Saturday, August 22, 2020

Environment, World, and Being

In the previous post we highlighted the fact that there can be no relations in the absence of an interior.

In a way, interiority and relation amount to the same thing; they can be thought about separately but one never finds one without the other. A cosmos of pure exteriority wouldn't even be a cosmos, rather, a... a nothing, an absolutely inconceivable nonentity. And interiority is always related to something by which it recognizes its own interiority.

Which probably wasn't entirely clear. But just try to imagine an absolute interiority with no objects to contemplate or subjects with whom to dialogue and relate: no links to anything or anyone, just a center with no radii, or a circumference around no point.

This is very much analogous to "empty space," which isn't space at all, since what is space in the absence of the objects it contains and surrounds? Likewise, what is time without moments? Yes, timelessness, precisely. So, empty space is nospace.

Now, the first relation of any inside is to outsideness as such; consider your house, or even your coffee cup. Both have an inside, which is nothing but the exclusion of the outside. Ka-Ching! Exactly: according to the Taoist:

We shape clay into a pot / but it is the emptiness inside / that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house, / but it is the inner space / that makes it livable.

We work with being, / but non-being is what we use.

Wo. Can I buy some pots from you? Full of non-being?

A lot of new age types like to speculate about the nature of consciousness based upon the weird properties of the "quantum world." But they have it precisely upside down and inside out, for the q-world is the way it is because consciousness, or spirit, or interiority is the way it is -- or better, the way I AM. And the weird became flesh, but that's another story. Or the same story but another post.

I AM is the first principle, the Principle Without Whom. Nor does it matter one whit what physics has to say about the subject. In fact, physics can only say anything about any subject because there are physicists; to suggest that physicists are reducible to physics is to jump into a hole and pull the hole inside.

Or, to be literal, it's like trying to reduce the inside to the outside, which can't be done, because the two co-arise and are complementary. Even God himself has a kind of eternal inside-outness, AKA Father --> Son, or Creator --> Creation. A creator who doesn't create is an oxymoron.

Having said that, there are degrees of interiority: a plant has some but an animal has much more. And a human being has infinitely more than an animal -- literally, because the human station is defined by its access to infinitude and absoluteness.

Animals don't know anything about these two, while a human being can't know anything without implicit knowledge of them. Any knowledge is a kind of crystallization of the Absolute; and yet, we maintain an openness to the infinitude of truth and knowledge. A few of us, anyway.

Pieper discusses the animal subject, which is related to a world, but not the world. Rather, it exists in a kind of narrow cross section of the world, an environment. The animal sees what it needs to see and what it is programmed to see, and nothing else. It's why you can place a frog in an aquarium full of dead insects but it will nevertheless starve to death.

I'm tempted to leapfrog ahead, but this really is one of our main points: is there something analogous to the frogmind in human beings? Yes, like the frog we have instincts, but we're not referring to those. Rather, is there something in man that causes him to withdraw and shrink from the world, and inhabit a mere environment?

Ideology. Philodoxy. Ismism. Tenure. Fake news. Democrats. Epistemic closure.

In another sense, closure is fine so long as it remains open for isness, for a mind that doesn't close is like a house with no walls or nation with no borders. In other words, it's a semipermeable membrane.

I don't like to drop my g's, but I'm trippin': specifically, back to 7th grade biology with Mr. Albreezi. This proves Mr. Albreezi was wrong: I do remember something about biology after all: semipermeable membranes.

That and he once said "penis" in class, which was a highlight of the schoolyear, at least in the nobrow crowd I ran with.

Now I'm really trippin', because he mentioned the word while carving up a dead raccoon, giving new meaning to "raccoon member."

To back up a bit, one morning on the way to our semi-rural school he ran into one -- a raccoon, not a penis -- and decided to bring it in for hands-on lessons in vivisection. At the beginning of class he'd haul it out from refrigeration, and students would dig in. I think it was voluntary, because I don't remember wielding the scalpel. Besides, there's a little thing called brofessional courtesy.

