Saturday, January 11, 2020

"Courageous Leftist" and Other Oxymorons

There can be no such thing as a courageous leftist qua leftism. In other words, a leftist may demonstrate personal courage in, for example, rescuing a drowning child, but he doesn't rescue the child because of his leftism, but because he sees what is needed and does it despite the possibility of incurring harm to himself.

In one sense courage is apolitical, but in another sense the essence of politics, because effective politics presupposes knowledge of reality, and courage is required in order to defend that knowledge when the going gets rough -- when the world hates you for its (truth's) sake.

Some Christians reject President Trump on the grounds that he is insufficiently virtuous, "not a proper Christian." Well, if being a Christian involves an absence of knowledge of reality, who needs it? Conversely, contact with reality is the very essence of Christianity, or again, who needs it? To paraphrase Schuon, nothing can be more privileged than truth (and the love of truth), so if Christianity isn't true, then it certainly should be abandoned, not defended.

Brief aside -- I'm reading a book called Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion, and the author points out that the Romans didn't so much mind Christians per se. They were a pretty cynical and tolerant bunch who didn't really care about your superstitions so long as you didn't actually believe them.

What alarmed them about the Christians is that they actually insisted their claims were true, and that insistence is a direct threat to the state, then as much as now:

faithful Christians would not bow to the state, and so that state could not tolerate Christians.... There could be nothing more upsetting to the pagan Rome imperium than the absolute Christian rejection of all other gods, including the gods of the empire, even in the face of death.

Thus, "Wonder as they might at the martyrs' courage, pagans couldn't understand the Christian insistence on the exclusive truth of their faith" (emphasis mine).

Now, as Uncle Screwtape says in another book that we will eventually get around to properly unscrewing, "courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality." "Pilate," for example, "was merciful till it became risky." When tested, he fled truth and reality.

Conversely, President Trump, when tested by the fake news, runs toward the enemy with righteous flames of insultainment. For while Satan may not exist, he hates being mocked!

The bottom line of today's brief offering is that it is cosmically impossible -- a contradiction -- to courageously defend a lie. Doing so doesn't necessarily make the person a coward, because he may well actually believe the lie. But if courage is equally subordinate to lies or truth -- or to reality and unreality -- then it is not a virtue at all, just a power.

Even -- for example -- a person who gives his life for "gay marriage" cannot be courageous in so doing, because he is defending an impossibility. Nor can he be prudent, being that "realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality." Is any Islamist "martyr" (terrorist) courageous? No, of course not. It is an impossibility. Are Christian martyrs courageous? Yes, quintessentially so.

Christians believed that the truth had been revealed to them, and it was their responsibility to take that truth and make it boldly known to all the nations. They didn't suffer the most horrible martyrdoms so that Isis, Bacchus, or Jupiter could be safely adored by their respective cults.... it was precisely this claim to have the truth that irked the Romans, and made them suspicious of Christians.

No truth, no courage. Simple as. (Although it isn't always a strictly binary opposition, for as Schuon points out, truth isn't just discernment between the Real and the unreal, but between the more or less Real. The world is an ambiguous place, to put it mildly, which is why prudence is needed in order to make this discernment between degrees of reality. This also goes to why we surely need two parties, but two parties more or less in touch with reality; the last thing we need is a party devoted to unreality, but here we are.)

As Thomas Aquinas tells us, "praise of bravery depends on justice." Which is why "social justice warrior" is such an ironically apt designation, for it is strictly impossible to be a courageous SJW.

We mean this literally, because as Hayek explains with airtight logic, social justice is a mirage. It does not exist because it cannot exist. To paraphrase the Aphorist, social justice is nothing but a noble sounding name for claiming something to which we have no right. It takes no courage to be envious. Rather, to overcome it. It's one thing to brake for hallucinations, another thing to coerce others to inhabit them.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Reproductive Justice, Good and Hard!

