Saturday, August 01, 2020

Heaven on Earth in Two Easy Steps

For someone who hates capitalism, Marx is quite the salesman. Here's his pitch for communism:

It is the definitive resolution of the antagonism between man and nature, and between man and man. It is the true solution of the conflict between existence and essence, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be this solution (in Taylor).

Sold! I'll take one in moonlight blue metallic.

Sorry. Only have black. And those are out of stock. How about size 13 work boot in moonlight blue metallic?

Marx does indeed make an attractive offer. The problem -- one problem, anyway -- is that if one limits oneself to Marxist categories, no such claim is possible. But the founder of an ideology always makes an exception for himself, and this is one of its giveaways.

For Marx, consciousness is conditioned by class. Except for Marx, who is totally classless. As it so happens, everyone who knew Marx agrees that this was the case, but we're not taking about manners, hygiene, and body odor.

I was introduced to this problem back in graduate school. For example, Freud claims that all our thoughts and actions are motivated by unconscious conflict. Except for Freudianism. At the other end, Skinner claims that everything is reducible to conditioned responses. Except for the ideology of behaviorism, which is unconditionally true. Others prefer to reduce consciousness to electrochemical brain activity, but nevertheless expect us to take their brain activity seriously.

Back to Marx. Let's evaluate his claim. First of all, it is definitive, which means absolute and final. It is unsurpassable, just like any other revelation.

In the past we've explained that one of the enduring and ineradicable appeals of leftism is its promise of political solutions to inevitable existential problems that are part of the human condition. It can even make this appeal in a sincere and intellectually consistent manner by merely turning the cosmos upside down and inside out. Thus, by placing existence ontologically prior to essence, it follows that man has it within his power to transform both himself and the world.

Therefore, communism can indeed make the honest claim to resolve the antagonism between man and everything. As indicated in the paragraph above, it is the True Solution to the conflict between existence and essence, because it makes the latter a side effect of the former. It resolves freedom and necessity by conflating the two in the dialectic of history, and resolves the conflict between individual and species by subsuming them in the same inevitable movement.

Are you confused by the complexity of reality? Your perplexity is over: Marx has given us the definitive solution to the conundrum of history. He has seen the blueprint, "the laws which govern man and history with an iron necessity."

But before committing ourself to the sale, we might want to conduct a bit of due diligence, because Marx has an inflexible policy: all sales final. No returns. One vote, one time. Purchaser assumes all risk.

It reminds me of those signs that say You break it, you bought it. With Marxism, it's Since you bought it, your common sense must be broken. Or, If you buy it, make sure it's the Elite Package, because then you get to break lots of other people. Eggs & omelets.

Let's think about this product before we pull the trigger. Are there any other philosophies on offer that make the same extravagant claims as Marxism? National Socialism? Maybe, except for the bit about resolving the antagonism between man and man. Unlike Hitler's national socialism, Stalin's international socialism is totally nonviolent.

Wait. Christianity. Or, more to the point, the Incarnation. The purpose of the Incarnation is similar to that of communism, in that it too claims to be the definitive and unsurpassable resolution to various existential and ontological rifts between man and man, man and cosmos, man and God -- even man and woman!

The Incarnation is the very synthesis of existence and essence, freedom and necessity, individual and species. Why, it's the perfect (!) to the (?) of history.

So, now our choice is complicated. Or, perhaps not. For Marxism doesn't actually offer us a choice, since it is a science: unlike previous versions, this is scientific socialism, AKA dialectical materialism. All you anti-science conservative rubes don't get it: it doesn't matter whether you join Marx and Obama on the right side of history, it's coming anyway, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Except perhaps join the vanguard of the revolution and participate in the dictatorship of the proletariat. That's the only way Lenin could figure out how to square Marx's absurcular thesis.

There's another commonality between communism and Marxism, and it is the "leap." Both require one and result in one. For Christianity there is the leap symbolized by vertical rebirth into the Kingdom, into open engagement with the divine attractor.

As to the communist leap into paradise, Marx

had an extremely simple-minded view of the transition. The revolution would abolish bourgeois society and hence the laws of its operation, and a united class of proletarians would take over and dispose freely of the economy it inherited....

[I]t is as though the laws of bourgeois society fall away with the abolition of this society the way the technology of carburetors would fall into irrelevance if we got rid of the internal combustion engine (ibid.).

