Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Vertical Church of Perpetual Delight

Yesterday we mentioned the difference between the two forms of knowledge, (k) and (n).

There are many ways to frame this distinction, but one is between information and wisdom. One of the characteristics of the left, for example, is that it is full of information-blather but utterly devoid of wisdom. The university is Ground Zero for the liberal scary goround of zero wisdom.

And even then, their information tends to be fragmented, inflated out of proportion, expanded beyond its proper limits, or just plain wrong, rendering it (-k), that is, knowledge that isn't so.

And in recent years the contemporary left has become more characterized by low-information, for which I haven't invented a pnemuaticon.

Hmm... How about (ø) for our lo-fo mouth-breathren. This signifies the bad nothing, in contrast to the good for nothing of (o), or the "poverty of spirit" with which we approach God (or O).

Information can be in conformity to anything down to the most trivial matter. Yesterday, for example, I read in Stereophile of a few low-cost tweaks to supposedly improve the old sound system, so I was messing around with them as would any obsessive crank in futile pursuit of perfect sound.

What I was actually doing was messing with the cause(s) of "good sound." This subject can get metaphysical very quickly, but I'm looking at it in a more purely linear context: try this, listen for that.

But what is the Object of sound wisdom? McGinn writes that the whole point of the 1.5 million words of the Summa Theologiae is to converge upon and disclose "what he called sapientia, that is, wisdom."

Philosophy, left to its own devices, can only deal in (k), not (n). The moment you realize that philosophy is infused with energy and information from a nonhuman source, then you are in the world of theology. Of course, every philosopher deals in theology, but only a relative few admit it.

I mean this literally, because wisdom "deals with the highest cause, which is God" (ibid.). Science and other disciplines deal with various intermediate causes, but as soon as you posit an ultimate cause, then you are a theologian, even if a frivolous one. Two gags from Happy Acres express this principle in a succinct form:

In the first, Professor Dawkins concedes the absurdity of imagining there is no higher cause outside this world, but just when you think he's about to get a Clue, he simply converts it into a horizontal fantasy about alien beings.

But this does nothing to resolve the ineluctable philosophical problem, since it just defers and displaces the ultimate cause elsewhere. In other words, you still have to account for the cause of aliens.

Oh, right. Other aliens.

In the second image, Chesterton reminds us of Petey's adage that supernature abhors a vacuum, and that you can drive it out with a pitchfork but it will always come rushing back in, only in a transmogrified form because it promiscuously "mates" with various mind parasites from a lower order. Thus, liberals will be the first to tell you that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Yet.

As information allows us to accomplish things in the world, wisdom is the cause of judgment (or prudence), which is the cardinal virtue.

It reminds me of how the ancient Greeks could only learn so much about the world, because they didn't have much commerce with it. Rather, slaves did all the work, so they are the ones who learned how the material world actually works. You might say the Greeks specialized in wisdom but had a rather impoverished knowledge of the world.

But this only shows how there can indeed be a (-n), or "false wisdom," so to speak. This tendency is only fully eradicated in the "moderate realism" of the Aristotle-Thomas tradition, which begins with the world but doesn't end there.

There are two main alternatives to this sane approach to the world: the older one is to begin in the other world, a la Plato, and to devalue this one. The more recent is to begin and end in this world, as do materialists, Marxists, atheists, etc.

I suppose there's a third approach, the Kantian one in which you essentially begin and end in man's neurology. Deconstruction would simply be a postmodern version of this, as it traps us in the closed system of language, itself just a prolongation of our neurology.

Note that any of the three alternatives splits the world and then elevates a part to the whole. Big. Mistake.

In fact, this is the quintessence of anti-wisdom, for "judgment is made about an effect through its cause, and the same is true about lower causes through the higher cause, so wisdom is the judge of all the other intellectual virtues; it belongs to put them all in order" (Aquinas, in McGinn).

In other words, we might say that (lower case) judgment allows us to infer causes from effects (and vice versa), whereas (upper case) Judgment allows us to wisely organize reality into a hierarchy of causes, with the Cause of causes at the top. A comprehensive -- and wise -- account of reality will exclude neither causes nor Cause.

There are three sources of wisdom: there is the universal metaphysics from which we may deduce various truths that cannot not be (e.g., the laws of non-contradiction or excluded middle), revelation, and what we are calling (n), or direct infused knowledge/intellection of the transcendental Object.

You will have noticed that evangelicals tend to reject the first and third in favor of a pure fideism to revelation, whereas "new agers" will tend toward the third while rejecting tradition and science. But the Raccoon wants all three in his arsenal: knowledge, revelation, and grace.

For St. Thomas, sapientia (n) "has a greater affective, even experiential, quality than abstract deductive reasoning."

This is indeed a key point, because (n) cannot just be handed off from mind to mind or soul to soul as can ordinary (k). Rather, it must be experienced and "vivified" by each soul anew -- and ultimately this cannot be accompliced without the aid of the Holy Spirit, for

"To see oneness in creation is to sense the source of creation, the Creator. To see only fragments in creation is to see creation in its material aspect, missing its source and its life." Thus, wisdom is ultimately a reflection of wholeness, of life, of dynamic unity, and of divine delight, for

"[C]ontemplation of wisdom is like a game for two reasons. First, because a game is enjoyable and the contemplation of wisdom brings the greatest delight.... Second, because a game is not ordered to something else but only to itself; this belongs to the delights of wisdom" (Aquinas, ibid.).


mushroom said...

"Thus, liberals will be the first to tell you that Santa Clause doesn't exist. Yet."

They gave Krugman a Nobel for that.

Rick said...

On the whole alien bit, I wish I could recall who I was listening to not that long ago. It may have been Belinski, Stephen Meyer, or Eric Metaxas. One of them was talking about that formula for calculating the odds for life on earth. The fine-tuning thing and the great number of factors required for it to have happened (within the window of time that it apparently needed to have happened). Drake Equation or something. Anyway, it's been quite a while since someone last reviewed the formula and apparently there are more factors to enter into it. I think the chances have approached zero now and even have gone beyond zero. Which means even we shouldn't exist (which sounds just like the God I know). And provided with these facts it would be more reasonable to believe in God than aliens since the odds are obviously worse for aliens.

Whateverthecasemaybe, I find the above thinkers to be much more thought provoking than the average bear.

mushroom said...

Note that any of the three alternatives splits the world and then elevates a part to the whole. Big. Mistake.

I think you have given me a new understanding of the biblical statement that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom".

Rick said...

That Santa Clause bit was pretty good. Bumperstickerable.

Gagdad Bob said...

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It follows that rejection of the Lord is the beginning of folly.

Even worse than Obama's ignorance is his lack of wisdom.

Rick said...

Just received McGinn's Theologiae. What a beautifully crafted little book. Nice to see. I don't know how they can do it for $15.

julie said...

It follows that rejection of the Lord is the beginning of folly.

Folly can at least be harmless. It begins with folly, but potentially ends in pure, unmitigated evil.