and consequently: to know the True, to will the Good, to love the Beautiful."

Monday, March 06, 2017

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident Yada Yada

Over the weekend I read Randy Barnett's Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People, which covers some of the same ground as Steven Hayward's Patriotism is Not Enough. Both books dig down to the underlying principles that divide left and right, one in terms of constitutional law, the other in terms of political philosophy.

For Barnett it comes down to three words: we the people. In our republic, this is where sovereignty ultimately resides. But not so fast! For us, "we" refers to the individuals who constitute the people, whereas for the left it refers to the people as such, i.e., to majoritarian will.

Except when it doesn't. A deeper problem with the left is that it is completely unprincipled, in that it will appeal to the majority when it is convenient to do so -- as in Hillary winning the majority of votes in 2016 -- while appealing to some daft principle when it is in the minority -- e.g., "sanctuary cities."

If we dig a little deeper, the question is whether rights are prior to government, or whether government gives rise to them. It is rather remarkable that we even have to have this conversation, because the founders made it clear that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights, for which reason governments are supposed to be instituted to secure them.

A government that fails to accomplish this is illegitimate and therefore a candidate for revolution (i.e., the failure to secure our natural rights is precisely when revolution is a natural right).

Government itself has no "rights," only powers, both specific and enumerated. These powers are "on loan," so to speak, from their owners. Nor can their owners vote these rights away, because again, they are unalienable. Therefore, we cannot, for example, vote to render ourselves slaves of the state, but the left never stops trying.

Yes, we are condemned to freedom, a reality to which the left cannot reconcile itself. For the cost is just too high, or at least they are unwilling to pay it.

This is all obvious, and I wouldn't belabor it if it were obvious to everyone. But what were once "self-evident truths" are no longer self-evident and certainly not true (for the left). The problem is, because the founders were dealing with self-evident truth, they felt no need to even defend it. Instead, they yada yada-ed right over it.

But for the left, the absence of any explicit defense is taken as a lack of evidence -- at best, just a grandiose and pretentious rationale for those slave-owning aristocrats to do what they wanted to do. Or in other words, self-evident truth devolves to an all-too-evident will to power fortified by White Privilege.

Hayward reminds us that this was the state of play in political science at mid-century, before the rise of the conservative intellectual movement. There wasn't even a pretense of respect for the founders. Barack Obama was only the most recent president to criticize the Constitution as old and in the way (of progress!), while Woodrow Wilson was the first. The Declaration didn't even enter into it, the reason being that individual liberty is an annoying barrier to the will of the state.

Hayward points out that there was a widespread belief among liberal and progressive academics that America didn't even have any tradition of political philosophy! Rather, one had to look to Europe for all those bright ideas that continue to nourish the left's malignant fantasies.

In reality, the Declaration of Independence crystalizes a sublime and literally unsurpassable political philosophy, as famously expressed by Calvin Coolidge -- and recall the historical context, in that Coolidge came right after the progressive Wilson, so it can be read as a righteous pimp slap to that racist autocrat:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.

But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.

No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Once one reaches an ultimate truth, no progress is possible. Which is why self-styled progressives are so preposterously named. However, this is not to say things remain static. Rather, it is as the Aphorist describes vis-a-vis religious thought, which "does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper."

Since this truth is from "on high," so to speak, it will take time for it to instantiate -- i.e., for it to become the reality (like yeast in the dough). This is true of anything, in that time is required in order for the essence (or potential) to fulfill itself in actuality. This is "progress" of a sort, but it is vertical progress. Stripped of its verticality, then it no longer has any ground or foundation.

Which is why the left literally cannot see these truths that were so self-evident to the framers. What we call "natural rights" are a quintessentially "supernaturally natural" phenomenon. They are nature pointing to its supernatural source. But if one arbitrarily eliminates the supernatural up front, then the natural -- the essential -- is likewise eliminated.

Remember, man qua man can have no meaning, no purpose, no vector. He only has these things with reference to his vertical source. So this is the real reason why the left denies natural law and natural rights, not to mention the natural responsibilities that must exist prior to having rights. For who is insane enough to give rights to fundamentally irresponsible people? That would be like, I don't know, giving a state to the Palestinians.

This is all by way of an attempt at a slightly deeper analysis of what and who man is, for as Jaffa believed, "the most fundamental political question is the nature of the human soul" (Hayward). This simply doesn't arise for the leftist, who will immediately ask: what soul? What human? (Since there is no fixed human nature and certainly no immaterial soul.)

To be continued...