Friday, October 19, 2018

Divine Freedom or Abject Leftitude: Call It!

I want to try to bring together several threads from disparate dimensions, because... because it's what we do here. No one else wants to do it, and I can't help doing it, so here we are.

I'm thinking in particular of the relationships between freedom, ignorance, economics, and universal metaphysics.  I suppose the whole thing was sparked by reading Schuon and Hayek at the same time, two thinkers one would normally think of as being at antipodes, at least in subject matter.

All the better for our freewheeling approach!  For the more we can bring together seeming contraries -- such as mind and matter, religion and science, economics and metaphysics -- well, the closer we are to illuminating the One Cosmos beneath and above.

This line by Hayek arrested my attention yesterday, and is as good a place as any to start:  "Freedom can be preserved only by following principles and it is destroyed by following expediency."  I know what you're thinking:  but the left has no principles!  That is correct, but we'll get to the gratuitous insultainment a little later.

Why does freedom depend upon adherence to principles?  That seems contradictory, because strict adherence to a principle is a kind of foregoing of freedom, isn't it?   Well, we have to make choices -- life consists of a series of choices -- and if there are no principles beneath the choosing, then our so-called freedom is really just randomness.

Moreover, "when we decide each issue solely on what appear to be its individual merits, we always over-estimate the advantage of central direction."  Take free speech.  For conservatives, this is a principle, not an expedient.   It is not "for" anything.   Like human life, it is an inherent good.

But the left is at war with this principle, and instead wants to apply it on a case-by-case basis, which of course defeats the whole purpose.  No one will accuse the left of self-awareness, but the effort to appeal to free speech in order to defeat free speech is up there with their greatest hits -- e.g., using the legal system to destroy the rule of law, or claiming "human rights" (such as abortion) to deny them.

Again, if the future were certain, then freedom would be entirely superfluous.  "Freedom" and "unknowability" are kissing cousins, as are tyranny and omniscience.  Every modern tyranny -- from Venezuela to Obamacare -- pretends to know how to bring about a desired future by eliminating freedom, i.e., all the bad choices individuals will make.

Think about what they're actually saying:  we know how to bring about the desired future, so we are entitled to eliminate your freedom in bringing it about.  But what if the desired future can only be brought about under conditions of freedom?  Or, what if the future is always unknowable, and freedom is simply the acknowledgement of this reality?

This is why the accomplishments of a regime of freedom always surpass even the dreams -- let alone reality -- of the anti-freedom left.  Indeed, freedom brings about conditions we never even dreamed of, such as this internet we are presently enjoying.  Similarly, we can't even imagine the medical breakthroughs that will occur in the future -- unless we adopt socialized medicine and destroy the very conditions that will bring them about.

Ah, I'm just ramblin' like a libertarian, which ain't nothin' but a right-wing hippie.

I'm driving at something deeper, but haven't yet hit praydirt.  One critical point is that we will never know what might have occurred had we not tampered with freedom in order to impose some desired outcome.  For example, Social Security was un- (or at least anti-)constitutionally imposed upon us in 1935.  If we'd done the same with communication, we'd probably still have a 1930s-style telephone system.

"That freedom can be preserved only if it is treated as a supreme principle which must not be sacrificed for particular advantages was fully understood by the leading liberal thinkers of the nineteenth century" (Hayek).

But now, thanks to the aggravated logocide of the left, the very people who are devoted to the sacrifice of freedom are called "liberals."  For "if one starts unsystematically to interfere with the spontaneous order there is no practicable halting point."  Indeed, there can be no limit, because you've already destroyed the principle that would limit it.  Good work!

It's so easy to do, because it's always possible to appeal to superficial conditions in order to deny a principle.  Look at the Kavanaugh hearing:  we must deny due process because Ford is a woman, and women never lie!  Which is a lie, and not even a good one.

Such diabolical appeals aren't usually that grotesque.  Indeed, I am told that Satan himself was embarrassed by that crude display by his minions last month.  Yes, he is as opposed to constitutional principles as the most fervent leftist, but he prefers to darken the minds of sophisticated academics over arousing the passions of the mob.  That's a last resort.   Think Roe v. Wade:  a cold, clean, and calculated decision by the best and brightest, not some sweaty mob of infanticidal lunatics.  Please.

Ah, here's an appropriate point of transition from terrestrial to celestial principles of freedom:  "What I meant to argue in The Road to Serfdom" may be expressed "in more homely language" in cautioning us that "If you do not mend your principles you will go to the devil."  Nevertheless, "the 'necessities' of policy are generally the consequences of earlier measures."  One expedient denial of freedom sets up conditions for the next. And next. And next.  Ad infinitum -- the bad kind, or an inverted image of the good kind of infinitude, as we shall see presently.

But freedom.  What is it really, and where does it come from?  How is it even possible?  Is it just an accidental byproduct, some residue of complexity, or is it built into the cosmic cake?

One of my favorite lines by Paul is Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  This implies that freedom must be some kind of prolongation of the Holy Spirt, or perhaps a triproduct of the Trinity itsoph.

Now, Hayek would never make such an argument.  He was a secular son of the enlightenment, not some kind of religious wacko.  Well, in what then does he ground his most decisive and consequential principle?   In expedience?  If so, then that's ultimately no better then the left's unprincipled appeal to expedience.

I suppose we might ask:  is there an Absolute Freedom, as implied by Paul?  Or is it always accidental and relative?  And if so, relative to what?  More relativity?  In which case it just reduces to nothingness, as taught by that bedwetting, Mao-loving existentialist, Sartre.

