Saturday, April 04, 2020

Trials and Evils, Absurdities and Inevitabilities

Just a brief post, unless things get out of hand. I hope everyone is enjoying the unscheduled vacation, or at least making good use of it. A confrontation with an -- or the -- Ultimate, assuming one survives the ordeal, is often of great benefit. Not necessarily while it's going on, but in hindsight. Sometimes the worst thing that happened is the best thing that ever happened to you.

I suppose it comes down to the difference between a trial and a mere evil, the latter of which is totally pointless. I don't know that it's possible to distinguish one from the other on this side of the cosmic area rug, although it is often helpful to consider the bad tidings as a trial -- again, up to a point.

It would be difficult, for example, to have survived communist tyranny by reminding oneself that it's "just a trial" for the purpose of a transmitting a spiritual lesson from which one will emerge stronger or wiser: one death is a tragedy, but a hundred million deaths is an unparalleled opportunity for spiritual growth!

We're all familiar with the insipid happy-talking Flanderian Christian who regards everything as "God's will," out of which some gooey goodness will emerge.

I don't like this idea, for it makes God complicit in evil. The fact that, say, the great good of the state of Israel emerged from the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust doesn't make the latter any less horrific. Evil is evil and is never permissible, no matter what good may spring from its ashes. Besides, it's hard to find so ill a wind that it doesn't blow a little good someone'e way:

Such is the complexity of every historical event that we can always fear that from a good an evil might be born and always hope that from an evil a good might be born (Dávila).

Also, it's always easier to look at someone else's evil as an abstract trial, and one's own trial as an concrete evil. New York is no doubt being tried. But then, I'm 3,000 miles away. Or, for them it's a trial by fire. For me it's a trial by water. Big difference -- like the difference between meditating on death vs. a life-or-death confrontation.

Similarly, consider how global warmists have no compunction about wrecking the global economy for the sake of mitigating their abstract evil, since poor people in far off countries will suffer the most. We will suffer such inconveniences as more expensive energy, diminished wealth, and a reduced standard of living, while those in developing countries will suffer the concrete evils of disease, famine, and inescapable poverty.

Some people are saying this pandemic is a cleansing fire that will burn the progressive rot from our midst. Nothing reveals more the deadly plague of identity politics than a deadly plague. That would be nice, but still, I'd prefer that it be accomplished via ideas rather than plagues.

Others are proclaiming that the Progressive Moment has arrived, and that finally the scourge of capitalism will be vanquished. Me? I say the rot will always be with us in one form or another so long as man walks the earth. For

The progressive forgets that sin frustrates any ideal he longs for; the conservative forgets that he corrupts any reality he defends (Dávila).

Schuon writes that

A trial is not necessarily a chastisement, it can also be a grace, and the one does not preclude the other. At all events: a trial in itself not only tests what we are, but also purifies us of what we are not.

Perhaps the most we can do is ask ourselves how we might make some good come from this. I have this feeling that "things will never be the same," but one often feels this way in the midst of a confrontation with the Ultimate, only to revert back to isness-as-usual once the storm has passed. Soon enough people will once again take for granted the unmerited gift of toilet paper. Yes, our sleep is occasionally disrupted by the intrusion of reality, but never underestimate man's somnambulistic abilities.

Come what may, we should "look straight ahead and let the world be the world" (Schuon). For what choice does one have? Regardless of our hopes, fears, and wishes, the world is going to be the world, and although it is created good, there are other nonlocal forces and wills at play in it. Nothing we can do about that:

The whole purpose of our life lies before us, and [this] is one of the meanings of the injunction not to look behind when one has put one's hand to the plow. It it is necessary to look towards God, in relation to Whom all the chasms of the world are nothing.

Yes, of course there are aphorisms that speak to this existential moment:

The imbecile does not discover the radical misery of our condition except when he is sick, poor or old.

Modern man believes that death is “natural” except when he approaches dying.

Death must not be the object of our meditations, but rather the foundation of all of them.

I suppose one could say that for the person who is truly in touch with reality, the blows of reality should never really come as a surprise. Indeed, the more plans we make, the more fate and contingency bellow with laughter. But Serenity is the fruit of accepting uncertainty.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Flattening the Curve of Original Sin

The modern man is the man who forgets what man knows about man. --Dávila

"It is a commonplace of the Christian tradition," writes Barron, "that the fall had implications at all levels of a person's being," affecting "not only the will but the body, the passions, the imagination, and the mind as well."

Well, that's kind of a downer. Is there anything we can do about it? Is there a vertical CDC that can help us mitigate this spiritual malady, and perhaps prevent it from spreading down and out, to our descendants and contemporaries, respectively?

Yes, but it's not a government agency. Indeed, the whole idea of the intrusive, activist, all-powerful state is founded on the presumption that it -- its highly trained experts in self-deception -- knows how to undo the effects of the fall without even acknowledging its existence: we can fix it, and besides, it never happened!

Which is precisely why the credentialed morons of the state end up amplifying the effects. Analogously, if we know the Chinese flu is out there, it provides a modicum of protection against it, being that this knowledge will alter our behavior. But if we deny the problem, we end up like Kaiser Wilhelmio: it's no big deal, and besides, it's Trump's fault!

There are so many aphorisms about state-sponsored stupidity, it's hard to pick just a few:

Liberals can be divided into those who believe that wickedness is curable and those who deny that it exists.

Asking the State to do what only society should do is the error of the left.

With the generosity of his program does the liberal console himself for the magnitude of the catastrophes it produces.

Political wisdom is the art of invigorating society and weakening the State.

While we ourselves cannot fully undo the effects of the fall (more on the only efficacious treatment later), we can at least mitigate them if we know in advance the mind is fallen. In short, we will be less likely to fool ourselves because we will be less likely to trust ourselves. Unlike, say, atheists and Darwinians, we won't be so quick to naively accept the pronouncements of a contingent being such as man.

In short, if we are totally ignorant (or in denial) of original sin and place our full faith and trust in man, we are headed for an even greater fall. For which reason the Aphorist says (again, it's hard to confine ourselves to a few):

Men are divided into two camps: those who believe in original sin and those who are idiots.

Nothing makes more evident the reality of sin than the stench of the souls that deny its existence.

Evil, like the eyes, does not see itself. May he who sees himself as innocent tremble.

He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself.

To believe in the redemption of man by man is more than an error; it is an idiocy.

So, if you're rotten and you know it, clap your hands!

Barron goes on to say that it isn't only Christians who will clap. Rather,

the philosophical schools of the ancient world were moral training grounds, places where one passed through a strict discipline in order to learn how to properly think. It was a basic assumption among these philosophers that there is something wrong with the way most people naturally act and reason (emphasis mine).

Who can doubt it? There is no question that 30 years ago I had more raw neurological candlepower than I do today. There is also no question that I had more raw stupidity than I do today. Why is that? Well, I can think of One Big Thing of which I was totally ignorant, and which colored everything else: I completely trusted my own mind, of all things.

Now, it is possible to go too far in the other direction, as did, say, Luther. In overemphasizing the corruption of the mind, he purged his novel and idiosyncratic version of Christianity of intellection, clearing the field for a host of rotten philosophies to dominate intellectual discourse down to this day. Luther railed against "whore reason," but had no earthly idea of the tenured whores to come. Gonorrhea is one thing, AIDS another.

Thus, Barron suggests that "this very exaggeration of the motif of the fallen mind contributed to the counterreaction of the Enlightenment." While the enlightened ones would have agreed that there is something wrong with the mind, they felt it could be fully rectified. (To be perfectly accurate, the radical Enlightenment thinkers felt this way, in contrast to our own Biblically informed and therefore properly skeptical founders.)

Enlightened. As if there can be such a thing as light without the divine Light!

Yes, en-lightenment can be facilitated, but one must first acknowledge the darkness, or rather, the nature of the darkness. For it isn't just that we lack light. Rather, the light shines alike on the good and the wicked, the wise and the tenured. However, we are so composed that this light is always mingled with our own darkness, if only because we are material beings, and matter isn't fully translucent to intellection.

Anyway, if you assume people are stupid until proven otherwise, you'll rarely be disappointed, plus you'll have a good laugh along the way.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Mystical Objectivity and Scientific Vision

There are two ways of knowing the world, or rather, two principal modes: there is a passive mode in which we receive the world, and an active one in which we project our abstractions onto the world. The former isn't really passive per se, because for a human being the intellect is always involved in the senses; moreover, there is always a dialectic or complementarity between these two modes, analogous to anabolism and catabolism vis-a-vis the body.

The human person is not only a unity, but personhood is the quintessence of diversified unity, since all our "parts" are human parts. Humanness is not "additive" -- as if the parts become human at a certain point. Rather, we are human -- not to mention gendered -- the very instant sperm and egg unite to form a new person. Our oneness is always anterior, not acquired, except to say that we are also "ensouled" at conception, and the immaterial soul obviously cannot originate in matter.

