Monday, October 08, 2012

Very Important Persons and Very Inflated Presidents

In our previous post we touched on the complementarity of universal and particular. There is an irresolvable tension between these poles -- and happily so, because without it we wouldn't be able to understand anything.

In other words, thinking always involves the search for universals behind phenomena -- for the principle behind the manifestation; and also the exploration of new instances and exemplifications of the principle. Cognitive metabolism consists of analysis and synthesis, unity and plenitude (which I suppose are prolongations of Absolute and Infinite).

A lot can go wrong with both of these. Some people get lost in particulars. We call them nominalists. Others are stranded in the dream world of abstract principles. This can result in anything from philosophical idealism (culminating in a Hegel) to political demagoguery to religious and secular cultism.

Obama, for example, cannot cope with what you and I call "economic reality" because the principles he holds dear simply do not go there. In short, the economic theory to which he is beholden is inadequate to the real world of a complex market economy.

For example, to express the desire to "spread the wealth around" conveys breathtaking ignorance of how wealth is created, and more importantly, how to continue creating it. True, a politician can force the distribution of income at the point of a gun.

But this only works once (or up to a point), since it puts in place a huge disincentive to the wealth creators. As we know, leftists embrace science so long as it doesn't clash with their ideology. In this case, the needs of the state require operant conditioning to be underbussed.

Likewise the fantasy of a "right to healthcare." First, let's be clear on what we're talking about here. Obama isn't really talking about a right to healthcare, since we already have that right.

Rather, he's talking about the state forcing one party to render its services to another. That's an obligation, not a right. A genuine right, as understood by the founders, entails no one's obligation. For example, my right to freedom of speech doesn't mean that MSNBC has to give me airtime to rebut their wild beliefs and accusations.

But we're getting far afield. What I really want to discuss is the complementarity of universal and particular as it manifests in human beings. This obviously occurs in the exterior/anatomical sense, in that we are all "human beings," even though each of us is unique. This is most noticeable in the face, each human face being unique.

We all have the ability to instantly distinguish one human face from another, to such an extent that we don't even think about how remarkable a feat this is.

For example, I'm guessing that if a dachshund looks us in the face, our face will be as indistinct to it as dachshund faces are to us. Sure, there are some differences. But if you were to put seven billion dachshunds in a room, yours would blend in with the rest. However, you could pick your own child out in an instant.

The fact that we can do this must mean that individuals are Very Important, both to Nature and Nature's God. And they are. For whatever reason, the cosmos puts a very high premium on Persons.

Specifically, as it pertains to our interior humanness, the universal/particular complementarity appears in the form of group/individual, or community/person. Human beings are, of course, "social animals." But they are equally "personal animals," or just say persons, each one as unique and unrepeatable as the face that exteriorizes him or her.

One obvious way this complementarity plays out is in our political arrangement. Democrats and leftists more generally emphasize the group at the expense of the individual. This is the reason why leftism feels so "un-American" to us, because our classical liberal founders emphasized the sanctity of the individual.

For such conservative liberals, the group exists for the individual, whereas for the left, the individual is subordinated to the group. If one is grounded in the latter metaphysic, then something like Obamacare is both logical and necessary.

This is the topic of Mark Perry's new book, The Mystery of Individuality: Grandeur and Delusion of the Human Condition. He is a traditionalist of the Geunon/Schuon school, and too hardcore for me.

However, this doesn't mean that he doesn't have some valuable insights, just as the fact that a scientist happens to be an atheist doesn't imply any kind of blanket refutation of his genuine insights. Again, we take truth where we find it, since any and all truth -- and even the very possibility of truth -- is of God.

All religions address this issue in one way or another, and usually in a negative way. In other words, most religions try to serve as a kind of brake on runaway individualism, and emphasize our indebtedness to the group.

In itself this is not necessarily problematic, so long as we don't confuse "group" and "state." The state is not a genuine group, contrary to the left's belief that it is "the one thing we all belong to." There is no interior to the state except in extremely pathological cases such as National Socialism, in which case the state embodied "the will of the people"

Or, think of eastern religions which focus on the eradication of the "ego." This is a very problematic word, since it is based on a bad translation (a latinisation) of Freud's German "das Ich," which essentially connotes the I.

Why would anyone ever want to get rid of his I, since this would be the equivalent of suicide? More generally, the term "ego" doesn't actually appear in any Buddhist or Hindu scripture, since it was only coined in the early 20th century.

