Friday, November 08, 2019

There is Always a Meta-

This observation by Dunning is right in the One Cosmos wheelhouse: "Some of our deepest intuitions about the world go all the way back to our cradles."

However -- or therefore? -- "not all of our earliest intuitions are so sound." No one is as omniscient as an infant (CNN hosts notwithstanding), and indeed, the pathological omniscience of adults is rooted in a prior age-appropriate infantile omniscience. No animal but man can simultaneously be such a know-it-all and know-nothing. I know you know such a person. Indeed, I even know you'll be conversing with such a person on Thanksgiving.

The concept of infantile omniscience isn't difficult to understand, as it is simply a function of coming into the world with no boundaries or conceptual limitations; it may be symbolized as a dimensionless point. To the extent that this undifferentiated space persists into adulthood, then it is considered to be a pathological defense mechanism, a regression to the comforting delusion of knowledge, in which case the personality develops

with omniscience and omnipotence as a substitute for the learning process and there will not be a function of the psychic activity that can discriminate between the true and false; there will also be an absence of thought capable of genuine symbolization (Introduction to the Work of Bion).

Could it be that Dunning-Kruger is rooted in such a developmental failure and regression? In any event, the thinking of very young children "is marked by a strong tendency to falsely ascribe intentions, function, and purposes.... this propensity for purpose-driven reasoning" is something that "never really leaves us" (Dunning).

Now, knowledge is knowledge of causes. As such, DK involves knowledge of false causes, or a false knowledge of causes. This is why the emergence of the scientific method was such an important development, because it provided a critical method with which to test our knowledge.

However, the scientific method is itself vulnerable to DK if and when it oversteps its boundaries. Put it this way: there is always a meta-, no matter how we might try to escape it. Once we have scientific knowledge, we have meta-science; likewise, historical thought coarises with meta-history, because to be aware of time is to be partially outside or beyond it. Dávila nails it in ten words:

Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

Indeed, without philosophy, no discipline knows what it knows. I remember back in grad school, getting into an argument with a behaviorist. Suffice it to say that he was innocent of any metapsychology to ground his otherwise circular epistemology. It never occurred to him that if behaviorism is true it must be false.

By the way, is there meta-religion? I suspect there is and must be, but that few people are interested in it. Or maybe it requires certain abilities and inclinations that few people possess, or I'd have more readers. But religious phenomena must be instances of religious principles, no? They aren't just ad hoc. In other words, if something is, then it must be possible for it to be. Even God can't accomplish the impossible!

A miracle, for example, still conforms to law, except the law must be vertical, implicit, and nonlocal. Indeed, this is why, for example, every miracle associated with Jesus isn't just for it's own sake, but to transmit a vertical teaching. Such miracles aren't just "magic," but lessons.

Now that we've ventured down this rabbit hole, it reminds me of how early Christians deduced -- if that's the right word -- the existence of the Trinity. It is nowhere mentioned explicitly in scripture, but is discovered as the principle that explains the otherwise irreconcilable data of revelation (not to reduce it to a mere principle of human reasoning).

No, this is meta-reason. As explained by Ratzinger, there is the lower "reason in relation to empirical reality and man-made things," and a higher "reason which penetrates the deepest levels being."

But nowadays, "only [the former] reason in the more restricted sense remains," which is precisely why there is so much religious Dunning-Krugery. The whole neo-atheist craze is founded upon a denial of meta-reason, and therefore a presumptuous attempt to deploy reason to explain what necessarily transcends it. Imagining that reason can contain what both transcends and grounds it is the height of irrationality. Might was well try to play basketball with a circle instead of a sphere.

So, just as, without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know, without Reason (meta-reason) reason doesn't know what it knows (let alone what it cannot know). But really, it all goes back to Gödel, because man always escapes and transcends his own foolish efforts to enclose himself in some manmade cognitive cage.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Ignorance, Meta-Ignorance, and Full-Blown Tenure

In many ways, the Dunning-Kruger effect simply ratifies common sense: that there are varying degrees of ignorance with corresponding degrees of virulence.

The first and most benign form is simply not knowing, but knowing one doesn't know. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, a prerequisite of learning is awareness of ignorance; or, put conversely, the presence of curiosity and wonder. And of love.

Never forget that philosophy is the humble and heartfelt love of wisdom. And while theology is "the study of God," God is love, so there's that.

But love is fundamentally a relation, and this relation is irreducible: there is nothing beneath, behind, or beyond it. For me, this is the whole point of a trinitarian metaphysic: God is love, but love is act-in-relation. As there is no Father "prior" to the Son, there is no subject of love prior to its object; this object can never be fully attained, much less dominated and controlled. Love is the proper form of oneness, whether of persons or of knowledge.