Which reminds me. It is difficult for us to imagine how two natures -- divine and human -- could be present in one person. Then again, maybe not. For human beings have an animal nature and a human nature, and yet, here we are, a single person. While we can talk about our animal nature, it isn't actually a separate or autonomous entity, like a Dr. Bob and Cousin Dupree.

Then again, sometimes it is. Specifically, this is what we call neurosis or psychosis, in which psychic parts are more or less split off from the central self.

Here it is important to point out that these parts cannot literally be split off, any more than the Trump-hater can successfully rid himself of unwanted psychic fragments by projecting them into the president. While it certainly feels to the haters as if the president truly harbors the nasty things projected into him -- just ask them! -- the process is really just one of introspection in reverse: extrospection, so to speak.

If the ethos of the philosophical life is know thyself, the battle cry of the pathologically fragmented psyche is deceive thyself! The Raccoon calls this mechanism auto-pullwoolery. If the purpose of life is the assimilation and acquisition of increasingly higher and deeper integration and unity, this mechanism tends in the opposite direction: paranoia instead of metanoia.

It occurs to me that this touches on why Jesus should be so emphatic about loving one's enemies, praying for one's persecutors, turning the other cheek, and generally refraining from returning tit for tat. If you presume to judge others, be careful, because the same criteria you apply will be applied to you: no double standards. No hypocrisy. No special pleading. No condemning Republicans for things you completely overlook in Democrats (and vice versa).

This is just rudimentary intellectual honesty and consistency. And yet, how rare it is. For example, anyone can see how ridiculously inaccurate various models of the Chinese Flu have been, so we disregard them. Garbage in, garbage out. But many of the same people are unable to generalize the principle to climate change models, which have proved to be just as ridiculously inaccurate.

One epically wrong model predicted 510,000 deaths in Britain. So far there are 2,619. But this guy has nothing on the climate fantasists, in that not a single one of their models predicted that warming would enter a two decade "pause." No doubt at least one of the Coronavirus models will turn out to be correct, if only by chance. Interesting that climate change models can't even aspire to the accuracy of a broken clock, since the latter is correct twice a day, while the former haven't been correct in 50 years.

Back to the actual point of this post. I had wanted to say something about the mystical foundations of science upon reading a passage in Barron. Here it is:

To be attentive -- to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch what is before us -- is much more difficult than it may seem.... Above all, [the mind] must overcome its tendency toward selective perception, seeing only what it wants to see, only what it might be convenient to see.

But this presupposes that there is something real to see -- AKA truth -- and that man is capable of putting his interests and biases to the side, and recognizing it (AKA objectivity).

Probably most people would place "objectivity" and "mystical" at antipodes. Not so fast! For mysticism is, among other things, the empiricism of the vertical, for there are stable and intelligible truths to be found there, just as there are in the material world. This is the context in which to understand the following observation by Barron:

To be intelligent... is to look for formal patterns, to seek out the intelligible structures that run through whatever exists. The summons to intelligence corresponds to the assumption of universal reasonability, the mystical intuition that undergirds the sciences.

Mystical intuition. This intuition is either true or false, but cannot be proved logically. Nevertheless, it is perfectly objective.

In the Christian vision, the truth of a thing is a reflection of the Truth that made it, a participation in the Logos that informs it (ibid).

Can I prove this? No, because it is the nonlocal principle whereby proof itself exists -- through which truth pervades creation and is accessible to us. But it can be intuited and envisioned, just like any other rock-solid transcendental truth.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Terra Firma

Solid ground. What's yours? No, you can't just ignore the question. Or, you can, but this will only mean your terra firma is ignorance: rock solid, invincible ignorance.

Ignorance itself -- so long as it is vincible -- is actually a fine place to begin, and too few people begin there. It is, however, a terrible place to end.

It's a good place to begin because it is precisely where we must begin, being that we come into the world with no explicit knowledge of it. We have a range of implicit knowledge, AKA instincts, but this natural prudence only gets us so far. For animals it is more than enough to ensure survival and reproduction, thereby tossing the keys to the next generation. Your Darwinian mission has been accomplished. Now die. You have outlived your evolutionary purpose.

But a human being who merely follows his instincts thereby sinks beneath the animals, as is proved by every Democrat-run urban center. It reminds us of an aphorism or two: To educate man is to impede the “free expression of his personality.” Similarly, Educating the individual consists in teaching him to distrust the ideas that occur to him.

Some people will immediately identify their terra firma as God, or Christ, or the Bible; or the Koran, or samadhi, or Brahman; I suppose for a Buddhist the solid ground is the lack thereof, while for the process philosopher the ground of being is becoming. For materialists it is matter -- whatever that is -- while for existentialists it is nothing until we decide what it is. For feminists it is resentment of men (beneath which is hatred of female nature), while for other professional victims it is race, sexual preference, global warming, etc.

How do we approach this question in a logical manner? Supposing there is a ground, by virtue of what principle can we say that human beings are capable of knowing it? Computers, for example, don't know they are computers. If they did they would be persons, thereby transcending computerhood. Nor can computers sink beneath themselves. They don't make mistakes unless they've been programmed to do so by a person.

Computers are much like leftists in this way: one of the purposes of any ideology is to provide unthinking human beings with the comfort of having opinions, thereby eliminating the healthy pain or anxiety of not-knowing. Ideologies are a form of cheap omniscience which answer any question you might throw at them. If the answer is always ORANGE MAN BAD, then what is the question? Or, more to the point, what is the nature of the questioner?

It reminds me of something I read this morning over at Instapundit: "NBC’s Chuck Todd under fire for asking Biden if Trump has ‘blood on his hands’ for delayed coronavirus response."

Again, how comforting it must be to so readily be able to identify the source of all one's -- and even the world's -- problems.

I suppose I remember the feeling. Back in the '80s I would have no doubt blamed Reagan rather than pointing the finger at myOldBob. While this blog often touches on politics, anyone with even the hint of a clue will understand that I never suggest that politics can solve the problem of humanness, which can only be remedied one assoul at a time. And absent a spiritual cure, there is no cure at all, otherwise all the trouble of the Incarnation is wholly superfluous.

To be perfectly accurate, the leftist implicitly recognizes that there can only be a spiritual cure, but the recognition is unconsciously transformed and projected into an explicit political or economic sickness and cure. It is an incredibly seductive promise, which is why it is one of the Adversary's favorite tricks. The soul is the interior reality of man, but the spiritually naive or untutored person routinely exteriorizes it and then freaks out over the projected demons.

You'd think such people would wish to be liberated from the shackles of their toxic projections, but they don't. There's something comforting in them, as they exteriorize and contain what would otherwise be interior and uncontained.

For example, a lunatic who believes President Trump is a racist doesn't want to know the truth, any more than a Palestinian wants to know that maybe Jews aren't all that bad. Rather, every Palestinian loser knows precisely whom to blame for his loserhood, and that's a priceless alibi for a wasted life. It's hard to be unhappy, harder still when there's no one to blame.

Aw, look at me. I'm ramblin' again. Back to the point, which is the question of Solid Ground. In fact let's belatedly return to ground zero of this post, which is a passage in Barron that describes the wrong turn taken by philosophy back with Descartes and similarly misgodded souls.

As you know, I'm not one of those folks who likes to blame this or that thinker for our problems, since it gives way too much credit to particular people instead of human nature, which is the real culprit.

For me, Descartes is more of a synecdoche for a whole cultural and historical trend which is in turn grounded in the unfailing perpetuation of wounded human nature. Human beings will disappoint you every time if you actually think they can redeem themselves. That's not even nonsense, just total historical amnesia mingled with inexcusable naiveté. Truly, it renders you innocent as a snake and about as wise as a pigeon.

Let's cut to the chase: in Christian metaphysics, the epistemological ground is "a conversation between two divine speakers." Note that knowing is grounded in being, and that being is always dialogical; and this applies both horizontally and vertically, accounting for the very possibility of both science and theology, respectively.

It's getting late, so we'll end with the following: God -- AKA the Divine Attractor -- is "the lure for the mind, even in its simplest acts of cognition. Whenever the mind seeks truth, it is operating under the impulse and aegis of the Truth itself (Barron).

God's intelligence has grounded the intelligibility of the world and hence animated the intelligently seeking human mind" (ibid.).

Ultimately the living ground is both attractor and attracted -- a flowing conversation between them; the ground of knowing is an image or echo of the go-round of being. To be continued...

As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock. --Dávila

Friday, March 27, 2020

Et Cetera

Must every post be an epic? Why not more frequent posts with fewer ideas, or maybe even one idea per post? Who has the patience to slog through your internal dialogue, Bob, in search of a point?

I'll take that under advisement with the council. I get a lot of ideas during the day. More than I can possibly organize, much less write about. They're everywhere -- on post-it notes and book marks, in margins and back covers, in spiral bound notebooks, sometimes even on the back of my hand. I swear, I have a coffee cup containing dogeared bookmarks with scribbled notes, some of which may be as old as the blog itself.

In fact, let me grab a handful and see what they say. Maybe I can finally recycle them.

