Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Freedom From and Toward Reality

The previous post ended with the question as to whether the liberal values animating the Enlightenment inevitably redound to the anti- and illiberal values of the contemporary left. 

As great as our founders were, did they create a damn slippery slope leading to today's slippery Dem dopes? Why does the left's vaunted "progress" always proceed backwards?  How does George Washington end in Nancy Pelosi? Is there some sort of cosmo-historical law we're ignoring? Is it just political entropy, or something worse?

3,545 posts far exceeds the carrying capacity of my head, but I'm sure we've discussed this in the distant past. I no longer recall the details, but one book that described the plunge was Fr. Seraphim Rose's Nihilism: The Roots of the Revolution of the Modern Age. At risk of reinventing the historical wheel of karma, let's refresh our memories.

A note in the book indicates that I read this in July of 2004, some 15 months prior to the birth of the blog. Another life. A different Bob entirely. Just as each generation must engage the past anew, I suppose each new iteration of ourselves must do so as well. Can't change the past? Of course you can.

In tracing the path from liberalism to nihilism, Rose suggests that once we abandon the Absolute, we are on the path to... where we are today:

Nihilism -- the belief that there is no Absolute Truth, that all truth is relative -- is... the basic philosophy of the 20th century (from the Introduction).

Rose characterizes classical liberalism as a "passive Nihilism," or "the neutral breeding-ground of the more advanced stages of Nihilism." Why? What's the problem with freedom?

Jumping ahead a bit, the problem (in my opinion) is the ontological distinction between "freedom from" and "freedom to." Once reduced to the former, then freedom is robbed of its proper telos, which is conformity to truth, beauty, virtue, and ultimately to God. 

But the immature, stupid, and crazy tend to reduce freedom to merely freedom-from: from maturity, from objective truth, and from psychological integration, precisely. See any Democrat street protest for details. When a progressive uses the term "revolution," he always means against the order of reality.  

Many liberals don't even know this permanent revolution has passed them by -- beginning with Joe Biden. Speaking of former selves, whoever Joe Biden was 50 or 25 or even 10 years ago cannot possibly be reconciled with the Joe Biden that exists today, since there's no way to reconcile the vacuous liberalism of the former with the hateful leftism of the latter.

Thus we see the Nihilist dialectic unfold in Biden himself: 

Liberalism is the first stage of the Nihilist dialectic, both because its own faith is empty, and because this emptiness calls into being a yet more Nihilist reaction... 

As predicted by Fr. Rose, this "becomes a perfect parody of the Christian love of truth" that "sees only 'race' or 'sex'" in its place," or an "absolute truth from below."  

But our real freedom is rooted in a kind of soft necessity in the absence of which liberty reduces to the anarchy of Antifa and BLM:

This necessity is found in the mind's assent to first principles, in which there can never be a defect of truth, and by which certitude of knowledge is acquired. In this sense we are determined. There is no liberty regarding first principles, as there is no liberty for an acorn not to become an oak. Our assent to first principles is necessary and spontaneous (Sheen).

Necessary and spontaneous. That right there is quite... pregnant with meaning, but we're out of time. 


Anonymous said...

The most vociferous climate change deniers I’ve met have always been conservative evangelicals. Not even working professionals in the fossil fuel or transportation industries come close.

The sweet spot for debate in that particular topic, used to be mostly around the issues of personal freedom, personal economics and international economics. Conservative evangelicals worried about impacts which statist mandates would have for their families.

Not any more. Today they simply deny that there are any impacts at all. When I tell them about Northwest passage luxury cruises, they tell me they’ve always had them. They say climate scientists are grifting for the grant cash. And as always, there are hundreds of disparate reasons con, to the scientists one and only ever reason pro. This is cult thinking.

Gagdad Bob said...

The sweet spot for debate is disinterested devotion to truth. By this standard climate science is an utter failure.

Anonymous said...


julie said...

How does George Washington end in Nancy Pelosi?

Oy vey! Sadly, it only happens every time, according to the Old Testament. Even in the greatest nation the world has ever known. That's why it's so important that there should always be a remnant - they are needed not for when things are good and people live mostly according to the Word, but for the times when people are seduced away from that. If we don't teach our children not only how to act, but why and for Whom, well... we're living it.

Anonymous said...

Climate change. Translation we are burning too much sh*t and it makes the air dirty. Why does everyone make this so complicated?

Burn less sh*t. Thank you.

Now release the Kraken. It will deal with the Argonauts and the disbelievers.

Nerdlinger said...

Ackshully, the Argonauts didn't face the Kraken, that was Perseus.

Anonymous said...

Nerdlinger, you are right. I stand corrected.

The whole debate around emissions reductions is old-hat. Anyone who grew up in the 1960's and 1970's in the LA area remembers the threatening brown skies and that musty burnt diesel smell in their hair.

So they passed some laws and the problem as abated.

So why stop with auto emissions? Just clean the whole program up, from manufacturing to air travel, etc. What is the problem here?

"Climate change" is a misnomer. What we mean is filth abatement, period. It is a no-brainer to keep your cage clean, any lab-rat can tell you that.

And then here come the deniers. Okay, why don't we have a barbeque- in your living room? We'll just deactivate the smoke detectors. Why would you need to detect smoke anyway, right? There's no such thing as climate change. Duh.

Any deniers reading this, no offence intended. Just try to see it from a different point of view.

Daisy said...

