Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Satanic Eucharist : You Are What Eats You

More arresting passages from our reading of Ratzinger, presented with or even without comment if you're lucky:

When the eternal Word assumed human existence at his Incarnation, he also assumed temporality. He drew time into the sphere of eternity. At first it seems as if there can be no connection between the "always" of eternity and the "flowing away" of time.

But now the Eternal One has taken time to himself. In the Son, time co-exists with eternity.... In the Word incarnate, who remains man forever, the presence of eternity with time becomes bodily and concrete.

How is it possible for the infinite to "take on" finitude without obliterating it? How can the container exist within what it contains?

Well, I suppose finitude tried to swallow infinitude in the crucifixion, but fails in the resurrection. For

the historical does not serve the cosmic; no, the cosmic serves the historical. Only in history is the cosmos given its center and goal.

The Incarnation builds a bridge from the now to the forever. The "purpose" the cosmos is to actualize this in history:

The cosmos finds its true meaning in the Firstborn of creation, who has now entered history. From him comes the assurance that the adventure of creation, of a world with its own free existence distinct from God, does not end up in absurdity and tragedy but, throughout all its calamities and upheavals, remains something positive. God's blessing of the seventh day is truly and definitively confirmed.

For all time. And all time:

The centering of all history in Christ is... a new experience of time, in which past, present, and future make contact, because they have been inserted into the presence of the risen Lord.

History has a New Center "from which everything comes and to which everything tends." But recognizing this circular center requires a "new kind of seeing," a delivery "from that closure of the senses which perceives only the externals, the material surface of things, and is blind to the transparency of the spirit, the transparency of the Logos."

Any animal can see things. Only man can see through them.

The modern Problem of Knowledge in a notshall: as in thou shall not reduce reality to the means of knowing it. In another book, Ratzinger writes of the distinction

between ratio and intellectus, between reason in relation to empirical reality and man-made things and that reason which penetrates the deepest levels of being.

Reason reduced to the former (to mere ratio) is literally sick, and becomes sick because it is not and cannot be nourished by what it needs in order to flourish.

"Reason that can no longer recognize anything but itself and what is empirically certain is paralyzed and self-destructive." It is epistemological and even ontological clulesside, eagerly swallowing the satanic eucharist hook, line, and sinker. Genesis 3 all over again.

Nevertheless, the satanic eucharist is the opium of the tenured masses, giving strength to ratio-bound intellectuals. Hey, a man's gotta eat!

It gets worse, for the diabolical doctrine leads directly to progressive practice:

Revolution and utopia -- the nostalgia for a perfect world -- are connected: they are the concrete form of this new political, secularized messianism. The idol of the future devours the present (emphasis mine).

We are what we eat. Or what eats us. You decide. Or deicide.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Cosmic Liturgy

I want to take a side trip from our sidetrack into Dunning-Kruger because now I'm preoccupied with another book, Volume III of the Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy. I'm 130 pages into this 600 page volume, and if I don't capture the sparks as they fly off the page and into my head -- i.e., blog about them in Real Time -- they'll likely just cool off and fade away.

I'm tempted to just highlight certain passages that banged my gong. I was in an unusual frame of mind while reading it, but I'm not sure if the space I was in made me read it in a different way, or if the material itself vaulted me into the space. Although the writing is "intellectual," like art, it has a kind of primordial power. Of course, the transmission of the power presupposes a receptor (not to mention a power line), which is one of the most compelling proofs of the higher Intellect.

Speaking of which, here is one description of how it might take place: "God wants to speak to every person" such that "his word becomes a light that enlightens every man." That isn't a poetic description, but nor is it literal, since the light of physics is not the Light of God or Intellect.

However, to the extent that it is a metaphor, its purpose is not "lateral," but rather, to deploy a lower reality to illuminate a higher one. Once that is accomplished, then we see that the lower is actually a descent of the higher -- that mere biological sight is a distant echo of Vision as such. For example, God obviously "sees," but not with material eyes. See?

