Thursday, September 24, 2020

In the Meantime...

I commend this essay to readers: How the Great Truth Dawned, by Gary Saul Morson. It is surprisingly relevant to the Current Project in a number of ways, beginning with the importance of narrative as vehicle for truth:

Novels of ideas... exhibit a masterplot: a hero or heroine devoted to an idea discovers that reality is much more complex than the idea allows.

For example, a materialist believes that love is nothing but physiology and that individual people differ no more than frogs, yet he falls deeply in love with a particular woman (the plot of Turgenev’s Fathers and Children). A moralist asserts that only actions, not wishes, have moral value, yet winds up consumed by guilt for a murder he has fostered only by his wish for it (the plot of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov)....

As mentioned in the previous post, our Current Project involves the reconciliation of evolutionary and Thomistic psychologies -- where they converge, where they diverge, and where only one can possibly walk out alive. This cosmos -- no cosmos -- is big enough for two ultimate truths.

If I were a novelist, perhaps I'd write a story of a strict sociobiologist who insists that love is nothing but a deception of the genes to trick us into reproducing, yet falls deeply in love with a particular woman. Only then does he discover a reality that transcends his little ideology, and that frogs and persons aren't of equal value and significance.

On an even deeper level, I wonder if the biblical narrative -- the arc of salvation that spans from creation to the beatific vision -- isn't a bug but a feature? In other words, this metastory not only must be told in history, but with history. What if history is made of truth -- the truth of fall and redemption?

I have a note to myself: consequences of Darwinism. Suffice it to say that no Darwinist actually thinks and lives the consequences of his ideology. Indeed, if he takes them seriously, he could under no circumstances take them seriously, because they abolish the very possibility of knowing truth. Only a sociopath could be an intellectually and morally consistent Darwinian.

Volodin recalls Epicurus’s words: “Our inner feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are the highest criteria of good and evil,” and only now does he understand them. “Now it was clear: Whatever gives me pleasure is good; what displeases me is bad. Stalin, for instance, enjoyed killing people -- so that, for him, was good?”

How wise such philosophy seems to a free person! But for Volodin, good and evil are now distinct entities. “His struggle and suffering had raised him to a height from which the great materialist’s wisdom seemed like the prattle of a child.”

Similarly, compared to St. Thomas, the wisdom of evolutionary psychology seems like the prattle of a child.

Solzhenitsyn explains: “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.... it is in the nature of a human being to seek a justification for his actions.”

Here again, a strict Darwinian can never speak of natural law or of a transcendent human nature.

Why is it, Solzhenitsyn asks, that Macbeth, Iago, and other Shakespearean evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses, while Lenin and Stalin did in millions? The answer is that Macbeth and Iago “had no ideology.” Ideology makes the killer and torturer an agent of good, “so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors.” Ideology never achieved such power and scale before the twentieth century.

How does the ideology of Darwinism explain this? More to the point, from the perspective of Darwinism, on what basis can we say that Stalin and his ideology are evil?

Anyone can succumb to ideology. All it takes is a sense of one’s own moral superiority for being on the right side; a theory that purports to explain everything; and -- this is crucial -- a principled refusal to see things from the point of view of one’s opponents or victims, lest one be tainted by their evil viewpoint.

If we remember that totalitarians and terrorists think of themselves as warriors for justice, we can appreciate how good people can join them.

Ideologies have consequences. The consequences of atheism are absolutely ruinous:

Bolshevik ethics explicitly began and ended with atheism. Only someone who rejected all religious or quasi-religious morals could be a Bolshevik because, as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and other Bolshevik leaders insisted, the only standard of right and wrong was success for the Party.

The bourgeoisie falsely claim we have no ethics, Lenin explained.... But what we reject is any ethics based on God’s commandments or anything resembling them, such as abstract principles, timeless values, universal human rights, or any tenet of philosophical idealism. For a true materialist, Lenin maintained, there can be no Kantian categorical imperative to regard others only as ends, not as means.

Each of our lives is a narrative, a story. Indeed, how could human life even be conceived if not as an unfolding drama? But what is the drama about? Does it point to a telos beyond itself, or is it only about the past -- about our past adaptations to this or that contingent environment? Can it really be about nothing other than selfish genes, or class warfare, or the elimination of people with white privilege?

