Friday, March 27, 2020

Et Cetera

Must every post be an epic? Why not more frequent posts with fewer ideas, or maybe even one idea per post? Who has the patience to slog through your internal dialogue, Bob, in search of a point?

I'll take that under advisement with the council. I get a lot of ideas during the day. More than I can possibly organize, much less write about. They're everywhere -- on post-it notes and book marks, in margins and back covers, in spiral bound notebooks, sometimes even on the back of my hand. I swear, I have a coffee cup containing dogeared bookmarks with scribbled notes, some of which may be as old as the blog itself.

In fact, let me grab a handful and see what they say. Maybe I can finally recycle them.

The first one is a little trite, or at least I don't get the deeper significance. Let's move on. Hmm. Some have vocabulary words written on them, for which I probably have no use. Some authors like to deploy rare and unusual words to demonstrate how intelligent they are, even though it interrupts the flow of ideas. Many of them are out of town words like soupçon, aperçus, dishabille, purlieu, recherché, deliquesce, avois dupois, parti pris, clerihew, obiter dictum...

There are many more, some of which have the definitions next to them. I try to remember the meanings, but there's really no point, since I'll probably never see them again, nor is it likely I would ever use them in a sentence. I like to be understood, plus I'm generally writing about subjects that require deep and sustained focus. Interrupting the flow with obscure foreign phrases draws attention to the form instead of the substance.

Yes, yes, I know, I am hardly one to complain, being that I so often make up my own words. Well, that's different. Those are meant to be fun, not work. I don't imbue them with private meanings accessible to no one else.

Anyway, even if I had these exotic words at my fingertips, it is unlikely I would ever use them, because I prefer the common ones. Besides, it's not the words you use, but the way you arrange them. Using obscure words cannot rescue a poorly organized sentence. If you really know what you're talking about, you should be able to explain it in such a way that a 13 year old can understand it.

It reminds me of something Churchill said: "Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all." Obviously he was a powerful communicator, but he didn't have to use obscure words to convey the power. True, he tossed in more than a few obscure ones, but that's partly because of the very different time and place in which he grew up.

Hmm. While looking up that Churchillism I stumbled upon many more I've highlighted, all having to do with language, writing, and communication. They're all right here, just waiting to be used in a future post. I guess that post is now.

"Clarity and cogency can be reconciled with a greater brevity... it is slothful not to compress your thoughts." Indeed, "It is sheer laziness not compressing thought into a reasonable shape." As Dávila says, we ought to "Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick."

To one of his prolix cabinet members, he wrote that his memo, "by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read." More generally, he detested that "kind of vague palimpsest of jargon and officialese with no breadth, no theme, and above all, no facts."

Get to the point!: "don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time."

In the language department Trump is obviously no Churchill, but he is a pile driver. Compare this to Obama, who fancied himself a wordsmith but who spoke in leaden clichés and indeed never conveyed an original idea or uttered a witty remark.

Liberals and their feeling-based thinking have always been with us: "It is a deplorable thing" when such people "allow their language to be rather the means of giving relief to their feelings than an actual description of the facts." I came across a typical example this morning of someone whose "Climate Grief" has prepared her for the Corona Dread. Not very well, I guess:

I’ve been crying a lot. So much I worry that my neighbors can hear me through the plaster walls of my apartment building in the South Bronx....

I feel like I’m floating on an ominous cloud of dull terror, or flailing through molasses. There’s a lump in my throat. Everything is heavy. Everything is hard. Even as I type this, my fingers are shaking, and I have to take long pauses to do something, literally anything, else. Often, I just stare at the wall.

No wonder so many young people are committing suicide. This is not the year 1020. There is treatment for mental illness.

At the other end of the linguistic spectrum, "official jargon can be used to destroy any kind of human contact or even thought itself."

Speaking of bad writing, Churchill thought Mein Kampf so awful that he even compared it to the Koran: "turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message."

How's this for a coincidence: he even penned a bit of adolescent doggerel about some kind of oriental bug that seems to have been going around in 1890: Oh how shall I its deeds recount / Or measure the untold amount / Of ills that it has done? / From China's bright celestial land / E'en to Arabia's thirsty sand / It journeyed with the sun.

Anticipating Madonna's deep thoughts on the strict egalitarianism of the virus, It made a direful swoop; / The rich, the poor, the high, the low / Alike the various symptoms know, / Alike before it droop.... And with unsparing hand, / Impartial, cruel and severe / It travelled on allied with fear / And smote the fatherland.

Then it jumped across the channel to threaten even Freedom's isle itself. Get well, Boris!

The New York Times? Washington Post? "Fancy cutting down those beautiful trees we saw this afternoon to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization."

Politically correct abuse of language? "I hope I live to see the British democracy spit all this rubbish from their lips."

Here's to frankness and simplicity: "All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: Freedom; Justice; Honor; Duty; Mercy; Hope."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Endless Dialogue of Mind and World

Change my mind:

If science is just a common sense approach to the material world, meta-science (AKA metaphysics) is just a commonsense approach to the transphysical world.

