Saturday, October 23, 2021

Inspecting the Foundations of the Cosmos

We ended the previous post with something about a proposal to examine the foundations of our cosmic house, in order to better understand why the superstructure of Western Civilization is sliding off of it. What's going on? Is the problem termites? Mold? Bad plumbing? Holes in the roof? 

Did we build on sand, in which case the best foundation in the world won't help?  

And who is qualified to conduct the inspection? To do a proper job of it, one will first have to do a geological survey, venture down into the basement, climb up into the attic, etc., when most inspectors take only a superficial glance at the house itself, and assume their metaphysical assumptions are true enough to hold it up.  

They say our house is built on an alloy of Greek, Jewish, and Christian materials, which is true as far as it goes. But prior to this it's made of human nature, aspects of which are constrained by DNA (genetics being a necessary but not sufficient condition of humanness). 

Along these lines, I recently read a book by the theologian Larry Chapp called The God of Covenant and Creation: Scientific Naturalism and its Challenge to the Christian Faith. The first half is a little dry, but it picks up the pace in the second half, as indicated by the many times I have written YES in the margins.  

Let's review these enthusiastic YESes and try to make out the contours of the hyperdimensional object which evoked them.

A number of my YESes pertain to the so-called immutability of God. Now, this immutability has an undeniable appeal if we're going to build a civilization on top of it. Put conversely, how can one build on a process, a wave, a cloud of energy, a changeable opinion, man? 

However, as we know, anything we say about God -- or can say about God -- is strictly analogical. Thus, for example, we can say God is "good," when in actuality he is the ground of goodness itself; in other words, it's not a "trait," but rather, the substance.

But Chapp (via Balthasar) makes the subtle point -- and how stupid of me to not have thought of it! -- that we must also consider God's immutability in the same analogical way:

Why is it, asks Balthasar, that we rarely see warnings about the analogical nature of all language about God when we speak of God's immutability or self-possession as an Absolute Subject? 

In short, God is "immutable," so long as this is understood analogically. Pushed too far and taken too literally, God becomes as intelligent, living, and relatable as a rock

It is at this point that the YESes begin flying. For example, Chapp quotes one of our favorite celestial inspectors, Norris Clarke, who writes that

Given an infinitely good and loving personal being, it seems to me one can say it is inevitable that it will pour over in some way to share its goodness outside itself, though one cannot predict just how. 

This inevitability, or necessity if you will, is not an external compulsion or blind metaphysical force, but the very logic, the special logic of a loving nature, that will spontaneously pour over to share its goodness in some way... uncompelled by anything but love, yet inevitable, out of character for it not to happen.

Yes. That's exactly what I see. In the ultimate ground of being, "freedom and necessity come together in a transcendent synthesis, proper only to the nature of love" (ibid.). 

Except to say it can't literally be a synthesis, because this implies two separate strands that are united a posteriori, when they are really complementary aspects of their anterior unity, like justice/mercy, time/eternity, Father/Son, etc.

Much more to say, but we promised shorter posts and we're sticking to it.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Orphans, Bastards, and Snippets

As promised -- or threatened -- more fragments of unfinished and abandoned posts:

There exists no scientific theory -- nor can there exist any such theory -- capable of explaining the presence of free will. Which is not really surprising, since one can say the same of subjectivity itself. The famous "hard problem of consciousness" is only hard from the perspective of materialism, in which case it is quite literally impossible. 

However, consciousness isn't contingent, rather, necessary. Once that little metamuddle is unmuddled, the hard problem is, What motivates a person to use consciousness in order to deny consciousness? That's more than a waste of time, for it is a waste of timelessness.

I remember back in the day reading book called The Taboo of Subjectivity by Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace, which cites the truism that, "strictly speaking," "there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness." That's what you call soph-evident, for reasons we needn't re-re-re-peat. What's more important are the cosmic implications, which are not only many, but ultimately even One.

More self-evident truth:

All the direct evidence we have consists of nonscientific, first-person accounts of being conscious. 

He cites the International Dictionary of Psychology, where it says of consciousness that (as of 2000) 

it is impossible specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written about it.  

For example, that sentence. But in reality, many things worth reading have been written about it, for example, this post.

I don't remember much else about the book except that it confirmed what was already obvious to me: that consciousness is one of those things that cannot be explained by reducing it to something less. Rather, it can only be understood on its own terms -- or, to be perfectly accurate, by seeing it as an entailment of its own sufficient reason. Put conversely, the material world is entirely insufficient to even begin to account for it. There can be no greater category error than pretending otherwise.  

For me the matter was settled after going through the works of Alfred North Whitehead. But guess what?, Bob whispered creepily. I was only attracted to Whitehead because I already believed what he had to say about the matter. I just needed some big-name philosophical back-up, being that I was just a retail clerk at the time, and not yet a properly credentialed idiot.  

