Friday, September 13, 2019

The Self-Evident Truth Society

Reader James asks (or asked five years ago): "How does Cosmic Orthodoxy relate to common sense? Or to self-evident truths? If you were to start 'The Self-Evident Truth Society: Dedicated to Halting the Abandonment of Common Sense,' what would be your top ten cosmic orthodox principles, or self-evident truths?"

Aphorisms:

--Thinking is often reduced to inventing reasons to doubt what is evident.

--Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest.

--Man goes out hunting less for truths than for loopholes.

--The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths.

And one of my all time favorites -- indeed, a guiding principle of the book I'm supposedly working on:

--In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter (Dávila).

Also, I might remind the reader of a book we've discussed in the past, Robert Spitzer's Ten Universal Principles.

Now, Sr. Dávila exaggerates just a bit, which he is wont to do in the pursuit of inducing a guffah HA! experience in the reader. The larger orthoparadoxical point is that we often need to know a little in order to understand a lot; and conversely, that a great deal of knowledge can interfere with deeper understanding. Often this is because, as Dávila says

--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.

Which is what he means when he says "Any straight line leads straight to a hell."

So, the first principle is God -- or O -- but this principle obviously isn't on the same level as the others, but rather, is the reason why there are any principles at all: no Principle, no principles; no Creator, no creation; no Absolute, no relative; no Person, no persons. Etc.

In short, hierarchy. Note that the hierarchy is not a duality, or else we are in Gnostic/Manichean land. And what's wrong with that? Well, it reduces to two ultimate principles, which is impossible because self-contradictory. But nor do we posit an absolute monism that excludes relativity. Rather, for reasons we may or may not get into with this post, we posit a trinitarian godhead, such that the many is always in the One, and vice versa.

On to the old post:

In The Common Mind we read of "the attempt to integrate the intellect with the whole personality, and in so doing oppose intellectualism." This would be an example of a Cosmic Principle, but difficult to express in the form of a Top Ten list, for it implies, and is implied by, so many other truths.

Such as?

Such as the principle that man is in the image and likeness of the Creator; that man -- uniquely among creatures -- spans the vertical spectrum from the lowest to the highest planes, for better and/or worse; that knowledge is em-bodied and in-carnated; or even prior to this, that man is adequate to reality, not vis-a-vis his fragmented and desiccated ego-mind, but with his unified soul-intellect.

Conversely, mere intellectualism is the way of the tenured, of the infertile egghead who imagines (in the lower sense) that truth can be contained within an ideology, e.g., scientism, feminism, progressivism, etc. ("The learned fool has a wider field to practice his folly." --NGD).

Only with higher intellect do we preserve the essential "otherness" of primordial truth, which is always relational and therefore personal. Anything (hierarchically) short of this is idolatry pure and simple. And idolatry places a wall between person and God. Pure and simple².

Recall Mayor Giuliani's theory of aesthetics: if I can do it, it isn't art. Similarly, if we can grasp it with our shriveled tenureMind, it cannot possibly be true. Moreover -- and this is a somewhat advanced aphorism, as it assumes a degree of activated CoonVision -- It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false.

Such as? Oh, such as the ten supremely creepy beings on the debate stage last night. My discarnate friend Petey spontaneously knows that "what" they say -- as disturbing as it is -- isn't as disturbing as "who" they are.

Now, Darwin, who was far more intellectually honest than his latter day wackolytes, was rightly puzzled by the question of why -- i.e., by virtue of what principle -- we should ever trust the blithering cognitions of a modified ape. For if an ape is capable of knowing truth, this is no mere ape but an entirely novel cosmic category irreducible to random genetic error. Look, if you've discovered the truth of man, you are more than a man, let alone ape. How to explain the explanation (or better, explainer)?

Which is again why even a literalist reading of Genesis is more true than a strict Darwinian approach, because the former is true where it counts, i.e., on the human plane. Indeed, it preserves our humanness where Darwinism necessarily unexplains and eliminates it, such that if metaphysical Darwinism is true, it is false.

Reason only permits us to proceed from the known to the unknown. Thus rationalism begins with what it needs to explain, that is, the prior human ability to know. Therefore, it seems to me that two of our Top Ten principles must surely be that reality is intelligible and that man may know it. But these are really two sides of the same principle, which is Creation, or Rational Creator (or Person).

Therefore, in my view, to even talk about "truth" is to implicitly acknowledge the Creator. The problem with the left -- and with its retarded sister, scientism -- is that it neither acknowledges its own first principles nor follows them all the way to their inevitable conclusions, which is why they are so free to engage in such sloppy thinking. Dávila:

The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them.

In The Common Mind, (lower case r) reason is opposed to common sense, the latter of which "perceives truth, or commands belief, not by progressive argumentation, but by an instantaneous, instinctive, and irresistible impulse; derived neither from education nor from habit, but from nature..."

In other words, transnatural intellection is to the human being what natural instinct is to the animal. Among other things, it is a homing instinct that orients us to the truth -- or source of truth -- that precedes us and of which we are ultimately constituted.