The first one is a little trite, or at least I don't get the deeper significance. Let's move on. Hmm. Some have vocabulary words written on them, for which I probably have no use. Some authors like to deploy rare and unusual words to demonstrate how intelligent they are, even though it interrupts the flow of ideas. Many of them are out of town words like soupçon, aperçus, dishabille, purlieu, recherché, deliquesce, avois dupois, parti pris, clerihew, obiter dictum...

There are many more, some of which have the definitions next to them. I try to remember the meanings, but there's really no point, since I'll probably never see them again, nor is it likely I would ever use them in a sentence. I like to be understood, plus I'm generally writing about subjects that require deep and sustained focus. Interrupting the flow with obscure foreign phrases draws attention to the form instead of the substance.

Yes, yes, I know, I am hardly one to complain, being that I so often make up my own words. Well, that's different. Those are meant to be fun, not work. I don't imbue them with private meanings accessible to no one else.

Anyway, even if I had these exotic words at my fingertips, it is unlikely I would ever use them, because I prefer the common ones. Besides, it's not the words you use, but the way you arrange them. Using obscure words cannot rescue a poorly organized sentence. If you really know what you're talking about, you should be able to explain it in such a way that a 13 year old can understand it.

It reminds me of something Churchill said: "Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all." Obviously he was a powerful communicator, but he didn't have to use obscure words to convey the power. True, he tossed in more than a few obscure ones, but that's partly because of the very different time and place in which he grew up.

Hmm. While looking up that Churchillism I stumbled upon many more I've highlighted, all having to do with language, writing, and communication. They're all right here, just waiting to be used in a future post. I guess that post is now.

"Clarity and cogency can be reconciled with a greater brevity... it is slothful not to compress your thoughts." Indeed, "It is sheer laziness not compressing thought into a reasonable shape." As Dávila says, we ought to "Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick."

To one of his prolix cabinet members, he wrote that his memo, "by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read." More generally, he detested that "kind of vague palimpsest of jargon and officialese with no breadth, no theme, and above all, no facts."

Get to the point!: "don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time."

In the language department Trump is obviously no Churchill, but he is a pile driver. Compare this to Obama, who fancied himself a wordsmith but who spoke in leaden clichés and indeed never conveyed an original idea or uttered a witty remark.

Liberals and their feeling-based thinking have always been with us: "It is a deplorable thing" when such people "allow their language to be rather the means of giving relief to their feelings than an actual description of the facts." I came across a typical example this morning of someone whose "Climate Grief" has prepared her for the Corona Dread. Not very well, I guess:

I’ve been crying a lot. So much I worry that my neighbors can hear me through the plaster walls of my apartment building in the South Bronx....

I feel like I’m floating on an ominous cloud of dull terror, or flailing through molasses. There’s a lump in my throat. Everything is heavy. Everything is hard. Even as I type this, my fingers are shaking, and I have to take long pauses to do something, literally anything, else. Often, I just stare at the wall.

No wonder so many young people are committing suicide. This is not the year 1020. There is treatment for mental illness.

At the other end of the linguistic spectrum, "official jargon can be used to destroy any kind of human contact or even thought itself."

Speaking of bad writing, Churchill thought Mein Kampf so awful that he even compared it to the Koran: "turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message."

How's this for a coincidence: he even penned a bit of adolescent doggerel about some kind of oriental bug that seems to have been going around in 1890: Oh how shall I its deeds recount / Or measure the untold amount / Of ills that it has done? / From China's bright celestial land / E'en to Arabia's thirsty sand / It journeyed with the sun.

Anticipating Madonna's deep thoughts on the strict egalitarianism of the virus, It made a direful swoop; / The rich, the poor, the high, the low / Alike the various symptoms know, / Alike before it droop.... And with unsparing hand, / Impartial, cruel and severe / It travelled on allied with fear / And smote the fatherland.

Then it jumped across the channel to threaten even Freedom's isle itself. Get well, Boris!

The New York Times? Washington Post? "Fancy cutting down those beautiful trees we saw this afternoon to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization."

Politically correct abuse of language? "I hope I live to see the British democracy spit all this rubbish from their lips."

Here's to frankness and simplicity: "All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: Freedom; Justice; Honor; Duty; Mercy; Hope."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Endless Dialogue of Mind and World

Change my mind:

If science is just a common sense approach to the material world, meta-science (AKA metaphysics) is just a commonsense approach to the transphysical world.

Now, what makes no sense is to conflate or collapse these levels, and apply science to meta-science or deduce science from meta-science. The former is done by our contemporary evangelists of atheism, while the latter was attempted by certain ancient and medieval thinkers. These two errors are empiricism and idealism, respectively, but we have a better way.

To live as an empiricist...

Well, first of all, this is impossible. Rather, one can only pretend to do so, as to be human is to have spontaneous in-sight into essences -- the cosmic interior -- and there's not a damn thing we can do about it short of having severe autism, a catastrophic stroke, or advanced tenure. It would be analogous to claiming there is no such thing as light, and then proving the point by gouging out one's eyes.

At the other end, you can pretend like Hegel that the ideal is real, until you stub your toe or even just have a real job. Working with one's hands is a cure for being intellectually lazy with one's head, for which reason Marxism only works for the ethereal layabouts of academia. For, to paraphrase the Aphorist, the doctrinaire leftist is an angelic visitor impervious to earthly experiences.

Which is nice work if you can get it. It is comforting to Know without having to first consult with reality. Indeed, this is precisely why ideology is so popular and will always be popular: the intellectually impoverished will always be with us, and the higher indoctrination of college only aggravates the problem. Ideology is just the new name for philosophical idealism, and

Ideologies were invented so that men who do not think can give opinions (Dávila).

It's easy to confuse Christian faith with idealism, but they are quite opposite. You might say that in Christianity, the ideal becomes material so that the material might become ideal:

[A]ny explanation of human knowledge that does not take into account the material as well as the spiritual side of man's being is false from the start and would be thrown out of court by St. Thomas....

[J]ust as matter can share with spirit the glorious task of producing man, so the senses can share with intellect the equally glorious task of producing man's ideas (Brennan).

We are all "dualists" in the sense that any idiot can see that there is a difference between mind and matter. It all comes down to how we resolve the difference.

Or rather, we can either resolve the difference or simply deny them, as do materialists and idealists of various kinds. But the best way to resolve or integrate the two is to do what we can't help doing anyway, which is to live in the dialectical space between the two, for it is where we find the living fruit of truth:

the knowledge of man springs from the concerted action of his senses and intellect. In such a view, there is need of material and immaterial powers in order to give a complete account of his ideas.... If the soul cannot develop its powers unless it be linked with a body, neither can reason unfold unless it be fed with the perceptions and images of the senses (Brennan).

We have no choice but to accept this sober truth, regardless of how pleasant it is. Barron:

It is not a matter of privileging either subject or object but rather of seeng the essential link between them, born of the unbreakable bond between knower and known, which itself is grounded in the even more basic connection between divine knower and creaturely existence

God is to image as is intellect to thing (or knower to known). You might be tempted to think that the latter terms -- image and thing -- are "passive," but they're not, for the telos -- the upward movement -- of image is likeness, while the telos of a thing is our knowledge of it: there is a "mutually enhancing coinherence of objective intelligibility and the subjective act of intelligence" (Barron).

Thus, "the categories of subject and object have to be transcended in favor of a unified notion of experience" (ibid.).

Or, put it this way: what are the most irreducible realities to which we are always subject?

Let's see... experience... presence... being. Beneath it all, what is consciousness? Just spitballing it here, but it seems to me that it is the experienced presence of being. And being won't shut up! It is the ground from which more specific knowledge -- knowledge of things -- is ceaselessly arising.

We'll leave you with an aphorism before signing off:

The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason (Dávila).

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nihilism Is Better than Nothing

Does the cosmos have a center? Well, either it does or it doesn't. I suppose on a strictly scientistic basis the question itself is absurd -- like asking what was "before" the Big Bang, when the theory goes silent at Planck time, prior to which there isn't any.

I have a vague recollection of having posted about this subject in the past. Oh well. Everything has already been said, but it can always be said in a more amusing or obnoxious way.

Ah yes, it's coming back to me. Something about the tenured cliché of how human beings have supposedly been rendered insignificant by various scientific developments. First there was the heliocentric theory displacing earth from the center. Then there was Darwinism, proving there is nothing special about human beings. Then came Freud, who proved that religion is just the Oedipus Complex writ large or something.

But such theories beg the question of how human beings could ever even know something as significant as their own insignificance.

The cosmos is not a flat circle, such that nothing is higher than anything else. Rather, it's more like a cone, or rather, a conical sensorium projected from a point. Each of us is dynamic spiroidal movement of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.

Now, to say Christ is the Logos and that the Logos incarnated in man, is to say that the Infinite Center assumed finitude in human nature. We've said before that life is a predicament. A conundrum. A pickle even. In fact, it's such a quandary that nothing short of the Incarnation is of sufficient magnitude to address, much less remedy, it. I mean, death? C'mon, man!

