Thursday, April 18, 2019

Pre-Critical, Critical, and Post-Critical; or Naive, Enlightened, and Stunted

Just an old post that kept my attention. Republished for its insultainment value:

I've been thinking lately of the "break in being" represented by man as we find him. Everything else in the cosmos just "is," from matter on up through animals. But man is always in some way divided from himself, which you might say is his gift and his curse.

With regard to the gift, what sets man apart from the rest of creation is his "self-consciousness," which implicitly posits a self of which we are conscious.

Ah, but there is the split: consciousness on the one hand, self on the other. Animals -- or let us just say "life" -- are also split off from the cosmos, except they have no conscious awareness of this fact. In order to know this, consciousness would have to wrap around itself, as it does in human beings. Only man may become "critical," so to speak, capable of offering everything from reasons and explanations to pretexts and likely stories.

Or, in the memorable words of Ben Franklin, "So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."

In "hindsight" -- which is also "downsight," vertically and ontologically speaking -- humans can see the various splits that are necessary for humanness to exist. We could also call these "multiplicities" that are necessary for the higher unity of humanness to reconcile in order to be an integrated "one"; for as we know, there are two very different types of one, the blob and the organism.

For example, life seems to somehow exist apart from matter. While obviously dependent on matter, it dances upon its precipice, somewhat like a whirlpool, which is a form created by the ever-changing water coursing through it. Thus, the form cannot be reduced to "water," since the water is always changing.

Any biological entity is a kind of stable form through which courses matter and energy. The same can be said of the person, except on a higher plane. Our minds are constantly taking in information and emotion, and metabolizing them via experience. For human beings, existence is the metabolism of experience (or maybe it's the other way around: experience is the metabolism of existence).

Evidently, man cannot be man without being aware of the splits that define him. Take, for example, Genesis. The "story of man" begins with the story of a primordial division that alienates man from his true station and exiles him from his earthright.

In this excerpt of J.G. Bennett, he writes of how parents and culture encourage and facilitate this split condition, which they apparently regard as "normal":

If we study our own childhood, and that of any children growing up around us, we can see how, by every means, we and they are led to accept, and to prefer to exist in, the dream state. The one thing that everyone without exception impresses on children is the need for insincerity, the need to appear to be other than what one is, to hide what one is and appear different" (emphasis mine).

This is a systematic form of "crazy making," because it forces one to distrust one's own perceptions and eventually reject and abandon one's intuition. In raising my son, I'm very much aware of not doing this to him. For example, when I was a child, I couldn't help but notice that certain adults were creepy, or crazy, or anxious, or annoying, or weird, or stupid, etc. But I could never discuss these intuitions in a free and frank way with my parents. Rather, adults were people one respected, end of discussion.

I also teach my son to respect -- or at least be polite to -- others, but not to ignore the subtle stream of data given to him by his perceptions and intuitions. Thus, of our neighbors, he knows that this one is a harmless nut, that that family across the street is rather loud and unrefined, that this lady is anxious and prone to projection, that that mother is a fearful, humorless, controlling, and judgmental "liberal" who is afraid of toy guns and thinks there is no difference between boys and girls, etc.

When the person is alienated from himself, it isn't as if the alienated core just closes up shop. Rather, as Bennett writes, "there is a progressive shutting out of all the experience of possibilities, and their replacement by dreams, and, with dreams, just living in the functional life only."

As a result, "man gets divided into two parts. He gets shut up in the world of facts and shut out of the world of possibilities" (emphasis mine).

I was propelled down this path this morning after reading this excellent talk on The Origins of Political Correctness (ht Vanderleun). Lind correctly points out that the regime of political correctness is just a new form of Marxism, or of Marxist principles applied to man and culture instead of economics, where it is too easily disproved.

What is so insidious about it is that, like Genesis -- which it explicitly replaces with its own counter-myth -- it recognizes the primordial split referenced above. Any religion begins with a "diagnosis" of man, for which it then offers the treatment.

Likewise, the pseudo-religion of cultural Marxism begins with a diagnosis of man, and finds him to be irredeemably stupid, to such an extent that he is incapable of recognizing his own interests (never ask why liberals are so sanctimonious and superior, because this is how they see you if you aren't one of them). If you are not a liberal, it is only because you are essentially infested with mind parasites of various kinds, including religious, class, nationalistic, gender, and sexual parasites.

Thus, you need to be purged of these impurities. Since not everyone can afford to take the cure at an elite college, the purging process has to be much more widespread, extending into elementary education, entertainment, and media in general. Only then will you be capable of recognizing your fallenness (e.g., "white privilege") and of making amends.

As Lind explains, Marxism and Freudianism had a grotesque baby known as "critical theory." This theory has no "positive content," so to speak; to be perfectly accurate, it does, but it conceals this sinister content behind an epistemological omnipotence -- i.e., industrial grade cynicism -- capable of dissolving the most settled truth acquired by man in his slow struggle up from barbarism. Thus, it truly results in the re-barbarization of man, at which point the "new man" may be programmed into him.

As alluded to above, never wonder about the source of the liberal's sanctimony and superiority; likewise, never wonder about the barbarism, i.e., the body mutilation, er "art," the celebration of animal sexuality, the replacement of morality with "authenticity," the promotion of sexual deviations, the mindless attacks on tradition (which are fundamentally no different than the Taliban blowing up religious statues), etc. Man must be demolished and demoralized in order to begin history anew.

Thus, the purpose of Critical Theory

is to criticize. The theory is that the way to bring down Western culture and the capitalist order is not to lay down an alternative. They explicitly refuse to do that. They say it can’t be done, that we can’t imagine what a free society would look like (their definition of a free society). As long as we’re living under repression -- the repression of a capitalistic economic order which creates (in their theory) the Freudian condition, the conditions that Freud describes in individuals of repression -- we can’t even imagine it. What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing. It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible way, designed to bring the current order down (Lind).

Consider the bait-and-switch involved in the "sexual liberation" of the 1960s. Yes, animal sexuality was "liberated," so to speak, with the result that human sexuality was eclipsed. As Murray documents in his Coming Apart, the liberation resulted in a vast increase in cultural pathology, including broken homes, fatherless children, criminality, abortion, drug addiction, new and deadly venereal diseases, etc. But progressives do not call this "pathology." Rather, for them it is progress: the progress of breaking eggs in order to cook your goose.

Herbert Marcuse was one of the most prominent thinkers feelers of the new left, and was quite explicit about the use of sex for political ends. In his Eros and Civilization he

argues that under a capitalistic order... repression is the essence of that order and that gives us the person Freud describes -- the person with all the hang-ups, the neuroses, because his sexual instincts are repressed. We can envision a future, if we can only destroy this existing oppressive order, in which we liberate eros, we liberate libido, in which we have a world of "polymorphous perversity."

This is the bait: "here is a guy writing in a way they can easily follow. He doesn’t require them to read a lot of heavy Marxism and tells them everything they want to hear which is essentially, 'Do your own thing,' 'If it feels good do it,' and 'You never have to go to work.'"

Here is the switch:

America today is in the throes of the greatest and direst transformation in its history. We are becoming an ideological state, a country with an official state ideology enforced by the power of the state.... The terror against anyone who dissents from Political Correctness on campus is part of it.... it’s not funny, it’s here, it’s growing and it will eventually destroy, as it seeks to destroy, everything that we have ever defined as our freedom and our culture.

Mission accomplished!

UPDATE from seven years later: with the emergence of the AOC/Omar/Tlaib wing of the party, we see a somewhat unexpected development, in that the left has gone from promulgating its extreme nonsense for purely tactical reasons (the smashing of existing society and the acquisition of power) to a generational cohort that actually -- and passionately -- believes all the BS!

This represents a real point of danger for the left, a conflict between the cynical tacticians such as Hillary and Pelosi, and the fully indoctrinated morons who listened carefully in school and are simply echoing their indoctrination. Which brings us full circle to the absence of critical distance that defines the human being.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Knock Knock: Is Anybody OM?

I see that the previous post was a multi-parter, so I might as well republish the sequels:

About those degrees of knowledge: we all know what they are, even if we can't explain how they relate. After all, no one treats rocks like persons, or mathematical equations like bricks, or spirits like --

Not so fast!

As we know, there is a neurological condition called synesthesia, in which the senses are confused. Thus, for the synesthete, colors may have distinct sounds, sounds may have flavors, or numbers may possess personalities. This is commonly experienced under the influence of psychedelic drugs, e.g., "listen to the color of your dreams" (J. Winston).

In fact, there was a lot of this going around in the '60s: strawberry alarm clocks, electric prunes, peanut butter conspiracies, chocolate watchbands, marmalade skies, etc.

