Friday, January 18, 2019

Sharing the Muck

Still mucking about in the archive -- I've probably looked at over 700 posts by now, so less than 3,000 to go. Clearing out the entire stable will probably take six months of mucking. Fortunately, the quality picks up after about mid-2007, so it wasn't just my imagination that there were some interesting posts along the way.

Some random sentences, sentence fragments, questions, and partial answers from 2007 that I still like, or at least don't totally get on my nerves:

A clue that it isn’t the ultimate explanation is that you can fully comprehend it.

One can’t write anything on the subject of reality without saying something that isn’t true.

What kind of cosmos gives rise to Subjects who may know Truth?

It is somewhat bizarre to think that our own thinking could solve the problem; but even more bizarre to think that it couldn't.

There is something in the human mind that wants to contain novelty and demystify the world -- to make the anxiety of not-knowing go away. In a sense this is perfectly understandable. Ironically, it is a legacy of our evolved genotype which, after all, was not designed to ponder the mystery of being but to survive and obtain tenure.

If intelligence could be reduced to senses + logic, human beings wouldn't be intelligent enough to know it, since no logical operation can inform them of this.

As far as we know, information is something that must be stored in a differentiated and stable physical substrate, but the Big Bang had no time to store anything and no place to store it, since time and matter didn't exist.

The wholeness of the cosmos is prior to our atomization of it into individual parts -- which is why Life and Mind are possible to begin with. An organism is not just a sack of genetic material, and a mind is not a pile of neurological facts.

All other animals merely inhabit a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world. Animals are confined to the environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally didn't come into existence until human beings happened upon the scene. Prior to subjects there is nothing.

Given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world? Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible.

While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to engage with Being as a whole.

Science can never be complete or exhaustive because "it explains things in terms that are themselves left unexplained," and is therefore inevitably circular.

Of course, it is always possible that the scientific ideas capable of being hatched in the mind of man just so happen to coincide with ultimate reality. But the chances are so remote that we may dismiss them out of hand. In a way, the atheist is asking us to believe something far more unbelievable than religious revelation, which is that the cosmos reveals its true inner and outer nature to man just by sheer luck.

As Magee points out, "The only plausible possibility of a reality completely corresponding to our conceptions of it rests on the possibility that reality itself could be mind-like, or could be created by a mind, or by minds."

The existence of man's mind tells us much more about the nature of this cosmos than does the cosmos itself.

Subject and Object are irreducible existential categories, and we can burrow into the cosmic mountain from either end. Clearly, no cosmos is possible without both. Science -- for reasons it never examines -- disregards the Subject, which ineluctably ends in metaphysical absurdity, since it leads to a situation in which it explains everything except the mysterious one doing the explaining.

You can fail to take cognizance of the Absolute, but it will always return through the backdoor. For example, it is impossible to consistently maintain that "it is absolutely true that nothing but the relatively true exists." One might just as well write that writing doesn't exist.

There is a dimension of suprasensible information readily available to human minds which is neither material nor logical, and that is other minds. Normal humans are equipped with what developmental neuropsychologists call a "mind reading" capacity, through which we may instantaneously -- without thinking -- access the "interior" of another.

To say that the intellect cannot know God, the Absolute, is to place an artificial boundary around intelligence as such. And if our intelligence were bounded, we would not know where the boundary lay, so there would be no reason to accept anyone's boundary as anything other than arbitrary.

Science can never arrive at any ultimate explanation, because the scientist doing the explaining will always defy quantification. For he is an irreducible subject, an ontological category that slips through the coarse cognitive nets of science like a herd of cats trying to nail Jello soup to the wall with a fork.

Steinsaltz: "Man's question should not be how to escape the perpetual struggle but what form to give it, at what level to wage it."

I'm waging it against my own years of logorrhea.

UPDATE

This was also mildly amusing:

Neuroscientists have identified a network of brain regions activated when people feel aa if God doesn't exist. Artificially stimulating the brain in this way, they say, might allow people to have atheistic experiences without disbelieving in God themselves.

Lead author Rufus T. Firefly at the University of Feedonia says that he wanted to know what was going on in the brain during materialistic, secular, or atheistic episodes because of his own personal experiences. During such moments, people have the illusion that they are separate from the source of being, and may feel existential anxiety, absence of ultimate meaning, and even a sense of absurdity.