So, paradise in two easy steps: 1) destroy existing power structures, and 2) usher in heaven on earth. Like what's happening in Democrat-run cities across the nation.

We're about out of time. The bottom line for today is that Marx makes claims and promises that literally only God could fulfill. No worries: as his followers might say, there is no God, and Marx is his prophet.

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Impossible Scheme

This and subsequent related posts are necessarily going to be a bit wild & wooly. Given the size and scope of the subject -- which touches on everything and everyone -- it can't be helped. We're trying our best. Well, not "trying." Rather, just letting it rip, as usual.

Godlessness does peculiar things to a mind. Under the best of circumstances,

When the gods are expelled from the cosmos, the world they have left becomes boring (Voegelin).

The world necessarily becomes boring -- at least to the intelligent-but-unwise -- because it is drained of intrinsic meaning. But this is easily remedied with recourse to politics and to political activism. For awhile, anyway. For human nature always catches the leftist by surprise. It can be distorted and suppressed for awhile, but not forever.

By the way, we're discussing an essay by Voegelin called On Hegel: A Study in Sorcery. Hegel is a particularly important thinker -- not to you and me per se, but indirectly, for he is one of the most important influences on Marx and on the first wave of American progressives -- in particular, on the odious Mr. Wilson, our first president from the tenured class of credentialed idiots (Obama being the second).

If you want the grotesque details, there are plenty of good books on this bad man, nor do we want Wilson to hijack the post. Suffice it to say that you may not care about Hegel, but that Hegel (via Wilson and his ilk) certainly cares about you -- about your rights, your property, and your so-called "living constitution" (their euphemism for a dead-because-they-murdered-it one):

Hegelians believe that, until we reach the end of History, "enduring" rights exist only to be negated by future generations. Thus, Wilson wrote, "Justly revered as our great constitution is, it could be stripped off and thrown aside like a garment, and the nation would still stand forth in the living vestment of flesh and sinew, warm with the heart-blood of one people, ready to recreate constitutions and laws."

Yes, he was an awful writer too.

But let's be fair to Hegel. Let's approach him with an open mind and try to understand what he was up to and sympathize with the problems he was attempting to remedy. As we've said before, every comprehensive philosophy begins with a diagnosis of the world and of man, which is followed by the prescription (whether explicit or implicit). The former can be *interesting* even if the latter will prove fatal if strictly applied.

Jumping ahead a bit, Marx famously placed more emphasis on the cure than the diagnosis. Inscribed on his gravestone is the diabolical boast to the effect that The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. Well done, good and faithful servant!

What can we say of a man who wants to transform the whole world -- you included -- but can't even govern himself? Correct: you can say he's an activist: whether Antifa, BLM, homosexual, feminist, whatever. Each attempts to treat himself by curing society. It never works, neither for society nor certainly for the activist. Except perhaps financially.

However, I actually agree with leftists that we can't blame Marx for everything his wackolytes did with his ideas after he was safely beneath the sod, and this for at least two reasons: first and foremost, his principles are impossible, and nothing can render the impossible possible, not even the most fashionable word magic of the tenured. This is the problem of external inconsistency: to paraphrase E.O. Wilson, good theory, wrong species.

There is also the problem of internal inconsistency, not just between the young and old Marx, but in any number of areas that he simply patches up with abuse and vilification (as do leftists down to the present day). If your only tool is the hammer of denunciation, everyone looks like a class enemy. Who and Whom, Master and Slave, proletariat and bourgeois, end of story.

Back to the essay:

The new freedom and activism of self-salvation is experienced by Hegel as the core meaning in the great [revolutionary] events that shook the world.

Boom, there it is: self-cure via the manmade drama of imaginary meaning and real activism.

But in reality,

Nobody can heal the spiritual disorder of an "age." A philosopher can do no more than work himself free from the rubble of idols which, under the name of an "age," threaten to cripple and bury him.

Yes, I absolutely believe in liberation theology, but with this caveat: one assoul at a time! Would you like to do the world a lovely favor?

The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself. A saint is a void open for the passage of God (Schuon).

This is what the ideologue refuses to do. Voegelin:

The deformed cognitive core, then, entails a deformed style of cognition by which the First Reality experienced in open existence is transformed into a Second Reality imagined in closed existence.

Models are nice, but they're not the world, let alone the cosmos, to say nothing of the meta-cosmos. As Schuon points out,

The rationalism of a frog living at the bottom of a well is to deny the existence of mountains: perhaps this is "logic," but it has nothing to do with reality.

