Saturday, September 07, 2019

Logocide, Soul Murder, and the Death of Common Sense

Some of you may recall a book we discussed a couple years ago, called Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea, by Robert Curry. Well, Curry has written a sequel, Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World, due out later this month. He was kind enough to send me a copy, so now I have something new to write about.

But before doing so, I want to review what I've already written about common sense, beginning with this post from five years ago, originally titled It All Starts with Dictionary Abuse -- which it surely does, "It" meaning the uncommon sense -- or rather, common nonsense -- of the left. For as Dávila says in one of his most important aphorisms about the left, it is a lexicographical tactic more than an ideological strategy. Meaning that always and everywhere, the left begins by torturing the plain meaning of words -- words such as "freedom," or "rights," or "equity," or "justice."

In the counter-cosmos of the left, In the beginning was the word, and the word was redefined. The left knows as well as anyone that language has magical properties. The difference between us and them is that they co-opt the magic in order to seize and expand their own power. Which transforms it to black magic, precisely. It is a kind of demonic transubstantiation in which the form remains but the substance changes (e.g., "homosexual marriage").

Ultimately the left breaks the sacred covenant between word and thing, such that language is only about more language (as in deconstruction, the precise opposite of the metaphysical realism of orthodox Christianity). This effectively blocks the way to transcendence, thus enclosing us in a manmade immanent logosphere. This is what totalitarianism does, every time: the means of our escape is transformed into the means of our enslavement. A number of aphorisms go to this diabolical process, such as

In certain eras the intelligence has to devote itself merely to restoring definitions.

Marxism turns the intelligence that it touches to stone.

The leftist does not have opinions, only dogmas (NGD).

In other words -- and you must understand this literally -- the leftist lives in an ontologically closed world whereby verticality is denied in favor of an absurcular horizontality in which unavoidable ignorance is transformed to smug certitude.

Or maybe you didn't catch any of the seven-hour climate scarathon on CNN the other night, in which the candidates promised to outlaw everything from cheeseburgers to plastic straws on the grounds that they will end Life On Earth. Worst weather report ever. Notice how their cheap omniscience -- after all, it didn't cost them a thing, not even their private jets -- is transformed into a very costly denial of our freedom. They know. We pay.

Anyway, on to the old post:

Everyone is in favor of common sense, right?

No. In fact, I think this is another one of those questions that distinguishes left from right. You could say that conservatism is simply the conservation of common sense -- of time-rested general agreement about the Way Things Are and how to order our lives around these truths (in other words, the world, AKA reality, comes first, not our ideas, dreams, and fantasies).

The leftist would respond, "maybe, but a great deal of oppression and stupidity also get imported along with the good, so there is no intrinsic reason to defer to the past. We can always do better."

People don't generally think too deeply about common sense, which is one reason why it can be difficult to defend when challenged, as in "who are you to say that marriage must be limited to members of the opposite sex?"

That's not an honest question; rather, it is simply the aggressive abandonment of common sense. We know this, because one might just as well ask, "why limit marriage to just two people, or to human beings, or to living things? Why do you arbitrarily exclude robots, or sheep, or inflatable partners?" Once you go down that path, you've abandoned common sense, so there's no end to it.

A book I'm reading at the moment, The Common Mind, goes to this question of common sense. It's actually a collection of essays, each devoted to a thinker who championed the common sense of Christian humanism in the face of the hostile and regressive forces that are always arrayed against it, in every age. It seems that this is what fallen man does, by virtue of his fallenness. It reminds me of Russell Kirk's brief definition of conservatism, which is to say: the negation of ideology.

Yeah, it's always been this way, and always will be. There are always omnnisicent asssouls such as Obama who want to fundamentally transform the world, and in so doing conduct a frontal assault on common sense. In the words of Samuel Johnson,

It remains that we retard what we cannot repel, that we palliate what we cannot cure. Life may be lengthened by care, though death cannot be ultimately defeated.

