Friday, May 13, 2016

A Quick Cure for News

Still a bit under the weather. Being that a head cold causes me to lose 20 IQ points, I don't want to risk posting, what with so many lives at stake.

However, it doesn't mean I can't exploit someone else's intelligence, in this case, Nicolás Gómez Dávila's.

I was thinking, wouldn't it be nice if we could replace our worthless news media with a guy who simply reads a few astringent aphorisms into the camera?

Todays top stories, via Don Colacho's Aphorisms:

With a picture of campus crybullies in the background:

Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different.

Over a stat showing broad support for Bernie Sanders among young adults:

Civilization is what old men manage to salvage from the onslaught of young idealists.

The gender perversion and bathroom confusion of the left?

Conservatism should not be a party but the normal attitude of every decent man.

Bernie Sanders' free stuff?

Compassion is the best excuse for envy.

Farcebook's anti-conservative news aggregation?

The journalist collects the previous day's garbage in order to feed it to us for breakfast.

Hillary's six figure speaking fees (not to mention the somehow wealthy community organizer occupying the White House)?

The only man who should speak of wealth or power is one who did not extend his hand when they were within his reach.


The man who says he is respectful of all ideas is admitting that he is ready to give in.


The cost of progress is calculated in fools.

Social justice?

"Social justice" is the term used to claim anything to which we do not have a right

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Marriage of Time & Eternity

In Norris Clarke's The Philosophical Approach to God there is a helpful section that attempts to reconcile (orthodox) Christianity with process philosophy. For on the one hand, "process thought contains a number of basic insights that can and should be fruitfully recognized by Christian theism."

However, it is nevertheless "in serious tension, if not incompatibility, with traditional Christian theism on several key points..."

This is consistent with what I've said in the past -- that while Whitehead was one of my biggest influences, I could never be a "Whiteheadian" per se. You could say that certain aspects of process philosophy help me get past certain personal impasses in Christianity, while certain doctrines of Christianity help me get past the dodgier aspects of process philosophy.

Whitehead is probably more compatible with, say, Buddhism than Christianity, for like Buddhism he posits a world of pure process with no substantial reality underneath. But to jump ahead a bit, I am personal where he is impersonal, and trinitarian where he is... uni-processual, or something. I suppose that makes us Trinitarian Personalists, which about sums up the Secret Raccoon Doctrine.

By the way, I am still laboring under this manflu, so I'm hoping that much of this post can just consist of playgiarizing with Clarke instead of having to think for myself.

Here is a nice passage that clears up that whole predestination problem, which comes down to the nature of God's omnipotence:

"The actual carrying out of divine providence (and predestination) can take place... by persuasion, by luring to the good, not by coercion.....

"God determines the general set of goals He wishes to achieve, the goals at which he aims the universe, and knows that in general he will be able to achieve by His suasive power, but does not determine ahead of time in detail just whether or how each particular creature will achieve its share or not in this overall goal."

In keeping with the spirit of jazz, "Divine providence unfolds by constant instantaneous 'improvisation' of the divine mind and will -- from His always contemporaneous eternal now -- precisely to fit the actual ongoing activities, especially the free ones, of the creaturely players in the world drama" (or cosmic jazz combo).

One big issue is whether God changes. Process philosophy says Yes, of course, while orthodox Christianity says No Way. But the latter makes no sense to a Trinitarian Personalist, since God is not only related, but is relationship as such. And to be "in relationship" means to be relative to someone else.

Even so, the process philosophers are, in my opinion, a little too facile in positing a God of constant change.

For Clarke, "our metaphysics of God must certainly allow us to say that in some real and genuine way God is affected positively by what we do, that He receives love from us and experiences joy precisely because of our responses..."

However, "God does not become a more or less perfect being because of the love we return to him and the joy He experiences" therefrom.

As I've said before, if we can change but God can't, it means that we have a capacity that is denied God. Which can't be right.

God is Person, and "to receive love as a person... is not at all an imperfection, but precisely a dimension of the perfection of personal being as lovingly responsive." God never stops being "infinite perfection," it's just that the perfection of personal being is love and all it implies.