I woke up unusually early this morning. I hadn't intended to write a post, but I had the time, so here it is. Given my slightly altered state, I'm not even sure it makes sense. In which case, just enjoy (or endure) this bit of nonsense.

Pieper asks the questions, "if being just means, in all our dealings, being prepared to give everyone his due, what is it that is everyone's due? And: what is the basis for saying that anything at all is someone's due?"

According to the Founders, we are owed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That's not much. Rather, it's only everything, because it means existence-freedom-actualization. In other words, a human being has the natural and unalienable right to become in existence who he is in essence. This right cannot be surpassed, only eroded, diminished, or denied.

From whom are we owed these goods? From no man, and certainly no state! Rather, from God only. Perhaps this is ill-sounding, but the Creator makes us human, and humanness entails certain properties. We are owed these things in the sense that a sphere is "owed" roundness. It's just the way we're made.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, everything aside from humans simply Is. The human being is the only creature in all of creation that ceaselessly becomes. It's a cliche, but man is a verb, not a noun. (Man is really a complementarity of the two, which is to say, essence and existence in a dynamic and dialectical movement toward Celestial Central.)

So, it's not so much that God "owes" us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as that man is created with these in mind. Analogously, if you're going to create a plant, this implies the provision of soil, water, and nutrients. It makes no sense to build a tree without the means to sustain it.

As alluded to by Pieper, justice means giving each person his due. I don't know about you, but I was taught two bits of hard wisdom: 1) life isn't fair, and 2) the world doesn't owe me a living. This means that while God is just, man often isn't. And while God gives us a right to life, he leaves the living to us.

Reproductive justice.

Is this just a repulsive euphemism for infanticide -- the ultimate reproductive injustice -- or is there such a thing? I suppose so. For example, if two people decide to reproduce, they have the right to a child. Likewise, the child has a right to be born. Moreover, every child has the intrinsic right to a mother and father.

But again, rights and duties co-arise, so prior to the right to a child is the obligation to raise it. And prior to the right to be born and raised by a mother and father is... what?

Good question. Some things can't be paid back, only forward. I suppose it's unjust that my son won't pay me back for all I've done for him, but something about this doesn't sound right. According to Pieper,

there are debts which, by their very nature, cannot be paid, and for this reason justice has to be substituted (so to speak) by another attitude: of pietas (honoring one's mother, for example). I cannot pay back to my mother all I owe her and the moment cannot come where I can say to her: we are [even].

So, as some debts can't be repaid, others can't be recovered, at least considered from a selfish perspective. In a wider framework, I can repay my father by being a good father to my son. And my son can repay me by being a good father to his children. Would that repay me? No, it would actually more than repay me, in which case I am indebted to him again. D'oh!

It reminds me of a friend named Victor who has three children between one and four, and said he likes to be mindful of parenting in terms of its impact seven generations down the line. In other words, he wants to be a good patriarch, like Abraham.

Let's see. I don't think he and the wife are done reproducing, but let's say they stop at four. Let's say each of these four has three each, and each of those three has three more, etc. Math is hard, but by my calculation that works out to 8,748 children by the seventh generation. That's a lot of reproductive justice. How is Victor supposed to ever repay all his great-great-great-great-great grandchildren? It's not fair!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

You Can't Do What's Good if You Don't Know What Is

While freedom and responsibility are complementary, like all complementarities one must be prior, in this case, responsibility. A human feels a sense of responsibility, obligation, duty; and for the same reason, we come equipped with a sense of guilt, which you might say is the interior "enforcer" of responsibility. If we fail to do the right thing, we are persecuted by guilt. Sociopathy is the exception that proves the rule.

All of this -- responsibility, goodness, choice, conscience -- can go off the rails at various points in the process. Some people -- existentialists, for example -- collapse responsibility into freedom, thereby reducing the question to one of pure action: we are what we choose. There is no right or wrong; or rather, it is wrong to lack the courage to choose. The deed is all.