Back to the present. Pieper quotes a noted biologist, who agrees that "The environments of animals are comparable in no way to open nature but rather to a cramped, ill-furnished apartment."

But the noted philosopher Kant -- and all his modern descendants -- would place human beings in exactly the same situation: yes, our environment might be larger than the animal's, but it's a matter of degree and not kind: we're still imprisoned by our senses and categories, so we can know nothing about the real world, whatever it is.

Like anyone could know that without transcending the very limits he says we can't transcend! C'mon, Manny! You're better than that.

We're almost out of time, but to be continued yada yada. We'll end with this preview of forthcoming attractors: the human spirit involves

the ability to enter into relations with the totality of existing things.... The spirit is, in its nature, constituted in the first instance... by the ability to enter into relations with Being as a totality.

The spirit does not have an environment, it has a world. It belongs to the very nature of a spiritual being to rise above the environment and so transcend both adaptation and confinement (Pieper).

Oh, and aphorisms:

Man today does not live in space and in time. But in geometry and chronometers.

Science cannot do more than draw up the inventory of our prison.

Even in the immensity of space we feel caged. Mystery is the only infinity that does not seem like a prison.

In order to abolish all mystery, it is enough to view the world with the eyes of a pig.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Even a Rockhead is Infinitely Higher than a Rock

We live in a cosmos of relations. While this sounds like a banality, it is among the most consequential facts of existence, for it is a necessary condition of everything else, certainly including the possibility of philosophy -- or of any other kind of knowing, for that matter.

Imagine, for example, a pile of rocks. We can see that this rock is related to that one, that the pile is related to the landscape, etc. But not really. For as Pieper says, a stone isn't really "in" a pile, "with" its fellow rocks, or "next to" anything at all.

Rather, "Relations in the genuine sense are formed from the inside-out; relations are only possible where there is an interior."

So in reality, to say "relation" is to say "interior," and this is the revolutionary part, for we live in a cosmos of interior relations, and no one has ever explained -- or will ever explain -- how an exterior cosmos can suddenly become interior to itself, how organisms are possiible, or how existence becomes experience.

This isn't to say there is no explanation. It's just that there is no material explanation, because it inevitably and arbitrarily eliminates what it needs to explain, thus leaving us with no explanation and no one to explain it.

This is one of those principles that... Put it this way: we all know the allegory of Plato's cave, whereby exiting the cave is a movement from shadows to light, i.e., from appearances to reality. But there's another allegory about the owl at midday, who is blinded by the sun. Rather, the owl can take only so much light; he sees much better under conditions of darkness. His vision is adapted to a certain environment.

Just so, human beings are adapted to certain conditions. We are by nature oriented to the Light, but too much of it can blind us. I would categorize the interiority of the cosmos as Blindingly Obvious, and therefore not seen by most people.

The first modern thinker to understand this and to draw the implications was Alfred North Whitehead. Yes, poets have always seen it, as have mystics. But Whitehead approached it from a purely scientific angle; for example, in Adventures in Ideas he writes that

the foundation of metaphysics should be sought in the understanding of the subject-object structure of experience, and in the respective roles of the physical and mental functionings.

Instead of a vicious and insoluble mind-matter dualism, we see a dynamic and fruitful complementarity. Once you grasp this principle, then the door is open for further metaphysical differentiations, including intersubjectivity, personhood, and ultimately Trinity -- that's me taking, not Whitehead; while he often spoke of religion, I think he tried to reconcile it to his philosophy as opposed to reconciling his philosophy with the data of revelation.

That's an important point, one that Pieper touches on later in the essay: Christianity doesn't make things easier for the philosopher, rather, more difficult; it's not a copout or escape from thinking, but a tension that forces us to think at a higher level: the Christian philosopher has

a more difficult time of it intellectually than someone who does not consider himself bound to the norm of traditional articles of faith.... Philosophical thinking does not become easier when it ties itself to the norm of Christian revelation, but -- and this claim is simply self-evident to the Christian -- it is more genuine and more in keeping with reality!