Now, what makes no sense is to conflate or collapse these levels, and apply science to meta-science or deduce science from meta-science. The former is done by our contemporary evangelists of atheism, while the latter was attempted by certain ancient and medieval thinkers. These two errors are empiricism and idealism, respectively, but we have a better way.

To live as an empiricist...

Well, first of all, this is impossible. Rather, one can only pretend to do so, as to be human is to have spontaneous in-sight into essences -- the cosmic interior -- and there's not a damn thing we can do about it short of having severe autism, a catastrophic stroke, or advanced tenure. It would be analogous to claiming there is no such thing as light, and then proving the point by gouging out one's eyes.

At the other end, you can pretend like Hegel that the ideal is real, until you stub your toe or even just have a real job. Working with one's hands is a cure for being intellectually lazy with one's head, for which reason Marxism only works for the ethereal layabouts of academia. For, to paraphrase the Aphorist, the doctrinaire leftist is an angelic visitor impervious to earthly experiences.

Which is nice work if you can get it. It is comforting to Know without having to first consult with reality. Indeed, this is precisely why ideology is so popular and will always be popular: the intellectually impoverished will always be with us, and the higher indoctrination of college only aggravates the problem. Ideology is just the new name for philosophical idealism, and

Ideologies were invented so that men who do not think can give opinions (Dávila).

It's easy to confuse Christian faith with idealism, but they are quite opposite. You might say that in Christianity, the ideal becomes material so that the material might become ideal:

[A]ny explanation of human knowledge that does not take into account the material as well as the spiritual side of man's being is false from the start and would be thrown out of court by St. Thomas....

[J]ust as matter can share with spirit the glorious task of producing man, so the senses can share with intellect the equally glorious task of producing man's ideas (Brennan).

We are all "dualists" in the sense that any idiot can see that there is a difference between mind and matter. It all comes down to how we resolve the difference.

Or rather, we can either resolve the difference or simply deny them, as do materialists and idealists of various kinds. But the best way to resolve or integrate the two is to do what we can't help doing anyway, which is to live in the dialectical space between the two, for it is where we find the living fruit of truth:

the knowledge of man springs from the concerted action of his senses and intellect. In such a view, there is need of material and immaterial powers in order to give a complete account of his ideas.... If the soul cannot develop its powers unless it be linked with a body, neither can reason unfold unless it be fed with the perceptions and images of the senses (Brennan).

We have no choice but to accept this sober truth, regardless of how pleasant it is. Barron:

It is not a matter of privileging either subject or object but rather of seeng the essential link between them, born of the unbreakable bond between knower and known, which itself is grounded in the even more basic connection between divine knower and creaturely existence

God is to image as is intellect to thing (or knower to known). You might be tempted to think that the latter terms -- image and thing -- are "passive," but they're not, for the telos -- the upward movement -- of image is likeness, while the telos of a thing is our knowledge of it: there is a "mutually enhancing coinherence of objective intelligibility and the subjective act of intelligence" (Barron).

Thus, "the categories of subject and object have to be transcended in favor of a unified notion of experience" (ibid.).

Or, put it this way: what are the most irreducible realities to which we are always subject?

Let's see... experience... presence... being. Beneath it all, what is consciousness? Just spitballing it here, but it seems to me that it is the experienced presence of being. And being won't shut up! It is the ground from which more specific knowledge -- knowledge of things -- is ceaselessly arising.

We'll leave you with an aphorism before signing off:

The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason (Dávila).

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nihilism Is Better than Nothing

Does the cosmos have a center? Well, either it does or it doesn't. I suppose on a strictly scientistic basis the question itself is absurd -- like asking what was "before" the Big Bang, when the theory goes silent at Planck time, prior to which there isn't any.

I have a vague recollection of having posted about this subject in the past. Oh well. Everything has already been said, but it can always be said in a more amusing or obnoxious way.

Ah yes, it's coming back to me. Something about the tenured cliché of how human beings have supposedly been rendered insignificant by various scientific developments. First there was the heliocentric theory displacing earth from the center. Then there was Darwinism, proving there is nothing special about human beings. Then came Freud, who proved that religion is just the Oedipus Complex writ large or something.

But such theories beg the question of how human beings could ever even know something as significant as their own insignificance.

The cosmos is not a flat circle, such that nothing is higher than anything else. Rather, it's more like a cone, or rather, a conical sensorium projected from a point. Each of us is dynamic spiroidal movement of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.

Now, to say Christ is the Logos and that the Logos incarnated in man, is to say that the Infinite Center assumed finitude in human nature. We've said before that life is a predicament. A conundrum. A pickle even. In fact, it's such a quandary that nothing short of the Incarnation is of sufficient magnitude to address, much less remedy, it. I mean, death? C'mon, man!

