Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mind and its Materials, or Qualifications and Quality

I don't know why the titles have been so lame lately, but "Useless Science, Harmful Scientists" was another example. Obviously science is far from useless and the average scientist doesn't do any harm. The problem only arises when we apply a mode of knowing that is inappropriate to the object we wish to understand. Now, metaphysics is the science of being, or of the whole, whereas science only studies the parts of being.

Science errs when it attempts to draw a limit to thought, because doing so must involve an implicit knowledge of what's on the either side -- or at least that there is an other side. If we are limited to seeing only one side of the moon, this doesn't mean the other side doesn't exist or that there's nothing we can say about it.

More importantly, it's still the moon and nothing else, despite the fact that we cannot see it from all possible angles. No visible object can be contained by vision, but that hardly means we do not see or that vision is just a form of blindness.

Kant would limit knowledge to the form of our own sensibilities or categories, thus radically detaching knowing from being. In this view -- and it is the modern view -- knowledge is no longer even knowledge, because it is ultimately about the knower: knowledge conforms to us rather than to reality. This new perspective is said to be "true," even while draining all meaning from what it could possibly mean for something to be true. In Truth -- the real kind -- such minds are trapped in a circle while pretending to see it from the perspective of the sphere.

If you've ever wondered how the left can know so much while knowing so little, this is why: their knowledge, such as it is, is detached from being. A case in point would be "homosexual marriage," or the idea that we can choose our gender. The first is not a real marriage -- i.e., anchored in, and a reflection of, being -- any more than Caitlyn Jenner is a real woman. But if knowledge is no longer adequation to reality, then this problem doesn't arise: you are a woman because you feel like one. It's a triumph of the will, but first it is a triumph of sentiment. Intellect is bypassed entirely (i.e., intellect as disclosing knowledge that is in turn rooted in being).

I mentioned above that science errs when it attempts to draw a limit to thought, but this needs to be qualified: there are, of course, insurmountable limits to what man may know, since we are creature and not creator, contingent and not absolute. In order to know God, we would have to be God.

That limitation goes to our humility. And yet, this is compensated by another side that goes to our grandeur, and indeed to the very worth of man: that we -- in particular, our intellect -- are in the image and likeness of the Creator, which obviously confers special powers.

Now, does man have special powers? Or is our knowing fundamentally no different from animal knowing? Science says "yes," but this is an example of precisely where it goes off the rails, for it fails to shift into a different framework when going from the part to the whole. Metaphysics is a science -- again it is the science of being -- but obviously requires a different mode of adequation.

This shouldn't be controversial to an intellectually sophisticated person. We all know that our sensory apparatus cannot conform to the world of mathematics, which means that empiricism does not exhaust what rationalism reveals about the nature of reality. But rationalism in its turn cannot touch the transrational -- at least from below.

That is, we all know that rationalism can say absolutely nothing about what it proposes to reason on or with. Rather, we must first select the premises with which we will reason. After that, the reasoning is machinelike and inevitable.

So, to call oneself a "rationalist" is neither here nor there. As Schuon points out in chapter 3 of Logic and Transcendence, Rationalism Real and Apparent, there are always two extra-rational conditions we must consider in any attempt to reason about things.

First would be "the acuity and profundity of the intelligence." It is no insult to reason to say that anyone can do it. Anyone can take a logic class and understand both logic and logical fallacies. But logic in the hands of a less-than-acute-and-profound intelligence can easily render itself irrational. More generally, as we have been saying (along with Hayek), few things are as irrational as a strict rationalism, or rationalism strictly applied.

For the other problem (along with depth and breadth of intelligence) has to do with the quality of the available information. We can obviously reason about things that are "below" the level of reason, i.e., material objects. We can also reason about the purely rational objects of mathematics. In fact, we can also reason about the reasoner, or I would be out of work. For what is psychology but a transcendent view of the subject? If it isn't then I am being paid for nothing.

So, the question before the house -- the scientific house -- is why can't we also reason about the things that transcend us? Like God, for example. Or, if that word is too loaded, why not just concede that there is a transcendent reality without which the human intellect is literally inconceivable, and try to reason about it?

Not so fast. Again, we must respect the "value or extent of the available information," and at the very least, those less-than-acute intelligences are likely to reason on the basis of bad information. Or, just say New Age, i.e., deepaking the chopra (dumb people reasoning with bad materials).

Now, in the Judeo-Christian stream, we reason with the information provided by revelation, on the assumption that it has been provided by God for just this purpose. Even so, we again come face-to-face with the issue of less-than-acute-and-profound intelligences, not to mention the fact that revelation nevertheless contains a fair amount of "noise," and that it has different levels of importance. Then there is the whole question of the hermeneutical circle through which we balance and interpret the parts in the context of the whole.