It is a creative, a productive resistance that revealed truth sets in opposition to philosophical thought. It is a more rigorous type of prerequisite to which Christian philosophizing is subject. Christian philosophizing is uniquely characterized by the fact that it sees itself obliged to endure a tension that goes beyond the realm of purely conceptual problems.

Christian philosophizing is more complicated because it forbids itself from arriving at "obvious" formulations by overlooking realities, by choosing that and omitting this.... it is forced to think in broader terms and, above all, not to rest content with the blandness of rationalist generalizations.

This is why, for example, Thomas Aquinas, is so much deeper and more complex than, say, existentialism or scientism. For it's easy to explain everything by explaining everything away. Which is what ideology does, every time.

What exactly does Christianity reveal that must be regarded as axiomatic to the meta-thinking man? Perhaps the most important is the Trinity, which entails person as ultimate category and the intersubjectivity of persons; another big one is the doctrine of creation. To attempt to think about ultimate reality without these and other ultimate categories will obviously lead nowhere. God desperately wants to help us think. For which reason the Aphorist says many insolent and provocative things, but I'll try to limit it to a top ten:

10) Thought can avoid the idea of God as long as it limits itself to meditating on minor problems.

9) God does not ask for the submission of the intelligence, but rather an intelligent submission.

8) 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.

7) To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

6) The modern aberration consists in believing that the only thing that is real is what the vulgar soul can perceive.

5) There is no stupid idea which modern man is not capable of believing, as long as he avoids believing in Christ.

4) By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face.

3) There was never any conflict between reason and faith, but between two faiths.

2) The believer knows how to doubt; the unbeliever does not know how to believe.

And this day's #1 aphorism: When their religious depth disappears, things are reduced to a surface without thickness, where nothing shows through.

Now back to where we were: a cosmos -- any cosmos, AKA ordered totality -- is a field of relations, and this field is always interior or it simply cannot be. This then leads to the principle that

The higher the status of the being with with an interior, that is, the more expansive and comprehensive its power to enter into relations is, the broader and more multidimensioned is the field of relations associated with it; alternatively expressed, the higher the being stands in the hierarchy of reality, the larger its world and the greater its status.

The human person is objectively higher than a rock because his interior is more expansive, comprehensive, multidimensional, and densely related. I know what you're thinking, but Joe Biden is the exception that proves the rule: we're talking about man as such, not such-and-such a rockheaded man.

This whole line of inquiry is dense with further implications, but that's enough for today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What Does it Mean to Philosophize?

That's the title of an outstanding essay in Pieper's For the Love of Wisdom. Let's pick it apart, shall we?

First of all, -- and this me speaking -- the conduct of any discipline, from physics at the bottom to theology at the top, is determined by its proper object. You don't use meditation or introspection to study rocks or chemicals, just as you don't use calipers to measure the soul. Different objects, different approaches.

Agreed. So, what is the object of philosophy? Correct: everything. However, not the sum of every single thing, rather, the singular unity of everything. Thus, philosophy (the verb) is guided by the implicit assumption, or axiom, or -- I would say -- recognition that we inhabit a cosmos, i.e., a single order ordered by a single principle. If this sounds obvious, it's because your mind has been Judeo-Christianized, ZAP. You're free!

Let's talk about this One Big Object we're chasing. First, it can't literally be a mere object, because this would exclude the larger world of subjectivity, personhood, and verticality more generally. If reality is a material object, then whoops!, there goes philosophy. I won't press the point, because we have too much goround to encircle. Either you get it or you don't.

Can we stipulate that only man can philosophize? This being the case, it points to a wall of separation between chimp and spirit. But if philosophy (the verb) is something only man can do, our philosophy (noun) surely must provide a sufficient reason for this exceedingly strange fact. To argue, for example, that it's but a case of "selfish genes" is just weaseling past the academic knaveyard.