In a trinitarian perspective, the Father never stops sharing and receiving his love. If the cosmos is a fractal of God -- in that every wee part will be a reflection of the Whole We -- then this would explain how "God's 'receiving' from us, being delighted at our response to His love," equates to "His original delight in sharing with us in His eternal now His own original power of loving and infinite goodness which has come back to him in return."

Or as Blake said, eternity is in love with the productions of time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pride Goeth Before an Economic Fall

It all begins with a seductive lie about man's ability to become godlike via a certain kind of knowledge.

And again, it is a permanent temptation, not just something that occurred at the dawn of history; or, it occurs at the dawn of both collective and individual psychospiritual development, and is always there waiting to be exploited.

Karl Marx was reenacting the drama when he claimed to have discovered the secret engine of history, just as Bernie Sanders does today in his crude reduction of the infinite complexity of the market to a simple and universal emotion such as greed.

In fact, doesn't our Unknown Friend touch on this? Marx, "being impressed by the partial truth... that it is first necessary to eat in order to be able to think, raised the economic interest to THE principle of man and the history of civilization." Which is why Marx's cheap omniscience destroys its supposed object, man.

The serpent "appeared to Karl Marx and showed him 'in an instant all the kingdoms of the world,' where all the slaves of the past are transformed into sovereign masters who no longer obey God, having dethroned him, or Nature, having subjected her" (ibid.).

Since the Marxist is neither of God nor of Nature, he is truly a monster. Note too the stolen omnipotence: they produce and eat a kind of bread "which they owe solely to their own knowledge and effort in transforming stones into bread."

Just as a practical matter, we have all heard the gag about the impossibility of one person producing so much as a single pencil. Here are three passages from the essay, which converge on everything we've been saying about Fatal Sin and the Original Conceit:

"There is a fact still more astounding: The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me [the pencil] into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the invisible hand at work."

"Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree."

"The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed."

Or, we can have Obamacare, government mandated mortgages to unqualified borrowers, and college subsidies. Is it any wonder that these three are the main goods (medical care, housing, and higher education) that are beyond the economic capacity of the typical American? As usual, Government creates the disease it then proposes to cure.

It is as if Satan tells the government: Command these stones to become loaves of bread, and the government responds white or whole wheat? Since the left also attacks religion from every angle, it means that the higher is collapsed into the lower, and that we become increasingly dependent upon the godlike state for our daily bread.

Satan embodies the principles of seduction, hypnosis, and intoxication. Or maybe you've never seen a liberal university campus or a Sanders rally (but I repeat myself).

In this passage from The Counter-Revolution of Science, Hayek speaks of this drunken hubris: "two fundamentally different and irreconcilable attitudes manifest themselves: on the one hand the essential humility of [liberal] individualism... and on the other hand, the hubris of [leftist] collectivism, which aims at conscious direction of all forces of society."

The latter operates under the assumption that it can comprehend systemic knowledge that no human being possesses or could possibly possess. Thus, "consistently pursued it must lead to a system in which all members of a society become merely instruments of the single directing mind and in which all the spontaneous social forces to which the growth of mind is due are destroyed."

And to bring the discussion full circle, it is urgently necessary for man to rationally comprehend the limits of his own reason. And guess what? "Historically this has been achieved by the influence of various religious creeds..." (Although a little familiarity with Gödel also goes a long way.)

There is no excuse for the pride that comes before our economic fall, because "Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is insignificant" (ibid.).

Monday, May 09, 2016

Hayek, the Fatal Conceit, and Original Sin

We begin with a pointed Dávilism: There are two kinds of men: those who believe in original sin and idiots.

Original sin is an important subject, being that it is the diagnosis for which Christianity is the cure. But the way it is conceptualized is not always helpful, at least for me. Ultimately, I suppose the important point -- in keeping with the spirit of the aphorism -- is that one believe in it (or "hear me now, believe me later," so to speak).

Let's see what the CCC says about it. "Where does evil come from?," it asks (p. 97). Well, we must "approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who is alone its conqueror." "We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin."

