Friday, January 26, 2018

It's Only "Natural"

Let us beware of discourse where the adjective "natural" without quotation marks abounds: somebody is deceiving himself, or wants to deceive us. --Dávila

So, one of Hanby's points is that there can be no such category of the "natural" per se; rather, natural and supernatural (or perhaps better, transnatural, to avoid certain unnecessary baggage) define one another.

When you think about it, it makes no sense for a materialist to call something "natural," since his metaphysical presumption is that everything is natural; it is literally equivalent to existence. Everything that exists is natural; anything that is not natural does not exist. As usual, garbage in, tenure out.

Obviously that makes no sense, even on its own terms, because of the distinction between semantics and syntax. In other words, if it is meaningful to say that naturalism is the case, then naturalism cannot be the case, since meaning cannot be reduced to matter.

But this is all so much cognitive idling while we sip the morning coffee and wait for some actual inspiration. How about something new, bOb, instead of the same old same old?

A challenge, eh? Look, I don't plan these things ahead of time. I am reminded of something from the foreword of Dr. Peterson's new book -- that he's just a guy who likes to share interesting stuff. If he finds something interesting, then he assumes you will too. The difference is that his book is in the top ten on amazon, while mine is in the top two million. That's a lot of disinterest!

Which brings to mind a question: can a man control what spontaneously interests him? I can't. Truly, I just follow my nous. Certainly I can't do anything about what bores me. Which is most of the things that interest everyone else.

Perhaps we'll move on to a serious consideration of 12 Rules after we finish the present book. People tend to either idealize Peterson or regard him as Literally Hitler, but I'd like to explore the intersection between what interests him and what interests me.

Here's a trick question: has science actually increased our knowledge of the universe? Well, yes and no. Certainly there is a lot more of it, but if you add it all together, does it actually penetrate as deeply as, say, Genesis? Indeed, does it even add up to a universe?

More to the point, supposing the world is created, what does all the knowledge that denies creation amount to? But if the world is not created, how is knowledge even possible?

If you have a quick answer to that question, it is because, to repeat the words of the Aphorist, As long as we can respond without hesitating we do not know the subject. For Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

In short, you may know nothing, but at least you know it well.

In reality, "science's remarkable advances are premised largely upon the thoughtful destruction of any coherent notion of a uni-verse" -- of One Cosmos, you might say. It's an interesting if perverse game, in which they begin with the metaphysical principle of a cosmos and then deploy it to destroy the principle. In this sense, scientism is like a cognitive autoimmune disorder that attacks the host. Sad!

If the One and the Many are always complementary, scientism is manyness run amuck. Which is really a definition of cancer, isn't it? For cancer is a part that declares independence from the whole. As such, it occupies an ambiguous category of being a part of the body while not really being one -- analogous to obnoxious illegal aliens who demand that we treat them like citizens. But that's how we can tell we don't want you as a citizen: your presumptuous arrogance and grotesque sense of entitlement.

The thing is, many victims of scientism are no longer consciously aware of what they have lost. In other words, they have lost what they have lost, and don't know where to begin to find it. It is like a crime against the Creator with no clues whatsoever.

But the loss of the uni-verse, of the One Cosmos, "is the destruction in thought of a single order of reality comprehensive of its own intelligibility, an order large enough to include us," despite the fact that this single order "remains a necessary starting point for scientific inquiry."

That's a Big Thing, in fact, the biggest. What makes man think he's so big, big enough to take down something so much bigger? Yes, Genesis 3, but a well worn Aphorism comes to mind: In order to challenge God, man puffs up his emptiness.

How many universes are there? For the anti- and irreligious, the answer is ultimately "as many as there are people." For the heteroparadoxical doctrine of relativism is that truth doesn't exist, and everyone has it. Which is no truth at all. Or else. In other words, power and domination.

So, To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions (Dávila ). For reason is only competent in its own field if it keeps its gaze fixed upon truths beyond its competence (St. Bonaventure, in Hanby).

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Attention Deviance Disorder

This is something I've long believed, mainly because it's impossible not to believe it, at least if you're paying close attention -- that "the act of attention itself is an act of abstraction," being that it exists within an "infinite web of relations." As we attend to the abstraction, the web "recedes into the background, if not into complete invisibility" (Hanby).

I tried to capture this principle in pp. 55-60 of the book, the main idea being that if you remove the subject from the cosmos, there are no things all, just everything-all-at-once. The point is that subject and object co-arise, and that an object is an abstraction by the subject from its web of relations.

No, this is not to be confused with a philosophical idealism that places the subject before the object. We begin with the world, in that sense experiences are prior to our abstractions from them.

Conversely, to what would a consciousness without attention amount? A coma, I suppose. A person who cannot pay attention is -- no offense -- but somewhat beside the point in human terms. Come to think of it, paying proper attention must be the first act of self-discipline, upon which all subsequent acts will depend.

And now that I'm thinking about it, what we call Attention Deficit Disorder must be much more widespread and generalized than we realize. It's a real problem.

