Saturday, April 11, 2020

Occam's Hammer & the Disintegration of Reality

Oh, hello. What am I doing? Just flipping through Thomistic Psychology, looking for a post. Or rather, groping around for the Idea that organizes all the passages I've highlighted.

That right there could be the idea: that man isn't just uniquely capable of abstraction, but then abstracting his abstractions into a meta-abstraction. This is why metaphysics isn't just possible but necessary. It is necessary because it is what we inevitably do. Therefore, we might as well do it well. But first we have to recognize we're doing it, which most thinkers refuse to do, especially for the past, oh, 700 years or so.

Why do the beast and blighted of modernity refuse to admit they are metaphysicians? Well, there are a number of reasons, some of which are almost coherent.

As to when it all started, Richard Weaver, in his consequential Ideas Have Consequences, blames the triumph of nominalism over realism, or Occam over Thomas, way back in the 14th century. According to Prof. Wiki, Occam is considered "the father of modern epistemology" by many modern idiots

because of his strongly argued position that only individuals exist, rather than supra-individual universals, essences, or forms, and that universals are the products of abstraction from individuals by the human mind and have no extra-mental existence.

So lacking in self-awareness was this Occam fellow that he didn't even realize that the philosophy of nominalism is itself an abstraction.

Imagine a fish who denies the existence of water becoming the most important thinker among fish. That's what happened to man: despite being founded on an overt denial of reality, this denial became the new foundation of western thought (or anti-thought, if you want to be literal).

Not coincidently, this is precisely when religion and theology went off the rails of reality, for Occam was also "a theological voluntarist who believed that if God had wanted to, he could have become incarnate as a donkey or an ox, or even as both a donkey and a man at the same time."

He is closer to Islamic than Christian metaphysics, because he is one of those folks who would say that God doesn't command certain things because they are right and good, but that they are right and good because God commands them. If God commanded abortion, or theft, or idolatry, then these would be good instead of immoral. There is no natural law written on our hearts, because abstract universals can't exist, and besides, we're so wrecked by original sin that we can't think straight anyway.

Oddly enough, just two days ago I ran across the same analysis in Barron's The Priority of Christ, except he's much more polite about it. He writes of how Occam's kooky voluntarism renders both God and man "self-contained, capricious, absolute, and finally irrational."

And of course, "Both Martin Luther and John Calvin were formed according to the principles of late-medieval nominalism," leading them to propound a foundational principle that makes God look more like a monster than a savior, in that he arbitrarily creates people only in order to damn them, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Which, among other difficulties, flies in the face of the principle that everything God creates is good.

Now, modern secularism is a lot of things, but it isn't un-Christian. Rather, it is anti-Christian, and could only have arisen in a thoroughly Christianized culture that denies its own ground, starting with Occam. I don't want to spend much more time on this subject, because this post is supposed to be about psychology, not the history of ideas, but Barron writes of how the turn away from realism redounds to

a not very convincing form of Christianity and the opponent to whom it naturally gave rise. Modernity and decadent Christianity are enemies in one sense, but in another sense, they are deeply connected to one another and mirror one another. In most of the disputes between Christianity and modernity, we have advocates of the prerogative of the voluntarist God facing down advocates of the voluntarist self (emphasis mine).

In short, the human world is reduced to will vs. will, and may the most ruthless win. The infinitely wider, deeper, and richer world of human intelligence and divine intelligibility is reduced to will and the power to enforce it.

This is precisely why Thomistic psychology was tossed aside in favor of modern superstition. If you want a perfect example of the insane and irrational advocacy of the voluntarist self, look no further than the website of the American Psychological Association, which tells us that "A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability."

If this is the case, then there's nothing wrong with a contented pedophile, a fulfilled psychopath, or successful terrorist. Who are we to judge? In a post-realist world there can be no objective right or wrong. Man has no reason for being -- no telos -- so it no longer matters if you do bad, so long as you feel good about it.