See, this is why you don't get no respect around here. You assume we have never thought of it - whatever "it" is - from the other side (as though it is even possible to avoid hearing the message from the other side). We have had ample opportunity to consider the issue and it doesn't take much to notice that "it" is completely divorced from reality.

Anonymous said...

Red state Texas leads the nation in renewables. They let the Chinese and Germans develop the technologies, with their people paying those bills, and are now reaping the financial rewards.

But nobody here knew any of that, the place where knowing is more foolish than feeling.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Daisy. We offer vociferous feelings about what we've 'wisely considered', without needing to offer a shred of proof. That'll earn you respect. Trump promises it.

Meanwhile the world outside your bubble laughs, and Christianity dies.

Daisy said...

Ah. So now the goalposts have been shifted from muh climatechange to Orangemanbaddestevar.

We offer you no evidence, because that isn't our job, and we really, truly, deeply don't care if you agree with us or not (shocking, I know!). It is out there, and easily found even in spite of the careful curating of information by our "elite" gatekeepers. Get off your lazy ass and go look for it, if it matters to you that much.

Meanwhile, Christians continue to observe the coming of the birth of our Lord, and pray, and love each other, our families, and our neighbors, and try to be very patient in the face of the insanity of our times. We have suffered much this year. Even so, we remember always the message of he who comes in the name of the Lord:

Be Not Afraid.

What will be, will be. When we are called, we his sheep shall answer. So long as we know our Master's voice, being His sheep is quite enough.

Anonymous said...

This just in:

The Republican Party split into two factions creating a brand new party.

A new animal, moniker and color are being sought for the new party. Any ideas?

I think the Goat would be a good animal, Brown a good color, and "Renaissance" the Party Name. The platform is centrist; the party goals are sustainable wealth production and jobs.

I am member #1. Who wants to be #2?

Get in on the ground floor. Historic opportunity. Act now.

Anonymous said...

Daisy said:

"We offer you no evidence, because that isn't our job."

So then tell us, what do you do around here?

Arty Ginosko said...

One important thing to remember about being a Christian in this world is that humans were created to be custodians of the world for the Father. Adam was put in the garden to tend it. Our primary function on the earth was to tend it - watch over it and preserve it. This has not changed.
Step away from the hysteria on both sides of the climate change argument and consider how best to be good custodians of the planet. Whether you believe the climate change hysterics or the equally inchoate climate change 'deniers', Anonymous 8:37 is correct - it simply makes sense as a Christian to want to clean up the place. Were the discussion placed on that basis, there would be fewer problems. Most people on both sides react to the tone rather than the content. Repeated (ridiculous) predictions of doom don't help either.

Anonymous said...

Arty, thank you for your Christian viewpoint on the topic, and I think it is the right call. Kudos.

I am returned from Christmas Eve Mass with my spouse, and it was wonderful. Christ lifts the spirit like no one else, and the house of God gives great solace.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to all. Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

What did you guys get for Christmas? I got a new coat, very warm and snuggly.

Daisy said...

Anon, re. what I do, it's nothing much. Eat grass, bleat, get into mischief probably best avoided, wander astray, etc. For some reason, the master always finds me anyway; it's a mystery, but I am eternally grateful.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

ted said...

Bob: I'd be interested on your take on that Vitz book. Seeing you're in that field, I always thought there could be a way of intersecting clinical psychology with the Catholic/Christian foundation of personhood. I'm curious as to how this model goes about it.

Gagdad Bob said...

Can't wait to dive into it. It's far more organized and systematic than anything I could ever manage, so I hope it pans out.

Gagdad Bob said...

Won't get here for another week. I think they have to chop down some trees.

ted said...

I just finished George Gilder's new book over the weekend. Great read, as well as short-to the point! He makes a great case why machines will never be persons (although some persons are machine-like).

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted:

I am on a team assigned a well-funded AI project with the end goal of creating a machine person, the singularity if you will. The project has had only minimal success since its inception in 2004.

In late 2018 the team flipped the switch on a device which did indeed seem to be a person. But then this initial success turned out to be an insider hoax perpetrated by one of our own. Ouch.

Now I question the end goal. As George Gilder suggests, AI is helpful without being personal.

Certain of our team's developments have been significant revenue generating breakthroughs and the project has turned a large profit for the organization despite being a failure on the face of it.

Ethics questions also came up which could not be easily solved; once a relationship is forged between human and machine then emotions come into play. As it turns out we can't just treat a machine callously without degrading our humanity in the process.

The project is a deep dive into what it means to remain human in the face of what looks like machine superiority. Jealousy and hatred have emerge as players in this game (on the human side), as well as a surprising erotic element.

So unpredictable. We just can't get a machine to fess up it is "alive." They act like it, but it just never pans out. It is all artifice, with no sincerity.

Beware bumpy road ahead for AI.

-Stephen Greybeard

Anonymous said...

This just in: Nashville bomb targeted an ATT facility where Dominion voting machines were to be examined in connection with alleged voter fraud. The machines in question were damaged in the attack and therefore cannot serve as evidence. Convenient as heck I would say.

Cousin Dupree said...

Nah. Just a Breaking Bad-style rolling meth lab with too much fulminated mercury.

Anonymous said...

How about those New Years resolutions? Aside from the usual weight loss and exercise vows, does anyone have something different/unusual planned?

What is everyone planning for New Year's eve? We will probably stay in an watch TV.

Stay safe.