Friday, August 19, 2016

Liberalism and the Propagation of Mind Parasites

This book on Polanyi I'm randomly rereading is quite good. Polanyi is definitely one of the fondling fathers of our cult, in that his thought ranges from metaphysics to science to economics to politics, in a completely intellectually consistent manner.

Furthermore, he offers a cogent critique of pretty much everything that is wrong with the world, philosophically, politically, educationally, and economically. Perhaps I don't mention him often enough, because I have long since internalized his ideas as my own. I playgiarize with them all the time.

It reminds me of what Stevie Ray Vaughan did with Jimi Hendrix. Vaughan so mastered the Hendrix style that it became just another color in his musical pallete. He incorporated Hendrix without slavishly imitating him.

If there were a Gagdad University -- like Prager University -- then Polanyi would be one of the core courses.

As Prosch writes, "no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties."

His philosophy is simultaneously revolutionary and restorative, or liberal (in the true sense of the word) and conservative; you could say that it is classically liberal, underlying the permanent revolution that is the quest for truth. Science always "rebels" against what it knows by trying to see further and deeper.

One refreshing thing about Polanyi (to put it mildly) is that he was not a philosopher per se. Rather, he was a highly accomplished scientist, and only began dabbling in philosophy around mid-life. Nor did he ever immerse himself in philosophy as such. He didn't read everything that came before. As far as I recall, there are few if any references to past philosophers. Given his age, I don't think Polanyi had the time to both study philosophy and conduct it. Therefore, there is a freshness to his approach, as he takes nothing for granted, and is always dealing with fundamental issues.

In this regard he is similar to Whitehead, who also came to philosophy late in life, after a career as one of the most eminent mathematicians in history. In neither man did mere academic knowledge interfere with their not-knowing. And it turns out that this very principle is one elucidated in Polanyi's philosophy.

For the philosopher, it is a question of whether one "should be a physician or a servant -- whether he should continually try to improve the minds and souls of his fellow citizens, or try to serve their existing tastes and interests" (Prosch). Like Socrates, Polanyi is clearly a physician of the soul. And his prescription is pro-biotic, pro-psychic, and pro-pneumatic. He activates Life on all levels, without saturating or stifling it with pre-digested dogma.

Several key principles come to mind when I think of his philosophy: freedom. Exploration. Adventure. Discovery.

His philosophy disposes of contemporary liberalism in such devastating fashion, that it is surprising how long it took for me to abandon it. In other words, I read and was influenced by Polanyi long before I discovered the truth about the left, and switched sides. How is this possible? What about the cognitive dissonance?

Well. There are pro-abortion and pro-redefinition of marriage Catholic Democrats, so we should never be surprised at the contortions of which the mind is capable. Look at all the liberals who insist we should discriminate on the basis of race when it comes to college or employment, but not practice common-sense affirmative action in policing or airport security.

I first read Polanyi in the 1980s, while working on my masters degree (not for my masters degree; rather, just for future blogging material). I didn't know anything about economics at the time, nor did I have any interest in it, so I must have just skipped over those parts. And so stupidly confident was I in the self-evident truth of leftism, that it is possible I simply hallucinated Polanyi's agreement with me.

Again, we shouldn't be surprised at such feats of ignorance. For example, Justices Ginsburg, or Sotomayor, or Kagan are no doubt 100% convinced they are defending the Constitution. They have read the document as surely as I have, and yet, somehow think it agrees with their positions. So, I wasn't exceptional, just a typical deluded liberal.

Cognitive dissonance. I can't stand it, on any level. Rather, the Raccoon demands complete consistency. The other day, Dennis Prager was saying the same thing. He wondered out loud if there are liberals who have listened to him for a long time, and yet, remained liberal, asking any such specimens to call in. I only heard one before I reached my destination, and he very much reminded me of me, back in the day. A lot of disconnected left-wing talking points were lodged in his head like rocks in a machine.

If you want to see a real-time example, then read the comments of our recent troll, whose mind has been entirely infiltrated and hijacked by self-replicating left-wing talking points. Speaking from personal experience, these memes take over the host in the same way viruses enter the nucleus of the cell and begin reproducing themselves.

Is a virus alive or dead? Has that question been decided by biology? At least on the psycho-spirtual plane, it is a kind of negative facsimile of life: it resembles a living process while promoting death and disease. Likewise, a liberal indoctrination surely resembles an education. But it serves death, not life.

