Friday, November 01, 2013

What Man Really Wants: An Ecstatic Adventure

You could say the Experience of God. Which is much preferable to the mere concept of God. But I like the adventure of God, since experiences and concepts are neither here nor there. After all, there are painful experiences and idiotic concepts, but who doesn't like an adventure?

Okay, but exactly "where" are we going on this adventure? In general, I would suggest we are venturing beyond ourselves in order to discover ourselves; or, sometimes we venture inside ourselves in order to move beyond ourselves, as in psychotherapy (or any other form of disciplined introspection).

Both movements are necessary in order to avoid a certain circularity in one's movements. In other words, if you don't know what's going on inside, you're liable to just discover it outside, via projection. And if you don't know what's going on outside, you are vulnerable to remaining in a pseudo-omniscient fantasy world. You know, a liberal.

As to where the movement leads, Hart writes that "all knowledge involves an adventure of the mind beyond itself."

Thus, we could say that knowledge involves an adventure in truth. The same applies to other transcendentals, e.g., love, beauty, creativity, unity, virtue, etc. Orient yourself toward any one of these, and you are in for a lifetime adventure. But orienting to one is orienting to all, so these ultimately represent different paths on the same adventure.

Small-r rationalists can't help wondering what the payoff is in religion. It is this sense of adventure, which is in turn wrapped up with the ananda-bliss described by Hart. Our transcendent desire (↑) is teleologically oriented "toward an end, real or imagined, that draws it on." This draw is quite real (and universally recognized), and it is impossible to understand religious phenomena in its absence.

As we said yesterday, even the atheist is involved in the same passionate pursuit of nonlocal truth, except his end is imaginary, not real. One quick way to know it isn't real is if it is possible to reach it, for if God doesn't exist, it follows that you aren't him.

In order to avoid saturation and to facilitate experience, I like to call this divine draw, or lure, O, i.e., the Great Attractor. O is the answer to the following series of questions posed by Hart:

"What is it that the mind desires, then, or even that the mind loves, when it is moved to seek the ideality of things, the intelligibility of experience as a whole? What continues to compel thought onward, whether or not the mind happens at any given moment to have some attachment to the immediate objects of experience? What is the horizon of that limitless directedness of consciousness that allows the mind to define the limits of the world it knows?"

Shut your mouth!

But I'm talkin' about O!

Then we can dig it!

One little area where I might deviate from Hart is where he says that this represents a "longing for an ultimate abstraction." I think rather that this is a longing for the ultimate concretion, a la Whitehead and Hartshorne. As with subject-object, we may think of abstract and concrete as ultimate complementarities. But of the two, which is the more inclusive? One might be tempted to say the abstract, but for Hartshorne it is the concrete.

It seems to me that this follows Aristotle's tweaking of Platonism, whereby there is no abstract and disembodied realm of ideal forms or archetypes. Rather, form and substance are always found together.

Just so, everywhere we look, the abstract is in the concrete, hence the total intelligibility of the world. And I should think that Jesus represents the Last Word of this point of view, i.e., the ultimate abstract within the concrete.

Furthermore, to say that God is "concrete" is to say he is found in us. If not us, then where? Is not the whole point of the Adventure to "concretize" more of the Creator in the creation? Or is it to just to be aware that there exists this ultimate abstract concept?

In any event, Hart identifies man's flight beyond himself with ecstasy. If we consider the literal meaning of the word, it essentially means to be outside oneself -- or, to put it colloquially, to be "beside oneself" with joy, or bliss, or enthusiasm, or exaltation. Thus, in a way, experience as such is always "ecstatic," because it carries us outside ourselves:

"in all experience there is a movement of the self beyond the self, an ecstasy -- a 'standing forth' -- of the mind, directed toward an end that resides nowhere within physical nature as a closed system of causes and effects. All rational experience and all knowledge is a kind of rapture, prompted by a longing that cannot be exhausted by any finite object" (ibid.).

I ask you: what would life be in the absence of this ecstasy?

Matter, that's what, for Life is already an audacious movement of matter beyond itself, is it not?

And what is Mind but the movement of life beyond the closed circle of biology, into a "new" transcendent world of meaning, truth, love, beauty, etc.? Thus, just as there is a biosphere, there is a psychosphere and a pneumosphere.

Which goes to the "third thing" I never got to in yesterday's post. The third occasion for wonder is that these latter two realms (Mind and Spirit) should exist at all. In other words, it is one thing for an animal to be naturally selected based upon its adaptation to the physical world.

