Thursday, February 06, 2014

Credulity and Faith in God and Man

So, if we are on the right track, a properly exercised faith is not any kind of denial of reality, but rather, the opposite: the quintessential acceptance of the Real and all it entails. Nor is it necessarily any kind of superficial joyrood, for we cannot know ahead of time what we are consenting to.

This is like most anything else. For example, when one says Yes to marriage in the presence of God and man, one cannot possibly know what one is signing up for. Rather, faith, both horizontal and vertical, spouse and vow, is an intrinsic part of the deal. I suppose that's why they call it being faithful.

It is the same with regard to choosing a career or pursuing a discipline. More generally, there would be no reason to get out of bed in the morning in the absence of faith.

In this regard, it seems that faith is phenomenologically related to hope. Therefore, faithlessness would apparently correspond to a kind of total cynicism: nothing to trust and no reason to trust it. Except, of course, for a total faith in the power of one's own corrosive cynicism.

As we have said before, the typical leftist somehow combines a childlike credulousness with an omniscient cynicism. It is specifically this combination of traits that made possible President Malevolent Cipher. The same ruthless cynicism that couldn't stop itself from preposterous attacks on George Bush turned into its seeming opposite, an innocent and childish faith in his successor.

As I wrote once upon a post, "contemporary philosophy does not begin with a sense of wonder, nor does it attempt to cultivate it. Rather, it begins with the capacity to doubt, and then aggravates it, eventually turning a good servant into a tyrannical master, for there is nothing that cannot be doubted by doubt. It takes no wisdom or skill at all. Any buffoon with a capacity to doubt is already pre-approved for tenure."

Josef Pieper writes of the orthoparadox that "Man is true to himself only when he is stretching forth -- in hope -- toward a fulfillment that cannot be reached in his bodily existence.” This paradox essentially revolves around the complementarity of being and becoming: or of Is and Ought, potential and fulfillment, time and eternity.

Life Itself is an audacious act of hope in the teeth of cosmic hopelessness. We might have well asked that first bit of matter that wrapped around itself and decided to go on being: just what are you hoping to accomplish here?

It seems that we have no right to horizontal hope -- or hope in history -- in the absence of a vertical hope for real fulfillment and genuine wholeness. Indeed, a purely horizontal hope is the very basis of the world-historical nightmares of the previous enlightened century. I don't think it is possible to place more hope in history than did the communist or national socialist, nor is it possible to bring about more radical change than they did.

Why hope? On what basis? Again, returning to the idea of life-as-hope, what is it hoping to accomplish? Is there an end game, an exist strategy, or is it just making things up as it grows along?

So long as one limits oneself to the horizontal perspective, there can be no purpose whatsoever in life. Someone like Jacques Monod was ruthlessly but refreshingly candid about this. "His thesis," writes Ratzinger, "is that the entire ensemble of nature has arisen out of errors and dissonances." Except that one.

Here is the purest possible example of the impossible doctrine of absolute relativity, i.e., the random error called Jacques Monod somehow having the ability to know ultimate truth. How it is possible for absolute contingency to pronounce on absolute necessity is wisely left unsaid. But if Monod's belief were true, it couldn't be known.

Interestingly, Monod (according to Ratzinger) rejects a priori any question to which the answer would be "God." Turning it around, this would also mean that the very idea of God can answer no legitimate questions. If it does, then there is something wrong with the question or questioner.

I don't know. That's an awful lot of faith to place in a meaningless cosmic accident. Could man really live in this kind of negative faith? Not if Life Itself is a hope for something transcending it, for how much more is the soul intrinsically oriented to that which surpasses it?

Among other arbitrary metaphysical errors, Monod is committed a priori to a monadic view of reality. But reality is not fundamentally a monad, Monod. Rather, it is fundamentally a relationship. There is nothing beyond, nothing more elemental, than Relation.

Our verticality makes this especially clear, since verticality is intrinsically oriented to the Great Beyond, O. Thus, man is man because he has an intrinsic relation to O. Yes, we are also oriented to the empirical world, but no man stays down there, except someone with severe autism or some tragic graduate school degree.

To quote Ratzinger, "God means, first of all, that human beings cannot be closed in on themselves." However, I believe this can be turned around to say: because human beings are not closed in on themselves, therefore God. In other words, God is the very possibility of our self-evident transcendence, both its origin and it destiny.

"God implies relationality," says Ratzinger. "It is the dynamic that sets the human being in motion toward the totally Other. Hence it means the capacity for relationship.... Human beings are, as a consequence, most profoundly human when they step out of themselves..."

To put in another why, God is indeed the only possible answer to the question, "how is it that human beings live in this vertical space of transcendent truth?"

Contrary to Monod, there is no serious question of this nature to which the answer could possibly be "natural selection," or "physics," or "biology." And in any event, the vertical questioner always transcends the horizontal answer.

This means that in him alone appears the complete answer to the question about what the human being is.... human persons are beings en route, beings characterized by transition. They are not yet themselves; they must ultimately become themselves.... They are oriented toward their future, and only it permits who they really are to appear completely. --Josef (then) Cardinal Ratzinger


mushroom said...

...cannot be reached in his bodily existence

I agree with Pieper, but I wonder if "selfish existence" might be more the limitation than being in a body?

mushroom said...

Could man really live in this kind of negative faith?

That would be pure fear, and maybe there is the occasional catatonic that gets that's far out. The rest are lying to themselves. Practice deception, and you will be deceived.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think he means natural existence, or "merely" physical existence. But to paraphrase Schuon, nature herself is supernatural.

julie said...

Therefore, faithlessness would apparently correspond to a kind of total cynicism: nothing to trust and no reason to trust it. Except, of course, for a total faith in the power of one's own corrosive cynicism.

Apparently, earlier this week there was a debate between Bill Nye and a Christian author I've never heard of, Ken Ham. I've not seen it, nor read a transcript, but I have serious doubts that any minds were changed. However, if the photos here are actual questions put forth by "creationists" at the debate... oy.

Obviously, a sunset can be easily explained by science, and not particularly rigorous science at that. What cannot be answered, however, is why a sunset should be so beautiful. They aren't asking the right questions, if they hope to sway someone who already thinks he has all the answers.

mushroom said...

Ken Ham is a YEC, and a piece of work. I've heard him. I don't know why people even bother with him.

The funny thing about Ham is that he is smart in limited, sophomoric way, like the Obama of Creationism. I would imagine that he and Nye mostly just talked past one another.

Even cousin Pat told Ken Ham to shut up.

mushroom said...

"natural existence" -- yes, that's better.

ge said...

The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D

[just caught a RL recommendation for this]

katzxy said...

"More generally, there would be no reason to get out of bed in the morning in the absence of faith."

A good reminder, that.

And there is a certain willfulness in unremembering it.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Why hope? On what basis? Again, returning to the idea of life-as-hope, what is it hoping to accomplish? Is there an end game, an exist strategy, or is it just making things up as it grows along?"

I like that. Always important to have an exist strategy.
One reason liberals are so screwed up is because they place more emphasis on an exit strategy.
particularly a premature exit strategy.

Magister said...

one's own corrosive cynicism

To expand: such corrosion is real because cynicism tends to remain purely reactive. It is a response, not a strategy. There is no "exist strategy" for a cynic because such a strategy would itself be subject to cynicism.

The cynic -- and his sibling, the "critical studies" type -- will become, and remain, psychologically disintegrated, and so will a nation of cynics. To organize a personality, there must be an active and resolutely hierarchical principle that one both protects from corrosion and nurtures positively.

Weaver articulates these problems very well.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Exist strategy" was originally a typo. When I started to fix it, I realized it worked better. A rare example of random mutation actually resulting in an improvement!

Now, should I post, or not post?

Getting late.

80th birthday party here for mother-in-law this afternoon. Not the customary slackful vibe around these parts. It's making me a nervous wreckluse.

Not exactly. But I do like the phrase "nervous wreckluse."

julie said...


If you post it, we'll read it.

So, are you actually going to leave the book out, or will you have mercy on your party guests?

Magister said...

"Nervous wreckluse" is up there with snidebar, encrapsulated, and a few dozen other smilers.

Good luck with the MIL!

Joan of Argghh! said...

If she's not against us, is she for us?

God Help Us.

Gagdad Bob said...

I came up with a solution: lots of illustrations!

Well, I didn't come up with it. It's just working out that way. Which turns out to be an illustration of what the post is illustrating.

And Why Jews are Liberal is sitting out for all to see, even though it turned out to be a disappointment. Podhoretz just can't help himself from being a pompous and self-important windbag.

julie said...

Bummer. Oh well, the title alone should be sufficient for the day.

Joan, reading that I felt a tingle in my midsection, which I'm pretty sure was my gorge rising. It's like the spiritual equivalent of the uncanny valley. So I guess "animal magnetism" is becoming a thing again? It seems so 18th century.

Magister said...

The artist who put a super-realistic statue of a sleepwalking man in his underwear on a sidewalk at Wellesley College, thereby provoking local feminists, has a pretty interesting body of work:

Scroll down to get past the abstract stuff. He could have put the female sleepwalker statue at Wellesley, but instead placed the male. He said he was "surprised" by the reaction and thought the Wellesley gals would show "empathy."

The man is a wit!

julie said...

If the girls of Wellesley were sane, they'd just have fun with it. Dude looks like he could use a scarf, at the very least.

Magister said...


climate change, shutting down nuclear power plants


the spiritualization process ... is the cultivation of personal magnetism


I am as God created me


the universe is invested in your self-actualization


Well, clearly she's trying to so something about the spiritual void at the center of leftist politics. I'll give her that.

Bravo to Munson not for any cynicism, but his realism.

Magister said...

Julie, if only the gals at Wellesley had a tenth of your good sense