We've discussed Bion's grid in the past. It looks like this:

It's so simple, I'm surprised no one ever thought of it before. Basically, the vertical axis has to do with the evolution of thought, while the horizontal axis has to do with the uses to which the thought is put.

Thus, for example, it is indeed possible to treat ideas as rocks, as the left proves every day. On the grid, the "rock idea" would be at the intersection of "concept" on the vertical axis and "action" on the horizontal. It's why the left never stops acting out, under the cover of "thinking" or "arguing." Ultimately, beneath all leftist thought is force. Always.

You might say that the left's political synesthesia involves the use of sophisticated ideas such as "liberty" or "democracy" or "speech" for purposes that are sub-ideational. Bernie, for example, might make all sorts of arguments, but ultimately it is in order to take your stuff and do with it what he wishes.

Consider the primitive manner in which the ACLU uses the Constitution. They love the Constitution, not for its intended purpose, of course, but as a bludgeon with which to club opponents and impose leftist polices: thus they love because they hate, and they hate what frustrates their dreams of omnipotence and utopia (two sides of the same coin).

The grid explains how and why, when the left uses words such as "equality"or "justice," they mean -- or intend -- something entirely different than we do. It is why they all want to change the world (including human nature) before they have undertaken the formality of understanding the world. As Patient Zero himself said -- on his gravestone no less -- "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

In the Degrees of Knowledge, Maritain proposes to outline a synthesis of the integral man, "starting with the experience of the physicist and ending with the experience of the contemplative."

Again, we can all agree that there is an empirical world revealed to us via sensation, e.g., touch, sight, and sound. Above this is a logico-mathematical world that cannot be perceived by the senses. Rather, it is in the realm of abstract thought, but certainly no less real and enduring than the sensory world.

Science as we have come to understand it deals with worlds one and two, although there are some sciences that consist of more or less pure abstraction and deduction, others that rely upon observation and induction.

Bion, for example, specifically attempted to make psychoanalysis more of a logico-deductive discipline than a a wholly empirico-inductive one, by developing a system of abstract symbols to stand for various psychic categories and entities. In my book, I attempted the same thing vis-a-vis the spiritual dimension. It can be done. It's just that no one will really care until around 2075, when the Raccoon movement goes viral (or parasitic, depending upon your point of view).

After the rational/mathematical comes the metaphysical, although it should be clear that one can't really have worlds one and two in the absence of some (usually) unarticulated metaphysic containing implicit but necessary propositions.

For example, science cannot operate without various metaphysical assumptions such as the unidirectionality of time, the principle of non-contradiction, or the reality of the external world. Similarly, Darwinism cannot account for the cosmo-organismic wholeness that is a prerequisite for natural selection to operate. It cannot explain wholeness, only work with it.

While metaphysics leads to certain necessary truths, such as the existence of God (in the form of first cause, unmoved mover, pure act, etc), it cannot disclose the "within" of God, i.e., his relational personhood. Thus, metaphysics leads us to the penumbra of the Ultimate Real, but not beyond a certain threshold. Knocking on heaven's door, as it were. Is anybody om?

Having said that, because of the properties of this Ultimate Real, the latter can indeed radiate down into metaphysics, leading to an intellectualized form of "infused contemplation," or a metaphysic that reflects some of the luminosity of the Divine Object. Skeleton and blood. It's good to have both.

For me, Schuon accomplishes this, as he always makes it clear that he's attempting to communicate a vision, not just articulate a thought. Or perhaps it is a thought-vision that is still at least one degree removed from the beatific vision -- like standing in the corona of the sun, but not fully within. Schuon would be the first to draw this clear distinction, no matter how sublime the metaphysic.

But of course, when you get right down to it, we're all in the sun, aren't we? We can draw a distinction between the light flooding into my window and the vast explosion going on in the heart of the sun, but no such line can actually be unambiguously placed anywhere -- any more than there is a real ontological divide between a baby inside and outside the skin-boundary of the mother (speaking of intellectual honesty interfering with a desired action).

So, who's to say the photosynthesizing leaf is separate from the photopropagating sun? Perhaps a leaf is just the sun's way of establishing local centers of light elsewhere in the cosmos, just as the exploding stars of which we are composed are just the big bang's way of making a lot of little bangs.

Or, better yet, perhaps the sun is just a way to make sure the universe will contain leaves.

One question, Bob. Can I buy some pot from you?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Degrees of Reality and Dimensions of the Soul

Whew! That was a week -- worst cold of my life. I went to the doctor on Thursday, and she assured me she'd seen six people worse than me that day, so that was nice. Still lingering, but compared to last Wednesday I feel like Superman.

But it did put a crimp in Project X. Then again, sleep deprivation provoked some intriguing new angles on the whole thing. One thought that came to me is that -- as was the case before tackling the first book -- what I'm actually looking to write is what I need to read, and vice versa: I am in desperate need of a book, and the book doesn't exist. That's where I apparently come in.

Then another phrase popped into my head: metaphysical Catholicism. Which would be Catholicism aimed at people like me, of which there may well be as few as one. Nevertheless, if God made me this way, then I say he has an obligation to get me out of this mess I am. There ought to be a form of his Divine Message addressed to our sort, unless our sort is completely illegitimate.

Surprisingly, I both googled and searched Amazon for "Metaphysical Catholicism," and nothing came up; or rather, lots of stuff about Catholic metaphysics, but my interest is more along Schuon's lines -- of seeing Catholicism as in instantiation of universal metaphysics sprinkled with a few mysteries that are of necessity above our paygrade. (My approach would also be somewhat different from an esoteric Catholicism along the lines of Meditations on the Tarot.)

No, I do not intend to subordinate revelation to some manmade system. I'm not that clueless. After all, a God we could totally comprehend would be unworthy of worship. Worse yet, it would elevate man to the level of godhood, and that is always the recipe for hell on earth.

At any rate, my quest is probably totally inappropriate from a purely Catholic perspective, but it still interests me. What can I do? I feel that if I can "metaphysicalize" my way through certain stumbling blocks, I won't have to force myself to believe things I don't really believe. And why fool ourselves? God knows when we're pretending, so we might as well admit it upfront.

As it so happens, some of the material I'm about to repost touches on the above. This one begins in mid-thought:

Ah. Now I remember why I was intrigued by Maritain's The Degrees of Knowledge back in the day, when I was working out the Raccoon metaphysic....

As I have mentioned before, I didn't initially come at this huge mythunderstanding from a Christian perspective. Which was ultimately a good thing, because frankly, I never could have done what I did had I known what I was doing. Because I didn't know any better, I was free to violate disciplinary boundaries, blend irreconcilable thinkers and doctrines, engage in friction-free leaps of logic, and obey revealed hunches as demanded by expediency.

Now comes this Maritain fellow who claims to have accomplished the same thing from a Catholic standpoint! In 1932! Why didn't I know about this? Indeed, the Thing had essentially been accomplished some 700 years ago, and only required some touching up and tinkering at the edges in order to make it fully conversant with the scientific progress that had taken place in the interim. Here was no apologetic Uncle Thomist, but a Thomist apologetic capable of speaking to our age of stupidity.

When we talk about "the degrees of knowledge," we implicitly acknowledge the degrees of being that correspond to them. In my case, I divided these into the convenient categories of matter, life, mind, and spirit, each reflecting a different mode of being and requiring a different manner of knowing.

For example, one cannot know spirit empirically. However, one can know matter spiritually, being that truth emanates from the top down, not the bottom up.

When we speak of these essential distinctions, we're really talking about the vertical. As Maritain says,

"Every attempt at metaphysical synthesis, especially when it deals with the complex riches of knowledge and of the mind, must distinguish in order to unite." What is necessary above all is "to discriminate and discern degrees of knowing, its organization and its internal differentiations."

Looked at in this manner, any form of scientism, for example, is a non-starter, because it reduces the hierarchical complexity of the world to a vulgar monism. In so doing, it reduces reality to our most simple way of knowing it, and in the process denies any reality outside its narrow scope. "Leveling," says Don Colacho, "is the barbarian's substitute for order."

In the past, I have discussed the idea that the measure of soul is depth. To put it bluntly, a developed soul will see much more deeply into the nature of reality, whereas a shallow soul is satisfied by skirting along on the surface of things. The deep soul knows that no merely scientific explanation can ever satisfy man, whereas the shallow soul seems content to play in the little blandbox of efficient causes.

However, Maritain adds to this the dimensions of length, breadth, and height, which I had basically subsumed under depth. In any event, when we refer to these categories, we are referring to hidden or implicit dimensions of reality that are just waiting to be unpacked by man, and man only. No other species has access to these, in fact or principle. Indeed, access to them defines what it means to be a human being.

