Thursday, October 25, 2018

Freedom and Creation, Truth and Unfathomability

I'd like to get back to the subject of freedom. Again, we're trying to approach it from different angles, from the economic, political, and psychological (Hayek) to the metaphysical (Schuon). Also, I was just flipping through Stanley Jaki's Means to Message, which has a whole chapter devoted to the subject. (Jaki was a physicist, philosopher of science, and Catholic priest.)

Jaki highlights an important relationship between freedom and creation -- i.e., the doctrine of creation, whereby the cosmos is not self-explanatory, but must be rooted in a higher source.

Please note that there are two and only two possible choices -- createdness and self-sufficiency -- and that one's initial choice determines everything.

Note as well that most people who choose the latter (a vertically closed universe) want to have it both ways. That is, they pretend the cosmos isn't created, while enjoying numerous benefits that could only exist in a vertically open universe -- beginning with freedom itself, for example, the freedom to choose a self-sufficient universe while pretending free will doesn't exist.

Free will cannot be explained on any philosophical, psychological, or neurological basis. To be perfectly accurate, each of these disciplines can argue the question both ways, with no way to arbitrate between the two positions. Rather, the only way to objectively answer the question is to exit the system entirely, i.e., via a transcendence that is only possible if the universe is created.

Jaki discusses the psychologist William James, who "took the doctrine of creation out of nothing for the worst aberration of the human mind." But "little did he suspect that this idea alone" can resolve the Problem of all Problems -- or, one might say, the problem of the beginning and the beginning of all problems. For once creation is discarded, then "nothing can be seen as transcending matter, although this is what every free act does." Conversely, any materialistic paradigm reduces free will to sheer willfulness. Or to power.

I don't want to get all political right away, but you can see at once how this plays out in the Red vs. Blue sweepstakes. Yes, it is a question of truth vs. power, but also of freedom vs. control, of creativity vs. the machine, of religion vs. the religion of no religion, and in Hayekian terms, cosmos vs. taxis, the former a spontaneous order, the latter a manmade one. All because of one little error at the root of all subsequent thinking!

Democracy, of course, has no necessary relationship to truth. Rather, it is only about power -- the power of the demos. Therefore, the value of democracy depends entirely upon the quality of the demos, in particular, its access to, and assimilation of, truth. Yes, "the will of the people may express truth," and "yet this is increasingly less the case when he people are exposed to daily brainwashing" by the media, by academia, and by our culture itself.

Notice how socialism is enjoying a resurgence in popularity among the demos, especially the young and extensively indocucated such as our Miss Occluded Cortex. Again, the "truth" of socialism is power. Should it appeal to truth as such, then it is no longer socialism. Thus, it is quite natural that academia should have devolved into a left-wing oasis of totalitarianism in a desert of freedom. Even the acknowledgment of truth and freedom undermine leftism at the root.

Instead of appealing to truth, the left not only appeals to power, but more cleverly, to "the oppressed," AKA victims (as in the Central American Caravan of Invaders). There's demographic gold in them thar shills!

One of the most persistent strategies of the left is the appropriation and abuse of Christian ethics in service to the destruction of Christendom. It's really the timeless psychological fallacy of the appeal to pity, addressed to a religiously untutored demos still living in the shadow of Christian compassion. It wouldn't work in, say, China or Saudi Arabia, where victims are just pathetic victims and not would-be godlings.

Thus is the God of love covertly transformed into the god of power. It's how the Evil One rolls, at least in America. Elsewhere he needn't conceal himself, and can operate more openly.

The same principle that accounts for our freedom accounts for our paradoxical access to truth without ever being capable of knowing the full truth of the least imaginable thing. In other words, it is only because of a certain irremediable ignorance that we can know anything at all. And this irremediable ignorance is another consequence of the doctrine of creation.

Pieper explains it most clearly and concisely: "the natural world around us can be empirically known precisely because it has first been 'thought' by the Creator." That is to say, things -- real things, to the extent that they are indeed real -- literally ex-ist in the space between the divine intellect and the human mind; or between Creator and ensouled creature.

Which is why we can affirm that "all things are true." Reality is true, and truth is reality. Sounds uncontroversial, but trying saying it in a liberal looniversity! Safe spaces exist in order to shield their benefactors from the truth of reality and reality of truth.

"All things are true," would therefore mean, on the one hand, that all things are known by God in the act of creation and, on the other hand, that all things are by their nature accessible and comprehensible to the human mind.... All things are intelligible, translucent, clear and open because they are essentially spirit related.... In short, things can be known because they are created.