No, freedom is very much like truth itself:  either it is a fundamental attribute of absoluteness, or this cosmos is just an airless and lightless jungle of inescapable absurdity.

But as Schuon suggests, one might as well declare it "to be absolutely true that there is nothing but the relatively true," or "say that there is no language or write that there is no writing."   Such absurdities result from "the implicit claim to be unique in escaping, as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared to be the only possibility."

Bottom line: if man weren't free, he could never know it.  He would be plunged into matter and enclosed in his own neurology.  And if he is free, then nothing short of freedom can account for this astonishing fact.  An animal doesn't doubt because an animal isn't free.  But you doubt because you are free to do so, and freedom and doubt are functions of truth and reality.

Error and falsehood are privative phenomena, always parasitic on truth and certainty.  Appearance is a function of reality, not vice versa.  If reality were a function of appearance, then there would be no reality, only "reality."  Then you are well and truly in the leftist hell of My Truth, AKA "truth" AKA ineradicable illusion.

Two -- and only two -- possibilities. As Anton says, you must choose:
Chigurh:  Call it.
Gas station proprietor:  Call it?
Chigurh: Yes.
GSP:  For what?
Chigurh: Just call it.
GSP:  Well, we need to know what we're calling it for here.
Chigurh: You need to call it. I can't call it for you. It wouldn't be fair.
GSP: I didn't put nothin' up.
Chigurh:  Yes you did. You've been putting it up your whole life and you just didn't know it.
Call it!   And don't pretend you have no choice.

But if you choose freedom, exactly what have you chosen?
It is the consciousness of an unlimited diversity of possibilities, and this consciousness is an aspect of Being itself.... freedom as such is an immutable essence, in which creatures may either participate or not.... 
Defined in positive terms freedom is the possibility of manifesting oneself fully or being perfectly oneself, and this possibility -- or this experience -- runs through the universe as a real, hence concrete, beatitude.... the animate universe is a being that breathes and that lives both in itself and in its innumerable individualized constituents; and deep within all this there subsists the ineffable Freedom of the Infinite.
Oh.  That would explain it.  Truth is to Absoluteness as Freedom is to Infinitude. And the left has no use for either.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Introduction to Not Knowing: Ignorance Saves

We have various intelligence agencies. But what we really need is an Federal Bureau of Ignorance, or Central Ignorance Agency.

True, our intelligence agencies are ignorant of much, and often behave stupidly, but that's not the type of ignorance we're talking about; there is negative ignorance and there is positive ignorance, and ironically, the latter may be the most important principle in maintaining our liberty.

Negative ignorance is easy to understand: for example, maybe I have a growing brain tumor, but don't know about it. Or perhaps a mugger is waiting for me around the corner. In those cases, knowledge helps.

But is ignorance ever really helpful? Yes, because it is intrinsically intertwined with our freedom. Freedom, in a certain sense, is a function of ignorance. If we always knew ahead of time what was going to happen, we wouldn't be free.

I was thinking about this last night while watching a frustrating loss by the Dodgers. Out of all the major sports, baseball is most subject to the realm of chance, AKA the unknowable unknown. In basketball, for example, the best team almost always wins, especially if the players apply themselves. But in baseball the best team will still lose roughly a third of the time, and the worst team will win a third of their games. Thus, the best skill and soundest strategy are often trumped by chance.

In fact, the very purpose of strategy is to minimize the role of chance. For example, it is generally preferable to use righthanded hitters against a lefthanded pitcher, and vice versa. However, doing so doesn't result in a sure thing. Again, the future is unknown, so our strategy is deployed in the effort to tame it somewhat.

There are a number of lines to this effect in No Country for Old Men, which is all about ignorance and luck:

Point bein', even in the contest between man and steer the issue is not certain.

Or this exchange, that shows how our rules of strategy, which are designed to reduce ignorance and tame the future, don't always work out (i.e., sometimes a righthand hitter will get a base hit off a lefthand pitcher):

Anton Chigurh: And you know what's going to happen now. You should admit your situation. There would be more dignity in it.

Carson Wells: You go to hell.

Anton Chigurh: [Chuckles] Alright. Let me ask you something. If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?

But some people are ignorant of their ignorance:

Wendell: You think this boy Moss has got any notion of the sorts of sons of bitches that're huntin' him?

Ed Tom Bell: I don't know, he ought to. He's seen the same things I've seen, and it's certainly made an impression on me.

How little we really know:

Poolside Woman: Oh... that's who you keep looking out the window for?

Llewelyn Moss: Half...

Poolside Woman: What else then...?

Llewelyn Moss: Just looking for what's coming...

Poolside Woman: Yeah... But no one ever sees that coming...

This one is particularly relevant; I don't remember it in the film, but it's in the book:

You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.

Or this:

People complain about the bad things that happen to em that they don't deserve but they seldom mention the good. About what they done to deserve them things.

Another good one from the book, which certainly goes to our central topic, which is the role of government in eliminating ignorance and attempting to control the future:

It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people can't be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it.

Which immediately suggests an important electoral strategy of the left: if you want to justify the largest and most intrusive government possible, you'll need to create a lot of ungovernable people. A Blue Wave of them, as it were. No borders. No standards. A demographic invasion from below, as in California. This is a subject to which we will no doubt return.

