Thursday, September 29, 2022

Insight into Insight

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.


julie said...

Nor is the trend going in a positive direction, for now we can't even agree that men are 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.

It is a twisted irony that what leftists call "progress," even the most backward and simplistic of cultures and religions recognizes as complete bull-ogna. I mean, sure there are huge swaths of Africa and the Middle East where little girls are mutilated in order to make them marriageable, but at least the intention is that the girls will bear and rear children. In leftopia, kids are mutilated in ways such that not only will they never experience sexual satisfaction, they will never be able to reproduce. Progress!

Kamala said...

Oh, so this is about the significance of insight, right? The significance of insight, so when you think about it there is a great significance to insight. There is such great significance to insight.

Insight is exciting. It spurs our imaginations, and it forces us to ask big questions. Insight, it affects us all, and it connects us all.

Gagdad Bob said...

Looks like the Hurricane didn't survive my 88 year old mother-in-law. "Ian? Never heard of her."

julie said...

That's good news! It's hard to comprehend how crazy the storm was in some places.

Gagdad Bob said...

She was able to break into a two-story house down the street.

julie said...

That sounds like the kind of story you pass down for a couple generations. "So grandma took the hatchet and marched against the wind and flood, then bashed the front door in and dodged debris to make her way up the stairs..."

julie said...

i mean, I'm really hoping it wasn't like that for her, but that's what comes to mind.

Gagdad Bob said...

Superstorm No Match for Super-Octogenarian

Gagdad Bob said...

Just leave her a hatchet, a snorkel, and a can of Ensure Plus, and she's good.

julie said...


She sounds awesome. I think I'd like to be like her when I grow up, but maybe not in Florida.

John Venlet said...

I wonder where insights, delivered in humorous song, would fall on the scale on insightfulness, or would they simply cause a momentary swaying, or simply an harrumph?

My son and his wife only occurred a piece of wind damaged gutter down in Bradenton.

Gagdad Bob said...

My mother-in-law is concerned about how the hurricane will impact "old people." But more generally, she only worries about trivia. She easily blows off the big things, such as Impending Death.

John Venlet said...

I forgot to mention that I am always wary of reading someone else's interpretation of a work prior to reading the work being interpreted. I think that your own thoughts of the work could very well be subsumed, or at least swayed, and possibly not only momentarily. For instance, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, a supposed tome of erudition. I've taken to hand at least six times in the past 40 years, and never once made it more than 150 pages into it. At the age of 62, though it remains on my bookshelves, I doubt very much I'll ever take it into my hands again, even if there are 3 or 4 good quotes within.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think every once in a while you do need a guide. That one is notoriously obscure.

Byron Nightjoy said...

Best book on the spiritual significance of laughter that I’ve ever read — stunning insights. Shame about the price! Mine was a gift from the author but they really should make it available as an affordable paperback:

Gagdad Bob said...

That price is no joke.

julie said...

John, it's good to hear your son & wife weathered the storm okay. It was after the one in '17 that we decided Florida really wasn't for us, and that ended up being mild compared to how this one sounds.

Green Boots said...

I once had a therapist tell me that I had unusually high insight for a mental patient.

“No shit sherlock” I replied “I don’t lie to myself. Now get me outta this emotional mess which others got me into.”

She suggested I take self-improvement classes in sociopathy. I said that I try to set a good Christian example and avoid sinning, best I can. She told me to quit whining and go smack my offenders silly with some personal responsibility. So I decided to become a Christian author selling insights at outrageous prices.

Green Boots said...

In more current news, Ron Desantis is begging for federal aid after decrying it for the New York region wrecked by Sandy. Talk about zero insight.

So what exactly is it that conservatives stand for? I await for accusations against “the left”. Since from conservatives, accusations are always confessions, maybe it’ll be then that we may know.

Petey said...

It is no longer sufficient for the left to merely project into conservatives. Now they project projection.

Green Boots said...

Actually Petey, I dont consider myself a leftist, just an impartial observer. And a horrified one at that.

I just saw a video of two Christian street preachers shunning each other. An observer-mediator tried for a group hug between the three, but the two simultaneously proclaimed that they "dont touch anything which is unclean" and walked away from each other. That was the good news. The walking away. They could've shivved each other.

Anyways, I hope that Ron Desantis gets his money to help the needy. So he can build more state-of-the-art sports centers just like his friend Brett Favre. Better than nothing methinks. We're seeing too much donation money going into personal bank accounts these days.

Hunter said...

Leave me out of it.