Firefly and his colleague, Dr. Otis Driftwood, recruited 15 secular scientists from academia, slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and asked them to fully relive the most meaningless moment in their lives.

As a comparison, the scientists also relived a schizoid experience in which they brooded over their sense of being isolated and detached from other people...

Earlier studies have suggested that such experiences might originate in one specific part of the brain. Work with autistic patients who are incapable of religious feeling has suggested that a hypertrophied region in the temporal cortex, dubbed the “secular spot” or “materialistic module,” could be largely responsible. There has been controversy over experiments suggesting that stimulating this area of the temporal lobes can induce the illusion of materialism.

The "Sam Harris Switch"

Dr. Firefly says that it is already possible to use machines to mimic the type of brain activation that atheists experience. "It's feasible to bring people into such a state where the mind is reduced to such machine or robot-like experiences." This research might eventually be used to undo the deleterious mental and physiological health effects that various studies have linked to the absence of religiosity, he suggests.

But many secular scientists and people with materialistic beliefs would be opposed to such an idea because it suggests that the philosophy of scientific materialism is just "junk metaphysics," a stubborn but ultimately superstitious illusion rooted in our evolved nervous system, says Dr. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, professor of applied voodoo and witchcraft and an authority on authoritarianism at Dawkins College in New York.

"I don't know what useful information can be gleaned from this study," Wagstaff says. "Just because we have an advanced diagnostic technique doesn't mean we should use it on anything that comes to mind," he says. "People's beliefs are sacred, even if they're technically profane."

However, his colleague, Professor Hackenbush, says that neuroscientists are keen to explore the brain activity that underlies atheism because... because... because they have nothing better to do, and there’s a lot of grant money involved.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Little Something About Nothing

Here is the procedure I am following: 1) skimming each and every post; 2) extracting any passage that strikes me on any level for any reason; 3) placing it in file for that year (or sometimes half-year, since there's too much); 4) subsequently reviewing (and re-reviewing and re-re-reviewing) the material for each year in a more ruthlessly critical way, tossing out the fat, i.e., the transient, trite, repetitive, cute, clever, facile, pompous, BoBastic, etc.; all the while waiting for the deeper organization to emerge from the fog.

I've sketched out a crude cosmic map on a large piece of cardboard, roughly three by four feet. Naturally it has God at the top, with all the rest flowing down and out from that absolute principle (and then back up). Problem is, there are dozens of categories which I need to tighten up in a more coherent way.

Hmm. I notice there are many trinities, such reason-empiricism-mysticism, sense-knowledge-presence, truth-will-beauty, order-disorder-chaos, and a lot of complementarities too, such as self-other, male-female, world-God, ascent-descent, vertical-horizontal, whole-part, time-eternity, etc. Perhaps the music of the cosmos is played in 3/2 time.

I just now realized I need a "higher" or deeper" category above, behind, within, or at least in dialectic with God, AKA Beyond-Being, the apophatic God, Eckhart's ground, etc. This principle is not nothing!

Well, to be perfectly vague, it is nothing, but only from the finite perspective (with which it is always in dialectic). But it is critical to bear in mind that its shadow runs through everything, all the way down. It is why, in reality, no man knows anything about anything.

In other words, no matter how much we "know," it's all still a Great Mystery, and a big part of spiritual life is the (vertical) recollection of this Primordial Fact, thereby "withdrawing" all of our day-to-day projections that create and sustain the various pseudo-realities we otherwise inhabit.

For truly, without this vertical recollection we are like spiders who spin webs out of our own psycho-pneumatic substance, and then inhabit the webs. It is very easy to see another person's web. A psychologist does this -- or used to do this, anyway -- on a professional basis. But now psychologists actually help to maintain the web(s), such that the person who spun it can't even stand back from and examine it! (In other words, it is the same war on transcendence common to all forms of fascism.)

Consider the following headline from the I-Can't-Even Department: American Psychological Association Labels 'Traditional Masculinity' as 'Harmful'. I'm not going to bother reading the story, but I can assure you the real problem is the toxic femininity that has infiltrated and devastated the entire field, such that it has become such a joke. If that is psychology, then we have to invent a new word for what Jordan Peterson and I and a few other outlaws are talking about.

