Monday, June 04, 2018

The Deadly Consequences of Relativism

In the previous post we discussed form and substance. Knowledge is a form, and either it is a form of the substance or just a form of appearance, in which case it is severed from substance and therefore nothing.

Do you see the problem? Either knowledge is actually knowledge, or it is that arbitrary dream about the impenetrable cloud, in which case epistemology (knowledge) floats free of any ontology (being).

And that is what we call the Cosmic Divorce. One is either a relativist or an absolutist, but each position entails immediate and irrevocable consequences. You can only pick one, but you have to pick, either implicitly or explicitly.

One problem with the left -- maybe the source of their problems -- is the wish to have it both ways. Everyone knows the left is "unprincipled," hence what appears to be a steaming pile of contradictory policies. But they do have a principle: the principle of relativism.

Think of some of the many ways the left is at cross purposes with itself: it wants more immigration to America, even though this will (according to their theories) result in catastrophic global warming; females have an absolute right to abortion, and therefore no right to live to exercise the right; racial discrimination is wrong, and the state should do more of it; don't judge people by their immutable racial characteristics, but White Privilege!

We could go on past the ad of nauseam, so I won't regurgitate myself. The credo of the left is always: There is no Truth and We are its Messengers.

The immediate consequence of relativism is a kind of faux freedom. At first this freedom is intoxicating, and indeed I remember it well. Wheeeeeeeee! Oof.

The problem is, a freedom with no ground or telos is like an unstable element: ultimately radioactive. What would happen if all elements were unstable? Don't ask me, I got a gentleman's D in high school chemistry. But surely not life or anything else more complex than unstable elements.

Now, what are the consequences of absolutism? People -- or at least Americans -- instinctively recoil from that word, as if it implies a black-and-white authoritarianism. It can imply that, but only from the left, i.e., "absolute relativism." When relativism usurps absoluteness, violence and oppression are sure to follow. Relativism redounds to the exercise of absolute power, since there is no appeal to truth.

But there is nothing to fear from a proper absolutism. For example, our Fathers tell us that we are absolutely created equal, and that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness absolutely flow from this happy fact. What's to fear?

Well, obviously, many people fear the consequences of freedom, but only about half the nation and maybe 90% of the world.

At any rate, if there is by definition only one Absolute, how do we end up with "absolute rights" down here in the terrestrial world? Isn't that a contradiction? No, not at all. Rather, a necessity. Again, absoluteness has certain necessary consequences.

Schuon explains it more lucidly than I can:

To speak of the Divine Substance is necessarily to speak of its ontological prolongation, since we, who speak, derive from this prolongation which is Existence -- Relativity in its manifested mode...

To put it conversely, if we begin with the principle of relativism -- of the many -- then there is no way to get back to the Absolute, or to the One.

However, if we begin with the principle of oneness, then we are necessarily its prolongation. At once this resolves the knowledge problem, for there is no longer any real division between the One and many.

As Schuon says, even -- or especially -- we are its prolongation. This allows us to fruitfully cope with a whole lotta static paradoxes, bad infinities, infertile mysteries, and cosmic nul de slacks.

Yes, we are inevitably form, not substance. But again, forms of the substance, and therefore substance (or better, not not-substance, to keep things on the apophatic side).

This is a quintessential orthoparadox, the very same one expressed in the mytho-metaphysical gnotion that man is created in the image and likeness of his Creator. I mean, either he is or isn't, but please be consistent and accept the consequences. Don't....

Here, the Aphorist, as always, says it best with his linguistic shivs to the ribcage; each conveys a necessary truth:

Either God or chance: all other terms are disguises for one or the other.

Only the theocentric vision does not end up reducing man to absolute insignificance.

The human has the insignificance of a swarm of insects when it is merely human.

If the soul is a myth, genocide is a simple problem of effective anesthetics (Dávila).

If you're a garden-variety Democrat, maybe you're not clever enough to understand that sequence. Don't worry. Marx gets it, and there's always another one of his acolytes waiting in the wings to seize absolute power. In which case count yourself lucky if you get the anesthetics.


Gagdad Bob said...

Reading a bio of Eisenhower over the weekend I was struck by the 1952 Republican platform. It's timeless (although all too often equally applies to RINOs):

We charge that [Democrats] have arrogantly deprived our citizens of precious liberties by seizing powers never granted.

We charge that they work unceasingly to achieve their goal of national socialism.

We charge that they have disrupted internal tranquillity by fostering class strife for venal political purposes.

We charge that they have choked opportunity and hampered progress by unnecessary and crushing taxation.

We charge that they have weakened local self-government which is the cornerstone of the freedom of men.

We charge that they have shielded traitors to the Nation in high places, and that they have created enemies abroad where we should have friends.

We charge that they have violated our liberties by turning loose upon the country a swarm of arrogant bureaucrats and their agents who meddle intolerably in the lives and occupations of our citizens.

We charge that there has been corruption in high places, and that examples of dishonesty and dishonor have shamed the moral standards of the American people.

Allena Conrad said...

“We charge that they have weakened local self-government which is the cornerstone of the freedom of men.”

Local self-government has been replaced by Loco government.

julie said...

Eisenhower/ the 1952 republicans saw the writing on the wall. Today it's the same only moreso, although (thank goodness!) there are moments of sanity beginning to prevail. The hard part is knowing how tenuous is even the greatest victory.

What would happen if all elements were unstable?

Constant explosions, possibly resembling Portland after the latest round of "peaceful" Antifa protests.

ted said...

Tough weekend. Finally had to say goodbye to my feline buddy.

Allena Conrad said...

My condolences, Ted

julie said...

Sorry to hear, Ted. What a lovely remembrance for your friend!

ted said...

Thank you Allena & Julie.

Van Harvey said...

As true today as then, and yet the 'Right' still mostly refrains from sticking to those charges, and for the most part remain on the defensive, towards those they have charged.

It's almost as if they don't understand (or fully believe) what they themselves are for, which is what makes those charges so heinous.

Go figure.