Friday, June 21, 2013

Adventures in Tenure, or How to be Brilliantly Stupid

Now that we have properly unverted the cosmos and reunited Alpha and Omega, we frankly don't even need to activate our cʘʘnvision to see that "it is simply not the case that the 'I' of human subjectivity is the product of evolutionary (biological-chemical) processes" (Davie).

I mean, we've arrived before at this conclusion from different angles, which makes sense, because a fact so IAMmense -- so fraught with IAMplications -- is going to rIAMify in all different directions. It really borders on an axIAM, since it unifies so many otherwise inexplicable truths, like "how did 'I' -- and 'we' -- get here?"

Yes, you could just say that God breathes a living soul into man and leave it at that. But many if not most modern and postmodern primitives have lost their ear for the mythopoetic, so it can be helpful to cast the old truths in a way they can wrap their diminutive minds around.

Davie references Wittgenstein -- not the naughty one, but the good one -- who points out that this mysterious center of subjectivity, the I of the existential storm, must be "the basis of all that can be said with any sense about" the world. I like this because it turns Kant on his head and enlists him as an ally.

In other words, instead of the world simply being a form of our sensibility, our sensibility becomes the basis of the world, the condition without which the world makes no sense. "It is," writes Davie, "grotesque to suppose that the highest organizing principle, the 'I,' can be explained as the product of what it organizes."

This very much reminds me of the old crack that a liberal is someone who is too broadminded to take his own side in a dispute.

Likewise, the Darwinian fundamentalist or scientistic idolater is someone too scrupulous to defend his own side in a metaphysical dispute. It is as if he is saying: "listen to me carefully, for this is the truth: I am just the product of random mutations, and therefore not worth listening to at all."

M'kay. And they pay you for this?

Now that I think about it, it is of course important to be familiar with scripture/revelation, as it bypasses certain surface structures and penetrates directly to the deeper recesses of the heart, or the cardiopneumatic center.

But when speaking with outcasts -- that is, people who have cast themselves outside the living spirit -- it is helpful to be able to articulate the cosmic principle behind the revelation. The principles are almost always there, with rare exceptions.

I think even the Trinity, which is supposed to be a kind of pure mystery that man could never have stumbled upon unaided, is intelligible. For me it has to do with the idea that ultimate reality is not a substance, but substance-in-relation, or perhaps "self-giving interiority."

This makes total sense to me on a very deep level, so the religious doctrine fits into my intellect like a key into a lock. I frankly can't imagine the alternatives, since they leave too much unexplained and unexplainable. The miracle is that the doctrine was developed way ahead of the explicit knowledge that came much later, e.g., intersubjectivity, or "mirror neurons," or nonlocality.

Recall the essay I mentioned the other day, Understanding and Believing. Schuon says that our legitimate intellectual needs "do not in any sense mean that the thinking man lacks faith."

Rather, they "merely show that [the fertile egghead's] receptivity [(o)] is sensitive to the most subtle and implicit aspects of the divine Message; now what is implicit is not the inexpressible but the esoteric, and this has a right to be expressed."

Intelligence, of course, cuts both ways -- i.e., up and down -- and can just as easily get us into trouble as save us from it. After all, most of the problems in the world are caused by the intelligent, not the stupid. Let us, for example, stipulate that Obama is of slightly above average intelligence. 'Nuff said.

How to guard the intelligence so that it doesn't run riot or even organize a community? In a sense, just as we must control our will, we must exert control over our intelligence, which is something we don't often hear.

But it is very similar to the idea that a woman should guard her beauty, so to speak, another unfashionable truth. But in each case, we are talking about a kind of modesty. To become immodest in any sense is to repeat one aspect of our Primordial Calamity, isn't it?

Now, what is the nature of this thing that must exert control over the intelligence? Is it just a higher form of intelligence? Is it custom? Culture? Common decency? Taste? Manners? A sense of proportion? A sense of irony?

Whatever it is, you won't get it in college. Rather, the opposite. Everything potentially pathological about human intelligence will be aggravated there.

How's that? Well, Schuon points out that a proper faith serves as "the stabilizing complement of the discerning and as it were explosive intelligence."

There are two ways to understand this observation. One way is to consider what happens when faith is absent. I don't have time to go into it, but just think of all the pathological philosophies, schizzy isms, and frank misosophies that have emerged in the post-Kantian intellectual climate. The list is endless.

It very much reminds me of what caused Dennis Prager to return to Judaism. When he entered Columbia he was veering toward a sophisticated atheism, rejecting the religion of his youth -- until he actually encountered these people and their wacky ideas. If one is not born conservative, then surely any sane person is propelled in that direction by contact with the sheer stupidity, perversity, immaturity, and shortsightedness of leftist thought.