In fact, this whole preface is by way of returning to the subject of Law, Legislation, and Liberty, which is so full of important insights that I'm having difficulty wrapping my mind around it. Maybe an amazon reviewer can sort it out for us.

the social order is produced by a complex array of institutions and behavioral norms, which have evolved and endure because they work. The Fatal Conceit of modern planners is to presume that the social order could be easily rearranged; but in fact the rationality of human planners is far more limited than the evolutionary ‘wisdom' that inheres in the complex rules of the free society.

This is helpful -- it's not just me:

Hayek wrote and published Law, Legislation, and Liberty on and off over a timespan of approximately 15 years, which were in part interrupted by ill health. Hayek admits that the result is at times repetitive and lacking in organization.

There are plenty of flashes of that true rhetorical brilliance characteristic of Hayek that can make his writings such a feast to the ear and mind. On the downside, however, these rhetorical gems are hidden in a large volume of pages that at times do indeed seem tedious, repetitive, and unorganized...

I suppose the ultimate insight is that rules are not -- and cannot be -- about guaranteeing outcomes, because that will undermine the very conditions of freedom and affluence. As in Venezuela, the state can guarantee a certain outcome only by eroding the conditions that make the outcome possible. But this is what the left does, every time. The first and last temptation of the left is denial of ignorance.

Hayek finds the philosophical base of totalitarian thought in the belief that "we can create the welfare with law, if we arrange it logically." That's why he calls every kind of totalitarian thought "constructive cartesian rationalism," because they all want to reform the whole world to realize their specific outcome...

By which he means that the world is not simple and linear, but complex and nonlinear. Treating a complex system as a simple one will generate disorder and bring about unintended consequences. For example, you can "raise taxes" on the simplistic assumption that the economy is a linear system. But doing so changes incentives and alters behavior throughout the system.

I have a number of notes to myself, for example, "The purpose of rules is to help us deal with the problem of not knowing what we cannot know." Or, "the essential problem is how to create a system in which we benefit from knowledge we do not possess, i.e., from our ignorance; or, how to utilize knowledge we don't have."

It calls to mind the famous essay about how no one knows how to make a pencil. Nevertheless, there are plenty of pencils for everyone. Think about it: if everyone who needed a pencil had to know how to make one, there would be very few pencils. Thus -- orthoparadox ahead -- it is specifically our ignorance that results in such an abundance of writing implements.

Contrast this with the Soviet Union, which would have attempted to predict ahead of time how many pencils are necessary, and marshal all the knowledge and resources necessary to manufacture them, inevitably resulting in too many or too few pencils due to a misallocation of resources. In this case, knowledge kills. Ignorance saves. Literally, if we're dealing with medicine and not just pencils.

Another note to myself: "funny how the left rejects intelligent design in biology but accepts it in economics."

All other animals consist of a repertoire of knowledge, so to speak. They know what they know (instinctively), and not only can they not fail to know it, they have no access to the much wider world of the Unknown. In other words, they don't know anything about ignorance, with the result that the are "sealed in knowledge" while being sealed from the ignorance that would free them.

Conversely, what really characterizes man -- even more than knowledge -- is our permanent state of ignorance. Ignorance is the prior condition of curiosity, wonder, and learning. And there is no end to it. If there were, then we would be as enclosed as any other animal, and thereby lose contact with the Absolute-Infinite that transcends us, and through which we "grow" by assimilating its substance.

Aphorisms.

--Intelligence does not consist in finding solutions, but in not losing sight of the problems.

--Politics is not the art of imposing the best solutions, but of blocking the worst.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Falcons and Falconers, Mobs and their Masters

Aw, look at me, I'm ramblin' again...

This morning I was looking for that quote (by Schuon) promised in the previous post, but in so doing fell into another unanticipated rabbit hole. Then again, maybe that's why I find the post s'durned innarestin'.

Schuon is like Dávila in his compressed rabbitholery: the sentences are fractal, such that each one contains a whole essay or book or even doctrine, so to utter One is to mutter it All.

Remarkable when you think about it. I know of no other writers who do that. Some come close, and some do it sometimes, but these two are masters of fractal speech. Which is a real thing requiring a real explanation, not something I just made up. Oh, we'll see about that!, said the rational side of his brain.

I assume you know about fractals, but a brief review never hurts:

a fractal is a detailed, recursive, and infinitely self-similar mathematical set.... Fractals exhibit similar patterns at increasingly small scales.... [and] can also be nearly the same at different levels.

Fractals exist in nature, but how? To put it more philosophically, by virtue of what principle are fractals possible and even necessary? As Mandelbrot, the discoverer of fractals, remarked, "A fractal is a shape made of parts similar to the whole in some way." I would say that if fractals are in nature, this must be because nature is fractal, which is what Whitehead suggested in so many ways (before the formal discovery of fractals). For example,

in a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus, every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world.

Dávila suggests that

Phrases are pebbles the that the writer tosses into the reader's soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond.

This implies that the soul is a series of concentric circles, and this would be correct. It is why we apprehend the world as just such a series, except that different people locate the circles around different centers, from energy to idea to soul to matter to unalloyed grievance (in the case of the left).

Leaving the dimensions of the pond to the side, there must be a center, or we couldn't think at all. Now, this center is the ground of thought, and -- whether implicitly or explicitly, coherently or incoherently -- a prolongation of the absolute.

Let's bring this down to a practical level: why is the nation of E pluribus unum -- of all places -- engaged in a civil war? Easy: different unums, which is to say, Absolutes.