For example, the other evening on Tucker Carlson I saw a pro-anti-immigration hacktivist claim that we had to let them all in on the basis of something Jesus said about being nice to children. End of issue. Deferring to this so-called principle, we would be morally obligated to bring, what, several billon poor children into the US. Is this what Jesus meant?

Again, depth of intelligence and quality information. If there are stupid theologians -- and obviously there are -- then this is why. And if there is an intrinsically stupid scientism, then this is also why.

Back to reasoning about the reasoner. Now obviously, the reasoner cannot be reduced to reason. If that happens, then the reasoner is indeed trapped in an eternal tautology, and that's that. But in reality, logic is only consistent when it transcends itself. Even if you reject religion, you ought to understand that Gödel liberated you from tautologous rationalism. You're free! You are not enclosed in reason, you transcend it. But where then will you go? Down or up?

That question is more interesting than it sounds, because there is a third possibility, a sort of lateral one into individualism, the bad kind (leaving aside the fact that if a man fails to transcend himself, he sinks beneath himself).

I alluded to this in a comment the other day -- that all bad philosophy and scholarship descends into a kind of unwitting autobiography. You could say it is Kantian only worse, in that it is a kind of crude eccentricity that amounts to little more than a rebellion against reality. I can't find the exact quote I'm looking for, but this one by Schuon will do:

Relativism engenders a spirit of rebellion and is at the same time its fruit. The spirit of rebellion, unlike holy anger, is not a passing state, nor is it directed at some worldly abuse; on the contrary it is a chronic malady directed toward Heaven and against everything that represents Heaven or is a reminder of it.

You will have noticed that winning the house of representatives has not appeased the left's unhappy spirit of rebellion, rather, only feeds it -- similar to how the redefinition of marriage made them content for a day, before they moved on to the abolition of gender -- for if gender is anything, then it is nothing. Which is of course the point, i.e., nihilism and the abolition real and fruitful (by which we know their reality) categories, boundaries, and limits.

Ah, here's the quote I was looking for:

profane thought is always the portrait of an individual even when it is mingled with some glimmerings of knowledge, as must always be the case since reason is not a closed vessel.

Thus reason gives way to individualism and arbitrariness insofar as it is artificially divorced from the Intellect.

Coincidentally, I just reread The Picture of Dorian Gray last night, and it is all about this rejection of all that surpasses us, and a rebellious descent into a complete individualism. Let me see if I can find an appropriate gag from satan's cynical emissary, Lord Henry, with which to close this post:

In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well-informed man -- that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.

I sense that there was a more than a little Oscar in Henry. And interestingly, Oscar was received into the Catholic church on his deathbed, thus leaving the bric-a-brac shop in the nick of timelessness.

20 comments:

julie said...

Or, just say New Age, i.e., deepaking the chopra (dumb people reasoning with bad materials).

To be fair, they often reason with good materials too, but in the hands of an idiot a Stradivarius is still just a club to beat someone with.

julie said...

...profane thought is always the portrait of an individual even when it is mingled with some glimmerings of knowledge, as must always be the case since reason is not a closed vessel.

Any act of creation - even simple conversation - is essentially a self-portrait. The real question is whether the creator is aware of this truth, or whether instead he sees his own distorted reflection in everything around him and believes he sees clearly.

julie said...

In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.

Some of us are fortunate enough, at some point or other in our lives, to have it all either literally or figuratively reduced to rubble. Which is a terrible thing, to be sure - but for most of us it's the only way we ever truly understand what we are and how ephemeral it all is, and what a grace it is that nevertheless there is a God who cares profoundly what is to become of us.

Joan of Argghh! said...

The thoroughly well-informed man -- that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.

We will not submit, will we? We want to govern our own souls.

Gagdad Bob said...

--Any act of creation - even simple conversation - is essentially a self-portrait.

In the Picture of DG, the painter, Basil, is aware of the fact that he has put his very soul into the painting, and that it is his best and even unsurpassable work. I'm thinking about this for the first time, but this must be symbolic of God breathing the breath of life into Adam. Dorian murders Basil, which must be a symbol of deicide, and later stabs the painting (symbolic of his soul), which redounds to his own death.

So (alluding to what Joan says) Dorian succeeds in governing his own soul, thereby not only losing it but committing suicide.

But what is going on from God's (Basil's) perspective? Why must God die? Coincidentally, just yesterday I was rereading Bailie's God's Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love. I'm sure the answer is in there somewhere.

Gagdad Bob said...

His next book, “Metahuman,” which will be published next year, explores Mr. Chopra’s belief that we are living in virtual reality, merely creating our experiences in our minds. “There’s no such thing as the real reality,” he says. “The universe is a human construct.” He considers the body purely a perceptual experience too.

Baffled, I ask if there’s no reality, why people are motivated to write books or make money. “Money is a construct,” he says. “Now it’s been going on for thousands of years so it’s our collective virtual reality.” He quotes the Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “We are asleep. Our life is a dream. But we wake up sometimes, just enough to know that we are dreaming.”