"Neither reason nor faith can operate independently of the other and arrive at its proper destination. Reason and faith are preserved from dangerous pathologies by reciprocal correction and purification." Emphasis mine. Why? Because human intelligence, like any other organ, is ordered to a proper end; and failure to achieve that end is the very definition of pathology.

Which is precisely what renders pathology -- including both psychopathology and pneumapathology -- an objective study, not a matter of mere opinion. To cite one obvious example, relativism in any form is a mind and soul sickness. So too are materialism, scientism, Marxism -- anything that denies the Absolute, and therefore the ground and guarantor of truth. In short, deny intelligence its proper object, and it is ultimately just another form of stupidity.

Now, there is a kind of truth that results from logic or deduction; these are indirect means, just as proving the existence of eyes is not the same as seeing. And some truths -- the most important ones -- are seen directly with eyes not made of flesh. This comes to mind in Ratzinger's description of what occurs during the liturgy, through which "Christ unceasingly becomes contemporary with us, enters into our lives." Is this Presence something that is seen with biological eyes, something that could be photographed?

Schuon mentions somewhere that God (for us) is Truth and Presence. If you really dwell on the meaning and implications of these words, you'll understand what he means. Indeed, a person is someone for whom Presence is present. It's why with God, you're never really alone, even when you've abandoned him, for oneness is always threeness. Aphorisms:

--God is not the object of my reason, nor of my sensibility, but of my being. Therefore,

--God exists for me in the same act in which I exist (that act being I AM).

--God does not reveal with discourses, but by means of experiences. The sacred writer does not transmit a divine discourse; his words express an experience given to him (i.e., the Presence).

--In certain moments of abundance, God overflows into the world like a spring gushing into the peace of midday.

--If we believe in God we should not say, “I believe in God,” but rather, “God believes in me” (again, light from Light).

St. Irenaeus describes the Great Cosmic Circle: "The glory of God is the living man, but the life of man is the vision of God."

This one banged my gong so hard that I've made it a permanent comment above the comment box:

"The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may by chance take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense, creation is history."

Later he writes that "For Christian thinkers, the circle is seen as the great movement of the cosmos," except that it isn't a closed circle, rather, more like "an upward flying arrow" spiraling toward a target the archer cannot see.

Another bang:

[I]n the Christian view of the world, the many small circles of the lives of individuals are inscribed within the one great circle of history as it moves from exitus to reditus. The small circles carry within themselves the great rhythm of the whole, give it concrete forms that are ever new, and so provide it with the force of movement...

In these circles, the mystery of beginning is repeated again and again, but they are also the scene of the end of time, a final collapse, which may in its own way prepare the ground for a new beginning. The two -- the great circle and the small circles -- are interconnected and interdependent.

Bottom line for today, courtesy of Sr. Dávila:

Everything in history begins before where we think it begins and ends after where we think it ends.

Friday, November 08, 2019

There is Always a Meta-

This observation by Dunning is right in the One Cosmos wheelhouse: "Some of our deepest intuitions about the world go all the way back to our cradles."

However -- or therefore? -- "not all of our earliest intuitions are so sound." No one is as omniscient as an infant (CNN hosts notwithstanding), and indeed, the pathological omniscience of adults is rooted in a prior age-appropriate infantile omniscience. No animal but man can simultaneously be such a know-it-all and know-nothing. I know you know such a person. Indeed, I even know you'll be conversing with such a person on Thanksgiving.

The concept of infantile omniscience isn't difficult to understand, as it is simply a function of coming into the world with no boundaries or conceptual limitations; it may be symbolized as a dimensionless point. To the extent that this undifferentiated space persists into adulthood, then it is considered to be a pathological defense mechanism, a regression to the comforting delusion of knowledge, in which case the personality develops

with omniscience and omnipotence as a substitute for the learning process and there will not be a function of the psychic activity that can discriminate between the true and false; there will also be an absence of thought capable of genuine symbolization (Introduction to the Work of Bion).