But in human beings, we have a creature who is adapted to higher, nonlocal, transcendent worlds. The most shocking thing is that these worlds are not "empty" or devoid of content. It very much reminds me of how the physical eye was "discovered" via a number of separate biological lines -- as if lured there by some nonlocal end.

Just so, once man entered this nonlocal space -- well, for one thing, this is precisely when man becomes man (in the vertical sense), for humanness is the state of being in contact with the transcendent object. I attempted to depict this reality in pp. 86-93 of the Coonifesto, as in

The boundary of life did not end with its own precarious little dance along the precipice of non-being.... Crossing that radiant upper threshold, we are witness to another startling explosion -- or perhaps implosion -- this time into a subjective space that was somehow awaiting the primate brains that had to learn to navigate, colonize, and eventually master it.... This third singularity was was an implosion into a transdimensional subjective space refracted through the unlikely lens of a primate brain.

Or, just say the flesh became -- or becomes -- word, and that this becoming is the essence of the Adventure.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Atheism: Getting Nowhere Fast

I suppose there are no less than three immediate sources of wonder, each of which being prior to and beyond any scientific explanation.

There is existence as such, i.e., a cosmos that cannot explain itself; consciousness, for which there isn't even a decent scientistic fairy tale; and all the superfluous spiritual joy connected with the whole transnatural dimension, e.g., love, truth, beauty, etc. -- or what Hart places under the heading of ananda-bliss.

For example, why is it such a literal joy for me to blog? What's up with that? Is it really reducible to some crude, anti-intellectual Darwinian explanation?

In other words, is the blog just a babe magnet in disguise? First of all, I already have a babe. Besides, if it is, then your own tyrannical Darwinism is no different, just another way to get chicks and tenure. If Darwinism is true, then we can at least stipulate that the pursuit of truth is a delusion, and get down to the real question of who's got the bigger blog.

But for a Darwinian to ask "who's got the more encompassing truth?" is like asking "who has the reddest genes?" Genes don't have color, nor do primates built of contingency have access to truth.

This makes me want to skip ahead to chapter five of The Experience of God, Bliss (Ananda). As with so much of the book, it covers the same essential territory as One Cosmos (in particular, section 3.1, The Big Bang of the Mental Universe, but other parts as well), albeit in a more sober, even borderline tenured way (bearing in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule that the sinmates run the looniversity bin).


Well, in my assessment of the Big Bang of human self-consciousness, I zero in on three strange factors: first, the idea that a supposedly material cosmos should have interiority at all. This is something that science can't even know of, much less explain.

In other words -- and this is an absurdity, but just go with it -- if one weren't already personally acquainted with consciousness, one could never know of it. That is, the most complete description of any physical object -- including a brain -- would reveal nothing of its interior, i.e., its subjectivity.

Which reminds me of the ultimate antinomies we've been discussing, one of which is subject-object. One reason we know materialism cannot possibly be true is that the "distance" between objective and subjective is truly absolute. No amount of mere quantity can give rise to qualities: you can't get here (inside) from there (outside).

Since there is no other way to shoehorn subjectivity into the cosmos, we begin with the principle that subject and object are complementary. However, of the two, which is the more encompassing, the more inclusive? The answer is obvious: the subject can include objects, as we all know by way of personal experience, being that the soul is the form of the body. If this weren't the case, I couldn't be invisibly commanding my object -- my body -- to be typing this sentence.

Now, this doesn't mean that God is merely the form of the cosmos. However, it also doesn't mean that God isn't the form of the cosmos, since the cosmos is indeed logocentric right down to the ground, and the logos is always "with" God. You can lʘʘk it up.

Onto the second factor (the first being interiority): this is the profound mystery of intersubjectivity. It is one thing for there to exist intelligent bits of matter. I mean, it's still miraculous (intelligence being intrinsically transcendent and therefore supernatural), but it's another thing entirely for this intelligence to gain access to other intelligences, and for one's own intelligence to be accessible to other intelligences.

In short, human beings aren't just intelligent, but rather, members of one another. We retain our individuality, and yet, this individuality means nothing if it isn't plugged into the intersubjective grid. You could say that this intersubjectivity makes (among other things) love possible.

Or, you could turn the cosmos right-side up and say that Love is what makes intersubjectivity possible. This is the Raccoon doctrine -- that the intersubjectivity of the Trinity is mirrored in the herebelow in the form of love, charity, self-sacrifice, humility, etc., each of which Darwinism is incapable of explaining in a nonself-beclowning manner.