We call these folks existentialists because they (speaking of complementarities) put existence prior to essence, thereby turning reality upside down and inside out, precisely: we are nothing until we choose (ultimately making ourselves our own gods), whereas in reality we are given freedom in order to actualize our essential nature. Davila says it better; note how each is a refudiation of existentialism:

--Freedom is not indispensable because man knows what he wants and who he is, but in order for him to know who he is and what he wants.

--Freedom is not an end, but a means. Whoever sees it as an end in itself does not know what to do with it when he gets it.

--Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been unburdened of everything, but despoiled of everything.

--Total liberation is the process that constructs the perfect prison.

--Today what is called “intellectual liberation” is a change of prisons.

--Whoever is liberated from everything that oppresses him soon discovers that he is also liberated from what protects him.

This post at a crossroads. At this point it could go in various directions.... Choose one already!

Okay. Another hinge point where things can go wrong is with a "corrupt superego," which perversely punishes us for doing the right thing. Here it seems that if we only internalize a bogus ideology, it permits us to harm others with impunity. The corrupted superego gives us the green light to attack and even murder in good conscience. (Or to undermine good institutions such as marriage, the Boy Scouts, universities, etc.)

While I'm all for the death penalty, I fully understand why John Paul II would come out against it (even though the magisterium itself doesn't forbid it). After all, Catholicism is a world religion, and in most parts of the world, for most of history, the death penalty is little more than a pretext for human sacrifice, which is in turn the apex (or nadir) of a corrupted superego given illicit sanction to murder. The USA sentencing an evil mass murderer to death is nothing like Iran sentencing homosexuals to death. One is justice, the other an immature and primitive form of psychic projection and annihilation.

Likewise other violent ideologies from Fascism to Antifa (but I repeat myself). What better way to hide a corrupt superego than to pretend to fight it. Satan is getting more subtle! Or at least more convoluted.

Note that the corruption of language -- e.g., "Antifa," "social justice," "transphobia" -- is central to the project of the corrupt superego, which makes sense, since the Logos ramifies into both truth and goodness, and in order to do good, one must know the truth, or What is the Case.

Which brings us to the queen of the virtues, prudence. "Justice, courage, and moderation," writes Pieper, "exist only on the basis of prudence." No one talks about it -- I wonder why? -- but prudence "is the presupposition of all moral goodness." Prudence first, goodness second. Look at Jimmy Carter. Let's stipulate that he's a "good guy." How did that work out with Iran? How did his and Obama's niceness accord with prudence?

Some Christians seem to think that niceness is enough. This is profoundly un-Christian. Yes, innocent as doves. But prudent as serpents.

[T]he realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality; someone who does not know the state of affairs is not able, in the concrete, to do what is good. Mere "good intentions" -- wanting to be just, for example -- is not sufficient (Pieper).

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Decline and Fall of Language

While attacks on language are always present -- being that they are central to the Satanic Project -- never before in history have they been ideologized, institutionalized, and regarded as virtuous. As Pieper puts it -- and this was 45 years ago -- "in the sphere of language, words are always going to suffer wear and tear," especially important words that point to an ethical duty or obligation.

For as we have discussed in the past, while we have a natural right to liberty, this only makes sense for a being who is aware of a supernatural responsibility; obligation is anterior to freedom, or freedom isn't free, rather, just a disordered will -- or a will ordered to nothing but desire.

You'd have to be crazy to give liberty to a fundamentally irresponsible person. Which is why liberals not only want to clear out the prisons, but give felons and children the right to vote. This is with the perfectly understandable expectation that irresponsible people will vote for irresponsible politicians.

This is why so many lo-fo and no-dough millennials support Bernie Sanders. I was no better when I was a properly indoctrinated college student, as I was an enthusiastic supporter of Barry Commoner!

