Friday, February 09, 2018

Drowning in Acid and Calling it Truth

In a recent video, Jordan Peterson uses the analogy of an iceberg to illustrate how people can appear to be standing on two different surfaces which are in reality united beneath the water.

I don't remember the context, but it reminded me of how liberals don't understand that they are standing on the same iceberg as conservatives. They don't see that the left is our mutual adversary. I am aware of only one prominent liberal who tries to point this out, Alan Dershowitz.

The progressive left is standing on an iceberg that shares nothing with the political philosophy of the American founding. Obviously, the Founders were classical liberals, whereas progressivism is fundamentally illiberal.

For example, no one should be surprised at their efforts to shut down free speech, or their attacks on religious freedom. On the conservative-liberal iceberg, these issues were settled long ago -- indeed, at the founding. On the American iceberg, freedom of speech is a natural right and self-evident truth. But on the progressive iceberg, there are no such things as natural rights or self-evident truths.

The progressive left always deploys lexicographical tactics in service of its ideological ends, perhaps the most prominent example being the conflation of liberalism and leftism, which are again at metaphysical antipodes.

Returning to our recent line of thought, you could say that our whole point is to show how Christianity and science are by no means standing on different icebergs. From a certain perspective they appear as two peaks separated by an expanse of water. But look beneath the surface, and damn! Same metaphysical berg. Not only that, but no other religious berg will cut ice for the scientific project, as explained by philosophers of science too numerous to mention.

Except for Whitehead, who may have been the first to notice. The following passage from Science and the Modern World is is copied from an amazon reviewer:

The greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement [is] the inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles. Without this belief the incredible labours of scientists would be without hope. It is this instinctive conviction... which is the motive power of research -- that there is a secret, a secret which can be unveiled.

How has this conviction been so vividly implanted on the European mind?... There seems to be but one source for its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, [such that] the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality....

In Asia, the conceptions of God were of a being who was either too arbitrary or too impersonal for such ideas to have much effect.... There was not the same confidence as in the intelligible rationality of a personal being.... My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.

So, science is an outcrop of the Christian iceberg. In the decades since Whitehead wrote that in the 1920s, his observations have gone from controversial to commonplace. To say unconscious derivative is to understand the relation between what is above and below the surface, the former derived from the latter.

Which also reminds me. In the early days of psychoanalysis -- and I suppose among the orthodox faithful to this day -- conscious/unconscious (or CS/UCS) was seen as a kind of vicious duality. But I came to understand them as a necessary and inevitable complementarity -- which is, incidentally, one reason why "artificial intelligence" will always remain so, for there is simply no way to model the UCS, nor its perpetual dialectical play with the CS. Even if we concede that the CS is somewhat analogous to a computer, the UCS definitely isn't, let alone the relationship between them.

This post is turning into the usual Friday ramble. So be it. I'm free associating, and you get what you pay for. But now I'm thinking of The Symmetry of God, which provides a useful way to think about what goes on above and below water. You might say that asymmetrical logic applies above the surface, whereas symmetrical logic rules below. Science is assymetrical, but is grounded in symmetry.

Example. Well, for me, perhaps the most consequential symmetry is that between man and God. If we we are in the image and likeness of the Creator, then that is literally a kind of symmetry. Analogously, my image in the mirror bears a symmetrical relationship to me, even if it is ultimately derivative, a "pale reflection" of the real thing, as it were.

But if there is symmetry between man and God, then that is saying a great deal. For example, it would explain our access to love, truth, and beauty, not to mention virtue, creativity, unity, objectivity, and more. Conversely, if there is no such symmetry, then there is no accounting for the gifts just mentioned. Indeed, they have no ground or even possibility. As such, they must be pointless illusions.

D'oh! You just melted the scientific iceberg with your metaphysical blowtorch.

Other symmetries. How about man and woman? That Eve is "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" is what you call a hint: above the surface they look like two different beings. Beneath the surface, oneflesh.

Or, heaven and earth, celestial and terrestrial, vertical and horizontal. These are not opposed, nor can the former ever be reduced to the latter. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The counter-myth of the progressive iceberg is always My will be done, on earth because there is no heaven. Which soon enough brings about hell.

