Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Unhinged Abstractions and Animals with Opinions

In a sense, everything is an abstraction from God.

Put conversely, God is concrete absoluteness. I say this because people tend to look at it the other way around -- as if matter is concrete and God abstract. Prime matter in particular can be thought of as abstraction as such. In the absence of a concrete form, it is just nothing, but with the potential to be anything. It is indeterminacy awaiting determination. Sort of like the quantum field.

As Hanby puts it, if we begin with the actual world -- the world as we encounter it -- "the existence of each thing" is "characterized by a near infinity of relations which help to constitute it." At bottom, the universe is an infinitely complex system of dynamic relations, both interior and exterior, not to mention upper and lower. If this weren't the case, the future would be entirely predictable and we would be omniscient. Except that human persons could not exist in such a narrow, linear cosmos.

Which is one of the reasons I pretty much abandoned psychology. Yes, you can understand human beings, but only by superimposing a theoretical grid of understanding upon them. Some theories are a good match for some people, but no theory fits everyone, nor does any theory come close to explaining everything in need of explanation.

But man is afraid of the dark, so he is quick to grab onto any source of illumination, even if it's fake fluorescent light that is ultimately harmful. Why is it harmful? Because it is at once too narrow and too bright. Like scientism. God is light + warmth, whereas fluorescent is light with no warmth. Like scientism.

Come to think of it, light with no warmth is a kind of brutalism, isn't it? Some people are quite sensitive to it, and become distracted, irritable, and agitated. I wonder if the same thing happens on a cognitive basis?

Of course it does. Could this help explain why the left is going crazy? They are bathed in the artificial light of their abstract ideology, which in no way conforms to the world in all its concreteness. They simply have no idea what to do with the roaring economy. This morning Instapundit linked to a 2017 editorial called If Trump thinks he can get more than 3% economic growth, he's dreaming. But now it's happening, so it's the Obama economy.

Fake news, fake light.

Back to No God, No Science. For similar reasons, you might say No Concrete, No Abstraction:

"To abstract -- literally to take or pull from -- is to distinguish or isolate in thought what actually belongs together in reality: form and matter, parts and wholes, a thing and the context which is the presupposition of its flourishing." Certainly there is nothing whatsoever wrong with science, which functions by abstracting and isolating a part from the whole. Just don't confuse your method with the prior reality, otherwise you will only see what your method permits you to see.

Whitehead called this the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness" -- in other words, taking your abstractions as concrete realities. Now that I think about it, there must also be a fallacy of misplaced abstraction.

Take the natural family, which is as concrete as it gets: mother-father-baby, in a harmonious unity-in-diversity. The left abstracts from this, as if it is possible to duplicate it by forcing arbitrary parts together, say, two men, and calling it a "family." But this is no more a family in the concrete sense than a zoo is a united herd, or flock, or gaggle. It's a human creation, not a natural, AKA divine-human one.

Note that they do the same thing with the nation, as if a nation is just anything. Indeed, Democrats make it abundantly clear that they value illegal aliens more than citizens. But even prior to this, the doctrine of multiculturalism is pure abstraction -- or a valuing of the abstract over concrete, flesh-and-blood Americanism (which they detest).

So too are the ideals of "social justice" and "equality." As defined by the left... Well, first of all, these terms are so abstract that neither can actually be defined. Conversely, the founders had a very concrete definition of the latter, meaning "equality under the law."

As for "social justice," there is no such thing, or at least it has nothing to do with the powers delegated to the state. The state is of course empowered to create and oversee a system of justice in the courts. It is not empowered to steal from some in order to give to others what the latter think the world owes them. That is abstraction run wild. Such ideas can only flourish in a place that has no contact with reality, such as academia. In concrete reality -- say, Venezuela or California -- they result in disaster.

Again, not only is abstraction legitimate, it is humanly unavoidable. If we couldn't perceive abstract universals, we wouldn't be human. I have a note to myself in the margin: L/R brain. That is to say, we have a left cerebral hemisphere that specializes in abstraction, and a right one that specializes in context, relations, and wholeness. Obviously the two are complementary, not opposed per se. Just don't try to reduce right to left, you nincompoop!