Anyway, this morning, while doing a re-review of 2006, I found the following passage by Roger Kimball, in reference to Roger Scruton:

Scruton comes bearing news about permanent things, one part of which is the evanescence of human aspiration. Hence the governing word "loss." There is a sense in which conservatism is anti-Romantic, since it is constitutionally suspicious of the schemes of perfection Romanticism typically espouses.

But there is another sense in which conservatism is deeply Romantic: the sense in which it recognizes and embraces the ineradicable frailty, the ultimate futility, of things human. "And so," Scruton writes, "I acquired consciousness of death and dying, without which the world cannot be loved for what it is. That, in essence is what it means to be a conservative.”

Scruton writes that, “without the consciousness of loss, there is nothing a conservative would find worth conserving. It is only by facing up to loss... that we can build on the dream of ultimate recuperation.” As such, “one of the most harrowing depredations of the modern world is to rob us of the religious sense, which is to say the sense of loss.” Too often, Scruton notes, “there is neither love nor happiness -- only fun. For us, one might be tempted to suggest, the loss of religion is the loss of loss.”

So, recollection of Death is one way to stay in dialectic with the Nothing referenced above.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Year, Old Posts

A fresh new open thread for a bright new year. Although I agree with Dennis Prager that it will get dark quickly.

Yes, I'm actually doing it: I've been undertaking the distasteful task of reviewing each post from 2005 onward, and am finding it to be a mythic combination of the Sisyphean and Augean: in other words, like pushing a vast stable full of excrement up a steep mountainside, only to watch it roll back down and inundate me under a steaming pile of verbiage.

I must have skimmed 500 or so, and am definitely not finding what I'm looking for. Of course, it would help to know what I'm looking for, but I'm waiting for the search to reveal its object. If I knew what I was looking for, I'd already have it, now wouldn't I?

Every once in awhile I come across a paragraph that doesn't totally irritate me, or that I think I might be able to use for the yet-unknown purpose, but the overall impression is "I guess you had to be there." Or maybe I'm just not qualified to judge -- like I can dish it out but can't taste it.

Oh well. Back to the stable.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Hiatus

Or sabbatical, and I sure as sh*t don't scrawl on my sabbath. Besides, lately I've felt compelled to reread a lot of old foundational Coon Classics, so I'd be rebleating mysoph anyway. FYI, these books have included, for example,

--Josef Pieper: An Anthology

--Explorations in Metaphysics: Being-God-Person

--The Philosophical Approach to God

--The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics

--Meaning

--Summa Philosophica

--Philosophers Speak of God

--The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God

--A Christian Pilgrim in India: The Spiritual Journey of Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux)

--A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

--Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism

--Introduction to Christianity

--Advice to the Serious Seeker: Meditations on the Teaching of Frithjof Schuon

--God's Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love

--Freedom from Reality: The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty

--The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart: The Man from Whom God Hid Nothing

And of course The Book of the SubGenius: The Sacred Teachings of J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs

Among others, not to mention various works of Schuon, which I'm always re-rereading. Now if I could only find a way to weave it all together into one continuous narrative -- or cosmic area rug -- like I did previously once upin a timeless, only in a newer and tighter spiral.

Come to think of it, what's a sabbath for but seeking the one in the many, eternity in time, the wisdom in the information, the Connector of Dots?

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Source and Destiny of Intelligent Stupidity

If we're going to trace intelligence all the way down to the roots, we need to follow it all the way up to its source, AKA God.

Or perhaps in the context of this discussion, it's better to say "O," since God is too saturated with other connotations, emanations, and penumbras. Deploying O entails a more modest, or at least narrower, claim: that an intelligence that looks downward for its source not only arbitrarily denies its own significance, but undercuts its own efficacy. A materialist or existentialist metaphysic is just a clever or systematic way to be stupid.

In short, if there is a wholly material explanation for intelligence, then we are not intelligent, because intelligence would be just an accidental byproduct of some unintelligent substance or process.

These folkers like to accuse religion of magical thinking, but really, what could be more magical than promulgating an absolute relativism and then carving out a special exemption for oneself? How does the materialist slip the surly bonds of his own materialism?

I suppose the same way a magician pulls a rabbit from his hat: he's only revealing what he concealed there in the first place. Likewise, the materialist pulls out a metaphysic he covertly projects into matter, and calls it "true" -- as if truth still exists and we can know it. Again, intelligent stupidity.