I ask: If our lives are just a form of virtual reality, then what’s the point of all the exercises in self-awareness, sleep tracking and yoga that he recommends? He smiles and says, “So when you’re in the dream, you upgrade the dream.”

julie said...

Ha - link missing, but I was just reading that article via Drudge. I wonder if his upgrades are optional, or just the kind that go through whether you want them or not? And when they destroy your operating system, is there any way to get your data back?

Somehow, I doubt deepaking has a qualifying Redemption program...

ted said...

Deepak's got a new book coming out?! It's getting cold in the northeast, and firewood fodder would be helpful. It's sad he sells more books than many of the ones discussed out here. But I guess Truth doesn't sell well these days. Fake nous rules!

BZ said...

Anyone notice the Don Colacho website is "Permission only"? Yikes, I depended on that site!
http://don-colacho.blogspot.com/

ted said...

That's not good. I hope it's a glitch. If not, Bob has probably already grabbed the premium Aphorisms on his blog.

Gagdad Bob said...

Here you go. Tell no one but a trusted Raccoon. The family apparently doesn't want it out there.

Anonymous said...

Physics tell us Deepak is not barking up entirely the wrong tree. Particles do not decide whether to be a wave or a particle, or where to go, until observed. So there is some involvement with an observer necessary to snap things into focus, as it were.

It could be, while no one is looking at a particular piece of the cosmos, it simply turns itself off and is not there, until someone looks at it, and then it pops back into view. This makes sense from a certain standpoint, saving energy or effort.

The thing with Deepak, he is not entirely wrong in the sum total of whatever he discourses on. He just elaborates too much and wanders off into speculation like a mofo.

Gagdad Bob said...

Just like Invisible Boy, whose super power only works when no one is observing him.

Come to think of it, Deepak is more than a little like the Sphinx.

Anonymous said...

Deepak says we live in virtual reality, and the universe is a human construct, but Robert says it ain't so, reality is durable truth in which we live but do not create.

Many things are mixed and blended. A middle road could be: reality is durable truth (and not virtual), however, the truth can be engineered/altered to a limited degree by human agency. I propose a generous 90/10 percentile split, which would fit happenstance nicely.

Happenstance is a curious thing. I would side wholeheartedly with Robert, except for queer turns of happenstance, by no means frequent, which suggest some limited "creativity" is indeed in the tool kit of ordinary human powers.

Keep your antennae up, intuition on maximum gain, and a critical but open mindset; perhaps you will experience something interesting.

Gagdad Bob said...

--Reality is durable truth in which we live but do not create.

That's probably why they call it reality.

julie said...

Awful quiet in here...

Apropos nothing, thanks to Amazon's cyber Monday sales, my SIL and I are going to try a collagen supplement. Reviews look interesting; supposed to help skin and hair, but some are saying they've had positive results for arthritis and nerve damage as well. She's still suffering long term damage from falling off a ladder 10 years ago, so it would be nice if it helps. Anyone else trying this? Just curious. I make bone broth from time to time, but don't use it often enough to notice those kinds of benefits.

Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting. I'm always sampling different substances from a company called Bulk Supplements (much cheaper than buying it in pill form). Just looked it up, and they have various types of bulk collagen, for example, this one. Up to now I've been taking glucosamine & MSM, with no noticeable impact. I'm going to do a little research and maybe give it a try. I've also started doing yoga again. I've always been so flexible that I've taken it for granted. Now I'm going to have to put in some effort to regain it.

julie said...

I've been taking glucosamine for years. Had knee pain going back to when I was a teenager, and it did help that. They don't hurt, but they do make horrible sounds when I go up stairs.

I think you were the one who mentioned turmeric; that stuff is amazing. It doesn't work for everything, but the things it helps, it really helps. Gave it to my SIL, and it cleared up a rash and some of the pain she had been having; also interacted weirdly with a couple of other medications she takes, so that's one to be careful with, too.

Never thought I'd be one to get on the supplement bandwagon, but some of them are legitimately amazing.

Anonymous said...

Turmeric is an interesting spice, very pervasive in effect. There is a slight mood-altering effect.

Cannabidiol is interesting as well. It is pervasive in effect; all body systems are tweaked. It is touted as a general tonic for what ails.

However, nothing seems to beat good old coffee as the remedy of choice. Even a few out of system visitors have tried coffee and remarked it was salubrious. They took a supply of really good beans with them on departure.

Van Harvey said...


"Coincidentally, I just reread The Picture of Dorian Gray last night, and it is all about this rejection of all that surpasses us, and a rebellious descent into a complete individualism."

From the Life imitates Art Dept: A local tenured deepakThinker who likes to style himself as a Socrates, recently reminded me of this, as he praised
Sartre.

"Freedom!"

Not.