I know that in my case, my mind was never so productive as when I learned to think "within the metacosmic faith," so to speak. For me, it is the difference between playing a musical instrument with scales vs. trying to play one without any rules at all -- as if one needs to invent music while playing it.

The problem is, the intellect is a miraculous thing: it is a miracle, full stop. But as Schuon says, "an intellectual qualification is not fully valid unless accompanied by an equivalent moral qualification," at least for any knowledge above physics and entomology, i.e., human knowledge.

Back to what the intellect must subordinate itself to. For starters, this would be a little thing we call reality. If the intellect is not conforming itself to the Real, then just what is it doing?

Yes, that is correct. The technical term is bullshitting.

Just as there is an "art for art's sake" that violates the canons of beauty and therefore purpose of art, there is, as Schuon suggests, a philosophy for philosophy's sake -- or science for science's sake -- "that believes it can attain to an absolute contact with Reality by means of analyses, syntheses, arrangements, filterings, polishings...

"[S]uch thought is mundane because of this very ignorance and because it ends up becoming a 'vicious circle,' which not only provides no escape from illusion but even reinforces it through the lure of progressive knowledge that is in fact nonexistent."

Nonexistent, that is, unless there is a prior Truth and a nonlocal Intellect that may conform to it.

Aaaaaaannnnd we're out of time. Have a nice weekend and GO PUIG!


mushroom said...

Good stuff all the way through.

ge said...

keep meaning to mention how I came to have acquired the Davie book you are into now---it was on one of uncle da free's suggested reading lists...i suspect as much for the title as the content

julie said... is the difference between playing a musical instrument with scales vs. trying to play one without any rules at all -- as if one needs to invent music while playing it.

Importantly, too, is that anyone trying to do so is ironically doomed, by virtue of being unbounded by rules, to get stuck in a repetitive and ultimately very boring rut. Same as in art for art's sake, in fact; one of the things I noticed in college is that people who do purely abstract art actually make the same painting over and over and over again, and yet seem not to realize they are doing it. They often literally end up going in circles.

Anyway, without the structure provided by scales or harmonies or line or meter, all one can create is mud. And very likely not the fertile kind.

Notably, there is a type of abstract art, much like a certain type of freeform jazz, which manages to transcend the rules of structure, and so manage to seem formless while in fact maintaining an internal integrity which, to the uninitiated, may often seems like just so much noise. However, there truly is a difference, and those with eyes to see and ears to hear can generally see it without having to have it explained.

Like the difference between gibberish and a language you just haven't learned yet.

Gagdad Bob said...

AGW theory: it predicts the future perfectly. It just can't explain the past.

Sort of like Krugmaniacal economics, or the left more generally -- as they said in the Soviet Union, "the future is known. It's the past that keeps changing."

Gagdad Bob said...

Who says there's no good news?

julie said...

A line has been drawn in the sand, Dude!

But seriously, I guess this guy is a big deal in the Integralist movement, but I've never heard of him. Sounds like a total douche, though. And agreed, if he's the end of evolution, then truly all has been in vain...

Gagdad Bob said...

He's Ken Wilber's skeevy tag team partner, so that's as big as it gets.

In fact, Cohen will tell you he's still big -- it's God that got smaller.

Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, listen to this bullshit. Hard not to gag. It's like the ultimate religionization of the left.

julie said...


I can't. Five seconds in to the preview and I started to feel nauseated. What is it about the tones of some people's voices that just automatically sets you on edge?

Gagdad Bob said...

I mean anyone who thinks the UN is a source of progress is not only delusional but a moral retard. Talk about "mythic/pre-rational."

About the tones, two words (Vanderleun's): new castrati.

julie said...

Re. The UN, when I was a kid there used to be billboards here and there, out in the country, saying "Get US out of the UN!"

I used to think that whoever came up with those was completely nuts. Now I think it's too bad they didn't have more of a presence...

Gagdad Bob said...

Back then, liberals had total control of the media, so it was easy to cast their enemies as nuts and cranks.

Now you have to be insane or just ignorant to think that the UN is anything other than a moral and intellectual cesspool.

Gagdad Bob said...

I"m picturing one of those meme thingys:



ted said...

Been reading some of your responses on the other blog. While I agree with your point that the "spiritual" rock stars of today are of no match for those of yesteryear, I do think there is something to the trajectory of image to likeness over epochs (for instance, the culture at large proportionally is far less violent and more sophisticated than eons ago). Does that make a case for some cultural development even if we fall short on sainthood these days?

Gagdad Bob said...

Eh. Seems to cut both ways. I'm certainly happy to be alive in this day and age, but I see no evidence that people were any less happy in the past.

Europe is an emotional and intellectual basketcase, and most evolutionary thinkers would presumably put them miles ahead of the barbaric US.