In a phrase I am very much tempted to steal, Maritain refers to the fundamental fact of a cosmos that is boundlessly intelligible. But it is only boundlessly intelligible to the extent that there exists an unbound soul to witness and testify to it.

To cite an obvious example, for the Marxist, the world is surely intelligible, but not boundlessly so. Rather, Marxism serves the function of placing sharp boundaries around reality. Dialectical Materialism explains everything, with no remainder. Indeed, if you deny it, you are actually an instance of it: "false consciousness," which has latterly morphed into our toxic identity politics.

I came across an unintentionally funny example of this at HotAir this morning, Does college really turn people into liberals? The authors cite some silly studies to deny the obvious, and conclude by stating that if you believe otherwise, then it's only because you are trying to protect "economic power." In other words, they trot out a classic Marxist explanation to deny their own Marxism, reducing great complexity to a simple pseudo-economic explanation!

A lexicon of ten words is sufficient for the Marxist to explain history. --NGD

This dismissal of an argument by projecting bad motivations into it is the cognitive Swiss Army Knife of the left. Any idea that threatens them is instantly attributed to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.

Back to the hidden dimensions in the soul. For Maritain, "length" bears upon "the manner in which the formal light that characterizes a particular type of knowing falls upon things and defines in them a certain line of intelligibility."

For example, in my case, I attempt to trace things back to (and before) the big bang, or forward, through the realms of matter, life, mind, and spirit. To put it another way, to deny this line of continuous development is to deny and even maim a vital dimension of the soul.

"Breadth" has to do with "the ever-increasing number of objects thus known." As such, a truly all-purpose metaphysic that is worthy of man, will explain the material world as well as the subjective world, without reducing one to the other. But to reduce mind and spirit to matter is the ultimate case of denying the breadth of the soul.

"Height" involves distinguishing the "different sorts of knowing" and "the degrees of intelligibility and immateriality of the object." In other words, it deals with vertical differentiations in the hierarchy of existence and being.

Finally, "depth" speaks to all those "hidden diversities," i.e., those relatively autonomous sub-worlds which are constantly disclosed to the mind that is free -- i.e., the liberal mind, as opposed to one that is servile to ideology.

To be continued...

Monday, April 08, 2019

In the Beginning

Starting in 2012, I'm finding far more good material, which, as I said, is slowing me down. Between 2006 and 2011 it was mostly the occasional sentence or paragraph that was worth preserving, but now I'm actually finding whole posts that don't let me down.

Therefore, in order to organize these Good Posts -- or at least know where to find them -- I'm going to republish them. This is more efficient than placing them in the files containing only sentences and paragraphs. There's still an overwhelming amount of information that needs to be pruned, but at least I'll know where to find stuff. It's for my convenience, but feel free to peruse.

This post is about Where to Begin; or rather, where is the so-called beginning:

What's first? And who's on it? Things? Or Principles? Or do they co-arise?

Way before I ever encountered Thomism, I attempted to think through all this on my own. Yes, you could say "needlessly," as it turns out, but not necessarily.

I say this because I'm always shocked at how frequently my own free application of reason ends up in the same attractor as this Thomas fellow. Details may vary -- after all, he couldn't have foretold 700 years of scientific development -- but the broad outlines are similar. Let's say we're in the same school, if different classes. He's long since graduated, while I am definitely a sophomore (or less, depending on how you look at it).

But in any event, we share the same principal. Why? Because the One Cosmos mysthead tells me so:


So, in the bOOk, I begin with the question -- the first question, as it were -- of "Where in the world do we begin? Do we have any right to assume that the universe is intelligible? If not, you can stop reading right now and do something else, something that actually has a purpose."

Wait, a footnote, the first one. Let's see what it says. "Bear in mind, however, that if the universe has no purpose, then neither will anything you do instead of reading the book. Therefore, you might as well read the book."

So you see, there's really no way to avoid reading the book. You have no excuse, only pretexts.

Back to the text: "But if the universe is intelligible, how and why is this the case?"

Blah blah yada yada, "Of course we should start our enquiry with the 'facts,' but what exactly is a fact? Which end is up? In other words, do we start with the objects of thought or the subject that apprehends them?"

And hey, "just what is the relationship between apparently 'external' objects and the consciousness that is able to cognize them? Indeed, any fact we consider presupposes a subject who has selected the fact in question out of an infinite sea of possibilities, so any conceivable fact" is bound up with the knowing subject.

So it seems that first things are immediately followed by first questions. That is, humans are uniquely capable of asking questions about the things they first encounter. Knowledge begins with this encounter between subject and object, but doesn't end there, as it does in animals and other atheists.

Rather, human beings may reason about their experience of things -- and, equally important, reason about reason itself. A better name for metaphysics might actually be "meta-epistemology," or "meta-ontology," or something similar, so the accent is on the unavoidably transnatural source and vector of reason.

Metaphysics begins in being, not knowledge. Which is why any metaphysic that begins with science is, in the words of Maritain, "false from the beginning," because science assumes being without attempting to account for it.

To use a construction analogy, science analyzes the building without getting into the question of how it got there or who planned it. Indeed, it cannot even address the question without fatal contradictions, e.g., the absurcular argument of natural selection.

But unlike science, metaphysics is utterly useless, which is another way of saying that it is completely disinterested and hence objective. Conversely, science always assumes a point of view, and more generally, a whole paradigm (usually unexamined).

Now, "useless" doesn't imply "worthless." Hardly. To the contrary, "nothing is more necessary to man than this uselessness. What we need is not truths that serve us but a truth we may serve" (emphasis mine).

My fellow Raccoons, now we're talking: ask not what Truth can do for you, but what you can do for Truth.

"For that truth is food of the spirit.... Useless metaphysics puts order -- not any sort of police order, but the order that has sprung from eternity" into man's otherwise rudderless -- or groundless -- intelligence (Maritain).

To express it poetically but then again literally, metaphysics allows man "to gravitate, head first, to the midst of the stars, while he hangs from the earth by his two legs."

In other words, in the Upanishadic formulation, the universe is a tree with its nonlocal roots aloft and local branches down below. Therefore, in the bobservational formulation,

history is a chronicle of our evolutionary sprint from biology to spirit, in which we first climb down from the trees of eastern Africa and then up the metaphorical Upanishadic tree....

Thus, we start our journey 'out on a limb' and soon find ourselves 'grounded,' but eventually find a radical solution to our troubling situation, arriving at the root' of the cosmos" ("radical" being related to the Latin "root").

UPDATE SEVEN YEARS LATER: This is all another way of expressing the Christian formulation, i.e., Creation-Fall-Redemption within the larger Divine-Cosmic circle of exits-redditus. I suppose it would be correct to say that the Incarnation allows humanity as such to participate in the trinitarian alphOmega.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Evolution or Natural Selection: Pick One

Evolution: a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage (especially a more advanced or mature stage)

We are firm believers in evolution. What we do not understand -- in principle, mind you -- is how a believer in metaphysical Darwinism can simultaneously maintain a belief in evolution, since the one -- "passing to a more advanced stage" -- precludes the other -- "random error + survival" (and to say these two definitions are mutually exclusive is not to say the latter process doesn't take place, only that it is incompatible with words such as "advance" or "progress" or "purpose").

In short, when we say "evolution," we do not mean evolutionism, which is another species entirely, a flightless bird of a different father.

Evolutionism is a metaphysical doctrine maintaining that ultimate reality involves a kind of unfolding from primordial substance. It reduces to pantheism -- or elevates matter to God -- as everything is seen as an explication of what lies hidden in potential in mere matter. It violates reason and common sense, as it not only tries to derive the higher from the lower, but ultimately, if pressed to its conclusion, everything from nothing. Life must reduce to death, spirit to matter, absolute to relative, necessary to contingent, and your little theory of evolutionism to a sacred cow pie. Which you just stepped in.

I am not being polemical or unfair. Rather, just asking the evolutionist to be intellectually honest and consistent, and to draw his principles to their conclusion. After all, we are honest about our principles, and wouldn't dream of hiding their implications. Schuon:

We do not deny that evolution exists within certain limits, as is indeed evident enough, but we do deny that it is a universal principle, and hence a law which affects and determines all things, including the immutable.... [W]hat has to be categorically rejected is the idea that truth evolves, or that revealed doctrines are the product of an evolution (emphasis mine).

Ultimately it's one more lame attempt to deploy verticality in order to deny the vertical. Metaphysical evolutionism begins and ends in the invention of

“horizontal” causes because one does not wish to admit a “vertical” dimension: one seeks to extort from the physical plane a cause that it cannot furnish and that is necessarily situated above matter.

