Thursday, October 10, 2019

Am I Crazy or Just Ignorant?

Continuing our wild and wooly dialogue with Reclaiming Common Sense,

When Thomas Paine appealed to "common sense" to make the case for American independence, it probably never crossed his mind that there would ever be a need to make the case for common sense itself, at least not in America.

This is no different from the other senses, in that no eye witness has to first make the case for the existence of vision, just as no one who enjoys music has to first argue for the existence of ears. This doesn't mean there cannot be optical illusions or deafness, but these are disorders and privations. An optical illusion is parasitic on an optical reality.

But now we inhabit, as the cliche goes, a post-truth world, which immediately entails a post-knowledge world, or in other words, an ineradicably stupid world -- a world populated by incurably stupid people.

But then, Genesis 3 has been making this point for 3,000 years -- that the soul of man is wounded.

Yes, ignorance and grandiosity have always existed (Mr. Dunning meet Mr. Kruger), except they were presumed to be curable, or at least treatable. But now, thanks to the left, the treatment has literally become the disease it purports to cure. In short, both primary and higher education (in the humanities and increasingly in real subjects), the purpose -- or at least outcome -- is the eradication of common sense. Once that is accomplished, you can make a man believe anything.

All of this is not only predictable, but it has been understood for over a century. There have always been crazy and/or diabolical people, but again, the modern and postmodern left represent the institutionalization and veneration of these now privileged pathologies. Let's roll out some aphorisms as I gather my thoughts:

--The fool, to be perfect, needs to be somewhat educated.

--Instruction does not cure foolishness; it equips it.

--Until we come across instructed fools, instruction seems important.

--The State imposes obligatory and free instruction, for making a stupid man still stupider at the public expense.

--Man is an animal that can be educated, provided that he does not fall into the hands of progressive pedagogues.

--The learned fool has a wider field to practice his folly.

--Great stupidities do not come from the people. They have seduced intelligent men first

Douglas Murray's latest, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, elucidates some of the great stupidities that have swept through our progressive intelligentsia like a plague:

We are going through a great crowd derangement. In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant.... Yet while we see the symptoms everywhere, we do not see the causes.

Now, magnanimous soul that I am, I am even willing to stipulate that the derangement may reside in me. If this is the case -- if I am irrational, feverish, herd-like, and unpleasant -- I want to know about it, and I want to know why. As with any pathology, I want a diagnosis, I want to know the etiology, and I want a treatment plan. So let's keep an open mind about my own contact with reality, as I may simply be projecting my issues into this innocuous (or even helpful) entity I call "the left."

In short, if I am convinced they are crazy, but they are not at all crazy, then there's a good chance that I am actually crazy. That's how it works. In other works, the "crazy" is real; it's just a matter of locating where it is -- in whom it resides.

Murray -- who is conservative but irreligious -- adverts to one cause of our derangement, that

we have been living through a period... in which all our grand narratives have collapsed. One by one the narratives we had were refuted, became unpopular to defend or impossible to sustain. The explanations for our existence, that used to be provided by religion went first, falling away from the nineteenth century onwards.

Well, first of all, what do you mean "we," paleface? It is certainly true that in Europe religion has been successfully eradicated, but not in America. However, even here, it is accurate to say that a central tenet of postmodernity is that there are, and can be, no Grand Narratives -- no coherent explanation of existence -- and that all such attempts are just convenient myths for the cynical exertion of social control. They all reduce to power.

Now, I don't believe that at all. In fact, I think it's crazy, so here is an example of what was said above. I even wrote a book that attempts to outline the grandest of grand narratives. If these postmodern progressives are correct, then the real purpose of my narrative is to seize power. Maybe. I'll have to think about it, but I can say that so far it's not working. I already have my hands full just controlling myself, nor do I want the responsibility of controlling anyone else.

At any rate, "In the latter part of the twentieth century we entered the postmodern era. An era which defined itself, and was defined, by its suspicion towards all grand narratives."

