When you think about it, the history of science is a chronicle of asking the right questions. For example, a big question in physics before Einstein came along had to do with the nature of the ether. But the theory of relativity proved that there was no such medium, and that space and its objects were each reflections of a deeper principle.
If I recall my Thomas Kuhn correctly, a scientific paradigm generates its own questions. At first the paradigm is fruitful, but eventually it generates questions that not only can't be answered, but are absurd or paradoxical. These latter let us know that the paradigm cannot be complete -- that it is simply a useful way to interrogate reality.
For example, the theory of the Big Bang is useful up to a point -- that point being the instant the Bang occurs. Asking what happened "before" the Big Bang lands one in absurdity, since time is said to be a function of the Big Bang. You might even say there's no such thing as a question prior to the Big Bang, so stop asking. Bu-- Shut up!
So, we know there must be more to it than what physics can say. Unless ultimate reality is indeed absurd, which makes no sense at all. Or rather, because it makes sense. In other words, if existence is absurd, man could never know it. Or anything else, for that matter.
Which converges with today's subject, which is the role of language in all of this. The central question before us -- before all men at all times -- is whether we can actually understand reality, or whether we're just making things up in order to conceal our bottomless ignorance.
Paradoxically, science wants to have it both ways: that we are the absolutely contingent residue of genetic copying errors, and yet, that we may know the truth of ourselves. Only one of these can be true. And that's the truth. So we know we're on to something.
The anemic myth we have been given to understand is essentially that man knew nothing -- or nothing but error -- prior to the Enlightenment and scientific revolution, and now we know it all; not all of the details, of course, but the Big Picture, which will never change. In other words, there is no possibility of "progress" beyond the idea that everything is reducible to transformations of matter, such that man is nothing and life ultimately meaningless.
I'm reading an excellent book called Deconstructing the Administrative State, which is unfortunately named, because the authors range much wider and deeper than the title suggests, such that the bureaucratic deep state is seen as the mere side effect of a much more fundamental turn into political darkness. The soft tyranny of the administrative state is what happens when progressivism displaces reality. And it's only soft so long as we don't resist -- which is why they pound the president so hard. He threatens their whole beautiful nightmare.
Make no mistake: children who attend government schools are indoctrinated into the myths of statism -- the myths that support statism -- from the earliest age. Hold on a moment -- This Bus Stops for Aphorisms:
Man is an animal that can be educated, provided he does not fall into the hands of progressive pedagogues. Therefore, The State imposes obligatory and free instruction, for making a stupid man still stupider at the public expense (Dávila).
Remember Socrates? Or better, Remember Socrates! He was murdered by the state for "refusing to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own; he is further guilty of corrupting the young."
As Jesus is our paradigmatic religious figure, Socrates is our paradigmatic philosopher. Socrates is a reminder that if you love wisdom the state will hate you, just as Jesus warned us that love of him will provoke the world's hatred. Strangely, loving truth places a target on one's back, a proposition to which Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro can attest. The truth is of course safe on liberal college campuses, so long as it is surrounded by a retinue of body guards.
Here are some of the founding -- and therefore enabling -- myths of the left. Paraphrasing from the book, they include the ideas that we inhabit a cosmos with no end or purpose, that everything within it is subject to constant change, that man is strictly continuous with nature, that he cannot transcend his genetic programming, that all values are culturally and historically conditioned, that there is no ultimate truth, and in any event no soul that could possibly know it.
Why is this incoherent jumble of myths so important? Because it provides metaphysical support for the political myths of the left: that man has no rights that exist prior to the state, that there are no self-evident truths (only relative ones), and that there are no limits to the size and scope of the state.
We're still dancing around the periphery of the main subject, which is language and reality. The question is, does plain, everyday language go deeper than any and all sciences put together? Does language transcend -- or subtend -- anything math can say about the world? What comes first, quantity or quality? And if the former, how can quality -- say, the beauty of a face, or a landscape, or even just a pure color -- be reduced to quantity?
This line of thought was provoked by an essay of Schuon's called The Problem of Possibility, although most any of his essays would serve as well, for his entire corpus consists of plain language about ultimate reality. There are no equations, no special terms, no academic bloviating, just complete clarity on his end and perfect understanding on mine.
Regarding the latter, this is not to imply that I possess perfect understanding of reality. Rather, what I mean is that when I understand something Schuon says about the nature of reality, the understanding penetrates so deeply that something inside clicks and is convinced that no deeper understanding is possible: that we have hit ontological sheetrock, as it were.
I'm quite sure that many people have this same experience in their religion; indeed, it is this experience that makes one religious, that converts us. Something clicks on a deep level, and that's that.
Let's talk about "the problem of possibility." Going back to paragraph one, is this a real problem, one worth pursuing, or is it just an illusion, or dead end, or pointless exercise? Does science even recognize this problem? And if science says it isn't a problem, then it isn't one.
Nevertheless, exactly how is possibility possible? Is it a thing? Or is everything necessary? More to the point, if everything is reducible to necessity, where does all the possibility come from, most pointedly, free will? For free will is essentially possibility.
Which is why scientism tries to make it go away be denying its possibility. A number of years ago we had a commenter who would get into arguments with us over the impossibility of free will. Well, he's absolutely right: within his paradigm, free will is indeed impossible. But since free will is self-evident, his paradigm is self-evidently wrong. And of course, he's just emblematic of metaphysical materialism and scientism: garbage in, tenure out.
As Schuon (self-evidently) explains, if something exists, then it was possible for it to do so. But if something is possible, it may or may not exist. So, where or what is this realm of possibility? For if things are possible, you need to account for how this is possible.
We'll continue down this rabbit hole Wednesday. Meanwhile, a few related aphorisms:
If determinism is real, if only that can happen which must happen, then error does not exist. Error supposes that something happened that should not have.
So, To admit the existence of errors is to confess the reality of free will.
And ultimately, The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act.
I'll make it easy for: if you could be wrong about the absence of free will, then you are wrong.