Consider the liberal media, which are nothing if not a giant blob of inattention to That Which Matters. They focus like a laser on the trivial, the sentimental, on ideological fakery, while systematically missing the point. Indeed, they exist to Miss the Point, which is equally true of liberal academia: attention, but in the service of inattention; direction for the sake of misdirection; knowledge in support of the Lie.

Look! Russian collision! Look! Trump said a naughty word! However, every look is a look-away. Which is fine, so long as one is looking from appearances to reality. But the vector of the media-academic complex is in precisely the opposite direction: from reality to appearances. Not so much attention deficit as attention deviance.

Let's review: subject and attention seem to co-arise. Certainly objects do not pay attention, while a subject that doesn't pay attention is asleep, in a coma, or Jim Acosta. And attention is abstraction. And abstraction has the proper structure of surface --> depth, or existence --> essence, or appearance --> reality.

Where am I going with this? I don't yet know, so let's keep going there.

For Hanby, this means that any form of empiricism or naturalism is just a non-starter. Every form of thought begins with an abstraction, but it is as if these defective approaches attempt to cover their tracks and pretend the abstraction never took place -- they dig themselves into a metaphysical hole and attempt the pull the hole in after.

But you can't get rid of the subject that easily. Yes, you can kill yourself, but that doesn't make the world disappear. Only an infant thinks that way (and they do think that way, which is why for some people suicide is the ultimate attack or revenge upon the world).

So, we can all agree that "ontological naturalism is, at bottom, a bad theology that does not know itself." It is hardly "an alternative to theology," but rather, "an alternative theology that determines in advance both what sort of God can appear to thought and what sort of 'nature' may manifest itself" (Hanby).

But guess what? Just as one cannot rid the world of subjects, one cannot rid nature of the supernatural. For reasons we will further illuminate tomorrow, because we are out of time.

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).

Monday, January 22, 2018

Understanding Understanding

Not much time. Just a short blast...

How do we understand the ultimate nature of the cosmos? Via astrophysics? Astronomy? No, scientific disciplines simply assume the cosmos. But they assume it for religious reasons, in that they assume the cosmos of the Bible, not, say, Buddhist cosmology, in which, according to Prof. Wiki,

there is no ultimate beginning nor final end to the universe. It considers all existence as eternal, and believes there is no creator god.

Or Mormon cosmology, in which

The Earth's creation... was not ex nihilo, but organized from existing matter. The faith teaches that this earth is just one of many inhabited worlds, and that there are many governing heavenly bodies, including a planet or star Kolob which is said to be nearest the throne of God.

In short, "Though we are led to think that the universe is the province of a special science," the cosmos "is an irreducibly metaphysical and theological idea" which we only subsequently investigate via scientific methodology.

Moreover, the transcendent unity of the cosmos "is most fundamentally a unity of being" (Hanby). It really is One Thing, not an agglomeration of units, "each separated by an ontological abyss from each other."

"[I]f the cosmos is not inherently intelligible, if its logos is not intrinsic to it," then knowledge and truth become "impossible by definition.... The very possibility of cosmological truth depends upon reality being intelligible 'all the way down (and up)'" (ibid.).

A key point is that scientific knowledge -- in fact, any knowledge -- follows from this principle of the unity of being. Put conversely, if not for the prior unity of being, no knowledge of any kind would be possible.

But a cosmos lacking in oneness is an absurd proposition, because in a fundamentally fragmented and dis-unified "cosmos," there couldn't be any organic unity, and therefore no organisms or knowers. (I put cosmos in scare quotes because there couldn't be one; rather, each atomistic monad would be its own enclosed world, as it were; this would be a multiverse of exteriorly related billiard balls.)

Speaking of unity of being, did you know that cosmos, cosmetology, and cosmetics are related? The term kosmos

denotes order and beauty, even more specifically the beauty resulting from order, the beauty that is still implied today by an activity that derives its name from the word -- cosmetics (ibid.).

So now we see that both order and beauty are built into the cosmos. Why are we surrounded by such beauty? Because of a unity of being that at once gives rise to truth, beauty, and goodness (or the moral law). "Cosmology and anthropology are always correlative" (ibid.).

Not only are they correlative, but of the two, anthropos is ontologically prior. You might say that it is with God from the beginning. In other words, while they are complementary, the cosmos ultimately derives from the person(s) in whose image we are.

In this context, what we call causation is itself "a communication of meaning" (ibid.). Science is only possible because of our communion with being; or science is a communion that takes place between between subject and objects that are unified in being. Knowledge is a reflection of being, as immanence is a reflection of transcendence, or infinitude of absolute: I AM, therefore we can think.

For Schuon, "the laws of intelligence... reflect the laws of the divine Intellect." The Intellect is a prolongation of the Absolute, which is why reason "prolongs the Intellect in the direction of relativity." In other words, man always faces in two directions, up and down. But you cannot derive up from down!

So yes, man can understand the physical cosmos. But "one cannot understand the world unless one understands the place of understanding within it" (Jonathan Lear, in Hanby). In other words, it makes no sense to understand the cosmos while failing to understand how and why you can understand it, or worse, positing a cosmos that cannot account for its own capacity to be understood.

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