Friday, December 18, 2020

The Miraculous Encounter of Thought and Being

A commenter on the previous post lamented our preoccupation with intelligence and intelligibility, dismissing the former as "a tool, a buzzing blinking contraption. Like a calculator."

Naturally, it's difficult for human beings to imagine things from outside their humanness. It's literally impossible to think about what the world is like without language, since language is how we think. We can't imagine what it's like to be a dog or a bat or an insect. 

In fact, people at situated at the right side of the bell curve can scarcely imagine what it's like to occupy the left side -- say, the mind of Alexandria Cortez -- nor, for that matter, does she know anything about our end. We know this, because everything she says about us is wrong -- e.g., racist, sexist, fascist, homophobic, etc. That isn't intellection, just projection -- like maps of old that that say "monsters be here."  

Anyway, it's easy to take intelligibility for granted, since it is literally impossible to imagine the universe without it; a cosmos presumes its own intelligibility, or it's just a chaosmos.  

And one must be bereft of curiosity to not wonder how and why the intelligibility gets in, and how it is that our minds are able to extract this intelligibility.  Is it just a miraculous coincidence? Or are there sound metaphysical reasons?

As we often say, the humble person of faith who believes in a literal seven day creation is infinitely closer to the truth than the arrogant person of tenure who imagines that everything came about by chance.  In fact the doctrine of creation -- properly understood -- is the initial bifurcation in the flowchart of being and knowing: either the world is created -- i.e., is dependent upon  higher source -- or it isn't.  There is no in between.

But if it is not created, one must accept all the consequences that flow from this.  Which the anti-creationist never does and can never do without committing intellectual suicide.

Note the qualifier: properly understood.  It seems that few Christians and fewer pagans actually understand the metaphysical doctrine of creation. This is because western Christendom departed from the last common teacher of the undivided faith at the same time the scientific revolution was getting underway.  

This led to the split between science and faith that persists to this day -- which is really a disastrous and totally unnecessary division between (lower case) reason and intelligence. And only intelligence can heal the split, because intelligence is what unifies and synthesizes, precisely:
Our intellect in understanding is extended to infinity (Thomas).

This is self-evident: there is no limit to what we may know, for to even draw a boundary between appearances and reality -- AKA phenomena and noumena -- is to presume what is on its other side: "the intellect is therefore naturally capable of knowing everything that exists." And

Our intellect in knowing anything is extended to infinity. This ordering of the intellect to infinity would be vain and senseless if there were no infinite object of knowledge (ibid.).

This accords with one of our favorite passages by Schuon:  

The first ascertainment which should impose itself upon man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of that miracle that is intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- and consequently the incommensurability between these and material objects, be it a question of a grain of sand or of the sun, or of any creature whatever as an object of the senses.

In other words, the gap between the senses and the intellect is literally infinite, and demands an explanation: how did we get here, i.e., from the world of concrete sensations to the world of abstract concepts?  

Note that the concrete sensible isn't even a "fact" until there exists an intelligence to regard it as one. Does a dog or a journalist live in a world of disinterested facts?  Nor is it possible to "evolve" into the human world, again, because we're not talking about a continuous line but a discontinuous leap in being. There is no line that leads from touch or sight to pi, or to the theory of relativity, or to the self-evident truths undergirding our political system.

This is not to deny the fact of evolution. Indeed, is to render the fact of evolution intelligible. To imagine evolution "explains" human intelligence isn't superstitious, or even a little stitious. Rather, it's substitious.  It begs the biggest question of all, which is how the intellect transcends the mere shuffling of material genes.

No sense organ is aware of itself or of its operation. The eye neither sees itself, nor does it see what it sees. But the intellect is aware of itself and of its act of knowing (ibid.).

Here again, if you believe this capacity is a miracle brought about on the sixth day of creation, you're closer to the truth than the person who believes it miraculously came about as a result of matter somehow transcending itself. This latter doesn't explain anything, i.e. how transcendence appears in an immanent world -- how objects become subjects, how the outside gets in, how mere existence becomes experience.

To judge one's own judgment: this can only be done by the reason, which reflects on its own act and knows the relation between that upon which it judges and that by which it judges. Hence the root of all freedom lies in the reason (ibid., emphasis mine).

Boom: and now we understand the link between metaphysics and politics. Another foolish commenter suggested that "the true mystic is singularly disinterested in politics or stolen elections." Nah. The reality is that the true mystic is singularly interested in any and all conditions that permit and promote the flourishing of true mysticism. Which any form of materialism obviously doesn't.  

We're running out of time, but the question of real intelligence -- our knowledge of truth -- is very much tied in with the doctrine of creation. To put it conversely, if you're wrong about creation, then you're wrong -- ultimately -- about everything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Living Between the Must Be and the Can't Be

 I want to make a u-turn back to a drive-by passage from a couple of weeks ago:

Without the intelligence there can be no continuity and no fluidity in the universe.... Discard the intelligence and you create a gap in the universe that no instinct or imaginal can fill.... Recognize the intelligence and you have a harmonious progression of perfections reaching even to God himself. Posit intelligence, and evolution becomes intelligible; deny it, and it becomes absurd (Sheen).  