Kopelev, Solzhenitsyn, and others describe the key event of their life as the discovery that just as the universe contains causal laws it also contains moral laws. Bolshevik horror derived from the opposite view: that there is nothing inexplicable in materialist terms and that the only moral standard is political success.

To be continued...


Gagdad Bob said...

File under The wisdom of evolutionary psychology.

Gagdad Bob said...

This essay seems relevant vis-a-vis enclosing man in rationalistic tautology vs. the open spiral of narrative and tradition.

Anonymous said...

Most perception of reality depends on what one gets to feel all the time.

I believe it was Chomsky who proclaimed that every single American president since WWII was involved in some kind of nefarious extranational action in which a great many were killed and that a lot of these actions involved ruining democratically elected governments.

I would research the validity (or degree of validity) of this if it wasn’t such a horribly unamerican thing to say. It makes me feel bad. So I’ll just put Chomsky into the bad box and leave it at that.

I prefer the world of Tolkien. In that place the good are good because they’re attractive and charming and wise, and the bad are bad because they’re ugly and grotesque and stupid. Yet I noticed that one of his central characters, Tom Bombadil, was completely disregarded in the Jackson Hobbit-Rings movie series. Tom seems like quite the freedom loving, live and let live, ideal. But the producers say he wouldn’t have added anything to their version of the story, which they were crafting to make money. I’ll put that one into the box labeled “Who cares?”

My white evangelical conservative physician in-law just sold his share of the practice and is now wealthy. Yet in the process of doing such he committed some ethical fraud and the move results in a fair amount of resource degradation for his community. But he’s said that he’ll offer me some financial support if need be. If I had to put him into a Tolkien box, It’d be the one labeled “Denethor, son of Ecthelion”. I’m pretty proud about being self-reliantly self-sufficient, but I know that the Tom Bombadils of the world tend to be fairly irrelevant and are eventually written out of the movie versions. So before said in-law perishes as a free falling ball of flame, I need to make a decision. Kiss butt for cash prizes, or play it proud and become irrelevant. I’m not sure what box to put that opportunity into.

julie said...

Re. Happy Acres, I think the problem isn't so much that women don't know what they want as that they do know, but most of them think there's something wrong with wanting that, so they spend most of their lives fighting their own nature. There was an article linked at Ace's this morning which discussed (though not as well as it could have been done, imo) the problem of modern women and mental illness.

Back to the post,
Bolshevik horror derived from the opposite view: that there is nothing inexplicable in materialist terms and that the only moral standard is political success.

This is why they don't care about contradicting themselves, no matter how brazenly or irrefutably. The only thing that matters to the swamp is winning.

neal said...

To become less for greater good is a hard row to hoe.
Money damns people. No money makes people nervous.
Faith and money is not The Faith without.
And that is just tensions for those without a pot to piss in or a place to rest hereabouts.

Gagdad Bob said...

Which, according to Thomistic psychology, is the very definition of mental illness, since the telos of the mind is truth.

julie said...

Re. the importance of narrative, one of the reasons I've been enjoying teaching the kiddos is that the history they study is never presented as a dry set of facts, but rather as a dramatic narrative set in a place in time (Charlotte mason's "living history" approach). Whether it's a biography of a man or a hermit crab, they learn by entering into the story - thus as participants, and not merely observers checking off boxes so they can bubble in the right answer on a test.

Gagdad Bob said...

(In response to Julie's comment.)

Gagdad Bob said...

Regarding history, it can make no sense or have any point from within itself, only from outside or beyond.

Gagdad Bob said...

We can't even know of the existence of history from within history. In a way, history is the transcendence of history. I blame the Jews.

Mark said...

There's another fine article by the same author in the online October 2020 issue of First Things.

julie said...

Mark, that's a good one - thank you.

Notable is the following passage describing the Russian intelligentsia:

"A strict intelligent had to subscribe to some ideology—whether populist, Marxist, or anarchist—that was committed to the total destruction of the existing order and its replacement by a utopia that would, at a stroke, eliminate every human ill."

Sounds just like the BLM page that was finally removed after too many people noticed what they said about themselves.

Gagdad Bob said...

