Friday, September 13, 2019

The Self-Evident Truth Society

Reader James asks (or asked five years ago): "How does Cosmic Orthodoxy relate to common sense? Or to self-evident truths? If you were to start 'The Self-Evident Truth Society: Dedicated to Halting the Abandonment of Common Sense,' what would be your top ten cosmic orthodox principles, or self-evident truths?"


--Thinking is often reduced to inventing reasons to doubt what is evident.

--Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest.

--Man goes out hunting less for truths than for loopholes.

--The lesser truths tend to eclipse the highest truths.

And one of my all time favorites -- indeed, a guiding principle of the book I'm supposedly working on:

--In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter (Dávila).

Also, I might remind the reader of a book we've discussed in the past, Robert Spitzer's Ten Universal Principles.

Now, Sr. Dávila exaggerates just a bit, which he is wont to do in the pursuit of inducing a guffah HA! experience in the reader. The larger orthoparadoxical point is that we often need to know a little in order to understand a lot; and conversely, that a great deal of knowledge can interfere with deeper understanding. Often this is because, as Dávila says

--In order for a multitude of diverse terms to coexist, it is necessary to place them on different levels. A hierarchical ordering is the only one that neither expels nor suppresses them.

Which is what he means when he says "Any straight line leads straight to a hell."

So, the first principle is God -- or O -- but this principle obviously isn't on the same level as the others, but rather, is the reason why there are any principles at all: no Principle, no principles; no Creator, no creation; no Absolute, no relative; no Person, no persons. Etc.

In short, hierarchy. Note that the hierarchy is not a duality, or else we are in Gnostic/Manichean land. And what's wrong with that? Well, it reduces to two ultimate principles, which is impossible because self-contradictory. But nor do we posit an absolute monism that excludes relativity. Rather, for reasons we may or may not get into with this post, we posit a trinitarian godhead, such that the many is always in the One, and vice versa.

On to the old post:

In The Common Mind we read of "the attempt to integrate the intellect with the whole personality, and in so doing oppose intellectualism." This would be an example of a Cosmic Principle, but difficult to express in the form of a Top Ten list, for it implies, and is implied by, so many other truths.

Such as?

Such as the principle that man is in the image and likeness of the Creator; that man -- uniquely among creatures -- spans the vertical spectrum from the lowest to the highest planes, for better and/or worse; that knowledge is em-bodied and in-carnated; or even prior to this, that man is adequate to reality, not vis-a-vis his fragmented and desiccated ego-mind, but with his unified soul-intellect.

Conversely, mere intellectualism is the way of the tenured, of the infertile egghead who imagines (in the lower sense) that truth can be contained within an ideology, e.g., scientism, feminism, progressivism, etc. ("The learned fool has a wider field to practice his folly." --NGD).

Only with higher intellect do we preserve the essential "otherness" of primordial truth, which is always relational and therefore personal. Anything (hierarchically) short of this is idolatry pure and simple. And idolatry places a wall between person and God. Pure and simple².

Recall Mayor Giuliani's theory of aesthetics: if I can do it, it isn't art. Similarly, if we can grasp it with our shriveled tenureMind, it cannot possibly be true. Moreover -- and this is a somewhat advanced aphorism, as it assumes a degree of activated CoonVision -- It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false.

Such as? Oh, such as the ten supremely creepy beings on the debate stage last night. My discarnate friend Petey spontaneously knows that "what" they say -- as disturbing as it is -- isn't as disturbing as "who" they are.

Now, Darwin, who was far more intellectually honest than his latter day wackolytes, was rightly puzzled by the question of why -- i.e., by virtue of what principle -- we should ever trust the blithering cognitions of a modified ape. For if an ape is capable of knowing truth, this is no mere ape but an entirely novel cosmic category irreducible to random genetic error. Look, if you've discovered the truth of man, you are more than a man, let alone ape. How to explain the explanation (or better, explainer)?

Which is again why even a literalist reading of Genesis is more true than a strict Darwinian approach, because the former is true where it counts, i.e., on the human plane. Indeed, it preserves our humanness where Darwinism necessarily unexplains and eliminates it, such that if metaphysical Darwinism is true, it is false.

