Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Of Moonbats & Sunspots

About those degrees of knowledge: we all know what they are, even if we can't explain how they relate. After all, no one treats rocks like persons, or mathematical equations like bricks, or spirits like-

Not so fast!

As we know, there is a neurological condition called synesthesia, in which the senses are confused. Thus, for the synesthete, colors may have distinct sounds, sounds may have flavors, or numbers may possess personalities. This is commonly experienced under the influence of psychedelic drugs, e.g., "listen to the color of your dreams" (J. Winston).

In fact, there was a lot of this going around in the '60s: strawberry alarm clocks, electric prunes, peanut butter conspiracies, chocolate watchbands, marmalade skies, etc.

But as it so happens, my pal Bion developed a heuristic device he called "the grid," which looks like this:

The grid is so simple, that I'm surprised no one ever thought of it before. Basically, the vertical axis has to do with the evolution of thought, while the horizontal axis has to do with the uses to which the thought is put.

Thus, for example, it is indeed possible to treat ideas as rocks, as the left proves every day. On the grid, the "rock idea" would be at the intersection of "concept" on the vertical axis and "action" on the horizontal.

You might say that this political synesthesia involves the use of sophisticated ideas such as "liberty" or "democracy" for purposes that are sub-ideational. (The converse can also occur -- the sophisticated deployment of a primitive idea -- for example, when Islamists use a telephone, airplane, or toilet.)

Consider the primitive manner in which the ACLU uses the Constitution. They love the Constitution, not for its intended purpose, of course, but as a bludgeon with which to club opponents and impose leftist polices.

The grid explains how and why, when the left uses words such as "equality"or "justice," they mean -- or intend -- something entirely different than we do. It is why leftists are always "activists," and why they all want to change the world (and man) before they have undertaken the formality of understanding the world.

Which is why you must never deal with a leftist as if they are intellectually honest, because that is the one thing they cannot be. If they were, then they couldn't win a single debate. They win by assuming your honesty, just as the Islamists win by assuming our decency.

To understand the world is to change the world, one assoul at a time. Which is not fast enough for the left, which doesn't care about individuals anyway. As Obama says, they want to fundamentally transform the nation, in a vast top-down imposition of central authority.

In the Degrees of Knowledge, Maritain proposes to outline a synthesis of the integral man, "starting with the experience of the physicist and ending with the experience of the contemplative."

Again, we can all agree that there is an empirical world revealed to us via sensation, e.g., touch, sight, and sound. Above this is a rational-mathematical world that cannot be perceived by the senses. Rather, it is in the realm of abstract thought, but certainly no less real and enduring than the sensory world.

Science as we have come to understand it deals with worlds one and two, although there are some sciences that consist of more or less pure abstraction and deduction, others that rely upon observation and induction.

Bion, for example, specifically attempted to make psychoanalysis more of a logico-deductive discipline than an empirico-inductive, by developing a system of abstract symbols to stand for various psychic categories and entities. In my book, I attempted the same thing vis-a-vis the spiritual dimension. It can be done. It's just that no one will really care until around 2075, when the Raccoon movement goes viral (or parasitic, depending upon your point of view).

After the rational/mathematical comes the metaphysical, although it should be clear that one can't really have worlds one and two in the absence of some (usually) unarticulated metaphysic containing implicit but necessary propositions.

For example, science cannot operate without various metaphysical assumptions such as the unidirectionality of time, the principle of non-contradiction, or the reality of the external world. Similarly, Darwinism cannot account for the cosmo-organismic wholeness that is a prerequisite for natural selection to operate. It cannot explain wholeness, only work with it.

While metaphysics leads to certain necessary truths, such as the existence of God (in the form of first cause, unmoved mover, pure act, etc), it cannot disclose the "within" of God. Thus, metaphysics leads us to the penumbra of the Ultimate Real, but not beyond a certain threshold. Knocking on heaven's door, as it were.

Having said that, because of the properties of this Ultimate Real, the latter can indeed radiate down into metaphysics, leading to an intellectualized form of "infused contemplation," or a metaphysic that reflects some of the luminosity of the Divine Object.

For me, Schuon accomplishes this, as he always makes it clear that he's attempting to communicate a vision, not just articulate a thought. Or perhaps it is a thought-vision that is still at least one degree removed from the beatific vision -- like standing in the corona of the sun, but not fully within. Schuon would be the first to draw this clear distinction, no matter how sublime the metaphysic.

But of course, when you get right down to it, we're all in the sun, aren't we? We can draw a distinction between the light flooding into my window and the vast explosion going on in the heart of the sun, but no such line can actually be unambiguously placed anywhere -- any more than there is a real ontological divide between a baby inside and outside the skin-boundary of the mother (speaking of intellectual honesty interfering with a desired action).

So, who's to say that the photosynthesizing leaf is separate from the photopropagating sun? Perhaps a leaf is just the sun's way of establishing centers of light elsewhere in the cosmos, just as the exploding stars of which we are composed are just the big bang's way of making a lot of little bangs.

Or, better yet, perhaps the sun is just a way to make sure the universe will contain leaves.

One question, Bob. Can I buy some pot from you?


julie said...

Which is why you must never deal with a leftist as if they are intellectually honest, because that is the one thing they cannot be. If they were, then they couldn't win a single debate. They win by assuming your honesty, just as the Islamists win by assuming our decency.

It occurred to me today, while reading the Sultan's latest on the delusional belief that we all should just get along, that the allegorical tale of the mythical utopian city that can only survive so long as some innocent and weak creature is eternally tortured in a basement somewhere actually describes the default nature of man - and thoroughly understates the truth of our own civilization. Particularly in the case of the peacemongers.