Moore continues: "That which is self-evident can neither be proved nor disproved by reason or logic" -- for example, our self-evidently free will. To deny free will is only to affirm it, since a truth not freely arrived at is no truth at all.

There may be an even more general principle behind the ideas discussed in this post. Perhaps it is this: that reality both Is and is anterior to our knowing it. But in knowing this we know that knowledge is always bound up with this prior reality in which we participate through assimilation.

Correct thinking requires a kind of negation. To paraphrase Russell Kirk, conservatism is the negation of ideology. Leftism is a parody of this, in that it is the negation of principle (or the blind acceptance of unarticulated principles). There is a big difference between a political animal and an animal with politics. Only the former can know and understand this self-evident principle.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wisdom, Maturity, Common Sense

More common sense from five years ago. If it was commonsensical then, it should still be today, no? In other words, if common sense exists, one of its characteristics would be that it never goes out of style. What's the word? Yes, perennial. The perennial wisdom.

Speaking of which, Dennis Prager's latest column explains how good intentions in the absence wisdom redounds to evil. Does wisdom equate to common sense? Not exactly. It seems to me that wisdom is distilled from common sense -- that no one lacking in common sense can be called wise, but wisdom is more refined and articulated.

Another important element in any discussion of common sense is "maturity." People lacking in common sense are immature, but in a literal way, in the sense that maturity implies a telos to psychological development. Failure to mature is the sine qua non of character pathology, in that the personality, either in whole or in part, has failed to attain its proper end (no different from any other organ). Davila has a number of aphorisms that go to maturity, common sense, and wisdom, such as

--The young mature when the old no longer seems automatically bad and the new no longer seems automatically good.

--To mature is to discover that every object desired is only the metaphor for the transcendent object of our desire.

--To mature is to transform an increasing number of commonplaces into authentic spiritual experience.

--To mature is to see the increase of the number of things about which it seems grotesque to give an opinion for or against.

--The independence of which every youth boasts is no more than submission to the new prevailing fashion.

--Young people believe that youth is a destination, when it is merely a provincial bus stop.

Wisdom, according to Schuon, "is simple, inasmuch as its expressions converge on That which alone is, and wisdom has the gift of simplifying; but it also comprises, for that very reason, all the sanctifying riches which the human soul, so diverse in its nature, may need during its pilgrimage towards the Immutable."

And where we are situated on the Pilgrimage Towards the Immutable must be a measure of our degree of maturity, eh?

On to the old post:

Is there such a thing as common sense, or has it been successfully eradicated by the Big Education of the state? If it does exist, what is it, and how does it work? Is it something a person has by virtue of his personhood, or is it something only acquired through experience? And if the latter, is it through personal experience, or the collective experience of generations who have had to face the same existential conditions? And where does one acquire such collective wisdom? From the family? Culture? Education? The state?

What if the most important things not only can't be taught, but can't even be clearly articulated? Rather, they can only be lived and maybe symbolized, but not with language per se. A passage lifted from Happy Acres resonates:

The challenge for each new generation is figuring out what’s worth keeping and what worth tinkering with. The progressive attitude is that everything is eligible not just for tinkering, but wholesale replacement. The people who lived yesterday were idiots, but we are geniuses!

Which goes to something Schuon said on a number of occasions: that if people prior to us were such idiots, it is impossible to explain how we could be so brilliant, given the crooked and even diseased timber from which we are made. It's almost as if progressives posit a kind of cognitive original sin that strangled the mentality of every man until this angelic breed suddenly and inexplicably arrived on the scene with their immaculate and sinless intellects. As if they are literally the ones we've been waiting for.

But "The conservative attitude is to assume that our parents and grandparents weren’t fools and that they did some things for good reasons." However, as alluded to above, it is possible that these reasons were never consciously thought out or articulated. Rather, perhaps "some things our forebears bequeathed us are good for no 'reason' at all."

This is consistent with Hayek, who "argued that many of our institutions and customs emerged from 'spontaneous order' -- that is, they weren’t designed on a piece of paper, they emerged, authorless, to fulfill human needs through lived experience, just as our genetic 'wisdom' is acquired through trial and error. Paths in the forest aren’t necessarily carved out on purpose. Rather they emerge over years of foot traffic."

Which reminds me of something I read in Lawrence in Arabia. It is impossible to imagine the vastness of the desert, which is like a featureless ocean of sand and rocks. However, the Bedouins don't simply wander around blindly. Rather, the sandscape is dotted with the occasional well, so if we were to map the human phase space of the desert, we would actually see well worn (but invisible) paths from well to well.

Well, it's the same with the human mindscape. One of the fondest principles of progressives is that the mind is indeed a trackless desert -- a blank slate -- and therefore infinitely malleable. Absent that dubious principle, then progressive schemes cannot get off the ground, because people are going to persist in being people, and there's not a damn thing the state can do about it.

This explains why progressive schemes often get a few inches off the ground, only to promptly crash and burn. Which then requires another progressive scheme to put out the fire and clean up the mess. Repeat ad infinitum.