It naturally ends in "the negation of an entire dimension of the real, namely that of form, of the static, of the immutable; concretely speaking, it is as if one wished to make a fabric of the wefts only, omitting the warps." In its attempt to reduce semantics to syntax, it negates its own comprehensibility. It's one thing to eliminate truth, but don't then try to make a true statement!

As mentioned in previous posts, the idea of evolution had literally been around for hundreds of years prior to Darwin. Indeed, Maritain points out that a number of pre-Socratics hit upon the notion, which isn't surprising, since it is one of a handful of metaphysical possibilities presented to us in any attempt to grasp the unchanging reality beneath appearances (ultimately there can't be that many options, e.g., materialism, idealism, organicism, etc.).

If we think of these men as analogous to children (by which I do not mean to insult them; rather, that, philosophically speaking, man was in the position of a child, starting with nothing), then we can understand how one might arrive at the notion that all is Change, or Being, or One. In other words, they are searching for the ultimate abstraction, or principle, which can account for each and every particular instance (which is indeed the purpose of metaphysics).

So Maritain reminds us that various forms of evolutionism were taught by Greek thinkers of the fifth and sixth centuries BC, such as Anaximander, Empedocles, and Heraclitus, the latter of whom is famous for teaching that "all is change," and that one cannot step into the same stream twice.

But again, if this is true, then it must also apply to Heraclitus' doctrine, such that if he's right, he's wrong. The same applies, of course, to modern Darwinists, to the extent that they elevate their science to a metaphysic.

Maritian traces the evolution of philosophy -- which is to say, increased proximity to wisdom -- from these early thinkers, through Plato and Aristotle and on to St. Thomas. And when we say "evolution," we mean evolution. We do not mean random change, as if there were no essential difference between Heraclitus, Aristotle, and Thomas, and that one might as well flip a coin to determine which is closer to truth.

[Note to myself from yesterday: do not fool yourself -- ultimately the only objective measure can be proximity to God. Otherwise all is opinion, and man is sealed in cosmic stupidity.]

No, when we say that philosophy -- and science, for that matter -- has evolved, this is what we mean: that it betrays a clear and recognizable direction that only the fool or tenured could deny.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but this denial is precisely what our late uncle-through-marriage -- an esteemed University of Chicago historian -- maintained. It so happens that he was friendly with Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the celebrated Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In one of those rare occasions that I had it completely backwards, I argued that Kuhn wasn't implying that there was no such thing as objective scientific progress. (Admittedly, I didn't actually know this. Rather, I just assumed that no one could be so stupid as to believe otherwise. I was a little naive back then.)

So, when we talk about philosophic or scientific progress, what are we really talking about? In other words, what is the measure of progress, besides getting a lot of free stuff from the government on somebody else's dime? Thus far Maritain hasn't come right out and said it, but perhaps the most noticeable change we see between, say, the pre-Socratics through Aquinas, involves the power of abstraction.

In fact, we can indeed trace this arc all the back to animals, who have no powers of abstraction. In many ways man is defined by this power, which is largely rooted in language, and prior to language, in my opinion, the hand. Yes, the hand, because it is nature's first all-purpose tool. Because the hand can do this and the hand can do that, we grasp the underlying principle of grasping. (They say science is the invention of invention, but one must first hand it to the humble hand, without which we could never have extended our grasp to science.)

Remember a couple of posts ago, our discussion of how rational skepticism is the cure for a corrosive cynicism gone wild? Well, Maritain makes exactly the same point vis-a-vis the Socratic method. Note that both the cause and effect of cynicism is the absence of truth. I suppose postmodernists must pride themselves on being the first humans to be courageous enough to embrace the truth that there is no truth, but that is an ahistorical fiction.

Rather, this kind of relativism had already taken philosophy to a dead end by the time Socrates arrived on the scene. These early victims of tenure

were embroiled in confused strife, an interminable battle of opposing probabilities. The immediate and obvious result of these attempts at philosophizing seemed the bankruptcy of speculative thought.

It is not, therefore, surprising that this period of elaboration produced a crisis in the history of thought, at which an intellectual disease imperiled the very existence of philosophic speculation. This intellectual disease was sophistry, that is to say, the corruption of philosophy.

Sophistry is not a system of ideas, but a vicious attitude of the mind.... For the aim and rule of their knowledge was no longer that which is, that is to say, the object of knowledge, but the interest of the knowing subject....

[T]he most characteristic feature of all alike was that they sought the advantages conferred by knowledge without seeking truth.

They sought the advantages conferred by knowledge so far as knowledge brings its possessor power, pre-eminence, or intellectual pleasure. With this in view, they put themselves forward as rationalists and walking encyclopedias; to every question they had an answer, deceptively convincing....

They did not seek truth.... For with men and children alike destruction is the easiest method of displaying their strength.... Every law imposed upon man they declared to be an arbitrary convention....

Well, that's the tragic history. It reappeared in the 1960s, this time as intellectual farce. Time will tell if we ever reenter the stream of real progress (although no one is obligated to participate in the anti-evolutionary stupidity of his times!).

[And it's not so much a stream as metaphysical plumb line: To change thoughts repeatedly is not to evolve. To evolve is to develop the infinitude of a single thought. And A thought should not expand symmetrically like a formula, but in a disordered way like a bush (NGD).]

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Restating Some Truths that Go Without Saying

Here is an "old" post from about seven years ago, but it is exactly the sort of post I'm looking for, since it hasn't aged, but rather, is eternally young because eternally true, i.e., close to the Source of thought itself.

Or, you could say it is eternally old -- Ancient of Days, so to speak -- which I do not mean in a self-aggrandizing manner, God forbid, but in a strictly soph-aggrandizing manner, God permit.

O Wisdom which reaches with strength from one end of the world to the other and makes extremes one! --Jacques Maritain

It seems to me that everything hinges upon whether or not man may know. If we cannot know, then our whole pretentious house of cards collapses, and we are reduced to competing forms of nihilism, or survival of the faddiest and frivolest. But if we can know, then...


To approach this question is truly to begin at the beginning, because no other questions can be answered until we establish the fact that questions are answerable -- i.e., that man may possess true knowledge of himself and of the world (which must -- somehow! -- be real reflections of one another).

Indeed, some thinkers believe we must go even further back, and first establish the existence of the world. For example, this is what Kant does, and concludes that it doesn't exist. That being the case, we cannot know anything about it. The end.

That's an exaggeration, but only an uncharitable one. The point is that Kant placed a dark line between What Is (noumena) and What We May Know About It (phenomena), which ultimately results in an unbridgeable chasm between the two -- between being (ontology) and knowing (epistemology).

Yes, we can still "know" under Kant's restrictions, but this knowledge is ultimately of our own neuropsychology, not of the Real. We don't perceive the world as it is, rather, only (through) our categories. We are in the position of a submarine captain who navigates by instrument but never sees or touches water.

Since truth is the conformity of mind to reality, the very notion of truth is poisoned at the root. Thought and Thing go through an ugly divorce, and Thing gets to keep all the real properties to herself, since you Kant take 'em with you. Man becomes closed upon himself, and tenure takes care of the rest.

The whole travesty can be boiled down even further, which is why I developed my irritating system of unsaturated pneumaticons. For truly, it all comes down to O or Ø, does it not? (To be perfectly accurate, note that while Ø -- the relative -- is a necessary consequence of O, the absurdity of "pure Ø" denies the very possibility of absoluteness. Which is what is meant by the phrase: tenure is forever.)

For Kant, while O supposedly exists (hello, noumena!), there is absolutely nothing we can know or say about it.

But isn't knowing nothing about something the same as not knowing if it exists? In other words, you can't have knowledge of an unknowable world. But still, our postmodernists insist with a straight farce on calling their omniscient ignorance knowledge.

Now, even if we ultimately conclude with our benighted friends that we may only have knowledge of phenomena, we shouldn't start there, because we cannot start there. In other words all men -- as men -- start with the pre-philosophical and pre-scientific conviction that of course there's a real world, doofus. WTF are you talking about?

Indeed, it takes many years of schooling to eradicate this conviction and replace it with its converse. Of course, no one actually believes it, but that's the subject of a different post. Let's just stick with what people think they believe.

"Every metaphysics that is not measured by the mystery of what is, but by the state of positive science at such and such an instant, is false from the beginning" (ibid.). Man is uniquely instructed by O, which is why the rigorous discipline of Truth is a transfiguring and purifying process. For man, as he inevitably finds himself in the herebelow, is a mixture of substance and accident, or truth and error.