So, ideology is rational within its own closed system. Even Paul Krugman makes sense to himself.

Shifting gears a bit, for my money, one of the best books I've read on our subject is Charles Taylor's Hegel. It is at once scholarly, sympathetic, and accessible. Regarding the sympathy, Taylor spends a good deal of time laying out the philosophical problems Hegel's philosophy attempts to address.

Cut to the chase, the bottom line is that Hegel's problems aren't my problems, so his cure is certainly not my cure. Jumping ahead, even less are Marx's problems my problems, and let's not even talk about his cure for my non-problems.

True, every man that comes into this world is going to be aware of "alienation," but for us the sufficient explanation is Genesis 3 (understood metaphysically). It can only be "treated" on its own metaphysical plane, not by reducing this plane to the dialectic of class struggle or the labor theory of value. Nor is it in man's power to reinstate paradise lost; attempting to do so only ensures hell found.

What was Hegel's Big F-ing Problem? And why are we paying for it?

We cannot really understand what he was about until we see the basic problem and aspirations which gripped him, and these were those of the time (Taylor).

As we've mentioned before, it's always dangerous to apply permanent solutions to temporary problems. Rather, we're only interested in a permanent solution to permanent problems, i.e., those that are in the very nature of things, both human nature and the conditions and constraints of human existence. That Marx couldn't support himself is not my problem. There are plenty of explanations for his loserhood which don't involve the murder and enslavement of hundreds of millions of people to set things right.

Frankly, I don't know that I even want to get into Hegel's problems or Marx's issues. Bor-ring. Let's cut to the interesting part: how does it affect me, Bob? For this let's jump ahead to chapter 20, Hegel Today. Like Marx -- and generally through Marx -- Hegel is still torturing us, and not just through his tortuous prose.

For Taylor, Hegel's influence is obviously present in ideologies of the left, but also in the so-called right (which has nothing whatsoever in common with American-style conservatism). The leftist tradition of Marx is more "Promethean," while fascism is more "Dionysiac," but each is present in the other.

One has only to turn on the television to witness the ecstatic Dionysian violence of the left. The left's reactionary attempt to undo the principles of the founding is both totalitarian and fascist, half Prometheus and half Dionysius. We -- and the founders -- are at a bright angle to both their diagnoses and their cures (not to mention their pagan gods). Ordered liberty, limited constitutional government, and unalienable natural rights are incompatible with both.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

One Rung Can't Make it Right: The Irrationality of Rationalism

We're still discussing Voegelin's essay on The Gospel and Culture, i.e., the hows and whys of the spread of Christianity. It's slow going, but I guess that's okay. I certainly find it interesting, because it touches on a number of "ultimates" beyond which there is no touching aloud, which is precisely the aim of this blog: the outer limits of what man may know.

About those ultimates: they involve little things such as what man is, what the cosmos is, and what history is. Turns out these three are interrelated in surprising ways, but then again not: for knowledge of what man is clearly has cosmic implications, nor does history exist in the absence of man. As for the cosmic implications, one has only to ask onesoph -- or one's oaf, depending -- in what sort of cosmos is man even possible?!

Voegelin observes that "The movement that engendered the saving tale of divine incarnation, death, and resurrection as the answer to the question of life and death is considerably more complex than classic philosophy."

This is true for a number of reasons, but in particular because it poses a challenge to the otherwise merely rationalistic mind to dialogue with and assimilate what grounds and transcends it.

In Other Word -- the Ultimate Word of the Absolute Other -- the gospel transcends reason in confronting us with the very source and ground of reason, AKA the Logos. It also challenges the mind to reconcile other limit categories and complementarities such as subject and object, person and cosmos, man and God, vertical and horizontal, etc.

But the real trick -- and a mark of its divine provenance -- is how the movement is "broader by its appeal to the inarticulate humanity of the common man" (emphasis mine). Let's see you come up with a metaphysic that makes as much sense to the unlettered as it does to a translettered being such as Thomas Aquinas. Here it is important to bear in mind that there is an "unarticulated knowledge" that can far surpass the merely articulated kind.

As it so happens, this is one of the recurring themes of the book I'm currently re-re-reading, Sowell's foundational Knowledge & Decisions. I don't want to veer in that direction, because it will hijack the post for the next six months.