But just because the materialist can't actually conjure a true rabbit from a metaphysical nothing, it doesn't mean God can't. For what is creation but a projection of God -- or O -- in a "downward" direction? Or better, Schuon uses the image of a circle to convey our cosmic situation -- in fact, two circles. Putting these two together, or keeping both in mind, furnishes a point of reference for our essential situation.

Each circle has a center we will call O. The first circle is surrounded by a series of concentric circles representing worlds, or dimensions of being, or even powers, principalities, thrones, and dominions if you like.

For example, one of the outer circles would be what we call sensible matter, or the empirical world. Closer to the center would be worlds of logic or mathematics. Closer still would be spiritual worlds of virtue, beauty, metaphysical truth.

Note that in the concentric view, the worlds are discontinuous. If you restrict yourself to this view, then you will quite literally have no way to understand, for example, how dead matter can come to life, or how life can host persons. The discontinuity is insurmountable, such that you will need a "magic trick" to make the leap.

But magic isn't required if you supplement the concentric view with a spiraling one. In this perspective, O is still at the center, but spirals outward, around itself. Now there is no longer any discontinuity. Not only is everything connected to O, but is an expression or echo (however close or distant) of it.

Now, these two images convey many important cosmic messages. For example, the first goes to the radical transcendence of God, while the second goes to his immanence. In the first, we are seemingly disconnected from the source, but in the second the source must be closer to us than our own heartbeat.

Extending this a bit, the first would go to such things as exile, original sin, humility, and cosmic insignificance. But this is balanced by the second, which makes us "participants in God." And the most important participant -- getting back to our main subject -- is the intellect, which is the prolongation par excellence of God.

More generally, the spiral image explains how and why life is a "journey back to God." The journey is only possible because of the continuous spiral. Obviously, in the concentric cosmos the journey would be impossible, because we could never transcend or escape our own circle.

Now, make no mistake: any modern, postmodern, or non-traditional philosophy not only entraps us in one of those circles, but worse, turns the circle inside out by placing matter at the center. Yes, literally. Think about it for a second: tracing human intelligence to material causes is like "finding" the center of reality and discovering that it is... nothing. The most meaningful thing in all of creation has managed to render itself meaningless. It has pulled a rabbit out of the hat -- a dead rabbit.

I'm looking at some passages in Logic and Transcendence that describe this exactly, only in a more elegant and less Raccoonish way. For example, any form of relativism escapes, "as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared to be the only possibility." It jumps from the periphery to the center, but how? That's only possible in the spiral view which relativism denies at the outset.

Or how about the claim that "one can never escape from human subjectivity." Well, if all Cretans are subjectivists, then all Cretans are Cretins, and there's no reason to take them seriously. Such an utterance, no matter how imbued with tenure, "falls under its own verdict."

But here is the unavoidable truth -- a truth to which one must resign oneself, no matter how pleasant: "It is abundantly evident that man can escape subjectivity, for otherwise he would not be man."

Now, that there is a big clue as to What Man Is. It sounds suspiciously tautological, but in reality, it is our only escape from tautology, for it means that we can exit the closed loop of the circle and enter the inward-turning spiral. We can indeed embark upon a pilgrimage toward the cosmic Center.

If not, then truly truly, to hell with it. Seriously, either intelligence can know truth, or it can't. But if it can, then this discloses many meta-truths about the human station and the human situation. For again, in the inspiraling view, -- and pay attention here -- intelligence is not just the conformity of mind to truth, rather, something far more radical: intelligence is itself the substance of truth, a kind of direct revelation of God.

Somewhere Schuon says something to the effect that revelation is the objectification or crystalization of the intellect. But also, the intellect as such is a kind of subjective revelation of the divine mind. Now, if this weren't the case, then we couldn't understand revelation to begin with: revelation is "addressed" to the intellect, but the intellect is "already" the revelation. Or better, revelation might be seen as a vertical memo that is both from and to the intellect, if you catch my drift.

Going back to the enclosed world of concentric circles, "subjectivity would not even be conceivable for a man who was totally enclosed in his subjectivity; an animal lives in its subjectivity but does not conceive it, for unlike man it does not possess the gift of objectivity."

Did you catch the implications? The animal is indeed situated in one of those concentric circles, a dog or dolphin no doubt closer to the center than an amoeba or alligator, but still, with no ability to journey closer to the center.

