Saturday, August 20, 2022

What Is It All About? The Idiot's Guide to the Cosmos

I'm getting a little tired of talking about what we can't know. Let's talk about what we can. "To engage in philosophy," writes Pieper, "means to reflect on the totality of things we encounter, in view of their ultimate reasons."

Better yet, he references a comment made by Whitehead to the effect that "philosophy consists in the simple question, What is it all about?

Agreed, but how shall we define "it all"? Well, for starters, we won't exclude half -- the most important half -- of the cosmos, which is to say, the experience of the cosmos. 

Nor will we even call it "half," because this implies quantity and division where there is and can be none: experience is intrinsically simple, immaterial, and spiritual. It's the first thing we encounter, and some catastrophically influential people say we can never actually leave it. 

But if that's true, it's false, so it violates what will be one of our few guiding principles, those principles without which we can't know anything, in this case, the principle of identity (or non-contradiction). 

Four or five invulnerable philosophical propositions allow us to make fun of the rest (Dávila).

In short, any version of idealism is an ontological and epistemological nonstarter, for you can't at once deny access to reality and call it truth, let alone THE truth. If that's the case, to hell with truth. Rather, truth is the conformity of the intellect to reality, precisely. If truth is conformity of the intellect to non-being, then lies are true, which is how you end up being a leftist.

Speaking of ontology and epistemology -- or what is and how we can know it -- this is precisely where we begin: with the intelligibility of being: being is, and we can know it, which is as miraculous as that first miracle alluded to above, the miracle of subjectivity.

Once upon a time, at the beginning of the book of the same name, I asked the question -- the same question anyone anywhere anytime must ask -- "Where in the world do we begin?"

Of course we should start our inquiry with the "facts," but what exactly is a fact? Which end is up? In other words, do we start with the objects of thought or the subject who apprehends them? And just what is the relationship between apparently "external" objects and the consciousness that is able to cognize them? Indeed, any fact we consider presupposes a subject who has selected the fact in question out of an infinite sea of possibilities, so any conceivable fact arises simultaneously with a subjective cocreator of that fact, Inevitably we are led to the conclusion that the universe is one substance. But what kind of substance? That seems to be the question.

Those are all good questions for someone who didn't know what he was talking about and was trying to find out by writing a book. This was also well before I knew anything about Thomism or the perennial philosophy, except in bits and pieces. You could say I was trying to reinvent -- or rediscover -- the cosmos. 

Anyway, it turns out that being and knowing are intimately related. This is lucky for us, because otherwise what we know has no necessary relationship to what is, and we are plunged into a world of darkness and tenure. It reminds me of a wise crack by Schuon:

Existentialism has achieved the tour de force or the monstrous contortion of representing the commonest stupidity as intelligence and disguising it as philosophy, and of holding intelligence up to ridicule, that of all intelligent men of all times. 

.... [A]nd if it be original to elevate error into truth, vice into virtue and evil into good the same may be said of representing stupidity as intelligence and vice versa.... All down the ages to philosophize was to think; it has been reserved to the twentieth century not to think and to make a philosophy of it. 

In short,

To claim that knowledge as such could only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute.

The question is, why would you want to enclose yourself in a permanent and ineradicable stupidity, and call it philosophy? How is that loving wisdom? 

Which is also a fine place to begin: with loving wisdom, even though it sounds sentimental or inexact. But this is where Plato begins and ends -- which is perhaps why Whitehead made the claim that all of western philosophy is but a series of footnotes on him. 

To love wisdom embodies a number of implicit claims, i.e., that there is a type of knowledge that surpasses the always-changing appearances, which we can lovingly pursue but never possess. 

Not to re-belabor the principle, but I think this even goes to the ontological miscue of Genesis 3, whereby man presumes to possess wisdom instead of being lovingly conformed to it. The Bible tells us that Sophia-Wisdom was there with God before the creation of the world. Therefore, we cannot know it in the usual sense, since we are in time and wisdom is timeless. Nevertheless, we can forge a loving relationship with it, through which various graces flow.

What do you mean, "loving relationship?" Well, this is simultaneously easy and difficult; easy because all you have to do is be disinterested, dispassionate, and egoless, and difficult for the same reasons. Schuon:

The paradox of the human condition is that nothing is so contrary to us as the requirement to transcend ourselves, and nothing so fundamentally ourselves as the essence of this requirement, or the fruit of this transcending.

As my dad often used to tell me, Don't be an idiot. That's also a surprisingly good place to begin. 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Gods, Kings, Chaos & Clowns

In the past we've mentioned the "Viconian cycle," which, if Joyce is correct, forms the underlying structure of this collective dream/nitemare we're having which we call history. The cycle features four recurring phases, beginning with  

the Theocratic or Divine Age of gods, represented in primitive society; the Heroic Age of kings and aristocrats, characterized by incessant conflict between the ruling patricians and their subject plebeians; the Democratic Age of people, in which rank and privilege have finally been eradicated by the revolutions of the preceding age. 

This is  

followed by a short period of chaos caused by the collapse of democratic society, which is inherently corrupt. Out of this chaos a new cycle in initiated by the ricorso, or "return", to the Theocratic Age. 
In FW, Joyce elevated the lacuna between successive cycles into a fourth age: the Chaotic Age. Vico's theory is applied to the image of the history of mankind as depicted in Earwicker's dream

Is there anything to this, or is it just an innocuous way to play with history, like that medieval monk who divided it into the ages of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or Comte, who thought it progressed from theology to metaphysics to positivism (speaking of theology)? 

Note that the left always historicizes in some form or fashion, hence the name "progressive," accompanied by the delusion that they are inherently on the "right side of history." Obviously this presumes some sort of telos to history, even though their retarded metaphysic allows for no such enduring reality. Rather, it's just the usual unwitting inversion and immanentization of the Christian eschaton.  