Suffice it to say that articulated knowledge tends to be highly overrated, in particular, when intellectuals (the vulgar middlebrow kind) are dealing with complex systems such as the economy. This is not in any way opposed to reason; rather, it simply recognizes the limits of reason. And what could be more reasonable than that?

It is simply a recognition that the weight of generalized but unrecorded experience -- of the individual or of the culture -- may be greater than the weight of other experience which happens to have been written down and spelled out.

Consider the example of, say, Marxism, which presumes to be a total explanation of economics. However, the sum of all the articulated knowledge of every single Marxist who has ever existed is utterly dwarfed by the unarticulated knowledge that is spontaneously conveyed to and from free agents in the complex system of the market. Marxism isn't just wrong in the details but in principle.

Another example would be science; see Michael Polanyi for details. Now that I think about it, only a handful of thinkers have been with me on the bus since the beginning, and Polanyi is one of them. If you are one of those people who is enclosed and limited by what you pompously call reason, Polanyi is your way out; he is a portal to infinity, at which point other nonlocal operators will take your hand. Whom would I raccoomend once you cross that threshold?

Good question, BoB. Wouldn't it be interesting to describe the cosmic ladder by assigning a particular thinker to each rung? I suppose I did that in the book, albeit not consciously. The Cosmic Ladder... Let's think about it and get back to you.

Back to the Sowell quote: the philosophy of rationalism

accepts only what can "justify" itself to reason -- with reason being narrowly conceived to mean articulated specifics. If rationalism had remained within the bounds of philosophy, where it originated, it might be merely an intellectual curiosity. It is, however, a powerful component in contemporary attitudes, and affects -- or even determines -- much political and social policy.

Boy and how. Leftists routinely accuse us of being "anti-science" when we are plainly trans-scientific. They level the same charge when we are being ultra-scientific, for example, with regard to climate change hysteria. For to be ultra-scientific is to recognize the fatal conceit of pretending their articulated models actually describe the complex system of climate.

As the appropriately humble Richard Feynman put it, "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Your climate model may well be a beaut, but since it can't even account for the present or retrodict the past, what makes you think it can predict the future? That's not good science, just bad religion.

Back to our main attraction -- and attractor: "the gospel agrees with classic philosophy in symbolizing existence as a field of pulls and counterpulls" (Voegelin). Christ says -- and how did he know? -- that "he will, when he is lifted up from the earth, draw all men to himself."

In John 6:44 "this drawing power of Christ is identified with the pull exerted by God." And "To follow Christ means to continue the event of divine presence in society and history." God's in-carnation is our ex-carnation; again, God's way in is our way out (and vice versa).

Yes, the good news implies the bad: there is a diabolical presence in "the man who has contracted his existence into a world-immanent self and refuses to live in the openness of the metaxy" (which refers to man's existence in the vertical space between the horizons of immanence and transcendence).

Oh, good. The end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Saving Tales and Broken Minds

To repeat: The answer will not help the man who has lost the question. And the predicament of the present age is characterized by the loss of the question rather than of the answer.

These are worth some further pondering. First, life is obviously a predicament. Always has been, always will be. And yet, Voegelin implies there is an answer, so long as we remember the question. Thus, a worse predicament than life itself is losing sight of the question, because it results in either no answer or a multitude of bad ones.

Speaking of which, our recent revisiting of Koestler's Creative Act prompted me to check out his biography. His most famous book is Darkness at Noon, an indictment of communism from the perspective of a former True Believer.

But he didn't fall for just communism. Rather, his whole life was a quest for meaning, going from one belief system to another, from communism to parapsychology and everything in between. And yet, nothing stuck.

The author suggests that he suffered a kind of "absolutitis," which sounds about right: as we said the other day, the Absolute always is, and cannot not be. Life is a perpetual engagement with it, failing which we will substitute one ideology or another and thereby foreclose the divine-human space. This is good news / bad news for the radical secularist, because his denial of God results in the abolition of man, whether symbolically or literally.

Koester's flight from one cause to another "was as psychologically important as the causes themselves," motivated by

a deep instinctual urge, powered by personal unhappiness and psychological frustration.... it was the cause of causes lurking behind everything he wrote, emblematic of the twentieth century's own flailing in search of a workable form of utopia. Koestler was bound to fail in the quest, of course, but the quest itself was the point.

Why was the quest bound to fail? He found plenty of answers. Yes, but The answer will not help the man who has lost the question.