The (real) Absolute includes the dimension of first principles, which you might say are as Son to Father. The Absolute "iterates" in time and space as (for example) principles of logic, natural law, and human nature. These constants are all different, and yet the same; they are brothers and sisters, related through blood to the vertical Absolute. They are also fractal, in that each "contains" and reflects the others, so it is more like an interlocking net than, say, a pointillist painting.

The point is, everything isn't just connected, but interior to everything else. On the metaphysical side, this is expressed by Whitehead; on the scientific side, by quantum physics; on the psychological side by intersubjectivity; and on the religious side by the great I AM or the irreducible interpersonalism of the Holy Spirit.

Ultimate reality is and must be personal, which is to say, Person, or human persons would be impossible. And a person is never just a person-in-isolation, or a monad; rather, a person is always implicitly person-in-relation, and this principle is the last (and first) word.

I need to emphasize how literal I'm being here. It's similar to how the Bible doesn't mention the word "Trinity." Rather, the Trinity is needed in order to tie up various loose ends that otherwise make no sense. It is the Truth of these lesser truths -- as in how quantum physics is the truth of Newtonian physics, which is the truth of our common sense world of experience.

Likewise, the Absolute is Person(hood); conversely, if it isn't a person, then truly, the center cannot hold, mere an-archy is loosed upon the world, and uh oh, here comes the blood-dimmed mob.

Again, I'm not trying to go all visionary on you this morning. Although Yeats words have become a cliche used by both right and (without irony or self-awareness) left, he was definitely on to something concrete. Yes, he was a visionary, but a vision is not a hallucination.

Let's put it this way: both the left and right agree that the gyre is widening. If there exists a "responsible left," it has lost control of its falcon mobs. But the falcon masters don't call their birdbrains mobs. Rather, they would no doubt say that a vast image troubles their sight, with the shape of a businessman and the head of a tyrant, a rough beast slouching toward re-election!

Back to what is at issue in our civil war: ultimately it is the Absolute on one side, and Absolute Relativism on the other. The latter, of course, reduces to nihilism, but don't tell the nihilists! Nevertheless, this is the only way to understand the ground of leftism.

For example, on one side we have the Constitution, on the other side whatever they want the Constitution to say. But if the Constitution can say anything, then it says nothing.

Which was true of the Soviet Union. The communist bill of rights was much better than ours. But what did it actually mean in practice? That's right: nothing. No, worse than nothing!

The clock is ticking down, so I want to get back to Schuon, which is where this all started. He writes that "If there is such a thing as abuse of the intelligence, it is to be found in the substitution of the relative for the Absolute..."

Intelligence on one side, abuse of it on the other. No wonder we're in a civil war.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Matrices of Life, Mind, and Spirit

I want to tie up some loose ends from yesterday's post. In so doing, we'll no doubt loosen some tight ends, but that's how it is with thinking: it is always a dialectical process of loosening and tightening, or what I call mental metabolism.

You could say that it is analysis (breaking down, loosening) and synthesis (integrating, tightening), but these two poles are always necessary for any deep thinking. Really, it is what makes us human instead of computers or robots or ideologues.

Schuon touches on this somewhere. If I'm lucky, I'll find it right away. If not, I'll move on.

Damn. I'm looking for something totally unrelated, but it is as if the first book I pick up comments on what I've already said: "The image of man presented to us by modern psychology is not only fragmentary, it is pitiable." Quite true. Which is why it no longer interests me; or, it interests me, but only up to a point -- the point at which psychology shades off into theology (and vice versa, for the dimension of psychology is a prolongation of something higher; the converse -- that religion is reducible to psychology -- is a popular delusion).

"In reality man is as if suspended between animality and divinity," but "modern thought -- be it philosophical or scientific -- admits only animality, practically speaking."

Now, if you haven't understood that literally, then you haven't understood it. For what is man in the absence of divinity? Correct: he is an animal, nothing more, nothing less. What we call "man" takes place in the nonlocal space between animality and divinity.

Which touches directly on the Kavanaugh madness and on our civil war more generally. Since the 1960s in particular, the left has been attacking and undermining every human norm, including norms of sexuality. Mission accomplished. Now what?

Well, now we are bearing witness to an unleashing of all the primitive energy which the norms had previously structured and channeled. Note also that what had been a spontaneous order that was evolved in order to cope with this perennial and insoluble problem, now had to be an external order imposed by some top-down bureaucracy -- e.g., campus sex police.

It is no different than if we had abolished the civilizational norms that channel any other instinct, say, aggression. Which liberals also did. Only when he has eroded law and order does the ahistorical liberal discover why law and order were there to begin with.

Thus, the soft-on-crime mania of the 1960s was followed immediately by a hard-on-citizens mania on the part of criminals for the subsequent two or three decades. Criminals are stupid, but not so stupid that they don't know how to recognize and respond to incentives. The same pattern repeated with President Obama's ceaseless attack on police. As we know, inner city blacks were and are the predominant victims of the Ferguson Effect.

Anyway, man exists in a matrix; and not just one, but several. Now, matrix comes from mater (mother), which is in turn related to uterus or womb. If you really want to know what distinguishes man from woman (womb-an) -- or maleness from femaleness -- it would be this matrix. A matrix is a space of organic growth and development. You can actually turn this around and say: where there is growth and development, it is contained by a matrix, whether visible or invisible, local or nonlocal, vertical or horizontal, spatial or temporal.

For example, if you try to grow a pine tree at the equator -- or a palm tree in Alaska -- it's the wrong matrix. Nothing has changed except for the surrounding space, but this space is everything, in the sense that it a necessary cause of growth, whereas the genetic form is only a sufficient cause.