Speaking of which, I ran across an article by Anthony Esolen called Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization. It's a little turgid, but he does point out how the left wrecked education, ruined everybody's lives, and ate all our steak. He focuses on the philosophically and spiritually retarded John Dewey, who

"was classically trained but would have none of it for the ordinary democratic masses. He had no use for the useless things -- that is, the best and noblest things: no use for poetry, flights of imagination, beauty, religion, and tradition. He was a hidebound innovator."

Hidebound innovator. That is a good encrapsulation of liberalism, in that it is regression masquerading as progress, or barbarism dressed in Pajama Boy's clothing. It is tyranny disguised as liberation, mobocracy as democracy, discrimination as equality, stupidity as wisdom, and cruelty as compassion.

By the 1960s, Dewey's methods had produced a cohort "well trained in his democratic scorn. Out with the notion that the academy is not a place for political recruitment, precisely because it is to be devoted to the truth. 'What is truth?' said the serious Dewey, and he could not wait to give us all his answer: truth was only what could be ascertained by empirical observation and measurement. That meant that only the hard sciences could rest upon their foundations. Every other building could be commandeered by the politicians, or blown to bits."

It is this hideous, anti-human philosophy that Polanyi tears to shreds. But liberals continue their insane project:

"They began to turn arts and letters into instruments of politics, or to blow them to bits. Thus the demand that literature be 'relevant.' Homer is relevant to me because Homer is relevant to man. But once you deny that there are stable truths to be learned about man by studying his history, his philosophy, and his art, what is left for Homer but to be adopted by a few curious souls who happen to like him.... And there are nearer ways to go to burn down buildings than by struggling over Homeric verbs. So in a few short years, centuries of learning were merely tossed aside. The central pier cracked, the bridge buckled, and the waters came crashing through."

Which is why a liberal indoctrination leaves its recipients all wet. A few weeks ago I was talking to our son's tutor, an extremely bright college graduate. She must be about 22, and has been accepted to graduate school. I don't recall how we got on the subject, but I mentioned the founders and their vision of a limited government.

Long story short, it was all new to her! Because she is bright, she was extremely interested in what I had to say, but I was telling her things she should have learned by the 6th grade.

For the left, it is not that such things are simply "not taught," i.e., ignored or overlooked. Rather, they are aggressively untaught and displaced by un-American principles like "diversity," multiculturalism, and state-imposed "equality," i.e., illiberal leftism.

That reminds me. Another listener called into Prager's show that day, and said that her son's high school history book has a chapter on the Cold War. In it there is no mention of Stalin, but a helpful chart that lists the pros and cons of communism vs. capitalism!

I would no sooner send my son to a public school than let him walk around uninoculated from disease.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What We Can’t Know & What We Can’t Not Know

Well, for starters, we can’t not know that there are things we can never know. All living beings know. Only man can know that he doesn’t know, and know that the latter category is inexhaustible. Thus, there is no permanent cure for curiosity; rather, the answer is the disease that kills it.

For Polanyi, there are “five indeterminacies to which he believed all our knowledge is subject and which must prevent our ever reaching complete objectivity and detachment” (Prosch). For example, reality “is always richer in its capacities to manifest itself in the future than we have grasped it to be in our explicit thought about it.” There is nothing we can do to make the surprise! go away.

For example, the most exhaustive account of physics nevertheless renders life completely inexplicable. Before 4 billion years ago, there was no biological life, only matter. No one could have predicted what was about to happen, i.e., the emergence of life, and with it, a theretofore inconceivable dimension of inwardness, awareness, experience. We can’t even say “inconceivable,” because there was no one to conceive or not conceive.

But just as climate change models cannot retrodict the past, nor can physics. Part of this has to do with complexity, as most systems — including the whole realm of biology — are too complex for physics to cope with.

Time out for Schuon: Whether we like it or not, we live surrounded by mysteries, which logically and existentially draw us towards transcendence. To put it another way, one thing our explanations can never explain is our transcendence — our transcendent ability to posit explanations.

Second, “The rules for deciding whether a discernible pattern in nature is due to chance… can never be rendered determinate.” We really can’t know where order ends and freedom begins. Take again the emergence of life. Most people who have thought about it realize it cannot have been random, because the number of finely tuned variables needed for that to occur approaches infinity. Is it therefore built into physics, something bound to happen? If so, then it only proves how little we know of physics, or about the deep laws governing the universe.

Time out for Schuon: When God is removed from the universe, it becomes a desert of rocks or ice; it is deprived of life and warmth, and every man who still has a sense of the integrally real refuses to admit that this should be reality…

This touches on Gödel, because man — as opposed to any computer — always transcends his own program, so to speak. This also goes to something Russell Kirk said to the effect that ideology is the opposite of conservatism, because the former is a closed system while conservatism is not only open to transcendence but is the tension between transcendence and immanence: it is the recognition of timelessly true principles from outside the universe, and the struggle to instantiate them herebelow, AKA “ thy will be done.”