In this regard, it is particularly important to avoid collapsing the vertical hierarchy, and thereby formulating answers that are appropriate to one level but wildly inappropriate to another (e.g., materialism). This always results in a form of tyranny -- it is auto-tyranny at best, but becomes collective tyranny when imposed upon others. Ideology is never a victimless crime.

His conversion to communism was literally a religious experience:

something had clicked in my brain which shook me like a mental explosion. To say that one had "seen the light" is a poor description of the mental rapture which only the convert knows. The new light seems to pour across the skull; the whole universe falls into pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke. There is now an answer to every question, doubts and conflicts are a matter of a tortured past -- a past already remote, when one had lived in dismal ignorance in the tasteless, colorless world of those who don't know.

Born again! With one small catch: for that is not the sound of liberation. Rather, it's the sound of the prison doors closing.

How do we know? The giveaway is the answer to every question and the dismal ignorance of those who don't know. This is a concise description of the political Gnosticism that characterizes modernity. Our struggle is always against those who would enclose us in their ideology by collapsing reality down to the size of their own shrunken heads and shriveled souls.

Koestler had similar quasi-mystical experiences with other creeds, and come to think of it, so did I -- sometimes with his help (back when I was a new-age/integralist type). I distinctly remember it happening with existentialism, psychoanalysis, Jungian psychology, Zen, and others.

Another giveaway of Gnostic ideology is the internal and external inconsistency that can only be resolved by force, for example, the political correctness that has always characterized leftism. Leftism simply cannot be logically maintained, so certain avenues of thought must be forbidden or explained away. It is why their first resort is always to the accusation, the smear, the condemnation. Cancellation is the feature, not the bug. It is of course at antipodes to Christianity, in which forgiveness is the feature.

In fact, if you're a conservative and you haven't been called a racist, a fascist, or a Nazi, you're just not trying.

Another feature of the gnostic revolt is the inevitable attack on language, e.g., more murders and shootings of blacks = black lives matter. Upon Koestler's politico-religious conversion, "My vocabulary, grammar, syntax gradually changed." He "quickly learned an early form of doublethink" which "appeared as natural and justified as the choice of the cause we were championing."

"As a 'closed' system of thought," Marxism "could provide answers to every question in terms of its own theory..." He "was delighted with the dialectical muscles he was able to build, reveling in the competitive advantage they gave him in argument. He knew the 'right' questions and answers 'as though they were the opening variants in a chess game...'"

Here are some recent examples of Marxist dialectic, yoinked from our own comment section. Note that the sweeping condemnation is the argument, and vice versa. Marx himself could have been the author of any of these:

--Any black person stupid enough to support Trump is not going to change their mind over him being slightly more fascist today than he was a year ago.

--Religion is a powerful force for making people act against their own interests.

--The right has a large variety of morons and liars, but the ones who try to link the left and Nazism are really the cream of the crop.

--You are projecting from your shitty, imperialist, fundamentalist religion onto the more honest and humble faiths of the people Christianity aims to conquer

--Your racism is completely obvious. You should own it instead of denying it.

--Everything in conservative culture is basically lifeless, a feeble imitation of actual culture, which is alive and hence leftist by nature.

Well, let's stipulate that mass culture is indeed lifeless and broken, and that vulgar politics is downstream from this. We are

plainly in a period of massive deculturation through the deformation of reason.... the deculturation of the West is an historical phenomenon extending over centuries; the grotesque rubble into which the image of God is broken today is not somebody's wrong opinion about the nature of man but the result of a secular process of destruction....

The question of the search cannot be recovered by stirring around in the rubble; its recovery is not a matter of small repairs, of putting a patch on here or there, of criticizing this or that author whose work is a symptom of deculturation rather than its cause, and so forth (Voegelin).

It's not ideology vs. ideology, but ideology vs. reality:

there is no Saving Tale other than the tale of the divine pull to be followed by man; and there is no cognitive articulation of existence other than the noetic consciousness in which the movement becomes luminous to itself (ibid.).


There's a new Dane in town. One isn't enough:

Monday, July 27, 2020

Ask a Dishonest Question, Get a Dishonest Answer

Yesterday's post didn't come off as one might have hoped, so I checked the Catechism to see how far off we were.