But in the case of man, it takes a genius to prevent him from spiraling back toward the center, because man is the being intrinsically capable of doing this. Ah, but this gift can sometimes be seen as a kind of curse: since we are not fixed in any particular circle, an existentialist will see us as the very personification of nothingness: since we are "anything" then we are nothing. But notice the error: the existentialist takes the spiral for granted, but wrenches it from its context, which only makes sense if God is at the center.

It is analogous to positing a solar system and then removing the central sun that renders the system possible. Then we are indeed reduced to wandering planets, such that movement in one direction is no better than movement in any other -- "my truth" is no better or worse than any other -- except to say that this belief in the subjectivity of truth is definitely better than your fascist belief that there is only one truth and one direction toward it!

And all of this, if you think about it for two or three seconds, goes directly to our political polarization, for blue people are concentrics pretending to be spirals. For example, what is the "progress" of so-called progressives but a movement toward some transcendent ideal that is just a human projection (and displacement) of God?

Conversely, a proper redman maintains the complementarity of concentrism and spiralism. To take an obvious example, the Constitution is a concentric document for the purpose of a spiral end. Our natural rights flow from the center to the periphery, and can be explained in no other way. The Constitution is a manmade charter -- made at the periphery -- designed to protect our natural rights -- which emanate from the center.

Notice how the left simultaneously wishes to make the Constitution nothing and everything: by relativizing it, they covertly absolutize it, for the doctrine of the "living constitution" puts it in line with the more widespread metaphysic of absolute relativism, or of Total Absurdity, AKA hell on earth.

[O]ne of the noteworthy traits of the twentieth century is the confusion, now habitual, between evolution [read: progressivism] and decadence: there is no decadence, no impoverishment, no falsification that people do not try to excuse with the relativistic argument of "evolution".... Thus relativism, cleverly instilled into public opinion, paves the way for all kinds of corruption while at the same time keeping watch lest any kind of healthy reaction might put the brakes on this slide toward the abyss.

Worth rereading slowly. Progressivism is the last word in degeneratavism, disintegrism, and depravitism, and like an autoimmune disease, includes a mechanism for identifying and eradicating its own cure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Objects of Intelligence and Wisdom

Everybody wants to be intelligent, but what is intelligence, especially the human kind? Why do we have it? What is it for? And can we increase it?

Dennis Prager devotes one hour each week to "ultimate issues," and yesterday the topic was wisdom. Which got me to thinking: what is the object of wisdom? No, not the purpose of it, as in the object of a game, but what is the "thing" wisdom is about?

And how do we distinguish this from the thing intelligence is about -- the object of intelligence?

In truth, there are many objects of intelligence, from matter to logic to mathematics to "the past" (i.e. history), and each object requires the method appropriate to it: obviously we don't study physical objects in the same way we do mathematical ones.

Now, one object of wisdom must be intelligence itself. Intelligence can't see its own purpose or scope; that is for wisdom to sort out. So, for starters, wisdom is intelligence about intelligence, specifically, human intelligence. But more generally, it is intelligence about human beings -- about how to be one. After all, plenty of intelligent people have no idea how they are supposed to live. They lack wisdom.

You could say that the university is a factory for churning out the unwise, for as Prager pointed out yesterday, it is impossible to be both secular and wise. This is not a knock, rather, just a statement of fact. But it explains why universities have become such breeding grounds of intelligent stupidity.

Conversely, a religion is supposed to be (among other things) a repository of wisdom. And as we've mentioned before, one of its primary functions is to transmit wisdom to people of less than average intelligence -- which, after all, is half the population. That half will never be suited for college.

No, correct me on that. Academia is determined to be so free of intellectual standards that anyone with an IQ above 80 or so should be able to complete a degree in a fake subject such as sociology or gender studies. However, to gain a real degree in a real subject requires an IQ of around 115; for a really hard subject you'll still need an IQ of around 130 (although here again, liberals are doing everything they can to erode those standards as well).

Yesterday I was rereading an excellent book that concisely summarizes the current state of intelligence research, The Neuroscience of Intelligence. It begins with a quote by a fellow researcher to the effect that "the attack on [intelligence] tests" represents nothing less than "an attack on truth itself by those who deal with unpleasant and unflattering truths by denying them and by attacking and trying to destroy the evidence for them."