If everything is a function of will -- or is Just Your Opinion, Man -- then naturally we can not only choose a gender but invent one, and we have no basis on which to object.

For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination. Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. These experiences may lead many transgender people to suffer with anxiety, depression or related disorders at higher rates than nontransgender persons.

There's no such thing as right or wrong, except it's wrong to judge someone's gender delusion. But what if doing so causes me no distress?

I can't even. Well, I could, but I need to get some work done.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Ovary Towers and Spiritual Testes

Is it possible that thinkers who lived 700 or even 2400 years ago had a better understanding of psychology than do our present practitioners? Sure, Aristotle and Thomas were wrong about some things, but never this wrong:

A review of dozens of studies found that men and women are basically alike when it comes to personality, thinking ability and leadership. The differences that do exist may reflect social expectations, not biology. Despite this evidence, the media continue to spread the idea that the sexes are fundamentally different -- with real-life consequences (from the APA website).

A review of Charles Murray's Human Diversity explains why this is so much agenda-driven magical thinking, because our sexual complementarity persists all the way down to the furthest reaches of the biosphere. And up to pneumosphere, for that matter. Here is how one Thomistic psychologist describes it:

physical propagation cannot be separated from higher conscious phenomena in the total scheme of life. It colors and intensifies the mental and spiritual achievements of the individual (Brennan).

For example -- better sit down, or don't wander far from your fainting couch -- "Testes and ovaries possess functions of an overwhelming import for the sexes."

These intrinsically patriarchal and sexist organs "impress male and female characteristics on all the tissues of the human body and give to human behavior the peculiar intensities by which the sexes are differentiated." Indeed, "Every cell of the human body bears the stamp of its respective gender."

To imagine otherwise is to succumb to a naively woohoo "angelism," one of two dysfunctional forms of dualism, the other being materialism. Testosterone, for example, "engenders masculine characteristics at their best," such as aggression in the service of a higher good.

However, in and of itself -- i.e., isolated from personality and character -- it is neither here nor there, for it may also contribute to masculine traits at their worst, such as brutality and callousness (as may too little testosterone, as amply demonstrated by the annoying existence of male feminists, AKA toxic unmasculinity).

Brennan also has a good description of toxic femininity -- AKA feminism -- pointing to "feminine characters at their worst" such as "instability, emotionalism, and vacillation." These three traits are among the most important prerequisites for majoring in Women's Studies. There are also physical requirements, but we won't get into those.

With these preliminary insults out of the way, I think I'll just flip through the book and discuss some of the passages I found most noteworthy.

Incidentally, not all of this is new to me. However, up to this point I'd picked things up on a piecemeal basis by my exposure to Schuon, Pieper, Robert Spitzer, Peter Kreeft, and others. But this is the first time I've ever read a single comprehensive book on the subject of Thomistic psychology. So now I finally have an area rug to pull all these loose ends together in a more systematic way.

But unfortunately, I have a videoconference coming up shortly, so I have to stop now. Apologies for the brief post, but at least you have something to look forward too.

Here's a little preview, under the heading of The Peak of Cosmic Perfection:

Man is a person. When we have said this much about him, we have paid him the highest possible tribute that can be given to a cosmic creature. He is, so to speak, the top rung on the ladder of corporeal substances. He is the most perfect being composed of matter and form. The reason he is most perfect, of course, is that his form is most perfect. His soul is a rational thing. It is gifted with the properties of intellect and will.

Intellect and will are ordered to the true and good, respectively. As we proceed, we shall find out how and why this is so -- in other words, by virtue of what principle and toward what end.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Gentlemen! You Can't Study the Soul Here -- This is the Psychology Department!

I missed my calling. If I had only known psychology was this interesting, I would have studied it in graduate school instead of...

Just what did I study, anyway? Both -- Thomistic and non-Thomistic -- are called "psychology," but only one of them even acknowledges the soul (psyche), let alone illuminates it in depth and with precision. Which is ironic, because my focus in grad school was on psychoanalysis, which calls itself depth psychology.