Could it be that Dunning-Kruger is rooted in such a developmental failure and regression? In any event, the thinking of very young children "is marked by a strong tendency to falsely ascribe intentions, function, and purposes.... this propensity for purpose-driven reasoning" is something that "never really leaves us" (Dunning).

Now, knowledge is knowledge of causes. As such, DK involves knowledge of false causes, or a false knowledge of causes. This is why the emergence of the scientific method was such an important development, because it provided a critical method with which to test our knowledge.

However, the scientific method is itself vulnerable to DK if and when it oversteps its boundaries. Put it this way: there is always a meta-, no matter how we might try to escape it. Once we have scientific knowledge, we have meta-science; likewise, historical thought coarises with meta-history, because to be aware of time is to be partially outside or beyond it. Dávila nails it in ten words:

Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

Indeed, without philosophy, no discipline knows what it knows. I remember back in grad school, getting into an argument with a behaviorist. Suffice it to say that he was innocent of any metapsychology to ground his otherwise circular epistemology. It never occurred to him that if behaviorism is true it must be false.

By the way, is there meta-religion? I suspect there is and must be, but that few people are interested in it. Or maybe it requires certain abilities and inclinations that few people possess, or I'd have more readers. But religious phenomena must be instances of religious principles, no? They aren't just ad hoc. In other words, if something is, then it must be possible for it to be. Even God can't accomplish the impossible!

A miracle, for example, still conforms to law, except the law must be vertical, implicit, and nonlocal. Indeed, this is why, for example, every miracle associated with Jesus isn't just for it's own sake, but to transmit a vertical teaching. Such miracles aren't just "magic," but lessons.

Now that we've ventured down this rabbit hole, it reminds me of how early Christians deduced -- if that's the right word -- the existence of the Trinity. It is nowhere mentioned explicitly in scripture, but is discovered as the principle that explains the otherwise irreconcilable data of revelation (not to reduce it to a mere principle of human reasoning).

No, this is meta-reason. As explained by Ratzinger, there is the lower "reason in relation to empirical reality and man-made things," and a higher "reason which penetrates the deepest levels being."

But nowadays, "only [the former] reason in the more restricted sense remains," which is precisely why there is so much religious Dunning-Krugery. The whole neo-atheist craze is founded upon a denial of meta-reason, and therefore a presumptuous attempt to deploy reason to explain what necessarily transcends it. Imagining that reason can contain what both transcends and grounds it is the height of irrationality. Might was well try to play basketball with a circle instead of a sphere.

So, just as, without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know, without Reason (meta-reason) reason doesn't know what it knows (let alone what it cannot know). But really, it all goes back to Gödel, because man always escapes and transcends his own foolish efforts to enclose himself in some manmade cognitive cage.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Ignorance, Meta-Ignorance, and Full-Blown Tenure

In many ways, the Dunning-Kruger effect simply ratifies common sense: that there are varying degrees of ignorance with corresponding degrees of virulence.

The first and most benign form is simply not knowing, but knowing one doesn't know. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, a prerequisite of learning is awareness of ignorance; or, put conversely, the presence of curiosity and wonder. And of love.

Never forget that philosophy is the humble and heartfelt love of wisdom. And while theology is "the study of God," God is love, so there's that.

But love is fundamentally a relation, and this relation is irreducible: there is nothing beneath, behind, or beyond it. For me, this is the whole point of a trinitarian metaphysic: God is love, but love is act-in-relation. As there is no Father "prior" to the Son, there is no subject of love prior to its object; this object can never be fully attained, much less dominated and controlled. Love is the proper form of oneness, whether of persons or of knowledge.

Now, God isn't only love, for he is also truth, beauty, goodness, and other qualities. But obviously he always loves truth, and we should do the same: philo-sophy is as much a way of life as body of principles. To know them is to love them and want to be them (i.e., I-AMbody them).

Wait. If God loves truth, doesn't this imply an absence or privation? Well, yes and no. While it may not be entirely kosher to say so, I like to think that God's absoluteness makes him the most relative (or relational) thing conceivable. Schuon insists that "absolute relativity" is the height of absurdity, and so it is, at least outside a trinitarian metaphysic. But if God is trinity, then you might say that the relativity is built into things, but without reducing to relativism per se. Rather, God's relatedness is imbued with an absoluteness. Or just say God is Love and be done with it. No need to overthink it.

