Friday, April 07, 2017

Excrement Masquerading as Art and Politics

Not much time this morning, and none at all next Monday. The best I can offer is a half-ration of Coon Chow:

So, how and why and when did common sense realism -- our nation's founding philosophy, or operating system -- become so devalued and marginalized?

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking that part of the answer must have to do with virtue signaling and status anxiety.

Analogously, think of the art world. I read somewhere that the French impressionists are looked down upon by certain critics. Why? Essentially because everyone likes them. That being the case, they hold no snob appeal.

There are also, of course, political reasons. The impressionists have no agenda, political or otherwise, except for the transmission of beauty.

In The Rape of the Masters, Kimball writes of how "the study of art is increasingly being co-opted by various extraneous, non-artistic, non-aesthetic campaigns." Which is to put it mildly.

And just as art has become politicized, politics has surely become aestheticized. Clearly, a great deal of the elite loathing of President Trump is on aesthetic grounds. They were more upset that he puts ketchup on steak than they were at Obama eating dogs.

Kimball notes that the undermining of art involves a kind of two-pronged attack: first is "a process of spurious aggrandizement" through which "you hail the mediocre as a work of genius, for example, or pretend that what is merely repellent actually enables our understanding of art or life."

My father-in-law was an art collector, with many very expensive works adorning his walls. Admittedly I am a simple man, but I find them visually off-putting -- AKA ugly -- or just neutral, with nothing attractive about them.

Plus, they are a stylistic jumble. There is no connecting theme, such that the overall effect is of a kind of disjointed psychotic dream. Not the kinds of specters I want hanging around my house.

But if some overeducated fool looks at one of those paintings and waxes poetic about its genius, one may be reticent to express the opinion that a five year old could do better.

Exaggeration? One could cite countless examples. Kimball notes that when a couple of well known artists "exhibited The Naked Shit Pictures -- huge photo-montages of themselves naked with bits of excrement floating about," one critic celebrated their "self-sacrifice for a higher cause, which is purposely moral and indeed Christian."

And if you do not see that -- which you do not and could not -- then it elevates the critic at your expense, you untutored, mouth-breathing yahoo.

The second strategy (after spurious self-aggrandizement) "proceeds in the opposite direction. It operates not by inflating the trivial, the mediocre, the perverse, but by attacking, diluting, or otherwise subverting greatness."

We don't have time for a full excursion into the art world, AKA Adventures in Vertical Perception. The point is, something similar has infected the political world, such that our leftist elites simultaneously aggrandize themselves and denigrate the restavus via allegiance to their strange ideas and stranger gods.

Indeed, this is precisely why they did not see Trump coming, nor why they cannot (thankfully) refrain from saying and doing things that will ensure the coming of More Trump.

As mentioned a couple of posts back, Woodrow Wilson was our first progressive political elite to denigrate the Constitution. If even literal-minded idiots such as yourselves can understand it, then it must be pretty vacuous, right? Don't we need a more sophisticated document that only the experts can appreciate and decipher?

Even the cognitively labile Jefferson had sufficient wisdom to recognize that the purpose of our Declaration of Independence was (and is, forever) "Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of," but rather, "to place before mankind the common sense of the subject... it was intended to be an expression of the American mind."

But today, leftists will read Jefferson's comment and notice only that he said MANKIND!, thereby whining about the better man while signaling one's superior virtue.

So it's a whine-win situation, as is true in general of the celebration of liberal victimhood.

[N]othing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in [later] life -- save only this -- that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education. --Prof. John Alexander Smith (in Kimball)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Common Sense and its Tyrannical Alternatives

Before reading Common Sense Nation, I had never heard of the philosopher Thomas Reid, the intrepid discoverer of Common Sense. Prior to him, no one had any or knew what it was. It was as if the whole world were populated by MSNBC hosts.

All insultainment aside, Reid founded a school of thought known as common sense realism. Right away you can see why this wouldn't appeal to the tenured, as their whole mystique is based upon the essentially gnostic idea that they possess some special knowledge inaccessible to the rest of us. Therefore, common sense realism blows their cover and reveals them as the phonies and frauds they are.

Nevertheless, academia has been dining out on this anti-intellectual fraud for half a century, although there are signs their bubble is in the process of bursting.

