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.

UPDATE

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.