Let us suppose that man may know. But what does this mean, to know? What is going on when we know something? The answer isn't obvious -- at least not anymore -- but for Maritain it is an irreducibly spiritual event through and through. For

"There is a vigorous correspondance between knowledge and immateriality. A being is known to being to the extent that it is immaterial."

This formulation, so obvious to common sense, is nevertheless filled with paradoxes that need to be resolved. For example, "to know is to be in a certain way something other than what one is: it is to become a thing other than the self..." Thus, knowledge isn't the thing, but nor is it the self. So what is it?

Being is, indeed, the proper object of the intellect.... [T]he intellect, if I may say so, "loops the loop," in coming back, to grasp metaphysically and transcendentally, to that very same thing which was first given to it in its first understanding of the sensible. --Maritain

I assume this is to be continued. But I suspect it ultimately goes to the trinitarian character of reality, or to the Subject, the Object, and the Truth that flows within and between them.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Catch of the Day: The Moon in the Man

My deep dive into the archive may or may not result in a book. But perhaps I can make mysoph useful by reposting essays that meet the Current Standard. I try to review about two weeks of posts per day, and the following from 2011 is the best of today's batch:

Whereas the Moon has to do with reflected, i.e., lunar, knowledge, the Sun has to do with direct perception of truth or reality (which are two sides of the same goround). Obviously, we can see much better when the sun is out and shining.

Or can we? If the sun is too bright, we cannot see at all, as in snowblindness. At the very least, it overpowers more subtle sources of light -- other heavenly bodies that are present but hidden.

After all, it is not as if the cosmos is simply divided into God/not-God, or Creator/creature. Yes, you can certainly look at it that way, and it is not absolutely false to do so. But in so doing, you will miss all the gradations and details of the cosmic hierarchy.

In a way, this is the inverse error of positivism or scientism, whereby the person accepts only empirically verifiable statements or acknowledges only material reality. Do this, and you cut yourself off from the wealth of truth that may be found in literature, art, music, poetry, and religion.

You might say that "religionism" focuses on the absolute sun to the exclusion of the relative moon, while scientism focuses on the relative moon to the exclusion of the absolute sun. The latter can have no real truth, since lunar light obviously presupposes the sun. Science cannot furnish its own light, any more than can the moon.

One can even extend this into politics, in that moonbats need conservatives, whereas conservatives have no need of moonbats. It is not a reversible relation, since moonbats need the wealth of productive citizens in order to "redistribute" it, whereas productive citizens do not need unproductive parasites in order to create wealth. The left eventually runs out of other people's money, but we will never run out of people who want other people's money.

Likewise, the left is every bit as dependent upon truth as we are, otherwise they wouldn't know what to suppress or ban.

Regarding those lesser cosmic lights between sun and earth, you may recall that in the bʘʘk I made reference to "the helpful nonlocal operators standing by, ready to assist you." How does that work? Our Discarnate Acquaintance explains how in the following passage:

You venerate (i.e., love and respect) a non-incarnated being -- a departed person, a saint, a hierarchical being -- in a disinterested manner. Your veneration -- which includes love, respect, gratitude, the desire to conform, etc. -- cannot fail to create an invisible link of sympathy with its object. It may be in a subtle and dramatic way, or rather in a slow, gradual and almost imperceptible way -- this does not matter -- the day will come when you will experience the presence.

This is nothing like a "phantom," "ghost," or some other apparition, but rather, is "a breath of radiant serenity, of which you know with certain knowledge that the source from which it emanates is not at all in you. It influences and fills you but does not take its origin in you; it comes from outside you. Just as in drawing near to a fireplace, that the warmth you feel does not arise from you, but rather from the fireplace, so also do you feel that the breath of serenity in question is due to an objective presence."

Once this nonlocal rapport is established, "it is up to you to remain silently concentrated so that the relationship established is subsequently developed, i.e., that it gains in intensity and clarity -- that it becomes a meeting in full consciousness."

Recall what was said yesterday about the person internalizing a relationship between two poles. For just as a relationship can be mediated by love, two can be bound by hatred. Just as, say, a sexually repressed man may chose to be around women who reject him (so as to externalize the conflict), a dysfunctional people, such as the Palestinians, have formed a truly unbreakable bond with Israel. Hatred makes one believe insane things [think, for example, of all the insanities Democrats believe about Trump; we might well envy them their childlike faith, just not its object.]

For the neurotic person, such an unhealthy bond can be every bit as robust and enduring as a healthy one; in fact, in a sense even stronger, since healthy love eventually transcends its immediate object and points to its divine source, whereas the unhealthy kind is solely focused on its local object, which leads to all sorts of other secondary and tertiary pathologies.

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

And The human has the insignificance of a swarm of insects when it is merely human. --NGD

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Taking Existence Personally

I've completed nearly six years of posts, meaning there are only seven years left to review. However, I didn't post quite as frequently after 2010, so I'm actually beyond the halfway mark in terms of sheer verbiage. On the other hand, the quality is beginning to pick up, which is seriously slowing me down, in that I have to actually pay attention to what I've written.

I don't ask much of a post. My only request is that it hold my interest. Which this old one from 2011 did:

One point to bear in mind is that we cannot regard the cosmos as some sort of static or given fact, if only because its factuality hasn't yet fully disclosed itself. The world is always evolving, always coming-into-being; furthermore, "world and human existence belong necessarily to one another, so that neither a worldless man nor even a world without man seems thinkable" (Ratzinger).

No one disputes the first half of this equation, but few people outside the coonosphere even think about the second part, i.e., the impossibility of a world without man -- not necessarily Homo sapiens per se, but more generally, the necessity of a vertical "bridge" between Creator and creation in any manifestation deployed in space and time: persons.

Even the most materialistic scientist knows there is an intimate link between cosmos and anthropos, if only because all science depends upon the consummation and development of this intimate marriage of intelligence and intelligibility.

To put it another way, even the scientist implicitly knows that science is impossible without scientists. In short, there must be a kind of anterior and posterior oneness beneath the explicit twoness (or complementarity) of cosmos and man, in the absence of which we couldn't explain anything, especially the surprising mirrorcle of science <--> scientists.

Again, science advances via the reduction of multiplicity to unity. A single concept -- say, gravity -- draws together a host of phenomena, on both a micro and macro scale, that had seemed entirely separate. For Ratzinger, this "two-in-one structure" of man and cosmos "has always pointed to... unity as its final goal."

This being the case, it is incorrect to suggest that history is something that simply "happens" in the cosmos. Rather, "the cosmos is itself history. It does not merely form the scene of human history; before human history began, and later with it, cosmos is itself 'history.'" Ultimately, "there is only one single all-embracing world history, which for all the ups and downs, all the advances and setbacks that it exhibits, nevertheless has a general direction and goes 'forward'" (ibid.).

Now, this "one single all-embracing world history" is the unifying theme of our book and of this blog, no matter how far we may seem to stray from the plot. We are always on the way to the place from which we never left, even if we never can arrive there.

I remember an analogy used by Alan Watts. Imagine looking at a wooden fence with a hole in it. A cat walks by on the other side. Assuming no prior knowledge of cats, one would have no way of unifying the disparate phenomena appearing from our side of the hole. We would see an event play out in time, which is actually unified in a higher space.

We may apply the same idea to the cosmos, since we are in the analogous position of viewing its diverse phenomena through our finite and transitory existence on this side of the whole. As Ratzinger explains,

"Of course, to him who sees only a section of it, this piece, even though it may be relatively big, looks like a circling in the same spot. No direction is perceptible. It is only observed by him who begins to see the whole" (emphasis mine). (For example, even simplistic Darwinian evolution may only be seen by those transcending it; nothing less than man knows anything about it.)

In other words, the lower dimensional evolutionary "movement" of the cosmos can only be seen from a higher perspective -- one more reason why there can be no "naked facts," because the nature of any fact changes, depending upon the temporal and dimensional perspective.

For example, in this larger perspective, the "natural world" is not, and cannot be, some sort of abstract realm cut off from the totality of the cosmos. Rather, in an evolutionary, historical cosmos, "matter and its evolution form the prehistory of spirit or mind" (emphasis mine).

Here again, as explained in the book, it is nothing more than an unexamined prejudice -- a postmodern superstition of the tenured -- to attempt to pull the subject down into into the object, as if this provides any kind of satisfactory explanation for either.

This approach is analogous to attempting to pull the space of a building into its walls. One would have to be quite uncurious -- or a kind of craven conformist -- to accept it without at least raising one's hand in class and asking w-w-why?

One doesn't have to accept the Christian solution, but at least it confronts this question of an evolutionary cosmos head-on, without coming to a gentileman's agreement not to avoid certain awkward questions.