I can't pretend to be an expert -- or, as usual, can only pretend to be -- but based upon what I've read so far, it almost appears to me that common sense realism represents a kind of return of Aristotelian-Thomist principles into the Protestant world via the side door. According to Prof. Wiki, Reid enumerated

a set of principles of common sense which constitute the foundations of rational thought. Anyone who undertakes a philosophical argument, for example, must implicitly presuppose certain beliefs, such as "I am talking to a real person," and "There is an external world whose laws do not change," among many other positive, substantive claims.

Hey, that's what I always say! (Speaking of people who discover new ideas that Aquinas thought of 700 years ago.) The point is, the very possibility of rational discourse presupposes various implicit principles that cannot not be, on pain of rendering rational discourse strictly impossible. Likewise,

For Reid, the belief in the truth of these principles is not rational; rather, reason itself demands these principles as prerequisites, as does the innate "constitution" of the human mind. It is for this reason (and possibly a mocking attitude toward Hume and Berkeley) that Reid sees belief in the principles of common sense as a litmus test for sanity.

Ditto! Which is why, for example, the American Psychological Association is not a promoter of sanity, but rather, a proponent and enabler of personal and collective insanity.

For example, like everyone else on the left, they are curiously obsessed with a normalization of sexual deviancies that couldn't be more anithetical to the natural law.

Reid observed that "before men can reason together, they must agree in first principles; and it is impossible to reason with a man who has no principles in common with you." Sure, you can do other things with such people. That's what relatives are for. It's just that they are "not fit to be reasoned with."

Anyway, it turns out that this proponent of common freaking sense and rudimentary sanity was a huge influence on the founders. For Reid, what he calls common sense is the very power in us that renders understanding possible.

Think about that one: when you understand something, it is because understanding is possible in principle. Therefore it is appropriate to ask: by virtue of what principle(s) is understanding possible?

I haven't actually thought this through in a completely systematic way, because I am not a systematic guy. More of an intuitive guy. But as I've said all along, one headrock principle surely must be that the world is intelligible to intelligence. If not, then we're all done here except for bloviating pretexts for the Power Grab.

For Reid, "self-evident truths are true and discoverable by us because of the constitution of our human nature." In its absence, "we would lack access to the foundational truths we require to be able to reason..."

The following passage caught my eye, because it too is a point I have often belabored: self-evident truths -- our innate cosmic principles -- are not arrived at by logic per se, but are the very basis of logic.

In other words, a thing cannot be true merely because it is logical, but rather, logical because true; obviously Truth is higher than logic -- one reason why Truth manifests in any number of extra- or translogical ways.

Again, the truths we are discussing are not "conclusions" but perceptions; we don't shine the light of intelligence upon them, because they are that light. Analogously, although the moon gives off light, you wouldn't use the light of the moon to try to illuminate the sun. For those of you living in Rio Linda, reason is the moon, truth the sun.

Everything we are discussing today goes to the News of the Day, i.e., the struggle over the Supreme Court. The Founders wrote our Constitution in such a way that any person using his God-given common sense could understand it.

But that just won't do for the Leftist Guild of Pasty-Faced Gnostic Pettifoggers. They have special insight into the evolving principles that undergird the constitution. Which is to say, no principles at all.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

We Hold these Twerks to be Self-Evident

My point is this: it used to be said that we shouldn't discuss politics or religion in public, or at least with casual acquaintances. Why is this?

Because people feel passionately about these subjects, and because there is no way to resolve disagreements. Therefore, we'll just get into a passionate disagreement and our enlightened liberal friends will disown us.

But if the Founders are correct, then there is most certainly a way to resolve political disagreements, at least fundamental ones.

That is to say, our entire political system is rooted in ontological truths that are said to be self-evident. And someone who is incapable of recognizing a self-evident truth is what they called a "jackass." How and why would you bother arguing with such a person?

Now, being a human is difficult. And if we don't have access to truth, then it is just a nuisance, an annoying imposition.

Another way of putting it is that because God has created us, we are "entitled," so to speak, to truth. This no doubt sounds impertinent or presumptuous, but think about it. If you bring a child into the world, that child is absolutely entitled to your love, protection, and eventually education. It is not presumptuous for the child to expect these, for they are "in the nature of things."

God is many things, including Creator, Person, Father, and Spirit (or presence) of Truth. We are the way we are because He is the way He is. Accusing God of creating beings who love truth while denying them access to it, does no credit to God, for it renders him a deadbeat deity.