Well, it's the same with humans: humans require a matrix, beginning with the literal matrix, AKA womb. But that is hardly the last womb we inhabit! Early infancy is literally the attempt to recreate the conditions of the womb, only on the outside. Eventually the child moves on (in) to higher and more subtle matrices, and is contained by the symbolic worlds of language, culture, religion, etc. To be so contained is to be human; an uncontained human is a psychopath, literally.

It occurs to me that our republic is supposed to be contained in and by the Constitution. No American disagreed with this proposition until Woodrow Wilson, and the left has been disagreeing with it ever since. They do not wish for state power to be contained, structured, and channelled by the Constitution. Rather, they want it to be constrained by their own wishes and desires, which is no constraint at all.

Their judicial philosophy is by no means a mirror image of ours, in which case we would say "a pox on both louses."

Rather, to take one obvious example, there is nothing about abortion, pro or con, in the Constitution. Thus, the right and proper thing for SCOTUS to have done in 1973 would have been to turn it back to the states. But if constitutional conservatives behaved like the left, they'd invent something in the Constitution to make abortion a federal crime -- say, an infant's right to privacy. This guy provides additional examples:

WE DON’T HAVE A “RADICAL RIGHT-WING SUPREME COURT,” despite lots of mewing on the left to the contrary. Here are the sorts of things that would be at the top of the agenda for a radical right-wing Court: (1) ban abortion nationwide as a violation of the right to life protected by the due process clause; (2) rule that publicly-provided (but not funded) education is unconstitutional because it inherently involves viewpoint discrimination by the government, or at least require vouchers for those who object to the public school curriculum; (3) overrule an 1898 precedent and completely abolish birthright citizenship; (4) Use the First Amendment as a sword to require “fairness” in the left-dominated media.

Not only is the Supreme Court not about to do any of [these] things, I don’t think any of these things would even get one vote on the current Court. Moreover, merely bringing the scope of Congress’s constitutional back to where it was, say, in 1935, which was already much broader than the original meaning of the Commerce power, probably wouldn’t get more than one or two votes. What you are looking at right now is a conservative Court that will only affect society on the margins, not a “radical right-wing” Court.

Here is the Schuon quote I was looking for, now that we're out of time:

Discernment is separative, and it is what "doctrine" refers to; concentration is unitive, and it is what "method" refers to; "faith" is connected to the first element, and "love of God" to the second.

Doctrine and method are as if two matrices, the first more spatial -- like a vast intellectual cathedral -- the second more temporal, like a growing plant. In both cases we are fed from above via love and faith. Call it the nonlocal umbilical cord without which we sophicate in mere animality.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Politics of Projection: In-sight vs. Out-blind

Can't spellcheck 'til later. Deal with it.

Despite being a clinical psychologist, I don't think or write much about psychology per se anymore. I don't know whether it's become so internalized that I just take it for granted, or whether my concerns are so focused on a higher reality that the lower ones fade from view.

The Aphorist tells us that The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths. However, it can also work conversely: sometimes the higher truths can eclipse the lower ones. Eclipse doesn't necessarily mean deny; rather, the light from one can obscure the light from the other -- as in how stars are overshadowed by the sun, even though they are much larger.

And just as one must maintain horizontal and exterior order, one must maintain vertical and interior order -- which necessarily involves hierarchy; no hierarchy, no vertical order. And I assume it hasn't escaped your attention that the left opposes all hierarchy (except when when they are at the top of the hierarchy). For example, now that more women than men attend college, feminists are not screeching that the sexes must be admitted on a 50/50 basis. Nor do we hear them complaining about "incarceration inequality":

For that matter, far too few women are killed on the job. Why do they avoid the dangerous ones? Do they think they're special?

The Aphorist also reminds us that In order for a multitude of diverse terms to coexist, it is necessary to place them on different levels. A hierarchical ordering is the only one that neither expels nor suppresses them. Psychology still exists, but it is psychology, not metaphysics or theology. If it does displace the latter two, then it inevitably ends up projecting the lower into the higher -- into the vacuum created by their absence.

Note that the same thing can happen at lower levels. For example, there was a time just yestercentury when psychology was in danger of being displaced by behaviorism. For the behaviorist, the mind doesn't exist, or if it does exist, it doesn't matter. Rather, there is only visible behavior, with no invisible mind behind -- much less above -- it.

Now, is there any truth to behaviorism? Of course. It just needs to be kept in perspective. Similarly, as mentioned in the previous post, there is surely truth in physics. But to suggest that physics is all truth is going way too far. This is when a scientific discipline becomes a mania.

And mania, like acting out, is a term of art. In psychoanalytic parlance, mania is a defense against depression. Except that in this context, depression too is a term of art. It doesn't just mean "sad" or dysphoric or bummed out. Rather, it implies the rejection of omnipotence and the acceptance of reality. You might say that it is resignation to the real. And reality can be kind of sad and sobering, at least compared to fantasy.

We're touching on some very important ideas that I'll need to flesh out further as we proceed.

Anyway, if I were to write about psychopathology, the past few weeks have provided a wealth of material. In fact, too much material. How to boil it all down to a simple explanation of the madness of the left?

By the way, another good reason to avoid psychology -- in this case psychologizing politics -- is that it's too easy to pathologize people with whom one disagrees. Anyone can do it, even a psychologist. As you know, the field of psychology leans left (to put it mildly), and there are countless papers that explain how and why conservatives are such mentally ill fascists. So if they do it to us, and we do it to them, doesn't that just prove the whole field has the validity of astrology?