But! Orthoparadoxically, "being true and being unfathomable go together" because "the comprehensibility of a thing can never be fully exhausted by any finite mind." So, things are simultaneously knowable and unfathomable, and our freedom is located in the interstices between these. Which Hayek says, but from a totally different perspective.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Patterns of Tyranny, Part 1: Trump and Hitler

I have the title. And I have the book: The Infernal LibraryWill it result in a serviceable post? 

It depends upon whether there is a pattern -- a deep structure -- to the intellectual lunacy put out by these intellectual lunatics.  If there is such a pattern, then it may help us see when the same pattern is occurring in the present -- an early warning system for when tyranny is on the horizon.  

For the past two years we've been hearing from the left how tyranny isn't just over the horizon. It's here.  Indeed, they even cite some of the same sources I am going to cite.  For example, MSNBC sees the same pattern in Hitler as in Trump:
[Hitler's] primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off. Never admit a fault or wrong. Never concede that there may be some good in your enemy. Never leave room for alternatives. Never accept blame. Concentrate on one enemy at a time, and blame him for everything that goes wrong. People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one. And if you repeat it frequently enough, people will sooner or later believe it. 
First, this could apply to any number of politicians, to say nothing of the hyper-hysterical MSNBC itself, so it's neither here nor there.  Or it's there, but not where MSNBC wants it to be.

Here's another example which I had incorrectly assumed was a joke. Turns out the man is serious:
Key differences between Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler -- Hitler served honorably in the military, Trump didn't; Hitler was faithful to his wife, Trump cheated on all his wives; Hitler wrote a book, Trump's were all ghostwritten.
First, this idiot misspells "Adolf." He then doubles down on the Trump connection: "Immigrants are Trump's Jews. Give him time. We are only up to 1933." Then triples down: "Anyone who really thinks a comparison between Trump and Hitler is absurd should watch 'Triumph of the Will' and then watch one of Trump's MAGA rallies."

I was going to begin -- as the book does -- with Lenin and Stalin, but let's fast forward to Hitler. There are other ways in which he was superior to Trump. For example, Hitler "was a keen reader and remained one his whole life -- when he died at the age of fifty-six, he owned around sixteen thousand books."

What was Hitler's Big Idea, anyway? What was his MGGA? Well, unlike our president, who was quite successful in his pre-political life, Hitler was conspicuously aimless and adrift until he hit upon "a political ideology that married Jew hatred with socialism and nationalism."  

Ah ha! President Trump is an admitted nationalist. Does this make him a budding Hitler? Only if you conflate a nationalism of blood and nationalism of values.  

These two categories are at antipodes. And as usual the left is simply projecting, since leftism is itself a crude appeal to various primitive tribal, racial, and ethnic identities. And no one is as hated by the left as a person who is a traitor to his blood and skin -- say, Clarence Thomas, or Candace Owens, or Kanye West -- and they openly engage in ceaseless racial attacks on "whiteness," "old white men," and "white privilege." 

So, why was Germany in trouble in the 1930s and why did it need Hitler's National Socialism? Easy: "The Aryan gave up the purity of his blood and, therefore, his sojourn in the paradise ended." For Hitler, hematological confusion is the root of all evil, the Original Sin: "Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but the loss of that force of resistance which is contained only in pure blood."

Again, this is at antipodes to the American ideal, in which all men are created equal. Conversely, central to the left's mission is the division of Americans into racial categories and the granting of rights, spoils, and special privileges based thereupon. 

Another feature shared by Hitler and the left is the great magnification of the threat of the presumed enemy. In Hitler's case, the Jews, consisting of a tiny minority of Germans, are expanded into "a parasitic superintelligence moving from culture to culture... in order to more fully achieve [their] sinister goals of complete domination."

Thus, Jews function in the Nazi imagination in a way similar to how conservative "white supremacists" function in the leftist imagination. Except that Jews actually existed, at least in sufficient numbers to be seen. Unlike our contemporary leftists, Hitler did not hallucinate the presence of Jews, only their malign superpowers.