Daniel Dennett rightly calls Darwinism a "universal acid" that, as it were, melts all manmade icebergs. True enough. When "pushed to its logical conclusion," writes Hanby, it also -- necessarily -- "begins to dissolve the very subject and presupposition of Darwinian theory..." Is there an acid that eats itself last?

If you don't believe so, then you haven't been paying attention to this post, for if you acid-wash being with Darwinism, "intelligibility and truth must always be reducible, as a matter of principle, to the unintelligibility and untruth upon which they are premised." At which point you are plunged beneath the waves and drown, even if you're the last to know you've just committed cluelesside.

Religious thought does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper. --Dávila

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Nothing Can't Explain Anything, Let Alone Everything

What ceases to be thought qualitatively so as to be thought quantitatively ceases to be thought significantly. --Dávila

Continuing with our vindication of plain language and its access to simple truth, I am reminded of a eulogy given for a distinguished mathematician: His contributions to our field are incalculable.

I'm not sure if the eulogist was being ironic, but in any event, he conveyed the truth outlined in yesterday's post, that quality cannot be reduced to quantity -- and conversely, that no amount of quantity adds up to quality.

Indeed, you can't even say, for example, that the cosmos is a big place without the quality of comparative smallness. You've no doubt noticed that astronomers such as Carl Sagan like to blather on about -- scientifically! -- the billions upon billions of stars, and the vastness of space. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Compared to what? There's only one cosmos, and compared to its creator its actually pretty small, cozy even.

More troubling is the fact that they like to play up the vastness of space in order to cut man down to size. But this is a verbal trick rooted in a category error of epic proportions; for man may be physically smaller than the cosmos, but can nevertheless contain it. Who's fooling whom? What is more impressive, a dead cosmos or a living scientist? A cosmos that can host life, mind, and spirit, or one that can't?

You might say that the contributions of our cosmos to humanness are incalculable. Or, you can attempt the calculation, but will soon find yourself in the realm of the infinite. In other words, the statistical chance of persons emerging from the incalculable quantitative contingencies -- all the equations lining up -- is more or less zero. So on that basis alone -- i.e., quantity -- we need recourse to another explanation, which is to say, quality.

Now, notwithstanding what was just said above, sometimes quantities do have qualities. They just don't add up from below.

To take an obvious example, the threeness of the Trinity is not to be understood quantitatively but qualitatively -- as intersubjectivity, as an eternal relation of love. In fact, other primary numbers convey lessons of their own, especially the One, Two, Four, Seven, and Zero, the latter signifying both nothingness and infinitude.

The One, for example, has always stood for God, unity, the Absolute. Furthermore, that each subsequent number is just a multiple of One conveys the idea that God -- the principle of unity -- is in all subsequent quantities. Likewise, twoness is static duality unless reconciled in the living synthesis and harmony of the Three.

You might say that complementarities are downward projections of threeness, whereas dualities are always from below. Not only that, but one of Satan's favorite pastimes is reducing complementarities to dualities -- or, even worse, unities, for example, man and woman.

In other words, it is bad enough to render man and woman opposed to one another, worse yet to pretend they are the same. Feminists can't decide which of these they prefer, but neither comports with reality.

Here's an interesting claim in No God, No Science; either you get it or you don't, but it is true nonetheless: "the only universe in which natural selection could work was the universe Darwin inherited and then stole from the natural theologians." Why stole? Isn't that a bit inflammatory? Not at all, for it's like breaking into a house and stealing the jewels, and then burning it down with the family inside to eliminate the witnesses.

What are the jewels? Oh, little things like a rational cosmos that is uniquely intelligible to human beings, not to mention the prior existence of living organisms that inexplicably appear in a presumably dead cosmos.

A more subtle point is that Darwinism doesn't actually account for change, even while putting itself forth as the last word on the subject. To paraphrase Hanby, genes are abstracted from the teleological wholeness of the organism. According to natural selection, "change" is a consequence of random genetic mutations.

But notice that no entity has actually changed: we have one organism, then another. The first one hasn't "changed," nor has the second. They both simply are what they are. You could say "the species" has changed, but this is just the attempt to sneak an abstract essence or quality in through the back door.

In other words, we superimpose an imaginary backstory or line of continuity, when the whole operation has been discontinuous. But continuity can only come from the top. As I've put to before, if we can explain natural selection, then natural selection cannot explain us. Isn't this obvious?