For if Jesus is who we think he is, then "the consummation of the world in that event could be explained as the conviction that our history is advancing to an 'omega' point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter."

Rather, "the real, firm ground is mind. Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality: it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist" (ibid., emphasis mine).

This is indeed one of our foundational orthoparadoxes, and quite literally the "connecting thread" of all our cosmic adventures. For without this connecting thread, there could be no connections and no threads at all. Regarded in this manner, what had looked merely "natural" is drawn up into a much more glorious narrative, i.e., the Adventure of Consciousness.

And not only. For this way of looking at things is, in a manner of speaking, the death of death, since the "dead world" of matter (or the world of dead matter) looks very different once Life emerges from its dark womb.

But might we say the same of Mind? Is mind merely a dead end, a cosmic nul-de-slack, or does it point beyond itself to a higher source and destiny? Again, at least Christianity confronts and answers the question without changing the subject -- into an object:

We have said before that nature and mind form one single history, which advances in such a way that mind emerges more and more clearly as the all-embracing element and thus anthropology and cosmology finally in actual fact coalesce.

But this assertion of the increasing "complexification" of the world through mind necessarily implies its unification around a personal center, for mind is not just an undefined something or other; where it exists in its own specific nature, it subsists as individuality, as person.

Therefore, this "implies that the cosmos is moving toward a unification in the personal," and "confirms once again the infinite precedence of the individual over the universal.... The world is in motion toward unity in the person. The whole draws its meaning from the individual, not the other way about" (ibid., emphasis mine).

Thus the conclusion of Christianity, at once "scandalous" and yet fully in keeping with the way things Are and Must Be: that a single individual, a fully integrated and complete Cross-Word puzzall, is "the center of history and of the whole.... What stands at the end is a countenance. The omega of the world is a 'you,' a person, an individual."

Time out for aphorisms:

--For the Christian, history does not have a direction, but rather a center.

--By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face.

And this, by the way, has political implications, since this quintessential cosmo-historical Person "is at the same time the final denial of all collectivism.... The final stage of the world is not the result of a natural current, but the result of responsibility that is grounded in freedom."

(All quoted material from Ratzinger's so-called "Introduction" to Christianity.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Update: Keeping Limber with Truth, Freedom, and, uh, Other Cosmic Strands

Update: I've now reviewed over 1,700 posts, which means there are only around 1,500 to go, at which time I may resume blogging, because I feel better when I blog than when I don't. Keeps the mind and spirit, you know, limber.

Here's an old post I reviewed just this morning, which I kind of like. I like it because it comes down to a number of un-further-downable fundamentals. And if the Book is to be written, that is what it would involve: those truths that cannot but be true.


They always come at you with the TRUTH, don't they? Even -- or especially -- the ones who otherwise have no use for the concept.

As we have mentioned before, even if a person is unable to know truth directly, he can know it indirectly by virtue of what evildoers pretend is true.

For example, all evil regimes that are manifestly steeped in falsehood claim to be aligned with a Truth that confers their bogus legitimacy, from the world-historical powers and principalities embodied in National Socialism or communism, to more regional demonocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Berkeley.

In each case, they not only maintain they are founded upon truth, but that in most cases they are the very guardians of a precious and beleaguered Truth to which the world is implacably hostile.

This has led many secular sophisticates of the postmodern left -- okay, all of them -- to reject the very concept (or possibility) of truth. But this is like rejecting medicine because of what Nazi doctors did with it, or education because of how our elite universities disfigure it.

You might even hear a proglodyte of the left accuse us of "anti-intellectualism," which is only to miss the point entirely. It is because we cherish education that we criticize the educational establishment, just as it is because of our compassion for the poor that we champion the most demonstrably successful ways to escape poverty, none of which involve statism.

For that matter, it is because it harms blacks that we oppose state-mandated racial discrimination. We know this is true, if only because it is considered a terrible offense to suggest that Obama is our first "affirmative action president." If compulsory racial discrimination is such a wonderful thing, why take offense when we point out that some individual has benefited from the practice?

Speaking of how evildoers claim to be acting in the name of truth, just yesterday we were reading of how the uncompromising pursuit of truth was largely responsible for Hitler's downfall. For example, in invading Russia, he was simultaneously engaged in a battle of annihilation and a war of racial genocide.

But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior races." Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise in ways that severely hindered their logical allocation.

In a perverse way, we can be thankful that Hitler was such a principled man, because if he weren't, he would have been a much more rational and formidable enemy. [This is the difference between an AOC or Omar, who are clearly principled, vs. a Pelosi or Schumer, who aren't.]

In comparison, Stalin and his heirs to power were much more unprincipled. The USSR pursued its irrational beliefs in relatively rational and predictable ways, whereas, say, Islamists are willing to pursue their irrational ideology in completely irrational ways, up to and including self-destruction (as was the case with Imperial Japan).

In any event, "truth" is clearly a problem, because most of the wholesale evil in the world is committed in its good name. Ratzinger writes that although we all supposedly cherish freedom, "we are inclined to react with suspicion to the concept of truth: we recall that the term truth has already been claimed for many opinions and systems, and that the assertion of truth has often been a means of suppressing freedom."

Thus we see at once that there is some sort of relationship between truth and freedom. But is it a direct or inverse relation?

We might say that the psychospiritual left maintains that the relation is inverse, and that the only way to secure our freedom is to deny any kind of epistemological totalitarianism from gaining power. Thus, as Ratzinger observes -- since he has often been their target -- "Anyone who maintains that he is serving the truth by his life, speech, and action must prepare himself to be classified as a dreamer or fanatic."

This is hardly an intrinsically meritless point of view, given man's bleak track record. History is a chronicle of malignant stupidities masquerading as truth, so why not chuck the whole nasty business, and limit "truth" to what can be empirically demonstrated, like climate change, or Keynesian economics, or queer theory? That way, only the good people will have power over us.

Man is ultimately oriented toward the One, Good, True, and Beautiful. But only because he is so oriented, he is susceptible to becoming dis-oriented. Although many people are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth, they all know a lie when they see one.

But in the absence of absolute truth, there is actually no real ground for arbitrating between various lies. Rather, one opinion is intrinsically no worse than another, hence the absurd doctrine of multiculturalism -- an "absolute relativism" that somehow coexists with its ideological opposite, the dogmatic absolutism of political correctness.

Is there a course between these two varieties of false absolutism? Yes, but only if man has free will. Everything is rooted in this principle, without which there is obviously no freedom, but more subtly, no truth -- including, of course, the "truth" that free will is an illusion, for what can an illusion prove? It's like asking how to obtain food from a dream of it.

Now, if truth is an illusion, then at once human intercourse is reduced to a matter of will. One could say that in such an existentialist worldview, man is condemned to freedom. Truly, freedom becomes just another word for "nothing left to lose," or, more succinctly, nothing.

Such a system would understand freedom "as the right and opportunity to do just what we wish and not have to do anything we do not wish to do." It "would mean that our own will is the sole norm of our action" (Ratzinger).

This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit of his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth.

In the Raccoon view, Truth is of course absolutely real. Indeed, it is the real Absolute. That being the case, no relative being could ever "contain" it.

This has some resonance with Gödel's theorems, which, among other things, prove that man has access to a whole world of transcendent truth that cannot be proved with mere reason. Rather, any such system is always founded upon assumptions the system cannot prove, rendering all such systems epistemologically closed circles in the lost roundup.

The Raccoon prefers to call this absolute truth O, so as not to confuse it with something we already know. For example, it is quite easy for an atheist to disprove the mere existence of this or that "god" (likely a false god of his own imagination anyway), but fundamentally impossible to disprove the beyond-beingness of O without absurdly disproving his own existence (since the existence of even the atheist is explained by something higher than existence, not lower).

Now, tradition, properly understood, is not supposed to be a kind of binding tyranny from which we need to be liberated. Even so, one must not absolutize the system and conflate it with that to which it points, O. Obviously, the object and purpose of religion transcends religiosity, but cannot exclude it.

Rather, you might say that it is a whole system for the articulation of O, generally worked out by people much better and smarter than we are -- unless you believe there is no one better than you, in which case your faith in yourself is total. And I never argue with another man's faith.

(Some resonance here with a few comments I made on an Instapundit thread this morning.)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Map of MAGA Country

Still slogging my way through the archive. This is from an old post:

But with the gradually increasing materialization and quantification of our culture over the past several centuries, it is very much the case that our exterior maps are more detailed than ever, even while the interior ones have become sketchy and impoverished at best.