And, just like Hitler, Trump has worked tirelessly to reduce the influence of the federal government in our lives.  Oh, wait.  That's the opposite of Trump.  Whatever.  He has 
  • Achieved massive deregulation at a rapid pace, completing 22 deregulatory actions to every one regulatory action during his first year in office.
  • Signed legislation to roll back costly and harmful provisions of Dodd-Frank, providing relief to credit unions, and community and regional banks.
  • Federal agencies achieved more than $8 billion in lifetime net regulatory cost savings.
  • Rolled back Obama’s burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • Used the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations more times than in history.
  • Provided more than $5.5 trillion in gross tax cuts, nearly 60 percent of which will go to families.
  • Increased the exemption for the death tax to help save Family Farms & Small Business.
  • Nearly doubled the standard deduction for individuals and families.
  • Enabled vast majority of American families will be able to file their taxes on a single page by claiming the standard deduction.
  • Doubled the child tax credit to help lessen the financial burden of raising a family.
  • Lowered America’s corporate tax rate from the highest in the developed world to allow American businesses to compete and win.
  • Small businesses can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.
  • Cut dozens of special interest tax breaks and closed loopholes for the wealthy.
Yes, just like Hitler, who insisted that "the government must become involved in the lives of its citizens to an extraordinary degree," beginning with the indoctrination of children, for it is an "absurdity" that "with the end of the school period, the state's right to supervise its young citizens suddenly ceases..."

Let's see. Who wants to ban homeschooling, Trump or the left?  Leftism doesn't work without a thorough deprogramming and indoctrination, so give them credit for honesty.

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

President Trump is Doing the Truth

Why undergo the aesthetic torture of immersing oneself in the literary works of the world's worst tyrants? Well, it reminds me of the old gag by Lao Tsu:  What is a good man but a bad man's teacher? What is a bad man but a good man's job?

Still, I'm glad Daniel Kalder took the job. He went through the complete works of the Big Five -- Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Mao -- and then of more minor literary figures such as Castro, Kim Jong-Il, and Saddam, followed by an exploration of some really weird and obscure ones that we don't need to discuss.  

Yes, you can learn a lot by reading, say, the Federalist Papers.  Those guys thought that certain pneumo-political truths were axiomatic or self-evident.  

I would agree, but with two qualifications:  first, echoing something Schuon wrote, two conditions are necessary to reason properly about such matters, one external and concrete, the other internal or psychic.  First is "the value or extent of the available information."   But even if you have the necessary information, it isn't sufficient.  Rather, the sufficient condition is "the acuity and profundity of the intelligence" that is doing the reasoning.   

There is something we might call "pure intelligence," what the science of intelligence calls "G."   Nevertheless, all the G in the world is rendered ineffectual by bad information.  Worse yet is if high G is mingled with low character.  

It seems to me that this is the world explored by Kalder.  You might say that intellectuals ruin everything.  Does this make us anti-intellectual?  Hardly.  Then again, there is something about intellectualism per se that troubles us, meaning me.  It, for example, is the subject of The World Beyond Your Head. The title itself says it all, because the first and last temptation of the intellectual is to compare the world to the world inside his head and to find the former wanting.

Abstract and concrete, word and flesh.  Remind me to return to these.

Another surprisingly relevant book is The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.  I can't recommend the book, because it's simultaneously rambling and tangential and slightly obsessive.  Nevertheless, there are some key points that I would say carry over directly into Christianity, and why wouldn't they?

Indeed, one thinks of Jesus' rhetorical question to the cynical Pilate:  What is truth?

Well?   Pilate is like an Obama -- or any other leftist -- for whom truth is whatever results in political power.  But what about the typical intellectual?  What is an intellectual?  An intellectual is someone who trucks in ideas.  Okay, what is an idea?

That is where the trouble enters.  "There are two kinds of literary works that address themselves to ultimate issues -- those that are the product of reason; and those that are known by way of revelation" (Hazony).

Now, right away your typical intellectual is likely to discard and ridicule #2 (revelation).  Which is unfortunate, because it directly contravenes Schuon's conditions for effective reasoning, one of which is the quality of available information.  And it turns out that revelation is of quite high quality.  I mean, at the very least it consists of the collective wisdom of man, rooted in experience, AKA what works.

Jews have had a pretty rough time of it over the past few thousand years.  For some reason, they make the best demons.  However, you will have noticed that they do indeed exist -- unlike all of their ancient competitors, from Babylonians to Mesopotamians to Romans and all the rest.