Not that far. For example, regarding man the (?), it says that the human person is by nature open to truth, beauty, and goodness, which provokes "longings for the infinite" and "questions about God's existence." It's not as if such questions and longings are a little bit present in other animals. Rather, they coarise with and define man.

About (!), there are various allusions to an overwhelming communication to man of something that isn't man. Haven't you ever been (!)? I don't know anyone to whom it hasn't happened. It's part of the standard equipment.

For example, the Catchism speaks of faith as our response to "a superabundant light as [man] searches for the ultimate meaning of life." Not just abundant but superabundant, which is beyond extravagant; it is more than we could ever contain, "abounding to a great, abnormal, or excessive degree; being considerably more than is sufficient" (my dictionary).

Lucky for us, this "unapproachable light" deigns to approach man, albeit gradually. Baby steps. Milk before meat. It also does so endlessly: for even when God utters the last Word, "it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of centuries." Moreover, "the sacred Scriptures grow with the one who reads them."

This superabundant L!ght communicates the certitude of its own truth, such that "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives." Seeing is believing and believing is seeing; rinse and repent.

I'll bet I can reduce the whole message to... seven aphorisms, each a rung in the vast Circular Ladder that is existence:

God does not reveal with discourses, but by means of experiences.

In certain moments of abundance, God overflows into the world like a spring gushing into the peace of midday.

Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.

Religion is not a set of solutions to known problems, but a new dimension of the universe. The religious man lives among realities that the secular man ignores...

Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge.

Faith is not knowledge of the object. But communication with it.

Religious thought does not go forward like scientific thought does, but rather goes deeper (Dávila).

That last one is particularly important, as it speaks to our permanent condition. It can only be "cured" by ideology, but ideology is always the very disease it pretends to cure. Leftism, progressivism, feminism, scientism -- all are objectively pneumopathological.

Now, back to Voegelin's essay on The Gospel and Culture, with a particular focus on man the (?) and God the (!). He speaks of "man the questioner," i.e.,

the man moved by God to ask the questions that will lead him toward the cause of being. The search itself is the evidence of existential unrest; in the act of questioning, man's experience of his tension toward the divine ground breaks forth in the word of inquiry...

There is always a kind of ontological circularity at work that very much reminds me of Eckhart, but let's refrain from veering in that direction, because the Meister will inevitably hijack the bus. Voegelin:

Question and answer are intimately related one toward the other.... This luminous search in which the finding of the true answer depends on asking the true question, and the asking of the true question on the spiritual apprehension of the true answer, is the life of reason.

This is a subtle point, because we know all about the contemporary plague of intellectual dishonesty that pervades both academia and the liberal noise media. But there are also dishonest questions. Some people say there's no such thing as a stupid question. But this is only because they haven't seen a White House press briefing, where the superabundant stupidity of the media is on display.

Speaking of sick questioners and fake questions, Voegelin describes how man may

deform his humanity by refusing to ask the questions, or by loading them with premises devised to make the search impossible. The gospel, to be heard, requires ears that can hear; philosophy is not the life of reason if the questioner's reason is depraved. The answer will not help the man who has lost the question; and the predicament of the present age is characterized by the loss of the question rather than of the answer (emphasis m!ne).

Examples are everywhere. I receive a daily propaganda briefing from the NY Times, and this morning's spin is hilarious but typical. It concedes that President Trump is doing well with Blacks and Latinos, and that his support is higher than it was four years ago. "Why?," they pretend to ask.

Most political analysts admit they aren’t sure. “I don’t think there are obvious answers,” Shor said.

Yes, it's a Total Mystery. It makes no sense that blacks would support a racist, for which no evidence is needed or offered, since this is an a priori axiom of the left.

Black and Latino Americans who still vote Republican may simply not be bothered by it.

Riiiight. Or perhaps they don't share the group delusion that the president is a racist. That's not askable or even thinkable, any more than it is permissible for a Nazi or Islamist to wonder if Jews might not be subhuman after all.

Note how the field of honest answers is foreclosed by the dishonest question (and questioner). This pathological process is seen every day by the clinical psychologist, AKA me. But who needs psychotherapy if your sickness is mirrored and supported by millions of people who share the same sickness? If you normalize abnormality, there's no need to help the abnormal to be normal.

You get the point, but this one is just as funny. Why on earth are those Mostly Peaceful protests suddenly turning... volatile? It's Trump's fault!

Protests across the U.S. grew more volatile over the weekend, spurred by the presence of federal agents in Portland....