Continuing with the Happy Acres passage,

In the parable of the fence, Chesterton says you must know why the fence was built before you can tear it down. But Burke and Hayek get at something even deeper: what if no one built the fence?... Or what if everyone built the fence without realizing it? What if we are surrounded by fences that were never consciously built or planned but were instead the natural consequence of lived experience?

Do you think beavers wonder about how to defend their tradition of dam building, or that spiders worry about the environmental impact of their webs? Similarly, "So much of what makes civilization civilized is intangible, spontaneous, and mysterious. An unknowable number of our greatest laws are hidden, our greatest wisdom is authorless, and our most valuable treasures are in our hearts. This should foster enormous humility about how to out-think humanity."

I think this explains how and why the people who try to outthink humanity are always lacking in common sense, even if they are otherwise "geniuses." For example, Albert Einstein: genius at physics. Immature boob at politics. Noam Chomsky: they say he's a savant at linguistics, but this hardly prevents him from being an idiot at everything else.

Bion said something about the limitations of language, to the effect that we run into trouble when we try to use this device designed to negotiate the physical world to map the psychic -- let alone spiritual -- world. Obviously, in order to accomplish the latter, we will have to use language in a different way, if we can accomplish it at all.

To cite one particularly obvious example, if you want to be perfectly literal, then there can be no name, no word, for God. As soon as you confer a name, you have placed a boundary around the boundless and signified the unsignifiable.

But there are many things of this nature -- even the most important things in life. I would say that there is a kind of permanent dialectic between knowledge and mystery -- (k) and O -- and that to pretend to have transcended or eliminated the latter is to drain life of all its romance, charm, and adventure. Think about this the next time you imagine you could do a better job at creating a cosmos: how to make one that is simultaneously infinitely knowable and yet infinitely mysterious?

In my opinion, this can only be because the cosmos is personal and from the hand of a person, since a person is the quintessential case of something infinitely knowable and yet utterly mysterious and "other."

You could say that we are talking literally about embodied -- or incarnated -- truth(s).

Fine observation by Eliot, also lifted from Happy Acres, about "the decline of religious sensibility." Sensibility is not sense per se, but sensation in a higher key, so to speak -- like good taste in music or poetry.

So,

The trouble of the modern age is not merely the inability to believe certain things about God and man which our forefathers believed, but the inability to feel towards God and man as they did. A belief in which you no longer believe is something which to some extent you can still understand; but when religious feeling disappears, the words in which men have struggled to express it become meaningless (emphasis mine).

Thus, there are any number of things in which human beings believe because they understand them, even without being able to explain how or why. This goes back to Paul's crack about faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not (yet) seen. This "substance" is the ground of being, while the evidence is its end; or, just say origin and destiny, which is where we always are, because we are in (created and personal and meaningful) being.

When we talk about the "social issues" at the root of the culture war, the problem is that we are mostly talking about pre- or trans-articulated, embodied knowledge, or common sense. In his latest Jonah Goldberg writes of how these are also connected to

the role and authority of the family. Arguments about abortion, gay marriage, obscenity, sex ed, etc. all connect to the family directly or indirectly. Even gun rights have a lot to do with the family, and not just because 'gun culture' is primarily learned in the home. Guns fit neatly into the conception of the autonomous family and the role of parents as primary protectors of their children.

Furthermore,

no institution transmits culture more effectively than the family. We learn language, dialect, and accents in the home.... We get most of our religion and morality at home. We learn from our parents how citizens behave in a society and what they should expect from society and government. It's important to keep in mind that while parents teach their kids by telling them things, the real learning comes from watching what parents do — or don't do. Kids are wired to emulate their parents (emphasis mine).

Here again, we're talking about incarnated and largely unarticulated knowledge, i.e., how to "be" (i.e., the "unthought known"). Which is in turn "why progressives of all labels have had their eye on the family. It is the state's greatest competition."

Or to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson -- now, there was an honest and honestly nasty progressive! -- said, "the primary mission of the educator is to make children as unlike their parents as possible."

Which is ultimately to make them as unlike human beings as possible. Well done.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Common Sense, Common Core, Common Crap

Here's a tasty repost that's even older than yesterday's exotic repast. Again, in preparation for diving into Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World, we're taking a trip down into the moldy hull of the arkive in order to see what we've already written on the subject of common sense.

Which you might be tempted to think is boring or trivial. Quite the opposite, especially in our mentally and spiritually retarded day and age, in which common sense is under assault from all sides. The question is, why? You wouldn't teach a child to stare at the sun or play with matches. Why then would you teach him that people have no gender until they decide what it is?

By the way, these old posts are extensively edited and revised, so there's no excuse to avoid reading them unless you just don't feel like it.

We've been exploring the controversial (!) notion that knowledge exists and that it is a real and efficacious adequation to reality -- i.e., that man may know the truth of existence.

Before going any further, I would say that if common sense exists, it can only be rooted in this principle: that knowledge does exist and that (therefore) it is a real and efficacious adequation to reality. Schematically it looks like this: reality --> knowledge; knowledge exists because there is a reality, but equally important, we know reality exists because we have knowledge of it.

You know the old gag that all happy families are alike, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way? Well, it's not true of families, but it is true of common sense. We might say that all people with common sense are alike, while every person without it is stupid in his own way. It's why (by definition) there can only be one true philosophy but an infinite number of false ones.