Anyway, what is the Jewish conception of truth? Turns out it is quite concrete, to such an extent that it is often more "done" than thought.  The typical intellectual likely doesn't think of truth as action, but there you go:
the biblical authors don't subscribe to a metaphysical picture in which word and object are independent from one another because they don't see the world and the mind of the observer as independent from one another. They recognize the object as understood as the only reality, and hold that true speech (or true things) is that which can be relied upon in the face of hardship and changing circumstance. In fact, this is what is meant by God's word.
So, something that is true can be relied upon;  you can bank on it. Call it "faith" if you like.  And note that faith is not opposed to reason.  Here is Hazony's bottom line on biblical truth: it
is not in the first instance a quality of that which is said, but of objects.... the truth of that which is said is dependent on, and perhaps identical to, that truth which is a quality of objects.
Which lines up perfectly with the Thomistic view that we begin with objects for the simple reason that they object -- in other words, that they have their own reality in defiance of our abstractions.  Maybe you're a Marxist who thinks history is scientifically determined.  Well, history has other ideas.  Or maybe you think a baby is "the mother's body," or a federal minimum wage reduces poverty, or men and women are identical.  In each case, the world objects to the subject.  Or, subjects and subjectivity are subordinate to objects and objectivity:
true and false are not properties of things that are spoken at all. Instead they are properties of objects and persons.
The Bible calls things "true" that are trustworthy:  "things that are reliable, steadfast, and faithful... that can be relied upon to hold firm under conditions of stress."

Maybe a weird thought in this context, but it occurs to me that I regard our president this way, as someone who -- unlike any past Republican politician -- "can be relied upon to hold firm under conditions of stress."  To paraphrase Andrew Breitbart, he walks toward the fire and doesn't worry about what they call him.

Now, why might President Trump be this way? Well, unlike Obama -- or, for that matter, Lenin or any other Deep Thinkers discussed by Kalder -- he is not an intellectual. Thank God!

Surely you're not comparing Obama to these tyrants? Yes, actually I am, in the sense that they all value their abstract thoughts over the concrete world. I can't tell you how many times I wrote in the margin, "cf. Obama."

Or, look at it this way: the media obsess over things Trump says, as if they are real, while systematically ignoring things he has actually accomplished, as if they aren't. Hazony cites numerous examples of how truth and falsity in the Bible "appear with reference to actions that are performed by men or God. In these cases we find that someone is to 'do truth' to or for someone else, or else that an action is described as being performed 'in truth.'"

Remarkably, as far as I am concerned, President Trump is doing more truth than any politician in my lifetime.  But don't believe me. I'm just another intellectual.  Believe reality.

Monday, October 22, 2018

"Thinking" and Thinking, "Education" and Education

We are on the subject of freedom and truth, which are of course necessary conditions of one another, which must mean they converge on a single reality (and are prolongations of it herebelow).

For human purposes, it doesn't get more important than these two.  And if we trace our civil war down to the fundamentals, we indeed see very different perspectives on them.

I've been listening to Dennis Prager for some 25 years, and one of his central points -- and he cites relevant examples every day, so it's not just an unsupported insult -- is that truth is simply not a value for the left.  Rather, the left is primarily motivated by feelings -- not necessarily wholly bad ones.  For example, they talk a lot about compassion; but unfortunately they are also consumed with envy, resentment, and a compulsion to control others.

This is why you can never expect a leftist to be consistent in his thought.  Because he is motivated by feelings and not logic -- well, one could think of dozens of examples, but he'll scream about how Black Lives Matter while enthusiastically supporting the abortion of millions of black babies, or attack law enforcement, which results in thousands more blacks being murdered on the streets of Baltimore or Chicago.

The point is, a leftist -- even if he happens to be speaking the truth -- never says something because it is true, but because it is expedient.  If truth and ideology clash, then the truth has got to go.  You already know this, and a leftist will never understand it, so I won't waste time pressing the issue. More obvious is the left's devaluation of freedom in favor of equality.   We won't even argue that point, because it is self-evident.

For Hayek, freedom is "a state in which each can use his knowledge for his own purposes."  In contrast, note how so much of the "pretended altruism" of the left "manifests itself in a desire to make others serve the ends which the 'altruist' regards as important."

Do you see what he -- the altruistic leftist -- did there?  He co-opted both your freedom and your truth in a single operation, because he knows better what's good for you.   But whatever it is, it isn't better than freedom, nor is it likely that the leftist knows more about you than you do.

