Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Really Really Important Post

I'm going to begin with some random thoughts provoked by Josef Pieper's provocative Exercises in the Elements. Perhaps one will veer off into a post. If not, it will be up to you to discern the hidden unity beneath the multiplicity.

Which is again (for example) what the Church did in selecting the books of the New Testament. Their selection was guided by a prior wholeness rooted in doctrines and practices handed on from Jesus to the apostles, whereas sola scriptura attempts to discern the wholeness via a kind of induction from the parts. Even by its own lights it doesn't work, what with 36,000+ denominations (and I don't say this to start an argument with Luther, only to make a wider point).

Clearly, in all endeavors, from theology to cosmology to physics to biology, wholeness is a prior condition that renders these disciplines possible. For example, in my racket, psychology -- which tends to attract the dimmest bulbs this side of education majors -- the interior wholeness of the mind is simply assumed, and sometimes even explained away via that same interior wholeness!

Indeed, I was fully indoctrinated in this approach, at least initially, before making my vertical escape. But for a while there my mind (and soul) was ensnared in theory, doctrine, and ultimately ideology, which is at once comforting -- since it explains everything (woo hoo!) -- and depressing, since it renders life meaningless (d'oh!).

For if you can explain everything, you've explained nothing. Why? Because you've left out the most important part: the explainer. Of course, back then I didn't know about Gödel, whose theorems permanently liberate us from our own ceaseless efforts to entrap ourselves in theory and ideology. Theory can do a lot, but it can never contain the human -- let alone divine -- subject. More generally, I would say that ideology is always ideolatry, a false religion from which only true religion (not anti- or irreligion) can save us.

Speaking of importance, how exactly do we know what is important? It's one of those words we casually use, and yet, there is obviously no empirical or scientific basis for doing so. What I mean is that importance implies an abstract vertical ranking of priority, in a universe that materialists insist must be flat. Ask an atheist if atheism is important, and watch his head spin up his lower digestive tract!

But as Raccoons well understand, in the absence of God, literally nothing is important, so the godless should stop abusing the word. There exist complementarities in this world such as male/female, time/eternity, and whole/part, but God/nothing isn't one of them.

Rather, the latter is a radically binary choice: one or the other. And each precludes the other (except in the higher sense of our apophatic and cataphatic approaches to the Godhead, which is simply the acknowledgement that God always surpasses any positive statements about him, including this one).

Back to importance. We don't want to waste our lives on unimportant things, now do we? So, what is important? Hmm, let's see. I would say that importance = conformity to reality. Unimportant things aren't really real, much less important, whereas important things are really really real. Yes, but this begs the question, for how do we know what's really really real?

First of all, we have to be honest. A materialist will (must) say that matter -- whatever that is -- is so really really real that relative to it, everything else is really really illusory and therefore unimportant. But in reality no one lives his life this way.

Rather, we all know that -- for starters -- our own lives are really really important, and that job one is preserving it. We also know that the lives of our loved ones aren't only as important as our own, but often -- especially in the case of children -- more important.

Now, as I've discussed in the past, I don't begin with a blank world and try to figure out how or whether it is important or meaningful. Rather, I begin with the universal apprehension of meaningfulness, and then try to understand how a cosmos can be so transparently pregnant with meaning, and with it, importance, intelligibility, beauty, unity, and all the rest. To deny the endlessly dense and varied meaning embedded in the cosmos is to affirm it, and if you don't see that, I won't waste time trying to explain a necessary truth, i.e., a prior Truth that makes true statements possible.

"A significant utterance," writes Pieper, "is essentially concerned with reality" (emphasis mine). Again: significance (or importance) varies with reality. And Truth as such is "the same as reality coming into view." So, importance is a function of reality, which is a function of Truth. It must be this way, for the converse cannot possibly be true: in other words, we couldn't ascend from reality to truth unless the truth were already there.

Or, put it this way: we are always faced with the complementarity of reality <--> truth. However, as with all complementarities, one of them must be prior, because there will always be one side that can't properly account for the other. For example, in the time/eternity complementarity, the latter must be prior because no amount of time adds up to eternity (i.e., timelessness), even though we humans can never experience these two apart from one another.

Same with truth/reality. No number of encounters with reality adds up to the Truth of reality -- just as no number of empirical scientific facts adds up to the cosmos. Rather, the cosmos is the prior condition for there being any coherent facts (and coherent fact finders) at all.

Listen! If you have ears to see my point:

Perhaps that seems very obvious. However, the reality is that in the average case of dealing with important philosophical and literary utterances... what happens is the opposite of "listening." The utterances are received very attentively, but without the references to reality that they contain, i.e., without consideration of what the author primarily meant -- without really listening to him.

Note that this attitude of nonlistening is worse than an error, it's a downright dogma among the tenured. For deconstruction denies the possibility of discerning an author's meaning, and instead claims that everything is just a function of power.

Which is actually true in the case of the left: anything they say and everything they do -- no matter how crazy and unintelligible -- indeed becomes intelligible with the magic key of power. For example, we endured a concentrated stream of applied nonsense in yesterday's impeachment farce, in that the Democrat's argument may be reduced to: we must destroy the Constitutiom to save the Constitution that we despise anyway! That's an important statement, but not in the way the left means it.

"[O]nly the person who listens to his author is in a position to interpret him. To quote Rudolf Bultmann: 'Interpretation always presupposes a living rapport to the things' being dealt with."

Things such as, oh, God. If one lacks this living rapport, what can one sincerely say about him except that he doesn't exist? Atheism is true for the atheist, but in a way that reduces truth to a triviality.

Same with the Constitution. Note that a "living rapport" is by no means synonymous with the intrinsic heresy of a living constitution, the latter of which being simply a mask for power, since the leftist sees in it what he wishes to see, thereby reducing to desire -- for example, a desire for slavery, or infanticide, or "homosexual marriage."

No, a living rapport is a dialogue between partners, not a mere projection of the interpreter into the interpreted.

Sr. Dávila: Either God or chance: all other terms are disguises for one or the other.

Sr. Pedro: If God isn't, then I am not. No him, no us. But here we are.