Now, God isn't only love, for he is also truth, beauty, goodness, and other qualities. But obviously he always loves truth, and we should do the same: philo-sophy is as much a way of life as body of principles. To know them is to love them and want to be them (i.e., I-AMbody them).

Wait. If God loves truth, doesn't this imply an absence or privation? Well, yes and no. While it may not be entirely kosher to say so, I like to think that God's absoluteness makes him the most relative (or relational) thing conceivable. Schuon insists that "absolute relativity" is the height of absurdity, and so it is, at least outside a trinitarian metaphysic. But if God is trinity, then you might say that the relativity is built into things, but without reducing to relativism per se. Rather, God's relatedness is imbued with an absoluteness. Or just say God is Love and be done with it. No need to overthink it.

Anyway, the second form of ignorance is what we might call "meta-ignorance," i.e., not knowing one doesn't know, or ignorance of ignorance. One thinks of the natural omniscience of very young children, who know too little to know how much they don't know. Only as their knowledge grows are children cognitively capable of conceptualizing how much they don't know. While most accomplish this, others will remain journalists for life.

A caveat -- or perhaps a sub-category -- is in order here, for in point of fact no man can actually conceptualize how much he doesn't know, for it is infinite. Literally. What we know is always and necessarily a small subset of what we can know: a drop in the bucket, except that, like a growing economy, the bigger the drop, the larger the bucket.

Analogously, imagine if we could snap our fingers and instantly double everyone's wealth. Everyone would be twice as wealthy, and yet, "income inequality" would be greater than ever. A conservative liberal will appreciate how the former (prosperity) is a function of the latter (inequality). Conversely, the leftist wants to rid the world of inequality, but at the cost of reducing affluence for everyone. Yes, but you can't put a price on how good it feels to act on one's envy!

Hence the perennial appeal of socialism, and it is no coincidence that socialism is founded upon a presumption of knowledge that is literally impossible to possess. Which means that socialism is, strictly speaking, impossible. It is impossible because the irreducible unit of economics is price, and price has a kind of trinitarian structure between an object (or good) and two subjects. The object has no intrinsic value, rather, only the value freely agreed upon by subjects of the exchange.

But that's not my point. Think of how much more we know about the cosmos now than 300 years ago, at the beginning of the scientific revolution. But think of how much larger the cosmos has grown with the knowledge: 300 years ago the size was manageable, which is to say, imaginable. But now its vastness is quite literally unimaginable. It's hard to imagine a single galaxy, let alone 200 billion. How about 2 trillion? Never mind.

It's no different with the mind: if we're honest -- or mature -- the more we know, the less we know. I earned my PhD back in 1988, since which time my ignorance has only increased, as it should. But "leftist psychology" is no less insane and dysfunctional than leftist economics, and the left has increasingly hijacked the discipline of psychology over the past thirty years.

Here's an example forwarded to me by a friend a couple of days ago, something called RebPsych 2020: Decolonizing Mental Health. This is a fine illustration of the third and worst form of ignorance, which transcends both ignorance and meta-ignorance, and enters the realm of full-scale Dunning-Krugery. Such a mind

is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that is filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

This clutter is an unfortunate by-product of one of our greatest strengths as a species. We are unbridled pattern recognizers and profligate theorizers. Often our theories are good enough to get us through the day, or at least to an age when we can procreate. But our genius for creative storytelling, combined with our ignorance, can sometimes lead to situations that are embarrassing, unfortunate, or downright dangerous....

These psychiatrists and psychologists -- credentialed idiots one and all -- are indeed embarrassing, unfortunate, and downright dangerous. So much for "do no harm."

Consider just the promiscuous use of the vacuous term "social justice," as if it has any meaning at all. In fact, it literally has no meaning except that which is imagined by its user. Or in other words, "social justice" is "what I want to happen." And what I want is a desire, not a thought. Moreover, it immediately -- and unthinkingly -- becomes "what I want the state to compel you to do for me." Social justice, good and hard.

Let's be honest: social justice is the pursuit of raw power masquerading as a disinterested love of truth. That's called "doing Satan's heavy lifting."

Hayek: "the people who habitually employ the phrase [social justice] simply do not know themselves what they mean by it and just use it as an assertion that a claim is justified without giving a reason for it." It "embodies a quasi-religious belief that has no content whatsoever and serves merely to insinuate that we ought to consent to a demand of some particular group..."

Better yet, Dávila: “Social justice” is the term for claiming anything to which we do not have a right.