***    

Once free will is denied, one is no longer free to accept or reject the very theory that would deny it: it is neither falsifiable nor truifiable. In short, the denial of free will is not even unscientific. 

This goes to the necessary metacosmic relationship between Truth and Freedom, in that if we aren't free to know truth, then neither one -- truth nor freedom -- can exist. If truth is determined, then there is no exit from the closed circle of causation. 

The upshot is that the existence of freedom is one of the air holes in the Matrix. But it's more than that, for it is also a lifeline from and to God, possibly the most consequential ontological spiral of them all. 

As such, freedom is the sufficient cause of the left, albeit in an assbackward and reactionary manner, for each of their policies exists to thwart and vitiate freedom, whether freedom of speech, freedom to be born, freedom of self-defense, freedom of assembly, freedom of exchange, freedom from state indoctrination, etc. 

****

You've heard of micro- and macroeconomics. But these are situated below cosmo- or meta-economics, for it turns out that economics is grounded in a priori principles, meaning that on Mount Sinai they were handed down directly from God to Mises.

But let's begin at the Beginning, AKA Genesis. 

Now, in "paradise" -- in the Garden of Eden -- there is no economics and no possibility of economics. This isn't just because paradise is fun and economics dismal; rather, it is because the basis of economics is scarcity, and there's no scarcity in paradise. Simple as. If there's scarcity, you know you're not in heaven -- or that Pete Buttigieg is away on pretendity leave.   

And what is scarcity? The moment you think about it, you realize there's no such thing until human beings arrive on the scene, for scarcity is a function of desire. Animals have drives but they obviously don't have conscious desires.

For example, when our Great Dane wakes up in the morning she likes to bask in the sun. She prefers to do so on her comfy pad, but she can't form a connection between the sun over here and the pad over there in the shade. She'll stand in the sun until I drag the pad over, at which point she'll plop onto it.

There's probably a dog somewhere who has sense enough to drag a pad into the sun, but you get the point: dogs don't sit around wishing things were otherwise. Only human beings do that, nor do they ever stop doing it, and this is both a gift and a curse. We are always wishing things were different, which is the motive power for getting anything done. But even when things are perfect, we want more.

The other night I watched a Larry David episode in which he's in a waiting room with a beautiful view of the city. He asks the receptionist how long it took for her to take it for granted: "About a day and a half."

Me? I don't accomplish much because I'm pretty content the way things are. That makes me unusual, I guess, but it's the end result of a lot of wishing I didn't have to waste so much time wishing things were different. 

Rather, long ago I decided to conduct an experiment: why not be the guy who's content with the way things are, rather than exerting so much time and energy wishing they were otherwise? In other words, focus on the end rather than the means. In fact, just skip the latter altogether and get to the point. Just Be, and be done with it.

I know what you're thinkingt: Bob, you're just turning a defect into a virtue. You have no real skills or abilities, but you're just intelligent enough to realize that if you exerted more effort to be successful, you'd be revealed as the failure you are.

Perhaps, but one must nevertheless try! Now that I'm reflecting on this subject, I'm recalling those 12 years I spent working in a supermarket between 1976 and 1988, more often than not on the graveyard shift, which suited me perfectly because of the absence of authority. Every night was like having a substitute teacher in charge of the classroom.  

Anyway, during my ten minute breaks I'd spend 45 minutes or so flipping through magazines. I was especially influenced by People magazine, because it always featured stories about this or that famous and wealthy celebrity who was miserable: either their lives were caught up in addiction and scandal, or they were just out of rehab and rebuilding their lives and careers. 

In short, People was full of people who had gotten what they wanted -- fame, success, money -- but it had backfired; or, they were trying to do it all over again, but this time get it right by focusing on the things they should have valued all along, such as children, home, God, etc.  

Anyway, Mises, according to Prof. Wiki, conceived economic laws "as akin to geometric or mathematical  axioms: fixed, unchanging, objective and discernible through logical reasoning without the use of any empirical evidence." 

Every science has an object to which it is ordered, for example, physics to the material world, biology to the living organism, psychology to the human mind, etc. Religion is in one sense ordered to God or the Absolute, but that's really another way of saying it's ordered to "everything," since everything is God and God is everything -- and more.

This "science of Ultimate Reality," writes Nasr, is

attainable through intellect and not reason, of an essentially suprahuman character and including in its fullness the whole of man's being.

Bob, we know you are a mighty, mighty man, but suprahuman? Really? Sure, so long as everyone else is too:

to be human is to seek to be suprahuman. Man can in fact be defined as the being created to transcend himself and to seek the Transcendent as such. 