Along these lines, Barron writes of how St. Bonaventure

maintained that all of the nontheological arts and sciences taught in the university find their proper center in theology, the science that speaks directly of Christ the Logos. As the rationality of God the Creator, Christ is the physical, mathematical, and metaphysical center of the universe and hence the point of orientation for all of the sciences dealing with those dimensions.

Another book I'm reading says something similar, that "there can be as many sciences as there are different kinds of knowable objects" -- implying no center -- but that "there can be only one wisdom" -- implying that it must come straight down from Celestial Central, the very source of unity. If not, from where does it come? C'mon man! All men are created, by the... you know, you know the thing!

"Following the inner logic of Christian revelation," writes Barron,

theology not only should be around the table but must be the centering element in the conversation, precisely because it alone speaks of the Creator God who is metaphysically implicit in all finite existence.

This is the coonologically correct position:

[O]nce theology is displaced, some other discipline necessarily takes its position at the center and thereby disturbs the proper harmony among the sciences, for no other discipline has the range or inclusiveness properly to hold the center.

Man cannot rationally think in the absence of a center, whether implicit or explicit. But there is necessarily only one real center without which your mind is anchored in nothing. Which doesn't even exist. Nevertheless, we are free to adopt any number of vacuous ideologies masquerading as the center, which I suppose is better than nothing.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Cosmos is a Love Shack & There's a Party in My Head

Looking for the latest on the Chinese Flu? You've come to the right place. You obviously need something else to think about.

For example, oh, a praxis of epistemological participation. Now that your life has ground to a halt, you finally have the luxury of contemplating such sublime realities instead of imagining that happiness or fulfillment are located in the future. They're not. If anything, they're in the past -- in particular, childhood -- but that's only because childhood is -- if you are lucky -- spent in the present.

But human nature itself is in neither in the past nor future. It's not even in the present; or rather, only in the present because it is ageless. Not to get ahead of ourselves... No, wait. In order to get ahead of ourselves, time is an invitation to our image to become the likeness.

Me? I'm hard at work on my second childhood. Then again, this has been the case since the first one ended. Nor am I alone in looking at it this way. The same has been said by better children than I:

Without a certain religious childishness, a certain intellectual profundity is unattainable.

The intelligent adult is one in whom the child has survived and the youth has died.

A fulfilled life is one that after long years delivers to the grave an adolescent whom life did not corrupt.

To mature is to transform an increasing number of commonplaces into authentic spiritual experience (Dávila).

I've always detested grown-ups, but it wasn't until I grew up that I realized why: these people aren't even really grown-ups at all, just pretending to be. I could list the Usual Suspects in their typical occupations -- the entertainment-media-academic-industrial complex -- but you know who they are: empty souls one and all. They are living proof of the aphorism that

The adult is a myth of the child (ibid.).

Come to think of it, how do we quarantine ourselves from the stupid? For it is a lifelong struggle, isn't it? Sr. Dávila had his way. It works for me, but not everyone is as childish as we are:

To live lucidly a simple, quiet, discreet life among intelligent books, loving just a few people.

In any event, to acknowledge that man is a fallen creature is to recognize that the mind parasites never stop mutating, and that we must constantly bat them away via our vertical immune system. AKA spiritual warfare. Ideational distancing. Handwashing, with no hands!

Stripped of their modern disguise they are always the same few guys and geists, i.e., deadly sins, character flaws, perennial temptations, and deviations from the vertical path.

With that asinine brayrlude out of our system, let's get back to the praxis of epistemological participation. I rate the following completely true:

If relationality is the basic form of the real, then it follows that the optimal mode of knowing is through relation with the thing or event to be known. If mutual participation is the fundamental form of intelligibility, then the subject's participation in the object, and the object's sharing in the subject, is the most correct epistemic method (Barron).

Here we see that things are neither objective nor subjective, but always both: which is the most objective way of looking at it. In another book I'm reading, (out of print and not recommended at the current prices), Brennan agrees that consciousness "implies two things":

first, a subject that knows; second, an object that is known. It also implies that there is a connection between subject and object. Indeed, the process of knowledge is nothing more than the establishing of this connection.

So obvious that only a grown-up could fail to see it. There's a party in your head. Or rather, there's a party in the cosmos, and it wants to come into your head:

Millions of things in the universe are constantly knocking on the door of our senses and asking to be let in. To give them admittance is to know them, to clothe them with a higher and more noble kind of existence, so they can be said to have their being, not only in themselves, but also in the world of consciousness which is the world of sensations, images, and ideas (ibid.).

So, the cosmos is ultimately structured like the love shack:

Bang, bang, on the door, baby!

Knock a little louder, sugar!

Or, to make it legal,

The union of object with subject in the act of knowledge is like a marriage.... [B]etween the thing known and the knower there is a bond by which they are made one reality in the act of generating knowledge.... [W]hen the form of the object fertilizes the subject, the result is an awareness of the object (ibid.).

That's enough childishness for today. I actually have some grown-up work I need to get to.