Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Love of Science and the Science of Love

Next up in Schindler, The Sanctity of the Intellectual Life. Yes, sanctity, without which the intellectual life is not even worthless, but rather, perhaps the most harmful force in all of creation.

Yeah, you heard me, all of creation. For if human beings are the most precious things in all of creation -- which they are -- then nothing has destroyed more of us (not just physically, but mentally and spiritually) than intellectuals and the lies they propagate. So we're being quite literal here, not at all polemical.

A very quick google search leads me to this site called Necrometrics, estimating that in the 20th century, 203 million were killed as a result of war, genocide, and man-caused famine, 87 million alone from communism. By way of comparison, he calculates 8.5 million other murders worldwide in the same period.

And "3.5 million people were killed in 20th Century disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and volcanos," but even there, ideology has a lot to due with it, because a 7.0 earthquake in California may kill a handful, whereas thousands will die if it occurs in some craphole like Iran. It's the same with diseases. Relatively few people in first world countries die in epidemics, unless liberals get their way and everyone stops vaccinating their children.

It also says that exactly 34,075 people were killed by tigers in India between 1875 and 1912, but c'mon. I would file that under the general heading of Failure to Handle Your Bidness. Some things are just basic, like clearing out the snakes, bears, and malaria-bearing mosquitoes. (By the way, thanks again to liberal intellectuals, millions have died in Africa as a result of the ban on DDT.)

So, ideas have consequences, often deadly. At present, the most evil force in the world -- Islamism -- is an intellectual movement.

But let's get back to the main topic at hand, the sanctity of the intellect. What is it? Very simply, it is truth -- or, more precisely, reverence for truth. To paraphrase Schuon, nothing is more privileged than truth. If man is composed of intellect, sentiment, and will, then it is because we are proportioned to, and converge upon, truth, beauty, and goodness, respectively.

Just as "good" is what we are to do, truth is what we are to know, and beauty what we are to create. Each has its own special penumbra of sanctity. Each is loved for its own sake, not for any utilitarian reason. Like family and friendship, each is its own sufficient reason.

"Sanctity should provide the inner form of the intellectual life, in a way that affects both the methods and the content of the modern academic curriculum" (Schindler).

Just waiting for the laughter to die down.

Here is how Schuon defines sanctity: "it is the intuition of the spiritual nature of things; profound intuition which determines the entire soul, hence the entire being of man."

Now, truth is nothing if not spiritual. How's that? Because it is obviously immaterial, immateriality being one of the defining characteristics of Spirit. When I so much as see a tree as a tree, it is because -- recall the Helen Keller example last week -- the mind is able to perceive the abstract form in the particular substance. If we couldn't do this, we would be animals, precisely. Or, man is the animal with a rational soul, as Aristotle quipped. (But we are more than this as well.)

More Good Stuff from Schuon: "Metaphysical truth is in the first place discernment between the Real and the unreal or the less real." This implies that truth is hierarchically ordered from top to bottom (for it could never be vice versa, as per scientism, which literally elevates appearances to truth).

Truth is not what we make but what we discover. But this does not imply that truth is passive. To the contrary -- especially in the Christian view -- truth "offers itself" as a gift, so to speak, to the intellect. Reality is generous, self-giving, open -- but only to the mind that is similarly generous, self-giving, and open. As applied to man, these three go to the sanctity of the intellect.

A sanctified intellect is humble, open to the gift of truth, and even self-sacrificial, for clearly, in order to know any truth, we must "sacrifice" the interests and preferences of the ego.

Properly understood, science is most definitely a spiritual practice, something which virtually all scientists once knew. It clearly requires a kind of kenosis, or self-emptying in order to be properly filled by truth.

What scientism forgets is that it is rooted in this metaphysic of love. For what else do you call this mutual self-offering of truth and intellect? You could say, as Schindler does, that "all creation is dynamically ordered from and toward the love revealed by God in Jesus Christ." Yes, this is what you call real Christian science. Or just say science.

You know, the reason why the intellectual life is so rewarding is because it is this continuous gift of truth to intellect, right? It is a love affair. How can this be, if it is not built into the nature of things?