Along these lines, Barron writes of how St. Bonaventure

maintained that all of the nontheological arts and sciences taught in the university find their proper center in theology, the science that speaks directly of Christ the Logos. As the rationality of God the Creator, Christ is the physical, mathematical, and metaphysical center of the universe and hence the point of orientation for all of the sciences dealing with those dimensions.

Another book I'm reading says something similar, that "there can be as many sciences as there are different kinds of knowable objects" -- implying no center -- but that "there can be only one wisdom" -- implying that it must come straight down from Celestial Central, the very source of unity. If not, from where does it come? C'mon man! All men are created, by the... you know, you know the thing!

"Following the inner logic of Christian revelation," writes Barron,

theology not only should be around the table but must be the centering element in the conversation, precisely because it alone speaks of the Creator God who is metaphysically implicit in all finite existence.

This is the coonologically correct position:

[O]nce theology is displaced, some other discipline necessarily takes its position at the center and thereby disturbs the proper harmony among the sciences, for no other discipline has the range or inclusiveness properly to hold the center.

Man cannot rationally think in the absence of a center, whether implicit or explicit. But there is necessarily only one real center without which your mind is anchored in nothing. Which doesn't even exist. Nevertheless, we are free to adopt any number of vacuous ideologies masquerading as the center, which I suppose is better than nothing.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Cosmos is a Love Shack & There's a Party in My Head

Looking for the latest on the Chinese Flu? You've come to the right place. You obviously need something else to think about.

For example, oh, a praxis of epistemological participation. Now that your life has ground to a halt, you finally have the luxury of contemplating such sublime realities instead of imagining that happiness or fulfillment are located in the future. They're not. If anything, they're in the past -- in particular, childhood -- but that's only because childhood is -- if you are lucky -- spent in the present.

But human nature itself is in neither in the past nor future. It's not even in the present; or rather, only in the present because it is ageless. Not to get ahead of ourselves... No, wait. In order to get ahead of ourselves, time is an invitation to our image to become the likeness.

Me? I'm hard at work on my second childhood. Then again, this has been the case since the first one ended. Nor am I alone in looking at it this way. The same has been said by better children than I:

Without a certain religious childishness, a certain intellectual profundity is unattainable.

The intelligent adult is one in whom the child has survived and the youth has died.

A fulfilled life is one that after long years delivers to the grave an adolescent whom life did not corrupt.

To mature is to transform an increasing number of commonplaces into authentic spiritual experience (Dávila).

I've always detested grown-ups, but it wasn't until I grew up that I realized why: these people aren't even really grown-ups at all, just pretending to be. I could list the Usual Suspects in their typical occupations -- the entertainment-media-academic-industrial complex -- but you know who they are: empty souls one and all. They are living proof of the aphorism that

The adult is a myth of the child (ibid.).

Come to think of it, how do we quarantine ourselves from the stupid? For it is a lifelong struggle, isn't it? Sr. Dávila had his way. It works for me, but not everyone is as childish as we are:

To live lucidly a simple, quiet, discreet life among intelligent books, loving just a few people.

In any event, to acknowledge that man is a fallen creature is to recognize that the mind parasites never stop mutating, and that we must constantly bat them away via our vertical immune system. AKA spiritual warfare. Ideational distancing. Handwashing, with no hands!

Stripped of their modern disguise they are always the same few guys and geists, i.e., deadly sins, character flaws, perennial temptations, and deviations from the vertical path.

With that asinine brayrlude out of our system, let's get back to the praxis of epistemological participation. I rate the following completely true:

If relationality is the basic form of the real, then it follows that the optimal mode of knowing is through relation with the thing or event to be known. If mutual participation is the fundamental form of intelligibility, then the subject's participation in the object, and the object's sharing in the subject, is the most correct epistemic method (Barron).

Here we see that things are neither objective nor subjective, but always both: which is the most objective way of looking at it. In another book I'm reading, (out of print and not recommended at the current prices), Brennan agrees that consciousness "implies two things":

first, a subject that knows; second, an object that is known. It also implies that there is a connection between subject and object. Indeed, the process of knowledge is nothing more than the establishing of this connection.

So obvious that only a grown-up could fail to see it. There's a party in your head. Or rather, there's a party in the cosmos, and it wants to come into your head:

Millions of things in the universe are constantly knocking on the door of our senses and asking to be let in. To give them admittance is to know them, to clothe them with a higher and more noble kind of existence, so they can be said to have their being, not only in themselves, but also in the world of consciousness which is the world of sensations, images, and ideas (ibid.).

So, the cosmos is ultimately structured like the love shack:

Bang, bang, on the door, baby!

Knock a little louder, sugar!

Or, to make it legal,

The union of object with subject in the act of knowledge is like a marriage.... [B]etween the thing known and the knower there is a bond by which they are made one reality in the act of generating knowledge.... [W]hen the form of the object fertilizes the subject, the result is an awareness of the object (ibid.).

That's enough childishness for today. I actually have some grown-up work I need to get to.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Endless Revelation

The bottom line of the previous post was that "every scientific act is, ipso facto, an affirmation of God's existence" (Barron). But we knew this already. Still, it's nice to tramp around hyperspace with such venerable company. Barron continues:

to know anything at all is, implicitly, to know that God exists, for it is to accept the reign of the Logos or transcendental intelligibility.

This is one of those Yes/No questions: either you are arguing toward this logoistic principle or from it. In other words, you can begin, as we do, with transcendental intelligibility as an axiomatic truth; or you can track contingent truths up the epistemological mountain to the invigorating air of the logosphere, where all truths converge upon the One Truth from which they have descended. You might say that

Christianity does not deny the splendor of the world but encourages us to seek its origin, to ascend to its pure snow (Dávila).

It's cool but bracing. No one is obligated to live here, just as no one is obligated to live among the tenured apes, the media mob, the credentialed barbarians, all sunk in the urgent nonsense of the day.

Paradoxically, you're never more alone than when you're down among these babbling rabble, and never less alone than when up here by the waters of the crystal clear spring. How does this work, exactly? Well, on the one hand, to put it aphoristically, The most dispiriting solitude is not lacking neighbors, but being deserted by God (Dávila).

But come to find out that the "primordial intelligibility" of the world isn't analogous to just discovering an object or arriving at an abstract mathematical equation. Rather, it turns out -- SURPRISE! -- that it

is a being-with-the-other, or better, a being-in-the-other, a coinherence.... Therefore relationality, being-for-the-other, must be the form that, at the deepest level, conditions whatever is and the truth that satisfies the hunger of the mind (Barron).

Or, to put to put it aphoristically, To be a Christian is to not be alone despite the solitude that surrounds us (Dávila).

Allone in a crowd, twogather in God. For Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion (ibid.).

Indeed, if you closely examine the meaning of this mysterious word -- experience -- you may find the key to the whole existentialada, because "unshared experience" is a contradiction in terms. To put it conversely, at the deepest level of our being, experience is always experience-with; experience is with and with is experience.

Bob, I'm not saying you're full of it -- yet -- but could you say a little more about this?

Well, think about the principle of Incarnation. What does it imply? What does it presuppose, and what does it bring about? For me, it isn't just the most radical idea ever, but literally the most radical idea conceivable, because it is the con-ception of infinitude in the womb of finitude. Barron puts it more plainly (in reference to the prologue of John):

The primordial divine conversation partner becomes a creature in order to draw creation into the embrace of the divine life.... Through the incarnation, the coinherence of the Father and the Logos seeks to provoke a coinherence of creation with God and of creatures with one another.

Reality is a coinherence, and coinherence is an unending conversation; or better, a trialogue at the edge of the subjective horizon where Self and Other meet in a mutually indwelling I AMbrace.

This being the case, a philosophy such as atheistic materialism is still going to be a conversation -- for it cannot not be -- but the person engaging in it is simply talking to himself. Truly, it is a glorified cognitive onanism, which is precisely why they are such infertile eggheads even if they're master debaters.

Let's wrap this up:

any philosophy, science, or worldview that does not see relationality, being-for-the-other, as ontologically fundamental must be false.... what the mind correctly seeks as it goes out to meet the intelligibility of the real is always a form of coinherence (Barron).

Put it this way: when your intelligence goes out to meet the world, the world meets it more than halfway, and is pleased to engage you in nonstop conversation via its own intelligibility.

Indeed, the world never stops blabbering, not just truths about itself, but how about all the beauty? Sometimes we are tempted to say: okay, we get it. Awesome. Numinous. Marvelous. Can I just eat my waffle?

But the same principle applies vertically; and it only applies horizontally because of this. In other words, if you have ears to hear and eyes to see, the experience of revelation (and the nonlocal experience that is revelation) never stops.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Now Batting, Number Two, Jesus Christ

Continuing with Bishop Barron's mind-expanding take on The Epistemic Priority of Christ, note that the claim in the title has to do with knowledge of reality; not just any knowledge, but ultimate knowledge of ultimate reality.

