For example, a philosopher may wonder to himself, "just what is reality?" I suppose that's more or less how it happened with me. So you then go about trying to figure it all out, tacitly ignoring all the things that are given to us well before we begin to consciously -- or explicitly -- think about them.
It's a cliché, but truly, every newborn baby is a philosopher. I think we need to take that literally, and examine just what babies do as they encounter the world, because that's real philosophy.
You can't pretend to begin philosophizing from scratch at age 20 or 30. Rather, it starts at age zero, or minus zero, really. Indeed, perhaps the most important philosophizing is complete before we even begin to consciously think about it. Maybe a philosopher is a baby that never grows up. This implies that a bad philosopher is a grown-up who forgets that he was once a baby.
It reminds me of the old joke about the argument between the scientist and God about creation. The scientist says something to the effect of, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs, and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”
God replies, “Oh? Care to make it interesting? I'll bet you can't make a human being."
"No problem!" The scientist gathers a handful of dirt, and just as he's about to begin working with it, God says "Whoa! Not so fast. Get your own dirt.”
Jaki makes a similar point, that "the radical primacy of registering objects" allows us to inquire into what they are. In other words, not only is thatness prior to whatness, but the latter cannot be brought in retroactively to explain the former.
If that's not clear, just say that being is prior to knowing. And if we presume to undertake the task of knowing about being... well, that's a big presumption. Who said that's possible? I say it's possible because I believe in the doctrine of creation, whereby intelligibility and intelligence are mirrors of one another, built into the nature of things.
But how is philosophy possible for someone who doesn't believe in the doctrine of creation? The moment the secular philosopher says anything he claims to be true of reality, you need to say, "Whoa! Get your own dirt."
Or, to be precise, "get your own intelligible objects." In short, how and why are you assuming the universe is intelligible -- that it is not only speaking to you, but speaking truth?
As we all know, Descartes thought long and hard about this problem, and felt he'd cracked it. I'm not sure how the obvious eluded him, but he ended up turning the question -- and the cosmos with it -- upside down, with I think, therefore I am. Based only upon what we've discussed thus far in this post, I'm sure you can see how problematic this little formula is. For starters, get your own I!
If I'm Descartes back in November 1619... no, if I'm Descartes at any time or any place, and I'm trying to think myself down to the rock bottom foundation of things, I say to myself.... objects are. I only think about them, but the objects are quite obviously prior to my thinking about them.
René, you had one job! Again, he reverses the whole ontology (and with it, epistemology) by putting René first!
Initially, Descartes arrives at only a single first principle: I think. Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist.... Descartes determines that the only indubitable knowledge is that he is a thinking thing.
Note the next howler, because it goes to the whole subject of this post, if we ever get around to it:
Descartes defines "thought" as "what happens in me such that I am immediately conscious of it, insofar as I am conscious of it." Thinking is thus every activity of a person of which the person is immediately conscious (emphases mine).
Again, philosophy surely begins before we are conscious (i.e., explicitly self-conscious), insofar as we were ever babies. But Descartes ignores this truism, and "proceeds to construct a system of knowledge, discarding perception as unreliable, and instead, admitting only deduction as a method."
As if babies "deduce" the reality with which they interact and through which their minds are built!
Common sense: "The registering of objects alone makes possible the improvement of one's knowledge." Only in this way "can the process of improvement start and be continued" (Jaki).
Speaking of which, if you really want to create hell on earth, it's not that difficult. Rather, just do precisely as Descartes advises: ignore everything but the reality of your own thoughts, and then construct a logico-deductive system to explain every object we encounter, AKA the real world.
And if you understand this, then you understand the left. No, literally. I've been reading about just this subject in Hayek's triptych on Law, Legislation and Liberty. It's so rich and dense -- not to mention, convoluted -- that I scarcely know where to begin.
Let's begin with Hayek's observations about Descartes: Descartes thinks, therefore Hayek smacks him down. And I'm sure Descartes was a nice guy and all, but he is in desperate need of a smackdown.
Actually, let's start with the here and now, and work backward to Descartes. For all practical purposes we have two competing philosophies, conservative classical liberalism, and leftism. Both are rational, but in entirely different ways; Hayek calls them evolutionary or critical rationalism, on the one hand; and naive or constructive rationalism, on the other. The latter may be traced to Descartes, at least as far as Hayek is concerned.
For me, that itself is a little naively constructivist -- as if our problems can be laid at the feet of an historically identifiable suspect.
Rather, I trace the whole catastrophe back to Genesis 3. You know who first said "You think, therefore you are?" The serpent, that's who. Indeed, that is the whole point of the story -- "you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." It all starts with you, not with the world of creation, AKA objects that object to your dreams and schemes.
The devil comprehends everything, but is not able to create anything (Dávila). Likewise the constructive rationalism of the left.
But Hayek tells Descartes to get his own dirt:
The "radical doubt" which made him refuse to accept anything as true which could not be logically derived from explicit premises that were "clear and distinct," and therefore beyond possible doubt, deprived of validity all those rules of conduct which could not be justified in this manner (emphasis mine).
Again, if you superimpose an ideology -- a manmade system of thought -- over the world, and deduce reality from it, then you're going to have problems, whether you are a feminist, global warmest, critical race theorist, Russia conspiracist, Keynesian economist, whatever.
What we call "tradition," the ideologues of the left will dismiss as myth or superstition, since so much of it may not be susceptible to clear and distinct logical deductions. Yes, they're only time-tested forms and customs that exist because they are compatible with survival and/or thriving. Imagine taking the same approach to biology, dismissing any trait that cannot be logically deduced from first principles! (And this is indeed how premodern medicine functioned -- for example, deducing illness from humoral principles.)
But for Descartes -- and for your village atheist MENSA member -- "rational action" equates to "only such action as [is] determined entirely to be known and demonstrable truth." Which, it turns out, is mighty few things.
It immediately brings to mind an aphorism, and explains why the aphorism is true: None of the high eras of history have been planned (Dávila).
Or this one: The natural sciences, where the process of falsification prevails, take only errors out of circulation; the social sciences, where fashion prevails, also take their achievements out of circulation. And few fashions have negated more achievements than constructive rationalism.
Oh well. Modern man treats the universe like a lunatic treats an idiot (Dávila).