From the perspective of natural selection, an organism is the sum of its accidental mutations. But from our perspective, "organicism" is a prior condition that is "localized," so to speak, in biological objects. Organisms are ultimately only possible because of the wholeness and interiority of the cosmos, itself a reflection of the unity of being. You cannot get from pure exteriority to interiority, or from existence to experience. Just ask a rock, which will give you an infinitely more honest answer than a materialist. A materialist is not as dumb as a rock. Rather, dumber.

Bottom line: the metaphysical Darwinian

is in the awkward position of affirming in practice what his theory would deny and denying in theory what what his practice affirms, of paradoxically failing to see what he cannot help but see, of presupposing the interiority and unity of living organisms, and yet being prohibited by his ontological commitments from rendering an account of them. Darwinian biology is predicated upon a denial of the obvious which, as obvious, will not be denied.

Ontological commitments. AKA faith -- or better, faith in faithlessness, which is a bit like Gödel in reverse. For with Gödel, we always know more than we can say, whereas Darwinism can't help saying more than it could possibly know.

But no Darwinian actually is one, because it is an impossible metaphysic. For it begins with a rejection of its own implicit cosmos (itself a metaphysical construct), and posits "a counterfactual world of inertial singulars indifferently related to each other." It then reconstructs "the whole as a mechanical aggregation of those singulars brought about by extrinsic pressures or forces," which only "empties reality of its interiority and deprives universals of any ontological foothold."

The Aphorist sums it up: As it is unable to explain that consciousness which creates it, science, when it finishes explaining everything, will not have explained anything.

I would put it this way: you can't get from zero to One. The One, however, radiates infinitely, ultimately tending toward zero without ever arriving there. Unless you count the tenured.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Science, Magic, Metaphysics

The question before the bus is whether we need math, or logic, or some special science in order to understand the totality of existence, or whether it is possible to do so with plain language that anyone short of end-stage tenure can understand.

Naturally I believe the latter, or I wouldn't have wasted the last twelve years blogging millions of words of plain unglish on the totality of existence. There is indeed a general (not special) science for understanding the whole of reality: metaphysics.

In turn, religion is metaphysics incarnated, so to speak; the former is to the latter as a particular language is to the deep structure of language common to all human beings. We'll come back to this idea later.

Neither math nor logic can get the job done, for reasons etched into the substance of reality by Gödel. Until his theorems are disproven -- and they cannot be -- logic's arms are not long enough to spar with God.

The reverse, however, is not true: God can certainly speak with logic, or better, speak logic. Which is why we can say that things are not true because they are logical, but logical because true. Math and logic can only "prove" tautologies. They are ultimately circular; we can of course expand the circle, but this hardly means we've left it behind. Like astronauts, we can leave the earth behind, but only by taking it (its atmosphere) with us.

Logic is always inside its own circle. In contrast, we are after knowledge from beyond or outside the circle. Is this even possible? No, better! It is necessary, or the circle couldn't exist to begin with. So, how do we exit or see beyond it?

In a word, faith, another subject to which we will return. But faith is form before it is content; and its form is submission and conformity to what transcends us. Which is just like any other object of knowledge, only this one outside the circle.

In other words, all knowledge, if it is knowledge, is adequation, and each science differs as to the objects and methods of adequation. You don't study biological objects with a particle accelerator, just as you don't study God with a microscope or women with feminism, for none of these tools or methods are adequate to the object of study.

Many fine Aphorisms anticipatorily plagiarize the points we have made above. Each of them is self-evidently true, such that if you don't understand them, it's your fault, not Davila's. The following maxims judge you, not vice versa, and thank God there are such maximal judges in the cosmos, for without them we would be ineluctably lost in spacetime without map, canoe, or compass. For example,

That which is incomprehensible increases with the growth of the intelligence. Again, we can surely expand the circle, but this only renders the border between the known and unknown that much longer -- comparable to a light surrounded by darkness. No terrestrial light can hold a candle to the sun above.

The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions. This is just an informal way of saying Gödel! One needn't be a trained logician to see this truth directly. Don't forget: Gödel doesn't escape his own theorems: they aren't true because logical, but logical because true.