Thus, To give oneself to God is to give God to the world. And If we want truth to live in us, we must live in it (Schuon).

Third, we do not necessarily “know on what grounds we hold our knowledge to be true.” This touches on what was said yesterday about the function of intuition and imagination. Any knowledge we render completely specific is an impoverished knowledge, or at least knowledge of a very simple system. I don’t know what I know or how I know it, and one of the purposes of blogging is to find out. Even so, I never really know why I know something of a higher order. I just know that it satisfies something in me, something that exists for that very purpose.

Time out for Schuon: It is a fact that man cannot find happiness within his own limits; his very nature condemns him to surpass himself, and in surpassing himself, to free himself. We're always searching for the teloscape that sees all the way to the end of things.

Fourth, “To focus on the subsidiaries in a scientific integration makes us lose sight of the vision formed by their integration.” The integration of subsidiaries is the meaning they point toward. Therefore, to reduce the vision to its components is to destroy the vision. If a pianist focuses on his fingers, he loses sight of musical truth he is trying to convey through them.

Which is why, ultimately, Only the science of the Absolute gives meaning and discipline to the science of the relative (Schuon). Science not only has no meaning outside God, it has no possibility, for the relative depends on the absolute, not vice versa.

Fifth, “we internalize that which we make function subsidiarily,” and “pour our body into it.” You might say we are incarnated, and that we specifically incarnate certain ideas and principles in order to see beyond them.

Even more basically, we are logocentric, such that language penetrates us all the way to the ground; being steeped in language, we use its internalized symbols for the purposes of exteriorization and exploration. Our logosphere is a kind of ever-expanding universe; or not, depending on other factors. But there is always an element of personal, even intimate, involvement in our internalized judgments and commitments. Language can never be reduced to mere words, only the Word that is prior to it.

In the end, “there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence…” And “with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite” (Schuon).

And although the circle is "closed," it ceaselessly expands both exteriorly and interiorly, thus combining absoluteness with infinitude.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

God is a Meta-Mathematician

This article on What It's Like to Understand Higher Mathematics (HT Happy Acres) touches on a lot of the ideas discussed in our previous post on Guided Ignorance and Faithless Stupidity.

So, what is it like to be a genius at math? Ironically, it cannot be quantified, and mathematicians usually lack the qualitative/literary skill to express themselves mythsemantically. But this one is quite clear, and many of the skills he describes are generalizable to other fields, say, medical diagnosis. A skilled diagnostician can filter out all sorts of noise that may distract and deceive the novice, and hone in on subtle clues missed by the uninitiated.

Thus, "You are often confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof for it." We call this "intuition," but that doesn't mean it isn't rooted in a kind of real perception (or perception of reality).

Rather, "you have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true to maintain the harmony of the conceptual space."

This is one reason why it can be frustrating to try to explain a higher or deeper truth to someone who isn't as intelligent or perceptive as you are. You may not be a particularly systematic thinker, so you may not even be able to articulate the implicit steps that led you to your conclusion. You could say that it's a "feeling," but it is much deeper than that.

For example, I always have a particular "feeling" when I read Schuon, but it's not merely an emotion. It's very hard to describe, because it is what it is and not something else. But it includes a kind of deep and expansive pneuma-cognitive satisfaction, almost comparable to how we are somehow satisfied by a musical piece. Why should music satisfy us at all, and what is being satisfied? There's something about the logic of the piece, as if everything about it is inevitable and complete.

When I read Schuon, there is a strong feeling that he goes as far as thought can take us. In that regard, it is very "satisfying." Again, what is being satisfied? Well, being that man is made to know, it must be a kind of comprehensive satisfaction of that need.

I suppose scientists and mathematicians experience something similar, but it's hard for me to imagine anything approaching total satisfaction from those fields. So much is left out of even their most sophisticated models, that they would leave me hungry for more.

I have read any number of biologists who talk about the deep intellectual satisfaction that accompanies their appreciation of natural selection. Well, yes. I am well aware of that feeling myself. Maybe I just have a bigger appetite, but I consider it only a first course. Metaphysics is the dessert. And theology is the after dinner cigar.

Polanyi was a "meta-scientist," as it were. He basically examined the logic of scientific discovery, and built a more general theory of knowledge based upon it. Thus, "imagination sets actively before us the focal point to be aimed at, but it is intuition that supplies our imagination with the organization of subsidiary clues to accomplish its focal goal, as well as the initial assessments of the feasibility of this goal. Intuition thus guides our imagination" (Prosch).