A false or partial philosophy results from the elevation of cosmic stupidity to first principle. But stupidity in, garbage out, no matter how one tries to spin it. Conversely if truth comes out of your philosophy, something must go in in order to make it possible. By extension, you can't say "chemistry in, soul out," or "chaos in, information out," and leave it at that. That's just magic.

Speaking of which, a couple of days ago the WSJ had a review of a book called Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self. Now, right away I see problems with that title, because there can be no "science" of the "self," because science deals only with the How, not the Why. A better title might be something like "Why Science Cannot Tell Us Anything Important About the Self," but it would be a blank book.

Aphorisms:

--The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

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

--Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything (NGD).

The author evidently searches for herself in all the wrong places, including her genes, brainscans, personality tests, and more. But as the reviewer correctly points out, "even if we could measure every atom in a brain, we would need creativity and ingenuity to add a layer of interpretation to the data, and complete comprehension would still remain beyond us."

Thus, as it pertains to persons, even the most complete possible science is infinitely distant from the "object" it is attempting to comprehend. Instead of being an adeqation to reality, it is an inadequation to unreality. Or, to put it colloquially, science is inadequate to the task of comprehending subjective reality.

This isn't at all surprising, because a scientific approach to the self is like counting the digital bits in a CD to try to understand the performance it encodes. The performance by definition not only transcends the bits, but is their sufficient reason. In other words, the bits exist for the sake of the performance, not vice versa.

In her final chapter, the author suggests that self-perception may be a fiction -- a conclusion that will make perfect sense to anyone who is totally bereft of personal insight. But self-deception only exists because there is a self to be deceived.

The author confesses that, in her quest for a scientific explanation of the self, she veered "dangerously close at times to the precipice of philosophy."

Oh dear! Speaking of people who are bereft of insight, how can someone fail to understand that science becomes a philosophy -- a naive philosophy called scientism -- when it tries to transform a method into a doctrine?

--Those who reject all metaphysics secretly harbor the coarsest (NGD).

The self partakes of both universality and particularity. In other words, we are all unique individuals, and yet, there exist self-evident truths available to all functioning adults. Much of this has to do with our embodied-ness, that is, our common corpus. We all have the same five senses, the same brain structure, the same developmental sequence.

Which raises some interesting questions about the possibility of a "common core." This subject has become controversial, because the left wants to impose its common crap on the nation's children, even while insisting there is no common human nature. Therefore, when they say "common core," what they really mean is indoctrination -- not what all humans can know, but what all humans had better know, or else, in order to be compliant subjects of the State (the one Great Body we really have in common).

A recent Hillsdale Imprimus touches on this subject. In it, Larry Arnn writes that a "true core" would have a "unifying principle, such as the idea that there is a right way to live that one can come to know."

But the leftist common core has precisely the opposite purpose: multiculturalism, for example, is founded upon the principle that all cultures are equally beautiful except ours, which is uniquely racist, misogynistic, imperialist, and homophobic.

Aren't you being a little polemical, Bob? Well, Arnn cites a passage from the Teacher's Guide for Advanced Placement, which tells us that such antiquated terms as "objectivity" and "factuality" have "lost their preeminence." Rather, instruction is "less a matter of transmittal of an objective and culturally sanctioned body of knowledge, and more a matter of helping individuals learn to construct their own realities."

Oh. Who knew we had to be taught how to live in our own realities? And who knew, for that matter, that reality had a plural? Indeed, if it has a plural form, doesn't that violate its own definition? In short, if "perception is reality," then neither of these terms exist, because in equating them they lose all meaning. In other words, perception must be of reality, and reality is what is perceived.

So, if we are going to have a "common core," I propose that it shouldn't exclude reality. Rather, I suspect that this thing called "reality" is what human beings have most in common.

This is because man is a kind of membrain between intelligence and reality. Ultimately, man is the point of contact between two spheres or dimensions.

In reading this short book on the apostle Paul, we are reminded that -- speaking of our cultural heritage -- "the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant... was considered the point of contact between God and man." Later, a sect of deviant Jews would come to regard Jesus as this point of contact, in whom we could participate in the Absolute reality. Interestingly, this is truly a "common corpus," AKA Corpus Christi.

This point of contact is actually a kind of abyss. In the absence of God, then it is the abyss of nothingness, with no possibility of a common core.

But in reality, this is an "abyss of divine goodness," and by plunging into it we are drawn up into the Great Attractor which we all share in common. In this sense, faith is a kind of conformity to reality, a cosmic Yes, whereas the faithlessness of the left is a cosmic NO! to God, to Man, and to the fertile reality in between.

Common sense is the father’s house to which philosophy returns, every so often, feeble and emaciated. --Dávila

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Logocide, Soul Murder, and the Death of Common Sense

Some of you may recall a book we discussed a couple years ago, called Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea, by Robert Curry. Well, Curry has written a sequel, Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World, due out later this month. He was kind enough to send me a copy, so now I have something new to write about.