Reason only permits us to proceed from the known to the unknown. Thus rationalism begins with what it needs to explain, that is, the prior human ability to know. Therefore, it seems to me that two of our Top Ten principles must surely be that reality is intelligible and that man may know it. But these are really two sides of the same principle, which is Creation, or Rational Creator (or Person).

Therefore, in my view, to even talk about "truth" is to implicitly acknowledge the Creator. The problem with the left -- and with its retarded sister, scientism -- is that it neither acknowledges its own first principles nor follows them all the way to their inevitable conclusions, which is why they are so free to engage in such sloppy thinking. Dávila:

The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them.

In The Common Mind, (lower case r) reason is opposed to common sense, the latter of which "perceives truth, or commands belief, not by progressive argumentation, but by an instantaneous, instinctive, and irresistible impulse; derived neither from education nor from habit, but from nature..."

In other words, transnatural intellection is to the human being what natural instinct is to the animal. Among other things, it is a homing instinct that orients us to the truth -- or source of truth -- that precedes us and of which we are ultimately constituted.

Moore continues: "That which is self-evident can neither be proved nor disproved by reason or logic" -- for example, our self-evidently free will. To deny free will is only to affirm it, since a truth not freely arrived at is no truth at all.

There may be an even more general principle behind the ideas discussed in this post. Perhaps it is this: that reality both Is and is anterior to our knowing it. But in knowing this we know that knowledge is always bound up with this prior reality in which we participate through assimilation.

Correct thinking requires a kind of negation. To paraphrase Russell Kirk, conservatism is the negation of ideology. Leftism is a parody of this, in that it is the negation of principle (or the blind acceptance of unarticulated principles). There is a big difference between a political animal and an animal with politics. Only the former can know and understand this self-evident principle.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wisdom, Maturity, Common Sense

More common sense from five years ago. If it was commonsensical then, it should still be today, no? In other words, if common sense exists, one of its characteristics would be that it never goes out of style. What's the word? Yes, perennial. The perennial wisdom.

Speaking of which, Dennis Prager's latest column explains how good intentions in the absence wisdom redounds to evil. Does wisdom equate to common sense? Not exactly. It seems to me that wisdom is distilled from common sense -- that no one lacking in common sense can be called wise, but wisdom is more refined and articulated.

Another important element in any discussion of common sense is "maturity." People lacking in common sense are immature, but in a literal way, in the sense that maturity implies a telos to psychological development. Failure to mature is the sine qua non of character pathology, in that the personality, either in whole or in part, has failed to attain its proper end (no different from any other organ). Davila has a number of aphorisms that go to maturity, common sense, and wisdom, such as

--The young mature when the old no longer seems automatically bad and the new no longer seems automatically good.

--To mature is to discover that every object desired is only the metaphor for the transcendent object of our desire.

--To mature is to transform an increasing number of commonplaces into authentic spiritual experience.

--To mature is to see the increase of the number of things about which it seems grotesque to give an opinion for or against.

--The independence of which every youth boasts is no more than submission to the new prevailing fashion.

--Young people believe that youth is a destination, when it is merely a provincial bus stop.

Wisdom, according to Schuon, "is simple, inasmuch as its expressions converge on That which alone is, and wisdom has the gift of simplifying; but it also comprises, for that very reason, all the sanctifying riches which the human soul, so diverse in its nature, may need during its pilgrimage towards the Immutable."

And where we are situated on the Pilgrimage Towards the Immutable must be a measure of our degree of maturity, eh?

On to the old post:

Is there such a thing as common sense, or has it been successfully eradicated by the Big Education of the state? If it does exist, what is it, and how does it work? Is it something a person has by virtue of his personhood, or is it something only acquired through experience? And if the latter, is it through personal experience, or the collective experience of generations who have had to face the same existential conditions? And where does one acquire such collective wisdom? From the family? Culture? Education? The state?

