Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cosmic Heresies and their Alternative

In the Aristotle/Thomist tradition, the function of the intellect is to essentially identify form in substance -- to "pull" universals out of particulars, or knowledge from the senses; it is what allows us to see any dawg and immediately know he is a member of the category "Clinton."

It seems to me that Chesterton is trying to do something similar in his book on Thomas Aquinas, only on a much higher level: that is, pull the essence of Thomas himself from his sprawling corpus, which most of us would have neither the time nor brains to assimilate. Etienne Gilson remarked that he had spent his life studying and writing about St. Thomas, and now a journalist comes along and "writes a better book about him than I have!"

This idea of a simple essence -- or essential simplicity -- appeals to me, for reasons alluded to in yesterday's post: I have this sense that things can't be as complicated as scholars make them out to be, and that deep down there must be a simple explanation for It All -- or at least a simple approach to it, and that so many arguments between scholars are at the margins of reality, not at the center. (And I mean scholars within tradition; those outside tradition are each arguing from their own manmade centers, so there is no hope for them.)

Yesterday I read that Charles Hartshorne once planned on writing a book to be called The Universal Orthodoxy. I'm kind of glad he never got around to it, because I am definitely going to steal that title if I ever write another book. Frankly, I've been looking everywhere for that title, so I am relieved to have finally found it. Cosmic Orthodoxy would work just as well.

Now, in order to write it, I will have to do for me what Chesterton did for Aquinas: extract the essence without making me look like a simpleton. But the idea of a Universal Orthodoxy would follow from the principle that there is a Universal Man, or that man exists.

Remember, a nominalist doesn't believe in the existence of universals, so there is no category of man, only individual human beings. Thus, once you take a single step down that path, there is no possibility of universality, of a metacosmic key to unlock the damn world enigma. And in rejecting Thomas, the world stepped right on to that path.

With one exception: mathematics. Mathematics is clearly universal, although there are no doubt feminists and professors of black studies who would insist that math is gendered or that the white man's numbers are privileged. But we give those people Ph.D.s to humor them and make them go away, not because we take them seriously. Everyone else knows that math is math, and that there's not a damn thing we can do about it (notwithstanding liberals who abuse math and statistics to prove anything; the fact that they bother to misuse math is a kind of backhanded respect for its authority).

Math is all well and good, but no one has ever -- or will ever -- be able to use it to create a cosmos. In other words, let's say that physicists eventually find a way to resolve the four fundamental forces into one simple equation. Remember, the equation is abstracted from reality. You cannot reverse imagineer the thing, and magically produce reality from the equation.

It seems to me that this is something those atheistic devotees of science always forget: that science is about reality, not reality itself. Reality Itself always transcends science, obviously. It is an Inexhaustible Mystery, which we mean quite literally.

For what is a mystery? Rizzi speaks for us in defining it as "an area of reality so intelligible that we can never understand it all." So to say "reality is a mystery" is not some kind of evasion or mystagoguery, but an objective principle, indeed, one of the First Unavoidable Principles of Cosmic Orthodoxy.

In this sense, reality -- or being -- is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be enjoyed. True, there can be annoying mysteries, like, for example, "Why do we tolerate the IRS?," but that's not a true mystery, because there is a rational explanation, no matter how irrational.

But real mystery flows from the inexhaustible intelligibility of being. Notice that the essence of scientism is to imagine it possible to contain this mystery in science, which usually comes down to math -- the notion that quality can be reduced to quantity, semantics to syntax, subject to object. Thus, these dweebs must feel that reality is some kind of annoying mystery, like the IRS.

For, you see, nominalism -- which is a cosmic heresy -- is nevertheless, like all heresies, a partial truth. This is most relevant in the study of human beings. The fact that we can say "human being" means that man may be reduced to a universal category.

However, the fact that each soul is unique means that every man escapes -- transcends -- category. Or in other words, that each man is an inexhaustible mystery, analogous in this way to the God who birthed him and to the Being that nourishes him.

Which is also why leftism is a cosmic heresy -- well, there are actually a number of reasons why, but in this case because its first principle is to sacrifice the individual for the group, and thus hack away at man's very reason for being; for if man isn't a significant other, he is an absurd and insignificant unit of the state.

Not much time this morning... to be continued...


Gagdad Bob said...

Media bias in action: Raccoon gives cops hell in beauty shop rescue

Excuse me, but who's the one who is going to be euthanized so his brains can be tested for rabies?

mushroom said...

Ben is headed to the ER because of his gallstones. I'm sure he would appreciate our prayers.

julie said...

Man, it looks like Dupree was on an epic bender. I had no idea raccoons could fly!

Poor Ben - seems like he never gets a break. At least the gallbladder is usually not too bad of a procedure, and getting rid of it can be a great way to improve your quality of life.

Jesse Jackson said... doubt feminists and professors of black studies who would insist that math is gendered or that the white man's numbers are privileged.

Differential equations are the white man's evasions.

mushroom said...

Reality Itself always transcends science, obviously.

As Hamlet said:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Science is exploration. Scientism is grants, publications, tenure, and cocktail parties.

mushroom said...

An echo from Briggs:

The theory has become more important than reality. This is so true that even attacks on the theory using reality are seen by believers as confirmation of the theory. “Why is he denying my theory? He must be evil. My theory is stronger than his hate.”

Gagdad Bob said...

What the existence of African American Studies teaches us: math is hard.

julie said...

Also true for feminist studies, and most of the curriculum in California public schools.

Come to think of it, thanks to Common Core math is now a lot harder than it needs to be, too...

Leslie Godwin said...

If anyone hears from Ben, please ask his permission to post an update under today's post (I'm assuming there will be one because I drove the Boy to school this morning :)
Praying for you, Ben.
Mrs. G

Van Harvey said...

Just saw the note about Ben - I'm still playing catch up after being in our state capital the first half of the week ('I've seen the future, and it sucks') - hope your on on the mend Ben!

katzxy said...

For a long time it has seemed amazing that math is so effective in describing aspects of the universe. I know of no easy explanation why simple equations should capture the behavior of real objects.