Oops. Just got called into work early. Let's abruptly conclude with this:

"[I]n Jesus Christ, God has assumed human nature, and, indeed, through human nature, in some sense all of nature. Nature from the beginning finds its integrity and freedom in obedience: in a relation of service to the Father, and thus in love.... Thus every created being in its depths exhibits an orientation and movement from God, and in this way... 'images' God" (Schindler).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

God Is Dead, and So Is This Sentence

This next chapter in Schindler is called On the Meaning of the Death of God in the Academy, and it's a corker. He starts with the godlessfather of deconstruction, Derrida, who "criticizes Western thought in terms of what he calls its 'logocentrism,'" -- but, get this, uses words to do so. Doesn't that automatically call his method into question, i.e., using language to undermine the very basis of language?

No, not if the real point is destruction. It's like the Islamists who want 21st century military technology to bring us back to the 7th century, or progressives who want to limit our freedom in order to free us from freedom.

The joyously preposterous logocentrism of Raccoon tradition "presupposes that meaning is present to us, at least in principle." In premodern times this was consciously identified with the Christian logos and ultimately with the second person of the Trinity.

However, "with the secularization of the post-Enlightenment West, this link has been severed, but logocentrism nonetheless persists." In other words, some people haven't yet gotten the memo that God is dead, and don't realize that any possibility of meaning went out the door with him: "Simply stated, meaning and intelligibility presuppose God."

The eternal Logos pervades the universe -- it is immanent -- but is also the "transcendental signified," the "convergent object of reference to which all signs are somehow directed." Thanks to Logos Central, all truth speaks of, and is derived from, the One Truth -- or, in the words of de Lubac, All knowers know God implicitly in all that they know, whether they know it or not.

Derrida obviously knew what was at (the) stake here, so give him credit for that. For ultimately, "The sign and divinity have the same place and time of birth" (in Schindler). It's just that there is no divinity, so the sign is barren, the crib (and even womb) is empty, and meaning has no descendents. There is nothing for the sign to point to except other signs, so the system is as inbred as the Royal Family.

However, even if this were true, it wouldn't solve the "problem" of meaning, and make it go away. In the past we have discussed how fractal geometry proves that a coastline -- say, the coastline around Hawaii, or Great Britain -- is actually "infinite," like a real-life Zeno's paradox. I suppose that the closest and most accurate measurement will reach all the way into the infinite nothing of dark matter or something. In other words, you fall out of the cosmos from the bottom end.

The point is that language is actually open at both ends. You can't just close off the top -- transcendence -- and pretend you're done with it. This, I think, explains the insane fertility of language, which was one of Joyce's main points in Finnegans Wake.

There are references to this throughout the text. I could spend the rest of the morning playing this game, but let's just say that When a part so ptee does duty for the holos we soon grow to use of an allforabit. That's been my credo for some 30 years, and it hasn't failed me yet.

So, "the age of the sign is essentially theological" (Derrida). But we are beyond the theological age, so "No longer do we naively appeal to a Divine Logos which undergirds the intelligibility in and of things and their linguistic expression" (Schindler).

Now, when Schindler says "we," he obviously means the tenured, for whom this is no doubt true despite the fact that truth is no longer possible for them. Whatever. Fuck you pay me.

Thus, "Derrida represents the return of [Nietzsche's] madman, insisting that the requisite time has now passed: it is time now for the death of God to be seen and heard in its full implications. Intelligibility -- identifiable meaning -- does not, and cannot, outlive God. Rather, following the death of God, we stray 'as through an infinite nothing'" (ibid.).

Have you gnosissed how the Fall can take so many diverse forms? For in the deconstructed world, "theos has been replaced by anthropos" (ibid.), which is just a fancy way of ssssaying Ye shall be as gods! It doesn't matter what you believe, so long as it amounts to nothing.

Note also how the Word, instead of becoming flesh -- and vice versa -- is displaced by the flesh. Well played, Beelzebub, well payed too.

Therefore you're a meaningless god, or a god without meaning, but hey, nobody's perfect. Plus you are in competition with a horde of similarly atomized and meaningless godlings, but seize enough power and you can control or vanquish them.

Knowledge itself is broken up into smaller and smaller parts, which reminds me of how the psychotic person is haunted by a persecutory world of projected psychic bits with no hope of synthesis and unity. Postmodernism is institutionalized psychosis, or cosmic lunacy. Not only is it a flight from transcendence, but a violent repression of it, which is how someone once defined fascism (violent opposition to transcendence, or something like that).