I say "at best" because when a map loses its features, it becomes a kind of canvas for the psyche to project upon. Prior to the development of systematic scientific discovery -- the discovery of discovery -- the situation was the reverse, in that our exterior maps were vehicles of psychic projection. People projected all sorts of mind parasites in the form of mythical beasts beyond the boundaries of the known world. It is similar to how liberals imagine that anyone outside their familiar territory is a greedy, racist, and homophobic monster, as seen below in the depiction of Trump supporters swimming beyond the shores of academia and the MSM:

When the progressive condemns, every intelligent man must feel alluded to. --NGD

I was also thinking of how in a shame culture, you'll see a lot of fake honor; in a guilt culture, fake innocence; and in a victim culture, fake oppression and hate crime hoaxes. When victimhood is incentivized -- itself a crypto-religious secular perversion of "the meek shall inherit the earth" -- it results in a literal race to the bottom, such that the scum rises to the top.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Cosmic Area Rug Update

This is what I'm talking about. It's from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that I bumped into the other day:

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour / Rains from the sky a meteoric shower / Of facts... they lie unquestioned, uncombined. / Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill / Is daily spun, but there exists no loom / To weave it into fabric.

So, that's where we come in: a loom with a view toward weaving the threads into fabric, and fabric into rug. By the end of the week I will have gone through around 1,300 posts, so, less than 2,000 posts to go after that.

However, these newer posts might well take longer to review, since they will presumably be superior to the ones I've slogged through thus far. If they aren't better, then I think we can throw out the whole "10,000 hour" thingy.

We know all about "information management." What about "wisdom management"? That would be the purpose of the Cosmic Area Rug: you could just look at the rug and see where things fit in, and where everything relates to the whole encirclopedia of existence.

What? Yes, I am aware of the fact that it is an impossible undertaking. Why else would I try to do it? The possible is boring.

I recently read a book called Too Much to Know, which is essentially a history of man's information overload, which actually began long before the "information age." For example, Descartes lamented that

Even if all knowledge could be found in books, where it is mixed in with so many useless things and confusingly heaped in such large volumes, it would take longer to read those books than we have to live in this life and more effort to select the useful things than to find them oneself.

Too little time, too many tomes. And way before the Enlightenment there were already too many books; we read in Ecclesiastes 12:12 that "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."

Or Erasmus 500 years ago: "Is there anywhere on earth exempt from these swarms of new books? Even if, taken out one at a time, they offered something worth knowing, the very mass of them would be a serious impediment to learning..."

There was a time when man had insufficient information. But now there is so much that we can't cope with it -- indeed there is more new information produced in a year or two (or whatever it is) than all the information man has produced in the past.

But wisdom doesn't increase in a similarly exponential or even linear manner. Indeed, one could argue that by definition wisdom cannot increase, since it goes to essences -- to the very nature of things. Nor is it possible to have too much of it. Which is the only excuse for another book: my only promise is that it will be entirely free of information.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Father of Anthropology

Anthropology is catching up to One Cosmos (although not really, because with the reactionary left there is always a backlash against truth):
As any parent knows, human babies are startlingly dependent when they are born. This is due to the combination of a narrowed birth canal -- the consequence of our bipedality -- and our unusually large brains, which are six times larger than they should be for a mammal of our body size.
This has meant that, to ensure the survival of mother and baby and the continued existence of our species, we have evolved to exhibit a shortened gestation period, enabling the head to pass safely through the birth canal. The consequence of this is that our babies are born long before their brains are fully developed.
Without dad’s input, the threat to the survival of his child, and hence his genetic heritage, was such that, on balance, it made sense to stick around. Dad was incentivised to commit to one female and one family while rejecting those potential matings with other females, where his paternity was less well-assured.
The author claims that "until 10 years ago the role of fatherhood had been neglected on the grounds that it is wholly dispensable." However, I myself was highly influenced by a work of anthropology that was published over 60 years ago, The Human Animal by Weston LaBarre. It's one of those books that didn't have to convince me of anything, but rather, simply reminded me of what I already knew but had never completely worked out.

Take away the animal and Homo sapiens is inexplicable; take away God and the human person (and science) vanishes. For it is written: all attacks on God are attacks on the mind itself.

Regarding the latter, man and God are mirrors: The very word “man” implies “God”, the very word “relative” implies “Absolute” (Schuon). Moreover, The transcendent God is not a projection of the one who is our father in the flesh. To the contrary, a reflection of God turns the animal progenitor into a father (Dávila). So, a little perspective please!
To say that man is the measure of all things is meaningless unless one starts from the idea that God is the measure of man, or that the absolute is the measure of the relative.... 
Once man makes of himself a measure, while refusing to be measured in turn, or once he makes definitions while refusing to be defined by what transcends him and gives him all his meaning, all human reference points disappear; cut off from the Divine, the human collapses (Schuon).
In other words, the vertical collapses and we are in flatland, where there are no truths, only opinionated bipeds and tenured apes.

LaBarre: "The family is not a creation of culture: without the family there would be no culture!"

And feminists don't like to hear this, but in the very nature of things, men are responsible for civilization in a way women could never be: to begin with, men are selected for aggressive competition with other men (if only to protect the mother-and-helpless infant), which would appear to pose a barrier to civilization.

In order to overcome this, "a new adaptive mechanism is necessary," and this consists of abstract rules and conventions (there is a reason why men tend to be more abstract than women, and women more interpersonal than men).
Culture is the non-bodily and non-genetic contriving of bonds of agreement that enable this animal to function as human.
Such relationships -- of father and son, and of male and male -- must be forged morally. They can operate only through the discipline [or sublimation or transcendence] of aggression, through identification with one another.... 
Women often wonder that men are so passionately concerned with generalizations and with principles....
But the simple fact is that males do not have female bodies. Human males need principles and agreements by very virtue of their being males and being the kind of animal that necessarily and still usefully embodies the old mammalian male aggressiveness. No amount of feminine example and persuasion can un-teach the honest masculine animal of this knowledge of his nature (emphasis mine).
See our fatherless urban underclass for details. And increasingly our (former) civilization. And of course the systematic anti- and dis-honesty of academia.

LaBarre himself came at things from a purely secular perspective -- or at least he imagined this was the case. But one cannot simultaneously speak truth and avoid God. Thus, he speaks of "the logos that is the endless preoccupation of male metaphysics":
What connects father and son, male and male, is the mystery of logos and logos alone: logos as the literal "word" which conveys linguistic meaning and understanding; logos as laws, agreements, rules, and regularities of behavior; logos as the implicit means and substance of common understanding and communication, and of cultural joining in the same styles of thinking; and logos as shared pattern, within which father can identify with son and permit his infancy, within which son can identify with father and become a man, and within which a male can perceive and forgive the equal manhood of his fellow-man.
Not for nothing is God the Father and not Mother -- and yet there is always a deeper dialectic or complementarity between them; indeed the womb of Beyond Being is in a sense prior to Father, but that's another storey to the metacosmos.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sharing the Muck

Still mucking about in the archive -- I've probably looked at over 700 posts by now, so less than 3,000 to go. Clearing out the entire stable will probably take six months of mucking. Fortunately, the quality picks up after about mid-2007, so it wasn't just my imagination that there were some interesting posts along the way.

Some random sentences, sentence fragments, questions, and partial answers from 2007 that I still like, or at least don't totally get on my nerves:

A clue that it isn’t the ultimate explanation is that you can fully comprehend it.

One can’t write anything on the subject of reality without saying something that isn’t true.

What kind of cosmos gives rise to Subjects who may know Truth?

It is somewhat bizarre to think that our own thinking could solve the problem; but even more bizarre to think that it couldn't.

There is something in the human mind that wants to contain novelty and demystify the world -- to make the anxiety of not-knowing go away. In a sense this is perfectly understandable. Ironically, it is a legacy of our evolved genotype which, after all, was not designed to ponder the mystery of being but to survive and obtain tenure.

If intelligence could be reduced to senses + logic, human beings wouldn't be intelligent enough to know it, since no logical operation can inform them of this.

As far as we know, information is something that must be stored in a differentiated and stable physical substrate, but the Big Bang had no time to store anything and no place to store it, since time and matter didn't exist.

The wholeness of the cosmos is prior to our atomization of it into individual parts -- which is why Life and Mind are possible to begin with. An organism is not just a sack of genetic material, and a mind is not a pile of neurological facts.

All other animals merely inhabit a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world. Animals are confined to the environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally didn't come into existence until human beings happened upon the scene. Prior to subjects there is nothing.

Given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world? Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible.

While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to engage with Being as a whole.

Science can never be complete or exhaustive because "it explains things in terms that are themselves left unexplained," and is therefore inevitably circular.