Could be. Just as religion could be nonsense, since some religions believe in human sacrifice, while others call it murder.

I was trained in a certain school of psychoanalysis (itself a small and shrinking corner of psychology as such) that regards the exterior world as secondary to the interior world. No, not in the "I think I am" way of the rationalist. Rather, more like "I am this (pathological) way on the inside, so I imagine the exterior world is that way." In other words, pain, conflict, and frustration are projected from the inside out and regarded as real. You could call this the Primordial Conflation.

Now that I think about it, I am indeed tempted to think of man's fallenness in these terms. Pursuing this hunch will take us far afield, but you have to admit that a persistent bug in mankind -- ever since the dawn of history -- involves the confusion of inside and out, mind and world.

There is a section or two on this subject in our book, but the subject could easily be expanded into its own book. Or thousands of books. That is, externalization is a constant feature in human history, such that history cannot be understood at all without an appreciation of this defense mechanism.

For example, how does one understand the Aztec, whose whole civilization revolved around murdering thousands of innocent victims by slicing open their chests and cutting out the beating heart? Doing this just once would require a pretty good excuse. But thousands of times a year?

Nor do we have to go that far back in time. Nazis? Communists? Is a rational defense of these ideologies possible? Of course not. But that hardly means there weren't believed, passionately.

Speaking of which, remind me to tie this discussion into the well-written and highly entertaining The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy. Kalder describes the phenomenon without getting into the question of why all these hall of fame leftists are so evil and crazy, but that's our job. Suffice it to say at this juncture that

Great stupidities do not come from the people. They have seduced intelligent men first.

True then, true today. Look at all the professors and law students from elite universities who have condemned Brett Kavanaugh. These people are not stupid. Rather, they are plagued by something far worse.

Speaking of which, remind me also to bring in The Neuroscience of Intelligence at some point. Our merit-based society is indeed doing a fine job of sorting and rewarding people on the basis of intelligence. D'oh!

I was thinking about the implications of this over the weekend. No system is perfect, of course, but imagine that ours is pretty efficient at spotting and rewarding intelligence. Well, half of the population is of below average intelligence, so they might not like this system at all. There's your permanent Democrat base, right there.

Back to the defense mechanism of projection. When we act upon our projections, it is called acting out. Acting out is simply behaving as if one's projections are real. And as we've mentioned before, the great majority of "activists" -- in particular on the left -- have simply discovered an issue around which they can focus their emotional pain and then act out on it, instead of having insight into it.

Thus, "acting out" and "insight" are polar opposites: insight is the cure for acting out, while acting out is a major defense against insight. (And all psychological defense mechanisms are defenses against insight, e.g., denial, projection, rationalization, etc.).

According to Prof. Wiki, acting out

is a psychological term from the parlance of defense mechanisms and self-control, meaning to perform an action in contrast to bearing and managing the impulse to perform it. The acting done is usually anti-social and may take the form of acting on the impulses of an addiction or in a means designed (often unconsciously or semi-consciously) to garner attention (e.g. throwing a tantrum or behaving promiscuously)....

Freud considered that patients in analysis tended to act out their conflicts in preference to remembering them -- repetition compulsion. The analytic task was then to help "the patient who does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, but acts it out" to replace present activity by past memory.

In this context, "remembering" is synonymous with insight.

Let me get back to how this whole post started. It could have been anywhere, but it actually started with this guy. Look at what This Guy tweeted:

Time to get ruthless. ALL Republicans must go; every one; none should be allowed to appear in polite society again; must be shunned; relegated to the dustbin of history. White-nationalism dying a hard, mean, mean-hearted death of resentment & rage, trying to kill the country.

Where to begin? The first sentence implies that Democrats have not been ruthless toward Brett Kavanaugh, but that it's time to get that way. Not just toward him, and not even just his supporters, but to ALL Republicans, which is to say, half the country. So as to be precise, ruthless: having no pity; merciless, cruel.

So, this fellow is urging that half the population be mercilessly cruel toward the other half. Er, why? Presumably because you and I and all other conservatives are merciless and cruel. In other words, if you ask This Guy why he is so merciless and cruel, he'd have no idea what you're talking about. Rather, his whole worldview revolves around the idea that people with whom he disagrees are merciless and cruel.

It would be hard to find a more perfect example of projection. And he is urging people to act on this projection: acting out.

Could this guy really be this crazy, or is this just an aberration in the heat of the moment? Another tweet:

"Since 1992 Republicans have won only *one* Presidential Election with a *majority* of the overall vote. Minority rulers. UnAmerican."

Is such a crazy opinion susceptible to correction? If so, then it's just ignorant, not crazy. Now, our founders took great care to prevent the type of democracy he advocates. Does he know this? And does he know why democracy is so dangerous?

Yeah, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. He's just ignorant.

"Who gives a hoot anymore about what pervert Turd [by which I believe he means President Trump] thinks! What Republicans think! We KNOW what they think; cruelty is at their core."

Says the man who just advocated merciless cruelty.

Well, this sounds like something we might be able to agree on:

"I needed someplace to sooth the pain of this cruel last two weeks. I arrived at ⁦frick collection⁩ early, & began to heal some, loose [sic] myself in things bigger than I am or that *this* is. That impart the otherness & infinitude that art can grant. Art is for healing too."

Except here are some examples of what he regards as Healing Art:

We're out of time. We'll end with an aphorism or two:

The partisans of a cause are often the best arguments against it.

