Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mankind: Last Word in Creation or Lost World of Miscreants?

I suppose it's no coincidence that Genesis depicts man as God's last creation: the consummation, the crowning touch, the final act, the pièce de résistance.

How'd that work out?

Hmm. I see that Berdyaev proposes one answer to that question: "Only in Christ is the problem of man resolved."

That quote precedes a chapter entitled God's Latest Image. Recall that our last few posts explored the nature of the Eternal Being. We will now proceed to look into the claim that man is the very image and likeness of this eternal being.

One thing we're all dying to know is how man can be the image of the sovereign good, and yet, be such a flaming assoul. What went wrong? Who goofed?

One proposition we can affirm at the outset is that science does a poor and inadequate job of addressing such questions. This is because science can (honestly) deal only with the is, not the ought (and even then, only the surface of the is, not the hidden depths). We can all stipulate that man is a problem child.

But even in so-stipulating, there is the implicit suggestion that there is some way man oughtta be. And science ought not pretend it knows how or why we oughtta.

It seems that man cannot live in the absence of this Ought. And to live in the land of Ought is to know transcendence. No animal fantasizes about slowing the rise of the oceans, or giving free healthcare to illegals, or aborting babies. Rather, those battles are all fought in the land of Ought. Which hints at the nature of the problem, since the Ought cuts both ways, with roughly half the population believing we ought to do things we ought not do.

With that in mind, let's plunge ahead and see if Berdyaev has any answers. Here's one: "All attempts at external perception of the world, without immersion in the depths of man, have produced only a knowledge of the surface of things."

Thus -- and this would be a central tenet of our merry anticult -- depth of world and depth of soul are covalent. There are things so shallow that only a tenured person could believe them, just as there are realities so profound that only the deep person can see, know, and touch them.

Or, let's just say that the world has this surprising and inexplicable dimension of depth. Why surprising? Well, for starters, no other animal has it. Take away food, threats, walks, and testicles, and an adult dog falls asleep, because there is "nothing there." But for man, there is always an inexhaustible something there. Boredom is an animal holdover, an atavism.

Are there such beasts? Oh my yes, and they are the source of much mischief. Liberals, for example, are people who are so bored with their own lives that they want to mess with yours. They ought not be doing that. And yet, they spend their lives telling us what we ought to be doing! That's not irony, that's a truism.

Well, there is some irony. For example, any spiritually normal person knows one ought not lie, especially about important matters (there are degrees of lying). And yet, Obama and the Democrats promulgated a network of lies in order to commit the most massive consumer fraud in the history of the country. Why? Because if they didn't, then you wouldn't do what you ought to do, which is support the government takeover of healthcare.

Berdyaev puts forth another principle that is dear to our headlights: "The act of man's exclusive self-consciousness of his significance precedes every philosophical perception." If you take this to its ultimate conclusion -- or if you reverse direction and understand the principle it is based upon -- you will see that this is actually a logical/metaphysical way of affirming the truth that man is in the image of the Absolute, for which reason he may know or be aware of absoluteness.

And this is something that must be affirmed by theist and atheist alike, on pain of being unable to affirm anything. In other words, in affirming the non-existence of God, the atheist is implicitly affirming his own significance, otherwise why take him seriously at all? How, for example, is his testimony superior to that of a rock, or a worm, or any other contingent fact at the periphery of existence?

So: "like an absolute a priori," the self-evident significance of man "precedes every philosophic perception of the world..." This is one of those things that cannot not be the case, for "if man were to consider himself as one of the external, objectivized things of the world, then he could not be an active perceiving subject." He would be entirely contained by the world instead of being able to contain it.

But can man really authenticate his own significance? How would that be possible? It is not possible, which is why materialists always speak out of both sides of their buttocks, one cheek shouting "listen to me!," the other one admitting that we should pay no attention to his gaseous pronouncements. This gives rise to the battle cry of the tenured: "Look at me, I'm nothing!"

If we continue following our line of reason -- that man's significance precedes his philosophical perceptions and statements -- we arrive at the startling conclusion that anthropology is prior to ontology. Or again, to express the same truth in biblical terms, I AM precedes It Is; which is just another way of saying that behind, beyond, and beneath it all there is a Person, not an object, or an equation, or whatever other alternatives there are (and there aren't many).

But does this not aggrandize man? Well, yes and no. It only aggrandizes man if we yank him out of his proper context and presume that he is the reality as opposed to the image. When man makes himself the measure, then it's time to reach for your revolver.

We must always remember -- or never forget -- that "Man is the meeting point of two worlds." Now, these two worlds can be distinguished in various ways, but any attempt to eliminate the complementarity -- not dualism -- results in pathology. The leftist can attempt to drive out transnature with a pitchfork, but she always comes back. Likewise, one can attempt to make the world go away via sub-religious fundamentalist magic, but it too always returns.

So it's... complicated: "With equal firmness," man may hold "the most contradictory ideas about himself, equally justified by the facts of his nature... now one of these natures, now the other, seems to prevail." Again, this redounds to an ultimate antinomy, that man is on the one hand "the image and likeness of God," and on the other "a drop in the ocean of the necessities of nature."

Pneumacognitive dissonance. Just gotta tolerate it. For "with almost equal right we may speak of man's divine origin, and of his development from the lowest forms of nature." In short: vertical and horizontal. It's where we are, and one ought not pretend otherwise.

It is almost incomprehensible how a tiny bit of nature... should dare to rise against nature and demand his rights as a descendent of another world, as a being with another destiny.... Man is not only of this world but of another world; not only of necessity, but of freedom; not only out of nature, but from God.... In his essence, man is a break in the world of nature, he cannot be contained within it. --Berdyaev


Gagdad Bob said...

Overheard this morning between Tristan and friend:

"What does your dad do?"

"He goes on Facebook and tells jokes."


Yeah, close enough.

neal said...

So, the earth was waste and wild, and sentient homonid version5.0 started breaking more than gets fixed.

You had one job. Now, the foolish, and the mutants are running around trying to keep the latest version from blowing this place up, again.

Not even broad based. This species will be lucky even even one small part of the high ground holds more than ten or twelve to get busy with the living earth, and the original instructions.

Gagdad Bob said...

Predictable new old media narrative: Obama ought to have lied, because it was for our own good. For the left, their intentions always trump truth.

vanderleun said...

"What went wrong? Who goofed?"

Once you see this whole planet of man as just one channel on Heaven's cable box and pure entertainment in the violent sit-com sense there's no wrong and no goof.

I shouldn't have to tell you this.

julie said...

"All attempts at external perception of the world, without immersion in the depths of man, have produced only a knowledge of the surface of things."

Even the surfaces we think we know have a disconcerting habit of defying our understanding. For instance, gamma ray bursts, solar activity, and of course the weather.

Gagdad Bob said...

It takes only a series of why's from a kid to realize how little we know. I hit the wall after about five.

ted said...

Hey Bob, I kinda wish you did go on facebook and tell jokes. It would take less time than trying to go through your blog, reading lists, and music suggestions. Your kid is on to something!

Joan of Argghh! said...

So thankful for your blog, Bob!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the Raccoons. May our tribe increase!

julie said...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Van Harvey said...

Happy Thanksgiving to the Raccoonoverse!

Don Johnson said...

Happy Thanksgiving to the whole gaggle of Gagsters!

John said...

From a regular visitor, and infrequent commenter:
Thank you, Bob and crew - -
and a Happy Thanksgiving Day
John Moore
.... an early Advent offering
--Austin L. Hughes

Leslie Godwin said...

Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to you and your loved ones!

Mrs. G