Yes, the left, doing what it does best: the deployment of intelligence to destroy intelligence. This is no small matter, and indeed, you could say that it is the very basis of clinical psychology, at least the type in which I was trained. To the extent that truth is attacked -- and it is, routinely and incessantly -- the attack must first take place in one's own mind.

And yet, there are "intellectual sociopaths," so to speak, who don't do this exactly. Rather, they are totally cynical manipulators for whom truth doesn't even enter into it.

I'm thinking of Tucker Carlson, who apparently can't get real politicians to come on the show for fear of being humiliated in debate, so he is reduced to debating this or that "DNC spokesman." These are practiced liars who will aggressively defend any policy or principle, no matter how preposterous or provably false. But just as you have to be an intelligent actor to effectively play a stupid character, you have to be a fairly bright spokesman to confidently assert such nonsense.

But the deeper point I want to make is that such intellectual sociopaths have successfully eliminated the object of intelligence from their minds -- the object being truth. And if you are going to have a fruitful dialog with someone, its fruitfulness is predicated entirely upon a mutual search for truth. It is this Mysterious Third that renders dialog fruitful; or, you could say that a fruitful dialog is always an implicit trialog.

Certainly Socrates knew this. It's what his Method is all about. The Socratic dialog "is not a civil war between two opponents but a joint raid against the common enemies of confusion, ignorance, and error, using the common weapons of the common master, Reason" (Kreeft). And Reason isn't just anything; rather, it subsumes the "three acts of mind" through which we know what a thing is, whether it is, and why it is.

Reason is easy enough to get around: just deny the existence of truth, as do postmodern relativists. "Truth is perception," they say. First of all, this truth cannot be perceived, so the statement is self-refuting on its face.

But notice something more sinister: the object of truth is reduced to subjective perception, which is to say, appearance, when the whole point of intelligence is to apprehend the reality behind, beneath, or above appearances. So, relativism is like a cognitive neutron bomb, destroying the object of intelligence while leaving the intelligence standing. It is utter absurdity, but there it is.

There's a guy who can recall 22,514 digits from pi. That's nothing, because there's another guy who can do it to 67,890 digits. Now that is intelligence. Except that his IQ is actually so low that he can't even care for himself. "His father managed all aspects of his life except when he answered questions from memory" (Haier).

You'd think memory would be critical to intelligence, and it is, but there are actually more important factors, beginning with reasoning and spatial ability. Moreover, there are two main aspects of intelligence: crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. The first has more to do with learning facts and absorbing information, while the second has to do with "inductive and deductive reasoning for novel problem-solving." A pi-throwing idiot savant is only adept at the first kind.

But more importantly, so too is a computer, and I've noticed my own crystalized intelligence atrophy as a consequence of the internet putting all knowledge at my fingertips. Or, even with my library, I know only a tiny fraction of what's in it, but I do know where to retrieve a factoid if I need it.

Is wisdom crystalized or fluid? It must be both. There are certain principles of wisdom, but life comes at you fast, for which reason we need fluid wisdom, which is none other than prudence.

Haier asks, "what is intelligence?" and "how do you know it when you see it?" I know it, but how do I know it? What are my criteria? Interestingly, I don't have any conscious or explicit criteria. But there's no question that some minds are coming from a more profound and comprehensive place -- it is simultaneously deeper, higher, and more integral, whereas a person of below average intelligence is all surface, either diffuse or hardened, silly or stupid.

Can you turn a surface intelligence into a profound one? That is one of the core assumptions of liberalism, but all signs -- if you believe the research -- point to no. At the moment of conception, your intelligence is baked into the cake, barring some environmental catastrophe. People don't want to believe this, and yet, it can be quite liberating in a way. It is the whole basis of Bryan Caplan's excellent The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.

I was already raising my son in an irresponsible idiosyncratic fashion, but these books have added fuel to the fire. He is who he is, and there's not a lot I can do about it except to help him actualize it. Knowing this takes a lot of the stress out of the whole enterprise. How much of what you learned in school do you actually remember? All that crystalized intelligence is long gone. What was the point? People are much more like plants than machines. I know I was. I just naturally grew into the person I was to be, not because of, but in spite of, the environment.