Now, deep -- that's a name no one would self-apply where I come from. But then, there was a lot about psychology that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But then again, maybe that's why I found the field s'durned innarestin'.

In any event, "deep" isn't necessarily synonymous with profound. One can be deeply confused, or maybe you don't pay attention to the liberal media. For it is written: Confused ideas and murky ponds seem deep (Dávila).

Moreover, Profundity is not in what is said, but in the level from which it is said. At the same time, The depth of an idea depends on the capacity of the listener.

Putting these three together, we see that there is a true and false depth, and that depth not only transmits a content, but is a kind of form, such that that depth must call out to depth, so to speak.

While this may at first sound novel -- or, worse yet, original -- it is actually quite mundane and experience-near. There are credentialed morons who know more about quantum physics than we ever will, and smelly Walmart shoppers who know more about the soul than the physicist will ever even suspect. Which is why there is infinitely more wisdom at a single Trump rally than in the entire Harvard faculty lounge. For

Great stupidities do not come from the people. They have seduced intelligent men first.

Indeed, if you've spent any time in college, you know that A high I.Q. is indicative of distinguished mediocrity, and that The learned fool has a wider field to practice his folly. The institution of tenure is a way to transform idiocy into a permanent instead of temporary condition.

Now, back when I was in graduate school, I began to have my suspicions, although who was I to question the basis of an entire discipline? Nevertheless, I couldn't help noticing two things: first, that a discipline is defined by its object, and that psychology didn't have one. For example, one of the first courses will acquaint you with all the major theorists and theories of psychology. But if psychology is a thing, there shouldn't be wildly divergent opinions about the nature of its object.

Analogously, if you study physics, you don't begin with a survey of all the various disputed and discarded theories about the nature of physical reality. Rather, a mature discipline converges on a unity of both object and method.

But someone who approaches psychology in this way will probably be called fascist, or authoritarian, or medieval. At the very least, one will be told that's just, like, your opinion, man (or other preferred gender).

For example, just try uttering a banal truth such as "homosexuality is objectively disordered." That's not an insult. Rather, just a logical entailment of the deeper principles of biology. I myself am objectively disordered, because I have diabetes. It's an inconvenience, but not an insult. A dead pancreas is a lot of things, but I don't pretend it's normal.

So, the first thing I noticed was that psychology was and is pre-paradigmatic. It's not so much that the theories disagreed with one another, but that there was no agreement as to the object of psychology. Is it behavior? The brain? The mind? The unconscious? Attachment? Affect? Neurobiology? Neurochemistry? At least we can agree: it's not the soul, because there is no such thing.

What about morality? Is this totally subjective, or is there objective good and evil? Does human development have a telos, or do we make it up as we go along? Is there such a thing as human nature, or do we define ourselves by our own choices? Do we even have choices, i.e., is there such a thing as free will? If so, what is it and how did it get here? By virtue of what principle can freedom even exist?

Etc. The second thing I noticed is that there is no objective way to choose one of these 238 theories to guide one's life -- and the life of one's patient. So, on what basis do we choose? It occurred to me that we choose based on "what works for me." Being that clinical psychology isn't just a discipline of study but a "healing art," one will pick the one through which one was "healed."

Healed of what? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's just call it "pain," which covers a lot of territory.

We're almost out of time. But as usual, I see that Dávila was here before me. For as he observes,

The great imbecilic explanations of human behavior adequately explain the one who adopts them.

Ah ha. This explains a great deal, not just with respect to psychological theories, but vis-a-vis every theory that pretends to be comprehensive. (I believe Nietzsche said something to the effect that philosophy is just autobiography in disguise.) It explains why feminists are feminists, why Marxists are Marxists, why atheists are atheists, critical race theorists are critical race theorists, ad nauseam. The theories explain them, but not us. And yet, so many of them want to force us to live under their theories, when all we ask is to be permitted to live in reality.

