Friday, February 21, 2020

Reality ↔ Word ↔ Dialogue

Yesterday I was bedazzled by an essay in Pieper's The Weight of Belief, called The Abuse of Language and the Abuse of Power. (It looks like a pre- or reworking of his little book by the same title.)

This subject is so important and so full of implications that I don't know where to begin. WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE KNOW THIS? But not only does no one (or few people, anyway) know about it, they wouldn't care if they did, let alone be dazzled by it.

Let's begin with this observation; read it slowly and literally, that way I won't have to use a bunch of italics to emphasize every other word. When a fellow

ceases to govern his words with a view to stating the reality of things, he automatically ceases to communicate anything. For language becomes communication the moment it expresses a link to reality, and by the same token it ceases to be communication the moment this link is destroyed.

This link is everything; or, without it there is nothing, literally.

And yet, we have whole schools of philosophy which are founded precisely on the denial of this link (of word to thing, of language to reality). The result isn't just intellectual depravity, but -- because the True and Good are maimed if detached from one another -- moral retardation. If you want to know why academia is so bad and so stupid, this may be the biggest reason. And the poison trickles down into politics, entertainment, and journalism (but I threepeat myself).

An image comes into view: if journalism is the second hand, culture is the hour hand and politics and entertainment the minute hand of this giant crock. What time is it? It's always narrative time. The only difference between the news and Drag Queen Story Hour for children is...

Oh, wait. There is no difference.

In his Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Roger Scruton describes "the capture of language by the left," founded in the "conviction that you [can] change reality by changing words." This occurs

whenever the primary purpose of language -- which is to describe reality -- is replaced by the rival purpose of asserting power over it.... Newspeak sentences sound like assertions, but their underlying logic is that of the spell. They conjure the triumph of words over things, the futility of rational argument, and also the danger of resistance.

Satan's spell? Maybe. If so, it is undoubtedly his second greatest trick: not only does he disappear, he takes language with him.

We all know that leftists are irrational children, but few people understand that the irrationality isn't just at the level of knowledge, but much deeper than this, at the level of ontology: they aren't just wrong, but cannot help being wrong; they are wrongness as such.

Now, logocide is the gateway to homicide and even genocide. This is literally true when we examine the unhinged rhetoric of, say, communists or National Socialists; the abuse of people is always rooted in, and justified by, a prior abuse of language. For the left, the detachment of word from thing isn't a bug but a feature. After all, a human being is one of those real things from which language becomes detached when it detaches itself from real things. Indeed,

Human individuals are the most important of those real things, the obstacles that all revolutionary systems must overcome, and which all ideologies must destroy.

There's much more in Scruton, but I want to get back to Pieper, since he's more concise, not to mention a level or two deeper (since Scruton was, correct me if I'm wrong, an agnostic). Pieper agrees that

usage of words divorced from their roots in reality, actually has another purpose altogether: that namely this kind of language inevitably becomes an instrument of power, and at bottom is so from the very outset.

Outset of what? One wants to say Genesis 3 All Over Again, and maybe we will. But first we must lay a foundation. Not so much build a bridge to the past, as one which spans the vertical present: up and down.

It all begins with the corruption of the word, whereby our most precious gift is transformed into an almost infinitely destructive curse. What is the proper use of this gift? It has two powers, first "to make known something real in the act of calling it by name," and second, "to make it known to someone else."

Thus, two related purposes: to name and to communicate reality. In short, the word is a link between mind and reality; and between minds. Deny the first and you render impossible the second, for if we aren't speaking about reality, then of what are we speaking? Yes, unreality, AKA nothing. Or maybe you missed the Dem debate last Wednesday.

The communication of reality is the reality of communication, for if we weren't already in communion, then no amount of language could bridge that divide.

Two purposes, two potential logopathologies: these are "the corruption of the link between word and reality" and "and the corruption of the word as communication." We call the second lying, or at the very least conveying untruth. But the first isn't even lying, since it renders any communication of truth a priori impossible. Again, once you deny the link between words and reality, then exactly what are you talking about, anyway?

Speech which emancipates itself from the norm of (real) things, at the same time necessarily becomes speech without a partner.

Liberation! Yes, but is liberation from reality a good thing? Or should young people skip college?

You will have noticed that the people who are detached from reality don't stop speaking. If only! But again, of what are they speaking, and to whom? Of nothing and to no one: it is a kind of total cosmic narcissism sealed in tenure: crystalized nonsense. It is the flowing substance of nothing, as when Obama opens his mouth and the banalities fall out.