If you have followed the argument this far, you could say that, deep down, liberalism is not only shallow, but non-existent. It is the metaphysics of nothing, or applied nihilism. Which is why a Harry Reid, or Hillary Clinton, or Dick Durbin, are the way they are (and aren't).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What Does Meaninglessness Mean?

"Unless our language signifies something definite and intelligible," writes Schindler, "we can hardly consider with seriousness questions of truth." However, questions of truth are precisely what the tenured tell us are -- literally -- out of bounds, since we are bounded by language, in a closed system of signifyin' jive.

To make a long story short, once upon a time there was construction. This was followed by deconstruction, proving that man can destroy in a single generation what it took 13.7 billion years to build. Our task then is reconstruction, only perhaps on a firmer and more self-critical basis, so as to be better able to fend off the inevitable intellectual vermin who embody the catabolic force, the spirit of darkness.

These combative assouls will always be with us, and they do render a cosmic service, in that they will either kill us or make us stronger in the ability to vindicate Truth. As Peter says, don't sweat it, but "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you," and as Paul says, be prepared to demolish "arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God."

First of all, someone needs to explain how meaning can arise in a meaningless cosmos. Sounds basic, but there are certain universal principles that man is entitled to know (for God doesn't leave us wholly in the dark), such as the laws of identity, noncontradiction, and never walking the pitcher.

Another one is that the greater cannot come from the lesser. Yes, we are aware of the fact that local conditions may temporarily overcome entropy, but this begs the question, since it doesn't explain how the information got into the local conditions to begin with. Rather, it still assumes what needs to be proved.

Besides, how would it be possible to prove meaninglessness? Isn't any proof proof of meaning? One might well say: I prove, therefore truth is.

Now, meaning can only exist if a thing refers to something beyond itself, whether we are talking about an individual person, all of history, or the entire cosmos. If the cosmos is ultimately a closed system, referring to, or situated in, nothing beyond itself, then any meaning we come up with is just a dream.

Thus, Christian eschatology embodies the principle that history does not achieve its own consummation within history. Simple as. Or, either it does or it doesn't. There can be no in between.

This then is one of the ground-floor principles that divides left and right: the left always exploits the primordial but misguided hope (a corollary of the Fall) that history can achieve its own consummation here and now -- that we can "fundamentally transform" things in such a way that we waltz straight back into our lost paradise. Then we will live as large as the little gods we are.

But history cannot consummate itself in time for the same reason man cannot do so. Rather, as Ratzinger writes, "such an expectation is irreconcilable with the perpetual openness and the perpetually peccable [i.e., capable of sinning] freedom of man." You might say that the leftist's dreams of terrestrial utopia are an insult to man's propensity to badness. The leftist forgets that man likes to rebel on principle, and that if he can't rebel against the light, then he'll even rebel against darkness.

In this regard, the leftist makes the inverse error of libertarians who seem to believe that the free market alone is able to foster or regulate morality. As Ratzinger observes, in utopian socialist planning, "the salvation of the world" won't come "from the moral dignity of man." Rather, it is supposed to arise "from mechanisms that can be planned," but which ignore "the values which support the world." The conservative liberal occupies the middle ground, in the belief that the free market does not create morality but must assume it.

Another cosmic principle is alluded to above, in that man is a perpetually open system. Another name for this open system is person. Now, how does such an infinitely open system -- open to the infinite -- arise in a supposedly closed cosmos? All other animals are enclosed within their nervous systems, so Kant had the right idea, just the wrong species. Persons by definition are radically open to what is outside and above them, i.e., to relationship and transcendence.

Bottom line: "eschatology, precisely because it is not a political goal, functions as guarantor of meaning." Conversely, deny it and meaning evaporates. The eschaton, in our view, is the "divine attractor" at the end of history, or which draws history in its wake. In a formulation we have deployed before, Jesus is end-made-middle, or transcendence-made-immanent, or consummation revealed now, or beyond-history made history, or O made ʘ, or Person(s) made person (and ultimately mankind), etc.