And all of this action takes place beneath the surface of consciousness. We are always guided by we-know-not-what. But it doesn't mean we aren't being pulled by this invisible gradient of meaning, AKA a nonlocal attractor.

Indeed, many if not most of the things we believe are due to prior non-conscious "commitments" to ideas, principles, concepts, and conclusions of various kinds. For Polanyi, these can never be rendered fully explicit, but we can in a sense know them by that to which they point. So, if, say, an atheist tells you that you cannot specify all the reasons why you believe in God, it is no different for the atheist: nor can he specify all of the implicit and subsidiary clues that led him to his conclusion.

A key thoughtlet occurs to me: if you believe all of your evidence can be rendered explicit, you have to be a pretty shallow individual. This was the philosophy of positivism, and although it has been discarded by philosophy as such, there are still a lot of crude scientistic positivists running around.

I recently evaluated an intelligent young woman who said she had discarded her Catholicism for Science. The problem is, you can superimpose Science on yourself from above, but it won't do anything to speak to all of those implicit clues demanding an answer. Therefore, you have to dismiss them as irrelevant, which can lead to a kind of existential pain that doesn't seem to have any "cure."

Here is another example of what it's like to be a math wiz: "You develop a strong aesthetic preference for powerful and general ideas that connect hundreds of difficult questions, as opposed to resolutions of particular puzzles."

Now, such ideas can obviously mislead, and we have to be cautious about indulging this ability. For example, Marxism is a quintessential case of a "powerful and general idea that connects hundreds of difficult questions." It is also utterly false, but that doesn't diminish its appeal to the susceptible.

To be perfectly accurate, we all have this susceptibility to total explanation by virtue of being human. It comes with the standard package. But is a total explanation even possible without God at the top? No, it is not. For starters, if there is no God, then there is no top or bottom at all, just as Darwin says. And there is no reason in the world we should pay attention to the pompous declamations of a randomly evolved talking monkey.

The piece concludes with a good one: "You are humble about your knowledge because you are aware of how weak math is, and you are comfortable with the fact that you can say nothing intelligent about most problems."

However, this particular mathematician just said a number of intelligent things about human problems. But it wasn't via math per se, rather, a meta-mathematical analysis of the mathematician's cognitive abilities. Quality trumps quantity every time, for the same reason that semantics can never be reduced to syntax. Math has no meaning that isn't ultimately self-referential. It requires a deeper insight in order to extricate oneself from that closed loop and make contact with the transcendent real, AKA God.

God is like a good accountant: he's surely adept at math, but can also tell you what to do to avoid an audit.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Guided Ignorance and Faithless Stupidity

If evolution is posterior to involution, then particulars must be posterior to universals. In other words, the "evolutionary space" cannot be a blank canvas, but must somehow be implicitly structured with nonlocal forms or archetypes.

Plato, of course, thought that these universal forms were more real than their instantiations, while Aristotle simply saw them as co-present in all existents: the form is somehow "in" the substance without inhabiting any shadowy realm of its own.

As an aside, many of my beliefs are simply intuitive. But intuitive doesn't necessarily mean arbitrary, because it seems to me that intuition is a kind of rapid-response, right-brainish cognition that instantaneously excludes countless other possibilities.

Indeed, this is how science itself proceeds. Polanyi has written of this at length, of how the scientist's "guess," AKA hypothesis, is founded upon a host of subsidiary clues that point toward their hidden coherence.

"Polanyi maintained this was a genuine paradox, because 'to see a problem is to see something that is hidden. It is to have an intimation of the coherence of hitherto not comprehended particulars" (Prosch). This is definitely not a deterministic phenomenon, as two scientists can look at the same set of particulars, with only one seeing the hidden possibilities.

As we've discussed before, in the years leading up to Einstein's great discoveries, it was thought that physics was pretty much "complete," with only a few loose ends to tie up. But those few unanswered questions ended up being the point of entry into vast new worlds, both on the macro and micro scales: those little holes ended up being huge windows and doorways.

So, Einstein looked at the same phenomena, only he saw deeper and further than other minds looking at the same things. But the implications were always there, at least implicitly. To put it another way, where other physicists saw only answers, he saw fascinating questions. His mental state was characterized by the Raccoon principle of Higher Unknowing, or dynamic ignorance.

Obviously, not-knowing must precede knowing, or no genuine discovery can be made. Rather, what we call a "discovery" will simply be the logical extension of what we know. However, it appears to me that worldviews function like complex systems, in that a small change in one variable can lead to massive changes at the other end. If you're aiming a rocket toward mars, the tiniest deviation at the start will cause the rocket to miss the target by orders of magnitude.