What if the most important things not only can't be taught, but can't even be clearly articulated? Rather, they can only be lived and maybe symbolized, but not with language per se. A passage lifted from Happy Acres resonates:

The challenge for each new generation is figuring out what’s worth keeping and what worth tinkering with. The progressive attitude is that everything is eligible not just for tinkering, but wholesale replacement. The people who lived yesterday were idiots, but we are geniuses!

Which goes to something Schuon said on a number of occasions: that if people prior to us were such idiots, it is impossible to explain how we could be so brilliant, given the crooked and even diseased timber from which we are made. It's almost as if progressives posit a kind of cognitive original sin that strangled the mentality of every man until this angelic breed suddenly and inexplicably arrived on the scene with their immaculate and sinless intellects. As if they are literally the ones we've been waiting for.

But "The conservative attitude is to assume that our parents and grandparents weren’t fools and that they did some things for good reasons." However, as alluded to above, it is possible that these reasons were never consciously thought out or articulated. Rather, perhaps "some things our forebears bequeathed us are good for no 'reason' at all."

This is consistent with Hayek, who "argued that many of our institutions and customs emerged from 'spontaneous order' -- that is, they weren’t designed on a piece of paper, they emerged, authorless, to fulfill human needs through lived experience, just as our genetic 'wisdom' is acquired through trial and error. Paths in the forest aren’t necessarily carved out on purpose. Rather they emerge over years of foot traffic."

Which reminds me of something I read in Lawrence in Arabia. It is impossible to imagine the vastness of the desert, which is like a featureless ocean of sand and rocks. However, the Bedouins don't simply wander around blindly. Rather, the sandscape is dotted with the occasional well, so if we were to map the human phase space of the desert, we would actually see well worn (but invisible) paths from well to well.

Well, it's the same with the human mindscape. One of the fondest principles of progressives is that the mind is indeed a trackless desert -- a blank slate -- and therefore infinitely malleable. Absent that dubious principle, then progressive schemes cannot get off the ground, because people are going to persist in being people, and there's not a damn thing the state can do about it.

This explains why progressive schemes often get a few inches off the ground, only to promptly crash and burn. Which then requires another progressive scheme to put out the fire and clean up the mess. Repeat ad infinitum.

Continuing with the Happy Acres passage,

In the parable of the fence, Chesterton says you must know why the fence was built before you can tear it down. But Burke and Hayek get at something even deeper: what if no one built the fence?... Or what if everyone built the fence without realizing it? What if we are surrounded by fences that were never consciously built or planned but were instead the natural consequence of lived experience?

Do you think beavers wonder about how to defend their tradition of dam building, or that spiders worry about the environmental impact of their webs? Similarly, "So much of what makes civilization civilized is intangible, spontaneous, and mysterious. An unknowable number of our greatest laws are hidden, our greatest wisdom is authorless, and our most valuable treasures are in our hearts. This should foster enormous humility about how to out-think humanity."

I think this explains how and why the people who try to outthink humanity are always lacking in common sense, even if they are otherwise "geniuses." For example, Albert Einstein: genius at physics. Immature boob at politics. Noam Chomsky: they say he's a savant at linguistics, but this hardly prevents him from being an idiot at everything else.

Bion said something about the limitations of language, to the effect that we run into trouble when we try to use this device designed to negotiate the physical world to map the psychic -- let alone spiritual -- world. Obviously, in order to accomplish the latter, we will have to use language in a different way, if we can accomplish it at all.

To cite one particularly obvious example, if you want to be perfectly literal, then there can be no name, no word, for God. As soon as you confer a name, you have placed a boundary around the boundless and signified the unsignifiable.

But there are many things of this nature -- even the most important things in life. I would say that there is a kind of permanent dialectic between knowledge and mystery -- (k) and O -- and that to pretend to have transcended or eliminated the latter is to drain life of all its romance, charm, and adventure. Think about this the next time you imagine you could do a better job at creating a cosmos: how to make one that is simultaneously infinitely knowable and yet infinitely mysterious?

In my opinion, this can only be because the cosmos is personal and from the hand of a person, since a person is the quintessential case of something infinitely knowable and yet utterly mysterious and "other."