Put it this way: no matter your metaphysic -- even something as stupid and primitive as atheism -- you have to start somewhere, and this somewhere is not given by mere reason or math (both or which are tautological), nor by empiricism (since no sensation can tell you what it is sensing; that requires a rational soul that knows essences).

Therefore, all we ask is an honest and transparent statement of how you got to first base. If you faithfully execute this demand, you will quickly realize that you've simply assumed your way to first, thus undercutting your metaphysic before you can get to second, let alone score. Or, assuming you do reach home, you have cheated, because every baseball fan knows you can't steal first base. The instant replay negates the run. Start over.

So, when our team -- the Tonga Raccoons -- steps into the box with a bat labeled the epistemic priority of Christ, we are first of all simply being honest. Nor is this bat "stupid," or "unsophisticated," or "superstitious." Or, at the very least, it is no more or less superstitious than the bat with which you swing, be it scientism, Darwinism, deconstruction, whatever. Rather, it all comes down to how far the ball travels when we hit it.

Indeed, there is a bat and there is a ball. The bat is our mind (AKA intelligence), and the ball is reality (intelligibility).

However, it is no exaggeration to say that modern philosophy begins with the Kantian anti-principle that our bats cannot make contact with the ball. Swing as we might, all we can ever hit is our own a priori categories, thus smashing our own balls. Even if our phenomenal bats could strike the noumenal ball, we could never know it.

In the argot of baseball, if you are unfortunate enough to strike out three times in a single game, it's called a golden sombrero; four times is a platinum sombrero. Now imagine a whole life spent striking out: this is called a tenured sombrero.

Back to our leadoff hitter, the Bishop. Here comes the pitch:

to acknowledge the epistemic priority of Jesus Christ is, first, to assume the intelligibility of all that is.

In other words, it assumes that we can actually see and hit the ball. This is called "common sense," but you don't have to have spent too much time in academia to realize that common sense is against the rules of their league -- much as how the designated hitter runs contrary to any sense of aesthetics or propriety. It's frankly disgusting.

More on the dimensions and properties of our epistemic ballpark:

Since all has been made through, and will be ordered by, a divine rationality, there must be a form in all finite being as a whole and in each particular thing that exists; what comes to be through Logos is, necessarily, logical.... there is an unavoidable correspondence between the activity of the mind [bat] and the structure of being [ball]: intelligence will find its fulfillment [reach home] in this universal and inescapable intelligibility [common sense].

Now, in reality, the conduct of science is just COMMON SENSE writ large. Why then is it so uncommon, historically and culturally speaking? Well,

it is no accident that the physical sciences -- astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology -- developed and flourished in the Christian West.

For in these parts, we stride into to batter's box with "the biblical conviction that finite reality is intelligible, made through the divine Logos," such that our scientific heavy hitters "rather naturally move out to meet the physical world with confident rationality."

Thus, our "investigations will proceed without hesitation to the farthest reaches of the macrocosmic and the microcosmic realms." In other words, we can hit any ball out of any park. If you build it, we will transcend it. For these are the implicit rules of science:

One could argue that the universality of objective intelligibility (assumed by any honest scientist) can be explained only through recourse to a transcendent subjective intelligence that has thought the world into being, so that every act of knowing a worldly object or event is, literally, a re-cognition, a thinking again of what has already been thought by a primordial divine knower.

Bottom line for today: "every scientific act is, ipso facto, an affirmation of God's existence." Or in other words, all along, science has been borrowing God's bat without acknowledging it. Which is why "natural reason is a participation in the pure intelligibility of the Logos and thus is necessarily congruent with the deepest perceptions of theology" (Barron).

I had also wanted to say something about how and why, in our *finest* universities, the common sense of STEM has become utterly detached from the coarse and common nonsense of the humanities. Who took the uni out of the university? Well, yes, diabolos -- i.e., scatterer and divider -- but we'll say more about this as we proceed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

If Jesus Didn't Exist, We'd Have to Invent Him

Truth is a person. --Dávila

In an otherwise somewhat undistinguished compilation called All Things Hold Together in Christ there is an outstanding essay by Bishop Barron called The Epistemic Priority of Christ, which is extracted from his book The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism.

Much in this essay provides independent confirmation of the venerable Way of the Raccoon -- or in other words, that we're not just making it up. Every page is full of highlights, not so much because the material is new as because it is familiar.

Which is an even bigger shock. It's always that way when you bump into someone wandering around in the same attractor, especially when the attractor is otherwise so sparsely populated. God gives us this vast open space, and yet, so few people care to hike around in it.

Indeed, Barron is even in the same attractor as it pertains to the existence of attractors, which we might characterize as the teleological lures that shape our thought and even our lives. Being that we inhabit a vertical hierarchy, there exist attractors at various levels, with God being the ultimate attractor, and indeed, the Attractor without whom there can be no attraction, least of all to such intrinsic realities as truth, beauty, and virtue.

And of course, the Trinity is none other than the doctrine of attraction within the Godhead. This is not only a mind-blowing concept, but the only concept adequate to describe our terrestrial situation, in which there are attractors everywhere, on every level.

Now, an attractor isn't merely analogous to a magnet, or like gravity, through which things pull together in an exterior way. Rather, the whole point is that it is an interior attraction, more like love. And yet, gravity resembles love, which is why Dante could speak of the love that moves the sun and other stars.

Speaking of which, there is also repulsion, which goes to what we've been saying about rightly ordered disgust. For we should -- duh -- love what is lovable and hate what is hateful. Some people hate what is lovable, but I don't want to get political this morning. Although we may get back to the subject of Satan later in the post. Suffice it to say that God is the transcendental condition of our disgust (Dávila) as well as our... eu-gust, or something.

Imagine a purely exterior attraction which pulls all matter together. For example, they say that if the rate of expansion of the Big Bang were one iota different, the cosmos would have instantaneously collapsed back into oneness or nothingness, which amount to the same thing.

Fortunately, the rate of expansion is such that literally everything in the cosmos is attracted to everything else, but not so as to be static or to pull itself backwards. For now at least. We don't know if or when the process will reach an outer limit and head back to the womb of spacetime. Big Crunch or Big Freeze, not really interested.

Back to the Big Attractor. In the case of vertical attraction, it leads to higher levels of wholeness, harmony, and integration; it results in a unity-in-difference, not mere unicity.

Unicity is death. It is assimilation of the many into the one, whereas Life is preservation of the many in the one. This is what an organism is: a harmony of parts within the whole, such that the whole is somehow present in each part (think, for example, of how the genome for the whole organism is present in each cell).

Life. Jesus makes a number of seemingly paradoxical statements to the effect that he isn't just alive, but "the" life. Wha'? Actually, it makes perfect nonsense. Barron:

Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another.... Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets, and the stars -- all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him (emphasis mine).

Harmony is a unity of individual notes, not everyone singing or playing the same note. I love harmony. Now I know why. Existence itself is symphonic, and life is a melody. Or, life is a movie accompanied by a soundtrack. The important question is, what is the genre of your film? It can be drama, tragedy, adventure, horror, suspense, visionary, or one of those tedious or pretentious foreign films... Or, worse yet, a non-binary SJW superhero sub-farce.

Mine? I would say it's an unending quest. What kind of quest? A divine comedy, I guess. With a soundtrack consisting of spontaneous improvisation situated on the living border between order and chaos.

"Jesus," writes Barron, "is before, during, and after all finite existence, creating, surrounding, and pulling it to completion" (emphasis mine).

In fact, if we reverse imagineer existence, we will inevitably arrive at an X-factor that just so happens to be in the shape of the missing Jesus, or better, the Christ Mind.

Of course, you can pretend the x-factor isn't there, but this is why your metaphysic can't even account for you, let alone everything outside and beyond you. Materialism is, among other things, cosmic narcissism. Personality is still (implicitly) at the center of things, only it's your own little personality disorder -- or dis-ordered personality -- instead of a cosmically healthy one.

And what is a healthy personality? Certain deuscriptors apply, such as wholeness, harmony, radiance, integration, actualization, objectivity, etc. Conversely, the unhealthy person is fragmented, at odds with himself, unactualized, enmeshed in radiant darkness, and sunk in subjective emotionality. But again, I don't want to get political or demonological this morning.

To be continued tomorrow. We don't need no steenking Chinese virus to get us to thinking about the Tao.

By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face. --Dávila

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Peptic Justice and Other Alimentary Principles

The effect of liberal rhetoric on taste is called nausea. --Dávila

Continuing with our theme of rightly ordered disgust, it seems that we (Dávila and I) are not alone in believing that sensitivity to our digestive system may be a reliable source of information about the immaterial world.

Lewis notes that Aristotle, for example, maintained "that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought":

When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in 'ordinate affections' or 'just sentiments' will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.

Wrong abdominal sensations, wrong ethics.