Let us not pretend that Republican politicians don't do the same thing. President Trump is not one of them, which is why they secretly detest him if they don't openly embrace him. Consider his joyous and freewheeling rallies. Pieper writes that

When one person ceases to speak to another in the artless and spontaneous manner which characterizes genuine conversation, and begins to consciously manipulate his words, expressly ceasing to concern himself with the truth -- when, in other words, his concern is something other than the truth -- he has, in reality, from that point on ceased to regard the other person a partner in a conversation. He has ceased to respect him as a human person. Thus, strictly speaking, from that point on all conversation, all dialogue, all mutual exchange of words, comes to an end!

Note that his enemies interpret Trump's respect as disrespect; and conversely, (say) Obama's profound disrespect -- his condescension and contempt -- as respect. Everything an Obama or Clinton or Warren says is calculated and manipulative. Who doesn't feel disrespected by their pandering?

I have no doubt that a large part of Sanders' appeal is that he has the appearance of Trump's genuineness and respect for his listeners, but let us not forget that he, more than any other candidate, is an unapologetic adherent of the very political philosophy that attacks language, denies reality, nullifies communication, and destroys the person.

Sanders can't actually respect his listeners, rather, only flatter and therefore manipulate them. They are fools and tools. When he speaks to them, "the word is deprived of its nature" and becomes instead a "drug which is administered to the other person" (ibid.).

Back in my day, college students at least used real drugs, which were far less dangerous than the verbal kind. The latter is a deadly threat to society itself, because "the decay of communication" leads to "the danger that reality and truth may become unrecognizable to us all." People may, for example, see Pete Buttigieg kiss his "husband" after the debate, and sense nothing weird or abnormal about it.

Of course, this has zero to do with "homophobia"; charges of homophobia are precisely what we mean by language becoming an intimidating and abusive instrument of force. After all, if gender and everything else are mere cultural constructs, and no culture is better or wore than any other, then on what basis can my cultural constructs be criticized?

Correct: on the basis of power, so don't pretend your outrage has any basis in morality, much less truth.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

How Am I Here?

This is the ultimate question. We might say it is Alpha and Omega, first and last, because, supposing I am able to answer any question at all, this inevitably leads to the question of who has answered them and why we should give any credence to his answers.

Who are you? Who gave you the keys to the cosmos? By virtue of what principle are you qualified to be a truth-bearing primate? Certainly not the principle of natural selection, which plunges you into a horizontal network of pure contingency from which there is no escape (let alone inscape) except by means of scientistic magic.

In short, you can't just make up some convenient epistemology that is wholly decapitated from your ontology. You can't just saw off the limb on which you are perched and expect to remain suspended in midair.

Eh, most people don't think about such things. Why trouble oneself with trivial and inconsequential matters such as the nature of reality and the purpose of life? Don't you have better things to do?

Well, no. Some things are for their own sake. But only the most important ones. As we've discussed I-don't-know-how-many-times, the purpose of work is leisure, the purpose of leisure is contemplation, and the object of contemplation is....

The dazzle!

Sure, I could ignore the dazzle, but as a preeminent rockhead asked, Lord, to whom shall we go? It's not like one can just run over to the Dazzle Store and purchase a dozen epiphanies.

As mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post, once upon a time, and every time since, there were two trees.

A tall tale of two trees, one of which is the proper object of contemplation, the other of which negates its very possibility. The first tree is planted in an ontology that bears good fruit. The second tree... well, you can also know it by its fruits, which are alienation, exile, death, and permanent cosmic stupidity.

Alienation from what? From the ground; and ground from roots, roots from trunk, trunk from branches, branches from leaves, etc. One Cosmos. The second tree will still give you leaves, but in a way that reverses the order of the first tree.

Yes, it sounds like I am pushing a strained metaphor into overdrive, but this is precisely what modern philosophy does: it amputates knower from known, I from Is, and then pretends we can still know anything about what is and who knows it.

Let me say a couple more things in defense of my utterly useless life. Or rather, let Pieper say them. In his Happiness & Contemplation he writes that ultimate happiness consists in.... contemplation?

This implies a relationship between ultimate happiness and utter uselessness, in that contemplation is for its own sake and not the sake of anything else -- as persons are for their own sake and not a means to some other end. I wonder if there's a connection -- you know, between persons and contemplation? Might their uselessness be related?

For example, I don't love my son for some ulterior reason. "Ah ha!," says the Darwinian. "Yes you do. You do so in order to perpetuate your DNA." Whatever. Notice how Darwinism pretends to explain the human being while totally unexplaining his most salient characteristics -- like denying roundness while pretending spheres can still exist.

