Not much time this morning, but perhaps enough to review some of the insights provoked upon reading An Yves Simon Reader: The Philosopher's Calling, lest I forget them.
Here's a conundrum about the possibility of a universal philosophy, one I often ponder:
No doubt, any proposition which expresses a rational necessity is, in terms of logical nature, capable of winning universal assent. There is no reason why it should not determine consensus.
there are many accidental reasons why certain propositions, though expressive of rational necessity, do not have the slightest chance of being assented to.
Why should this be? Why can't we agree to agree on simple, rational, necessary, and universal propositions?
Nor is the trend going in a positive direction, for now we can't even agree that men who pretend to be women are nevertheless men, that free speech is necessary to a functional republic, that mutilating children is evil, that we are entitled to equal protection under the law, etc.
Philosophically, it is as if we're back to square one. Not even square one. Say what you want about the pre-Socratics, at least they had an ethos. But now our struggle is with eight-year olds, Dude. Amateurs. Nihilists.
This is going to be a brief sidetrack, but I'm trying once again to tackle Bernard Lonergan's monumental Insight, this time with an introductory guide by another author. Apparently Lonergan was up to something important, but twice I have given up before finding out what it is. The book attempts to look into every field of cognitive endeavor and demonstrate that the unifying thread is... insight.
I believe what he wants to say is that if you can understand understanding, then you understand everything. Not sure I agree with that, but I've only just begun, and as the Aphorist says,
Comprehending a philosopher is being momentarily swayed by him.
There's a willing suspension of disbelief, just as when one enters a novel or film. After it's done, then you can evaluate it in a disinterested way.
Come to think of it, with regard to art, you evaluate both the aesthetics and the meaning. A film can be beautiful but meaningless, or meaningful but hamhanded in terms of the meaning, and both are considered failures.
I think the same should apply to philosophy, albeit with the accent more on the meaning than the form. Still, I can't help noticing that Lonergan is not a felicitous writer. In contrast, one of the reasons why people still read Plato is for the beauty of expression.
In my cosmos, truth and beauty converge. Not that I can claim to be an artist with the keyboard, which, come to think of it, is probably why I substitute humor for beauty. The former comes naturally, while the latter is a stretch for the likes of me.
Still, there can be a kind of beauty in humor. I know it when I see it, which goes to the point I was about to make regarding insight. I don't know if Lonergan deals with humor, but the moment you get the joke is a quintessential moment of sudden insight. It is insight accompanied by a physical reaction called laughter. When it is a metaphysical insight expressed in a humorous fashion, we call the result a guffaw-HA! experience.
Humor, like music, is so universal that it must mean something beyond just a diversion. We've posted before about our suspicion that music as such conveys something important about the structure of reality, and now we're wondering if humor might do the same. Insight into humor must convey an insight into insight.
Now, the main point I was thinking about was on what Lonergan calls "inverse insight." This is essentially an insight that there is no insight to be had -- for example, when reading the New York Times. Not only is there no insight, there's not even inverse insight, rather, anti-insight, such that they are actively trying to force you to have a bogus insight and call it "sophistication" or "progress" or "compassion." The left is full of such truly ridiculous intellectual, moral, and aesthetic insights.
But they're not even really in the form of insight at all, because an insight can only be had on a personal basis. No one can have the insight for you, any more than they can get the joke on your behalf.
I suppose someone somewhere must have had the "insight" that biological reality has no bearing on sexual identity, but everyone else is just imitating a fad. For one thing, that "insight" is inaccessible to anyone who is in touch with reality. One could say the same about progressive insights into the 1619 Project, or black criminality, or the existential threat of climate change, which are again anti-insights.
I sometimes leave comments here and there on the internet, but only in the form of gags. In so doing, I've noticed an interesting phenomenon, that there is some cognitive power that tells me whether or not there is a potential joke. My point is that the recognition that there is No Joke Ahead is what Lonergan means by inverse insight: no potential joke = no insight to be had.
But this is precisely the form of scientific insight. As the mathematician David Hilbert said,
A branch of science is full of life only as long as it offers an abundance of problems.
How can we know if a theory has fruitful problems? Insight. Conversely, when someone tells you THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED, that is neither funny nor insightful.
Out of time.