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.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Circular and Absurcular Humanism

I guess you could say I am preoccupied with What a Man Can Know -- not through any special science or particular culture, nor in any certain time in history, but in any time or place, just by virtue of being a human person.

For me, this knowledge would constitute genuine humanism, in contrast to the cosmic heresy known as "secular humanism." This latter imposter denies God in the effort to elevate man, and so devolves to a circular -- or absurcular -- humanism. Literally! For it is written:

If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors (Dávila).

But an Authentic humanism is built upon the discernment of human insufficiency. Otherwise we are trapped in a closed loop, or an ontological tautology.

Consider the following, which sounds cute or paradoxical, but is quite literal: Man is an animal that imagines itself to be Man.

In other words, remove God from the equation -- or deny the God/man complementarity -- and man is literally an animal, no better or worse than any other.

Maybe I'm just lazy. Or stupid. Otherwise, I'd go and get a Ph.D. in physics, which, if it doesn't yet have all the answers, someday will. It's just a matter of time. In other words, physics is the one and true faith, providing the kind of knowledge to which all other disciplines aspire.

Or, maybe it's just because I'm better at words than numbers that I nourish the delusion that, in the words of the Aphorist, Man is not educated through knowledge of things but through knowledge of man. And knowledge of man is unthinkable in the absence of knowledge of God.

In a purely horizontal universe, for example, aborting a baby is morally indistinguishable from kicking a rock. More generally, reality is reduced to an unrelieved and inescapable Is. Any Ought is pure fantasy. And any I is out of the question.

That's where physics leads. Because that's were physics starts. Again, this is the prison of circular humanism. Put it this way: is a human being without an Ought even thinkable? No, it is not. For in some sense, man is literally made of "oughtness," and we all know it. Man is an obligation that man often violates (Dávila).

How so? Well, everyone knows -- or used to know, anyway -- that we ought to know truth, i.e., distinguish between reality and appearances. It is why we have an intellect to begin with: to conform ourselves to reality, or knowledge with being.

Likewise, we ought to do good, which is to say, distinguish between good and evil. Imagine raising a child while systematically driving home the point that there are no such things as truth, virtue, and beauty. That's child abuse.

Now, imagine a liberal college campus where such destructive inanities are taught. That's adolescent abuse. Now, imagine paying a quarter of a million dollars to brainwash your child into believing he ought not pretend that any objective oughts exist. Rather, any and all oughts are just pretexts for blind power and unjust oppression.

That's not a university. It's certainly not a proper humanism. It's Monsters, Inc. Is it any wonder academia is so hostile to truth, sanity, and decency? Liberals in no way eliminate the Ought. Rather, they just replace the luminous and expansive God-given one with a squalid and petty manmade one.

Back to my main point. Not only do I believe man can know the truth of man, but I also happen to believe we are entitled to this knowledge.

Really, given what we have to put up with down here, it's not asking much, is it? Think about it from the other side. Would you go to the trouble of creating self-conscious beings, and then deny them the ability to know why they exist? That would be frankly sadistic. It would be as if the universe were a vast liberal campus -- an endless tapestry of grandiosity and bullshit. Life is hard enough. Impossibly hard if meaningless too.

There is a proper circular humanism, which takes place in the vertical space uniquely inhabited by man. I was reading about this just the other day, while looking up an unrelated factoid in The Orthodox Church. In it, Bishop Ware writes of how "The human being is a single, united whole; not only the human mind but the whole person was created in the image of God."

Moreover, it is as if "all creation is a gigantic Burning Bush, permeated but not consumed by the ineffable and wondrous fire of God's energies."

We can never know God's essence, any more than we can know the essence of any other person. But his energies are everywhere! "It is through these energies that God enters into a direct and immediate relationship with humankind. In relation to us humans, the divine energy is in fact nothing else than the grace of God..."

Ultimately, this circle of grace takes place between the divine transcendence and the divine immanence. Indeed, one might say the circle is composed of grace, and that it is for us to leap in and take part in it. For if it's good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for the alikes of us.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Homo Mirabilis

Which means the "human miracle," or, more to our point, that the human station itself is our most concrete evidence of the miraculous.

And what do we mean by miraculous? Broadly speaking, I would define the miraculous as any vertical ingression that in principle defies horizontal explanation. Horizontality goes into the miracle, but cannot be its sufficient reason.

For example, the brain is a necessary condition for our humanness, but clearly not sufficient, not just on an individual basis today, but as a species in the distant past.

This latter is discussed in the bʘʘk, in the context of the sudden explosion of humanness that occurs around 40,000 years ago. Mere horizontal evolution, we are told, doesn't work that way. And yet, there it is. Something occurs vertically, and I know what it was: a vertical ingression, AKA miracle.