Anyway, the second form of ignorance is what we might call "meta-ignorance," i.e., not knowing one doesn't know, or ignorance of ignorance. One thinks of the natural omniscience of very young children, who know too little to know how much they don't know. Only as their knowledge grows are children cognitively capable of conceptualizing how much they don't know. While most accomplish this, others will remain journalists for life.

A caveat -- or perhaps a sub-category -- is in order here, for in point of fact no man can actually conceptualize how much he doesn't know, for it is infinite. Literally. What we know is always and necessarily a small subset of what we can know: a drop in the bucket, except that, like a growing economy, the bigger the drop, the larger the bucket.

Analogously, imagine if we could snap our fingers and instantly double everyone's wealth. Everyone would be twice as wealthy, and yet, "income inequality" would be greater than ever. A conservative liberal will appreciate how the former (prosperity) is a function of the latter (inequality). Conversely, the leftist wants to rid the world of inequality, but at the cost of reducing affluence for everyone. Yes, but you can't put a price on how good it feels to act on one's envy!

Hence the perennial appeal of socialism, and it is no coincidence that socialism is founded upon a presumption of knowledge that is literally impossible to possess. Which means that socialism is, strictly speaking, impossible. It is impossible because the irreducible unit of economics is price, and price has a kind of trinitarian structure between an object (or good) and two subjects. The object has no intrinsic value, rather, only the value freely agreed upon by subjects of the exchange.

But that's not my point. Think of how much more we know about the cosmos now than 300 years ago, at the beginning of the scientific revolution. But think of how much larger the cosmos has grown with the knowledge: 300 years ago the size was manageable, which is to say, imaginable. But now its vastness is quite literally unimaginable. It's hard to imagine a single galaxy, let alone 200 billion. How about 2 trillion? Never mind.

It's no different with the mind: if we're honest -- or mature -- the more we know, the less we know. I earned my PhD back in 1988, since which time my ignorance has only increased, as it should. But "leftist psychology" is no less insane and dysfunctional than leftist economics, and the left has increasingly hijacked the discipline of psychology over the past thirty years.

Here's an example forwarded to me by a friend a couple of days ago, something called RebPsych 2020: Decolonizing Mental Health. This is a fine illustration of the third and worst form of ignorance, which transcends both ignorance and meta-ignorance, and enters the realm of full-scale Dunning-Krugery. Such a mind

is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that is filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

This clutter is an unfortunate by-product of one of our greatest strengths as a species. We are unbridled pattern recognizers and profligate theorizers. Often our theories are good enough to get us through the day, or at least to an age when we can procreate. But our genius for creative storytelling, combined with our ignorance, can sometimes lead to situations that are embarrassing, unfortunate, or downright dangerous....

These psychiatrists and psychologists -- credentialed idiots one and all -- are indeed embarrassing, unfortunate, and downright dangerous. So much for "do no harm."

Consider just the promiscuous use of the vacuous term "social justice," as if it has any meaning at all. In fact, it literally has no meaning except that which is imagined by its user. Or in other words, "social justice" is "what I want to happen." And what I want is a desire, not a thought. Moreover, it immediately -- and unthinkingly -- becomes "what I want the state to compel you to do for me." Social justice, good and hard.

Let's be honest: social justice is the pursuit of raw power masquerading as a disinterested love of truth. That's called "doing Satan's heavy lifting."

Hayek: "the people who habitually employ the phrase [social justice] simply do not know themselves what they mean by it and just use it as an assertion that a claim is justified without giving a reason for it." It "embodies a quasi-religious belief that has no content whatsoever and serves merely to insinuate that we ought to consent to a demand of some particular group..."

Better yet, Dávila: “Social justice” is the term for claiming anything to which we do not have a right.