Anyway, a lot of religions attempt to tame or "eliminate" the ego-I, but not too many seem to celebrate it. And there are good enough reasons for this, since excess or disproportionate celebration of the I is what we call narcissism or sociopathy.

Criminals and politicians, for example, generally do not suffer from low self esteem, but way too much. It takes an absurd amount of self-esteem and ego-inflation to feel entitled to rob a man, whether with a gun or through legislation. It would never occur to an appropriately humble man to be an Al Capone or Barack Obama.

So there is that negative reality of the ego-I. And if we look around us, it isn't hard to condemn its excesses and abysses. Just turn on the television. It's everywhere. But does this mean that there is no appropriate -- and even sanctified -- individualism?

To be continued...

Yeah, I'd recognize that mug anywhere:


Gagdad Bob said...

Some very funny stuff at this website.

Rick said...

You know it really was the Single Pie Theory on display during one point in the debate. Obama literally could not comprehend how you could lower taxes and not have to take the difference from somewhere else in the budget.

Obama: There is one pie. Romney gets a slice, you don't.

Romney: We'll make more pies.

I especially enjoyed how Obama put him some knowledge with something like, "listen, it's basic math..."

, said the man who never a ran a business to a man who I understand was quite good at it.

Cond0011 said...

Trying to confront the truth - about your beliefs and yourself can be about as much as an ego can bear. Just when you think you are the coolest cat this side of the living room, its always good to look hard in the mirror.

There isn't enough time in the day to be perfect and there is always room for improvement to being a better you.

I would think that too much self esteem is a sign of a life that hasn't been reflected upon enough. True, there is a loss of convinciblity when you speak things with doubt and uncertainty, but it is far better than to lead some astray with confident bluster. Yea, the pay isn't as good either, but its one less thing to keep me awake at night.

Anna said...

"A genuine right, as understood by the founders, entails no one's obligation."

A keeper.

EbonyRaptor said...

We conservatives are enjoying this post-debate euphoria, but I fear it will be short lived. All the Very Important Persons will not let the Very Inflated President be humbled again without a fight.

As Clarence Darrow demonstrated in the Scopes trial - he who has the megaphone wins the argument regardless of the facts. The remaining debates will be moderated by leftists who will be under enormous pressure to shape the debate in Obama's favor lest they find themselves under the bus with Lehrer.

My consolation is to know that regardless of the outcome, God is in His Heaven and His will be done.

Gagdad Bob said...

Don't worry, it's only going to be worse for Obama, because he can't understand or adapt to what actually happened in the debate. He'll just be louder and wronger.

Leslie said...

That is a great mug!

julie said...

I'll second both Leslie and Anna. Wish I could add more, since both this post and the last one have some excellent points.

ge said...

Human facial recog: I'd argue that it is more 'racial' than 'human'; each race has cues & templates that fit their own race more than another!
"They all look alike" can be admitted by members of each race when confronting other races' faces...I recall the late Carlos Fuentes writing all gringos look alike to Mexicans

julie said...

I don't know that it's necessarily even just racial. Get enough people together who have similar characteristics - hair color, gender, body style - and it can be tough to tell them apart no matter what race they are. There's a reason Japanese cartoon characters have insane hairstyles: if they didn't, even Japanese people wouldn't be able to easily distinguish one from another.

julie said...

Here's something: via Taranto, this ilustrative example:

"The question for voters is actually very simple. The nation has wrestled with it since its founding: Will this be government for the many or the few?

Choose the many. Choose Barack Obama."

julie said...

There's also this, which reminds me that we already are seeing similar issues here, where kids are going hungry at various public schools thanks to the No Child's Fat Behind initiative, which apparently operates on the assumption that all kids have exactly the same nutritional requirements, which are best determined by a bunch of bureaucrats somewhere who have never actually been around children or teenagers.

julie said...

(wow, that was a really long sentence. I've got a serious case of the stupids these days...)

mushroom said...

For example, I'm guessing that if a dachshund looks us in the face, our face will be as indistinct to it as dachshund faces are to us.

True, but in a room with millions of other dachshunds (just like in a Yakov Smirnoff joke) your dachshund will find you immediately, by scent or sound. As Jesus said, "My sheep know My voice."

Gagdad Bob said...

That's a very good point. A hound can smell a drop of urine in a swimming pool, or something like that.

And yet, a person's specific scent doesn't reveal anything essential about them. It would be an example of exterior uniqueness, not of interiority.