Instead of the two factors I have described, Hart focuses in on intentionality, which, it seems to me, describes the same phenomena from a slightly different angle. Intentionality is "a kind of agency, directed toward an end. We could never know the world from a purely receptive position." Rather, "To know anything, the mind must be actively disposed toward things outside itself..." (Hart).

In other words -- or better, in symbols -- we could say that the mind is inherently (↑), always reaching beyond itself toward a transcendent end that we call O. Thus, (↑) is oriented to a reality that surpasses the material world. In so doing, it comes "to know the endless diversity of particular things within the embrace of a more general and abstract yearning for knowledge of truth as such, and by way of an aboriginal inclination of the mind toward reality as a comprehensible whole" (ibid.).

And this drive or divine instinct or what have you is always bound up with faith (o), in that our psychopneumatic adventure is always sponsored by an implicit belief that existence is intelligible and that we may know it. And when we do know it, there is a kind of joy associated with it, i.e., ananda-bliss. This is why truth not only sounds right, but "feels good," so to speak. It tickles.

This marriage of mind and world is just like a... a marriage. "Consciousness," writes Hart, "enters into intimate communion with... the form of things," revealing "a natural orientation... toward the infinite horizon of intelligibility that is being itself."

Speaking of our cosmotextual orientation, just as there can be no such thing as "homosexual marriage," there can be no such thing as an intellectually consistent "atheist truth-seeker," since to seek truth is to orient oneself toward, and open oneself to, this transnatural ideal, or O. In short, "all knowledge involves an adventure of the mind beyond itself" (ibid.).

Atheists book their passage for the same cosmic adventure we do, except they throw the maps and compass out the window. This allows them to travel much faster than we do. But where's the fun in getting nowhere fast? We prefer to take our time, which is what this old but colorful bus is for. After all, to travel well is better than to arrive. Or in other words, I don't want to be God. I just want to know God.

BTW, I never got to the Third Thing, but we'll continue this trip tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mystical A-theology and the Experience of Godlessness

I mentioned in a comment yesterday that Hart really elevates his game in the second section of The Experience of God, dealing with consciousness.

However, the first section, on being, is nevertheless a highly insultaining takedown of atheism in all its forms. Upon reading it -- assuming he is capable of understanding the arguments -- no intellectually honest atheist can remain one. Or, at least he can have no rational basis for clinging to a doctrine that explains nothing, not even itself.

Which brings up an interesting point. Atheists -- very much like liberals -- naturally believe they have a rational basis for their beliefs. This is not only untrue, but not even untrue, since these beliefs do not meet the minimum standard of being susceptible to falsification (e.g., global warming, Keynesian economics, socialized medicine, etc.). Hart demonstrates how easy it is to obliterate the childish arguments of, say, a Stephen Hawking, who is so brilliant when confined to his own wheelhouse of mere physics.

Speaking of which, it reminds me of coach-pitching in little league baseball. My son is in his first season of all kid-pitch, which can be a difficult adjustment, since the pitches aren't all right in the hitter's wheelhouse each time. You might say that atheists have no trouble hitting fat, lazy tosses right down the middle of the plate. But they are utterly baffled by a metaphysical curveball.

However, any half-educated psychologist -- as most are -- can confirm that David Hume was correct in characterizing reason as a "slave of the passions" which "can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

I wouldn't go quite that far, since it is indeed possible to detach reason from emotion and think in a purely abstract and disinterested manner, mathematics being the quintessential example. Likewise, the pure metaphysics of a Schuon is bracingly free of sentiment, like climbing to the peak of a bare and majestic mountain.

But this is not the manner in which most people approach religion, or science, for that matter. Rather, these enterprises are filled with passion, commitment, and adventure.

Thus, as Sarah Ruden describes it in the October 28 National Review, "for the great mass of the religious and nonreligious alike, these debates are not about pure, abstract intellection, but about making sense of experience -- which is to say, personal experience, because what other kind is there?"

Which is the point I made in yesterday's post, that there is no way to avoid the fact that we begin in experience, not with logic per se. That is, logic is obviously powerless unless there first exist experiencers to experience it. In short, experience is prior to logic -- although it does follow a subtle logic of its own, which I summarized in the post.