Well, yeah. But that sort of begs the question by advertising the cure without ever answering the question of how we got sick.

But man is sick, no doubt about it -- sick in a way that other animals are not and can never be: "Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile."

That's an important point: we cannot rid ourselves of sin by calling it something else. And "to try to understand it," we "must first recognize the profound relationship of man to God..."

Given my enthusiasm for abstract pneumaticons, we can say that sin exists in the space between O and (•); any number of things can occur in that space, including the thing we call sin. Indeed, sin is "an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons..."

We're again dancing around the subject. How did it get here? The account of the fall in Genesis 3 "affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man."

The other day we were speaking of how myth is at the threshold of history, or in the penumbra between history and prehistory.

It seems that something occurs in that dark space between the pure light of God and the reflected light of creation (I think it helps if we speak in the present tense, because Genesis is not about things that happened once upon a time, but which happen every time).

At the origin of history is a catastrophic choice (in the sense that it diverts us down a particular path). And Genesis is quite clear on the point that it has something to do with knowledge -- or "eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

The exact nature of this tree is never spelled out, but the CCC says that it "symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust." There are certain "norms that govern the use of freedom."

Interestingly, freedom is presupposed. But freedom, in order to be free, must be situated -- like man himself -- in the "in between" space alluded to above. Deploying our trusty pneumaticons, the situation is really this: O <-> (•) <-> Ø (only in reality, that equation should be vertical instead of horizontal; the "fall" takes place in the more or less infinite space between O and Ø).

Note that to "prefer oneself to God" is to necessarily choose the descending arrow instead of the ascending one. Which is why egocentrism, which can appear relatively trivial on the surface, in actuality betrays a profound choice that is pregnant -- or stillborn, rather -- with ontological implications.

You know the rest of the official story. But this weekend I was thinking about it, and it occurred to me that Hayek would be an excellent witness for the prosecution. For although he was not a religious man, his most profound lesson touches on man's Fatal Conceit, i.e., of pretending to know what no man can know, thus plunging us into hell.

To put it another way, the most thorough expressions of hell on earth have been a direct consequence of eating from the economic tree of knowledge of good and evil -- or pretending that our good intentions will redound to good and moral results.

Looked at this way, we can see that Bernie Sanders is literally satanic. His promises certainly sound good on the surface, and I am even willing to concede that they come from a "moral" place.

Ah, but his whole program is founded on a pretense to knowledge that is strictly forbidden to man! And pretending to have this knowledge has been responsible for the most carnage in human history.

Thomas Sowell does an outstanding job of putting flesh on our pneumaticons in his classic A Conflict of Visions. He calls these two visions the Constrained and Unconstrained. Long story short, original sin, the fall of man, and eating from the wrong tree are all bound up with choosing the Unconstrained Vision.

I want to say "just read the book," then we'll talk about it. It's so rich with implications that nothing short of that will suffice. Plus I'm running out of time. But let me see if I can find some money quotes to show that I'm not completely goofy in trying to link theology and economic theory.

"In the constrained vision, any individual's own knowledge alone is grossly inadequate for social decision-making, and often even for his own personal decisions."

In short, don't eat from that tree, or untold disaster will ensue. Rather, progress is only possible because knowledge is infinitely dispersed among local agents and "even more vast numbers of those from generations past."

The judicial redefinition of marriage is about as profound an example of the unconstrained vision as one could conceive. For as long as man has been man, it is been his settled opinion that male and female are oriented to each other, and make no sense outside that ontological complementarity. But all it took was a single man in robes to reach out to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and send us on a downward course.

Not the first time a Kennedy has left the road and plunged into dark waters.

"Knowledge is thus the social experience of the many, as embodied in behavior, sentiments, and habits, rather than the specially articulated reason of the few, however talented or gifted those few might be" (Sowell).

But the unconstrained leader assumes "an authority which [can] safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it' (Adam Smith, ibid.).

Obama has the folly. And the presumption. And the authority.

The most dangerous stage in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man... refuses to submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the power of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. --F.A. Hayek

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