Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reality and its Alternatives, Philosophy and its Apes

If one thinks and lives philosophically -- as in seeking after and loving Wisdom -- then the world -- the human world -- is indeed a strange and spiritually sick place.

There's no getting around this conclusion, but it doesn't make one a Gnostic in the bad sense of the word, any more than noticing physical illness marks one out as a quack.

Think of an extreme case, say, Solzhenitsyn in the USSR. He was able to diagnose the sickness there because of his extreme sobriety, because of his refusal to be seduced by illusions, and because of an overriding and courageous love of truth for its own sake.

In short, he simply practiced philosophy against ideology, or light against darkness, or truth against force.

Voegelin writes of how a good deal of contemporary politics -- because it is dominated by ideology -- "belongs to the class of surrealist phenomena," completely bypassing the "great philosophical initiatives" of the 20th century (he mentions Whitehead and Bergson, to which I would add Gödel and Polanyi, since those two alone obliterate any reductionistic fantasies of scientistic control). Instead, public modes of cognition are "dominated by thought forms widely differing from philosophy" as defined above.

For ideology in general and the left in particular, violence -- or power, which is simply implicit force, i.e., threat -- takes on a central importance. Voegelin suspects that this is because, in the radically secularized mind of the ideologue, "violence has become an instrument of magic, meant to achieve the alchemistic opus of the perfect society."

It's not that one must break a few eggs in order to make an omelet. Rather, for the ideologue, the egg-breaking is a magical operation that results in the manifestation of an omelet. And the fact that no omelet appears just makes them try harder. Maybe they just didn't break enough eggs -- which basically describes Keynesian economics, doesn't it?

Again, think of an extreme case such as Nazis, who believed that if they only murdered enough Jews, this would result in the magical transformation of Germany. Recall that many more Jews were killed after the war became clearly unwinnable -- as if killing a sufficient number of Jews and other "contaminants" would please Wotan enough to turn the tide.

This principle is echoed in George Gilder's wonderful Knowledge and Power, about which we will no doubt be blogging at great length. The key error of the left is concise enough to be printed on a bumper snicker: the attempt to replace knowledge with power, or truth with coercion.

It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect example than Obamacare, which starts with the insane conceit that it is possible to understand a system as complex as the healthcare industry, and to impose a top-down replacement for the infinite amount of information -- of personal knowledge -- dispersed throughout the individuals and institutions involved.

It cannot be done. It is impossible in principle -- but only if one thinks philosophically. If one thinks ideologically, it is a different story, for "ideological faith makes all things possible." With one caveat: In. Your. Dreams. (Or maybe the dreams from your Marxist father.)

There is so much good stuff in this book. I'll just cite one example. Gilder points out that public employee unions actually learn more slowly than tapeworms, because at least tapeworms are intelligent enough to usually not devour the host.

Living as I do in California, I know this statement to be not just fine insultainment, but a truism beyond refudiation. I'm sure Detroiters feel the same way, as will all Americans when the fiscal deal finally goes down -- which it must, on pain of revoking the law of gravity.

In fact, for people living in Realville, it is a source of solace to know that what cannot go on will not go on.

Oh, this is good: Gilder uses the term "deteriorating paradigm" to describe one that becomes more complex to account for its lack of explanatory power.

Think of global warming, which adds epicycles to inepticycles within klepticycles to account for the simple fact that the globe ain't warming.

Back to the surrealism of ideology. I'm not sure that is the best word, since sur-real implies above reality, when the problem is its failure to ascend to reality. Therefore, "subreal" would be a more accurate term. "Homosexual marriage," for example, cannot be surreal, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

Rather, it is subreal, a failure to ascend to the disturbing knowledge of sexual differences -- which the left must deny a priori, since the last thing they want is essence trumping existence; if it does, then people cannot be shoved around like bags of wet cement in order to impose their perfect society.

When philosophy and ideology are conflated, "and man tries to overcome the condition humaine by imagining alternatives to it, then we get into the real trouble of the revolutionary activities" (Voegelin). Nevertheless, "people succumb, again and again, to the magic of ideological intoxication" and the consequent revolt against human nature.

For which reason it is a crime against humanity to intoxicate children with ideology, as is done in our public schools and looniversity bins. For the assouls

"who abet this baleful activity, whatever role they play, and at whatever level, should be reminded of Plato's dictum: 'To corrupt the spirit of young people is to commit a crime that ranks just behind that of murder itself.'"


mushroom said...

We need to officially change it from election cycle to klepticycle. Truth in advertising for everybody.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The key error of the left is concise enough to be printed on a bumper snicker: the attempt to replace knowledge with power, or truth with coercion."

Aye. By it' s very base nature coercion n' force is leftisms answer to everything.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Mushroom, I cooncur.
The mob is alive and well in the democrat party.
Organized and disorganized crime galore.

Gagdad Bob said...

One possible modification the Founders might have tossed into the Constitution would have been disallowing voting for people who are dependent on the state. Then again, they couldn't have foreseen such a grotesque development in a million years.

Another pathological turning point was JFK's giving federal employees the right to collective bargaining, i.e., hijacking the state. Maybe his most enduring legacy.

Magister said...

Maybe that idea was behind the property qualification for suffrage.

We clearly have an elite political class, a large and increasingly immobile underclass, and a disappearing middle.

Not good at all.

Magister said...

California? Really? I imagined the Bobservatory in some remote and happy cornfield. I hope to get out to Frisco sometime this year.

mushroom said...

Doesn't it annoy the people in Frisco to call it Frisco? If Frisco is Sodom then Bob's smack in the middle of Gomorrah.

Really, Ben, I'm thinking Don Corleone would be a vast improvement. At least the old mobsters might have had or aspired to some class.

julie said...

Mushroom, apparently there are quite a few people who call it Crisco, which makes Frisco downright wholesome by comparison.

Magister, the property qualification might once upon a time have been an effective means of keeping state dependents off the voting rolls. But since the state got into the housing business, the qualification would today be worthless.

julie said...

If one thinks and lives philosophically -- as in seeking after and loving Wisdom -- then the world -- the human world -- is indeed a strange and spiritually sick place.

Along those lines, the link you put at the end of yesterday's comments contained what I thought was a strong bit of irony: everything about the world is false, he claimed, especially the battle between light and darkness. So the reality is... the world is dark and there's a true light. Or something.

Duality is dead. Long live duality!

Apparently the way to tell if you're dealing with false light instead of true light is that the false is a judging father, probably one who lays out some rules and expects them to be followed, while the true is like just totally nonjudgmental. Also, ETs are total liars, so if one is giving you orders it's probably safe to ignore it.

Honestly, I want to laugh except that it's so sad - first that this guy needs to feel so important, and second that so many people seem to be taking him completely seriously. A spiritually sick world, indeed...

Skorpion said...

Random Deepak Chopra *Profound-Sounding Quote* generator!

mushroom said...

The fake Deepak makes more sense than the real faker.

julie said...

Awesome. If I wanted to poke a bit of fun at people on Facebook, reposting those would be a good way to do it. Except that the people I'd be poking fun at probably wouldn't get that it isn't actually him...