Saturday, February 05, 2022

A Universal Story About Universals

Picking up where we left off, I consulted a few sources to the confirm the tower of Babel story, and it checks out. 

When I say it "checks out," what I mean is that I rate it a True Myth, which means that it is 1) timeless, 2) universal, and 3) happening now. In short, it can't not happen, so long as man is man. It isn't so much that it is part of man's essence, but rather, a proximate consequence of other factors.

Leon Kass, in his comprehensive analysis of Genesis, The Beginning of Wisdom, makes the intriguing point that Babel "is the last episode in the biblical narrative prior to God's call to Abraham." 

Thus, it represents the climax of "the universal human story," before the focus narrows to God's dealings with one man and his descendants -- right down to you and I, right now. As such, it is "something of a completion," while marking a transition from universal to particular (even though, from another angle, the story of the ancient Hebrews becomes a new universal).

Therefore, Babel is an end, or it is a link, but only if you want it to be, since you can of course reject the Call and dismiss Abraham: he's not my daddy! 

Does this imply a kind of choice between Babel and Abraham? If so, what does this even mean -- again, here and now, for you and I and Here Comes Everybody? (I will resist the temptation to consult Finnegans Wake for obscure references to Babel.)

Well, for Kass, "this tale of the universal city completes the account of the universal human story, with human beings living largely on their own and without divine instruction." It "exposes fully the core of civilization," i.e., man's attempt at auto-civilization without divine tutelage. Again, the latter takes place in the immediate sequel, with Abram.

Big cities. It's tempting to jump straight to these Democrat hellholes of violence and perversion as examples of contemporary Babel. That would be insultaining but facile. Or at least premature. There will be plenty of time to bash the left. But the red/blue divide is obviously a rural/urban divide. Is it also a Babel/Abraham divide? 

Babel, the universal city, is the fulfillment of a recurrent human dream, a dream of humankind united, living together in peace and freedom...

How's that working out? And will more social workers help?

For some reason, God objects to the project, probably because he sees where it's headed and would prefer to Make America Great Again:

He apparently does not approve of the prospect of unrestrained human powers, exercised in support of unlimited imaginings and desires. He seems to be worried... about man's boundless capacity to dream up grand projects.... in short, the implied wish to be as gods, with comparable creative power.

A ha! Genesis 3 all over again, only this time collectively.  

Kass also sees in the story a subtle commentary on the nature of logos, being that "Speech and language, reason and the arts, are at the heart of the story."

Oddly enough, I was thinking about this just the other day, before revisiting Kass. It was in the context of Genesis 2, where God confers on man the power -- or ability or faculty -- to name

This is really worth pausing over, because it isn't only full of Mythtery, but in many ways marks the miraculous divide between man and animal, a divide which science cannot explain and will never be able to explain, since it must be presupposed in order for science (and scientists) to exist.

We're taking about universals, for the power to name is a function of the ability to apprehend universals or essences. If I see a "tree" it is because I intuit the nonlocal essence of "treeness." This ability to apprehend universals represents a -- or maybe the -- radical discontinuity between animal and man. 

But guess what? This ability is precisely what is denied by modern and postmodern philosophies, which are nominalistic and grounded in the rejection of the transcendent. And once on the nominalist path, it inevitably ends in deconstruction, for which language is fully detached from the things it is supposed to name, and becomes only about itself: words apply only to other words, not to the external -- AKA real -- world.

Time out for a bit of insultainment: it would be interesting to survey how many deconstructionists reside in Red State America. I would estimate that it is about equal to the number of Latinos who insist on being called Latinx.

I need to stop. Errands to run...

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Once Upon Every Time

The previous post wondered into the question of whether man, upon becoming man, was somehow given the operating instructions or just left to his own devices to make sense of himself, his faculties, and his purpose in being here. 

In one sense the question is idiotic but typical of the low and lurid standards of this blog. But in another sense it invites us to imaginatively drill down to the bottom of the psyche and see what we can see there. Is it really a blank slate shaped by the ups and downs, strikes and gutters, of environmental contingency? 