Ratzinger even favorably (I think) references Teilhard, who "defines Christ as the Omega point of evolution. Natural history and human history are for him stages of one and the same process," which I think goes to Paul's comment about how the whole darn creation groans for salvation. History "keeps approaching this goal without ever reaching it," which is again why applied utopia is a recipe for genocide. The latter "becomes a design for a prison instead of a search for true freedom."

The dysluxians of the left habitually conflate goal and gaol.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Freedomism and Slavery

For Schindler, our cultural death spiral -- or plunge into the culture of death -- has to do with an implicit and a priori acceptance of the substance of liberalism. Specifically, the idea of an "empty freedom" "serves precisely to create the illusion that we remain simply free to choose our own ontology."

People say you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. That's not true. Actually, you are entitled to your own facts as well, but not your own ontology. Facts are facts and reality is reality, but facts that aren't situated in the proper reality fail to be factual.

Freedom, of course, is of the highest value, on par with love, truth, unity, beauty, and virtue. But the liberal understanding of freedom coincides with an "anthropology which has always-already given that freedom its meaning."

However, thanks to the Cartesian Conspiracy, this freedom is "shaped by the liberal disjunction between subjectivity and objectivity" and thus "infected by the liberal dualism of will and intelligence, with its corresponding voluntaristic subjectivity and mechanistic objectivity."

In other words, freedom in this view has no intrinsic relation to truth or virtue, so freedom redounds to a grim Clintonian will to power, while our epistemological freedom is reduced to a kind of "perception is reality," so there is black truth, white truth, feminist truth, homosexual truth, etc. Which is no truth at all, being that truth converges on unity, not plurality. Truth and multiculturalism are antonymic.

We are all familiar with liberal bogies such as structural racism and white privilege, but far more problematic is structural sin, which goes to the existential reality of the fallenness into which we are born. Living as we must in "liberal structures," it is very difficult to avoid being naughty and still make a living.

For Schindler, "unless we recognize the ambiguity of present-day freedom at its very source, we risk colluding in the development of a culture that can easily... become the death of freedom." Note that this book was published in 1996, thirteen years before Obama took office and made it all rather obvious.

"Coincidentally," the Happy Acres Guy has a link to this interesting interview with a fellow who wrote a book called The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. He is saying pretty much the same thing we are, and yet, getting paid for it. From the interview:

"In your chapter A Brief History of Freedom, you propose what some might consider a damning interpretation of the anthropology of modern liberalism that suggests that the desire of 17th-century thinkers to free themselves from political authorities led to a rebellion against all external authority.

"The end result is not just a political, but an epistemic one: Reality ends up being self-constructed; we end up trapped in our heads. Your account starts with Descartes and his mind-body distinction, passes through Locke, and culminates in Kant [and drives Van nuts]. Does the modern political project we cherish -- liberal, democratic, rights-based, etc. -- and that those same thinkers developed necessitate the loss of genuine attention (and the consequent problems)?"

Crawford responds that his "critique of the anthropology we have inherited from early modern thought has a couple of dimensions. The first is sociological, simply noticing how autonomy-talk is pretty much the only idiom that is available to us for articulating our self-understanding, and how inadequate it is for capturing lived experience."

Exactly. Such "autonomy talk" is grounded in certain liberal assumptions about freedom that have nothing to do with the religious assumptions that gave freedom its original meaning and value.

He goes on to suggest that "Living in a culture saturated with vulgar freedomism, you may develop a jaundiced view of the whole project of liberation inaugurated by Descartes and Locke."

This parallels Schindler's observation that the implicit assumption of contemporary liberalism is that "truth and freedom are inversely related, in such a way that any clear claim of truth then becomes in principle a threat to (someone's) freedom."

This is how we end up with a liberal totolerantarianism that issues death threats to those who do not embrace the lie. It is very much as if liberals believe that truth enslaves instead of setting us free.

They are half-right about that, because for someone committed to the Lie, the truth will feel like an ominous prison: "liberalism's appeal to freedom, paradoxically, serves to enslave -- that is by virtue of its hidden dogma."

Conversely, the so-called dogma of Christianity wants desperately to liberate man into the metaphysical, ontological, epistemological, and anthropological reality of world-as-gift, or to situate our lives within the trinitarian dynamic of being for-being from-being with, or I-You-We, or just plain old Love.

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