Back to our main point: that in both politics and religion there exist self-evident truths. Which is not to say they are evident to everyone at all times. For example, there are countless self-evident truths in math and logic, but we nevertheless have to be exposed to them and cognitively adequate to grasp them.

The classical liberalism of the Founders is rooted in a commonsense realism through which the "unfettered intellect" may "appreciate how divinely endowed freedom is innate to the human condition" (Curry).

But the modern left has jettisoned this self-evident truth in favor of a "counterfeit doctrine" that assumes "the state's right of almost limitless power over the individual to ensure equality of result," simultaneously ignoring human nature while trying to alter it. The result is a kind of inhuman, anti-human, or infrahuman monster.

Why monster? Many people, going back to the Bible, have observed that Hell is a place where reason is inoperative. Raccoons will have noticed that any time they have been in a hellish relationship with someone, it has been because reason was impotent.

Indeed, isn't this the meta-theme of our contemporary political scene? Here's an example of a monstrous vision of hell well beyond Dante's most perfervid imaginings: a man dressed in short shorts twerking in public to get his way. (Refer back to paragraph four above: how and why would you bother arguing with such a person? At best, you can mount a counter-twerk.)

So, the classical liberalism of the founders, in which humans have access to self-evident truths by virtue of being human, has given way to a gnostic political cult whereby an elite cadre of "self-appointed experts could explain all the mysteries of man's physical and spiritual existence."

How could it be otherwise if human beings have no access to the self-evident truths that ground and orient our lives? Modern liberalism makes no effort to conceal its lack of "confidence in the individual to think and function freely apart from government coercion." It assumes "that only properly coached and powerful elites and their technocrats [can] curb unhelpful personal expression and misguided individual choices to achieve more cosmic goals of equality and perceived collective fairness."

Lincoln made a very frightening prediction, that "the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next." D'oh! These leftoid monsters inculcated an entirely new set of foundational truths while our backs were turned! It is no exaggeration to say I spent the first half of my life assimilating those anti-truths, the second half trying to extricate myself from them, the third half ridiculing them.

It occurred to me while reading this book that, just as we need a Christian apologetics, all citizens should be equipped with an American apologetics. Peter said to always be ready to give a logical and coherent defense to anyone who asks you to account for your faith. But all Americans should be equally ready to give a logical and coherent account for their faith in our political system.

Might be a good idea to toss this into the "extreme vetting" procedures. Just ask applicants to give a logical and coherent account for their faith in our political system.

As an aside, we've had a few comments from a Muslim guest who believes we are being unfair to Islam. I certainly don't want to be unfair, just accurate. And there is no Islamic state, nor could there ever be one, that is founded upon extra-Koranic self-evident truths available to man by virtue of his humanness. Rather, to my knowledge, every Muslim state is rooted in a sharia law that transcends and negates (if it doesn't deny altogether) the natural law that is our common earthright.

Curry quotes the philosopher Thomas Reid -- whose commonsense realism was a major influence on the Founders -- who wrote of "certain principles or dictates of common sense" which constitute "the foundation of all reasoning" and without which we descend into contradiction and incoherence.

Reid's "fundamental insight was that our ability to make sense of our experience presupposes certain first principles." These principles "are implicit in our conduct and our thought," such that "to deny or even doubt any of them is to involve ourselves in absurdity." It is in this sense that they are self-evident. As Schuon was saying the other day about religious truths, they are recognized by a kind of perception as opposed to being "conclusions."

It comes down to asking ourselves what we are doing when we are thinking. Whatever it is, it cannot be seen directly, but rather, is implicit in the very act of thinking. What's a good analogy... I suppose it's like twerking in public, which presupposes a transcendent ability to make an ass of oneself.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Self-Evident Truth of the Founders and the Progsplaining of Monsters

In the previous post we touched on Schuon's old-school definition of philosophy as the science of fundamental principles -- a science that operates via an intuition which "perceives" as opposed to a reason that can only "conclude." And of course, reason can only conclude based upon premises that must be furnished from another source.

In short, there is no way around an extra-rational judgment; the attempt to ground truth in reason alone quickly ends in tautology.

As Schuon puts it, "There is no faith without any knowledge, nor knowledge without any faith." That's just a fact. Any failure on your part to assent to its truth renders you a stone cold idiot, for "Faith is the intuition of the transcendent; unbelief stems from the layer of ice that covers the heart and excludes this intuition."