Whether we like it or not, Philosophy ultimately fails because one has to speak of the whole in the terms of its parts. Only (traditional) metaphysics and theology turn this around and speak of the parts in terms of the whole.

In other words, we begin with God, not end there as a result of some syllogism or equation. Not to say that proofs aren't helpful in terms of being points of reference, but that's all they are. The proofs can only take one to the threshold of what transcends them. Then you have to leap.

So, The honest philosophy does not pretend to explain but to circumscribe the mystery. This is a somewhat paradoxical formulation, for how does one "circumscribe" -- i.e., envelop or enclose -- a mystery that surpasses us? How does one contain that which contains us?

Good question! To which there are a number of answers, each a point of reference from the seen to the unseen. In other words, to paraphrase Paul, the things of this world point or refer to the world beyond; appearances point to their reality. Otherwise they are not appearances but reality itself. Which is what the materialist must believe.

Here are some primordial ideas that point to an answer: God incarnates in history, such that the author of history becomes a subject within it; Mary gives birth to her Father; the Church is the womb of holiness and sanctity. I'm sure there are others that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

Always remember that doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book. Any reductionistic science is obviously a linguistic rabbit bulled out of an asshat.

Many scientific words and concepts readily slide into magic, such as "evolution," "mind," and "rational." But To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions. And Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

But In philosophy nothing is easier than to be consistent. Here again, Gödel's theorems tell us that a logical system can be consistent or complete, but not both. In short, a strict scientistic consistency must be purchased at the price of completeness. The only way out is up. Or better, down, for if God doesn't condescend to meet us, no amount of lifting ourselves by our own buddhastraps will take us to the toppermost of the poppermost.

Ha ha: Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest. Er, which ones? He doesn't say, but off the top of my head I would suggest the complementarities between Absolute and relative, man and God, group and individual, male and female, necessity and contingency, being and knowledge. Certainly on our side of the veil, these are as warp and weft to the tapestry of existence.

It's this simple: existence is an area rug woven of verticality and horizontality. But although these are complementary, verticality must obviously be prior, for the converse is impossible. It is for this reason that man is the one being uniquely inside and outside the circle. Like God.

Monday, February 05, 2018

How is Possibility Possible?

This note to myself last Friday seemed urgent at the time, but I haven't thought about it since, and now we have to figure out why it was so important, or at least compelling. It reminds me of what Polanyi says about the importance in science of seeing good problems. Mediocre scientists have all the answers, but gifted ones come up with the good questions.

When you think about it, the history of science is a chronicle of asking the right questions. For example, a big question in physics before Einstein came along had to do with the nature of the ether. But the theory of relativity proved that there was no such medium, and that space and its objects were each reflections of a deeper principle.

If I recall my Thomas Kuhn correctly, a scientific paradigm generates its own questions. At first the paradigm is fruitful, but eventually it generates questions that not only can't be answered, but are absurd or paradoxical. These latter let us know that the paradigm cannot be complete -- that it is simply a useful way to interrogate reality.

For example, the theory of the Big Bang is useful up to a point -- that point being the instant the Bang occurs. Asking what happened "before" the Big Bang lands one in absurdity, since time is said to be a function of the Big Bang. You might even say there's no such thing as a question prior to the Big Bang, so stop asking. Bu-- Shut up!

So, we know there must be more to it than what physics can say. Unless ultimate reality is indeed absurd, which makes no sense at all. Or rather, because it makes sense. In other words, if existence is absurd, man could never know it. Or anything else, for that matter.

Which converges with today's subject, which is the role of language in all of this. The central question before us -- before all men at all times -- is whether we can actually understand reality, or whether we're just making things up in order to conceal our bottomless ignorance.

Paradoxically, science wants to have it both ways: that we are the absolutely contingent residue of genetic copying errors, and yet, that we may know the truth of ourselves. Only one of these can be true. And that's the truth. So we know we're on to something.

The anemic myth we have been given to understand is essentially that man knew nothing -- or nothing but error -- prior to the Enlightenment and scientific revolution, and now we know it all; not all of the details, of course, but the Big Picture, which will never change. In other words, there is no possibility of "progress" beyond the idea that everything is reducible to transformations of matter, such that man is nothing and life ultimately meaningless.