At best we may give "longevity to that which its own nature forbids to be eternal." Which implies that the left will ultimately succeed in destroying the United States, just as death will succeed in taking us all, but so what? It remains for us to do the right thing for its own sake, not for some secondary gain.

To paraphrase someone, there is no lost cause because there is no permanently gained one. Rather, there is only the same struggle, as each generation tries to hold the ground gained by the previous one, handing forward the Deposit of Common Sense. (Along these lines, I can't help thinking how my generation -- the Worst Generation ever, the Boomers -- not only failed to hand on this sacred deposit, but arrogantly tossed it overboard in the quest to begin anew, like Adam 2.0: this time we'll get it right, and we will be as gods!)

It's the same with language. One of the perennial tactics of the left is its relentless attack on language, which is the vehicle of common sense. It is as if there is a conserving and integrating force in language, to go along with a dis-integrating and catabolic force. In reality, both are needed -- conservation and change -- in order to progress. As it pertains to Life Itself, change is the very means of conservation, and vice versa.

But progress does not and cannot occur by destroying the very mechanism of conservation, by undermining the plain meaning of words. Thus, one could say that there is nothing quite as conservative as a dictionary; likewise, on the political plane one could say that there is nothing as conservative as the Constitution (which naturally allows for constitutional change, just as language allows for new words; conversely, progress is negated by pretending the Constitution means anything we want it to mean).

But this simple common sense won't do for the left. For example, the Constitution plainly forbids discrimination on the basis of race, so the left (to paraphrase Justice Scalia) is in the position of arguing that the 14th amendment actually requires what it expressly forbids. In order to accept their argument, one must simply abandon common sense.

In the chapter on Chesterton, I was reminded of his comment to the effect that most all philosophy since Aquinas requires us to accept one insane premise. Once we have done so, the rest of the insanity follows with ineluctable logic. It makes it easy, because one doesn't have the burden of remembering dozens of lies. Rather, so long as one assimilates the first, the rest flows along from entailment to entailment. Which Adam learned the hard way.

"Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody's system of philosophy has really corresponded to everybody's sense of reality" (Chesterton). Which is interesting right there, because why not? If there is a common reality and a common human nature, then why can't we all agree on a common philosophy?

One reason why Aquinas' philosophy is so attractive is that it comports with common sense. It is "the philosophy of sanity since it is integrative, universal, sensible, and reiterative of the common understanding of experience rooted in the senses and refined by reason." And what is sanity? It is simply the registration of objective reality, "the universal wholeness that connects man and God, matter and mind, heart and soul." If there is no common reality knowable by a common human nature, then there is no sanity either. In case you were wondering why the left is insane.

Again, most modern philosophies begin with "a particular point of view demanding the sacrifice" of sanity. In short, a man must "believe something that no normal man would believe," if that something were expressed in a simple and straightforward manner. Which is precisely why leftism must always lie about itself, and why it must so relentlessly abuse the poor dictionary.

Thus, modern philosophies reflect and assist "the breakdown of reality, the disintegration of belief and the fragmentation of society."

So yes, liberalism is liberating, but from what and for whom? From reality, and for the abnormal, the insane, the lacking in common sense, the envious, the angry, the auto-victimized, the sexually confused, the tenured. For the rest of us it is mental slavery, slavery being a symptom of the absence of the rule of natural reason, and denial of any appeal to the court of common sense.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but abuse of words can destroy a soul.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Face the Facts: No God, No Persons

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

In this famous passage, Paul gets to the heart of what it means to be seen and re-cognized, and therefore to have one's being -- one's humanness -- validated and made real. Made real, as in

God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.

And Love is the act that transforms its object from a thing into a person (NGD).

God, love, person, existence, transformation. All are fundamentally related.

In the book I referenced yesterday, Vision and Separation, the author writes that

The "space" of self-consciousness is a secondary development within the field of consciousness. It arises when the subject (the child) becomes aware of the looking of the object. It is the space within which the person looks at himself through the eyes of the other.