Let's put it this way: reduction is fine as a method, but terrible as a metaphysic, i.e., when it is unironicaly expanded into a fool-blown Ism and all-encompassing vision of the whole. One is free to do this, but only if you put on 2-D glasses and go from 20/∞ to 20/Ø vision.

Suffice it to say that ideological blindness isn't just another form of vision, any more than a feminist is just another type of female; rather, the negation thereof. I challenge you to find any philo, much less sophia, in either.

I would put it this way: philosophy is the quintessential act of vertical transcendence; it is always at a right angle to (mere) existence, and opens out to the Absolute and (therefore) Infinitude.

This is obvious enough conceptually, i.e., in the abstract, but it is also concretely accessible experientially, at least if you're on the creative side. In fact, you needn't even be particularly creative, rather, just have a developed appreciation for the creativity of others. I can't play jazz, but am awed by the vibratory worlds to which it gives access. Taste goes a long way.

Yesterday we spoke of fake nous, which is more than a bad pun. Rather, as we know, we are surrounded by bad, inadequate, and even diabolical philosophies that can only be caricatures of the real thing:

it is common to all these sham-realizations that they not only fail to transcend the world but that they bring it ever more firmly and irrevocably under one dome; that they serve to confine man ever more within the world of work.

This is what the left means by all the robotic blather about "unity," which is just a synonym for totalitarian coercion. It's not the freedom to be different, rather, a ban on difference: no individuals allowed!

Such slackless and spurious forms of pseudo-philosophy result in "man's sealing himself off from the extraordinary." This is among the first things we want to say to leftist anthropoids swaddled in their own ideological diapers: that's not a proper philosophy worthy of man -- it's a prison!

I'm remurmuring those worthy words about how the Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy.

But not necessarily, and certainly not inevitably. We can always draw the cave blinds open and let the Light stream in.

Yes, we have to grow up, but this hardly means we have to be pneumacognitively frozen in high school, or worse, college. There are always doors and windows, and best of all, a spiral staircase. Try it. It's there for a reason: because it leads somewhere. (Why would stairs lead nowhere? That's a nonstarter, a lead balloon if ever there was one.)

Now I'm remembering something Chesterton says about modern philosophies: they are doors with no home attached. You might say they are circumferences with no center, or radii with no point. Yes, utterly pointless. But enough about the DNC convention. Let's stop rambling and answer the flippin' question. Pieper is leading us to reason and calling us to join him.

I don't want to soil the page or plant words in his mouth, but Pieper essentially agrees that 1) there are two paths you can go by, and 2) there's still time to change the road you're on:

whither is the philosophizing person transported when transcending the [horizontal] world of work? Obviously he crosses a boundary: What kind of realm is this that lies beyond the boundary? And how is the realm into which the philosophical act penetrates related to the world that is surpassed and transcended through just this philosophical act?

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know your stairway lies on the whispering wind? This may be close enough for rock & roll, but we'll try to be a bit less airy-fairy and more specific tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2020

If Reality is an Onion, How Do We Peel It?

As mentioned in the previous post, I'm currently rereading Josef Pieper's For the Love of Wisdom, and I'm obviously getting much more out of it than I did the first time in 2007. This is easy enough to establish, because I'm highlighting many more passages. So, what changed?

This is an intriguing phenomenon, being that in 2007 I would have considered myself intellectually... adequate, anyway. Not so! Little did I know that "PhD" simply means Pompous Half-baked Doctrine.

I've used the analogy before of a hybrid/SACD, in which there are two layers of digital encoding. If you have an SACD player, it can reach down into the deeper layer and decode the super audio.

Such multi-level encoding is quintessentially true of the deeper layers of scripture, but also of any author who is worthy of the honor of being reread. In a way, the only authors worth reading in the first place are those one can reread forever. They are worth your time because they are worthy of eternity. Aphorisms, while I await the vertical link-up:

Collision with an intelligent book makes us see a thousand stars.

One can only reread what suggests more than what it expresses.

It is not the ideas that I look for in the intelligent book, but rather the air that one breathes there.

Our opinion of a great book is the verdict with which the book judges us.