Ah, no. We know that much. We're not historicists. Man isn't born a nobody to be shaped any which way by external influences, but is a definite somebody -- a particular person -- right out of the gate. 

Well then, is it full of Jungian archetypes and other woowoo-ery that determine identity, behavior, and culture?

Ah, no. We're not Platonists, idealists, or rationalists.

Well, what then? An operating manual presupposes some kind of nonlocal constraint on human potential. 

Be patient. We'll get there.   

More generally, just because our answers may be idiotic, it doesn't mean the questions are, and there are three questions to which every man at every time would like the answers, please: 1) where did we come from, 2) what are we doing here, and 3) where are we going; in other words, origin, being, and destiny. 

You can pretend you don't wonder about these things, but they're nevertheless implicitly present in everything we think and do. They're in the very structure of time itself. Unless you are psychotic, a cause and consequence of which is a kind of violent dismemberment of time. 

Come to think of it, even garden variety neuroses do damage to time's flow; for example, a compulsion creates a kind of temporal eddy, while impulsivity short circuits the path to the future, and trauma freezes one in the past. 

There is actually a "wrong side of history," e.g., presentism, anachronism, progressivism, etc. 

In fact, I was just reading about these historical fallacies in a book of essays by Gordon Wood called The Purpose of the Past. I wasn't planning on blogging about it, but perhaps it has a point or two we can misuse for our own lurid purposes. He's especially hard on our postmodern deconstructionists, and although he's far too polite to call them frankly psychotic, the diagnostic shoe fits:

If historians began doubting that there was an objective past reality that they were trying to recover and began thinking that what they did was simply make up the past and write something that was akin to fiction, then... they were actually undermining the ground for any sort of historical reconstruction at all.

The result is that history "has become fragmented -- all pieces, all flashes of experience, no wholes." They "cannot see the forest for the trees" because "there are no forests." 

Yes, crazy. But this is the underlying philosophy of Critical Race Theory and all those other epistemological diseases. And as mentioned above, they surely do violence to time, for they are "tantamount to using a nuclear weapon that could be subsequently used against" themselves.  

I was thinking about this yesterday, when I heard a story about the editors of the UCSB student newspaper, who have vowed to censor any story that might hurt, trigger, or alienate a single snowflake. Well, hold on a second: since I am an enthusiastic proponent of the first amendment, what if I am triggered by their assault on free speech? 

Anyway, the purpose of the past isn't to ransack it in order to find something useful to one's present political wishes. Rather, 

To understand the past in all its complexity is to acquire historical wisdom and humility and indeed a tragic sense of life. A tragic sense does not mean a sad or pessimistic sense of life; it means a sense of the limitations of life.... 

[H]istory tends to inculcate skepticism about our ability to manipulate purposefully our destinies.

Well, no wonder the left hates it! But guess what, he whispered creepily: doesn't Genesis 3 convey this same pessimessage, only implicitly, via myth? To understand history -- and the Fall of man -- is to know that "few things work out the way we intend."

But in order for a progressive to get things done, he needs to forget the past entirely, which is why Brandon is their ideal leader.

So, let's go back, way back, to "Eden" and suppose our man in nirvana was handed the One True Philosophy upon crossing the threshold from biology to prehistory some 100,000 years ago. Indeed, this seems only sporting, considering what we were up against: the elements, other animals, and especially other people, for it seems there were assouls from the start, or within moments of it, anyway. 

With regard to the missing operating manual, Maritain asks whether it was "possible that this knowledge, together with the primitive religion in which it was incorporated, could be transmitted in its integrity by the human race?"

Recall that the edge of history is myth, and that myth didn't just happen once upon a time, but happens every time. Here's one: 

Once upon a timeless the world had one language, one philosophy, and one religion. But people will be people, and it can't get worse than that, so they decided to build an ivory tower that reached up to the heavens in order to make tenure for themselves. 

In his commentary on Genesis 11, Dennis Prager notes a couple of ironies, but I gotta transport my son to a class, so to be continued...

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Woo Who?!