I often speak of consciousness as interface, or inter-face. This is to emphasize that both consciousness and self-consciousness, and the symbols that mediate these experiences, only arise between faces, in other words, in an interpersonal setting, within which relations between persons... are formative.

In fact, infant observation studies have been conducted in which mothers maintain a deadpan expression, but otherwise respond normally to their infant in every way. As you might imagine, the infants quickly become visibly distressed. They are literally dis-oriented, since the mother's face is not only the center of their universe, but their primary means of managing their own internal states.

In other words, the child looks to the mother to "know what's going on," both outside and "inside," in the emotional world. Without the mOther, the child is submerged in unintelligible experience, much like a crybullying snowflake college student who lashes out at projected fragments of unmetabolized emotional experience.

Like any other system, the facial recognition system -- in which we feel the need to be recognized by other faces -- can go awry. For example, pathological narcissism essentially revolves around an exaggerated or even bottomless need for human mirroring in order to fill a deficit inside.

The problem here is that the narcissistic mirroring doesn't reach to the level of being, but only touches a superficial "false self" unconsciously constructed by the narcissist. This means that the narcissist is actually in control of the process, and isn't truly "giving" or exposing his true self to the other. That would be too risky.

One can understand why so many narcissists gravitate toward entertainment, politics, and media, since these are an ideal way to submit a false self to a bunch of anonymous faces for validation.

But deep down the narcissist has a well-founded contempt for the loser who would idealize him, of all people, so he has some dim unconscious recognition that he is filling himself with psychic junk food. It tends to become addictive, since you can never get enough of what you don't really need.

I recently read a book called Mimesis and Science, which goes into some of the latest research on the centrality of the Face in human development. One author compares it to a force of attraction, much like gravity, except operating in interior space:

That natural force of cohesion, which alone grants access to the social, to language, to culture, and indeed to humanness itself, is simultaneously mysterious and obvious, hidden in and of itself, but dazzling in its effects -- like gravity and the attraction of corporeal masses in Newtonian space.

If gravity did not exist, life on earth would be impossible. Similarly, if this remarkable force that attracts human beings to one another, that unites them... -- if this force did not exist, there would be no humanity.

Yup. Makes one wonder if the physics of gravity is posterior to the physics of love, a la Dante, who speaks of ultimate reality as the love that moves the sun and other stars.

In the same canto, he describes a barely effable vision of circles, one of which seemed reflected by the second, / as rainbow is by rainbow, and a third, which is like fire breathed equally by those two circles. And then

I searched that strange light: I wished to see / the way in which our human effigy / suited the circle and found a place in it.

Back to Mimesis and Science:

from the very start, psychological actuality is found between individuals.... The self and the other are thus bound together in a fundamental way at the point of origin by a tie that is ontological and existential....

The genesis of the self cannot take place except by the mediation of the other and simultaneously with the other in a process of differentiation that is gradual and reciprocal.

I'm sure this is why For God there are only individuals (DNC); and why, conversely, without God, there could be no individuals.

Monday, September 02, 2019


It turns out that anthropology and cosmology, I and It, are entangled in surprising ways. Recall that the reign of dualism supposedly got underway with Descartes' division of mind and matter. Everyone forgets that even he saw the absurdity of this, for which reason the whole system falls apart without God. The reasoning goes something like this:

"I think, therefore I am."

"Yes, but how do you know that's really true?"

"Er... because God wouldn't deceive us?"

So Descartes sneaks in a -- or The -- first principle at the end, which is pre-posterous (which literally means putting the post- before the pre-). For there is no doubt that the cosmos is intelligible and that man may know it; and that these can only be true because the universe is created. In other words: if the universe is intelligible to us, it was created. If it isn't intelligible, then we cannot know whether or not it was created. And if it isn't created, then we could never know it.

In short, the createdness of things illuminates the intimate relationship between cosmology and anthropology, which are unified in knowledge, or Truth.


[O]ur history is advancing to an 'omega' point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to us to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter; that, on the contrary, 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.

