Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When Ought Becomes Is, Reach for Your Revolver

Yesterday we were discussing how it is that modern ideologies do not conform to man's essential nature, whereas religion is supposed to do just that. This does not mean that it lowers itself to man, but rather, reveals the lower man. It holds a mirror to man in which he can see both positive and negative images.

These two sides are equally important, for if one is unaware of the bad news, it will render the good news inoperative. The bad news, instead of being a helpful diagnosis, will become an invisible stumbling block. Without appreciating the bad, the good can easily become spoiled -- charity can be reduced to indulgence, confidence to pride, courage to rashness, humility to self-loathing, chastity to prudery, etc.

Science cannot provide a satisfactory response to our innate desire to know "what is" and "who we are," the reason being that it simply does not operate on that plane. To ask it to do so is analogous to asking religion to address only one side of the equation: to descend to man without asking man to ascend to God.

Science can handle the descent but knows nothing of the ascent, or in other words, it sees the Is but not the Ought. Thus, it either elevates the Is to the Ought -- the naturalistic fallacy -- or reduces the Ought to the Is -- the citsilarutan fallacy (that's naturalistic backwards).

This latter fallacy pretends that how we would like things to be is how they are -- for example, that homosexuals can exist in a state of matrimony, or that people can choose their gender, or that welfare programs won't foster dependence, etc.

This fellow claims that conservatives are more prone to the naturalistic fallacy, liberals to its opposite. Is this true? Yes, if the liberal is a liberal or the conservative is an idiot. No conservative should conflate Is and Ought, because the first principle of conservatism is a clear distinction between the two. Any conservative who immanentizes the eschaton is not a conservative but a millenarian liberal (but I repeat myself).

But "Since academics, and social scientists in particular, are overwhelmingly left-wing liberals, the moralistic fallacy has been a much greater problem in academic discussions of evolutionary psychology than the naturalistic fallacy." Or in other words, liberals conflate desire and reality, which is vividly described in this distressing book on racial preferences. That they do great harm to their intended beneficiaries is of absolutely no consequence. Rather, the desire to do good is all that matters, and is sufficient to magically transform Ought to Is, or academia to racial Sugar Candy Mountain.

Speaking of witchcraft, isn't this what the Magician in Chief is trying to do with ObamaCare? "The debate is over. Ought is forevermore Is, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it." Obama is trying to convince us that the way ObamaCare is in his dreams is actually the way it Is. In other words, pay no attention to that Is behind the Ought.

You could say that the so-called dispute between science and religion is between Is and Ought, but how can this be? How can, say, our duty to be polite be at odds with science? They can only be at odds if science insists that man is and therefore ought to be a wolf to man, and not pretend to be something better.

Schuon suggests that modern man seems incapable "of grasping a priori the compatibility of the symbolic expressions of tradition with the material observations of science."

I suppose this was part of the challenge I was having in my theological discussion with the boy the other evening. It's naturally difficult for him to shift between the concrete and abstract, for example, vis-a-vis Genesis. Genesis symbolically comports to the nature of man, but if we try to look at it as a scientific account, we commit a category error. Or again, we accept the descent of the message without the corresponding ascent on our part.

The pervasiveness of scientism has resulted in a kind of "materialization" of the mind. Thus, when we say the leftist or secular fundamentalist is dense, we mean this literally. They are especially dense, or opaque, to the Light. As a result, they still have the same hunger for truth, but demand that it be presented to them on the same level as their density. It would be analogous to a child who knows only basic math insisting that calculus be presented to him in simple arithmetic terms.

As Schuon describes it, the modern man wishes his ultimate explanations "to remain as external and easy as scientific phenomena themselves, or in other words, he wants all the answers to be on the level of his own experiences." But these experiences "are purely material," so this attenuated consciousness "closes itself in advance against all that might transcend [these experiences]."

But again, there is still the same hunger for truth, or there would be no demand for explanations. To even ask Why? is to have already transcended the external and material, the mere Is.

Now, this Why is made of truth. This sounds like an odd thing to say, but isn't it true that question and answer always go together? Indeed to paraphrase Don Colacho, there is far more Light in a good question than a stupid answer.

So, the Why is an artifact or echo of the Truth it seeks. The intellect's "own nature," writes Schuon, "does not allow it to resist truth indefinitely." The only way for this to happen is for the will to counteract the intellect, or again, for desire to negate reality. Hunting for truth requires a good will.