Again, that logic reveals experience to be intrinsically temporal, and shows the experience of time to essentially be a function of memory. Thus, the past contributes to, and is retained in, the present, as it hurtles toward the novelty and surprise of the future. In this movement nothing is lost, since everything contributes to the present moment, just as everything in the present moment contributes to the future

So, there is experience as such, and there is personal experience, which is experience inflected through a person. And any philosophy that fails to illuminate personal experience is going to be a nonstarter for the vast majority of persons.

This is why the arguments of atheists are irrelevant to a person who has experienced God, just as the abstract theological arguments of a Hart or Schuon will make no sense to an infertile egghead who has deprived himself of such an experience. Rather, based upon his own sterile experience, materialism "makes sense" to the materialist, irrespective of the deficiency of the logic.

In a way, it comes down to natural theology vs. mystical theology. Mystical theology is very much rooted in experience, so it turns out that materialism, scientism, and Darwinian fundamentalism are really forms of "mystical a-theology."

Thus, the only way these latter doctrines can prevail in the culture war is not through argument, but rather, by depriving people of the experience of God. Which is why, at the nasty core of leftism, there is always soul murder. How could this not be the case, when leftism involves systematically seeing the world as it isn't in order to bring about a world that can never be? Assuming they could accomplish this impossible project, there would be no souls left to experience reality.

My son, for example, attends a religious school, and it is not so much that he is learning some religious doctrine, but rather, that his day-to-day life is enriched beyond measure by being suffused with a constant awareness of the divine (even -- or maybe even especially -- if it is a non-conscious awareness). Rather than being something imposed from the outside, it is in the very air he breathes, in an experiential way.

Thus, for example, he experiences Christian love (agape) in the way his teachers relate to him, whereas liberals have succeeded in criminalizing the very thought in public schools. Now that I think about it, I don't so much want to thank his teachers for teaching him, but rather, for really loving him.

But I don't see how real education can take place outside this loving context, being that love and truth converge on the same object. Sadly, I can already see the coarseness setting in and the light being extinguished in some of his public schooled friends. It's kind of creepy, really. I do see how good parenting can compensate, but for the kids with coarse and lightless parents, there is no escape from the slide into barbarism.

Well, I had wanted to get into the second main section of The Experience of God, on consciousness, where Hart really takes flight. The flight has been postponed until tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nothing is Impossible

To extend yesterday's metaphor, now that my head and feet are fully aligned, I'm not sure I even understand the terrain on which I had previously been attempting to walk.

Which means what, exactly?

It essentially means that I was attempting to speak as a traditionalist while ambulating in the manner of a process philosopher. Sort of a distant cousin of hypocrisy, which is when one's actions don't conform to one's values.

This book by David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, presents a timely summation of the traditional view, so as to provide a vivid contrast with my old New Truth.

Of course, suffice it to say, no one is under any pressure to agree with me. This is not that kind of cult. I realize this is a contentious area, and I still sometimes wonder if I am falling into some sort of ontological trap. I mean, one doesn't lightly disagree with 2000 years worth of people who are wiser or smarter or holier than thee. However, there is no question that they were laboring under an extremely misleading but nevertheless presumptive picture of reality.

Reader Van plucked the following passage from bobscurity, adding that he was on pins and needles waiting to hear about the many implications! Okay, I added that last part, but here's the passage:

"There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have explicitly agreed with Hart, even while implicitly agreeing with Hartshorne. And that's a problem, i.e., when what one explicitly thinks doesn't jibe with what one implicitly feels, experiences, or 'knows' in a direct and unmediated manner. Call it cosmic dissonance"

In many ways, The Experience of God is structured just like One Cosmos, except that, instead of Matter (or material existence), Mind (or psyche), and Spirit (nous, pneuma), Hart -- whom I believe is an Orthodox Christian -- uses the Hindu triad of Sat (Being), Chit (Consciousness), and Ananda (Bliss). However, he covers much of the same ground, albeit coming at it from a more purely logical and metaphysical perspective, whereas I begin with the world as we experience it and as disclosed by science.

If you were going to be uncharitable, you would say that he begins with a priori concepts, whereas I begin with reality. However, if you were going to be uncharitable to me, you would probably say that one cannot derive metaphysics from empirical reality.

Which is a little ironic -- I think -- because, if I am not mistaken, Thomas Aquinas begins with the proposition that there is a real world external to us, and that, in order to know it, the knower must conform himself to it.

But more generally, where can we begin but with experience? And there is no experience that is not "of" something. So it seems to me that it is rather critical to understand the "experience of experience." In other words, we cannot just take experience for granted, but must try to get beneath it and understand just what it is.