“I’m furious that Oakland may have played right into Donald Trump’s twisted campaign strategy,” said Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, Calif. “Images of a vandalized downtown is exactly what he wants to whip up his base and to potentially justify sending in federal troops that will only incite more unrest.”

Ask a dishonest question, get a dishonest answer.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

And the (!) Became (?)

We've been discussing how and why Christianity spread and eventually triumphed over all its competitors, such that no one today practices Mithraism or worships Athena or Dionysus. To the extent that Christianity is true, or taken to be true, it must provide an answer -- even the most complete possible answer -- to the question What is man? Or, what is man, what is man, and what is man???

So, what is man? Let's approach this question with no preconceptions, religious or otherwise. I think we can agree that man is a mystery to himself, even to this day. Indeed, any thinker who claims to exhaust the mystery thereby renders himself a sophist and philodoxer: a lover of opinion and pseudo-thought. A counterfeit man. An ideologue. A troll.

Can we say that man is a permanent mystery to himself? If so, how could we know it? It's a little like saying "there is no truth, and that's the truth."

Let's try to go all the way back -- both horizontally and vertically -- to the existential and ontological birth of man (the second is less difficult to approach, since it's happening now, and in every now). We know we are different -- different from the animals and from every other thing in existence. But how?

Well, all other animals are complete on their own plane. Yes, they need to eat, but once they do, that's it: it is as if their little circle re-closes on itself. Nap time. My dog doesn't wonder about the nature of dogs, much less Danes.

Like other animals, man eats. But that doesn't complete the circle. Or, it completes the circle of biology, only to open other circles and render them more vivid or something. Scratch one itch and a new one takes its place.

Here again, this pattern persists down to the present day. Anyone who studies psychology learns about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which I haven't thought about in forty years, but then again, have never stopped thinking about.

How's that? Well, in those three or four decades I've generally had adequate food, water, shelter, safety, relationships, and prestige (yes, I have low standards), leaving only the toppermost of the poppermost unfillfulled:

That's right: self-actualization, i.e., achieving one's full potential, including creative activities. Yeah, this: I'm doing it now. What can I say? A modest thing but thine own.

Interestingly, one thing I've noticed over the years is that by indulging in activities at the top of the pyramid, they've gradually come to displace or at least overshadow those at the bottom. Of course I still need to eat, but I scarcely care what I eat, so long as my blood sugar stays low. Whatever a "foodie" is, I'm the opposite.

Likewise "prestige." I'm mostly autotelic, with the caveat that I care very much about the opinions of God and a few other persons. A pure autotelicism would be anti-trinitarian in the extreme. But I'm always focused on that which surpasses me and is just over the subjective horizon. Anything less than this is frankly boring.

The moment arrives in which one is only interested in stalking God. --Dávila

Here's a thought: let's call man (?), the being who never stops asking questions, such that no answer is sufficient to eliminate the questions. I would add that a philosopher is simply someone with an acute case of (?), such that it becomes (?!). But for the true philosopher, (?!) is a truly chronic condition. In one sense there is no cure, but in another sense (?!) is the cure, or at least treatment.

No, I'm not trying to be cute or paradoxical. I try never to be the former, and to the extent that we're indulging in the latter, it is in the nature of the subject under discussion: writing of infinitude within the context of finitude always comes out paradoxical, and the paradoxes must be respected and preserved, otherwise they cease being generative and fruitful. Every heresy -- whether religious, philosophical, or ideological -- always defaults to one side of the paradox.

So, man is (?). The question before us is, what is the relationship between Christianity and (?)? People walking around in first century Palestine were (?), like anyone else. How and why was Christianity such an adequate response to (?)?

Recall Maslow's hierarchy: for early Christian martyrs, Christianity -- or Christ, rather -- literally displaced everything below. Christ was more important than food, social standing, and even life itself.

Again, let's try to dispense with preconceptions. Just looking at the situation historically, for these early Christians, Christ was the perfect and unsurpassable answer to (?). But wait -- didn't we say that man is the being who by definition never stops asking questions?

Yes, that still holds true. But let's suppose that the ultimate Answer -- the Absolute, Infinite, Eternal, Ground, Source Beyond Being -- becomes the (?). Supposing it happened, what would that be like?

It would be somewhat like (!) becoming (?), a kind of endless and inexhaustible explosion on his end and implosion on ours. But we're out of time. To be continued...