Friday, July 27, 2018

When I Wish Becomes It Is

The question before the house is Where are we? Yes, we live in relativity, but relativity can only be understood in light of the Absolute.

However, things get complicated, or at least ambiguous, because we can never know the Absolute, even though we can't do without it. Rather, it exists for us like an implicit placeholder for wholeness and totality. It is like the cognitive sun around which we orbit, except it is a sun we can't literally see. Still, it's always there.

I am reminded of a book conveniently called The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals. One anthropologist has identified 311 human universals, which are defined as "observable cultural features, practices, behaviors, or beliefs that appear in all human societies in history."

But we're actually talking about something deeper -- something that serves as the prior condition or deep structure of these surface universals, analogous to the "universal grammar" said to underlie all human languages.

Off the top of my head, I would say that these surface universals are to the Absolute as existence is to Being. A thing only exists because it partakes of a Being that is prior to it. Being is necessary, while contingent existents not only partake of Being, but only exist to the extent that they do.

I am at a crossroads. This subject is so full of implications that it could go in a dozen different directions. Let's briefly touch on our civil war. Why are we amidst one? Well, it really comes down to a war between absolutists and relativists. Except with a twist, since the relativists give a pass to their own relativism, and elevate it to a pseudo-absolute.

To repeat an aphorism from yesterday, The progressive believes that everything soon turns obsolete except his ideas. For The relativist rarely relativizes himself.

Really, there can no such thing as an honest relativist, because if there is no truth there can be neither honesty nor dishonesty. So, never ask why this or that leftist politician is "dishonest," for in their universe this is irrelevant. For them, a statement can be expedient, or convenient, or "empowering," but its truth is literally beside (or outside) the point.

So, To scandalize the leftist, just speak the truth. Literally.


Okay, here is one from When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. Anderson notes that this movement "promotes a radical subjectivity in which individuals should be free to do whatever they wish and to define the truth as they choose" -- BUT -- at the same time call for "enforced conformity of belief in transgender dogma."

Not only is the totalitarian nature of the left clothed in relativism, but relativism is always a prelude to totalitarianism, because with no appeal to truth, power rushes in to fill the vacuum. It's really a heaven-and-hell situation, because hell is any place where truth is not only irrelevant and impotent, but caricatured as a kind of monstrous authoritarianism.

In this inverted cosmos, someone like a Justice Scalia is the authoritarian monster, instead of the bullying anti-intellectual mob of Ginsberg-Kagan-Breyer-Sotomayer.

People say "metaphysics is dead." What they should say is that it is deadly. Anderson correctly notes that

We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative metaphysics. At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person -- in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, mot merely a girl who identifies as a boy.

Thus, their rhetoric "drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be." Think for a moment about the implications of a metaphysic in which "I wish" is utterly conflated with "It is." This is a radical subjectivism, but again, opponents -- people who live in the objective world -- are not accorded the same privilege of elevating our wishes to reality.

Now, in reality, I Want must always be parasitic on It Is. For example, perhaps I want a pet unicorn. Well, unicorns Are Not, so my I Want is utterly beside the point. It is just an impotent wish.

I'm also thinking of how the Absolute-Relative complementarity bears on the Appearance-Reality axis. For these same activists transform the reality -- one's biological sex -- into a mere appearance, and the appearance -- what I imagine I am -- into the reality.

It also reminds me of the first principle of economics, which is scarcity, meaning that there is always going to be a tension between I Want and It Is, or desire and desirable. In other words, there is never enough of the latter to satisfy the former.

Think of Venezuela, where they literally can't print enough paper money to satisfy the most simple want. Inflation is verging on "a million percent," but that's just an abstraction rooted in the insane belief that government can satisfy infinite desire. In order to do so, it must itself become absolute, AKA totalitarian.

Socialism can drive away It Is -- including human nature -- with a pitchfork, but it always returns.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Stop the Cosmos and Let Me Off!

I'm still on this question of Where Are We?, which means that it must not have been sufficiently beaten to death yesterday. I have the image in mind of two objects. If one of the objects is moving, there is no way of knowing which one it is.

It reminds me of a fews occasions when I parked my car but forgot to pull the brake. It slowly rolled backward, but out of the corner of my eye it looked as if the car next to me were pulling forward. Then I looked up and saw the wider context, and snapped out of my optical illusion before hitting something behind me.

Well, in the absence of an ontological parking brake, we are unavoidably trapped in an existential illusion from which there is no escape. Absoluteness must be somewhere, or thinking itself is impossible. For if knowledge isn't certain, then it isn't knowledge.

It's analogous to the solar system. It too has a center around which things turn. And just like the car analogy, it looks as if earth has a parking brake and the sun is rolling forward.

Recall the pneumagraph of the cosmos in yesterday's post, with us at the center. As we've discussed in the past, you have to actually imagine a cone like shape, such that the center is also at the top.

This is true both literally and figuratively, as we are simultaneously at the center of existence and uniquely able to regard it from the outside or top. The unthinking cliché that heliocentrism and Darwinism somehow ousted man from the center of the universe is just... an unthinking cliché. To the extent that it is true, it can only be said by a creature situated at the top and center. It can only be said by someone with access to a cognitive parking brake.

Let's be precise here. It's not that the human subject is the center, but it is a center because it is a prolongation or projection of Celestial Central. We are anchored in absoluteness, or in the orbit of O. It is why we can know things with certainty. To say certitude is to say God. Which is why it is NO JOKE to say that if God doesn't exist, only He knows it.

Granted, there is Certitude and there is "certitude." One fallout from the fall is that man is obnoxiously certain about certain things that are only anchored in illusion. You could say that with the Fall, man lost his parking brake and therefore his certitude. With no parking brake, there are only opinions.