Which brings to mind an aphorism, a truism, and an insult, which walk into a blog:

Agreement is eventually possible between intelligent men because intelligence is a conviction they share.

Men disagree not so much because they think differently but because they do not think.

The intelligent man quickly reaches conservative conclusions.

All of which begs the question: exactly what is intelligence and what is thinking? And what is the relationship between them?

Me? I've been thinking about thinking ever since I learned how, or thought I had, anyway. This is partly due to how unexpected it was: I wasn't used to it, so I didn't take it for granted.  "What's happening to me?," I asked.  "Why this annoying gap between impulse and action?"  

Which brings to mind a riddle: what is the biggest space in the world? 

Hmm, let's think. Yes, it must be this one: the space between intelligence and intelligibility!  After all, everything we can possibly conceive of is situated here, either in actuality or potential. If there's anything bigger than that, God's keeping it for himself.

Alternatively, perhaps it's the space between the necessary and the possible -- or between the Things that Must Be and those that can Never Be, AKA possibility.  All of evolution, for example, occurs in the space of the possible. Obviously evolutionary change isn't impossible, nor is it necessary, like a mathematical procedure or logical entailment.

If we could draw a map of our place in the cosmos, it might look like this:

MUST BE   {you are here}   CAN'T BE

Obviously, what we call thinking occurs in the middle area, between the brackets. Now, all thinking is an adequation, but bad thinking must be an adequation to things that can't be, which makes it an inadequation; these types of pseudo-thinkers tend to be inadequate to the task of realizing their own inadequacy.  Mr. Dunning meet Mr. Kruger. Mr. Biden meet Mrs. Harris. Again.

As we've discussed on numerous occasions, God is precisely that (or who) must be and cannot not be; for if God isn't, then nor is the cosmos (i.e., the cosmos as integrated totality of intelligible reality knowable by intelligence).  Instead, the cosmos reduces to a body without a head, such that it isn't even a body (i.e., organism) anymore. 

In reality, man inhabits -- or is in contact with --  two very different and yet intimately related worlds:

the first world without the second merely means the knowing of the letters of a language without being able to put them together into words and propositions. The second kind of world without the first means attempting to carry water in a bucket without a bottom to it (in Sheen).

In reality, we always begin by sensing a material object, but knowledge doesn't end there. Indeed, sensation isn't really knowledge at all. Rather, knowledge is an abstraction from sensation: it is immaterial and conceptual. And again, we always live in both worlds -- indeed, our world is always an integration of the two.

So long as we are aren't abstracting about things that can never be. Or, alternatively, prevented from abstracting about things that are.  

Jumping ahead a bit, what is, for example, political correctness, but a mechanism that forbids us to reason about what is, and forces us to conform our minds to what isn't? For example, it forces us to pretend men and women are identical and interchangeable, or that there are no cognitive or behavioral differences between ethnic groups.  

Progress. Yes, we all believe in. Except some of us posit a metaphysic that renders it incoherent and impossible, "for nothing is more unintelligible than an eternal becoming without a thing that becomes" (Sheen).  

In other words, change must occur to something enduring that is changed; if  things have no nature, no essence, then there is no subject of the change, no ontological continuity. Every moment, you'd be a brand new person in a terrifyingly novel world.

There's a name for that: psychosis. 

The collapse of our two worlds into one has disastrous consequences:

First, if the intelligence is destined merely for matter and for the practical, is organic and not spiritual, why are things intelligible? Why can things be known? Why are things known? 

Because reality is an IQ test? 

Second, if God is not the Principle of things..., then what ultimate explanation is there for the intelligibility in things?

Again, man exists between the Must Be -- beginning with God -- and the Can't Be -- which encompasses the countless ideologies from empiricism to scientism to Marxism to feminism and all the rest. Or perhaps we can just say that history is a constant struggle between God and ideology, or between O and Ø.  

If there is a world, it is infinitely incomprehensible without God. But there is a world. Ergo.

Blah blah yada yada, the rest is commentary. 

On the one hand God must be, and although we can know this as postulate -- as O -- he is like the bucket alluded to above, one with a secure bottom, and a top that goes on forever:

There is no doubt that we do not comprehend Him in Himself, but we comprehend Him as an inevitable postulate..., and we reach the height of comprehension in declaring Him, properly speaking, beyond our comprehension (Sheen). 

We are faced with a binary choice: infinite incomprehensibility, AKA incurable stupidity, at the one end; or endless comprehension of the infinite at the other.  But

When a society has two souls, there is -- and ought to be -- civil war.... for anything which has dual personality is certainly mad; and probably possessed by devils. --Chesterton

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Fleeing Personal Problems through Politics

The previous post left oof with reference to so-called "forces of within" and to how one of the primary purposes of ideology is to manage these forces, especially envy and resentment. Externalizing these is as easy as falling from paradise, especially with the readymade categories provided by progressive politics.  