Since then, diabolical ideologies such as deconstruction and critical theory have taken over the humanities and turned them into subhumanities. Although there was some overlap, I just missed that, or it me. I remember one professor blathering some fashionable nonsense about the self-referential nature of language, but I escaped with my soul basically intact. Although wounded by reading such logocidal maniacs as Lacan and Foucault, I survived. Even in philosophy the French can't shoot straight.

Pieper quotes C.S. Lewis, who said, "Give a good thing a name and after some time it will be a name for a defect." Liberal. Tolerance. Merit. Nationalism. Colorblind.

Just as man cannot not be religious and still be man, there are certain words that cannot not be, because they conceptualize certain unavoidable realities. These realities are vertical, transnatural, nonlocal, and transcendent, and it isn't possible to make sense or communicate without them. The diabolical twist here is that if words only refer to other words (as in deconstruction), then they are closed to the reality that gave rise to them in the first place, i.e., the thing itself.

For example, we invented the word "family" to signify variations on the central theme of a married couple with children. "Marriage," of course, referred to the union of a man and woman. Again, reality first, word second.

But now, thanks to the Diabolical Inversion, the words marriage and family come first, the reality not at all (for a reality we define is no reality at all). And once this is done, there is no principle that stops new meanings from attaching to the words. In other words, there can be no principled opposition to polygamy, or sibling marriage, or adopting animals, or marrying robots. Family! In the name of a good we not only lose the good but gain a bad in its place.

If man is born with responsibilities, it means we have a purpose, a nature, a goal; and this telos is our ultimate good, our reason for being. "Man," writes Pieper, "still has to achieve the truly human in his real life," because "as he exists, he has obligations." While we are free, this freedom is "meant for something." This telos is a reality, something exterior and prior to the name we give it. Man is ordered to God, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Except recognize and cooperate with it. Or not. In a handbasket.

I suppose it comes down to the distinction between Is and Ought. Everything but man simply Is. But a man who only Is is no longer a man. Man qua man ought to do, be, and know certain things, which automatically lifts him into a transcendent sphere that cannot be grounded in matter. Imagine an atheist insisting that you ought not be religious. There's no ought in atheism!

Come to think of it, nor is there any ought for Luther, since he also denies free will. For him, any impulse to do the right thing -- what we ought -- is so thoroughly contaminated by original sin that it only redounds to the prideful and presumptuous idea that we can save ourselves or even please God. Of course we ought to believe, but we can't even do that. Rather, that was decided by God at our creation.

Man, unlike anything else in creation, has the imperative to be all he can be. We are all aware of this, whether implicitly or explicitly, which is why we can never be satisfied with any earthly achievement or attainment. However, this principle can and usually does transform in ways that actually run counter to the imperative. For example, there are people who spend their lives trying to be as wealthy, or powerful, or knowledgable as they can be, meaning that the Ought has become detached from its real Object.

It brings to mind Citizen Kane, who spends his whole life grasping at wealth and power in a vain effort to get enough of what he really doesn't need. But a need is ordered to a specific object, which is why you don't bring a fire extinguisher to a flood, an umbrella to a fire, or a socialist to America. Bernie, like all socialists, tries to bring heaven to earth, with is the recipe for hell.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Conquering the World with Negative Thinking

The most genuine way to conquer the world is through knowledge of reality. --Josef Pieper

"And so," asks Pieper, "what is philosophizing 'good' for?"

If you read and understood the previous post, you know the answer: nothing! Rather, it is one of those activities that isn't "for" something other than itself, as is true of all ultimate goods, in particular, human beings. A person is not a means to an end, and the moment you treat him like one, you have dehumanized him, precisely.

Just so, the moment philosophy becomes a means to an end, it is no longer philosophy but something less -- for example, science, which is still good, but good for something, e.g., technology, or for blowing up terrorists who would dehumanize us.

Speaking of dehumanization, this immediately reminds us of Marx, upon whose headstone is engraved the following aphorism: The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.