I've had that other article by Morson in an open tab for a couple days, but haven't gotten to it. He's one of those writers you want to savor and not just skim.

Gagdad Bob said...

Search for his article on Leninthink.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by movements which aim to create utopias by killing everyone. My cats are already on board, on the condition I let them go outside first. Have you guys ever heard of Scientology?

julie said...

Nauseating: - and sadly not the Bee: RBG's death drives woman to Satanism

Was reading the Leninthink article last night and this morning. The horror of it stems in no small part from the fact that these same lunatic ideas are so clearly driving the riotous mobs of today's left, and especially whoever it is that wishes for America to follow that same path to where it always leads. They abolish history because to understand it is to see where they would lead us. The useful idiots think this is the path to utopia; for others, it's the path to power; but for the true believer, the murder and mayhem is the utopia they seek. The purge is their dream, not just for a night but forever.

Anonymous said...

Some say that socialism is what’s creating vastly unequal opportunities. I say that vastly unequal opportunities is what creates socialism.

The satan worshipping riots shall increase until morale improves.

While I think that Jesus can help, I’m hopeful that Bob will find other ways to increase morale. Personally, I don’t think that shaming will work, though it did get me out of my mothers basement. I rather like posting from the public library. The urine and whisky smell from my fellows isn't so bad, once you get used to it. So please don't make that go away.

Gagdad Bob said...

This book on How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous is so unbearably stupid, I'm not sure I can finish it. Shows how atheism wrecks the mind, at least as it pertains to philosophy and metaphysics.

Nevertheless, I will push on.

julie said...

Careful, you could risk brain damage that way...

Anonymous said...

I’m not up on all the various Satan denominations, but the most obvious worst is the one that preaches that one must take personal responsibility in their application of toxic magick while they try to move up the human food chain. Sounds a lot like the GOP and DNC to me.

But the one described in Julie’s link might be worse. I’m betting it’s more cultlike. Come for the common sense love and support, but stay for the wicked insanity because if you try to leave then we’ll destroy you.

There’s a Christian minister who describes why such things are so appealing lately, but you wouldn’t like his viewpoint. So I’ll just leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

Hello All:

Loved the post and the comments. Commenter Neal, I would say to you, your comment was interesting but rather baffling. Can you please elaborate/clarify what you are saying about money and a pot to piss in? I need really simple and direct language, pardon.

Anonymous 11:27 commented "I need to make a decision. Kiss butt for cash prizes, or play it proud and become irrelevant. I’m not sure what box to put that opportunity into." Here is another money related comment which I think reflects tunnel vision centered around pessimism. Are those really the only two options?

I watched a glass-blower plying her trade from her garage workshop recently. She was obviously enjoying her trade immensely as she twirled and blew the hot glass into a gorgeous vase. After finishing it, a customer gushed over the creation and immediately asked how much? And the glass-blower gave it to the customer as a gift with a smile. She would not take money for it. On the way out, the customer surreptitiously place a $100 bill where it couldn't be missed later.

Now does this resonate with you, Anonymous? Do you see what I am driving at? Now if you are at the library with the unwashed and stinky, is that not a venue where you can begin to make connections? You are on to something. You are ripe for conversion; I can sense it.

Well, happy trails everyone. All I have time for today.

-Eye Candy Box Jelly

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "...wrecks the mind, at least as it pertains to philosophy and metaphysics."

Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

Eye Candy Box Jelly,

The trick seems to lie in creating things which are considered magically beautiful, by using whatever skills one has are at hand. I don't think that art made from piss filled whisky bottles would be considered very magically beautiful. Unless you're really good. My library bum friends seem a studious lot but are turning out to be really lazy. So employing them in some way besides piss filled whisky bottle art is probably out.

Which brings us to the crew here. It seems that while Bob, Julie and all the gang are quite a talented lot, in a metaphysical sense, they're not making much of a living doing metaphysics.

Could there be fresh new entrepreneurial opportunities involving all the satanic socialism going around these days? The old school standbys like prosperity gospel seem to be fading fast. Plus they're so brick and mortar. When it comes to offshoring a churches business I wouldn't know where to begin. My satanic socialism business would have to eventually be offshored, for maximum profit.

Whatever the idea, I need act quick since it's important to get a jump on the competition.