But before doing so, I want to review what I've already written about common sense, beginning with this post from five years ago, originally titled It All Starts with Dictionary Abuse -- which it surely does, "It" meaning the uncommon sense -- or rather, common nonsense -- of the left. For as Dávila says in one of his most important aphorisms about the left, it is a lexicographical tactic more than an ideological strategy. Meaning that always and everywhere, the left begins by torturing the plain meaning of words -- words such as "freedom," or "rights," or "equity," or "justice."

In the counter-cosmos of the left, In the beginning was the word, and the word was redefined. The left knows as well as anyone that language has magical properties. The difference between us and them is that they co-opt the magic in order to seize and expand their own power. Which transforms it to black magic, precisely. It is a kind of demonic transubstantiation in which the form remains but the substance changes (e.g., "homosexual marriage").

Ultimately the left breaks the sacred covenant between word and thing, such that language is only about more language (as in deconstruction, the precise opposite of the metaphysical realism of orthodox Christianity). This effectively blocks the way to transcendence, thus enclosing us in a manmade immanent logosphere. This is what totalitarianism does, every time: the means of our escape is transformed into the means of our enslavement. A number of aphorisms go to this diabolical process, such as

In certain eras the intelligence has to devote itself merely to restoring definitions.

Marxism turns the intelligence that it touches to stone.

The leftist does not have opinions, only dogmas (NGD).

In other words -- and you must understand this literally -- the leftist lives in an ontologically closed world whereby verticality is denied in favor of an absurcular horizontality in which unavoidable ignorance is transformed to smug certitude.

Or maybe you didn't catch any of the seven-hour climate scarathon on CNN the other night, in which the candidates promised to outlaw everything from cheeseburgers to plastic straws on the grounds that they will end Life On Earth. Worst weather report ever. Notice how their cheap omniscience -- after all, it didn't cost them a thing, not even their private jets -- is transformed into a very costly denial of our freedom. They know. We pay.

Anyway, on to the old post:

Everyone is in favor of common sense, right?

No. In fact, I think this is another one of those questions that distinguishes left from right. You could say that conservatism is simply the conservation of common sense -- of time-rested general agreement about the Way Things Are and how to order our lives around these truths (in other words, the world, AKA reality, comes first, not our ideas, dreams, and fantasies).

The leftist would respond, "maybe, but a great deal of oppression and stupidity also get imported along with the good, so there is no intrinsic reason to defer to the past. We can always do better."

People don't generally think too deeply about common sense, which is one reason why it can be difficult to defend when challenged, as in "who are you to say that marriage must be limited to members of the opposite sex?"

That's not an honest question; rather, it is simply the aggressive abandonment of common sense. We know this, because one might just as well ask, "why limit marriage to just two people, or to human beings, or to living things? Why do you arbitrarily exclude robots, or sheep, or inflatable partners?" Once you go down that path, you've abandoned common sense, so there's no end to it.

A book I'm reading at the moment, The Common Mind, goes to this question of common sense. It's actually a collection of essays, each devoted to a thinker who championed the common sense of Christian humanism in the face of the hostile and regressive forces that are always arrayed against it, in every age. It seems that this is what fallen man does, by virtue of his fallenness. It reminds me of Russell Kirk's brief definition of conservatism, which is to say: the negation of ideology.

Yeah, it's always been this way, and always will be. There are always omnnisicent asssouls such as Obama who want to fundamentally transform the world, and in so doing conduct a frontal assault on common sense. In the words of Samuel Johnson,

It remains that we retard what we cannot repel, that we palliate what we cannot cure. Life may be lengthened by care, though death cannot be ultimately defeated.

At best we may give "longevity to that which its own nature forbids to be eternal." Which implies that the left will ultimately succeed in destroying the United States, just as death will succeed in taking us all, but so what? It remains for us to do the right thing for its own sake, not for some secondary gain.

To paraphrase someone, there is no lost cause because there is no permanently gained one. Rather, there is only the same struggle, as each generation tries to hold the ground gained by the previous one, handing forward the Deposit of Common Sense. (Along these lines, I can't help thinking how my generation -- the Worst Generation ever, the Boomers -- not only failed to hand on this sacred deposit, but arrogantly tossed it overboard in the quest to begin anew, like Adam 2.0: this time we'll get it right, and we will be as gods!)

It's the same with language. One of the perennial tactics of the left is its relentless attack on language, which is the vehicle of common sense. It is as if there is a conserving and integrating force in language, to go along with a dis-integrating and catabolic force. In reality, both are needed -- conservation and change -- in order to progress. As it pertains to Life Itself, change is the very means of conservation, and vice versa.

But progress does not and cannot occur by destroying the very mechanism of conservation, by undermining the plain meaning of words. Thus, one could say that there is nothing quite as conservative as a dictionary; likewise, on the political plane one could say that there is nothing as conservative as the Constitution (which naturally allows for constitutional change, just as language allows for new words; conversely, progress is negated by pretending the Constitution means anything we want it to mean).

But this simple common sense won't do for the left. For example, the Constitution plainly forbids discrimination on the basis of race, so the left (to paraphrase Justice Scalia) is in the position of arguing that the 14th amendment actually requires what it expressly forbids. In order to accept their argument, one must simply abandon common sense.