(To be continued; I think I'll reread Hayek's essential The Mirage of Social Justice and return in a couple of days, as it has tremendous implications for the eradication of so much wackademic Dunning-Krugery.)

Monday, November 04, 2019

The Truth Doesn't Need You to be True

Continuing on the theme of Dunning-Kruger, being that humans tend to "overestimate their competence by a long shot," the campaign to instill (even) higher self-esteem is yet another progressive policy that not only flies in the face of human nature, but aggravates it. You might say that someone with inflated self-esteem is like a human, only worse.

Now, there's nothing wrong with "self-esteem" per se, although the term itself is rather stupid; better ones might be self-respect, dignity, or integrity.

For one thing, people with excessive self-esteem are always vulgar and undignified, not to mention the vertical truism that "pride goeth before a fall." If you inflate a man, you're just setting him up to be deflated when the balloon is pricked by reality -- for example, via the phenomenon of "mismatch," which places black students in academic milieus which only ensure failure a little further down the lyin'.

Note that "affirmative action" pretends to be about increasing black self-esteem, but the whole corrupt exercise is actually in the service of making white liberals feel good about themselves at the expense of their black pawns -- about boosting white self-esteem.

How to tell when your self-esteem is excessive and on the way to DKville? By way of prelude, ever wonder why the Bible makes such a big deal out of humility? Not only is it exalted, but it is apparently something that doesn't come naturally to man. What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Likewise the Sermon on the Mount, which is only the source of the cosmos telling us how it's supposed to done, e.g., meek, pure in heart, poor in spirit. In a word, humble.

Nocoincidentally, there are a number of synchronistic passages in Esoterism As Principle and As Way that touch on the theme of self-esteem and humility, which are by no means opposites or inversely related. Rather, the question comes down to objectivity, which is always necessary, but most especially toward oneself.

Now first of all, is objectivity even possible? Well, the whole premise of postmodernity is that it is not, and that all statements are perspectival -- just your opinion, man -- i.e., self-interested and ultimately about power, not truth. Therefore, one certainly cannot be objective toward oneself. And besides, the self doesn't even exist! So these dumb-as-a-post modernists are essentially saying: the self is an illusion, and it's special!

Utter nonsense, but there it is.

To back up a bit, there is an Absolute, which is the ground of the very possibility of intelligence. Remove the Absolute, and man is sealed in permanent and ineradicable stupidity. If you don't believe me, just try to make a true statement divorced from the Absolute. We'll wait.

Here is the reality:

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul.

Bing. Bam. Boom. These are things that you will either understand immediately; or fail to understand. But your failure to understand does not effect their truth one iota. The truth doesn't need you to be true.

Consider the second, freedom of will. How is this possible? It is possible because we are able to discern between good and evil. An animal cannot do this. But man can know the truth and thereby will the good. Simple as. If we cannot know the good, then morality is indeed illusory and arbitrary: perception is reality, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and there is no such thing as error, evil, or ugliness.

"Objectivity," according to Schuon, consists of "grasping the object as it is and not as it may be distorted by the subject."

Again, is this possible? It's a catch 22, because if you say it isn't, then you presumably mean it in an objective way. Note that this whole question is again tied in with Genesis 3, because -- it seems to me -- our fallenness has much to do with subjective passions distorting our ability to apprehend objective reality, to the point of disabling the fruitful and in-spiraling dialectic between the two (subject and object). "Adam and Eve," writes Schuon, "attributed to the relative the rights of the Absolute."

How does one square humility with being in the image and likeness of God? Wouldn't the latter be the ultimate pretext for grandiosity and self-inflation? Yes, it might be if God weren't at such pains to demonstrate humility for all the world to see. I mean, crucifixion?

Running out of time here. I'll just get to the point and let you figure out how it relates to DK:

"[N]obility of character consists in putting honor and moral dignity above self-interest," while "Detachment entails objectivity with regard to oneself."

Which is another way of saying that the noble man transcends himself, detesting what is bad in him and loving what is good. So you should never tell a person to just love himself, full stop. Rather, one must love only what is lovable, just as one should know only what is true, for knowing falsehood is another name for DK.

