This post was started yesterday but ends at the stars below. Today's post proceeds beyond the stars:
I was pondering a certain philosophical question, when I read a tweet by the Happy Acres guy that crystalized the shape of the problem (https://twitter.com/HappyHectares/status/1356974916147372033):
recently, and in its defense, I've heard leftism likened to Credo quia absurdum.
Or, in plain English, I believe because it is absurd. Now, no one should believe something merely because it is absurd, and I assume Tertullian was being a bit ironic. If I were to plagiaphrase the gag, it would be to make the point that superior truths often appear absurd to inferior minds. The proof is in the trolls.
Let me track down what Mr. T. was trying to convey. Perhaps we can even learn something. I have a book called The Faith of the Early Fathers for just this purpose. It contains all the writings of the ancient Christians. First, someone has has his hand up. Yes, Professor Wiki?
Credo quia absurdum is a Latin phrase that means "I believe because it is absurd," originally misattributed to Tertullian.... It is believed to be a paraphrasing of Tertullian's "prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est" which means It is certain because it is absurd....
Early modern Protestant and Enlightenment rhetoric against Catholicism and religion more broadly resulted in this phrase being changed to I believe because it is absurd, displaced from its original anti-Marcionite to a personally religious context.
Marcionite? I can never keep track of all the heresies. This one taught that
Christ was not a Jewish Messiah, but a spiritual entity that was sent by the Monad to reveal the truth about existence, thus allowing humanity to escape the earthly trap of the demiurge. Marcion called God, the Stranger God, or the Alien God, in some translations, as this deity had not had any previous interactions with the world, and was wholly unknown.
But Tertullian was by no means advocating absurdity for its own sake, which would be profoundly un- and anti-Catholic. Rather,
The consensus of Tertullian scholars is that the reading "I believe because it is absurd" sharply diverges from Tertullian's own thoughts, given his priority on reasoned argument and rationality in his writings.... The meaning of the phrase may relate to 1 Corinthians 1:17–31, where something foolish to a human may be an attribute of God's wisdom....
On to the text. In it he speaks of being "shameless in a good sense, and foolish in a happy way":
The Son of God is crucified: and I am not ashamed that it ought be cause for shame. The Son of God is dead: and it is believable, because it is folly. And having been buried, He rose again: it is certain, because it is impossible. But how will all these things be true of Him, if He Himself was not true...?
So I guess Tertullian is in effect saying to Marcion, "Hey, if your Gnostic BS makes sense to you, I'll take folly. You big fat fool."
With that bit of pedantry out of the way, let's move on to the main attraction, which is an essay called The Philosophical Spirit and the Sense of Mystery, in which Fr. Garriguou-Lagrange provides a helpful map to the stars and beyond.
Which reminds me. Why do people such as Musk and Bezos want to fly up into the heavens, when you can't get there that way? You inevitably end up in the same place, only further away. I suppose it's a lack of imagination, or perhaps a displacement of it onto the material plane.
It's very much as if they reduce the proper object of metaphysics and theology to the mere object of science. And no one feels hemmed in by life so long as they are in communion with this object, an object that is not only beyond the stars but prior to them.
Suffice it to say, flying into space, no matter how far, is not a cure for spiritual autism.
What is it, asks G-L, that "differentiates the philosophical spirit not only from common knowledge but also from knowledge obtained by the cultivation of sciences that are inferior to philosophy"? The former
differs from them above all and essentially by its formal object and by the point of view under which it considers its object.
This or that science establishes only "the laws of phenomena" -- for example, the object of physics is the material world, while the object of mathematics is the quantitative world. But to reduce reality to what mathematics or physics can say about it is an error that is fatal to the intellect, since it eclipses its proper object. The intellect sophicates, ultimately because
the sciences that are inferior ro philosophy, such as the positive and mathematical sciences, in certain senses resemble sense knowledge insasmuch as they have objects that are less universal than philosophy's object...
For example, empirical knowledge can know only of this or that man. But the intellect transcends the particular and ascends to knowledge of mankind, to the universal. Without this mysterious operation, "no other knowledge would be possible." Indeed, even to deny it is to affirm it.
As I think I mentioned in a comment, St. Thomas is similar to Adam Smith, in the sense that he is not promulgating a theory, much less an ideology. Rather, both men simply describe what we are spontaneously doing -- Smith when we are free to truck and barter, Thomas when we are free to think.
Come to think of it, while Smith's masterwork describes how nations become wealthy, Thomas's describes how intellects attain riches beyond measure. In both cases, the accumulation of wealth requires certain rules and policies. Just so, other policies will assure intellectual and spiritual impoverishment. Yes, there are third-world minds condemned to intellectual shitholes, but enough about academia.
Nevertheless, this is the purpose of the leftist education-indoctrination complex -- not to reach beyond the stars but to clip the wings of the intellect and distract it with sub-mundane pseudo-problems. It is a trap, literally. But the trap is self-imposed, as the inscape hatch is always present in the truly philosophical spirit, which
seeks to connect, in an explicit and distinct manner, all things to the most universal, simple, first principles. That is, the philosophical spirit wishes to connect all things to the most general laws of being and of the real.
And here is an IMPORTANT point if you wish to travel beyond the stars: the intellect
is quickly led to see the mysteries of the natural order where the common outlook sees no mystery; indeed, it sees them where even the inferior sciences do not suspect there to be such mysteries.
As mentioned a few posts back, the most prominent mysteries appear to be present in the vertical interstices of reality -- for example, where matter somehow becomes animate, or where biology "becomes" self-aware. Suffice it to say that neither mystery is eliminated with recourse to reductionism; this merely deluminates the mystery (and its real source).
For between matter and even the most teeny tiny sensation of matter is an abyss -- an abyss that is Against the Law -- the law of a scientism that pretends that the lower can be the sufficient reason of the higher. Such dull and unimaginative sorts
never see any mystery, any profundity, in the same place where the philosopher is astonished with the wonderment that is, as Aristotle has said, the very beginning of science.
We'll leave off here for today, but I will circle back to the question of why the left not only believes such nonsense, but must believe it.