In the chapter on Chesterton, I was reminded of his comment to the effect that most all philosophy since Aquinas requires us to accept one insane premise. Once we have done so, the rest of the insanity follows with ineluctable logic. It makes it easy, because one doesn't have the burden of remembering dozens of lies. Rather, so long as one assimilates the first, the rest flows along from entailment to entailment. Which Adam learned the hard way.

"Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody's system of philosophy has really corresponded to everybody's sense of reality" (Chesterton). Which is interesting right there, because why not? If there is a common reality and a common human nature, then why can't we all agree on a common philosophy?

One reason why Aquinas' philosophy is so attractive is that it comports with common sense. It is "the philosophy of sanity since it is integrative, universal, sensible, and reiterative of the common understanding of experience rooted in the senses and refined by reason." And what is sanity? It is simply the registration of objective reality, "the universal wholeness that connects man and God, matter and mind, heart and soul." If there is no common reality knowable by a common human nature, then there is no sanity either. In case you were wondering why the left is insane.

Again, most modern philosophies begin with "a particular point of view demanding the sacrifice" of sanity. In short, a man must "believe something that no normal man would believe," if that something were expressed in a simple and straightforward manner. Which is precisely why leftism must always lie about itself, and why it must so relentlessly abuse the poor dictionary.

Thus, modern philosophies reflect and assist "the breakdown of reality, the disintegration of belief and the fragmentation of society."

So yes, liberalism is liberating, but from what and for whom? From reality, and for the abnormal, the insane, the lacking in common sense, the envious, the angry, the auto-victimized, the sexually confused, the tenured. For the rest of us it is mental slavery, slavery being a symptom of the absence of the rule of natural reason, and denial of any appeal to the court of common sense.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but abuse of words can destroy a soul.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Face the Facts: No God, No Persons

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

In this famous passage, Paul gets to the heart of what it means to be seen and re-cognized, and therefore to have one's being -- one's humanness -- validated and made real. Made real, as in

God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.

And Love is the act that transforms its object from a thing into a person (NGD).

God, love, person, existence, transformation. All are fundamentally related.

In the book I referenced yesterday, Vision and Separation, the author writes that

The "space" of self-consciousness is a secondary development within the field of consciousness. It arises when the subject (the child) becomes aware of the looking of the object. It is the space within which the person looks at himself through the eyes of the other.

I often speak of consciousness as interface, or inter-face. This is to emphasize that both consciousness and self-consciousness, and the symbols that mediate these experiences, only arise between faces, in other words, in an interpersonal setting, within which relations between persons... are formative.

In fact, infant observation studies have been conducted in which mothers maintain a deadpan expression, but otherwise respond normally to their infant in every way. As you might imagine, the infants quickly become visibly distressed. They are literally dis-oriented, since the mother's face is not only the center of their universe, but their primary means of managing their own internal states.

In other words, the child looks to the mother to "know what's going on," both outside and "inside," in the emotional world. Without the mOther, the child is submerged in unintelligible experience, much like a crybullying snowflake college student who lashes out at projected fragments of unmetabolized emotional experience.

Like any other system, the facial recognition system -- in which we feel the need to be recognized by other faces -- can go awry. For example, pathological narcissism essentially revolves around an exaggerated or even bottomless need for human mirroring in order to fill a deficit inside.

The problem here is that the narcissistic mirroring doesn't reach to the level of being, but only touches a superficial "false self" unconsciously constructed by the narcissist. This means that the narcissist is actually in control of the process, and isn't truly "giving" or exposing his true self to the other. That would be too risky.

One can understand why so many narcissists gravitate toward entertainment, politics, and media, since these are an ideal way to submit a false self to a bunch of anonymous faces for validation.

But deep down the narcissist has a well-founded contempt for the loser who would idealize him, of all people, so he has some dim unconscious recognition that he is filling himself with psychic junk food. It tends to become addictive, since you can never get enough of what you don't really need.

I recently read a book called Mimesis and Science, which goes into some of the latest research on the centrality of the Face in human development. One author compares it to a force of attraction, much like gravity, except operating in interior space:

That natural force of cohesion, which alone grants access to the social, to language, to culture, and indeed to humanness itself, is simultaneously mysterious and obvious, hidden in and of itself, but dazzling in its effects -- like gravity and the attraction of corporeal masses in Newtonian space.

If gravity did not exist, life on earth would be impossible. Similarly, if this remarkable force that attracts human beings to one another, that unites them... -- if this force did not exist, there would be no humanity.

Yup. Makes one wonder if the physics of gravity is posterior to the physics of love, a la Dante, who speaks of ultimate reality as the love that moves the sun and other stars.

In the same canto, he describes a barely effable vision of circles, one of which seemed reflected by the second, / as rainbow is by rainbow, and a third, which is like fire breathed equally by those two circles. And then

I searched that strange light: I wished to see / the way in which our human effigy / suited the circle and found a place in it.

Back to Mimesis and Science:

from the very start, psychological actuality is found between individuals.... The self and the other are thus bound together in a fundamental way at the point of origin by a tie that is ontological and existential....