The essence of dignity is not only our theomorphism, but humility together with charity; these two virtues compensate for the risks stemming from our quality as image of God.... This theomorphism could well make us arrogant or egoistic, but when we grasp its true nature we see that it obliges us, on the contrary, to heed the perfections not only of the Lord but also the servant... (Schuon)


--Self-satisfaction is pathetic proof of lowliness.

--The noble one is not the one who thinks he has inferiors, but the one who knows he has superiors.

--Justifiable pride is accompanied by profound humility.

--Secular morality exudes pride (NGD).

Friday, November 01, 2019

Society for the Prevention of Dunning-Kruger

A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery. --Dávila

It's no doubt accurate to say that everyone is subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect (heretofore DK). The problem is, there is an inverse relationship between its effects and awareness of its presence: in other words, the less we know, the more we think we know.

Now, we all like to think we're immune to the effect, but it seems to me that it is built into the nature of things. Literally. For as we've discussed before, it is only possible to know anything about anything because we cannot know everything about a single thing.

In other words, our finite intelligence is, as it were, an echo of God's infinite intelligence. That being the case, one could define God as the one being who necessarily doesn't suffer from DK but makes it inevitable (or in-Eve-ate-apple) for the rest of us. Awareness of this principle makes a man humble. Denial of it makes a man proud. See Genesis 3 for details. Indeed, you could say that DK is merely a form of idolatry (or maybe vice versa).

Is there more DK these days than in the past? The answer may surprise you. But first I have to think about it.

I was about to say there is more of it, but it's much like trying to determine if there is more greed, cowardice, lust, or envy than in the past. All we can say is that these are all permanent features of human nature, so they will always be present to one degree or another. We do, however, agree with Sr. Dávila that

Modern stupidities are more irritating than ancient stupidities because their proselytes try to justify them in the name of reason.

Modern sophisticates like to imagine that people of the past were immersed in a religious worldview that caused them to think they knew much more than they did -- in other words, that religion is just a cover for ignorance. But again, the temptation to idolatry is ineradicable, such that we have any number of ideologies (or better, ideolatries) that serve the same function, e.g., scientism, Marxism, Darwinism, and all the rest.

Science? Please. We love science, but to think that it can provide any kind of comprehensive explanation of the world is the purest DK. No one can can be a great scientist -- or thinker at any rate -- who is only a scientist. Consider:

--To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

--Nothing proves more the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession.

--Stupidity appropriates with diabolical skill what science invents.

--Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

--What is capable of being measured is minor.

Exaggerate much? No, not at all, because Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

In other words, once you've reduced to the world to a calculation or quantity, you'll still have to account for the calculator and quantifier. And there is -- literally -- an infinite distance between the two. This distance is -- literally -- unbridgeable from the bottom up. Conversely, from the top down it is not only explicable but even necessary, in the sense that it is necessary for the Creator to create.

Which is another way of talking about the complementary principles of immanence and transcendence. Scientism imagines the world can be intelligible without intelligence, which is to say, immanent without transcendence. But if intelligence isn't transcendent, it isn't intelligence, precisely.

Or, put it this way: if there is no transcendence -- no vertical inscape hatch -- then all statements are ultimately tautologies. To take an obvious example, if we are explained by our genes, then we couldn't explain our genes. Rather, the explanation would be genetically caused and therefore circular.

Only recourse to transcendence accounts for both the continuities and discontinuities of the world. Again, from the bottom up -- from any materialistic standpoint -- intelligence and intelligibility, mind and matter, must be discontinuous. And if they are purely discontinuous, then there is no accounting for knowledge. Knowledge could only be an illusion of continuity, just a projection of our own psychic categories. Taken to the extreme, it would mean we can know everything about nothing. Terminal DK.

In truth, there are real continuities and discontinuities built into the nature of things, the former being radial, the latter circumferential. Imagine a circle with a point at the center: ʘ. That's God (or Creator) at the center, world (creation) at the periphery. However, there are multiple worlds, e.g., metaphysics, physics, chemistry, biology, et al. As such, we have to imagine a series of concentric circles, each corresponding to a particular world.