There exists a "process of 'complexification' of material being through spirit," through which emerges "a new kind of unity." (I would say "unities," for that is what time -- and evolution -- do: create new and higher -- which is to say, more "dense" and "deep" -- unities.)

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


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

So, the ever-increasing complexification of the cosmos ends -- as far as we can determine -- in the human person. We say this because we cannot imagine something "beyond a person" except for God. We can, however, imagine more of a person, which goes to the sanctification process, i.e., theosis.

There is literally nothing as complex as the human brain-and-nervous-system, what with its 10 billion neurons and 10 to the 14th power synaptic connections. I'm better at myth than math, but if I understand rightly, this means that in this immense social network, each neuron can apparently friend up to 14 others.

That's a lot of synapses, so many that if you were to attempt to compute their possible combinations, it would take longer than this cosmos is going to last. Which is just another way of saying that we'll never run out of melodies, poems, paintings, or jokes. Creativity is forever. Which reminds me:

If God were not a person, He would have died some time ago (NGD).

Now, this cosmoplexification revolves around a personal center, and that's what makes it so interesting (or any other adjective, for that matter, for adjectives can only be relative to persons). Think of all that computing power in the human brain, and yet, it all resolves into the simple, unitary experience of an "I" at the center of the neural storm.

This "I" not only manages to resolve all that micro-neural activity, but it also unifies various macro-brain structures such as left and right cerebral hemispheres, limbic system, language area, etc., plus subjective/vertical structures from the primitive unconscious to the transhuman supraconscious -- all spontaneously and without effort. Rather, it "just happens."

You could say that this is similar to other infinitely complex systems, say, the US economy. For example, at the end of the day, you can hear on the news that the stock market gained or lost this or that amount of wealth.

This latter is presented as a unitary quantity, but of course it's just an abstraction, plus it has no actual center. There is no "I" in the middle of all that economic activity saying to itself "I really cleaned up today!," or "today I really lost my shirt, and it's all Trump's fault!"

A person is the apex of cosmic intelligence, but it turns out -- or so we have heard from the wise -- that the "center" represented by the person actually extends all the way down.

In other words, it is not as if the cosmos evolves to a certain point, and then there appears this inexplicable thing called a person, like the frosting on a cake. Rather, there is a kind of "centration" that is present everywhere and everywhen, only in more or less attenuated forms.

For example, when Jesus says "Before Abraham was, I am," he's expressing our point, albeit more enigmatically. This needs to be understood in the context of other biblical statements such as "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," "I AM WHO I AM," "When He prepared the heavens I was there," and "When He drew a circle on the face of the deep... I was beside him."

Also, in the extra-biblical but orthoparadoxical Gospel of Thomas, Jesus asks, "Have you found the beginning that you look to the end? Where the end is, is where the beginning is. Blessed is the one who stands at the beginning, for the one who stands at the beginning will know the end"; and even more to the point, "Blessed is the one who comes into being before he came into being."

All of these statements go to the idea of the person being anterior to all phenomena; or of phenomena "extending," so to speak, from the Person. Otherwise there would be no phenomena.

Human beings are of course "social animals," but it is possible to be social without being completely interior to, or inside, one another.

For example, bees and ants exchange information with each other and act as a group, but they don't think about it. You might say that the "center" of a bee hive is dispersed throughout the colony, rather than being present in its totality in each bee.

But in the case of humans, the center is in the individual.

The left attempts to subvert and undo this individual centration by forcing people to identify with race, class, ethnicity, gender, and what have you, but this is the very essence of a regressive barbarism, as it recalls a time in human history prior to the emergence -- the revelation -- of the free and autonomous person.

Personhood, although implicit, can only explicate itself in an interpersonal space, i.e., the space between subjects. An old textbook of mine says that "the self, as a conceivable entity, is formed -- or de-formed, or re-formed -- at that place where the Other's view meets with the felt substance of the person" (Wright). As biology makes matter come alive, intersubjectivity renders neurobiology personal.

By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face (NGD).