The genesis of the self cannot take place except by the mediation of the other and simultaneously with the other in a process of differentiation that is gradual and reciprocal.

I'm sure this is why For God there are only individuals (DNC); and why, conversely, without God, there could be no individuals.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Anthropo-Cosmology

It turns out that anthropology and cosmology, I and It, are entangled in surprising ways. Recall that the reign of dualism supposedly got underway with Descartes' division of mind and matter. Everyone forgets that even he saw the absurdity of this, for which reason the whole system falls apart without God. The reasoning goes something like this:

"I think, therefore I am."

"Yes, but how do you know that's really true?"

"Er... because God wouldn't deceive us?"

So Descartes sneaks in a -- or The -- first principle at the end, which is pre-posterous (which literally means putting the post- before the pre-). For there is no doubt that the cosmos is intelligible and that man may know it; and that these can only be true because the universe is created. In other words: if the universe is intelligible to us, it was created. If it isn't intelligible, then we cannot know whether or not it was created. And if it isn't created, then we could never know it.

In short, the createdness of things illuminates the intimate relationship between cosmology and anthropology, which are unified in knowledge, or Truth.

Ratzinger:

[O]ur history is advancing to an 'omega' point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to us to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter; that, on the contrary, the real, firm ground is mind.

Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality; it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist.

There exists a "process of 'complexification' of material being through spirit," through which emerges "a new kind of unity." (I would say "unities," for that is what time -- and evolution -- do: create new and higher -- which is to say, more "dense" and "deep" -- unities.)

We said before that nature and mind form one single history, which advances in such a way that mind emerges more clearly as the all-embracing element and, thus, anthropology and cosmology finally in actual fact coalesce.

And

this assertion of the increasing 'complexification' of the world through mind necessarily implies its unification around a personal center, for the mind is not just an undefined something or other; where it exists in its own specific nature, it subsists individually, as a person (ibid.).

So, the ever-increasing complexification of the cosmos ends -- as far as we can determine -- in the human person. We say this because we cannot imagine something "beyond a person" except for God. We can, however, imagine more of a person, which goes to the sanctification process, i.e., theosis.

There is literally nothing as complex as the human brain-and-nervous-system, what with its 10 billion neurons and 10 to the 14th power synaptic connections. I'm better at myth than math, but if I understand rightly, this means that in this immense social network, each neuron can apparently friend up to 14 others.

That's a lot of synapses, so many that if you were to attempt to compute their possible combinations, it would take longer than this cosmos is going to last. Which is just another way of saying that we'll never run out of melodies, poems, paintings, or jokes. Creativity is forever. Which reminds me:

If God were not a person, He would have died some time ago (NGD).

Now, this cosmoplexification revolves around a personal center, and that's what makes it so interesting (or any other adjective, for that matter, for adjectives can only be relative to persons). Think of all that computing power in the human brain, and yet, it all resolves into the simple, unitary experience of an "I" at the center of the neural storm.

This "I" not only manages to resolve all that micro-neural activity, but it also unifies various macro-brain structures such as left and right cerebral hemispheres, limbic system, language area, etc., plus subjective/vertical structures from the primitive unconscious to the transhuman supraconscious -- all spontaneously and without effort. Rather, it "just happens."

You could say that this is similar to other infinitely complex systems, say, the US economy. For example, at the end of the day, you can hear on the news that the stock market gained or lost this or that amount of wealth.

This latter is presented as a unitary quantity, but of course it's just an abstraction, plus it has no actual center. There is no "I" in the middle of all that economic activity saying to itself "I really cleaned up today!," or "today I really lost my shirt, and it's all Trump's fault!"

A person is the apex of cosmic intelligence, but it turns out -- or so we have heard from the wise -- that the "center" represented by the person actually extends all the way down.

In other words, it is not as if the cosmos evolves to a certain point, and then there appears this inexplicable thing called a person, like the frosting on a cake. Rather, there is a kind of "centration" that is present everywhere and everywhen, only in more or less attenuated forms.

For example, when Jesus says "Before Abraham was, I am," he's expressing our point, albeit more enigmatically. This needs to be understood in the context of other biblical statements such as "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," "I AM WHO I AM," "When He prepared the heavens I was there," and "When He drew a circle on the face of the deep... I was beside him."

Also, in the extra-biblical but orthoparadoxical Gospel of Thomas, Jesus asks, "Have you found the beginning that you look to the end? Where the end is, is where the beginning is. Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning, for the one who stands at the beginning will know the end"; and even more to the point, "Blessed is the one who comes into being before he came into being."

All of these statements go to the idea of the person being anterior to all phenomena; or of phenomena "extending," so to speak, from the Person. Otherwise there would be no phenomena.

Human beings are of course "social animals," but it is possible to be social without being completely interior to, or inside, one another.

For example, bees and ants exchange information with each other and act as a group, but they don't think about it. You might say that the "center" of a bee hive is dispersed throughout the colony, rather than being present in its totality in each bee.

But in the case of humans, the center is in the individual.

