Friday, February 23, 2018

On the Necessity of Possibility

What is the best way to know whether something is possible?

Well, if something exists, then it was possible for it to exist. Likewise, if something is happening, then it was possible for it to happen. But where or what is this possibility before it exists or happens? Or is this a meaningless question?

More problematically, if something doesn't exist or hasn't happened, how do we know it is possible? Not to immediately pivot to the political, but it seems to me that one of the consistent characteristics of the left is to wish for things that never were and (more problematically) cannot be. And not just wish; rather, to try to compel them through force (since there is no other way).

It reminds me of a famous line by Robert Kennedy. Liberals no doubt hear it as "idealistic," while to conservatives it just sounds fruity: Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.

I say it is a rare achievement to see things as they actually are, a rarer one still to understand why they are the way they are.

For example, why are human beings sexually dimorphic and complementary? That's an important question to answer before you begin dreaming up other possibilities that never were and cannot actually be. Likewise marriage: what is it? Or an unborn baby, in which case, who is it? Might want to answer that question before taking its life.

You might say that conservatism is preoccupied with what is necessary, i.e., those things that cannot not be, especially on the human plane. This presupposes that there is a human plane -- or station, or nature, or essence -- and that failure to conform to this transcendent order is the sine qua non of what we call "psychopathology," or mental illness. It is our yardstick for knowing when a human being has gone off the rails.

Conversely, leftism appears to be preoccupied with the possible, but not really; for -- at risk of sounding tautologous -- a possibility, in order to be one, must be possible. Some possibilities are impossible, for example, time travel, or switching sexes. These may be possible in theory, but are impossible in reality. So we need another term for impossible possibilities, besides "Democratic platform."

What about things that are, but needn't be? At least for humans, there exists a large realm of contingency, if only due to free will. In fact, if we deny free will, then it begins to look like there is no space between what can be and what must be -- i.e., between the necessary and contingent. Free will is first of all awareness of necessity. If not for necessity there could be no free will, rather, just unpredictable chaos, or "pure possibility."

Now in truth, necessity and possibility must be complementary; however, of the two, necessity must be prior, even though the one is humanly unthinkable in the absence of the other. Orthoparadoxically, possibility is ultimately necessary; it cannot work the other way around -- i.e., that necessity is only a possibility. If that were the case, then it wouldn't bloody well be necessary, would it?

The above pre-ramble was no doubt provoked by an essay of Schuon's called The Problem of Possibility (in From the Divine to the Human). It is a fine example of what I was driving at in the previous post, about the human ability to know What's Going On in the cosmos, deploying everyday language as opposed to math, physics, or some other special science.

The words (or concepts) "necessary" and "contingent" are quite necessary in order to understand our existential situation. They are irreducible, except in the sense mentioned above -- that possibility must flow from necessity. It cannot be sufficiently emphasized that these two -- necessity and possibility -- are quite Real, except in different ways.

In what sense is the possible real? And is it as real as necessity? It's orthoparadoxical, or at least you can -- or must! -- look at it in two ways:

one may say that... what manifests itself is "real," and what can either manifest itself or not is simply "possible"; but in another respect, which erases this distinction, it is the possible which is real, manifestation being accidental or illusory...

This goes to the argument between Plato and Aristotle: what is more real, this local chair I'm sitting on, or its nonlocal archetype? The dual nature of Jesus is the final "answer" to this question, in that neither is more real than the other: we do not say that his human nature is just "maya," or "appearance" (one of the early heresies). Indeed, the whole point is that human contingency may now participate in metacosmic necessity.

Which of course goes to why science was stillborn in civilizations that regarded the world as pure appearance, which is to say, contingency. Rather, only the necessary was worth knowing, e.g., Brahman.

At any rate, if we trace these two rascals -- necessity and contingency -- all the way down -- or up -- to their root principles, we end up with the Absolute and the Infinite:

God is both absolute Necessity and infinite Possibility; in the first respect, He transcends everything that is merely possible, whereas, in the second respect, He is, not a given possibility of course, since He is absolutely necessary, but Possibility as such; this is to say, He is the Source of all that can be, or must needs be by relative necessity, therefore by participation in absolute Necessity. Possibility is potency at its root, and indetermination in its ever more far-reaching effects...

Which goes to a little problem I have with the traditional scholastic view, that God is "pure act" and therefore devoid of potency. I get what the doctrine is trying to say -- that God is unchanging and unchangeable, but still... It's like saying God is Absolute with no Infinite, which to me is no Absolute at all. Translighted to the human plane, it is like all necessity with no possibility, i.e., no free will.