Both doing and knowing are ultimately in the service of being. Conversely, if doing is for the sake of doing, or knowledge for the sake knowing, we are trapped in a circularity from which there is no escape: a manmade counter-paradise with walls as high as pride and thick as tenure. Thus,

"It is requisite for the good of the human community that there should be persons who devote themselves to the life of contemplation" [Thomas]. For it is contemplation which preserves in the midst of human society the truth which is at one and the same time useless and the yardstick of every possible use...

Yes, a man has to make a living, but an art which is deliberately produced to conform to the tastes of the market is no longer art. Rather, the genuine work of art "has no utilitarian end, and certainly it is not a means to accomplish something else." Whatever it is that gives rise to art isn't under our command, although we certainly must -- as with any form of grace -- cooperate with it.

I'm fortunate that I don't have to "contemplate for a living," so to speak. Frankly, I can't even imagine. It would mess with the process at the very source, introducing all sorts of contaminants and motives. It could no longer be totally unself-consciously for its own sake, but for the sake of something else.

Isn't this the original rationale for the university? Yes, academia has become totally corrupt, but why? Lots of reasons, but surely one is that it is no longer for the sake of truth, but for the sake of a political agenda. In turn, this agenda is the poisonous fruit of the second tree discussed above.

Happiness is the contemplation of truth. And "it does not rest until it has found the object which dazzles it." I suppose the only hope for this blog is that you may glimpse the dazzle and share the bedazzlement. Otherwise my uselessness will be of no use to others.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Omniscience & Omnigorance

Numbers five and six of our metaphysical themes are The Good and The Person. I didn't highlight all that much in the former, I suppose because it's too self-evident. The bottom line is that "being and value are inseparable." Not only is value not epiphenomenal (appearance), it is entirely bound up with the noumenon (reality).

This is an example of something that is simultaneously radical and obvious. However, in our Age of Stupidity any number of self-evident truths have become radical, e.g., men can't menstruate, America isn't a racist country, socialism is a recipe for poverty and tyranny, etc.

Thus, the idea that being and value are intertwined is very much at odds with the Official View, which holds that Is is all there is, and that it is purely quantitative and material; in short, Is is fully reducible to It, with no remainder.

Another way of saying the same thing is that anything that can't be reduced to math and quantity isn't real. Of course, this means that this statement isn't real, much less true, but we'll let it pass. The point is, nearly everything that we regard as real, and which gives substance and meaning to the human journey, consists of secondary qualities that are supposedly no more real or enduring than a rainbow.

Whitehead hammered this untruism so far out of the park that they're still looking for the ball 100 years later:

Clear-sighted men, of the sort who are clearly wrong, now proclaimed that the secrets of the physical universe were finally disclosed. If only you ignored everything which refused to come into line, your powers of explanation were unlimited.

Omniscience on the cheap. Whitehead calls it the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, through which you can ruin philosophy in three easy steps: 1. start with concrete reality (as indeed we must), 2. translate it into mathematical abstractions, 3. conflate your abstractions with reality. Voila! You simultaneously know everything and nothing.

For which reason Dávila rubs it in with this radical but obvious truth: What is capable of being measured is minor. In particular, when compared to the measurer.

Nevertheless, the sophisticated person ought to worship at the altar of scientism, even though the Ought (let alone the Person who Ought) is impermissible in a cosmos stripped of essential qualities. Or rather, it's just your opinion, man, since there can be no appeal to anything transcending its own absurcularity. Dávila reminds us of another shockingly obvious truth:

If good and evil, ugliness and beauty, are not the substance of things, science is reduced to a brief statement: what is, is.


The Christian who is disturbed by the “results” of science does not know what Christianity is or what science is.

No quantity adds up to a single quality, not even the quality of bigness, since the latter requires a judgment and a judge.

Returning to the theme of the good, "the central tragic flaw in every human life and all of human history" is that,

blinded by too narrowly self-centered egocentric drives, or even by simple ignorance, we are bewitched by the quest for goods that are either illusory or destructive from a long-range holistic point of view (Clarke).

This is where the virtue of prudence comes in, as it is our vertical steering wheel toward objective goodness.

Analogously, the intellect aims at truth, or what good is it? Truth is the virtue of the intellect. If not, then our world is reduced to Will and the Power to enforce it: a joyless leftoid world unfit for human consummation. But in reality, in the words of Meister Eckhart, "God enjoys himself, and wants us to enjoy Him" (in Clarke).

Our sixth category, person, is the most important, and I'm not just saying this because I'm a person. Rather, personhood is the most consequential fact in all of existence, and it demands a reason -- a cause -- sufficient to its nature and scope.

Yes, one can easily explain away the person (for example, with the cheap omniscience of materialism), but in so doing one eliminates one's whole reason for being. Why would one want to do this? I know why, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Okay, a hint: once upon a time, and every time since, there were two trees.