(To be continued; I think I'll reread Hayek's essential The Mirage of Social Justice and return in a couple of days, as it has tremendous implications for the eradication of so much wackademic Dunning-Krugery.)

Monday, November 04, 2019

The Truth Doesn't Need You to be True

Continuing on the theme of Dunning-Kruger, being that humans tend to "overestimate their competence by a long shot," the campaign to instill (even) higher self-esteem is yet another progressive policy that not only flies in the face of human nature, but aggravates it. You might say that someone with inflated self-esteem is like a human, only worse.

Now, there's nothing wrong with "self-esteem" per se, although the term itself is rather stupid; better ones might be self-respect, dignity, or integrity.

For one thing, people with excessive self-esteem are always vulgar and undignified, not to mention the vertical truism that "pride goeth before a fall." If you inflate a man, you're just setting him up to be deflated when the balloon is pricked by reality -- for example, via the phenomenon of "mismatch," which places black students in academic milieus which only ensure failure a little further down the lyin'.

Note that "affirmative action" pretends to be about increasing black self-esteem, but the whole corrupt exercise is actually in the service of making white liberals feel good about themselves at the expense of their black pawns -- about boosting white self-esteem.

How to tell when your self-esteem is excessive and on the way to DKville? By way of prelude, ever wonder why the Bible makes such a big deal out of humility? Not only is it exalted, but it is apparently something that doesn't come naturally to man. What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Likewise the Sermon on the Mount, which is only the source of the cosmos telling us how it's supposed to done, e.g., meek, pure in heart, poor in spirit. In a word, humble.

Nocoincidentally, there are a number of synchronistic passages in Esoterism As Principle and As Way that touch on the theme of self-esteem and humility, which are by no means opposites or inversely related. Rather, the question comes down to objectivity, which is always necessary, but most especially toward oneself.

Now first of all, is objectivity even possible? Well, the whole premise of postmodernity is that it is not, and that all statements are perspectival -- just your opinion, man -- i.e., self-interested and ultimately about power, not truth. Therefore, one certainly cannot be objective toward oneself. And besides, the self doesn't even exist! So these dumb-as-a-post modernists are essentially saying: the self is an illusion, and it's special!

Utter nonsense, but there it is.

To back up a bit, there is an Absolute, which is the ground of the very possibility of intelligence. Remove the Absolute, and man is sealed in permanent and ineradicable stupidity. If you don't believe me, just try to make a true statement divorced from the Absolute. We'll wait.

Here is the reality:

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul.

Bing. Bam. Boom. These are things that you will either understand immediately; or fail to understand. But your failure to understand does not effect their truth one iota. The truth doesn't need you to be true.

Consider the second, freedom of will. How is this possible? It is possible because we are able to discern between good and evil. An animal cannot do this. But man can know the truth and thereby will the good. Simple as. If we cannot know the good, then morality is indeed illusory and arbitrary: perception is reality, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and there is no such thing as error, evil, or ugliness.

"Objectivity," according to Schuon, consists of "grasping the object as it is and not as it may be distorted by the subject."

Again, is this possible? It's a catch 22, because if you say it isn't, then you presumably mean it in an objective way. Note that this whole question is again tied in with Genesis 3, because -- it seems to me -- our fallenness has much to do with subjective passions distorting our ability to apprehend objective reality, to the point of disabling the fruitful and in-spiraling dialectic between the two (subject and object). "Adam and Eve," writes Schuon, "attributed to the relative the rights of the Absolute."

How does one square humility with being in the image and likeness of God? Wouldn't the latter be the ultimate pretext for grandiosity and self-inflation? Yes, it might be if God weren't at such pains to demonstrate humility for all the world to see. I mean, crucifixion?

Running out of time here. I'll just get to the point and let you figure out how it relates to DK:

"[N]obility of character consists in putting honor and moral dignity above self-interest," while "Detachment entails objectivity with regard to oneself."

Which is another way of saying that the noble man transcends himself, detesting what is bad in him and loving what is good. So you should never tell a person to just love himself, full stop. Rather, one must love only what is lovable, just as one should know only what is true, for knowing falsehood is another name for DK.

The essence of dignity is not only our theomorphism, but humility together with charity; these two virtues compensate for the risks stemming from our quality as image of God.... This theomorphism could well make us arrogant or egoistic, but when we grasp its true nature we see that it obliges us, on the contrary, to heed the perfections not only of the Lord but also the servant... (Schuon)


--Self-satisfaction is pathetic proof of lowliness.

--The noble one is not the one who thinks he has inferiors, but the one who knows he has superiors.

--Justifiable pride is accompanied by profound humility.

--Secular morality exudes pride (NGD).

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