More fundamentally, what does it mean to say that God is trinity? I say -- as it were - that the Son is the ever-realized (or real-izing) infinitude of the absolute Father, always and forever. Or something like that. The point is, it gives rise to a different vision from a static and absolute monad. That would bore even -- or especially! -- God.

16 comments:

julie said...

More problematically, if something doesn't exist or hasn't happened, how do we know it is possible? Not to immediately pivot to the political, but it seems to me that one of the consistent characteristics of the left is to wish for things that never were and (more problematically) cannot be. And not just wish; rather, to try to compel them through force (since there is no other way).

An issue of the left, but also, I think, of femininity to some degree. Thinking of the dear ladies I meet with weekly, it seems even the more conservative among them were overtaken by their emotions in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting; there was much hope expressed that the children's crusade would cause congress to awaken and enact new, tougher gun control laws, thereby ending the scourge of mass shootings.

It's a lovely idea, which has absolutely no basis in reality. And nothing anyone says can convince them otherwise.

Which goes to a little problem I have with the traditional scholastic view, that God is "pure act" and therefore devoid of potency. I get what the doctrine is trying to say -- that God is unchanging and unchangeable, but still... It's like saying God is Absolute with no Infinite, which to me is no Absolute at all. Translighted to the human plane, it is like all necessity with no possibility, i.e., no free will.

As evidence, in the NT Jesus is at least a couple of times described as being surprised and/ or amazed. I don't see how that could be if He is pure necessity; were it so, nothing would ever surprise Him, in which case acting surprised to make a point would be a lie, which is to say, impossible.

Gagdad Bob said...

Change would be so easy if it weren't for human nature and that stupid Constitution!

debass said...

If Fla. is going to raise the age to buy a gun to 21, they should also raise the voting age, drinking age, driving age (where the real death toll occurs), age to join the military, and age to own a cell phone.
Complete gov. failure at every level, and they blame the NRA and law abiding gun owners. It seems they are willing to accept a certain number of deaths to promote their agenda. Gun free zone= shooting gallery. How many mass murders have taken place at a gun range or police station? Sorry for the rant.

Anonymous said...

Great Post, very stoney sounding but reaching, reaching. Good stuff.

There are many great things in the post, but my favorite line was the last; pertaining to God being bored. Let's conjecture boredom in humans is inherited from the Father; a need for novelty comes from Him, and we are his likeness. Boredom is not driven by necessity. It is what comes into the mind once the necessary is accomplished. When boredom hits, one may be sure God will come calling: "Hey, why don't you try _____________ just for kicks?"

A further tit bit about the gun thing. Evidence from other nations with stricter gun control does show lower gun deaths. We could go back to the 1994 Assault Rifle Ban, which expired in 2004. We already did a decade with control and guess what, the shooting ranges were still doing a brisk business with good old-fashioned sporting rifles, which have always been gun enough for any patriot. I know because I remember the ban, and it was inconsequential for the rank and file citizen shooter.

For those whose 12 gauge is not enough for them, how about a future Big 5 Ad: "Fragmentation Grenades, $49.99 ea." "105 mm Mortar with starter pack of 6 shells." Why not go all the way then? You tell me, Debass.

Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, if we could only get guns out of the hands of Democrats and Democrat constituents, we'd have the lowest gun-related crime rate in the developed world.

debass said...

You can't get them for $49.99 anymore, except in Grenada. Neither of those are firearms.Why are innocent law abiding citizens always to blame for the actions of criminals? Will you give up your car for the next drunk driving accident. After all, cars are not protected by the Constitution. You can't compare other cultures to ours. Although I imagine some of the European citizens wish they were able to protect themselves from the Muslim criminals that are running rampant through their country as a result of leftist stupidity. You can not name a crime that has been prevented by a gun law. There is no gun law that would have prevented the Fla. crime. I know it is difficult for Dems to understand, because I have experience trying to convey this in person, but criminals don't obey the law.
Bob- I have had this notion for a while. I don't even let Dems on my property. They are infested with this evil ideology that seems to make them deny truth. I can work with them, but it causes me great angst, because I never know when they are going to spew this evil and I have to prepare for it.

julie said...