Now, there are two related kinds of extra-rational judgment; let us call the one "intuition," the other "faith." Each of these is a mode of perception of invisible realities.

To put it conversely, in the absence of faith and intuition, we wouldn't be able to see anything other than what we see physically, and would thereby be reduced to animality; or, we would see surfaces -- appearances -- only, with no access to underlying realities, whether scientific, aesthetic, or religious.

Faith is the implicit perception of an impending (vertical) discovery: not only will it be "rewarded" with the knowledge of which it is a foreshadow, it is already a kind of knowledge, in the same sense that a flower turning toward the light is already a kind of prelinguistic "knowledge of the sun."

Or, to quote Schuon, "The mystery of faith is in fact the possibility of an anticipatory perception in the absence of its content; that is, faith makes present its content by accepting it already, before the perception properly so-called." Faith is never static, but always on-the-way.

It seems to me that faith may be thought of as a kind of formalized intuition, whereas intuition is an informal faith.

In a way, these two have the same relationship as revelation and intellect: somewhere Schuon equates revelation to exteriorized (divine) intellect, and intellect to an interiorized revelation. Indeed, the existence of the intellect may be the most accessible miracle available to man.

The point is, a small minority of human beings are "intellectual" in the non-debased sense of the term (i.e., there are countless debased intellectuals, AKA the tenured).

But the Good News is that God is fair, such that the non-intellectual nevertheless has access to the highest wisdom available to the intellectual, via faith.

To be clear, the intellect is by no means superior to faith, for, to paraphrase Schuon, the latter involves intuition of the sophsame "intellectual object" that is the reality behind appearances. Both are ways to penetrate more deeply, from the surface to the ur-Face.

Faith is "to say 'yes' to the truth of God and of immortality – this truth which we carry in the depths of our heart," and "to see concretely what apparently is abstract." It is "a priori a natural disposition of the soul to admit the supernatural; it is therefore essentially an intuition of the supernatural, brought about by Grace."

Not to grind gears too abruptly, but all of this is just by way of a pre-ramble to discussion of another book I read over the weekend, Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea. One might be tempted to think the ideas presented above are excessively abstract or impractical, but it turns out they are the very essence of common sense.

Recall Madison's gag about how government -- or, let's say "political science" -- is "the greatest of all reflections on human nature." The reason this is so is that if we don't get human nature right, then our political system will be either stillborn or monstrous; and if we don't get our political system right, then it will produce stillborn or monstrous humans.

It reminds me of that line about how the problem with capitalism is capitalists, whereas the problem with socialism is socialism. Analogously, the problem with Christianity is Christians, whereas the problem with Islam certainly appears to be Islam, given how every majority Muslim country is such a trainwreck.

Back to my main point, which is that America was founded upon an ontological common sense that cannot be surpassed, only denied, eroded, or attacked. Which is what the left does, all day long, especially since Woodrow Wilson, who said as much quite explicitly (for progressives were more honest about their agenda in those days).

Wilson was nothing short of an American Monster. As far as he was concerned, "the Founders' propositions were only relevant to the time of the Founders," and "because history had moved on those propositions had been rendered obsolete."

Thanks for the tip, assoul!

In other words, what the Founders regarded as "self-evident truths" amounted to nothing more than historically conditioned illusions and/or expedients.

Let Wilson progsplain it to you rubes: although "a great deal of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual," we now know that this was just a lot of "vague sentiment and pleasing speculation." Thanks to the pretentious bloviating of Hegel, we know better: the state is the March of God on Earth.

"For Wilson, history had moved on and, as a result, the thinking of the Founders had become, as he says in the quote above, 'nonsense.'"

What kind of person presumes to reduce the undeniable truths that permit human flourishing to mere nonsense? A demonically inspired monster, that's who.

The "self-evident truths" propounded by the Founders were the precise opposite of historically conditioned beliefs subject to future revision. What they meant by the term "self-evident" was that the power to understand these truths was available to all human beings, by virtue of being human. They are "no sooner understood than they are believed," the reason being that "they 'carry the light of truth itself'" (Arthur Herman, in Curry).

I think I'll stop here. On the Raccoon calendar it is the Feast of Opening Day, and I need to finish my work before the sacrament of the First Pitch at 1:00.

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