Never mind the irony that that's a pretty grand narrative for a tenured primate to toss out of his Darwinian cage, but we'll let it pass. But not before pointing out that meta-nature abhors a vacuum, such that the anti-narrative itself becomes a narrative "through which new ideas begin to creep, with the intention of providing explanations and meanings of their own" (Murray).

Another principle I believe is that human beings are essentially religious and cannot not be religious. To the extent that they deny it, the religious instinct will simply attach itself to a non-religious object and elevate it to an absolute. In my grand narrative we call it "idolatry," and we see it everywhere.

Murray makes the same point from a different angle, writing that "People in wealthy Western democracies today could not simply remain the first people in recorded history to have absolutely no explanation for what we are doing here, and no story to give life purpose."

Right? Here again, one of us is crazy. I acknowledge my religiosity, and see the same deep structure in others, even if they deny it. In turn, they deny their own religiosity and conceive mine as a destructive delusion or cynical power grab. That's a pretty stark difference that cannot be reconciled by any dialectic. One of us is out of touch with reality.

Sorry to stop so abruptly, but I have to get some work done. We'll pick up the thread soon...

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

What's the Big Idea?

Almost no time this morning, or at least I ran out of it quickly. There's really only one idea in this post, but I suppose it's a big one, maybe the biggest.

"The core idea of common-sense realism," writes Curry, "is that there are self-evident truths -- truths which do not need to be proved." These truths "are the foundation of human understanding; they are the necessary basis for knowing anything at all" (emphasis mine).

Because these truths are so foundational, various parallel universes -- universes of pure ideology -- come into being with their denial. I mean this literally, because the universe includes its own fulfillment in the human subject, a la Whitehead. In other words, the human person is not incidental to the whole cosmic Hebang, but absolutely central.

Indeed, person is the ultimate category, both the source and summit of reality. Being and truth are essentially two sides of the same coin, which is precisely why knowledge of truth is possible. And if it is possible it is necessary -- for the same reason that if it is possible to avoid evil, it is necessary to do so. (In other words, our truth-knowing capacity entails an intrinsic moral demand, i.e., to know it and to not lie about it.)

Eh, probably didn't explain that too well. Let's just move on. Or better, maybe you've noticed those puzzling quotes by Voegelin and Schuon in the comment box. Both go to the point I'm trying to make:

The quest, thus, has no external 'object,' but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable (Voegelin); and Fundamentally there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence; with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite (Schuon).

Like a joke, you'll either get those or you won't. Each describes the ultimate movement of existence, and our participation in that movement. And since it happens, there must be a principle that explains how it is possible for it to happen. That principle is the Meta-cosmic Person.

In fact, when it fails to happen -- when there is a break in the circle from ineffable being to personal truth -- that's when one of those parallel universes branches into being. No, literally. By definition there is only one uni-verse, so all others are counterfeits.

Now, the universe is the totality and unicity of all objects (exteriorities), events (processes), and experiences (interiorities). Thus, to say, for example, that there are objects but no subjects (or that subjects are epiphenomenal) is to sever the cosmos at the root and veer into a parallel universe that can't even account for the absurd subject who posits and inhabits it.

Am I just digging a deeper hole? If so, I'll bet Dávila can help dig us out of it. Read them slowly so as to partake of their verticality, such that they launch you upward:

--The truth is objective but not impersonal.

--The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason.

--Truth is a person.

--The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.

--The universe is important if it is appearance, and insignificant if it is reality.

--The world is explicable from man; but man is not explicable from the world. Man is a given reality; the world is a hypothesis we invent.

--The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act. God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.

--The universe is a useless dictionary for someone who does not provide its proper syntax.

In each of these, we see the centrality of personhood, and how personhood is bound up with the reality behind appearances. It's just common sense!

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Sunday Sermon on Common Sense

Just some more free associations on the subject of common sense, beginning with an aphorism:

The liberal mentality is an angelic visitor impervious to earthly experiences.

