Friday, December 27, 2019

The Tao of Fredo

Nothing proves more the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession. --Dávila

Einstein said that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is its comprehensibility. Well, yes -- if one doesn't believe the world is created, in which case there is no principle that can account for all these layers of intelligibility, everywhere we look.

Of course, when it comes to the big wide world outside physics, Einstein was no Einstein. He became Einstein because of his preternatural ability to focus so narrowly on that little world. Or maybe it was just autism.

Wait -- little world? Let's see you make a revolutionary breakthrough in physics, Bob! Last time I checked, you flunked out of business school during the Carter administration because of "math and stuff." What makes you qualified to judge Einstein?

I'll tell you what makes me qualified: the same thing that makes you qualified, which is to say, common sense. For the plain fact of the matter is that the world is comprehensible. (Or to back up one step, either it is comprehensible or it isn't; and if it isn't, you may -- must -- stop thinking now, assuming you ever started, because your "thinking" will bear no knowledge-relation to the world.)

For those of us with common sense, the world is plainly comprehensible. Now, why is it comprehensible? The first thing you must comprehend is that this is not a scientific question. Rather, the intelligibility of the world is a scientific assumption, or an implicit axiom without which the conduct of science is impossible.

Here again, in order to even begin to answer this question, one must exit the narrow world of physics, because no answer(s) will be found there. Sure, you can pretend physics holds the answer, but mere physics can't even account for itself, let alone anything transcending it. Which is why this polemical sounding aphorism isn't really polemical at all:

Why deceive ourselves? Science has not answered a single important question.

This is literally true, in the sense that the very concept of "importance" is an extra-scientific value judgment. The other day I saw Fredo Cuomo on CNN, a man who pretends to be Catholic, aggressively insist that only science could (some day) determine the morality of abortion. Until it weighs the evidence and renders its judgment, it's like, just your opinion, man.

Here we see how science, far from answering (or even being able to answer) important questions, renders one stupid by attempting to rely upon it to answer those very questions. Again, don't believe me, believe the Aphorist:

Fredo vividly demonstrates to his airport audience how Nothing is more alarming than science in the ignorant.

For just look at how Fredo's Stupidity appropriates with diabolical skill what science invents.

Indeed, Fredo shows us how Scientific ideas allow themselves to be easily depraved by coarse minds.

And What is more irritating than [Fredo's] stupidity itself is a scientific vocabulary in [Fredo's] mouth.

Now, If good and evil, ugliness and beauty, are not the substance of things, science is reduced to a brief statement: what is, is.

THEREFORE, Whoever appeals to any science in order to justify his basic convictions inspires distrust of his honesty or his intelligence.

In the case of Fredo, honesty AND intelligence.

Hmm, I got a little sidetracked with the Fredo bashing. However, I think we're almost finished anyway.

I suppose we've left out one other possibility, that the world is comprehensible but not created. What would this imply, and why does it make no sense?

Well, for starters, the world's comprehensibility would be anchored in no principle; nor would its intelligibility to our intelligence have a sufficient reason. As Pieper describes it, this would reduce to a "total lack of orientation," because we would deprive ourselves of any and all possible support, whether from inside or outside ourselves, i.e., subjectively or objectively.

Existential freedom? Yes, "this is precisely that famous kind of freedom to which one is not called but condemned." It is not freedom as the Christian understands it but as the nihilist understands it: it is reduced to being irretrievably lost in the cosmos, as opposed to being given a teleological freedom, the purpose of which is theosis, or participation in, and assimilation of, divinity. "God becomes man that man might become God," as the Fathers say.

Freedom, truth, knowledge, intelligibility, virtue, science: each of these is impossible in a world that isn't created -- not "in the past," but in each and every moment. If the world isn't created, then not only are we all condemned to Fredohood, but inescapably so.

Although creation as a process and event necessarily remains inaccessible to our knowing faculties, still it can be said that it must be at any rate a non-temporal event which transcends all succession in time....

Our routine "awareness of going beyond the 'here and now'" will be dismissed "as unreal and poetic idealization... to those who do not see or admit to the true situation of man within the whole of reality." But for the restavus, this vertical awareness "is nothing other than the simple description of reality."

Bottom line aphorism: modern physics PROVES that the cosmos is vastly larger than we had ever imagined. And yet:

The distances of the physical universe are those of a prison.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Meta-Critical Thinking

Just a quick post unless things get out of hand.

Critical thinking. You will have noticed that leftists -- largely because of rampant Dunning-Krugery on the left -- congratulate themselves on engaging in it. Well, if AOC is a critical thinker, then I am a bubbleheaded yokel. And vice versa: if I am the critical thinker, then AOC is a credulous buffoon.

Suffice it to say, we can't both justifiably strike down with great vengeance and furious anger those who would poison and destroy our brothers with sloppy thinking.

How convenient that the next chapter in Exercises in the Elements is entitled Two Ways of Being "Critical." First of all, why do we want our thinking to be the critical kind? Defined negatively, it is to ensure "that something which too easily happens to the uncritical mind does not also happen to" us.