Lately I've been especially preoccupied with the subject with which I am always preoccupied, which is to say, oneness: is it, what is it, how is it, and especially who is it. 

The previous post went into the who of it all, at least from our end of things. 

But one of our principles is that the unity of the cosmos manifests in the mirror of Who-who; this Who-who structure cannot be accidental, rather, goes to the very essence of things. It's a big hint in itSelf, not just the means of tracking down additional hints and clues about the the how, the why, and the whether

Put it this way: if there is no ultimate Who, then there is certainly no ultimate How or Why -- no reason, excuse, or alibi, for none is needed or even possible, really. Rather, there is no meaning at all. For as the Aphorist puts it,  

The gods punish by depriving things of their meaning.

Therefore, 

Only the theocentric vision does not end up reducing man to absolute insignificance. 

It doesn't mean the theocentric vision is correct, but it does mean that

If God does not exist we should not conclude that everything is permissible, but that nothing matters. Permits become laughable when their significance is canceled.

I like to turn it around and challenge the infidel to have the courage of his casuistry and truly live as if nothing matters. Sophist, cancel thyself! 

If one does not believe in God, the only honest alternative is vulgar utilitarianism. The rest is rhetoric.

Moreover,

If it is not of God that we are speaking, it is not sensible to speak of anything seriously.

Beginning with atheism. 

Back to the Who-who structure of it all.

The existence of God is indemonstrable, because with a person the only thing we can do is bump into him.

Ain't that the truth. 

By the way, in addition to taking any It-I structure off the table, we also rule out a Who-whom structure of reality, which I suppose is the principle reason leftism is so monstrous and ultimately diabolical, for it grounds itself in a total inversion of the Way Things Are: yes, there's a Who at the top, but he is neither a dictator nor a retard. 

Not to get sidetracked, but I recently read a book by Maritain that reinforced my predilection of seeing one cosmos and one philosophy. Seriously, what's the alternative? Many ultimate realities, lots of gods, and a philosophy for every man? That can't be right. 

One point that intrigues me -- impossible to prove or disprove? -- is that philosophy does indeed start out as one but breaks up in the course of prehistory and history, only to be recovered in Christ. Could this be what Genesis 3 adverts to? -- not just a fall into sin, but worse, into blunder

Let me track down the passage so I don't misrepresent frère Jacques.

First of all, let's say man -- Homo sapiens sapiens -- is 100,000 years old. For 99% that time there is no philosophy for you! Rather, it
only began to exist at a very late period about the eighth and especially sixth century B.C., and then found the right path to truth by a success which must be regarded as extraordinary when we consider the multitude of wrong roads taken by so many philosophers and philosophic schools (Maritain).

The old axial age promulgated by Karl Jaspers. But even then there are plenty of bad philosophies floating around, and indeed, the seeds and roots of the same sophistries that persist to this day, e.g., relativism, idealism, rationalism, empiricism, etc.  

Nevertheless, 

The most reliable inductions of history combine with the conclusions of theology to prove the existence of a primitive tradition, common to the different branches of the human race and going back to the origins of mankind (emphasis in original).

I find this idea immensely appealing, but where's the evidence? 

even in default of any positive sources of information, it is a very reasonable conjecture that the first man received from God knowledge together with existence... 

No spinning, Jack. How is this primitive tradition reasonable? 

Well, we've said before that it makes no sense to create a being with moral responsibility but no means -- i.e., truth -- to effectuate it. Responsibility is prior to rights, but we must have the latter if we have the former, for God cannot be fundamentally unjust.  

Let's enter the Wayback Machine. I recall the exact passage when I learned of this possibility of a Primordial Revelation. It was in a book by William Irwin Thompson called The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality & The Origins of Culture, which I suppose I read around 35 years ago. Perhaps there's a reason why I remember the passage:

The [merely] professional way to begin a study of the origins of human culture is to begin at the beginning with a discussion of hominization.

Anthropogenesis, so to speak: the objective emergence of man. But what about psychogenesis, the subjective analogue?

At "the edge of history is myth," such that "a line of events has a beginning and an end, but the matrix out of which events arise (sic) does not appear to be an event at all." 