Intellectual honesty would demand that they see the true price in blood and human misery of their utopian dreams, but even to the extent that they do see it (as in the case of those in favor of human extinction to save the planet), it can only be an abstraction as remote and incomprehensible as theoretical astrophysics. It is only from the safety of a comfortable seat in the lap of modern luxury that one can imagine the deaths of millions upon millions and see no negative repercussions. They imagine that their utopia will somehow be different, and free of the taint of innocent suffering, even as they build their dreams upon the very real corpses of the most innocent and helpless among us.

Gagdad Bob said...

The left doesn't deal in unintended consequences, with the imperfectibility of man, with the futility of good intentions, or with the inevitability of trade-offs.

Van said...

"Which is why you must never deal with a leftist as if they are intellectually honest, because that is the one thing they cannot be. If they were, then they couldn't win a single debate. They win by assuming your honesty, just as the Islamists win by assuming our decency."

Just wanted to see it again. Someone please cue willian for a demo - and alert Cuz for a cleanup.

julie said...

Van - I thought about posting an example from today's news, but there are simply too many, probably the majority of stories I've read today. And of course, that's how it is pretty much every day.

Gagdad Bob said...

Even Lileks attracts the angry and stupid.

Gagdad Bob said...

Which is no way to go through life.

julie said...

On a more upbeat note,
"Or, better yet, perhaps the sun is just a way to make sure the universe will contain leaves."


The Most Astounding Fact

mushroom said...

There can also be a sophisticated use of a primitive idea, for example, when Islamists use a telephone, airplane, or toilet

I should learn but I almost choked on my peanut butter sandwich.

Cond0010 said...

"Which is no way to go through life."


Couldn't resist completeing the fragmented sentence, B0b.

ge said...

that taoist master Ni recommends pet rocks, to avoid the sadness of pets' loss; =smart or heartless? smeartless i guess.

Sun Sun Sun!
circa 1925

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of "Can I buy some pot from you?"

Gagdad Bob said...

Which was in reference to Cond0010 's Animal House reference. Come to think of it, maybe ge too.

mushroom said...

The funny thing is, we will even say, "We had better get out of the sun."

It could take a while.

Rick said...

"Or, better yet, perhaps the sun is just a way to make sure the universe will contain leaves."

unKnown friend would approve of this message.

Cond0010 said...

"Can I buy some pot from you?"

Ask Gerard. Its his Bong...


Besides, the fumes from all the troll (and liberal) droppings all over the internet, we can get a far more natural high by merely reading some of their "Synesthesia".


btw... thanks for the new word. Gotta keep my arsenal of ridicule fresh and amusing, ya know... :)

Gagdad Bob said...

Come to think of it, there's a useful concept in psychoanalysis called "zonal confusion."

Cond0010 said...

"Gotta keep my arsenal of ridicule fresh and amusing, ya know..."

Which reminds me, where is William when you need him (considering his staying power - as in staying here - he's got the extra absorbency I need at the moment).

Cond0010 said...

LOL Bob!

Way ahead of me...

Cond0010 said...


The combination of Zonal Confusion - and a higher functioning issue of Synthesia could be the cause of...



Van said...

(hey, there's a reply button... let's see what it does)
Tell me about it, I haven't sat down and watched the news in about a month now, for that very reason. I wish that somehow kept it out of my head, but no luck there.

julie said...

(How did you find a reply button? I don't see one anywhere. Thanks for the heads up on subscribing via phone, by the way - so far, it's the only way I've found to do it. Frickin' Google.)

Magnus Itland said...

Forget the pot, science is finally playing our song again:

I'd say our resident mushroom has already been of some small help in that regard, but that's probably not what they mean.

Van said...

Julie, I only see it through my phone. Annoying, yes?

julie said...

Yep. I left a gripe over at the Google forums, and wasn't the only one. As far as I know, no response, though. And obviously they haven't bothered doing anything to fix it. I can't help wondering if the fact that phones still have a "subscribe" button is the actual glitch...

mushroom said...

Very small help.

However, I did run across a Hulu documentary that was kind of amusing, "Know Your Mushrooms".

There's some nice music on it and pictures of morels. Some of the people on there look like they know where to find the magic mushrooms.

mushroom said...

By the way, about halfway through, that movie includes a Terence McKenna clip, then a bit about psilocybin. Pretty cool.

Verdiales said...

This all sounds a bit like how a literary structuralist would approach epistemology. It's enormously complicated to do that. I tend to leave it to those who make football pools, tournament brackets, and the like.

My son asked me in the car this morning on the way to school, "how do we know Christianity isn't just some made-up religion, like Muslimhood? Sometimes I have questions about how it might have been all made up by some old men a long time ago."

Excellent question, an authentic question, and one that was not expressed fearfully or anxiously. It made me think of your series of posts, Bob, about "degrees of knowledge," and it connected to a lot I've been reading in MOTT. My initial impulse was, therefore, to think of categories of knowledge. "Well, I've had those questions too, son, and if you're interested in the history of Christianity, I can certainly show them to you. We actually know quite a lot about the origins of Christianity. And there's quite a lot to say about how we come to know divine reality. Most of all, I've always found it important to make these kinds of questions personal, to test them against my own experience, to observe and think about my own experience. Being certain of these kinds of things requires a lot of attention. It's good you're recognizing that. These are really important questions that are part of every other question, I think. It's good you're getting to that level."

He seemed ok with this. I could tell he was thinking. He's confronted every day with atheists and agnostics at school. His faith is already being tested, and sometimes mocked.

julie said...

Verdiales - I like the way you responded. A faith that can't stand up to such questions is no faith at all, and every honest believer must come up against them sooner or later. I hope and pray that the answers your son finds will lead him ever closer to the Truth. It sounds like he has a strong example in you.