Circling back to where we started, if certain fundamental realities cannot be reduced to anything less, it is because their principle must be at the other end, i.e., "above." These things can never be defined from below, nor can they be contained by language, although, at the same time, language can nevertheless communicate directly some of their essence. This is an aspect of grace, which isn't God, but neither is it not God -- as the light streaming in my window isn't the sun, but not not the sun either.

Along these lines, there exist forms that communicate the formless, and exist to do so. Nevertheless, many folks misunderstand their function and reduce them to their form. Which is idolatry.

Well, now that we are caught up with these old bastards, we can move on to the next subject, which will  involve examining the foundation of the cosmos in order to better understand why the superstructure of Western Civilization is sliding off of it.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Abandoning My Post

Just because I haven't been posting lately, it doesn't mean I haven't been writing posts. It's just that I haven't been finishing them. This morning I will try to finish them, or at least recover what seems postable, and flush the rest.

Here's one from two or three weeks ago, when we went through a libertarian phase. Not libertarian in the usual sense of the word, but in the deeper context of trying -- as usual -- to figure out how this particular cosmos works. It obviously works, or we wouldn't be here. But the deeper reasons are on the metaphysical, not merely physical, plane.  

Now, a key component of the cosmos is indeed liberty, which can under no circumstances be understood or even conceptualized "from the bottom up"; nor, for the same reason, can the top be reduced to the bottom without eliminating precisely what needs to be explained. If we aren't free to explain our freedom, then no explanation of anything is possible.

This is a two-way, hierarchical cosmos, and that's all there is to it. Empiricists and positivists deny one end, while idealists and many religionists deny the other, but both approaches result in an impoverished cosmos unfit for, and indeed uninhabitable by, man.

In certain emergencies or embarrassing situations I like to say to myself I'm not here and this isn't happening. But I would never dream of elevating this to a metaphysic! Rather, I'm only a situational Buddhist. 

Longtime readers will recognize this as our usual approach to things: instead of beginning with, say, physics or chemistry, and trying to figure out how these can make the ontological leap to man, we begin with the most undeniable fact of all -- in my case, me -- and try to figure out what sort of cosmos must exist in order for such an unlikely fact to even be possible, let alone actual. (And we won't even get into the actualizing process, which adds another layer to the mystery of the human subject -- i.e., in what kind of orthoparadoxical cosmos is it possible to become who one is?).

Not surprisingly, it turns out that I am only possible in a very peculiar universe -- and not just because I myself am peculiar. In the grander scheme of things, everyone is peculiar, which is to say, unique, and how is this possible? In other words, what is the principle of unique personhood, its sufficient reason? 

There is no such principle in, say, physics, in which things that appear diverse on the surface are reduced to (explained by) a handful of simple laws. But persons are characterized by their unrepeatable uniqueness; we might say that there's only one to a customer, notwithstanding the occasional case of multiple personality disorder on the one hand, or hivemind progressive conformist on the other.

In physics nothing is unique; rather, every event is fully reducible to more general laws. Now, it is true that humans are constrained by "human nature," otherwise we wouldn't have the word "human." And yet, the human being simultaneously belongs to a species while at the same time truly being his own species -- an oxymoronical "species of one."

So yes, not only are you weird, but I would go so far as to say that if you are not weird, then you're doing it wrong

Nor am I talking about merely posing as a weirdo in order to get attention, nor the tiresome contemporary plague of mental illness masquerading as uniqueness. Such persons are easily lumped into their diagnostic category, which is the opposite of uniqueness. Paranoid conspiracy theorists are a dime a dozen. Or maybe you've never watched MSNBC.

Naturally, this goes to the cosmic heresy of "identity" politics, which is the systematic denial of human identity. For to reduce identity to some superficial group characteristic is to deny one's human identity, precisely. Al Sharpton, or Joy Reid, or Barack Obama, are just professional black people -- serious jokes but not serious persons.

If you are a feminist, for example, you are just a cliché, not a proper three-dimensional person (i.e., biological, psychological, and spiritual). Moreover, you are no doubt identifying with the superficial feminist cliché in order to deny some pain associated with your deeper personhood. After all, being a feminist, stupid and shallow as it is, is much easier than becoming who you actually are. 

Oh, by the way, I just figured out why I'm not finishing these posts. It's due to our newfound absence of time constraints brought about by retirement. Back when I was gainfully employed, I had to wrap things up in order reenter the Conspiracy. Now I can just blah-blah-blog all day if I want to, like a song that goes on forever. The medium is the message, and now the medium is timelessness unbound instead of the bounds of temporality. 

This implies that I need to set an artificial limit to my writing, like stopping at 10:30, even if