I remember studying organicism in grad school, but quickly passing it over in favor of more environmentally weighted theories, in particular, attachment theory. (Intellectuals tend not to be attracted to theories that render themselves inconsequential, which is why they have always recoiled at, for example, the free market.) But at the same time, there was a concept within attachment theory called "good enough mothering," implying that good enough is more than enough, and that better than good enough adds little value.

Anyway, "Organismic theories in psychology are a family of holistic psychological theories which tend to stress the organization, unity, and integration of human beings expressed through each individual's inherent growth or developmental tendency." That is now what I believe, although with important qualifications. A seed will grow into the plant it is destined to be, but there is soil, sunlight, fertilizer, pruning, etc.

Whatever intelligence is, we all know someone -- lots of them -- who is not as smart as we are. But according to Haier, "given their rarity, it is less likely you know a true genius." That's true. I suppose I've never really met one. Lots of smart people to be sure, but what is a genius -- I mean, besides a high IQ? Is it a quantitative difference, or a qualitative one?

And what about the genius with bad programming? The other night I tried to watch a documentary about Stephen Hawking, but it was too tedious to finish. Smart guy, no doubt. Genius, I guess. But trying to philosophize within the limits of science is just stupid. The object of physics is not the object of wisdom.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mind and its Materials, or Qualifications and Quality

I don't know why the titles have been so lame lately, but "Useless Science, Harmful Scientists" was another example. Obviously science is far from useless and the average scientist doesn't do any harm. The problem only arises when we apply a mode of knowing that is inappropriate to the object we wish to understand. Now, metaphysics is the science of being, or of the whole, whereas science only studies the parts of being.

Science errs when it attempts to draw a limit to thought, because doing so must involve an implicit knowledge of what's on the either side -- or at least that there is an other side. If we are limited to seeing only one side of the moon, this doesn't mean the other side doesn't exist or that there's nothing we can say about it.

More importantly, it's still the moon and nothing else, despite the fact that we cannot see it from all possible angles. No visible object can be contained by vision, but that hardly means we do not see or that vision is just a form of blindness.

Kant would limit knowledge to the form of our own sensibilities or categories, thus radically detaching knowing from being. In this view -- and it is the modern view -- knowledge is no longer even knowledge, because it is ultimately about the knower: knowledge conforms to us rather than to reality. This new perspective is said to be "true," even while draining all meaning from what it could possibly mean for something to be true. In Truth -- the real kind -- such minds are trapped in a circle while pretending to see it from the perspective of the sphere.

If you've ever wondered how the left can know so much while knowing so little, this is why: their knowledge, such as it is, is detached from being. A case in point would be "homosexual marriage," or the idea that we can choose our gender. The first is not a real marriage -- i.e., anchored in, and a reflection of, being -- any more than Caitlyn Jenner is a real woman. But if knowledge is no longer adequation to reality, then this problem doesn't arise: you are a woman because you feel like one. It's a triumph of the will, but first it is a triumph of sentiment. Intellect is bypassed entirely (i.e., intellect as disclosing knowledge that is in turn rooted in being).

I mentioned above that science errs when it attempts to draw a limit to thought, but this needs to be qualified: there are, of course, insurmountable limits to what man may know, since we are creature and not creator, contingent and not absolute. In order to know God, we would have to be God.

That limitation goes to our humility. And yet, this is compensated by another side that goes to our grandeur, and indeed to the very worth of man: that we -- in particular, our intellect -- are in the image and likeness of the Creator, which obviously confers special powers.

Now, does man have special powers? Or is our knowing fundamentally no different from animal knowing? Science says "yes," but this is an example of precisely where it goes off the rails, for it fails to shift into a different framework when going from the part to the whole. Metaphysics is a science -- again it is the science of being -- but obviously requires a different mode of adequation.

This shouldn't be controversial to an intellectually sophisticated person. We all know that our sensory apparatus cannot conform to the world of mathematics, which means that empiricism does not exhaust what rationalism reveals about the nature of reality. But rationalism in its turn cannot touch the transrational -- at least from below.

That is, we all know that rationalism can say absolutely nothing about what it proposes to reason on or with. Rather, we must first select the premises with which we will reason. After that, the reasoning is machinelike and inevitable.

So, to call oneself a "rationalist" is neither here nor there. As Schuon points out in chapter 3 of Logic and Transcendence, Rationalism Real and Apparent, there are always two extra-rational conditions we must consider in any attempt to reason about things.