Of course, it is always possible that the scientific ideas capable of being hatched in the mind of man just so happen to coincide with ultimate reality. But the chances are so remote that we may dismiss them out of hand. In a way, the atheist is asking us to believe something far more unbelievable than religious revelation, which is that the cosmos reveals its true inner and outer nature to man just by sheer luck.

As Magee points out, "The only plausible possibility of a reality completely corresponding to our conceptions of it rests on the possibility that reality itself could be mind-like, or could be created by a mind, or by minds."

The existence of man's mind tells us much more about the nature of this cosmos than does the cosmos itself.

Subject and Object are irreducible existential categories, and we can burrow into the cosmic mountain from either end. Clearly, no cosmos is possible without both. Science -- for reasons it never examines -- disregards the Subject, which ineluctably ends in metaphysical absurdity, since it leads to a situation in which it explains everything except the mysterious one doing the explaining.

You can fail to take cognizance of the Absolute, but it will always return through the backdoor. For example, it is impossible to consistently maintain that "it is absolutely true that nothing but the relatively true exists." One might just as well write that writing doesn't exist.

There is a dimension of suprasensible information readily available to human minds which is neither material nor logical, and that is other minds. Normal humans are equipped with what developmental neuropsychologists call a "mind reading" capacity, through which we may instantaneously -- without thinking -- access the "interior" of another.

To say that the intellect cannot know God, the Absolute, is to place an artificial boundary around intelligence as such. And if our intelligence were bounded, we would not know where the boundary lay, so there would be no reason to accept anyone's boundary as anything other than arbitrary.

Science can never arrive at any ultimate explanation, because the scientist doing the explaining will always defy quantification. For he is an irreducible subject, an ontological category that slips through the coarse cognitive nets of science like a herd of cats trying to nail Jello soup to the wall with a fork.

Steinsaltz: "Man's question should not be how to escape the perpetual struggle but what form to give it, at what level to wage it."

I'm waging it against my own years of logorrhea.


This was also mildly amusing:

Neuroscientists have identified a network of brain regions activated when people feel aa if God doesn't exist. Artificially stimulating the brain in this way, they say, might allow people to have atheistic experiences without disbelieving in God themselves.

Lead author Rufus T. Firefly at the University of Feedonia says that he wanted to know what was going on in the brain during materialistic, secular, or atheistic episodes because of his own personal experiences. During such moments, people have the illusion that they are separate from the source of being, and may feel existential anxiety, absence of ultimate meaning, and even a sense of absurdity.

Firefly and his colleague, Dr. Otis Driftwood, recruited 15 secular scientists from academia, slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and asked them to fully relive the most meaningless moment in their lives.

As a comparison, the scientists also relived a schizoid experience in which they brooded over their sense of being isolated and detached from other people...

Earlier studies have suggested that such experiences might originate in one specific part of the brain. Work with autistic patients who are incapable of religious feeling has suggested that a hypertrophied region in the temporal cortex, dubbed the “secular spot” or “materialistic module,” could be largely responsible. There has been controversy over experiments suggesting that stimulating this area of the temporal lobes can induce the illusion of materialism.

The "Sam Harris Switch"

Dr. Firefly says that it is already possible to use machines to mimic the type of brain activation that atheists experience. "It's feasible to bring people into such a state where the mind is reduced to such machine or robot-like experiences." This research might eventually be used to undo the deleterious mental and physiological health effects that various studies have linked to the absence of religiosity, he suggests.

But many secular scientists and people with materialistic beliefs would be opposed to such an idea because it suggests that the philosophy of scientific materialism is just "junk metaphysics," a stubborn but ultimately superstitious illusion rooted in our evolved nervous system, says Dr. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, professor of applied voodoo and witchcraft and an authority on authoritarianism at Dawkins College in New York.

"I don't know what useful information can be gleaned from this study," Wagstaff says. "Just because we have an advanced diagnostic technique doesn't mean we should use it on anything that comes to mind," he says. "People's beliefs are sacred, even if they're technically profane."

However, his colleague, Professor Hackenbush, says that neuroscientists are keen to explore the brain activity that underlies atheism because... because... because they have nothing better to do, and there’s a lot of grant money involved.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Little Something About Nothing

Here is the procedure I am following: 1) skimming each and every post; 2) extracting any passage that strikes me on any level for any reason; 3) placing it in file for that year (or sometimes half-year, since there's too much); 4) subsequently reviewing (and re-reviewing and re-re-reviewing) the material for each year in a more ruthlessly critical way, tossing out the fat, i.e., the transient, trite, repetitive, cute, clever, facile, pompous, BoBastic, etc.; all the while waiting for the deeper organization to emerge from the fog.

I've sketched out a crude cosmic map on a large piece of cardboard, roughly three by four feet. Naturally it has God at the top, with all the rest flowing down and out from that absolute principle (and then back up). Problem is, there are dozens of categories which I need to tighten up in a more coherent way.

Hmm. I notice there are many trinities, such reason-empiricism-mysticism, sense-knowledge-presence, truth-will-beauty, order-disorder-chaos, and a lot of complementarities too, such as self-other, male-female, world-God, ascent-descent, vertical-horizontal, whole-part, time-eternity, etc. Perhaps the music of the cosmos is played in 3/2 time.

I just now realized I need a "higher" or deeper" category above, behind, within, or at least in dialectic with God, AKA Beyond-Being, the apophatic God, Eckhart's ground, etc. This principle is not nothing!

Well, to be perfectly vague, it is nothing, but only from the finite perspective (with which it is always in dialectic). But it is critical to bear in mind that its shadow runs through everything, all the way down. It is why, in reality, no man knows anything about anything.

In other words, no matter how much we "know," it's all still a Great Mystery, and a big part of spiritual life is the (vertical) recollection of this Primordial Fact, thereby "withdrawing" all of our day-to-day projections that create and sustain the various pseudo-realities we otherwise inhabit.

For truly, without this vertical recollection we are like spiders who spin webs out of our own psycho-pneumatic substance, and then inhabit the webs. It is very easy to see another person's web. A psychologist does this -- or used to do this, anyway -- on a professional basis. But now psychologists actually help to maintain the web(s), such that the person who spun it can't even stand back from and examine it! (In other words, it is the same war on transcendence common to all forms of fascism.)

Consider the following headline from the I-Can't-Even Department: American Psychological Association Labels 'Traditional Masculinity' as 'Harmful'. I'm not going to bother reading the story, but I can assure you the real problem is the toxic femininity that has infiltrated and devastated the entire field, such that it has become such a joke. If that is psychology, then we have to invent a new word for what Jordan Peterson and I and a few other outlaws are talking about.

Anyway, this morning, while doing a re-review of 2006, I found the following passage by Roger Kimball, in reference to Roger Scruton:

Scruton comes bearing news about permanent things, one part of which is the evanescence of human aspiration. Hence the governing word "loss." There is a sense in which conservatism is anti-Romantic, since it is constitutionally suspicious of the schemes of perfection Romanticism typically espouses.

But there is another sense in which conservatism is deeply Romantic: the sense in which it recognizes and embraces the ineradicable frailty, the ultimate futility, of things human. "And so," Scruton writes, "I acquired consciousness of death and dying, without which the world cannot be loved for what it is. That, in essence is what it means to be a conservative.”

Scruton writes that, “without the consciousness of loss, there is nothing a conservative would find worth conserving. It is only by facing up to loss... that we can build on the dream of ultimate recuperation.” As such, “one of the most harrowing depredations of the modern world is to rob us of the religious sense, which is to say the sense of loss.” Too often, Scruton notes, “there is neither love nor happiness -- only fun. For us, one might be tempted to suggest, the loss of religion is the loss of loss.”

So, recollection of Death is one way to stay in dialectic with the Nothing referenced above.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Year, Old Posts

A fresh new open thread for a bright new year. Although I agree with Dennis Prager that it will get dark quickly.

Yes, I'm actually doing it: I've been undertaking the distasteful task of reviewing each post from 2005 onward, and am finding it to be a mythic combination of the Sisyphean and Augean: in other words, like pushing a vast stable full of excrement up a steep mountainside, only to watch it roll back down and inundate me under a steaming pile of verbiage.

I must have skimmed 500 or so, and am definitely not finding what I'm looking for. Of course, it would help to know what I'm looking for, but I'm waiting for the search to reveal its object. If I knew what I was looking for, I'd already have it, now wouldn't I?

Every once in awhile I come across a paragraph that doesn't totally irritate me, or that I think I might be able to use for the yet-unknown purpose, but the overall impression is "I guess you had to be there." Or maybe I'm just not qualified to judge -- like I can dish it out but can't taste it.

Oh well. Back to the stable.