Obviously, the most infamous example of this historicizing is Marx himself, who likewise inverted the Christian metaphysic, beginning with the original sin of private property and ending in a stateless utopia whereby a man could fish in the morning and indulge in critical theory at night. I don't think he ever imagined a capitalist world in which hordes of tenured parasites would be paid to engage in critical theory all day, resulting in the ongoing destruction their own privileged world, but here we are.  

It's not difficult to posit an "age of gods," since we know of no culture or civilization that doesn't begin this way. The question is whether we ever leave it, or whether it is even possible to do so. I mean, if a man can imagine the world is composed of nothing but matter, or that he is a she, what can't he imagine? 

It's also not difficult to discern some kind of "progress" in history, but of what? In other words, change of any kind can only occur in the context of an unchanging substance. But again, this substance -- AKA human nature -- is precisely what the left denies. Therefore, progress for the left involves the denial and destruction of the substance undergoing it, or what Lewis called the abolition of man.

This abolition is well under way, and I suppose it always is. But who imagined even a decade ago that our institutions would be unanimous in slandering as bigots those of us who think the mutilation and sacrifice of children to the perverse homolochians of the left is a bit much? Strange gods for a stranger people. 

Nor is it difficult to imagine that we've entered an Age of Chaos, good and hard. Here again though, the question is whether we're ever not in an Age of Chaos. I think this is the way I'd look at it: that it is always simultaneously an age of gods, kings, heroes, men, and chaos, only in varying proportions. 

Looked at this way, we can see, for example, why a lot of Americans wouldn't have minded if George Washington had been elevated to king, just as so many on the left regarded Obama as a god, or Evolutionary Lightbringer. If historical "progress" can be measured in the distance between a Washington and an Obama, we are clearly moving backward at a frightful pace. Throw in the chaos of the Age of Brandon, and the cycle is complete.

All of this is confused by the intrinsic and incessant tendency of the left to project its own unwanted and unacknowledged chaotic and sub-religious impulses into us. Most obviously, they imagine we are Trump-deranged zombies who do and think whatever our god-king tells us. They are half correct, in that we are indeed surrounded by Trump-deranged zombies -- for example, an apparently prominent journalist named Edward Luce, who tweeted that 

I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous & contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.

This is not exaggeration nor hyperbole. Rather, I believe him, just as I believed any of my patients who confided in all sincerity that they were haunted by this or that persecutory delusion. Why would they make it up? Indeed, I even believe Liz Cheney. 

These meditations on the Viconian cycle were provoked by an essay by Hayek called Reason and Evolution, in which he describes how the "progress" of wideawake & cutandry constructivist rationalism lands us back in the historical soup of anthropomorphic gods. The idea that we can rationally understand and construct society 

is rooted originally in a deeply ingrained propensity of primitive thought to interpret all regularity to be found in phenomena anthropomorphically...

Although Hayek doesn't say so, I equate this to the ontological fall described back down in Genesis 3, whereby man presumes to be as a god, but in so doing merely encloses himself in an artificial world. In thinking he is "progressing," he is actually regressing, and this never stops happening. Therefore,  in *ironically* presuming that "reason alone should enable him to construct society anew," man only relapses "into earlier, anthropomorphic modes of thinking." 

For example, the other day Nancy Pelosi told of how "Mother Earth gets angry from time to time," and that opposition to the Dem's most recent legislative crime is a "vote against the planet" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAB2E-LzdTg). 

But if this is a chaotic age of primitive gods, then perhaps there's a king on the horizon. Or at least that's what the left never stops warning us of: the return of the Great MAGA King!

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Progress in Metaphysics Delayed by Well-Intentioned Blogger

That's almost thirty consecutive days with a new post. I have the time to write them, but who has the time to read them without ontological indigestion? This seems to be a violation of Dávila's first principle of writing:

Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick.

I do actually try to honor that principle, and always want to say the maximum with the minimum -- the minimum required to communicate the idea. 

If a finger is pointing at the moon, it's the moon that counts, not the length of the finger. Nor am I the kind of guy who points at the fair and silvery orb adorning the firmament of God's pinprick dome, swaddling us in our night-sea journey as we go a-roving in dreams, or some other gay words. I'll occasionally throw in a fruity adjective to honor the mystery, but generally I try to be pretty blunt.

Another principle:

He who longs to write for more than a hundred readers capitulates.

I don't check the site meter, so I'm not sure if we've shed enough readers to be below triple digits yet.

To write honestly for others, one must write fundamentally for oneself.

If you ever catch me in a lie, know that I have first lied to myself, and there's no talking me out of it.

The idea that does not win over in twenty lines does not win over in two thousand pages.

Guilty with an explanation: finitude can never exhaust infinitude.

There are never too many writers, only too many people who write.

And there are always too many bloggers, even though there aren't many of us OG types who still embrace this antiquated platform.

Wordiness is not an excess of words, but a dearth of ideas

Worse yet, if left untreated it can end in tenure, which is why

The deluded are prolix.

When I wake up in the morning, I check out the news of the day. And then I escape from it:

Writing is the only way to distance oneself from the century in which it was one’s lot to be born.

If you find yourself agreeing, it is because

Words do not communicate, they remind.

Conversely, if you find yourself disagreeing, it is because 

Reading makes the fool more foolish.

I wonder: if we look back to October of 2005, when we started blogging, would we see any "progress?" Or is it rather that

Every writer comments indefinitely on his brief original text.

The same ideas, just painted different colors? I suspect my writing has improved as a result of all this practice. Well, so what:

Simple talent is to literature what good intentions are to conduct.

I can take a hint, but I'll be back in a few days.