First would be "the acuity and profundity of the intelligence." It is no insult to reason to say that anyone can do it. Anyone can take a logic class and understand both logic and logical fallacies. But logic in the hands of a less-than-acute-and-profound intelligence can easily render itself irrational. More generally, as we have been saying (along with Hayek), few things are as irrational as a strict rationalism, or rationalism strictly applied.

For the other problem (along with depth and breadth of intelligence) has to do with the quality of the available information. We can obviously reason about things that are "below" the level of reason, i.e., material objects. We can also reason about the purely rational objects of mathematics. In fact, we can also reason about the reasoner, or I would be out of work. For what is psychology but a transcendent view of the subject? If it isn't then I am being paid for nothing.

So, the question before the house -- the scientific house -- is why can't we also reason about the things that transcend us? Like God, for example. Or, if that word is too loaded, why not just concede that there is a transcendent reality without which the human intellect is literally inconceivable, and try to reason about it?

Not so fast. Again, we must respect the "value or extent of the available information," and at the very least, those less-than-acute intelligences are likely to reason on the basis of bad information. Or, just say New Age, i.e., deepaking the chopra (dumb people reasoning with bad materials).

Now, in the Judeo-Christian stream, we reason with the information provided by revelation, on the assumption that it has been provided by God for just this purpose. Even so, we again come face-to-face with the issue of less-than-acute-and-profound intelligences, not to mention the fact that revelation nevertheless contains a fair amount of "noise," and that it has different levels of importance. Then there is the whole question of the hermeneutical circle through which we balance and interpret the parts in the context of the whole.

For example, the other evening on Tucker Carlson I saw a pro-anti-immigration hacktivist claim that we had to let them all in on the basis of something Jesus said about being nice to children. End of issue. Deferring to this so-called principle, we would be morally obligated to bring, what, several billon poor children into the US. Is this what Jesus meant?

Again, depth of intelligence and quality information. If there are stupid theologians -- and obviously there are -- then this is why. And if there is an intrinsically stupid scientism, then this is also why.

Back to reasoning about the reasoner. Now obviously, the reasoner cannot be reduced to reason. If that happens, then the reasoner is indeed trapped in an eternal tautology, and that's that. But in reality, logic is only consistent when it transcends itself. Even if you reject religion, you ought to understand that Gödel liberated you from tautologous rationalism. You're free! You are not enclosed in reason, you transcend it. But where then will you go? Down or up?

That question is more interesting than it sounds, because there is a third possibility, a sort of lateral one into individualism, the bad kind (leaving aside the fact that if a man fails to transcend himself, he sinks beneath himself).

I alluded to this in a comment the other day -- that all bad philosophy and scholarship descends into a kind of unwitting autobiography. You could say it is Kantian only worse, in that it is a kind of crude eccentricity that amounts to little more than a rebellion against reality. I can't find the exact quote I'm looking for, but this one by Schuon will do:

Relativism engenders a spirit of rebellion and is at the same time its fruit. The spirit of rebellion, unlike holy anger, is not a passing state, nor is it directed at some worldly abuse; on the contrary it is a chronic malady directed toward Heaven and against everything that represents Heaven or is a reminder of it.

You will have noticed that winning the house of representatives has not appeased the left's unhappy spirit of rebellion, rather, only feeds it -- similar to how the redefinition of marriage made them content for a day, before they moved on to the abolition of gender -- for if gender is anything, then it is nothing. Which is of course the point, i.e., nihilism and the abolition real and fruitful (by which we know their reality) categories, boundaries, and limits.

Ah, here's the quote I was looking for:

profane thought is always the portrait of an individual even when it is mingled with some glimmerings of knowledge, as must always be the case since reason is not a closed vessel.

Thus reason gives way to individualism and arbitrariness insofar as it is artificially divorced from the Intellect.

Coincidentally, I just reread The Picture of Dorian Gray last night, and it is all about this rejection of all that surpasses us, and a rebellious descent into a complete individualism. Let me see if I can find an appropriate gag from satan's cynical emissary, Lord Henry, with which to close this post:

In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well-informed man -- that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.

I sense that there was a more than a little Oscar in Henry. And interestingly, Oscar was received into the Catholic church on his deathbed, thus leaving the bric-a-brac shop in the nick of timelessness.