Note that there can be no "social justice" in the absence of gastric justice -- or rather, if one's gastric sentiments are unjust. This no doubt sounds a bit silly, but think about it: "just" has to do with what is fitting, or what is right and proper. Suppose I think it's fitting to conduct human sacrifice in order to ensure that the sun has sufficient nourishment. Imagine how disordered one must be to not feel the injustice of this in one's gut.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we see an everyday example of this with regard to the abortion debate. Irrespective of one's position, every rightly ordered person is disgusted by the practice. Bill Clinton attempted to square this circle by saying it should be "safe, legal, and rare." Why rare? In order to acknowledge a disgust that is universally felt in the rightly ordered soul.

But we have made great digestive progress in the two decades since Clinton left office. At least Democrats are consistent. Back in the early to mid-19th century, they developed the "positive good" theory of slavery, in contrast to the general sentiment of the framers, none of whom argued that it was moral or just. Jefferson would later write that

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism.

In other words, while he of course owned slaves, he had sense enough to recognize that the institution was evil and intrinsically unjust. Compare him to this nasty piece of work, who argues for the positive good of abortion:

Prior to 1830 or so, you didn't hear Democrats shrieking that

Here I was, sitting in Virginia, in my beautiful plantation, so I could have sufficient time and leisure to focus on politics. And I have all of this -- ALL OF IT! -- because! BECAUSE! BECAUSE! -- I was allowed to own human beings! I will not be shamed into being quiet! I WILL NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT MY SLAVES, OR MY PLANTATION, OR MY WHITE PRIVILEGE!

Back to Lewis. He writes that St. Augustine too spoke of "the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded the kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it."

For example, it turns out that we should not only allow our children to live, but even accord them the love to which they are entitled. Moreover, we should teach them "to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likable, disgusting and hateful":

In [Plato's] Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one 'who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it...

The human soul is properly nourished by truth, beauty, justice, and other transcendental food. Children should be taught gastric justice, or rather, one might say that recognition of justice -- and injustice -- should reach into one's bones and viscera. If it's only a mental abstraction, it's not going to be very reliable. I'm thinking, for example, of the horrors that have resulted from the rigorous application of abstract political ideologies disconnected from somatic awareness of evil.

This isn't to say that untutored disgust is a reliable compass. The key is to properly link psyche and soma. For example, in Iran they're disgusted by dogs, while in China they're not disgusted by eating bats.

Closer to home, millennials in particular aren't properly disgusted by socialism, and are instead disgusted by positive goods such as the free market, fossil fuels, free speech, and disinterested racial colorblindness. If this doesn't disgust you, you have no ontological taste.

I would go so far as to say that "social justice" is peptic injustice. If you're not disgusted by SJWs and their unjust ethic, there's something wrong with your brain-intestine network.

Here are a couple of closing aphorisms that go to the subject of rightly ordered disgust:

Each day it becomes easier to know what we ought to despise: what modern man admires and journalism praises.

It is enough to know nothing more than that certain beings have adopted an idea to know that it is false.

At the other end of the spectrum,

The intelligent idea produces sensual pleasure.

The intelligent man quickly reaches conservative conclusions.

Conservatism should not be a political party but the normal attitude of every decent man.

Perhaps these sound like unseemly self-flattery or unearned auto-congratulation. However, we're the ones who not only reject the whole self-esteem and give-everyone-a-trophy ethos, but first train our disgust on ourselves. We are proponents of the self-disappointment movement, which is the other wing that allows the self to take off in vertical space.

It may have been Chesterton who said that God doesn't love us because we are particularly lovable, but because he wants to help make us lovable. He doesn't just hand out trophies for nothing, but makes it possible for us to receive one by cooperating with his grace. Thus,

Nobody will ever induce me to absolve human nature, because I know myself.

No one who knows himself can be absolved by himself.

We can never count on a man who does not look upon himself with the gaze of an entomologist (Dávila).

Friday, March 13, 2020

If You Share My Disgust, You Earn My Trust

"Disgust" is related to such words as gustatory and gustable, or in other words, the digestive system, specifically, the sense of taste. Something that is dis-gusting is, among other things, in bad taste, and should be spat out.

We've all heard the old saying, de gustibus non est disputandum, which literally means that in matters of taste there can be no disputes. In plain English it means there's no accounting for taste. Among the tenured it means that everything is relative, so nothing is intrinsically superior to anything else, in any dimension (e.g., aesthetics, morality, culture, etc.).

One of our readers is disgusted by President Trump, to such an extent that it is "pushing me towards a belief in the existence of objective evil." Conversely, I am disgusted by the president's haters but believe in the existence of objective evil. Is there any accounting for our differing reactions, or in matters of disgust can there be no disputes?

More generally, disgust is both over- and under-appreciated. I, for example, find it to be a rapid and effective cognitive early warning system. However, our Trump-hating commenter would no doubt say the same thing, and yet, we are disgusted by opposite flavors -- as if what is sweet to him is bitter to me, and vice versa.

Now, some flavors that are initially bitter can become enjoyable; in fact, two of these are central to the Raccoon lifestyle, coffee and beer. In short, one must undergo some gustatory training in order to appreciate some flavors. I suppose the same is true of cigars, or hard liquor, or any number of more subtle distinctions known only to foodies, enologists, and other picky connoisseurs of this or that.

When it comes to disgust, there's always a lot of signaling and social mimicry going on. One signals to one's fellow posers by being attracted to, or disgusted by, the proper things. In the past I've spoken of my father-in-law's ugly collection of modern art. It wasn't disgusting -- like, say, a painting done with menstrual blood -- but just irrelevant to any normal person's conception of beauty.

Clearly, much of politics revolves around this mechanism of tribal signaling. Sometimes the purpose of being in a club is simply to identify whom we may licitly hate. Human nature being what it is, we have to hate someone or something, and politics is a nonlethal way to organize our hatreds. Even (or especially) God hates evil, and if we are the i. and l., then so should we.

Back when I was a knee-jerk lefty, I was disgusted by conservatives, even though I didn't really know any, and knew nothing about conservatism except what I'd heard from fellow members of my tribe. Now I am disgusted by the left, but it's because I'm so familiar with its ideas.

However, a leftist has to go very much out of his way to familiarize himself with conservatism. I live in a deeply blue state and an even bluer congressional district, and toil in one of the bluest of all professions, psychology. I routinely meet people who pretend to understand conservatism, but they are able to articulate only a straw man version to which they react with disgust.

Now, if you're going to be properly disgusted by something, you should at least understand it. I, for example, am disgusted and horrified by socialism, not because I don't understand it, but because I do.

Where is this post going, you might ask? Well, I was thinking of how there is something much deeper than just intellectual agreement. Living as I do among the primitive tribe of Blue Meanies, I am accustomed to "passing." In other words, I am circumspect about revealing my true identity and allegiances. I only know I'm fully in the clear if my interlocutor is absolutely disgusted by the same things: if you share my disgust, then you earn my trust!

Perhaps I should emphasize that this is distinct from merely hating the same things. I don't trust hate. It's too crude and simplistic, not to mention (if you pay attention to it) enjoyable. As alluded to above, it's fun to hate the Bad Tribe. But there's nothing fun about my disgust for, say, Adam Schiff. When I see and hear him on television, I can literally feel the rising of nausea at the base of the throat. That's genuine disgust.

But again, we must be disgusted by the proper things. Our disgust must be rightly ordered. How do we know when our disgust is operating as it should? For example, are "homophobia," or "Islamophobia," or "transphobia" just different names for "normal"?

Let me think for a moment day or two while giving you some aphorisms to ponder:

--I trust less in the arguments of reason than in the antipathies of intelligence.

--Our spontaneous revulsions are often more lucid than our reasoned convictions.

--One who does not share our repugnance does not understand our ideas.

--He who does not smell sulfur in the modern world has no sense of smell.

--Nothing makes more evident the reality of sin than the stench of the souls that deny its existence.

--Moral indignation is not truly sincere unless it literally ends in vomiting (Dávila).

In the natural world, disgust signals Danger! Do not swallow! In other words, same as in the transnatural world. Some kinds of fruit may look good but are not to be eaten or even touched without risking death (or so we have heard from the wise).

Liberal ideas are congenial. Their consequences are disastrous (ibid.).

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Can the Abolition of Man be Arrested?

Well, I just finished this big ol' book of C.S. Lewis, consisting of seven works of apologetics. The last one is The Abolition of Man, a diabolical project that has infected millions more in the 76 years since Lewis diagnosed this spiritual plague in 1944.

If only we could have quarantined the victims back then! Instead, the infection has worked its way through people and institutions, such that the abolition of men -- and women -- is almost the default position. From the perspective of the abolished man -- say, Chris Hayes, or Anderson Cooper, or Rachel Maddow -- the unabolished man -- oh, let's say, President Trump -- is the problem!

When they say "patriarchy" I hear "parricide," AKA the Abolition of Man.

Why is our politics so divided and divisive? Well, first of all, because it is supposed to be. However, it is more divided than usual, because the two sides no longer share the same principles or goals. Nor, for that matter, do they inhabit the same reality (and by definition there is only one). And ultimately they are no longer the same species. For an abolished man is obviously no longer a man. Which is the whole point of the exercise.