Likewise, Obama is the most evolved president we've ever had, for which reason it is no coincidence that he's probably the worst we've had in 100 years -- maybe the worst ever.

So I don't see it as a particularly useful concept, plus it is subject to much misuse and mischief. Seems like everyone who posits it is kind of an asshole, like Deepak.

Just look at Wilber. If he is the most evolved man on the planet, how come he can't see through Andrew Cohen or Tony Robbins? If spiritual evolution doesn't confer rudimentary judgment, then what is it good for?

Gagdad Bob said...

Where's the contemporary musician who surpasses Bach, the writer who surpasses Shakespeare, the philosopher who surpasses Thomas, the sculptor who surpasses Michaelangelo, the painter who surpasses Rembrandt, the churches that surpass Notre Dame, the political philosophy that exceeds that of the Founders?

They don't exist, nor will they ever exist. Those are the end of the line.

ted said...

Well, I would never (and I hope Wilber would not also) subscribe to the idea he is most evolved. But your point is a good one, and it all comes down a standard that can be easily abused. I wonder if happiness should be that standard, and if that is the case, then you may be right. But the case could also be made for political order (e.g. classical liberalism) as a milestone in time where a greater good emerged. In any case, like you, I'd rather be alive today than in the past (I like running hot water too much :).

Gagdad Bob said...

I still like the standard I tossed out in my book: integration and actualization. That culture is best that permits of the most psychological integration and pneumacognitive actualization. Or in other words, permits conformity with the good, true, and beautiful.

Gagdad Bob said...

If truth is what we must know, good what we must do, and beauty what we must love/create, then postmodernism fails miserably.

Gagdad Bob said...

Hey, if you can't trust one of the eminent contemporary integral/evolutionary thinkers, then who can you trust?

Gagdad Bob said...

I see they have me linked to the wrong RG. Good. Let him take the blame.

ted said...

Since when have you ever written about spaceflight?! Wait, you're not that RG! Damn, I knew I was on the wrong blog...

ted said...

Postmodernism is a mess. But in the grander scheme of deep time, it is just a blip in history. There's still hope to recapitulate the Truth again.

Gagdad Bob said...

What can't go on won't go on. One hopes.

ge said...

heard the latest IRS Joke?
In 2011 they refunded $46,378,040 to 23,994 illegals at 1 address in Atlanta...LOL

Gagdad Bob said...

Okay, I concede. Evolutionary spirituality does exist.

julie said...

Ha - indeed. And to Ted's point about the culture at large being generally more peaceful, I wonder about that.

From the Wright link, "Catholics are not Amish; pacifism is not part of our evolutionary strategy."


The culture at large remains largely peaceful only to the extent that American and more to the point, Judeo-Christian traditions still shape the culture. So long as America remains a culture of trust, it will remain largely peaceful. At such time as it becomes instead an assortment of different tribes vying for the same land and resources while maintaining competing value systems, barbarism will reign again.

See also Detroit, Chicago, Mexico, European "youth" riots, etc., etc., etc.,...

julie said...

Or put another way, the peace we have is a fragile thing.

Also, I don't know that it is always necessarily a good thing, as there is a certain sort of peace that lends itself too easily to fostering all the worst habits of man.

River Cocytus said...

We're not more peaceful. Modernity, which has a locus in the more centralized power of states, simply concentrates violence in space and time. The result is that most people in the better areas experience far less violence. But as for everyone else...

River Cocytus said...

In fact, Chris Alexander sort of talks about this property of nature in Alternating Repetition. If we assume violence and conflict in some form are natural to human existence, a force which tries to remove them cannot; what it can do, is generate a field effect that concentrates the occurrence of violence and conflict, which effectively removes it from some or even most areas.

It then follows that this stuff must happen, and Modernity has the problem of essentially needing bloody wars quite continuously to blow off the nationalized steam. If, however, you decide to fiat peace by trying to indefinitely avoid conflict, you end up concentrating the violence that is to come even further.

Not to mention that not all ways of resolving conflicts are actually fully cathartic. Some just offset the pressure to the other party (as in feuds.) Avoiding conflicts means avoiding conflict resolution which means not being good at it which means sloppy resolutions which means a greater likelihood of violence and conflict spreading rather than expunging itself.

The end of WWI could be shown as an example of how to 'offset' pressure only to have it explode in your face years down the line.

Van Harvey said...

"Back to what the intellect must subordinate itself to. For starters, this would be a little thing we call reality. If the intellect is not conforming itself to the Real, then just what is it doing?

Yes, that is correct. The technical term is bullshitting."

Yep, nothing more dangerous, or odious, than intelligent stupidity. And as unreality is its oxygen, intellectual fecal matter is its output and the source of its distinctive odor.