Now, here's the rub -- or at least a rub: experience is intrinsically temporal. Indeed, I would say that it is impossible to conceive of "nontemporal experience" -- that it is an oxymoron. And just as there is no experience without time, there is no time without experience.

If you have difficulty wrapping your tail around the latter statement, you need only examine your own experience of time, which is intrinsically bound up with memory of the past. Without this memory -- this conservation of the immediate past -- there would only be an atemporal now; being, but no becoming.

To jump ahead a bit, in the process view of Whitehead/Hartshorne, this examination of our own experience reveals how all of reality is structured. Clearly, just as in our own mental experience, nature exhibits continuity with, and conservation of, the past. And yet, nature ceaselessly flows forward, always manifesting novel configurations. Therefore, just as in our own minds, nature is a combination of conservation and change, memory and creativity, sameness and novelty, boundary conditions and adventure.

This further leads to the view that creativity is woven into the very fabric of being. But oops! That word being: it no longer makes sense in this new context. In the traditional view, becoming is just a persistent illusion (there is no other way to put it), completely parasitic on changeless Being.

But in the process view the terms are reversed: Being is just an abstraction from Becoming -- and an empty abstraction to boot. It is either literally unthinkable or only thinkable, for it is not anything we can actually experience, experience once again requiring duration.

Now, my point about feet and heads is that no one (or do they?) really treats God or relates to God in this abstract manner. Indeed, from my perspective, perhaps the most earth-shattering implication of the Incarnation is that it should be an inoculation against the Greek ideal of the immutable, unmoved mover.

This is probably going to rattle some cages, but Hartshorne dismisses the notion of "nothing" being a meaningful concept, as in "creation from nothing." There is frankly nothing in the Bible that mandates such an interpretation.

But for Hartshore, nothing is impossible -- that is, it's just another human abstraction. Nothing is the negation of something, and therefore something.

For my part, I have never really wondered "why there is something rather than nothing." Rather, there's gotta be something, right? Might as well be this. Nothing isn't even thinkable unless we have something with which to compare it. I'm still in awe of this particular something -- just not in comparison to nothing, but rather, compared to all the other possible somethings.

(This is not to be confused with the big Nothing that opens and closes the Coonifesto, because that Nothing is intrinsically at play with Something; you might say that it is part of the rhythm of eternity, like diastole and systole, inhalation and exhalation, catabolism and anabolism, etc. It is ultimately how creativity happens. Don't get me wrong -- I still believe in nothing. I just think it is eternally in relation to something -- not either/or, but both/and. Or as old Heraclitus put it, The Aeon is a child at play with colored balls.)

Hart fundamentally disagrees, affirming that "the 'distance' between being and nonbeing is qualitatively infinite..." True, but is nonbeing real, or only a mental abstraction? For me, the important distance is not between an absolute nothing and a fulsome something per se, but rather, between reality as it is and reality as it could be: in other words, creativity. Creativity is what links nothing to something, but that link is everything. It's not as if you can start with nothing and then get all creative with it, because where did the creativity come from?

Excuse me, but are we getting into angels dancing on pinheads territory? Is anyone else on board, or just bored?

Well, we've come this far. At least allow me to complete the trip and drop you off at the station.

In the traditional view, of course, God is "the infinite to which nothing can add and from which nothing can subtract..." Therefore, in order to properly think about God, we can really only unthink about him -- that is, if you hold to the traditional view.

Thus, we arrive at a "deductive negation of all the obvious conditions of finitude," which basically leaves us with nothing. I mean, right? Again, experience is temporal and time is finite, ergo, no experience of God is possible. Yes, you can certainly have spiritual experiences, but God is "beyond change" and "cannot be affected... by anything outside himself." Frankly, he's really not that into you.

Okay, I get that. In theory, anyway. But does anyone actually live as if God couldn't care less, which must be the case if he is completely immune to any form of change whatsoever? Is change really so intrinsically bad a thing that it must not contaminate God? It seems to me that there is literally no way to relate to such a being, not even by way of analogy. Is that really the way It Is? Just asking.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Metaphysical Podiatry: Know Your Cosmos

Know your cosmos. Like anyone could do that, Napoleon.

Besides, is it even important that we do so? Man inhabits a variety of worlds, and it seems to us that the cosmic is the least of our worries.

For example, understanding the world of interpersonal relations is an urgent matter, because a human being isolated from his fellows will be stunted beyond recognition -- just a primate freak, really. Likewise, failure to pay heed to the physical environment will result in death or serious injury.