It's very much like Michelangelo's depiction of the creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, only in the immaterial realm: as with any myth, it is a local representation of a nonlocal truth. Only when hominid nervous systems became sufficiently complex were they susceptible to the divine touch, or vertical ingression.

Another reason why we know this is the case is that what is true today must have been true then. Humans today routinely experience vertical ingressions of various kinds -- Joy Behar notwithstanding, -- so there is no reason to believe our furbears were denied this logospheric manna from heaven. Indeed, there is evidence that they tended to conflate it with other immaterial influences (which we also still do today, most notoriously in the Islamic world).

Speaking of Islamists, note the inverse possibility: of receiving vertical ingressions even while denying the existence of God. This is the structure of leftism, as outlined by Michael Polanyi some 75 years ago, and nothing has changed in the meantime: that "despite its rejection of transcendent reality, it exhibits a high degree of moral passion."

No kidding. But never conflate moral passion and morality, especially the objective kind! There is plenty of moral passion -- even hysteria -- on the left, little in the way of detached and objective morality -- even an overt denial that such a thing exists. As such, their subjective and relativistic moral passion "is not a mark of honor -- instead, it is a mark of dishonor," for "here we have moral passion without any moral judgment":

"Polanyi maintains that a 'moral inversion' has occurred." This ontologically rootless moral passion "now invokes any means, however grotesque and immoral, to satisfy its longings. Under this guise, moral passion serves rather than spurns the cause of fanaticism" (from the foreword of The Logic of Liberty).

Which is how it comes to pass that we are ruled not only by our intellectual inferiors, but moral inferiors as well, AKA the Swamp.

Say what you like about our swamp-dwelling elites, but they are never short of passion, no matter how misguided. When one avenue is blocked -- say, "Russian collision" -- they pick themselves up as if nothing happened, and move on to the next unhinged passion. What will it be today? That's really what the FakeNews comes down to. Give me a hard-bitten cynic any day over a passionate moralist of the left!

We are still on the subject of the Human Station, and what it all means. Clearly, it must in a way mean "everything" on pain of meaning nothing, precisely. As we've put it before, the world cannot be a little bit pregnant with meaning. And the ONLY conceivable way it can mean anything is for it to be a reflection of absoluteness. Absent this, we are indeed plunged into relativity, AKA permanent and ineradicable stupidity. Who doesn't see it?

A free society is animated by transcendent beliefs -- or beliefs anchored in transcendence -- or it isn't free. And freedom is the miracle par excellence, for it has no conceivable horizontal explanation, to such an extent that those who are wedded to a materialistic metaphysic have no choice but to deny its existence. But the integral cosmic man -- AKA Raccoon -- recognizes and says from himsoph: I am free, therefore God is. Conversely, the credo of the left ought to be: I think, therefore I shouldn't. For whenever they try to think, mischief -- from simple theft to genocide -- follows.

Time out for some illustrative aphorisms:

He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself.

Yes, literally, because why on earth would a tenured ape take himself seriously?

Liberals can be divided into those who believe that wickedness is curable and those who deny that it exists.

And this division runs through the very heart of the liberal, who screams that only an evil conservative could believe in the fairy tale morality of good and evil. For truly, The progressive believes that everything soon turns obsolete except his ideas.

And passions. Condemnatory passions. Which is why, When the progressive condemns, every intelligent man must feel alluded to. Yes you, you deplorable racist sexist homophobic Islamophobic fundamentalist pig!

Enough with Homo diabolos. Back to Homo mirabilis. As usual, Schuon cuts through centuries of windbaggery, and right to the essence. What we call a miracle

has in itself nothing mysterious or problematical about it: the so-called natural laws of a lower degree of Existence can always be suspended through the intervention of a higher degree, whence the perfectly logical term “supernatural”: but this degree also has its laws, which means that the miracle is “natural” on the universal scale, while being “supernatural” on the earthly scale.

So, from the naturalistic perspective, the human person is a miracle. But from the perspective of the Divine Person? Eh, not so much.

The miraculous is that which is due to a direct, thus vertical intervention of a heavenly Power, and not to a horizontal progression of causality. If one extends the notion of “nature” to all that exists, miracles too are “natural,” but in that case words would become meaningless, as it would then be impossible to make the essential distinction between blind or unconscious causes and the supra-conscious Cause, the source of all consciousness and of all power. Scientists confuse the miraculous with the irrational and the arbitrary.

I wanted to throw in a discussion of what the Christian knows that the scientistic atheist does not and can never know, but we're out of time, so you'll have to think that through yourself. A hint: awareness of the Absolute, and the consequences flowing therefrom.

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