Well, congratulations! In all of history, no philosopher has changed more people into corpses. And that's just for starters. He also changed countries into sh*tholes, wealth into worthless paper, college graduates into imbeciles, and Bernie Sanders into a presidential candidate.

For the sake of equal time, here's a counter-aphorism by an anti-Marxist:

Marxism turns the intelligence that it touches to stone.

So, in all of history, no "philosophy" has turned more intellects to stone. Including the 38 rockheads competing for the Democratic nomination.

We are also reminded of Hayek and the ineluctable Knowledge Problem. For which reason the Aphorist says:

The Marxist historian owes his certainty to his ignorance.

Do you know of anyone more arrogantly certain than AOC, than St. Greta, than B. Hussein?

In contrast to whom we have the father of philosophy, who ironically tells us the the only thing he really knows is that he doesn't know. And yet, this is a specifically human form of meta-knowledge that confers (or discloses) a quasi-divine status, somewhere above the animals but below the angels. Or, if you don't believe in a full-employment cosmos, between primates and God, relative and Absolute, contingency and necessity.

Not to belabor the point: man desires to know. This desire to know begins in Wonder, and the object of Wonder is unfathomable. It is Mystery, not as ignorance or superstition, but as empirical contact with the Transcendent Other, AKA O, through which course energies of various kinds, not just knowledge (of truth, or it isn't knowledge), but beauty, unity, love, grace, sanctity, etc.

Man is by definition lifted above nature -- man is transnatural, or he isn't one -- but this only gets us so far without O "reaching down" and completing the metacosmic circuit. At which point -- let's call it the Sacramental Synapse -- something like this occurs, from his being to ours (or beyond-being to being).

So, "The more I know about things, the further the sphere of the not-yet-known stretches out in front of me as immeasurable" (Pieper). Literally, in that it can never be quantified (thank you Gödel) but is unqualifiable as well, i.e., we can affirm or say no quality without simultaneously unsaying it, since O is (obviously) beyond language, even while being the ground and source of language (for before language was, the Word Am).

Importantly, there is Wonder at both ends of this process; you might call them Primordial Wonder and Consequent Wonder. For "we are not properly human if we are not able to to be profoundly moved by coming aware of the deeper aspect of the world" (Pieper).

Which goes to "the role of philosophy: to help man to experience again and again, along with the mysterious character of the world, his own unfinished state, the not-yet of his own being and existence" despite the most complete possible knowledge of anything and everything.

Augustine famously asked God to "give me chastity, but not yet." We say: give us not-yet, and now! Or in other words, "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Key takeaway: reality -- the really real kind -- is a vertically open system. The moment it becomes closed, you're doing it -- humanness -- wrong. But do not conflate "closedness" and doctrine, because real doctrine generates a kind of infinitude, or is infinitely generative, rather. By which we mean....

Put it this way: perhaps you've heard the witty village atheist say he doesn't believe in the Christian God for the same reason he doesn't believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I suppose this makes sense for the vertically closed atheist, but it makes no sense to -- speaking for myself -- me, because I would be hard-pressed to write a single post on the FSM, whereas on this blog alone I've spilled millions of intelligible words about O, with no conceivable end in sight short of dementia and/or death. I don't pretend I can ever exhaust O, whereas the FSM exhausts itself the moment you say it: it flies, it's made of spaghetti, and it's monstrous. Okay then.

"The more the world becomes accessible and opened up, the richer our existence" (ibid.).

The following must be important, because I scrawled an approving YES in the margin next to it:

Only a discerning encounter with the mystery -- which consists in the fact that something is -- only this experience gives us the awareness that the light which makes things "positively" knowable, is simply unfathomable and inexhaustible and thus, at the same time, makes things incomprehensible.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.... the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him." I can think of no fewer than three ways to construe this crypticism: the correct way, the stupid way, and the diabolical way.

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