It reminds me of our Constitution, which is supposed to be our political parking brake. If the Constitution starts to move, then there is literally no brake on the power of the state. Then absoluteness is transferred from the people to the state, and our experiment in liberty is effectively over. Which is precisely how the left has wanted it to be, beginning with Woodrow Wilson:

“If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.” Equality, natural rights, consent of the governed -- these are not the fundamental principles that inform the purpose of government....

The Founders held that the purpose and form of government was inextricably tied to a fixed and imperfect human nature. Wilson, on the other hand, argued that government must evolve because human nature itself is changeable, and has progressed beyond the limitations that the Founders identified.

Far from fearing man’s capacity to form majority factions and trample on the rights of others, Wilson held that human beings, now enlightened by the passage of time, could be entrusted with power without abusing it.

In short, the Constitution, what with its stupid parking brake, "hinders the achievements of true justice." That would be social justice, which is the pretext for a power both omniscient and omnipotent, because only such a power could restore man to primordial justice -- good and hard. It's another name for Hell, and it's as simple as 1-2-3:

1: The proclamation of our autonomy is the founding act of Hell.

2: The progressive believes that everything soon turns obsolete except his ideas.

3: Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized.

Or put it this way:

Here begins the gospel of Hell: In the beginning was nothing and it believed nothing was god, and was made man, and dwelt on earth, and by man all things were made nothing (Dávila x 4).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Where Are We Really?

Picking up the previous thread, the first freedom -- or at least its precondition -- is freedom from oneself, i.e., self-transcendence. This introduces a seeming paradox into the cosmos, which is to say, a Who and Whom in the same being. Just Who is free from Whom? Who is the who and who is the whom? And how?

Freedom necessarily leads all the way to the top: to say freedom is to say God. Conversely, to deny God is to eliminate even the possibility of freedom and of thinking (and therefore of man). Some people will say, problem solved! But Stanley Jaki speaks for me:

What is needed is merely an intimation that freedom or rather free will belies mere material existence.... For, in the final analysis, the elemental registering of free will almost exhausts whatever can be said about its reality.
Some things are irreducible: they cannot be reduced to anything but themselves. Freedom is one of these irreducibles. It is like a rope suspended from the source of being to the center of the soul. If it weren't there, then there would be no escape or inscape. We would be sealed under an impenetrable sheet of rock, or buried alive in our own neurology, or enclosed in absolute tenure.

Not to abruptly change the subject, but all weekend I was haunted (in a good way) by the question, Where are we? In the absence of God, it is impossible to answer this question in a non-relativistic way. You could say we are on earth, but earth is relative to the sun, the sun to the Milky Way, the Milky Way to some galactic cluster, etc., all the way up to a cognitive placeholder we call the "cosmos."

Below is a pneumagraph of the situation, with you at the center:

Says wiki, it depicts the "observable universe with the Solar System at the center, inner and outer planets, Kuiper belt, Oort cloud, Alpha Centauri, Perseus Arm, Milky Way galaxy, Andromeda galaxy, nearby galaxies, Cosmic Web, Cosmic microwave radiation and the Big Bang's invisible plasma on the edge."

As far as we know, there is no freedom anywhere in this image except at the very center, where you and I dwell at the moment. But freedom itself is a kind of center; you might say that wherever freedom is, there is a subjective center. To a large extent, these two are synonymous: to say subjective center is to say space-of-freedom.

Back to the question of Where we are. Obviously, if this is a relativistic cosmos, then we are nowhere, precisely. You could say that we are relative to the cosmos, but then you've snuck an absolute in through the back door. Again, no one has ever seen the cosmos, and no one ever will. It is an abstract placeholder for a presumed unity of existence. And this presumed unity is just a horizontal shadow of the missing God. As if a shadow can exist without an object and light!

There is no question that we are relative. But relative to what? If we are relative to relativity, this equates to the absolute nothingness of the existentialists. The only other possibility is that we are relative to the Absolute, AKA God. Thus, in answer to the question of where we are, we are either nowhere or in the orbit of God. There are no other possibilities, so at least be honest with yourself.

But what does it mean to be honest with oneself? Now we've introduced a third term to the Who and Whom mentioned in the first paragraph: now we have Who, Whom, and Honesty. We could even say that the Who transcends the Whom in Truth.

Does this make any sense? Another way of outlining the terms is Subject, Object, Adequatuon. Indeed, this is the very structure of science. But it is also the structure of any inquiry of any kind. And the whole thing must circulate in Freedom, or it's just a pointless machine.

Where are we? Good question. Recall that it is the first thing God asks Adam upon his auto-exile: Where are you? It's a rhetorical question, of course. Up to this point Adam is in the orbit of God, i.e., relative to the Absolute. But Adam chooses to be his own pseudo-absolute, and is therefore plunged into the cold and dark of absolute relativity. No wonder he's naked and afraid!

If this post has been a little wooly, here is Schuon explaining it in a more straight upward way:

Human intelligence is, virtually and vocationally, the certitude of the Absolute. The idea of the Absolute implies on the one hand that of the relative and on the other that of the relationship between the two, namely the prefiguration of the relative in the Absolute and the projection of the Absolute in the relative.

Now, go back up to the pneumagraph above. Again, that's you at the center. But you are a projection of the Absolute, which is precisely the difference between being nowhere and somewhere, and even everywhere.

For this is the old circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. The only alternative is a scientistic/materialistic/atheistic circle whose center is nowhere and periphery everywhere. And if that were our situation, we could never know it. For we are at once in and out of the cosmos; in knowing it we transcend it in freedom and truth, like so: