Friday, November 30, 2018

The Source and Destiny of Intelligent Stupidity

If we're going to trace intelligence all the way down to the roots, we need to follow it all the way up to its source, AKA God.

Or perhaps in the context of this discussion, it's better to say "O," since God is too saturated with other connotations, emanations, and penumbras. Deploying O entails a more modest, or at least narrower, claim: that an intelligence that looks downward for its source not only arbitrarily denies its own significance, but undercuts its own efficacy. A materialist or existentialist metaphysic is just a clever or systematic way to be stupid.

In short, if there is a wholly material explanation for intelligence, then we are not intelligent, because intelligence would be just an accidental byproduct of some unintelligent substance or process.

These folkers like to accuse religion of magical thinking, but really, what could be more magical than promulgating an absolute relativism and then carving out a special exemption for oneself? How does the materialist slip the surly bonds of his own materialism?

I suppose the same way a magician pulls a rabbit from his hat: he's only revealing what he concealed there in the first place. Likewise, the materialist pulls out a metaphysic he covertly projects into matter, and calls it "true" -- as if truth still exists and we can know it. Again, intelligent stupidity.

But just because the materialist can't actually conjure a true rabbit from a metaphysical nothing, it doesn't mean God can't. For what is creation but a projection of God -- or O -- in a "downward" direction? Or better, Schuon uses the image of a circle to convey our cosmic situation -- in fact, two circles. Putting these two together, or keeping both in mind, furnishes a point of reference for our essential situation.

Each circle has a center we will call O. The first circle is surrounded by a series of concentric circles representing worlds, or dimensions of being, or even powers, principalities, thrones, and dominions if you like.

For example, one of the outer circles would be what we call sensible matter, or the empirical world. Closer to the center would be worlds of logic or mathematics. Closer still would be spiritual worlds of virtue, beauty, metaphysical truth.

Note that in the concentric view, the worlds are discontinuous. If you restrict yourself to this view, then you will quite literally have no way to understand, for example, how dead matter can come to life, or how life can host persons. The discontinuity is insurmountable, such that you will need a "magic trick" to make the leap.

But magic isn't required if you supplement the concentric view with a spiraling one. In this perspective, O is still at the center, but spirals outward, around itself. Now there is no longer any discontinuity. Not only is everything connected to O, but is an expression or echo (however close or distant) of it.

Now, these two images convey many important cosmic messages. For example, the first goes to the radical transcendence of God, while the second goes to his immanence. In the first, we are seemingly disconnected from the source, but in the second the source must be closer to us than our own heartbeat.

Extending this a bit, the first would go to such things as exile, original sin, humility, and cosmic insignificance. But this is balanced by the second, which makes us "participants in God." And the most important participant -- getting back to our main subject -- is the intellect, which is the prolongation par excellence of God.

More generally, the spiral image explains how and why life is a "journey back to God." The journey is only possible because of the continuous spiral. Obviously, in the concentric cosmos the journey would be impossible, because we could never transcend or escape our own circle.

Now, make no mistake: any modern, postmodern, or non-traditional philosophy not only entraps us in one of those circles, but worse, turns the circle inside out by placing matter at the center. Yes, literally. Think about it for a second: tracing human intelligence to material causes is like "finding" the center of reality and discovering that it is... nothing. The most meaningful thing in all of creation has managed to render itself meaningless. It has pulled a rabbit out of the hat -- a dead rabbit.

I'm looking at some passages in Logic and Transcendence that describe this exactly, only in a more elegant and less Raccoonish way. For example, any form of relativism escapes, "as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared to be the only possibility." It jumps from the periphery to the center, but how? That's only possible in the spiral view which relativism denies at the outset.

Or how about the claim that "one can never escape from human subjectivity." Well, if all Cretans are subjectivists, then all Cretans are Cretins, and there's no reason to take them seriously. Such an utterance, no matter how imbued with tenure, "falls under its own verdict."

But here is the unavoidable truth -- a truth to which one must resign oneself, no matter how pleasant: "It is abundantly evident that man can escape subjectivity, for otherwise he would not be man."

Now, that there is a big clue as to What Man Is. It sounds suspiciously tautological, but in reality, it is our only escape from tautology, for it means that we can exit the closed loop of the circle and enter the inward-turning spiral. We can indeed embark upon a pilgrimage toward the cosmic Center.

If not, then truly truly, to hell with it. Seriously, either intelligence can know truth, or it can't. But if it can, then this discloses many meta-truths about the human station and the human situation. For again, in the inspiraling view, -- and pay attention here -- intelligence is not just the conformity of mind to truth, rather, something far more radical: intelligence is itself the substance of truth, a kind of direct revelation of God.

Somewhere Schuon says something to the effect that revelation is the objectification or crystalization of the intellect. But also, the intellect as such is a kind of subjective revelation of the divine mind. Now, if this weren't the case, then we couldn't understand revelation to begin with: revelation is "addressed" to the intellect, but the intellect is "already" the revelation. Or better, revelation might be seen as a vertical memo that is both from and to the intellect, if you catch my drift.

Going back to the enclosed world of concentric circles, "subjectivity would not even be conceivable for a man who was totally enclosed in his subjectivity; an animal lives in its subjectivity but does not conceive it, for unlike man it does not possess the gift of objectivity."

Did you catch the implications? The animal is indeed situated in one of those concentric circles, a dog or dolphin no doubt closer to the center than an amoeba or alligator, but still, with no ability to journey closer to the center.

But in the case of man, it takes a genius to prevent him from spiraling back toward the center, because man is the being intrinsically capable of doing this. Ah, but this gift can sometimes be seen as a kind of curse: since we are not fixed in any particular circle, an existentialist will see us as the very personification of nothingness: since we are "anything" then we are nothing. But notice the error: the existentialist takes the spiral for granted, but wrenches it from its context, which only makes sense if God is at the center.

It is analogous to positing a solar system and then removing the central sun that renders the system possible. Then we are indeed reduced to wandering planets, such that movement in one direction is no better than movement in any other -- "my truth" is no better or worse than any other -- except to say that this belief in the subjectivity of truth is definitely better than your fascist belief that there is only one truth and one direction toward it!

And all of this, if you think about it for two or three seconds, goes directly to our political polarization, for blue people are concentrics pretending to be spirals. For example, what is the "progress" of so-called progressives but a movement toward some transcendent ideal that is just a human projection (and displacement) of God?

Conversely, a proper redman maintains the complementarity of concentrism and spiralism. To take an obvious example, the Constitution is a concentric document for the purpose of a spiral end. Our natural rights flow from the center to the periphery, and can be explained in no other way. The Constitution is a manmade charter -- made at the periphery -- designed to protect our natural rights -- which emanate from the center.

Notice how the left simultaneously wishes to make the Constitution nothing and everything: by relativizing it, they covertly absolutize it, for the doctrine of the "living constitution" puts it in line with the more widespread metaphysic of absolute relativism, or of Total Absurdity, AKA hell on earth.

[O]ne of the noteworthy traits of the twentieth century is the confusion, now habitual, between evolution [read: progressivism] and decadence: there is no decadence, no impoverishment, no falsification that people do not try to excuse with the relativistic argument of "evolution".... Thus relativism, cleverly instilled into public opinion, paves the way for all kinds of corruption while at the same time keeping watch lest any kind of healthy reaction might put the brakes on this slide toward the abyss.

Worth rereading slowly. Progressivism is the last word in degeneratavism, disintegrism, and depravitism, and like an autoimmune disease, includes a mechanism for identifying and eradicating its own cure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Objects of Intelligence and Wisdom

Everybody wants to be intelligent, but what is intelligence, especially the human kind? Why do we have it? What is it for? And can we increase it?

Dennis Prager devotes one hour each week to "ultimate issues," and yesterday the topic was wisdom. Which got me to thinking: what is the object of wisdom? No, not the purpose of it, as in the object of a game, but what is the "thing" wisdom is about?

And how do we distinguish this from the thing intelligence is about -- the object of intelligence?

In truth, there are many objects of intelligence, from matter to logic to mathematics to "the past" (i.e. history), and each object requires the method appropriate to it: obviously we don't study physical objects in the same way we do mathematical ones.

Now, one object of wisdom must be intelligence itself. Intelligence can't see its own purpose or scope; that is for wisdom to sort out. So, for starters, wisdom is intelligence about intelligence, specifically, human intelligence. But more generally, it is intelligence about human beings -- about how to be one. After all, plenty of intelligent people have no idea how they are supposed to live. They lack wisdom.

You could say that the university is a factory for churning out the unwise, for as Prager pointed out yesterday, it is impossible to be both secular and wise. This is not a knock, rather, just a statement of fact. But it explains why universities have become such breeding grounds of intelligent stupidity.

Conversely, a religion is supposed to be (among other things) a repository of wisdom. And as we've mentioned before, one of its primary functions is to transmit wisdom to people of less than average intelligence -- which, after all, is half the population. That half will never be suited for college.

No, correct me on that. Academia is determined to be so free of intellectual standards that anyone with an IQ above 80 or so should be able to complete a degree in a fake subject such as sociology or gender studies. However, to gain a real degree in a real subject requires an IQ of around 115; for a really hard subject you'll still need an IQ of around 130 (although here again, liberals are doing everything they can to erode those standards as well).

Yesterday I was rereading an excellent book that concisely summarizes the current state of intelligence research, The Neuroscience of Intelligence. It begins with a quote by a fellow researcher to the effect that "the attack on [intelligence] tests" represents nothing less than "an attack on truth itself by those who deal with unpleasant and unflattering truths by denying them and by attacking and trying to destroy the evidence for them."

Yes, the left, doing what it does best: the deployment of intelligence to destroy intelligence. This is no small matter, and indeed, you could say that it is the very basis of clinical psychology, at least the type in which I was trained. To the extent that truth is attacked -- and it is, routinely and incessantly -- the attack must first take place in one's own mind.

And yet, there are "intellectual sociopaths," so to speak, who don't do this exactly. Rather, they are totally cynical manipulators for whom truth doesn't even enter into it.

I'm thinking of Tucker Carlson, who apparently can't get real politicians to come on the show for fear of being humiliated in debate, so he is reduced to debating this or that "DNC spokesman." These are practiced liars who will aggressively defend any policy or principle, no matter how preposterous or provably false. But just as you have to be an intelligent actor to effectively play a stupid character, you have to be a fairly bright spokesman to confidently assert such nonsense.

But the deeper point I want to make is that such intellectual sociopaths have successfully eliminated the object of intelligence from their minds -- the object being truth. And if you are going to have a fruitful dialog with someone, its fruitfulness is predicated entirely upon a mutual search for truth. It is this Mysterious Third that renders dialog fruitful; or, you could say that a fruitful dialog is always an implicit trialog.

Certainly Socrates knew this. It's what his Method is all about. The Socratic dialog "is not a civil war between two opponents but a joint raid against the common enemies of confusion, ignorance, and error, using the common weapons of the common master, Reason" (Kreeft). And Reason isn't just anything; rather, it subsumes the "three acts of mind" through which we know what a thing is, whether it is, and why it is.

Reason is easy enough to get around: just deny the existence of truth, as do postmodern relativists. "Truth is perception," they say. First of all, this truth cannot be perceived, so the statement is self-refuting on its face.

But notice something more sinister: the object of truth is reduced to subjective perception, which is to say, appearance, when the whole point of intelligence is to apprehend the reality behind, beneath, or above appearances. So, relativism is like a cognitive neutron bomb, destroying the object of intelligence while leaving the intelligence standing. It is utter absurdity, but there it is.

There's a guy who can recall 22,514 digits from pi. That's nothing, because there's another guy who can do it to 67,890 digits. Now that is intelligence. Except that his IQ is actually so low that he can't even care for himself. "His father managed all aspects of his life except when he answered questions from memory" (Haier).

You'd think memory would be critical to intelligence, and it is, but there are actually more important factors, beginning with reasoning and spatial ability. Moreover, there are two main aspects of intelligence: crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. The first has more to do with learning facts and absorbing information, while the second has to do with "inductive and deductive reasoning for novel problem-solving." A pi-throwing idiot savant is only adept at the first kind.

But more importantly, so too is a computer, and I've noticed my own crystalized intelligence atrophy as a consequence of the internet putting all knowledge at my fingertips. Or, even with my library, I know only a tiny fraction of what's in it, but I do know where to retrieve a factoid if I need it.

Is wisdom crystalized or fluid? It must be both. There are certain principles of wisdom, but life comes at you fast, for which reason we need fluid wisdom, which is none other than prudence.

Haier asks, "what is intelligence?" and "how do you know it when you see it?" I know it, but how do I know it? What are my criteria? Interestingly, I don't have any conscious or explicit criteria. But there's no question that some minds are coming from a more profound and comprehensive place -- it is simultaneously deeper, higher, and more integral, whereas a person of below average intelligence is all surface, either diffuse or hardened, silly or stupid.

Can you turn a surface intelligence into a profound one? That is one of the core assumptions of liberalism, but all signs -- if you believe the research -- point to no. At the moment of conception, your intelligence is baked into the cake, barring some environmental catastrophe. People don't want to believe this, and yet, it can be quite liberating in a way. It is the whole basis of Bryan Caplan's excellent The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money and Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.

I was already raising my son in an irresponsible idiosyncratic fashion, but these books have added fuel to the fire. He is who he is, and there's not a lot I can do about it except to help him actualize it. Knowing this takes a lot of the stress out of the whole enterprise. How much of what you learned in school do you actually remember? All that crystalized intelligence is long gone. What was the point? People are much more like plants than machines. I know I was. I just naturally grew into the person I was to be, not because of, but in spite of, the environment.

I remember studying organicism in grad school, but quickly passing it over in favor of more environmentally weighted theories, in particular, attachment theory. (Intellectuals tend not to be attracted to theories that render themselves inconsequential, which is why they have always recoiled at, for example, the free market.) But at the same time, there was a concept within attachment theory called "good enough mothering," implying that good enough is more than enough, and that better than good enough adds little value.

Anyway, "Organismic theories in psychology are a family of holistic psychological theories which tend to stress the organization, unity, and integration of human beings expressed through each individual's inherent growth or developmental tendency." That is now what I believe, although with important qualifications. A seed will grow into the plant it is destined to be, but there is soil, sunlight, fertilizer, pruning, etc.

Whatever intelligence is, we all know someone -- lots of them -- who is not as smart as we are. But according to Haier, "given their rarity, it is less likely you know a true genius." That's true. I suppose I've never really met one. Lots of smart people to be sure, but what is a genius -- I mean, besides a high IQ? Is it a quantitative difference, or a qualitative one?

And what about the genius with bad programming? The other night I tried to watch a documentary about Stephen Hawking, but it was too tedious to finish. Smart guy, no doubt. Genius, I guess. But trying to philosophize within the limits of science is just stupid. The object of physics is not the object of wisdom.

Theme Song

Theme Song