As mentioned in the previous post, even God's Own Rules are subject to prudential judgment, AKA common sense. But the left can be defined as a devotion to ideology. It almost doesn't matter which ideology, as long as the ideology provides certitude, moral and intellectual superiority, and, most important, someone to hate.

For ultimately, The leftist does not have opinions, only dogmas, and the dogma always involves an enemy. Always: class enemies, male chauvinists, holders of White Privilege, the patriarchy, the police, MAGA hats, whatever.

Take, for example, global warming. The average liberal isn't drawn to the theory because of the science -- after all, a model that fails to predict is simply false -- but because of how good it feels to hurl condemnation at the evil beings who are not persuaded by the theory.

Note that they often begin with the flat-out, easily disprovable lie that "97% of scientists believe in catastrophic manmade global warming." If the first words out of your mouth in support of a theory are a grandiose lie, it doesn't inspire confidence in the theory.

But the theory is one of those "angelic visitors impervious to earthly experiences." And earthly temperatures. Not one of their models predicted that global temperature would be flat for the last fourteen years.

Or, consider the first words out of Joe Biden's mouth upon launching his presidential campaign: an easily disprovable lie about President Trump's supposed endorsement of white supremacism.

Note that these enormous lies aren't so much angelic as demonic visitors, unless we stipulate the existence of naughty angels. Awhile back we did a few posts on the nature of the devil, and one thing we know about him is that he "was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Now, unlike Petey, you needn't yet believe in a literal, extra-human devil in order to appreciate the deep archetypal truth of this biblical science. The Lie does not and cannot exist "before the beginning," because the Creator -- who is always before, beyond, and after the beginning -- is the essence of unalloyed truth.

However, it seems that the lie either co-arises with creation, or at least slithers its way into the cosmic drama with the appearance of man. Before man, there's no one to lie to except other fallen angels. It makes no sense to lie to an amoeba, a tree, or a dinosaur, only to a rational creature.

Here again, this is because the lie can only be parasitic on the truth, as irrationality can only be parasitic on reason. It isn't rational for my dog to bark at the UPS driver, but it's not irrational.

Which leads to another key point for humans, that reason itself becomes irrational the moment it imagines itself to be sufficient to explain the world. And every leftist ideology -- beginning with Marx -- does just this.

Yes, there's an aphorism for that, and if you fail to get it, the joke is most certainly on you:

“Irrationalist” is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism.

Yes, those angelic visitors impervious to earthly experience are beings of pure reason who shout at the rest of us for pointing out the vices of their pure reason. Or really, just say Gödel, for Gödel permanently liberates man from any prison of pure reason.

But the angelic visitors don't see it that way, and indeed, this touches directly on our primordial calamity, AKA the Fall. For what is the Fall but man's futile attempt to create and confine man to a counter-world superior to the created world which always transcends our manmade categories?

And Thank God -- literally! -- we are free from man's attempts to imprison man, for Happily, the world is inexplicable. (What kind of world would it be if it could be explained by man?)

No, that's not a rhetorical question, for first of all it would be a boring world, an endless Go-roundhog Day from which we could never escape. For in the end, What is not religious is not interesting. No, literally, for the domain of religion is precisely the much larger world that transcends reason because it is the source of reason. Thus,

Religious thought does not go forward like scientific thought does, but rather goes deeper.

Deeper, higher, more luminous. Conversely, The scientist lives persuaded that the latest theory will be the last. Science easily degrades into fools’ mythology.

Yes, the cosmos is a big place, I suppose, but I've never personally been impressed by its vastness, which is inconceivable anyway. For The distances of the physical universe are those of a prison, compared to the infinite distances between, say, truth and falsehood, or man and God, or man and animal.

In other words, if we couldn't routinely transcend into the metacosmos of love, truth, beauty, mystical unity, etc., this world would be an unbearably tedious place. Indeed, I think the average leftist activist is drawn to mundane politics out of sheer boredom.