My kids are in a Broward school. (I know, I know. It was a decision made after much prayer and serious consideration, and for now it is the right place for them. Next year will be very different.) Picking up and dropping off, I have always observed how vulnerable everyone is, and there's really no way to remedy that. Until this week, it was comforting to have a police officer out front, helping to direct traffic and knowing he'd be there during the school day. Even if there's only one, it was better than nothing. Now all I can wonder is how far away he would stay to protect himself, and how long he would take to call for help if something happened here. And when it arrived, whether they'd do anything or just wait for the calamity to end before heroically charging in to look at the aftermath.

The sense of betrayal is indescribable.

No gun laws can possibly help if the people tasked with enforcing the law refuse to do their jobs.

debass said...

My prayers are with you Julie. This was monumental gov. failure. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Gagdad Bob said...

In other words.

Anonymous said...

One thing to remember: The AR-15 can be as persistent as a horny mistress.

"Honey, open my case. Yes, do I look pretty? I'm wearing you're favorite camo bump-stock."

"Pick me up, hold me. Yes. My little chamber is empty. Can you put a cartridge in my chamber, honey? It's all oiled up and ready. Oh yes, thanks."

"Point me, look through my sights. Is the post in the slot? Put your post in the slot."

"Oh I'm getting so ready to explode. Push my trigger. Reach around and push my trigger, honey. Push it. Push my..."

BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM(Oh!)BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM(Ooooooh!!)BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM(Ahhhhhhh!!)BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM(AAAAAAAHHHHHHGGGGGG!!!)BAMBAMBAMBAM.

(Sound of brass clinking around on the floor). "Ooooh you beast. That was nice. More! More!"

You have to understand the AR-15 is to blame. The actual gun.

doug saxum said...

That's some imagination you have.
Hope you're taking you're meds daily.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug:

I'm guessing you're a rifleman. Any rifleman can relate to the comment; the bond between gun owner and his firearm runs deep. The whole experience of choosing a weapon, taking it out on "dates" to the range, fondling and cleaning and admiring the craftsmanship, the fit and finish...is not something gun-owners talk about much. It is a very complex emotional experience. The weapon brings us feelings of well-being, security, and potency. Other emotions like excitement, anticipation, and enthusiasm take hold. There is sometimes an erotic component to gun ownership which is kept hidden. We imagine we are the only ones who sleep with the rifle near us, or who derive increased potency with the wife from contemplating the gun.Shooting the weapon, especially an auto, is orgasmic in nature.

Therefore I am not surprised by the outrage which meets any suggestion automatic weapons should be restricted. It is a direct threat to the relationship which is treasured by the gun owner.

Should I have shared this with the Raccoons? Why not? They all probably have an AR, AK, or Heckler and Koch somewhere in the house.

doug saxum said...

No, not into guns so much as I'm into music.
I only obtained a gun for home defense since moving outstate from the Twin Cities.
It may well be true what you say about some gun owners. Just comes across as crude.

debass said...

Automatic weapons are heavily restricted by the National Firearms Act of 1934. They are illegal to possess in several states. No NFA gun has ever been used in a mass shooting. Semi automatic, where the trigger must be pulled for each shot, are the type available to the general public. Even the "evil" bump stock requires you to pull the trigger for each shot.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug:

I hear you about the automatic weapons. My posts were laden with errors. And crude.
However, my parting shot:

Most gentlemen can handle a relationship with the regular sporting firearm, with a magazine of maybe 5-6 shots (like the Ruger "Ranch Rifle," etc. But the AR-15 is not the girl next door. She's a street-corner whore dressed in black leather, a bad bitch. She is a demi-goddess with that hi-cap magazine. Most guys can't handle a woman like that; she promises you heaven but gives you hell. And so the AR-15 quickly exerts a giddy and malignant effect on the mind of the owner. They should not be sold to the public, even though they are in fact super-awesome. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug:

I hear you about the automatic weapons. My posts were laden with errors. And crude.
However, my parting shot:

Most gentlemen can handle a relationship with the regular sporting firearm, with a magazine of maybe 5-6 shots (like the Ruger "Ranch Rifle," etc. But the AR-15 is not the girl next door. She's a street-corner whore dressed in black leather, a bad bitch. She is a demi-goddess with that hi-cap magazine. Most guys can't handle a woman like that; she promises you heaven but gives you hell. And so the AR-15 quickly exerts a giddy and malignant effect on the mind of the owner. They should not be sold to the public, even though they are in fact super-awesome. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.