It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

True and False Humanisms

Bertrand Russell is another Genius who said and thought so many foolish things. Check out this doozy, from Physics & the Ultimate Significance of Time: "It is a mere accident that we have no memory of the future."

Yeah, well, that's just like, your opinion, man. While it may be challenging to say what time is, it's much easier to what it isn't, but if Russell is correct, it isn't anything. It's just a stubborn illusion. And delusion.

The essence of time is obviously change. But for Russell -- as for Einstein -- the essence of reality is changelessness, so time itself becomes accidental, i.e., not essential to reality. But how can one even think in the absence of time? It makes no sense. The reason why it makes no sense is that these geniuses attempt to approach time without subjectivity -- i.e., to remove the human subject from the cosmos. But why not take the cosmos as it is and how we find it? Why eliminate the most important feature of the universe out of fealty to an abstract model?

According to general relativity,

if I know the conditions in this instant, I can predict the entire future because the laws [of physics that govern this chunk of spacetime] are deterministic.... The future is entirely written, it's just not accessible to us [inside the block] at this point."

From this block time perspective, time, as we experience in the block universe, is an illusion. "It's not a real, fundamental property of nature," says Cortês. The ticking of time, our experience of time passing, is only because we are stuck inside the block universe, moving forward along the dimension of time.

If our Universe is like this block universe, then everything -- past and future -- has happened and our experience of time is just a mathematical artefact arising from the equations describing the Universe. But then why do we only experience moving forward in time -- why can't time flow backwards? What does this tell us about free will? Or is there another theory to describe the Universe that reinstates our intuitive certainty that there is something special about time?

For the answer, it says to click here. Okay, I'll bite.

As much as we would sometimes like to (speaking as someone who has just cleaned up a glass of spilt milk) we cannot go back in time. For us, time marches relentlessly on. Which makes it so surprising that, according to the equations that govern fundamental physics, time doesn't only have to move forward, it could move backwards too. "In the mathematics everything is so beautiful and symmetric.... The fundamental equations [of physics] are reversible with time."

I call BS. It's such a fine example of knowledge negating wisdom, or of (k) obscuring (¶). Who left physics in charge of all reality? Hint: not physics. Obviously, there is nothing in physics that says physics is to be our paradigmatic science. And in this scientistic day and age, it is critical to be liberated from this a priori fantasy. But it is equally critical to be liberated from the counter-fantasy of postmodernism! These two -- scientism and postmodernism -- are just pathological mirrors of one another.

Ironically, these two camps each like to call themselves "humanist," but nothing could be less deserving of the name, because they not only dislodge humans from the center, but render him a meaningless fluke. Conversely, I am the real humanist, because I believe the very existence of the human station is the most important fact in all of creation.

This is expressed mythopoetically in the formulation that man is in the image of the Creator, which, in more metaphysical terms, means that he is a reflection and prolongation of the Absolute. Note that the prolongation is continuous, while the reflection is discontinuous, an irreducible orthoparadox that must be respected. It is why we can literally say that man is surely not God, but not-not God either (and Christ mediates the orthoparadox).

The typical secular humanist would no doubt regard someone like Schuon as a frightening counter-example, but for me, he is the perfect expression of real humanism, in that he provides a rock solid foundation for our dignity, our rights, and our value, all objectively. This is one of my favorite lines, from his little book of aphorisms and wise cracks, emphasis mine:

The. Worth. Of. Man. Lies. In. His. Consciousness. Of. The. Absolute.

Conversely, the block universe of modern physics robs man of all dignity and worth, and not just "in a manner of speaking," but literally: it maintains "that our feeling that we have choice in our lives is an illusion.... The block universe says that we're mere puppets living our lives, the play has already been written..."

Mere puppets with no choice, living in illusion. Some humanism. Some dignity.

It also leads to the question of how we can know the theory is true if we are living in illusion and have no choice in the matter, but we'll leave that to the side. However, notice that scientism slips in a false absolute, even while pretending we have no access to it.

Here's a thought: perhaps physics only describes the world described by physics (a circular and closed metaphysical tautology), not the worlds of life, mind, and spirit. Maybe those ladder worlds not only require their own sciences, but perhaps those sciences are more paradigmatic than physics. In other words, who said physics is more fundamental than biology, i.e., the science of complex systems?

Not Robert Rosen, that's for sure. Let me be clear: I am infinitely grateful to modern physics, because without it there would be no internet, and without the internet I would have never discovered a Robert Rosen (and so many others) in a thousand years. Nevertheless, as Rosen says (and it was a Moment of Liberation -- from the stubborn delusion of scientism -- when I first read this) that the world of complex systems "is much larger and more generic than the simple world we inherit from reductionism."

Bʘʘm!

In short, life cannot be reduced to physics. Physics, however, can be subsumed into Life. Biology, you might say, reveals the New Physics. This New Physics was always here, but not visible until the emergence of organisms. Which goes back to my dissertation and to the papers I published out of it. For example, Ilya Prigogine -- on whose theories they were partially based -- said that "The theory of open systems has opened up an entirely new field of physics."

Among other important developments, only an open system has an outside because it has an inside. This doesn't mean that "insidedness" only begins with biology. Rather, it is there from the start, ultimately in the I AM discussed in yesterday's post.

Two problems: my thoughts are running ahead of my ability to transcribe them, plus there are so many dimensions and implications that I can't chase all of them down in the allotted time. The result is another shambolic post that raises more questions than it can ever answer. My bad. Let's leave off with an aphorism by Schuon that may help to clean up the mess we've left:

Our deiformity implies that our spirit is made of absoluteness, our will of freedom...

