There is no real debate about this: the most important truths are both knowable and known. In the words of The Poet, they have already been discovered / Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope / To emulate.
Which is what the celebration of Independence Day is all about (for the purposes of this post we are including the Constitution that gave political form to our liberty). Who can hope to emulate George Washington, or Alexander Hamilton, or James Madison? Barack Obama? He can only hope to neutralize them, or at least minimize the damage they do to the ambitions of progressive statists.
On that score he's arguably made more progress than any president in our history. Or in other words, he's succeeded in doing more damage to truth than any of his predecessors.
But what has been lost and rediscovered is always lost and found and lost again; and now, under conditions / That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss. / For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business (Eliot).
As I'm sure we've discussed on a number of occasions, the truths we're talking about are never discovered in a once-and-for-all fashion. Rather, they must be rediscovered anew by each generation, and indeed, each individual. Why is this? Why must metaphysical truth be so seemingly difficult to discover and establish on this earth?
Two reasons come to mind. The first is that this discovery is bound up with our very reason for being here. Pursuit of truth constitutes the meaning, the struggle, the romance, and the adventure of life.
Furthermore, it is a vertical struggle, meaning that it naturally runs counter to impersonal (and personal) forces that run in the opposite direction. We might just as well ask, "why is it so difficult for me to make a slam dunk?" In my case, the answer is gravity. If it weren't for stupid gravity, I'd take some of these youngbloods to skool. Uncle Bob got skilz!
Also, the fact that this truth cannot be given but must be discovered is a mercy, not a curse. If this weren't the case, then the pleasures of the spirit would be diminished, just as the pleasures of the mind would be impossible if everything were known.
What if everything were known in the usual sense, and there were no mystery surrounding and penetrating us? That would be a kind of hell. The Library of Babel, a short story by Borges, captures this hellish (im)possibility. It "describes a vast collection of books... whose volumes contain all possible combinations of alphabetic characters" (Lindsey, where I found the reference. Don't worry, I'm not going all literary on you).
"Everything is there... the minute history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, a demonstration of the fallacy of these catalogues, a demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary of this gospel, the veridical account of your death, a version of each book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books" (Borges).
One person's hell is another person's academia.
Of course, being random, "Most of the books, inevitably, contain only unreadable gibberish" (Lindsey). There is no combination of letters "which the divine Library has not already foreseen."
So, on the one hand, the library is omniscient, containing all possible knowledge. And yet, this is analogous to Hegel's "bad infinite," which you might say is simply unbounded nothingness, i.e., the endless night in which all cows are black. Everything and nothing.
How does a universe that is random at one end result in truth at the other? We'll come back to that in a
moment later post.
Lindsey suggests that "Borges's library provides an apt metaphor for contemporary America's pandemonium of social and cultural diversity." Everyone is hard at work making their own little contribution to the Library.
Our president, for example, has contributed five books, when I thought it was just the two better known turds. In any event, that's five times as many as Hamilton and Madison, whose only contribution is the Federalist, and he knows so much more than they did.