I was explaining this to my son yesterday -- that our natural rights such as freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and self-defense do not obligate anyone else to do anything.  But if you have a right to medical care, or to a house, then someone must be compelled to treat you or build it.  Over the weekend I heard something about Miss Occluded Cortex suggesting how we should adopt  the blueprint of World War II  to combat "global warming."

Let's see. Back then, 50 million men between the ages of 18 and 45 had to register for the draft, and you may have noticed that the civil rights of military members vary quite significantly from regular citizens.  In short, you are forced to do and say a lot of things irrespective of whether or not you want to do or say them.   No wonder she's attracted to this model!

But as Hayek explains, it is "not in our power to build a desirable society by simply putting together the particular elements that by themselves appear desirable."

You might say that if freedom gets us into a ticklish spot, then only freedom can get us out of it.  The solution is not to eliminate our freedom.  For example, the solution to horse pollution was not to ban horses or tax hay, but to develop the automobile -- which, of course, no one planned.  Rather, it emerged from free people freely dabbling with their particular know-how.  Likewise, no one forced the Wright Brothers at gunpoint to fly.

Yes, "the value of freedom rests on the opportunities it provides for unforeseen and unpredictable actions."  As such, we can never know what we are losing when we restrict someone's freedom.  But because it is never seen, it is quite easy to dismiss.  Again, this is not a bug but a feature of the left:  ignorance of ignorance.

I'm tempted to veer into The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books they Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy for some pure insultainment, but the book actually has its serious side.  For every one of these left-wing tyrants was a f*ck-up in his own life, but knew how to bring about utopia by ignoring your knowledge and eliminating your freedom.

Just like our socialist numbskull from the Bronx.  How does she justify eliminating your freedom and devaluing your knowledge?  Of course, she does so with the usual veneer of "compassion," but think of what must be underneath that!  A kind of grandiosity, omniscience, moral rectitude, and entitlement to rule that would match any dictator anywhere.

"I was struck by the fact that many dictators begin their careers as writers, which probably goes a long way toward explaining their megalomaniac conviction in the awesome significance of their own thoughts."

I mean, I can't say that I think my own thoughts are insignificant.  However, it would never occur to me to force them on anyone else.  Nor would it ever occur to me to devalue or ignore the millions of people who know things I don't.

This highlights a Great Irony -- that formal education is by no means an unqualified good.  For education means abstraction, and abstraction may or may not be a reflection of concrete reality.  For example, the collected works of Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Mao amount to hundreds of volumes.  But does any of it touch reality?

Yes, it is quite true that In the beginning is the Word.  But that refers to God's Word, not ours.  To the extent that our words detach from that Word, then trouble begins.  In the back I have a note to myself:  "High IQ or extensive education means being more skilled at being wrong, often catastrophically wrong."  See the frightening state of our elite universities for details.

Truly, we need to distinguish between "thought" and "leftist thought."  Indeed, we probably shouldn't even call the latter "thought," since it operates along such markedly different lines.  And I don't mean that merely as an insult.  Any ideologue uses his mind in a way the normal person doesn't.  Rather, he thinks upside-down, inside-out, and backward.

Which I mean literally, because the pseudo-thinking of such a person is characterized by deductions from the a priori system (upside-down), by psychological projection (inside-out), and by a confusion of cause and effect (backward).

Education most certainly kills, and not in trivial numbers!  Rather, the most horrific catastrophes in human history have resulted from them:

"Many people regard books and reading as innately positive, as if compilations of bound paper with ink on them in and of themselves represent a uniquely powerful 'medicine for the soul.'"

No!  In another note to myself, it says that "Education without virtue -- without soul formation -- is always wrong."  That may sound a little polemical, but think about it:  we love, for example, nuclear physics.  But what if Nazi Germany had come up with the atom bomb before we had?  Likewise, we love aviation, but for jihadis?

So, "a moment's reflection reveals that this is not even slightly true:  books and reading can cause immense harm. To take just one example: had Stalin's mother never sent him to the seminary then he never would have learned to read and never would have discovered the works of Marx or Lenin. Instead, he would have been a drunken cobbler like his father, or perhaps a small-time gangster in Tbilisi.  He would still have spread misery, but on a much smaller scale..."

Now, perhaps you think this is a remote or unlikely scenario. To the contrary!  Think of the thousands of leftists with PhDs in Grievance Studies of various kinds, from feminisim to critical race theory to queer studies.  To say that these people are "educated" and that they "think" is to condemn education and thinking.

Which we don't want to do.  We just want to distinguish them from their perversions and inversions.

To be continued....

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