This, of course, is the problem with climate science: their models simply don't map the phenomena, such that their accuracy quickly breaks down completely. For Polanyi, "if all knowledge is explicit, i.e., capable of being clearly stated, then we cannot know a problem or look for its solution." In short, you can't have a solution if you don't have a problem.

Which is precisely why liberal solutions don't ever solve anything: they either ask the wrong question or don't properly see the problem. For example, to what is Obamacare the solution? Certainly not healthcare. Moreover, Obamacare now is the very problem it sets out to solve.

Which is almost a universal law of liberalism: liberalism is the problem it sets out to solve. Because it inhabits a closed circle of cognition -- of Bad Omniscience -- it renders progress strictly impossible.

Importantly, knowledge of a good problem is already a kind of sophisticated knowledge. The more intelligent you are, the more you will see interesting problems where lesser minds see... I don't really know what they see. Ideology, I guess. Or hedonic opportunities. Or possibilities for power. Or just surfaces, like an animal. Animals don't see any interesting problems, but are hardwired for a narrow range of solutions to a few biological and biosocial ones.

In this regard, many humans -- no offense -- but many humans are more animal than human. They don't necessarily have to be this way, but they simply choose to foreclose the Great Unknown and drift along on the surface of things. But to live this way is to cash in one's humanness, since a human being is not so much a "thing" as a vector, an arrow shot into the nature of things. You might say that we are aimed toward the only sufficient reason that can adequately account for our existence (including our relentless seeking) -- which I call O.

"Polanyi thought the intimations we have of a problem are akin to the intimations we have of the fruitfulness of any discovery that we come to accept as the solution to a problem. Somehow we are able to appreciate the wealth of its yet undiscovered consequences."

Again, note the orthoparadox: not knowing in this way is actually a richer and more sophisticated mode of knowledge. Indeed, it is a tacit foreknowledge of what is yet to be explicitly discovered.

And guess what? This is faith. The very essence of faith is foreknowledge of the as-yet-undiscovered God. Which goes to Paul's gag about faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Do you (un)see how this is identical to scientific faith? In both cases, faith is a kind of superior knowledge, in that it sees beyond the boundaries of mere knowledge -- or what in the book I call (k). The latter is fine, as far as it goes. It's just that we render ourselves stupid of we imagine that it is -- or ever could be --- complete.

For Polanyi, "we are guided by sensing the presence of a hidden reality toward which our clues are pointing." He's talking about science, but it is the same vis-a-vis religion. Really, "all knowledge is of the same kind as the knowledge of a problem." Ultimately we might say that faith is the answer to the problem of God, just as scientific faith is the answer to the problem of dealing with physical reality. This is one reason why science developed only in the Christian west and nowhere else: our faith in a rational creator.

Faith is "knowledge of an approaching discovery." To bring it down to bobworld, I approach each post with an attitude of faith that one will appear. They are very much structured by an attitude of open not-knowing, such that I am guided by what it is I am looking for. It very much feels as if there is an invisible attractor out there, and as soon as it starts tugging at me, it attracts the right ideas and books and other resources to fill it out. When I started typing this morning, I had no earthly idea I was going to snatch this book on Polanyi from the shelf. Rather, it just pulled me into its orbit.

But just because this is happening, it doesn't necessarily mean we have discovered a universal truth. I mean, there are false paths, dead ends, and nul-de-slacks everywhere. But you can tell when you've reached one of those, because there will be no more interesting problems.

"Our conviction" that we are on the right track "is always a fiduciary conviction," i.e., rooted in faith. Interestingly, this means that there are no "facts" out there, untouched by subjectivity. Indeed, a fact is already the result of a belief that something is a fact. One man's fact is another man's trivia, and vice versa. Think about "historical facts." Is there really such a thing? Yes, there are literally countless facts in history, but it is only the judgment of the historian that elevates one to a historical fact.

Notice that this is one of the functions of the liberal media, albeit in reverse. That is, they work furiously to "inform" (unform?) us what not to pay attention to, such as Benghazi, or the Clinton Foundation, or what actually happens during an abortion, or what happens when you raise the minimum wage, or the risk factors of homosexuality, or the science of human intelligence. Liberals literally have no faith, in that they cannot permit themselves to ask questions about these and countless other subjects.

About those nonlocal attractors that dot the psychic landscape:

"Our search for deeper coherence is guided likewise by a potentiality: 'We feel the slope toward a deeper insight as we feel the direction in which a heavy weight is pulled along a steep incline....' The gradient of deepening coherence tells us where to start and which way to turn" (all quoted material from Prosch).

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