Analogously, the tree begins with the seed, but is it accurate to call a seed an "event?" Well, what if the humiverse, so to speak,

is an egg that shatters as it expands to begin its career of unfoldment in time. As an archetypal image of primordial unity, the cosmic egg suggests that there is unity and fragmentation, eternity and time. The Fall into time is not so much an event itself as the conditioning of time-space out of which all events arise.

Yes, this difficult but ridiculous yolk, this big Who-ha!, is what Finnegans Wake attempts to describe, again and again, ad gnosiam

But this is all a bit vague, simultaneously too much and too little. We're not looking for a literary approach, rather, a logical and theological one. Man is one. Therefore, there must be one philosophy and one religion, and even one history between the fall of the former and recovery of the latter. 

We've said enough for one post. I don't want to overtax your indulgence. Taxing it is enough.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Persons: Problem or Solution?

Time only for a brief foundation... 

I'm reading a book called Brahman and Person -- actually a posthumous compilation of essays -- by a Catholic priest named Richard De Smet, who lived in India and became a scholar of Vedanta. It's pretty dense and specialized, seemingly written more for a Hindu than western audience. In short, a bit of a slog, but not without its moments.

I have an interest in the subject, because I suppose I would have called myself a Vedantin until I found a better way, one that included me. For as De Smet writes, although Vedanta speaks of a "self," it is

never a soul in the Aristotelian sense of the word.... it is never to be taken in that comprehensive sense in which the classical Christian thinkers understood the human person as a bearer of spiritual and corporal potentialities and activities, but rather, in the Cartesian sense of a thinking ego, without any natural connection with the body it appears to ensoul.

This is a slightly different subject, but for our money, the transition from the classical/Scholastic to the modern Cartesian view of man was a huge step backward from which we not only haven't recovered, but which continues to yield its partial, contradictory, absurd, and at times frankly perverse fruits. 

This dualistic approach has, by definition, no possibility of making any integral sense, but it seems we're stuck with it for the foreseeable future -- mind and body alienated from one another and locked in mortal combat. Like the feminist war on men, if these bitter hags win, they lose. Likewise, if the mind prevails over the body (or vice versa), we (meaning persons) all lose.

For example, the notion that one sex can actually be the other can only be affirmed in a dualistic, Cartesian metaphysic in which body and mind are detached from one another. But in reality, sex is fractally encoded in everything, from the skin, muscle, bone, cell, and on down.

Anyway, the Vedantic dualism of spirit and matter renders the human person "a temporary appearance," such that its "understanding of man ultimately does away with man himself!"

D'oh!

Now, although I take ideas seriously, I'm not one of those eggheads who take fellow eggheads particularly seriously -- as if, for example, the typical American circa 1776 went around quoting John Locke, any more than the typical LGBTQ activist brings up Descartes in order to ground their sociopolitical demands in an adequate philosophical principle. 

When humans behave irrationally -- and no one ever went broke betting on the irrationality of human beings -- it's generally not because they're in thrall to some intellectual, rather, because they're in thrall to fallen human nature. 

Thus, when humans are greedy, or larcenous, or envious,-- or gluttonous, power-mad, violent, deceitful, blasphemous, idolatrous, etc. -- we needn't reach for some deep explanation, as if these aberrations need to be pinned on some wacky pinhead.

Rather, the ideas of this or that intellectual are only appealing because they legitimize what people want to do anyway. For example, Marxism appeals to people because it legitimizes their envy and their will to power. If those trends didn't already exist in humans, there would be no "hook." No one needs to teach people to be "progressives," for they are born that way. Rather, it is necessary to transcend progressivism in order to mature beyond it.

For example, a good start is to teach these spiritually untutored human beastlings the Ten Commandments. And then, once they've internalized these -- supposing they've managed to stop lying, stealing, murdering, and envying -- then move on to an even higher teaching -- the Sermon on the Mount -- calling for an interior transformation that goes beyond the merely negative and exterior proscriptions of the Commandments. First outward behavior, then the heart.

Out of time. To be continued...