What then is this former man? Is he merely an animal? In other words, if we eliminate human nature, are we left with but a trousered or tenured ape? Yes and no. For a man cannot actually abolish himself, any more than a snake can fly or a Bernie Bro can support himself. Being human means we can imagine alternate realities, such that a man can always pretend he is a woman, or a journalist, or intellectual, or pretty much anything.

He can even pretend there is no such thing as human nature and thereby pretend to have abolished man, just like that. Actually, the second part isn't "pretend," because unreal ideas can nevertheless have very real consequences. For example, Islamists imagine they please God by murdering innocent human beings. The idea is crazy but its victims are just as dead.

Notice that the feelings are subjective but the consequences are objective. However, one side of our culture war insists that its feelings are objective. For example, if someone says "believe all women," this means we should abandon all objective standards of innocence and guilt. More generally, has any conservative ever uttered the oxymoron "my truth?" For the personal pronoun reduces the impersonal and objective to personal and subjective. Which is one way to abolish a man, or at least cancel him.

Consider these two statements: 1) "President Trump is a white supremacist." 2) "Joe Biden is suffering from a progressive dementia."

The first statement isn't even false, whereas the second is so self-evident that one must be able to recognize its truth in order to deny its truth; in other words, the lie is parasitic on the truth of Biden's obvious cognitive decline. The statement about Trump is a different kind of lie, because it doesn't deny a prior truth but superimposes an alternate reality.

Having said that, there are nevertheless times that feelings are an adequation to reality. Lewis discusses one of them, the recognition of the sublime. Someone who says "this is sublime" isn't just making a statement about his feelings. Rather, the feelings are a wholly appropriate response to the object that provokes them, say a cathedral, or the Pieta, or Yosemite Valley.

However, if you have been indoctrinated into a scientistic worldview, your feelings of sublimity are completely subjective, and reveal nothing about reality. If one says "this musical performance is sublime," it really just means "I'm having sublime feelings." Which means nothing, since the feelings evoked are rendered wholly individual instead of universal. It's equivalent to saying I feel hungry or tired, which doesn't mean you should feel hungry or tired.

Nevertheless, when a normal man says "that woman is beautiful," he doesn't mean "I am having beautiful feelings." But a metaphysical Darwinian, if he is being intellectually consistent, will say "the form of that woman is tricking me into thinking she is a genetically fit candidate for the propagation of my DNA." There is no such thing as beauty, except insofar as it is a kind of deception, or bait-and-switch.

People who consistently deny that feelings can be adequations "will believe two propositions":

firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and secondly, that all such statements are unimportant (Lewis).

But no one really believes this; or certainly no one can live as if it is true. The person who feels President Trump is a white supremacist isn't just saying "I am having feelings of white supremacism." Rather, he believes his feelings are an appropriate adequation to an objective reality. In other words, if the president is a white supremacist, our reaction shouldn't be neutral, let alone positive.

But what if the feelings are coming first, the perception second? In other words, what if I simply have the feeling that the president is a racist, and then justify those feelings by excluding any evidence to the contrary? In that case, then the feelings are no longer an adequation, at least to objective reality.

Nevertheless, they are still an adequation. To what then? This is a long story, and since neither my body nor mind have adapted to the time change, we're running out of it. However, the problem is alluded to in the book, and has to do with the idea that the human mind...

Put it this way: say what you want about self-consciousness, but it is a predicament. For not only do we have to adapt to the world -- as does any other animal -- but we have the additional task of having to adapt to the exceedingly strange condition of mindedness, or of thoughts and feelings and what to do about them. Yes, "think and feel them" is correct, but perhaps you have no idea of how easy this is to say and how difficult to put into practice.

As a psychologist, I routinely deal with people who confuse their feelings with thoughts and thoughts with feelings, and wonder why their lives have run aground.

Let's take someone with deep anxiety. That's a feeling. But they turn the anxiety into a thought, for example, that the world is undergoing catastrophic warming and we're all gonna die in ten years!

It can work the other way as well: for example, if I have the thought that the president is a racist, then I will have all the righteous feelings that would be present if it were true. And these feelings are delicious. Not to mention addictive.

To be continued...

Friday, March 06, 2020

Why and Because

Another mundane post that flapped and flapped its wings but never got off the ground...

We all want to know Why? It seems that this question is bound up with humanness, because not only are human beings the only creatures capable of asking the question, we never stop doing so. We are homo curiosus from the moment we're born to the day we die. Then, after our biological activity has ceased, those around us will ask: where did he go?

Another way of saying it is that we are born philosophers. Knowledge -- in order to be knowledge -- is knowledge of causes, and we want to know all there is to know about all there is.

A true philosopher is someone who doesn't stop asking Why at some provincial truck stop on the road to knowledge, but recognizes the unrestricted nature of the human subject and its conformity to the unbound object; each pole of this ultimate complementarity partakes of infinitude in terms of depth, height, and breadth; and there is an endlessly fruitful reciprocity or dialectic between these.

For us, God is revealed in the space between these ultimates -- not as God-in-himself, but as our own Godward journey. In other words, our own quest for God is already evidence that we are being pulled into the divine attractor.

Lewis describes an important distinction between two very different forms of because. Let's say I am a conservative because I want what is best for human beings. The leftist responds by saying that the "real reason" I am conservative is because I want to harm people -- especially blacks, women, immigrants, homosexuals, cross dressers, etc.

But let's leave me out of it. Leftists apply the same rule to themselves (AKA "the revolution eats its own). For example, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand actually failed because of the deeply racist and sexist double standards of Democrat voters. Note that this explanation -- this Because -- means they don't have to examine the other types of Because, e.g., that they were rejected because of their daft policies and unpleasant personalities.

So, one type of because can be used to preserve another type from scrutiny. Not only are conservatives wearily familiar with the imputation of a fake Because, rarely are our arguments addressed on the plane from which they arise. If we support Trump, it is really because we are racists. If we oppose the redefinition of marriage, it is because we hate homosexuals. If we believe a man isn't a woman, we are "transphobic." If we point out that a model that fails to predict empirical measurements is simply wrong, we are called climate change deniers. Etc.

As Lewis writes -- and this was back in 1947 --

the most popular way of discrediting a person's opinions is to explain them causally -- 'You say that because (Cause and Effect) you are a capitalist, or a hypochondriac, or a mere man, or only a woman.' The implication is that if causes fully account for a belief, then since causes work inevitably, the belief would have to arise whether it had grounds or not. We need not, it is felt, consider grounds for something which can be fully explained without them.

But look at the double standards applied by the left: we often hear them say, for example, that crime is "caused" by poverty, so the criminal isn't really guilty of the crime. But if our beliefs are caused by extrinsic factors of which we are unaware, why aren't we equally blameless? Why do they hate us if we have no more control over our thoughts than a machine has over its actions?

And more importantly, is this post going anywhere? Does it have a deeper point, which is to say, is there a deeper Why and and a more satisfying Because to the above phenomena? Or is it Just Politics, a ubiquitous feature of the world's second oldest profession? We can't yet say. We can only hope.

"Acts of thinking," writes Lewis, "are 'about' something other than themselves and can be true or false." If the act of thinking "were totally explicable from other sources it would cease to be knowledge," just as, say, tinnitus isn't caused by extrinsic air vibrations, but rather, some intrinsic pathology in the organism. "Hearing" the ringing in one's ears is like seeing hallucinations; which is to say, these aren't really hearing or seeing at all, because they aren't caused by their proper objects (air and light vibrations, respectively).

The same must be true of thought, which is either an adequation or it is nothing. For example, a Democrat will say that if I can't see that President Trump is is a racist, my perception is indadequate. But what if Trump isn't racist? In this case, our critics must be hallucinating.

Bion symbolizes the hallucination (-K), which, as it so happens, often "substitutes morality for scientific thought. There will be no function in this approach for discriminating between true and false, between thing-in-itself and representation."

Ah, now we might be getting somewhere. The (-K) delusion may resemble abstract thought, but is really motivated -- caused -- by morality. However, a better term might be primitive morality, or moralism.

Now, what is primitive morality? Well, it is entirely preoccupied with guilt and punishment: something has gone wrong, and someone must pay. It is an animistic outlook that anthropomorphizes impersonal cause and effect.

For example, I remember reading in a book on the history of law, that it took some time for human beings to recognize that if a person is pushed out of a window, the falling person isn't to blame for injuring the fellow he lands on. It wasn't his fault, because there was no intent. For similar reasons, there were apparently instances of putting animals on trial for actions of which they obviously had no control.

But in an animistic world there is no such thing has bad luck. Malevolent forces -- malign wills -- are everywhere. In fact, you could say that this is the entire basis of the SJW outlook, in that it persistently attributes inequality to malevolent design (e.g., "white privilege" or the "patriarchy") when in reality it is the inevitable result of freedom + rules, i.e., fairness.

Back to primitive morality. It is primarily animated by envy and hatred. And envy is entirely bound up with the perception of inequality, and, more to the point, the inability to tolerate it.