And failure to get politics right -- i.e., the science of group order -- results in even more death and serious injury, while failure to understand economic order can result in Obamacare or even worse, e.g., untreatable Krugmania.

There are various subworlds as well, such as the bacterial and quantum. Of the two, the former has obvious implications for survival (e.g., antibiotics), whereas the latter goes more to our flourishing (e.g., the resultant technology).

There is also moral order, sexual order, religious order... So, who cares if the cosmos is floating on a sea of quantum foam or sitting on the back of a giant turtle? Either way, there's nothing we can do about it.

Well, Yes and No. To say there's nothing we can do about it is to say that it represents necessary knowledge; and to say something is necessary is to say it is eternal, since it always is, and cannot not be. Therefore, to know the necessary truths of the cosmos is to touch eternity, and touching eternity is its own reward.

In other words, knowledge of eternity is utterly useless knowledge, since it is a means to no end. Thus, it is the most gloriously liberal (and therefore liberating) of all liberal arts, in comparison to which every other form of knowledge is just another servile art. Or in other words, we're ultimately talking about the primary distinction between slack and slacklessness (or O and Ø), so ironically, nothing could be more useful than this useless knowledge.

Or, in the inadvertently cosmic words of Lileks, "I think one's happiness and ability to feel at home in the world is directly related to one's ability -- one's incessant compulsion -- to invest the most commonplace observations with the most grandiose conclusions." Then again, one man's bleat is another man's prison.

It actually works both ways: we may proceed downhill, deploying the most grandiose principles to illuminate the most commonplace experiences; or uphill, seeing how the most commonplace experiences can lead to the most grandiose and far-reaching implications. So, it's really a two-way street -- in fact, the two-way street, in that it goes to the permanent dialectic between principles and experience, which is none other than metaphysics.

For what is metaphysics, really? Yes, it is "beyond physics," which means that every occasion of physical reality is just a special case of more general principles. These principles must be true, not just in this cosmos, but in any cosmos. In other words, they are the very principles of existence as such.

Some people think metaphysics is impossible. Which, ironically, is a transparent example of an impossible metaphysic. In reality, it is not possible to be human and not have a metaphysic, whether implicit or explicit. So the debate is not between metaphysics and no metaphysics, but simply between good and bad metaphysics.

Actually, that's an oversimplification, since, like mothering, there can be "good enough metaphysics," by which I mean that it is close enough to get one to the phoenix line.

What is an example of something that must be the case, and cannot possibly not be the case?

Interestingly, I am currently reading two authors who take antithetical positions on the subject, Hartshorne and Hart period. But it's not really correct to say they are antithetical to one another, since both are even more antithetical to any possible a-theistic position. In other words, both affirm that the non-existence of God is an impossible absurdity. But they have a fundamental disagreement as to the nature of God, or of ultimate reality.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have explicitly agreed with Hart, even while implicitly agreeing with Hartshorne. And that's a problem, i.e., when what one explicitly thinks doesn't jibe with what one implicitly feels, experiences, or "knows" in a direct and unmediated manner. Call it cosmic dissonance.

Most so-called liberals of my acquaintance suffer from a form of this malady, in that they support the liberal cause even while living very conservative lives. Thus, instead of preaching what they practice, they practice truth while preaching fashionable lies, tenured kookery, and general dysfunction.

For example, these well-to-do liberals are far more likely to get married and stay married than the dysfunctional lower classes for whom marriage is just another optional lifestyle, of no intrinsic value.

So that's a useful way to detect someone's metaphysic: don't pay attention to what they say, but what they do. People vote with their feet, and their feet are planted firmly in their implicit ground of being.

This instantly clears up so much metaphysical confusion. For example, no one who supposedly believes in determinism lives his life as if free will doesn't exist. No relativist behaves in a perfectly chaotic manner. No Darwinian derives his values from nature. No anti-gun nut refuses to defend himself. No pregnant woman believes in her bones that her fetus is just a part of her body, like the heart or spleen, only worthless. No one who believes in redistribution voluntarily redistributes his wealth. No Marxist behaves as if history is inevitable. Etc.

And when I say "no one," there are obvious exceptions, these being the true crazies. There are liberals who actually "walk it like they talk it," for example, demented parents who insist there are no intrinsic sexual differences, and raise their children to be post-gender freaks.

Anyway, if we examine feet instead of minds, perhaps we can have more widespread agreement about the nature of reality. Call it metaphysical podiatry.

To be continued...