You could say that we are talking literally about embodied -- or incarnated -- truth(s).

Fine observation by Eliot, also lifted from Happy Acres, about "the decline of religious sensibility." Sensibility is not sense per se, but sensation in a higher key, so to speak -- like good taste in music or poetry.


The trouble of the modern age is not merely the inability to believe certain things about God and man which our forefathers believed, but the inability to feel towards God and man as they did. A belief in which you no longer believe is something which to some extent you can still understand; but when religious feeling disappears, the words in which men have struggled to express it become meaningless (emphasis mine).

Thus, there are any number of things in which human beings believe because they understand them, even without being able to explain how or why. This goes back to Paul's crack about faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not (yet) seen. This "substance" is the ground of being, while the evidence is its end; or, just say origin and destiny, which is where we always are, because we are in (created and personal and meaningful) being.

When we talk about the "social issues" at the root of the culture war, the problem is that we are mostly talking about pre- or trans-articulated, embodied knowledge, or common sense. In his latest Jonah Goldberg writes of how these are also connected to

the role and authority of the family. Arguments about abortion, gay marriage, obscenity, sex ed, etc. all connect to the family directly or indirectly. Even gun rights have a lot to do with the family, and not just because 'gun culture' is primarily learned in the home. Guns fit neatly into the conception of the autonomous family and the role of parents as primary protectors of their children.


no institution transmits culture more effectively than the family. We learn language, dialect, and accents in the home.... We get most of our religion and morality at home. We learn from our parents how citizens behave in a society and what they should expect from society and government. It's important to keep in mind that while parents teach their kids by telling them things, the real learning comes from watching what parents do — or don't do. Kids are wired to emulate their parents (emphasis mine).

Here again, we're talking about incarnated and largely unarticulated knowledge, i.e., how to "be" (i.e., the "unthought known"). Which is in turn "why progressives of all labels have had their eye on the family. It is the state's greatest competition."

Or to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson -- now, there was an honest and honestly nasty progressive! -- said, "the primary mission of the educator is to make children as unlike their parents as possible."

Which is ultimately to make them as unlike human beings as possible. Well done.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Common Sense, Common Core, Common Crap

Here's a tasty repost that's even older than yesterday's exotic repast. Again, in preparation for diving into Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World, we're taking a trip down into the moldy hull of the arkive in order to see what we've already written on the subject of common sense.

Which you might be tempted to think is boring or trivial. Quite the opposite, especially in our mentally and spiritually retarded day and age, in which common sense is under assault from all sides. The question is, why? You wouldn't teach a child to stare at the sun or play with matches. Why then would you teach him that people have no gender until they decide what it is?

By the way, these old posts are extensively edited and revised, so there's no excuse to avoid reading them unless you just don't feel like it.

We've been exploring the controversial (!) notion that knowledge exists and that it is a real and efficacious adequation to reality -- i.e., that man may know the truth of existence.

Before going any further, I would say that if common sense exists, it can only be rooted in this principle: that knowledge does exist and that (therefore) it is a real and efficacious adequation to reality. Schematically it looks like this: reality --> knowledge; knowledge exists because there is a reality, but equally important, we know reality exists because we have knowledge of it.

You know the old gag that all happy families are alike, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way? Well, it's not true of families, but it is true of common sense. We might say that all people with common sense are alike, while every person without it is stupid in his own way. It's why (by definition) there can only be one true philosophy but an infinite number of false ones.

A false or partial philosophy results from the elevation of cosmic stupidity to first principle. But stupidity in, garbage out, no matter how one tries to spin it. Conversely if truth comes out of your philosophy, something must go in in order to make it possible. By extension, you can't say "chemistry in, soul out," or "chaos in, information out," and leave it at that. That's just magic.

Speaking of which, a couple of days ago the WSJ had a review of a book called Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self. Now, right away I see problems with that title, because there can be no "science" of the "self," because science deals only with the How, not the Why. A better title might be something like "Why Science Cannot Tell Us Anything Important About the Self," but it would be a blank book.


--The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

--To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

--Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything (NGD).