I would say that man is quintessentially Intellect-Will-Sentiment, which are prolongations of Truth-Freedom-Love, and that this expresses the only True Humanism -- the only humanism worthy of humans. Anything that erodes this humanism is not only false, but will inevitably give rise to monsters in human form and monstrosities of various kinds.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

I Sight to the Blind

How is it possible for there to be something rather than nothing; here rather than everywhere (or nowhere); and now rather than always? These are far from nonsense questions, although they generate countless nonsense answers.

I recall Einstein being puzzled by the last one in particular: "For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one" (in Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time).

Wow, not a single review for that book, which was published in 1985. My copy is copiously highlighted and underlined, with lots of marginalia. I don't know what I'd think of it today, but I remember it being very helpful at the time -- the same time I was working on the dissertation I've mentioned in the past two posts.

How and why was it helpful at the time? Well, I suppose it goes back to the Curse of the Autodidactic Polymath. And of the late bloomer. I don't believe I ever had even a semi-serious thought in my head until I was well into my 20s. My son, for example -- who is 13 -- is much deeper and more thoughtful than I was at 23. That's about when the headlight flickered on, but the library -- in my head -- was empty. In other words, the thinker began to stir, but there were no materials with which to think. I knew a lot about popular music and baseball, but that was about the extent of it.

So I began reading, voraciously, in ever expanding circles, about everything -- literature, philosophy, economics, anthropology, psychology, physics (popularized, not straight from the bottle), history, religion, art, new age quackery, and more. Why am I like this? I have no idea, except insofar as I was born this way, and it would be painful for me to have to live in any other way.

As I've mentioned before, I graduated college with a BA in Radio-TV-Film in the early '80s. Why RTVF, of all things? Because I wanted to extend my adolescence as long as possible while keeping my parents off my back. So long as I was a College Student, I could forestall adult responsibility. I didn't even know there was such a frivolous major as RTVF (this was before all the "---- Studies departments), but when a friend told me about it, I jumped right in. What could be easier than watching TV and movies? Even I could do that!

But providence works in strange ways, and the whole thing proved to be much more challenging than I had bargained for. In particular, there was a lot of writing about a lot of different subjects, because movies have so many different dimensions -- including the psychology of character. No single person could ever make a film. Films are inherently collaborative, because they involve so many specialties.

Eh, I don't like the self-indulgent direction this post is taking. Back to time. Recall what was said in the first paragraph about something, here, and now, as opposed to nothing, everywhere, and always. Each of these involves an enigma which physics is helpless to address or resolve. Here's another observation by Einstein:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

That's not just bullshit, but the epic kind. It reflects perfectly the aphorism that Nothing proves more the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession (Dávila).

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space." Just when you think this post has nothing to do with the previous two, Einstein comes along to forge the thread. In that single sentence he makes a number of metaphysical assertions, but they certainly aren't supported by physics. Physics tells us precisely nothing about the human condition. If you don't believe me, ask the typical professor of physics the meaning of life, restricting his answer to the axioms and equations of physics.

Notice that Albert doesn't so restrict himself, and yet, one can't help suspecting that he is so metaphysically naive that he imagines he is. For example, how does he know human beings are locked in a prison of time and space? If that were true, we could never know it. Thus, by asserting it, Einstein has transcended it.

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe. Oh? Have you ever perceived this whole? Or is it simply an assumption of physics? It is clearly the latter. This was first brought home to me by the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki:

How can a scientific cosmologist be sure that his model of the cosmos is truly about the strict totality of consistently interacting bits of matter? Can scientific cosmology contain the proof of the existence of such a totality?

Think about it: how can physics presume to model all of reality? Speaking of continuity, now we're right back to Hayek and the knowledge problem. Ironically, science only works because it is an open system. No person or body of persons is responsible for the progress of science. Rather, it is quintessentially an open-ended, spontaneous order. It makes progress so long as no centralized power is forcing it to do so. Like an economy.

"[W]holes as such are never given to our observation but are without exception constructions of our mind. They are not 'given facts'.... They cannot be perceived at all apart from a mental scheme that shows the connection between some of the many individual facts which we can observe" (The Counter Revolution of Science).

Please note how Hayek trumps Einstein because common sense trumps the most sophisticated physics conceivable. Or, sophisticated physics renders itself unsophisticated the moment it forgets its assumptions and pretends to transcend its own limits. That is when rationalism becomes irrational.

Back to my autobobgraphy for a moment: how did I end up approaching the enigma of time? Again, this book (Physics & the Ultimate Significance of Time) was helpful, if only because it pointed me to Whitehead, who had every much the genius of an Einstein, only mingled with a little common sense. Let's compare and contrast. At the beginning of the book are several pages of observations about time by various notable persons from antiquity to the 20th century.

Recall what Einstein said above: "For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one."

The operative term is believing, AKA faith.

Whitehead: "Apart from time there is no meaning for purpose, hope, fear, energy. If there be no historic process, then everything is what it is, namely, a mere fact. Life and motion are lost."

This one is even better -- much better, as it is the gateway to the Permanent Real:

Science can find no aim in nature: Science can find no creativity in nature; it finds mere rules of succession. These negations are true of natural science. They are inherent in its methodology. The reason for this blindness of physical science lies in the fact that such science only deals with half the evidence provided by human experience.

That other half is the human subject, itself a prolongation of subjectivity as such, AKA the great I AM.

Frustrating! I wish I could go on all day, but blogging doesn't pay the bills.