To be continued...

Monday, April 06, 2020

I May Be Boring, But I'm Not Bored

Someone needs to write a history of boredom. Perhaps someone has. Let's do some quick research.

The only thing that comes up on amazon is Boredom: A Lively History, which has only 3.5 stars from 15 reviewers. I'll bet right now that more than one reviewer will call the book "boring."

1. Toohey teaches boredom by causing it.... When the author himself gets bored, he throws in another piece of artwork and spends a page or two talking about what boredom looks like.... It takes the author 181 pages of demonstrating to the reader that he's discovered the thesaurus feature of MS Word.... In plain English, Toohey's genius cure for boredom is to get a hobby.

2. Upon purchasing this book, I found it boring and put it up on Amazon to sell, which it did immediately.

In fairness, a few reviewers weren't bored by the book. I'll bet right now that more than one of them is a bore.

1. The sections on neurology tell us, among other things, that smell sensations travel from the nose to spinal pathways and thence to the insula.

2. Mr. Toohey's location at the University of Calgary, approximately 200 miles north of Glacier National Park, might seem out in the boondocks and a bit boring, but that is not the case. Calgary, Alberta, is a very large metropolitan area some 50 miles east of the Canadian Rockies. The city, the university, and the professor, as the book reveals, are good to know.

Who knew Canada could be so fascinating!

One of the reviewers makes reference to a psychological test called the Boredom Proneness Scale. Now, I only rarely experience boredom, and it is always a consequence of external factors such as airport terminals, continuing education requirements, and other people. Left to my own devices, I'm never bored -- if anything, over-stimulated.

So let's take the survey and see how we do: You are bored 0% of the time. Sounds about right, although, in another sense, I am extremely vulnerable to boredom. Only the unusual structure of my life saves me from being bored out of my skull. The only reason I'm not bored is because I can pretty much do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it.

Which isn't much, at least if viewed from the outside. If the average person were forced to adopt my eccentric (incentric?) lifestyle, he'd probably go nuts. As would I if forced to adopt his.

I don't understand how most people don't die of tedium -- or how it is that they aren't bored by the sorts of activities they engage in, whether it is the movies they watch, the books they read, the music they listen to, the news they consume. For me, enduring any one of these would constitute hell.

The Happy Acres Guy strikes me as a kindred spirit who is never bored. In a recent tweet he mentions that he is spending his Quarantime learning all about the Fourier Transform, and "having so much fun with it that I don't want the quarantine to end." What an odd bird! What is an FT, anyway? Easy: it

decomposes a function into its constituent frequencies. It refers to both the frequency domain representation and the mathematical operation that associates the frequency domain representation to a function of time, which is itself a complex-valued function of frequency, whose magnitude (modulus) represents the amount of that frequency present in the original function, and whose argument is the phase offset of the basic sinusoid in that frequency.

I probably don't have to tell you I that nodded off halfway through that paragraph. As I said, I am easily bored. Unlike Happy Acres Guy, I'm not an odd bird at all. Rather, I've been spending my splendid isolation immersed in the psychological theories of a pedantic medieval philosopher, here, here, and here, and having the time of my life.

Fourier and Aquinas: different blokes for different folks. Science vs. philosophy. Both approaches try to discover the causes of things, the difference being that science deals with proximate causes while philosophy digs down -- or reaches up -- to ultimate causes. (Scientism elevates proximate to ultimate causes, which is why it is so intrinsically stupid.)

Science investigates the world of becoming, metaphysics the world of being as such. One involves temporal truths that may or may not be, the other timeless truths that cannot not be. One looks at the phenomena, the other into the noumenal, i.e., the enduring reality behind shifting appearances.

Science progresses by a transition to new and better knowledge, often discarding the old as false or unsatisfactory. Philosophy progresses by a deeper and richer understanding of principles that are already known (Brennan).

I hope that wasn't too boring. To be continued....

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