The author evidently searches for herself in all the wrong places, including her genes, brainscans, personality tests, and more. But as the reviewer correctly points out, "even if we could measure every atom in a brain, we would need creativity and ingenuity to add a layer of interpretation to the data, and complete comprehension would still remain beyond us."

Thus, as it pertains to persons, even the most complete possible science is infinitely distant from the "object" it is attempting to comprehend. Instead of being an adeqation to reality, it is an inadequation to unreality. Or, to put it colloquially, science is inadequate to the task of comprehending subjective reality.

This isn't at all surprising, because a scientific approach to the self is like counting the digital bits in a CD to try to understand the performance it encodes. The performance by definition not only transcends the bits, but is their sufficient reason. In other words, the bits exist for the sake of the performance, not vice versa.

In her final chapter, the author suggests that self-perception may be a fiction -- a conclusion that will make perfect sense to anyone who is totally bereft of personal insight. But self-deception only exists because there is a self to be deceived.

The author confesses that, in her quest for a scientific explanation of the self, she veered "dangerously close at times to the precipice of philosophy."

Oh dear! Speaking of people who are bereft of insight, how can someone fail to understand that science becomes a philosophy -- a naive philosophy called scientism -- when it tries to transform a method into a doctrine?

--Those who reject all metaphysics secretly harbor the coarsest (NGD).

The self partakes of both universality and particularity. In other words, we are all unique individuals, and yet, there exist self-evident truths available to all functioning adults. Much of this has to do with our embodied-ness, that is, our common corpus. We all have the same five senses, the same brain structure, the same developmental sequence.

Which raises some interesting questions about the possibility of a "common core." This subject has become controversial, because the left wants to impose its common crap on the nation's children, even while insisting there is no common human nature. Therefore, when they say "common core," what they really mean is indoctrination -- not what all humans can know, but what all humans had better know, or else, in order to be compliant subjects of the State (the one Great Body we really have in common).

A recent Hillsdale Imprimus touches on this subject. In it, Larry Arnn writes that a "true core" would have a "unifying principle, such as the idea that there is a right way to live that one can come to know."

But the leftist common core has precisely the opposite purpose: multiculturalism, for example, is founded upon the principle that all cultures are equally beautiful except ours, which is uniquely racist, misogynistic, imperialist, and homophobic.

Aren't you being a little polemical, Bob? Well, Arnn cites a passage from the Teacher's Guide for Advanced Placement, which tells us that such antiquated terms as "objectivity" and "factuality" have "lost their preeminence." Rather, instruction is "less a matter of transmittal of an objective and culturally sanctioned body of knowledge, and more a matter of helping individuals learn to construct their own realities."

Oh. Who knew we had to be taught how to live in our own realities? And who knew, for that matter, that reality had a plural? Indeed, if it has a plural form, doesn't that violate its own definition? In short, if "perception is reality," then neither of these terms exist, because in equating them they lose all meaning. In other words, perception must be of reality, and reality is what is perceived.

So, if we are going to have a "common core," I propose that it shouldn't exclude reality. Rather, I suspect that this thing called "reality" is what human beings have most in common.

This is because man is a kind of membrain between intelligence and reality. Ultimately, man is the point of contact between two spheres or dimensions.

In reading this short book on the apostle Paul, we are reminded that -- speaking of our cultural heritage -- "the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant... was considered the point of contact between God and man." Later, a sect of deviant Jews would come to regard Jesus as this point of contact, in whom we could participate in the Absolute reality. Interestingly, this is truly a "common corpus," AKA Corpus Christi.

This point of contact is actually a kind of abyss. In the absence of God, then it is the abyss of nothingness, with no possibility of a common core.

But in reality, this is an "abyss of divine goodness," and by plunging into it we are drawn up into the Great Attractor which we all share in common. In this sense, faith is a kind of conformity to reality, a cosmic Yes, whereas the faithlessness of the left is a cosmic NO! to God, to Man, and to the fertile reality in between.

Common sense is the father’s house to which philosophy returns, every so often, feeble and emaciated. --Dávila

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