It reminds us of several aphorisms worth memorizing:

When things appear to us to be only what they appear to be, soon they appear to be even less.

To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which a poet sang.

Man believes he is lost among facts, when he is only caught up in the web of his own definitions. Of anything important there are no proofs, only testimonies.

Nothing is more unforgivable than voluntarily imprisoning ourselves in another's convictions, when we should be trying to break through even the bars in the dungeon of our own intelligence.

And finally, Let us respect the two poles of man: concrete individual, human spirit. But not the middle zone of an animal with opinions (Dávila).


Gagdad Bob said...

Abstract fantasy vs. concrete reality.

Gagdad Bob said...

Another example:

"In the course of time the original settlers created a national identity, a sense of communal membership in a common world unified by custom and law. It is that [concrete] identity that should be preserved."

"True to Liberalist form, our feckless Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on record as affirming that Canada has no identity. 'There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,' Trudeau told The New York Times, proclaiming Canada as 'the first post-national state' held together not by a hard-earned tradition but by a shopping list of abstract values -- compassion, respect, openness and the like."

julie said...

I just saw, somewhere this morning, an article from a Canadian magazine celebrating a Somali family that had just brought its 150th member from Somalia to Canada. As a commenter drily noticed, in order to be compassionate we must allow not just immediate family, but even distant cousins thrice removed in order to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of new immigrants. The same magazine also featured an article touting the virtues of voluntary human extinction, whereby people try to live long lives while refusing to procreate, thus saving the earth from the scourge of mankind.

Gagdad Bob said...

It is often the case that leftist compassion entails cruelty to others. It's zero-sum, whereas real compassion and generosity are like receiving and paying it forward.

julie said...

To a leftist, simply proclaiming that one favors the correct pieties is enough to offset any number of atrocities. Thus Al Gore's mansions are environmentally friendly because they are offset by some number of carbon credits.

Anonymous said...

Hello Panel:

I pose a question: "What is the benefit of having a national identity?"

And another: "What are the drawbacks of not having a national identity, as in the alleged case of Canada?"

A third question: "What is the benefit of allowing Somalians in generous numbers to live in Canada?"

And the obverse: "What are the drawbacks of allowing Somalians in generous numbers to live in Canada?"

The comments above make assertions, which, disconnected from alleged outcomes, make them hard to evaluate.

debass said...

I can prove, through DNA testing, that I am related to everyone in the world. So, I should be allowed to bring the entire world population here. They would all fit in the state of Texas. Rush hour would be hell.
Finally, a liberal idea has succeeded. They have made California number one, in the poverty rate that is.
Doesn't social justice mean getting what you deserve?
Or as William Muny said to Little Bill, "deserve has nothing to do with it".

Gagdad Bob said...

There are already 49 reviews for Jordan Peterson's new book, and it's #4 on amazon. That's quite the cult following! I received it yesterday but haven't yet started it. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

julie said...

I started it this morning while waiting for car repairs. It's engaging. Not sure if I have an opinion yet, otherwise.

ted said...

Peterson has really taken off as academic superstar! It's amazing to see, actually. It also says something good about how many young people are tired of leftist drivel.

I'm working on Rule 1 right now: Standing up straight, shoulders back. So far, so good.

julie said...

Yes. Funny, though - pretty far into the first chapter, I started wondering what Rule 1 was, simply because he doesn't spend any time circling back or summing up (so far). As I said, engaging, with a lot of interesting information. Something very near the description "brain jazz" comes up in there somewhere, probably the foreword. Now where have I heard that before....

Van Harvey said...

Dang, I'm jealous, I pre-ordered Peterson's book but mine hasn't arrived yet. Florida got it. California got it. Flyover country... huh. Go figure.

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Christina M said...

Rule number one is "stop being pathetic."

Gagdad Bob said...

Bots will be bots.