The left attempts to subvert and undo this individual centration by forcing people to identify with race, class, ethnicity, gender, and what have you, but this is the very essence of a regressive barbarism, as it recalls a time in human history prior to the emergence -- the revelation -- of the free and autonomous person.

Personhood, although implicit, can only explicate itself in an interpersonal space, i.e., the space between subjects. An old textbook of mine says that "the self, as a conceivable entity, is formed -- or de-formed, or re-formed -- at that place where the Other's view meets with the felt substance of the person" (Wright). As biology makes matter come alive, intersubjectivity renders neurobiology personal.

By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face (NGD).

Friday, August 30, 2019

Who's on First? And How?

Yesterday on the way to work I had two possibly related thoughtlets that may possibly relate to the post we are about to read, or at least I'll try to relate them. The first was in the form of a question, Man minus God = what? In cosmo-metasymbolic terms, we could represent the equation as ʘ - O = •. Now, what is • without O?

Think about it. You won't have to think too long before coming to the realization that it can only be nothing. Or anything, depending upon how you look at it.

Which very much relates to our second thoughtlet, the innocent sounding affirmation that You have to start somewhere. For where one starts will determine, among other things, where one ends. For example, in the words of the Aphorist,

The philosopher who adopts scientific notions has predetermined his conclusions.

This is quite literally true. Limited to the scientific method, one can't even say that knowledge should be limited to what the scientific method can prove. In other words, to affirm that science = truth is to have left the scientific method far behind and below. One is up in the world of metaphysics, but anchored to what? Science minus metaphysics = what? Nothing. For

Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know (NGD).

Would it also be accurate to say that the philosopher who adopts transnatural metaphysical notions has predetermined his conclusions? No, not at all. It's called being curious, and not prematurely filling the space of curiosity with some arbitrary answer just to make one's epistemic anxiety go away. Not only is it okay to not know the answer, it's mandatory!

Speaking of cluelessness, I read this morning that AOC wakes up at 3:30 AM due to anxiety over climate change. Now, since the dawn of history women have been waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety. What distinguishes anxiety from fear is that the latter is a physiological response to a real external threat, whereas anxiety is a physiological response that attaches itself to some external cause in order to explain itself to itself.

Think of the millions of leftists who are afraid that our president is a "white supremacist." Being that he is obviously nothing of the sort, this represents the projection of a spurious cause to explain the effect. But the effect -- the anxiety -- comes first. Which means that "white supremecism" is actually the effect of the anxiety, not vice versa. If you eliminated white supremacism, then the anxiety would simply attach itself to some other phantom, say, Russian collusion, or mental incompetence, or whatever the next one will be.

Likewise, "climate change" is the effect, not the cause, of AOC's anxiety. She mentions being anxious for her potential family, which is closer to the real cause, since all young women are concerned about their present or future children, whether consciously or unconsciously. Motherhood is a real archetype, and you can't get around it by projecting it into the weather, any more than a beta male can get around the father archetype by, say, embracing a purely maternal socialism. In that case, the archetype will just return in monstrous form (as in the case of fatherless children, whose father often reappears in the form of prison).

Where do we begin? In the past, we've batted around Stanley Jaki's idea that most philosophers begin on second or third base without ever explaining how they arrived at first. Indeed, some imagine they have gotten all the way home!

This is no joke. Then again, it is. Think of the modern atheist crowd, i.e., Hitchens-Harris-Dawkins & Dennett. "God doesn't exist." That's what you call an epistemological round-tripper, or home run.

Okay, fine. But if you know anything about baseball, you will have noticed that even if the ball sails out of the park, the hitter must nevertheless touch all the bases, including home plate. If he fails to do so, then the run doesn't count, no matter how far the ball went.

Analogously, to say "God doesn't exist" is to have hit the ball clear out of the cosmic stadium. But this doesn't change the rules: you still have to get to first base. Which is to say, a Darwinian monkey has to know things that no Darwinian monkey could ever know. Or, in order for atheism to be true, a miraculous transformation must occur between the monkey in batter's box and the man on first base.

Now that I think about it, the rules of baseball explain everything. There is a pitcher; there is a batter; and there is a ball. The pitcher is being, or reality; the ball is objects, or intelligible things; and the batter is intelligence, or the human person. You could even say that different bats -- or different ways of hitting the ball -- correspond to different disciplines, e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, etc.

Extending the analogy, physicists in particular imagine they are the cleanup hitter, the one who drives in all the runs. But this can't be true. In reality, they are the leadoff man who simply tries to get on base by any means necessary. Physics is not and cannot be a home run; more like a modest blooper or bunt single. Assuming physics gets on base, you still need metaphysics to drive him home. Here is how Jaki describes it:

Unfortunately, much of philosophy, especially in modern times, has come to resemble more and more a spurious baseball game: there the opposing teams (schools of philosophy) assume without further ado, that one can get to first base without first hitting a real ball...

Indeed, postmodernism in general and deconstruction in particular begin with the assumption that there is no real ball to begin with. Really, it's baseball reduced to Calvinball, such that anybody can get on base any time for any reason. As such, it's no longer a game, just a scramble for power. As in socialism, it's not a game, but there are surely winners and losers.

To be continued...