Monday, September 14, 2020

The Eternal Dynamism of Infinitude

Before moving on to the next urgent question -- whatever it is -- I want to highlight one last point in The Philosophical Approach to God, having to do with the image of God in man.

This can mean a number of things, depending upon how you look at it. But whatever it means, it would have to be among the most consequential principles or axioms in our metaphysical arsenal. In way, everything hinges on it, for if we're not theomorphic then we're purely...

I suppose we could say we're not even morphic at all, because we would have no form, no essence, and no soul at all. There would be no forms, period. No transcendence for you! Mandatory nominalism.

Which, like materialism or determinism, is an impossible philosophy. No one can consistently maintain it. Which is a critical point: if it's impossible in principle for your actions to line up with your philosophy, you're not just a hypocrite but flat out tenured.

Anyway, Clarke has an interesting take on the meaning of our theomorphism, which I like so much that I think I'll run it by Petey to see if he can declare it to be Infallibly Settled Doctrine.

Clarke makes the point that it cannot be a question of our having the "positive infinite plenitude" which "is proper to God alone." In other words, we are not God. Nevertheless,

there can be an image of the divine infinity in silhouette -- in reverse, so to speak -- within man, precisely in his possession of an infinite capacity for God, or, more accurately, a capacity for the Infinite, which can be satisfied by nothing less.

Now we're talking, and I have a feeling this will indeed segue nicely into our next subject. Because when you think about it, infinitude of any kind is a queer thing. True, other animals are infinitely ignorant, but they don't know that they don't know, nor is their ignorance ordered to anything that transcends their ignorance.

As it so happens, I've been rereading the three volume edition of Hayek's Law, Legislation and Liberty, which you might think has nothing whatsoever to do with God, but truth is truth no matter where we find it.

What do I mean? I don't want to get too far ahead of the present post, but it's unusual enough to recognize that we don't know. But how many people understand that 1) we can't know it all, and that 2) this is a good thing?

Among other things, this means it is wholly unreasonable to be a mere rationalist, i.e., to imagine that reason alone is sufficient to describe reality, much less human beings. If reason doesn't recognize its own limits, tyranny is right around the corner. To put it another way, would-be tyrants from Rousseau to Newsom always want to enclose us in their little rationalistic worlds, with catastrophic consequences.

Gavin Newsom? Aren't you giving this twerp a little too much credit for the decline and fall of California?

Yes and no. Consider his fidelity to the religion of global warming. I was about to say it has nothing to do with the state going up in flames, but radical environmentalism actually has everything to do with it, since it is responsible for the failure to clear forests, for pouring money into renewable energy instead of upgrading our ancient and fire-prone electrical grid, and for eliminating the nuclear power plants that would give us cheap, plentiful, and clean electricity.

But back to Hayek for a moment. What is his thing, his one Big Idea? Yes, the Fatal Conceit that we not only know more than we think we do, but that we can know things that we cannot possibly know and can never know. For a motley bunch of contingent primates, these metaphysical Darwinians sure presume to know a lot!

The fatal conceit applies in particular to complex systems such as the economy, but what if I told you the cosmos itself is a complex system? And that it is a fundamental error to believe that ultimate reality is characterized by the simple systems described (and describable) by physics? What if the universe of biology is actually larger than the universe of physics, rather than a subset of it?

Is this a "paradox"? No, not at all. Not if you examine the interior of your own skull and consider just what it contains. Which brings us back to Clarke; recall that man is, as it were, the negative image of God's infinitude:

This negative image points unerringly toward the positive infinity of its original, and is intrinsically constituted by this relation of tendential capacity.

I don't think that word -- tendential -- means what he thinks it means. Rather, he's thinking of "tending toward," certainly not "tendentious": that our own negative infinitude is always dynamically linked to God's positive infinitude, thus the ceaseless flow of energies. Polarization. That's how it works. Unless your battery is dead.

Come to think of it, someone said Joe Biden is a flashlight with a dying battery. That's true, but what's wrong with the battery of anyone who would actually vote for this blinking idiot? That's a deep question which will take us too far afield. But there is a kind of battery-powered darkness, isn't there? Moreover, it mimics the human-divine dynamic described above. Hmm. What could be the source and nature of this dark power?

Clarke continues:

It is as though -- as with the ancient myths -- God had broken the coin of his Infinity in two, holding on to the positive side Himself and giving us the negative side, then launching us into the world of finites with the mission to search until we have matched our half-coin with his.

Yes, I'm actually stroking my chin. This is true, as far as it goes. But what if, in this launching of infinitude into the world, God also launches himself into the world? What if this kenotic circle is the last word, or better, the Alpha and Omega of what we can say of the total metacosmic situation?

I don't want to end a post with a question. Was it a rhetorical question?

12 comments:

Gagdad Bob said...