I'm reading an excellent book called Deconstructing the Administrative State, which is unfortunately named, because the authors range much wider and deeper than the title suggests, such that the bureaucratic deep state is seen as the mere side effect of a much more fundamental turn into political darkness. The soft tyranny of the administrative state is what happens when progressivism displaces reality. And it's only soft so long as we don't resist -- which is why they pound the president so hard. He threatens their whole beautiful nightmare.

Make no mistake: children who attend government schools are indoctrinated into the myths of statism -- the myths that support statism -- from the earliest age. Hold on a moment -- This Bus Stops for Aphorisms:

Man is an animal that can be educated, provided he does not fall into the hands of progressive pedagogues. Therefore, The State imposes obligatory and free instruction, for making a stupid man still stupider at the public expense (Dávila).

Remember Socrates? Or better, Remember Socrates! He was murdered by the state for "refusing to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own; he is further guilty of corrupting the young."

As Jesus is our paradigmatic religious figure, Socrates is our paradigmatic philosopher. Socrates is a reminder that if you love wisdom the state will hate you, just as Jesus warned us that love of him will provoke the world's hatred. Strangely, loving truth places a target on one's back, a proposition to which Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro can attest. The truth is of course safe on liberal college campuses, so long as it is surrounded by a retinue of body guards.

Here are some of the founding -- and therefore enabling -- myths of the left. Paraphrasing from the book, they include the ideas that we inhabit a cosmos with no end or purpose, that everything within it is subject to constant change, that man is strictly continuous with nature, that he cannot transcend his genetic programming, that all values are culturally and historically conditioned, that there is no ultimate truth, and in any event no soul that could possibly know it.

Why is this incoherent jumble of myths so important? Because it provides metaphysical support for the political myths of the left: that man has no rights that exist prior to the state, that there are no self-evident truths (only relative ones), and that there are no limits to the size and scope of the state.

We're still dancing around the periphery of the main subject, which is language and reality. The question is, does plain, everyday language go deeper than any and all sciences put together? Does language transcend -- or subtend -- anything math can say about the world? What comes first, quantity or quality? And if the former, how can quality -- say, the beauty of a face, or a landscape, or even just a pure color -- be reduced to quantity?

This line of thought was provoked by an essay of Schuon's called The Problem of Possibility, although most any of his essays would serve as well, for his entire corpus consists of plain language about ultimate reality. There are no equations, no special terms, no academic bloviating, just complete clarity on his end and perfect understanding on mine.

Regarding the latter, this is not to imply that I possess perfect understanding of reality. Rather, what I mean is that when I understand something Schuon says about the nature of reality, the understanding penetrates so deeply that something inside clicks and is convinced that no deeper understanding is possible: that we have hit ontological sheetrock, as it were.

I'm quite sure that many people have this same experience in their religion; indeed, it is this experience that makes one religious, that converts us. Something clicks on a deep level, and that's that.

Let's talk about "the problem of possibility." Going back to paragraph one, is this a real problem, one worth pursuing, or is it just an illusion, or dead end, or pointless exercise? Does science even recognize this problem? And if science says it isn't a problem, then it isn't one.

Nevertheless, exactly how is possibility possible? Is it a thing? Or is everything necessary? More to the point, if everything is reducible to necessity, where does all the possibility come from, most pointedly, free will? For free will is essentially possibility.

Which is why scientism tries to make it go away be denying its possibility. A number of years ago we had a commenter who would get into arguments with us over the impossibility of free will. Well, he's absolutely right: within his paradigm, free will is indeed impossible. But since free will is self-evident, his paradigm is self-evidently wrong. And of course, he's just emblematic of metaphysical materialism and scientism: garbage in, tenure out.

As Schuon (self-evidently) explains, if something exists, then it was possible for it to do so. But if something is possible, it may or may not exist. So, where or what is this realm of possibility? For if things are possible, you need to account for how this is possible.

We'll continue down this rabbit hole Wednesday. Meanwhile, a few related aphorisms:

If determinism is real, if only that can happen which must happen, then error does not exist. Error supposes that something happened that should not have.

So, To admit the existence of errors is to confess the reality of free will.

And ultimately, The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act.

I'll make it easy for: if you could be wrong about the absence of free will, then you are wrong.