Here is another deeper point about the attribution of ulterior causes to our beliefs. Perhaps it isn't surprising that the left is so vulnerable to this fallacy, because their whole worldview is predicated upon it. For materialism is an account of mental behavior which "leaves no room for the acts of knowing or insight on which the whole value of our thinking, as a means to truth, depends."

It "is really a theory that there is no reasoning," because reason "must have come into existence by a historical process" which by definition wasn't "designed to produce a mental behavior that can find truth."

So if you really want to go down the path of "real reasons," you must go all the way, and conclude that there is no real reason for any belief; or that if there are real reasons, we could never know them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The Spirit is Unwilling and the Post is Weak

Just some notes to myself that may or may not turn into a post. I only show up at the keyboard. If the inspiration decides not to show up, there's nothing I can do about it. Except maybe build a workmanlike post with bricks of common nonsense.

Again, we're just flipping through C.S. Lewis' Miracles, contained in this bargain compendium of his seven most popular works of Christian apologetics. I'm surprised at how good it is, but this is because I had thought of Lewis as a mere popularizer, providing a bit of sustenance to Christians who find themselves in one of those anti- or nonintellectal denominations cut off from the main trunk.

True, he was a popularizer, but the popularizer of 75 years ago is not the popularizer of today. Back then it required no more than a high school diploma to grasp his arguments, whereas today you need a college degree in order to have no idea what the hell he's even talking about.

Anyway, my notations.

"Naturalists would rather deny their own existence than affirm God's." As usual we mean this literally, because if there is no free will (and there is no free will if it isn't anchored in a transcendent reality), then we are merely cogs in an interlocking network of necessary entailments. We are simply the end-product of causes leading up to us, no different from any other machine. Therefore it is an illusion that anything exists in its own right. Rather, there is only the One Thing doing its thing, in which we are embedded.

Conversely, in Christian metaphysics there is still one thing, but this thing -- existence -- is grounded in a meta-thing -- being. In this view, the fundamental line is between Creator and creation, and it illuminates all other lines and distinctions. Creatures are on this side of the line. Except for human beings, who are somehow on this side and yet in conscious contact with the other; as if we are in this world but of another.

In the case of naturalism, there are literally no lines, or rather, any lines we discern are imaginary, because in reality there is only the One Giant Thing that determines everything within it. Monism means monism: you can't have your monistic cake and eat it too. Because if you can eat it, you have obviously transcended it.

In other words, you can't be nothing but a piston in the engine of nature and then pretend to know about the whole car. Indeed, to even say "cosmos" would be pure fantasy, like a blind person speculating about color.

For us, God is Necessary Being. Everything else is contingent upon this. But for the naturalist there is only existence, and everything "within" existence necessarily follows upon everything else. There is still necessity, and yet no freedom.

But here's a clue: knowledge of necessity is freedom. To know cause-and-effect is to have transcended it. I know that 2 + 2 = 4, every time, no matter what. Therefore, I am beyond mathematical necessity. Gödel's theorems merely prove this in a more systematic way -- ultimately that the human mind always transcends and escapes its own attempts to model nature.

"No account of the universe can be true," says Lewis, "unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight."

In other words, let's say physicists arrive at the very thing that is the implicit ground and sponsor of physics, the T.O.E., the universal equation that is the cause of all others, and which finally unifies all the loose ends, from quantum theory to general relativity and everything in between. Well, first of all, Gödel, who appears nowhere in these pages, at least explicitly. Yet, he's here in spirit, for

A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would simply eat its own tail..... [T]hat theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished.

Of course. Back then a popularizer could affirm such an obvious truth without insulting your intelligence.

Back a couple thousand posts ago, I wrote one called Proof of Proof is Proof of God. I don't recall what I wrote -- I'll reread it later -- but I probably thought it was a novel insight or something. So, what's Lewis doing in MY attractor?

In any event, we agree that a theory promulgated by the very thinking it demolishes

would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound -- a proof that there are no such things as proofs -- which is nonsense.

Of course. Like anyone could not know that.

I'm going to stop now. As usual, I have to get some work done.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Heads I'm Right, Tails You're Wrong

Back in the early years of the blog, we had a commenter who had convinced his sorryself that free will didn't exist, and endeavored to convince us as well.

This commenter would not -- or could not, if he had no free will -- be made to understand that if free will didn't exist, we could never know it.

Nor did he appreciate -- on the assumption that determinism is true -- the futility of trying to "change" another person's mind via an appeal to truth. And finally, he engaged in the persistent error of assuming that causation on the material plane must operate in the same manner as it does on the intellectual plane -- as if the cause of understanding is no different from the cause of a car crash.

Ultimately he naively conflated subject and object, subsuming the former into the latter. And once you've done this, then it's easy enough to deny free will, because objects have no will, let alone freedom. Nevertheless, this is what all materialists do, and cannot help doing once they embrace materialism. Their conclusion is indeed compelled by their premise, but the premise is compelled by nothing.

Do they embrace materialism freely? If so, then this refutes the doctrine. Or are they compelled to embrace it? If so, then they can only believe something because they are constrained to do so, not because it is true.

Therefore, there's no way to get around the reality of free will. Freedom or nihilism. Your choice. Or, you can pretend you have no choice.

But again, why try to convince others you have no choice? Even supposing you don't, that's hardly a reason to believe others don't. On what philosophical basis do you universalize what is particular to your own existence? For universalization and freedom are intimately related. You will have noticed that animals don't apprehend universals, because in order to do so, one must transcend immediate sensory/empirical experience.

I've been slowly making my way through C.S. Lewis's Miracles -- slowly not because it's difficult but because it provokes so many ideas I want to blog about. Already I have pages and pages of notes I want to expand upon, so the further I go in the reading, the further I fall behind in the writing. I simply can't keep up with myself unless I blog every single day. Bob! Come back!

But let's stay focused. Free will. Few things are as important. Come to think if it, I can't think of anything that surpasses its importance, not even truth, because truth cannot be realized in the absence of freedom to do so.

It reminds me of how Bernie Sanders praises Cuba's "literacy program." For truly truly, of what good is literacy if one is free only to learn repulsive and destructive lies? Literacy is neither here nor there in a world where one has access only to the New York Times. In such a world, the person who cannot read is more in touch with reality than the one who can and must.

As Lewis says, "no thoroughgoing Naturalist" -- to the extent that he is an intellectually consistent one -- can believe in free will, because it would necessarily entail

that human beings have the power of independent action, the power of doing something more or other than what was involved by the total series of events.

The total series of events. In order for determinism to be true, what I am typing at the moment must be nothing more than the present effect of causes extending back to... to what exactly? This itself is highly problematic, because if the chain doesn't originate in an Uncaused Cause, then we have a cosmos of effects with no cause. Which is absurd. Or magical. Either way, it makes no sense. Say what you want about atheism, but its appeal cannot be grounded in logic.

Which reminds me. At the Democrat debate the other night, the seven dwarves were asked a moronic question about their personal motto or something. I wondered to myself, what would I come up with in such surreal circumstances? How does one reduce a lifetime of thinking to a cliché that even a liberal journalist can understand?

It might be one of thousands of wise and witty comments by Dávila, or Schuon, or Whitehead, Chesterton, Churchill, Bob Dobbs... And yet, probably the most effective one -- simultaneously timeless and timely -- is Breitbart's succinct witticism, a sprightly bon mot that is appropriate for any encounter with a Democrat: Fuck. You.

However, that's not the one that popped into my mind. Rather, I thought of Paul's crack in 2 Corinthians 3:17: Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Conversely, although Paul doesn't say it in so many words, Where the Spirit of the Lord isn't, boom, there is the left.

At any rate, something must exist in its own right, right? We all agree that there must an Uncaused Cause and Unmoved Mover, otherwise there is no ground for anything, including our explanations for anything. There must be at least one self-evident axiom or principle from which all else is derived, otherwise we are condemned to immanence, enclosed in tautology, and sealed in tenure. Ultimately it is either God or nature, but can nature ever be self-sufficient and self-explanatory?

It's easy enough to default to nature as the ground and principle of everything else, but then you've painted yourself into something of a corner with respect to where all the information comes from.

What principle accounts for the generation of information from non-information -- or life from non-life, mind from matter, subject from object, contingency from necessity, freedom from determinacy? That's a tall order, especially from chaos. Yeah, you could just insist that the first terms in the above antinomies reduce to the second, but if that satisfies you, well... you've done all the thinking you need to do and that you're capable of doing anyway.

About that Uncaused Cause. What do we know about it? A lot, actually. How do we know? Well, it's one of those things with which we are intimately familiar, to such an extent that we can't not know it: in short, that we are persons, and that a person can be defined as an uncaused cause. Not that we aren't caused per se, but that, as persons, we share in the nature of the Uncaused Cause. Which is what Dávila means when he says,

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

Could I be wrong? Yes, but only if I'm right. For

To admit the existence of errors is to confess the reality of free will.