This last one is key, for imagine the arrogance and stupidity of one (probably you) who presumes to judge this type of book, because he is oblivious to the fact that it even is this type of book. It's not so much that he "misses" the point. Rather, he can't even reach it; and because he can't reach it, can't know of its existence.

It reminds me of a child who roughhouses with his father and thinks he really knocked him out. But enough about our trolls.

Think of our contemporary leftists, who presume to judge and even condemn the founders. This is very much like Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, who knows better than Jesus what human beings want and need. Who needs the Declaration and Constitution when Joe Biden understands me and my real needs better than I do?

There are two principle ways of knowing. Let's call them "reason" (ratio) and "intellect" (intellectus). This is a crucial distinction, and it should be self-evident to anyone who takes the time to think about thinking.

Indeed, it isn't even possible to think without both modalities, since reason reduces to tautology without the transcendent perspective of the intellect. To put it another way, without the intellect, reason can't know what it knows. Nor can science, obviously, although scientism pretends to: fake nous!

To extend the analogy of the hybrid/SACD, the standard CD is accessible to reason, the super CD to intellect; thus, if your laser light can only access the standard layer, you're missing a whole world of intelligibility. But you can't know of this deeper world unless you train your laser to detect it. Or at least don't "untrain" it, which is what a modern education does. Use it or lose it.

Certainly this was true in my case. I don't want to say that "I didn't know anything about it," because it is impossible to not know about it. In reality, the intellect is part of our standard equipment, and it is there because it is an adequation to its proper object -- as eyes exist because there is light, or ears because there are air vibrations.

Goethe made the orthoparadoxical remark that "experience is only half of experience." The larger half -- so to speak -- is the transcendental experience of experience, or thinking about perception, as intellect is to reason. We need both, obviously: reason needs something to chew on, and intellection needs something to digest. Necessary + Sufficient. Vertical metabolism.

We might also say that ratio is work, while intellect is play. If this weren't the case, this blog would have dried up years ago. The first is active, the second more passive and receptive; it is open to the totality. You might even say it is feminine -- not that there's anything wrong with that.

Well, it is wrong if it isn't betrothed to reason, just as reason goes off the rails if it isn't domesticated by intellect. All those bad religions, especially the political ones? Correct: intellectual visions untethered by fact, experience, and logic.

Which leads directly to the question: what does it even mean to philosophize? You already know the answer, but we will answer it anyway in the next post, because it's always good to consciously understand what you're unconsciously doing anyway.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

There is Only One Subject. But is it a Single, Progressive, or Trifocal Vision?

Sometimes I'm not that enthusiastic about writing yet another post. But then I remind myself, "Don't worry. No one is enthusiastic about reading one, either."

Then I think, "but if I stop posting, the satellight link will be severed and the trancemission will stop."

Okay, says I, we'll compromise: must every damn post be a big to-do? Why not just a few deft aphorisms or left field observations, like Larry King used to make in his weekly column? What's with airline silverware? Why's it always so cold? Ran into Henry Winkler at Duke Zeibert's, and he's still the Fonz!

As mentioned in the previous post, we're putting away Voegelin for the time being. We've been been flogging his corpus since way back before the Chinese flu was more than just an excuse for Dems to trash the economy.

So let's move on to another favorite German philosopher, Josef Pieper. It's remarkable how he says many of the same things as Voegelin does, only in 100 pages instead of 500. I realize he was a -- gasp -- popularizer. Nevertheless, he popularized some deeply unpopular things, most notably, truth and reality, so he's actually quite counter-cultural. He is a revolutionary against the permanent reactionaries of the left, even if he was far too polite to put it that way.

And he has such layers of depth in his writing and thinking, as is always the case with the True Philosopher and Theologian -- and in fact, this is how you can tell you're dealing with one. For it is written:

We only have to read in order to discover what we have to reread eternally (Dávila).