What is this "too easy" thing? It is prematurely accepting an obvious or superficial explanation without sufficient testing to make sure it is valid. We all, secular and religious alike, have faith in things. But

Neither the philosopher nor the believer is allowed to ignore problems and counter arguments: both have the duty to be "critical," though each in his own way.

For the scientist, the focus is more narrow and analytic, "in short, not to let anything slip through unchecked."

In the case of the philosopher and believer the task is very different, in that it is more vertical and synthetic, so to speak. Here the challenge is "not to leave anything out and not to neglect anything that belongs to the totality of the world," not excluding revelation -- the whole existentialada, top to bottom, inside and out, in all its depth, width, height, and power.

This is a Tall Order, but it is precisely this integrated totality to which man is uniquely ordered. Along these lines, just yesterday I thought of a "proof of God," which I place in quotation marks because as always, proofs of God abound for those in no need of them.

The short (because I want to move on) version goes like this: if you understand man, then you understand that man has god-like abilities. But we are not God. Therefore God exists, because there can be no other explanation for the source of our godlike abilities. They are not something that could have ever "evolved" in the natural sense, because they are by definition transnatural. Even a human baby can know things in a way no mere animal could ever do.

You could say that encountering the totality of being requires the totality of ourselves. But if we weren't born with this preconceptual ability, it isn't something we could ever acquire or even conceive (no animal wonders about the cosmos because no animal could ever conceive it).

Imagine a pig saying "in order to fly in the air for long distances, we need wings." Conversely, a bird doesn't have to say this. Rather, it just flies. Likewise, man comes into the world ordered to the Absolute, before he has ever experienced a thing in this world. It's not something we need to learn. It just is -- and is, by the way, the necessary condition for learning any truth.

Oh. That's the end of the chapter. Only two pages. Therefore, I've succeeded in dashing off a quick & dirty drive-by post.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Only a Story

Pieper has a brief chapter on Socrates, who emphasizes a point that is often forgotten by modern (let alone postmodern) sophisticates: that language is only a means to a message. If we get hung up on the means, then we can miss the message. Forest and trees.

This is no less true for science than theology, because it's true of everything. For example, what is the message of the cosmos? That may sound like a nonsense question, but it really isn't, because most everyone has an answer, even if they never explicitly formulate the question. But it really (and truly) comes down to this:

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

Or in other words: the cosmos is meaningful if it is a means (to the message), insignificant if it is the message.

But the cosmos can't be the message, or we couldn't be here to decode it. The fact that we may do so indicates that something transphysical is going on, in that there is means, message, receiver, and decoder. These cannot be reduced to the physical cosmos without negating the reducer.

Similarly, what is the message of history? Of man? Of life?

Regarding the first, if history is the message, then the bard was right: sound + fury signifying nothing. Or, to put it in more simple terms, history = Ø.

Interestingly, this is the conclusion of both premodern and postmodern mentalities, in that the former believed in a cyclical time that goes nowhere, whereas the latter insist that we simply invent and superimpose meaning in order to justify power.

These are equivalent barbarisms, which is why you shouldn't wonder at the barbarity of precivilized tribes nor be surprised at the neobarbaric tribalism of the postcivilized left. For what is the message of the left? Never be distracted by the literal narrative, for it is always much ado about nothing but power.

As to the message of history, aphorisms:

--Real history exceeds what merely happened.

--History would be an abominable farce if it were to have a worldly culmination.

So anyway, in one of the dialogues, Socrates says (in reference to a venerable myth) "You think it is only a story, but I think it is true." Why? Because the story is essentially a temporal means to a timeless message.

Take Genesis: is it the message, or only the means to a message? Here again, both religious and scientistic fundamentalists will tend to see it as the message and thereby miss the truth.

For example, it scarcely matters whether God literally breathes the breath of life into our nostrils so long as we understand that we are animated (given life) by the spirit of God. His pneumatic exhalation is our inhalation, and vice versa. Every sigh is a prayer, and every in-spiration a bene-diction.

Speaking of Christmas, that same spirit is received by Mary, but in a different way. Yes, you can try to figure out the biology of it all, but you won't get far, plus it's like trying to ascertain the color of three or the square root of cauliflower. Category error, big time. Pieper:

Neither the material from which the message is composed, nor the form in which it is couched is a decisive factor. What is decisive is the message itself.... Only the message is important. This alone is what Socrates considers to be true, and indeed, so true and valid that one can and must live one's life according to it.

This principle came up just last night, after we saw the highly raccoomended Richard Jewel. There's a scene in which a skeevy journalist sleeps with an FBI bully in exchange for a tip that Jewel is the prime suspect in the bombing.

Afterwards my son wanted to know if that "really" happened. I pointed out that it didn't matter, and that the truth was much worse -- that MSM journalists are a bunch of sleazy whores who couldn't care less about the truth, much less about the people they harm.

