Saturday, August 06, 2022

What We Can Know and What We Can't Not Know

Enough about the pathologies of language. What about its virtues? What is it -- and by extension, this blog -- good for? 

Well, for starters, we would not and could not be human without it. In the beginning is the Word, whether we're talking about the Godhead or manhood, the latter somehow being a reflection of the former, or else I'm not here and this isn't happening. 

Like anybody could even know that. Correct: we cannot know with certitude if we are or are not a reflected image of Ultimate Reality, capable of knowing all that can be known.

But we can take a hint, for you will have noticed that even asking the question requires capabilities that infinitely transcend physics and biology, matter and life. The bottom line is that if God doesn't exist, only He knows it with ironyclad certitude.

For our part, we can be pretty darn certain that the Creator exists, in part because we can know with 100% certitude that we aren't the Creator. 

Given our infinite distance from the rest of creation (even while acknowledging the obvious continuities with realms below), this infinitude requires a sufficient reason, the reason being Infinitude itself -- which is to say, the celestial ray that emanates from the vertical Center to the cosmic Periphery. Without it, we couldn't have knowledge of God or of anything else.  

Pieper writes that "I only 'know' something properly when I know it with certainty and reliably." And this knowledge, in order to be knowledge, "concerns man's relationship to reality as a whole." 

So really, if we're going to presume to have knowledge of anything, it must be in the context of knowledge of everything, otherwise it's just special pleading with a host of buried assumptions that ultimately reflect the inverse mythopoetic assertion: Ye shall be as gods.  

Now, who could possibly have knowledge of everything? Only two entities, one in actuality, the other potentially -- which is to say God and man, respectively. 

Man has the potential to know anything that can be known, but only because it is always already Known: we might say that if God is Being Known, man is Knowing Being. Thus, we are always "on the way" to knowledge, while creation is God "on the way" to being known. 

Recall what Pieper says about perfect knowledge being absolute certitude. Thus, *ironically,* we can never have absolute certitude with respect to scientific knowledge, which is always provisional, falsifiable, and context-bound. Rather, we can only have absolute certitude about the Absolute itself, such that

knowledge is perfect when the highest possible fullness of being can be seen, the highest possible object, reality of the most perfect kind (Pieper).

We've already alluded to the Absolute and Infinite. These two wouldn't be complete without the Perfect. 

Which is what now? Well, think about it: we all recognize perfection, if only because we recognize imperfection. 

But it is never a mere binary; rather, we all come into the world -- I did, anyway -- with an implicit Scale of Perfection that applies to every realm of Quality. It's why we can know with a kind of certitude that one thing is better or more adequate or more beautiful than another. Any man can know with absolute certainty that the Beatles weren't perfect, but he can know with equal certainty that they're better than Miley Cyrus. Conversely, if you can't know that, what can you know?

This is indeed why you can't judge a man by his race, sex, or creed, but you can judge him by the contents of his record collection.

A note to myself suggests that "imperfect knowledge of the highest thing is superior to perfect knowledge of lower things," but that's a false dichotomy, again, because the latter is always a kind of imperfect knowledge of the highest thing, precisely. 

What you have read thus far will probably be the most "original" thing you read today, and I'm pretty sure this originality contributes to the blog's widespread and growing unpopularity. And yet, it isn't original at all. Come to find out that some guy named Thomas was pre- plagiarizing me over 700 years ago:

Intellectual natures have a greater affinity to the whole than other beings.

Our intellect is understanding extended to infinity.

This ordering of the intellect to infinity would be vain and senseless if there were no infinite object of knowledge. 

Each particular knowledge is also derived from some completely certain knowledge.

The intellectual soul is said to be like the horizon or boundary line between the corporeal and incorporeal.

The source of every imperfect thing lies necessarily in one perfect being.

The final happiness of man consists in this -- that in his soul is reflected the order of the whole universe.

The last end of the universe must necessarily be the good of the intellect. This, however, is truth. Hence truth must be the last end of the whole universe.

And of this post. Except to say that, despite the lack of interest, I suppose I'll keep trying, because

The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him from error to truth.


julie said...

For our part, we can be pretty darn certain that the Creator exists, in part because we can know with 100% certitude that we aren't the Creator.

Updated for Clown World, Biden and Harris are absolute proof that I'm not God.

David J Quackenbush said...

This post did me a kindness.

Gagdad Bob said...

Thank you! I'm not above the occasional pity comment.