Just skimmed this essay and ran into this, which seems related:

One feature of Dante’s Inferno that it took me years to appreciate is that he puts the fraudulent far deeper down in Hell than the physically violent. He suggests in other places that this is right because a physical attack is only against the bodily life that we share with animals. An attack on the truth, however, strikes at our rational souls, the distinctive feature of a human being....

Truth is not only something “out there.” Truth is what a human being is called to know and live by. Truth is an appropriation of “what is”.... Being in contact with “what is” rather than with our fantasies of what is not means we will live lives of authenticity, lives linked to, formed and energized by, the deepest truth of all, God Himself. We will all be seeking truths in various ways this year and, Deo volente, finding it, little by little. And then starting the lifelong process of living the truth....

The literature of spirituality is full of warning about not letting knowledge make us “puffed up,” which is to say beset with a pride that vitiates the good of learning. That phenomenon is only too common, even among people studying the very greatest things that have been thought and said....

We still have the illusion that smart is good, that by a strange elision, the best are the brightest. This despite the fact that very smart people do very bad things every day.

julie said...

We still have the illusion that smart is good, that by a strange elision, the best are the brightest. This despite the fact that very smart people do very bad things every day.

As it has been said, there's no IQ test to get into heaven. Too often, "smarter" just means coming up with more creative ways to justify doing what one ought not do.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Biden, the alternative is Trump. The bar of miracles is being set pretty low these days. But we could've been stuck with Ted Cruz or Hillary, so there's that.

I've found that divining who's the best Christian to be a tricky affair. If we could see the end result, such as the silly sinner coming back to earth as a white wizard able to call white steeds from dark forests, many faithless might be convinced.

Speaking of Tolkien, did any of you know that he was a lifelong Catholic? He argued with the other fanciful writer of the day, C.S. Lewis about his beliefs all the time, so I'm told. Theoretically, this arguing would all be in good fun. But my sources tell me that sometimes it wasn't. I find this confusing.

Are there any Christian science fiction authors out there?

Maybe now is a good time for Nicolás to arrive with one of his aphorisms.

Nicolás said...

Christ is the truth. What is said about Him are mere approximations to the truth.

Anonymous said...

Indeed Nicolás. Tolkien thought angels came in the form of white wizards, while C.S. Lewis thought they came as lions. And they fought bitterly over that one, before parting company.

Even I'm smart enough to realize that angels are actually white lions, and that Tolkien and Lewis were (unconsciously, perhaps) just trying to sell more books. Their own books. I would've collaborated, had the narnia kids enter a different closet so they could visit middle earth. Maybe bring back a hobbit or two as a souvenir. I'm digressing again.

Damn that mammon. Blew it all up. Damn that mammon all to hell.

Nicolás said...

He who longs to write for more than a hundred readers capitulates.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicolas:

I'm a professional writer, so I need to write "for more than a hundred readers." Is that capitulating? Are then professional writers null and void?

We need to get paid. I don't know how to do anything else.

Some authors do want notoriety, they want fame, they want lucre, they do want a listing in the library of congress, they want immortality. What of it? Sure I want it. I want it all.

Furthermore I was offered tenure and accepted it, little knowing how harmful and morally bankrupt tenure is. I was fortunate to be set straight by the blog author.

Of course I believe any crack-pot opinion I hear. Doesn't everyone?

There's nothing wrong with tenure. Period. It is a noble and beneficial practice. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Go meet with, and talk to, tenured educators. You will see, we do not bite. If you are young and comely we might try to grope.

Now we do get failed educators who are bitter and try to make sour grapes of the whole academic profession. Sure, we believe every aspersion they cast. Wouldn't anyone?

Biden and Harris. Maybe Joe's not too demented. Maybe Kamala's as sharp as a tack. Maybe they should rule your nation. Yep, I reckon mebbeso....

So put that in your corn-cob pipe and smoke it.

Regards from Ian "Tweedy" MacTweed, Englishe Professore Extraodinaire at Large. Want to know English lit? Start with Beowulf.

Nicolás said...

There are never too many writers, only too many people who write.

Anonymous said...

Nancy was up at amateur night. Deep breath.

"They say two writers do not make a wrong. Er.

Thank you for explaining the word "many" to me, it means a lot.

Most people are shocked when they find out how bad an electrician I am.

I'm reading a book on anti-gravity. It is impossible to put down.

He assaulted me with milk, butter, and cheese. How dairy."

(from stage left a crooked staff emerges, and Nancy is taken off)

People clap. They had come to hear about the eternal dynamism of infinitude, not bad puns.

Nicolás said...

There are never too many jokes, only too many jokers.

Mr. Furious said...

Okay, am I the only one who finds these sayings just a little bit formulaic? "If you want to push something down, you have to pull it up. If you want to go left, you have to go right."

Nicolás said...

To learn my teachings I must first teach you to learn. He who questions my teaching only teaches himself to ask questions.