The film could scarcely be more timely. You could say it's only a story, but don't confuse its means with its message. As if the FBI would never be in bed with the MSM!

Eh, that seems like a logical place to stop. Merry Christmas, which is to say, listen carefully to the Christmas message in the Christmas story.

If history made sense, the Incarnation would be superfluous. --Dávila

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Another Obsolete, Immature, and Trivial Post

I'd like to finish our review of Exercises in the Elements, partly because I have two more newly reissued books by Pieper in the piepline (Traditional Truth, Poetry, Sacrament and The Weight of Belief: Essays on Faith in the Modern Age), and there's no sense in starting them until this one has been digested. Otherwise it's like Chinese theology: read it and you're hungry an hour later.

No disrespect to Mr. Pieper, but we really think alike. Same attractor, same approach. You might call it novelty within tradition, or creative thinking within the constraints of sacred doctrine. Anyone can be creative without constraints, but then that's not really creativity, or rarely so, anyway. To live outside the law you must be honest, and to live outside tradition you'd damn well better be a spiritual genius. And even then, a spiritual genius will probably do better by working with traditional materials.

It makes sense that the most fruitful approach is to confine oneself to the constraints handed to us by God himself. Conversely, just look at what happens to thought when these constraints are ignored, or we imagine we can do without them. In so many ways, the culture war comes down to a bifurcation between these two visions; DSIB (Davila says it best:

--The modern desire to be original makes the mediocre artist believe that simply being different is the secret to being original.

--Originality must adhere to the continuity of a tradition.

--Conformity and nonconformity are symmetrical expressions of a lack of originality.

--Ideas less than a thousand years old are not fully reliable.

--Nothing is more outdated at any moment than yesterday’s novelty.

--Nobody thinks seriously as long as originality is important to him.

--Unless what we write seems obsolete to modern man, immature to the adult, and trivial to the serious man, we have to start over.

As I said a couple weeks ago, I'm going to just highlight some passages that stood out for me, and then try to stop myself from adding too much nauseam:

[I]n the midst of the evolutionary process the human spirit is not something developing like everything else but is incomprehensibly a new reality which is not undergoing transition, and which does not "become," but emerges "finished" from its origin in the creator and remains directly connected with it.

This is such a fundamental and consequential point that I could indeed expand upon it for the rest of this post. The point is that in the midst of a cosmos in which everything is evolving, has appeared a being who cannot be a mere product of contingent evolution. Early in my vertical career I was lumped in with the evolutionary mob (in fact, Prof. Wiki says I still am), even though I wouldn't be caught dead with most of them.

(Brief asnide: Trump and a Post-Truth World? Bitch please. What a self-beclowning tool Wilber has become. But that's what happens when one omnisciently presumes to ignore the God-given constraints referenced above. An exercise in grotesque egotism masquerading as egolessness peddled to a spiritually obtuse crowd of spiritual retards, self-righteous narcissists, and postmodern ignoramuses.)

Human beings are not going to "evolve" into something beyond human; we are not merely links in the evolutionary chain between us and something better, as we are already conformed to the Absolute, and there can be by definition nothing beyond the Absolute. It doesn't mean we can't more adequately conform to it, and this is indeed the point of the spiritual life. DSIB:

--The mind of the individual does not “evolve.” We only orchestrate with greater or lesser talent the themes we are born with.

Theology is translation from infinitude to finitude. Therefore, strictly speaking, it is impossible, at least for man:

"[T]he business of the theologian necessarily requires 'bilingualism,'" a translation from and to. A "literalist" collapses the two, or pretends that no translation is required, no familiarity with the two worlds. You will notice that atheists are as (if not more) prone to this as are fundamentalists, as they insist on treating scripture as the "thing itself" instead of being a translation about the thing itself. The thing itself (O) surely exists, but the scriptural map is not the divine territory.

The divine authors "speak," but we must hear through them "what cannot be fully and adequately expressed in any historical language." As Schuon would say, the language provides "points of reference" between the two worlds, very much in the manner of a beautiful painting, which is obviously a two-dimensional rendering of a three (or more) dimensional reality. I say "more" because the gifted artist is also able to convey interior realities, e.g., the inscape of a landscape or the soul of the person. How is this even possible? And yet, there it is.

At any rate, "it is clear that theology, strictly speaking... by its very nature exceeds the capabilities of any individual, no matter how gifted" -- any more than the gifted artist could depict visually the "place" from which art pours into our world.

Nor can theology be done in the absence of "loving faith," because what's the alternative? Hateful cynicism? That's not going to get you far, because ultimate knowledge of God must involve conformity to him, and God is not a hateful cynic. "Theological knowledge cannot be fruitful except as

knowledge based on fundamental solidarity, even loving identification, by virtue of which the infinite object appears not as something alien but is directly one's own.

In this regard, love is less a sentiment than a link between two subjects, through which divinity flows. DSIB:

--We only love in our life the presences that cross it like messengers from other worlds.

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