Perhaps you've noticed that in the sidebar there is a new category. In addition to current reading, there is a link to books I'm currently rereading (or re-rereading). This is because I've read enough, at least for my purposes. Petey says, "Okay, you can stop. Now, try to synthesize all that stuff to which you were directed by Holy Happenstance and Coony Coincidence. Put it all together into a Single Trifocal Vision. If you can!"

In other words, a dare. Challenge accepted!

Does this mean Bob doesn't need any more information, or that he's actually achieved the omniscience he pretends to have achieved? No! The Bob does not pretend!

What am I trying to say? The other day I read a book on Chesterton called The Complete Thinker. Like Pieper, he too was a popularizer, but a bit too wild & wooly for my taste. Too journalistic and chaotic for a vertical control freak such as myself. Nevertheless, we agree on all the main points, such as THE main point:

There is only one subject.

Boom. This is true whether we like it or not, but it takes no less than a lifetime to realize its truth. In other words, it goes to what Petey says above about putting it all together into a single vision. As we shall soon see, both words are equally important: single and vision, or apprehension of unity and reception of Light. This verticalisthenic is more passive and receptive than active and discursive. Third eyesight is 20/∞, and all that.

Before getting back to Pieper, is there anything else we can pull from G.K., any more hints, clues, or insults?

Here are a couple, one thing leading to the Other:

All proof begins with something which cannot be proved, but can only be perceived or accepted, and is called an axiom or first principle.

Anyone who presumes to think must accede to this truism. Add to it the following, and mix slowly:

[N]othing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.

Now we've got something, and that something is Everything, the unifying vision, the vast area rug that pulls the whole cosmos together, both vertical and horizontal, subject and object, transcendence and immanence, etc. We'll return to everything shortly, but first a couple more somethings, and I'm going to try to skip over some juicy but non-relevant ones -- fine insultainment, but not suited to the present purpose.

"All real philosophy," says Chesterton, "is apocalyptic." It is a revelation. It unveils the truth. We all want to know more than what language tells us. We want to see the big picture, but we also want to know how every little picture fits into the big picture. We want to see how everything fits together.

Which is what Petey keeps telling me, precisely. Ah, but there's more! For it's not just how things fit together; rather, one must take it one step deeper, and explore how it is possible for any thing to fit, and indeed, what "together" could possibly mean.

How is "together" even possible? By virtue of what principle can things be related? And yet, everything hinges upon the irreducible possibility of two-gatheredness. To put it another way, if interior relations aren't baked into the cosmic cake -- or woven into the cosmic rug -- then this isn't even a cosmos, let alone an intelligible one. Who cares if a Chinaman pees on it?

Has the world gone crazy? Am I the only one who cares about the rules? All contrary opinions -- i.e., modern and postmodern philosophies -- have only three little drawbacks: they aren't connected to reality, they aren't connected to the human subject, and they aren't connected to themselves. Or in other words, they are internally inconsistent, externally inconsistent, and vertically incoherent. Eight year olds, Dude.

Before we even speak, we must acknowledge that this is the type of cosmos in which speaking is possible in principle, and this isn't just any type of cosmos. Moreover,

all communication is translation. It starts with translating our own thoughts into words and continues with someone else translating our words into something they understand.

This is asking a great deal of readers, and too much of trolls, but there it is: this is a translational cosmos, and what a concept! But

A modern thinker not only will not state his own opinion in clear, straightforward English, but he is hideously affronted if you do it for him (GKC, in Ahlquist).

Thus, quoting Biden is elder abuse, as quoting Kamala is racist and misogynistic. It is fear of a Strong Woman of Color!

This post is turning into another big to-do. We'll get back to Pieper and to the cosmic vision in the next post. We'll just leave off with these:

The modern ideas claim to be expansive and inclusive; they are in fact narrow. They are unable to hold anything so large as Christianity.

Well, they can, but only a desiccated straw man version. Which tells you a lot -- about the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the modern project. Or worse, the clueless sincerity. For "Modern thought simply means modern thoughtlessness (GKC).

Thoughtless? Not me. Happy 33rd anniversary to Mrs. G, without whom! And with.