But there is also continuity, which can be conceptualized by imagining an arrow (or arrows) emanating from the center. And guess what: you -- your soul -- is one of those arrows, precisely. This is what it means to be in the image and likeness of the Creator (the center), and why we can have real knowledge of the other circles. Each circle discloses truth, but only because they are linked (via the arrows) to the Center.

DK prevention, right there.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dunning-Kruger of the Spirit

Time only to lay a foundation...

The other day I read an essay on the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is without question one of the most important drivers of history. It is probably accurate to say that more things happen because of what we think we know than what we actually know, but who knows? The upshot of Dunning-Kruger is that man -- both individually and collectively -- is shadowed and haunted by "false knowledge" -- i.e., the whole category of things we know that just aren't so.

Let me highlight some passages from the essay that stuck out for me:

In one study, roughly 90 percent [of respondents] claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fictitious concepts we asked them about. In fact, the more well versed respondents considered themselves in a general topic, the more familiarity they claimed with the meaningless terms associated with the survey.

In short, confidence and cluelessness are directly proportional, at least in many people much of the time. And it seems that the unearned confidence prevents people from seeing how clueless they are. One thinks of Michael Scott in The Office, "the world's best boss." Or, in a more comedic vein, one thinks of the breezy confidence and utter vacuity of an Obama, "the world's greatest president," or of most any mainstream journalist or pundit.

Speaking of which, has any man in history exposed more political and journalistic Dunning-Krugery than Trump?

For more than 20 years, I have researched people's understanding of their own expertise -- formally known as the study of metacognition, the processes by which human beings evaluate and regulate their knowledge, reasoning, and learning -- and the results have been consistently sobering, occasionally comical, and never dull.

As a fellow once said, "being educated means 'being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't.'" But "this simple ideal is extremely hard to achieve. Although what we know is often perceptible to us, even the broad outlines of what we don't know are all too often completely invisible. We fail to recognize the frequency and scope of our ignorance" (emphasis mine).

Bottom line: "in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize -- scratch that, cannot recognize -- just how incompetent they are..."

But why? Well, for starters, recognizing "their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack." Boom: the ignorant are too ignorant to appreciate how ignorant they are. Thus, "the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge" (emphasis mine). Ignorance can feel just like knowledge. Or maybe you were never a liberal.

I'm thinking back on when I was young enough to know everything. Naturally I was a liberal, because -- as formalized by Hayek -- liberalism (or leftism, to be precise) is founded upon a pretense of knowledge that is strictly impossible for anyone to possess. At its extreme it leads to a kind of omniscience that serves as the pretext of the totalitarian state.

Example, plucked from this morning's headlines: former California governor Jerry Brown "told Congress on Tuesday that President Donald Trump and the Republican Party were responsible for the ongoing California fires because of their opposition to drastic climate change policies."

"California’s burning while the deniers make a joke out of the standards that protect us all,” Brown told the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday... “The blood is on your soul here and I hope you wake up. Because this is not politics, this is life, this is morality... This is real."

While it's nice to see a leftist acknowledge the reality of the soul, California is not burning because of Trump, much less because of the failure to enact any conceivable climate change policy. That's just clueless omniscience made even worse because it is enlisting the conscience to make its case. From this it is but a step to righteous violence -- to violence sanctioned by the conscience because the people who disagree with Brown are willfully and ineradicably evil. No wonder the left sympathizes with al-Baghdadi: professional courtesy.

Now, is there a solution to this perennial problem of ignorance-as-knowldege? We haven't yet finished laying our foundation, but I don't want to end on a pessimistic note, so I'm going to jump ahead with a passage by Schuon that goes directly to the question:

whoever wishes to use his intelligence without risk of going astray must possess the virtue of humility; he must be aware of his limitations, must know that intelligence does not come from himself, must be sufficiently prudent to make no judgments in the absence of adequate information.

Pride goeth before a fall into Dunning-Kruger.