If envy didn't exist, nor would the left, because these vindictive snowflakes would necessarily tend to their own business instead of concerning themselves with ours. But it seems that envy is baked into the the psychosocial cake, or at least coincides with the emergence of history from our prelapsarian innocence.

Man evolved as a social animal, and envy is the glue -- or part of the glue -- that holds the group together. It must be the dark side -- or a privation -- of something that had a positive function in binding together small human groups.

Let's try to analyze this from the ground up: man is first a familial animal before he is a social animal per se. However, the social and familial can only be artificially separated, which is precisely why so much crazy seeps into the sociopolitical. It helps to explain the perpetual hysteria of the left, and why progressives are rebellious adolescents with daddy issues when they aren't abandoned children with mommy issues.  

Bob, is it really that simple? Probably not, but before we dive in to the subject, let's drop a few aphorisms behind enemy lines in order to soften the ground:

1: Social problems are the delightful refuge of those fleeing from their own problems.

2: Socialism is the philosophy of the guilt of others.

3: “Social justice” is the term for claiming anything to which we do not have a right.

4: The left claims that the guilty party in a conflict is not the one who covets another’s goods but the one who defends his own. 

5: It is not enough for the democrat that we respect what he wants to do with his life; he also demands that we respect what he wants to do with our life. 

6: Maturity of spirit begins when we stop feeling responsible for the world.

I've ordered these in a certain way so as to illuminate the process: 1) denial and externalization, 2) projection into others, 3) envy, 4)  rationalization, 5) punitive control, and 6) growing the hell up and minding your own business, AKA tolerating the terror of freedom.

Let's get back to Feminism and Freedom. Now, contrary to what feminists teach, women have always exerted control over men -- well, some women, in some ways, over some men. 

Or perhaps you are too stupid or oblivious to have noticed. I began noticing it when I was, oh, 11 or 12 years old. I won't bore you with details, but every man knows what I'm talking about, and every man must somehow come to terms with this form of female power.

Let's stipulate that feminism was invented by females too stupid or oblivious to understand the nature of their power over men. Or too envious. Or perhaps just too unattractive, simple as.  

Note that there is no explicit counter-philosophy to feminism, because no man is stupid or reckless enough to promulgate it. Well, maybe Nietzsche, but not because of any lack of intelligence. I have only vague recollections, but Prof Wiki has the goods:

From the beginning, nothing has been more alien, repugnant, and hostile to woman than truth -- her great art is the lie, her highest concern is mere appearance and beauty. 

But its complicated:

women are on the whole cleverer and more wicked than men -- which in Nietzsche's view, constitutes a compliment. Yet he goes on to claim that the emancipation of women, and feminists, was merely the resentment of some women against other women, who were physically better constituted and able to bear children.

One fellow claims Nietzsche isn't anti-woman, just anti-feminist. 

In any event, so long as genes have anything to say about reality, feminism will be here to bitterly struggle against that reality:

In the end it is impossible to overcome the biological inevitability of sex roles, but it is possible to try -- and to violate liberal values in the process (Levin). 

Hence the soft but increasingly hard tyranny of illiberal leftism. Is there anything maternal about the left, in a healthy or wholesome sense of the word?  Likewise anything feminine? Kamala Harris, for example, is neither; and yet, she is certainly both in the pathological sense, i.e., simultaneously the mother from hell and the ex-wife from hell.  But one could say the same of Hillary Clinton, Gretchen Whitmer, Nancy Pelosi, Lori Lightfoot, Sandy Cortez, et al. If you love women, you must shudder at them.

Another important point is that more equality will only generate more resentment in the left, precisely because equality of opportunity will starkly reveal inequality of gifts, merit, and ability. Under conditions of freedom, there is no escape from certain truths about oneself, and what crazy person wants that?

This is getting tedious. Let's just agree with Max Scheler that ressentiment is always available to the disordered person, whereas "an individual of strong personality has no need to compare himself with his fellow humans, even if they happen to be superior in specific respects and abilities."

Imagine how impoverished one would have to be in order to be unacquainted with moral and intellectual superiors! Which is a good working definition of a progressive: a person with no moral and intellectual superiors. They are better than you, which is why they are qualified to run your life.

For example, is there anyone wiser and more virtuous than Barack Obama? Just ask him. Even his supporters are the very people we'd been waiting for to bend the arc of history and set it right! 

But in reality

There is something definitively vile about the man who only admits equals, who does not tirelessly seek out his betters.

Do not commit the injustice of treating your superiors as equals.

The noble one is not the one who thinks he has inferiors, but the one who knows he has superiors.

Respecting our superiors is above all a proof of good taste.

By learning to admire we are cured of the vices of mediocrity.

Hmm. Who are some of my superiors that help me keep my own mediocrity in perspective? Let's see... Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Friedrich Hayek, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln... If we look down, it should be because we're always looking up, which is structurally the opposite of resentment.