Very much related -- David Bentley Hart by way of Vanderleun:

"No meaningful public debate over belief and unbelief is possible. Not only do convinced secularists no longer understand what the issue is; they are incapable of even suspecting that they do not understand, or of caring whether they do. The logical and imaginative grammars of belief, which still informed the thinking of earlier generations of atheists and skeptics, are no longer there. In their place, there is now—where questions of the divine, the supernatural, or the religious are concerned—only a kind of habitual intellectual listlessness."


Magister said...

habitual intellectual listlessness

I just spoke with a Catholic faculty member in Ireland who would disagree with this characterization. Against her, she finds not listlessness, but aggressive contempt and derision.

DBH's mileage may vary. He's also a gentleman, which may color his perceptions.

ted said...

Yes, and Hart further comments:

Everything else is idle chatter—and we live in an age of idle chatter. Lay the blame where you will: the internet, 940 television channels, social media, the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup, whatever you like. Almost all public discourse is now instantaneous, fluently aimless, deeply uninformed, and immune to logical rigor.

I agree and sigh. Thank god for blogs like this to counter that online reality!

julie said...

Magister, in DBH's defense I would argue that intellectual listlessness and aggressive contempt and derision go hand in hand. If one can't be arsed to go and discover the truth for oneself, having decided that one knows enough about what he doesn't understand to write it off as worthless, one is likely to respond to any prodding on the matter not with intellectual curiosity and a willingness to change one's mind (which takes tremendous effort), but rather with aggressive contempt and dismissal.

We encountered much the same here when we had trolls - the contempt came through loud and clear, and there was absolutely no inclination on their part to do even the simplest of reading - not even of the posts with which they "disagreed," as often as not.

mushroom said...

Just right off, that is a beautifully Chestertonian title.

mushroom said...

Social conservatives seem more likely to be "Ought to Ought" -- Jesus said it Ought to be this way so we Ought to make a law since we can't possibly trust an Important Thing Like This to the Holy Ghost.

Van Harvey said...

"Now, this Why is made of truth. This sounds like an odd thing to say, but isn't it true that question and answer always go together? Indeed to paraphrase Don Colacho, there is far more Light in a good question than a stupid answer.

So, the Why is an artifact or echo of the Truth it seeks."

Big Yes! on that, but only a small nod on: "only a kind of habitual intellectual listlessness", not because it isn't true, but because it's only a shallow surface description. Why? Where does the listlessness come from?

Don't cut short the importance of 'far more Light in a good question than a stupid answer'. The implications of :"Why is an artifact or echo of the Truth it seeks" have been enormous for modernity, with our turning away from Questioning, and towards Doubting. I won't repeat my rant again, you've heard it often enough before (it's repeated here), but learning the method of doubt requires faking doubts, and invites accepting answers without reasons, and desensitizes us against true doubts. It also enables a satisfaction with answers which there is no real basis for, and fosters no sense of commitment to them.

Why habitual listlessness? Because there is no intellectual Why for what they've accepted as being true.

Tall plants with no roots.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent bloggin' n' commentin' today!
Those who despise or close themselves off to truth seek to be wise while rejecting past wisdom that has been tried and true.

Van Harvey said...

"When Ought Becomes Is, Reach for Your Revolver"

What about when Mind becomes Matter?

MIT’s Max Tegmark is championing a new way of explaining it: he believes that consciousness is a state of matter.: "Tegmark calls his new state of matter “perceptronium.”"

Just when you thought that stupid was as stupid as stupid could get....

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Matter over mind(lessness)? Lol.

julie said...

So now when we say someone is as dumb as a box of rocks, we can mean that in a perfectly literal sense.

Science progresses to pantheism. Who would have thought it?

Ironically, though, even if it were somehow proven to be true, it would simply mean that yes, it is a living cosmos.

Gagdad Bob said...

No post today. The moment has arrived for the seven year medical screening that dare not speak its name. My turn in the barrel.

julie said...

Oh, dear. So Vanderleun's post from a couple of weeks ago was a little too close to home.

Just remember, if it feels like more than two fingers, it's probably... well, let's just hope it doesn't feel like more than two fingers.

mushroom said...

The moment has arrived for the seven year medical screening that dare not speak its name.

It was a dark and stormy night ...

Gagdad Bob said...

I am now enjoying a sweet Fentanyl High, which compensates for the nasty day of prep. Even Steven.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Glad to see you weathered the storm, Bob.
Raccoons leave no one behind.