Saturday, August 27, 2022

What is Someone that Something Should be Mindful of Him?

Things are not mute. They merely select their listeners. --Dávila

The difference between something and someone must be the most consequential and enduring question in all of philosophy. If not, it ought to be, because everything on both sides of the divide hinges on it. 

In other words, if someone reduces to something, then anything and everything we can know about something is negated in that reduction. 

Conversely, if every something is but a projected form of our sensibility, then we are confined to our own subjectivity. 

The reduction of subjects to objects encases us in concrete, while the displacement of objects to subjects encloses us in a dream. 

In yesterday's post we alluded to the idea that man is a link between creator and creation, or being and intelligibility. According to Schuon, "it is the object of [our] existence"

to be in the middle: it is to transcend matter while being situated there, and to realize the light, the Sky, starting from this intermediary level. It is true that the other creatures also participate in life, but man synthesizes them: he carries all life within himself and thus becomes the spokesman for all life, the vertical axis where life opens onto the spirit and where it becomes spirit.

That sounds about right: man is the most ambiguous creature in all of existence, since he is open on both ends and thereby "completely incomplete," as it were. In other words, our incompleteness isn't a bug, it's a feature. But how and why?

As always, I go back to the cosmic faux pas -- itself a bit ambiguous -- of Genesis 3, but one way of interpreting it is to say that man chooses vertical closure and completeness over open engagement with his Creator. In so doing he chooses poorly, because he is then indeed confined to his own impoverished dreamworld.

Now we're getting somewhere, because it seems that our cosmos is characterized by a kind of effusive openness on every level. For example, science -- any particular science and science in general -- is only possible because the objects of the world never stop speaking to the subjects who study them. 

Going back to the title of this post, not only are the somethings that surround us not mute, they never shut up. They communicate their intelligibility, but obviously this intelligibility would mean nothing and make no sense if there weren't someone there to listen. 

Now we're in a position to dig a little deeper into this question, because we're talking about a cosmos that is intrinsically related to itself in mysterious ways, and what is the ontological nature of relation?

What I would say is that the category of relation is prior to the bifurcation of something and someone: that these two are intrinsically related. 

This is where the Trinity enters the picture. Even if this principle of ultimate reality weren't revealed to us from celestial central, we would be hard pressed to account for the structure of the cosmos in its absence. 

Put conversely, if ultimate reality is an irreducible substance-in-relation, then perhaps this same principle explains why man is intrinsically related to everyone and everything. Something <-> someone isn't a duality but a complementarity.

I agree with Dávila that In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter. And I can't think of a truth that matters more than this one, i.e., the nonlocal interior relatedness of persons to other persons, to things, and to the very source and principle of this relatedness. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Case of the Missing Cosmos

Another brief one...

In a way, everything comes down to whether the cosmos is convergent or divergent (or multi- or polyvergent). I've probably written on this subject before, but in any event, let's try to revisit the place and know it for the first time.

These two words (convergence and divergence) have different meanings in different mathematical, evolutionary, and epistemological contexts, but I suppose what we mean is that 1) existence is a problem, especially for rational and self-conscious beings, and 2) is there a single solution to this conundrum?

There can only be a single solution if the cosmos is one, and this appears to be the case, or at least everyone assumes it to be true. Of note, no one has ever seen this cosmos; rather, it's an ontological assumption, or axiomatic. 

Obviously, no mere animal knows anything about a cosmos, or rather, their cosmos is confined to the unconscious order of instinct. Man alone transcends the evolutionary environment and enters the immaterial space of abstract and universal truth. 

Although most people just stop with that assumption, the next logical question is Why is the cosmos one?, or What is the source -- the sufficient reason -- of the wholeness, harmony, and unity of the cosmos?  Whatever it is, it can't be something "inside" the cosmos, because anything inside is obviously a part, not the whole.

In truth, it isn't possible to think in the absence of this implicit assumption of wholeness. If the latter isn't present, then it's as if we live in a world of disjointed inductive logic, with no possibility of convergence toward truth. The world would exist in bits and pieces, and the best we could do is throw them together into a pile, but with no interior unity. 

But everyone either assumes or looks for the missing cosmos. For example, materialism locates the cosmic unity in matter. Everything real is composed of matter, which means that our thoughts about matter aren't real, so this isn't a particularly intellectually satisfying answer. It's frankly an insult to the intellect and a punch in the nous. Besides, nothing can be that simplistic, let alone everything

Also, matter is the very principle of division: one thing is distinct from another due to its existence in matter. Pretending the principle of division is the principle of unity is a nonstarter.  

Man has always understood this, which is why God can never be eliminated, only denied. Even the most primitive concept of God serves as a kind of ontological placeholder for the missing source of the cosmos.

Really, we're dealing with two ultimate mysteries which seem to be complementary: being (and the source of being) at one end, man at the other. Or, we could say Creator <--> Creature, linked by Creation; thus, to say man is to say God, to say God is to say creation, and to say creation is to say being-intelligibility-truth.  

To be continued...

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Eros Shot Through the Heart

Just a short post, because we ran out of time.

The unstated point of yesterday's post is that my avocational interest in philosophy has never wavered, but that it's been a wrong and windy road from there to here. 

Viewing it from past to future, it looks like I was hacking my way through a dense jungle with a denser blade, but if we turn the telos-scope around, it looks more like a con-spiracy (breathing-together) of grace (or of some other vertical breeze, whatever we call it). 

Come to think of it, in the b ʘʘk, I just called the latter (↓), because I didn't want to make any assumptions about it; whatever we call it, it is that experience-near tingle that intermingles with (↑) and meets us halfway. 

If I'm not mistaken, this generic nonlocal assistance is called "operating" or "prevenient" grace, as it is anterior to our conscious cooperation with it. It seems that every man is given sufficient grace to arrive at the truth, or we'd never arrive there.

If it weren't operating, then there would indeed be no path back from there to here. Rather, each man would have to hack his own way through the ontological jungle, with no common endpoint. 

As it pertains to epistemology, we'd all exist in our own relativistic silo, each his own philosophy department, every man condemned to eternal tenure.

But there is an end, which is where we must begin, even if we don't know it the first time 'round. 

In other words, let's say I don't know anything about anything, which is precisely what I knew at age 25: nothing. I would like to know what's going on

Where do we begin? In hindsight, I'm gonna say that even asking this question -- so long as it asked honestly, persistently, and selflessly -- is already a consequence of operating grace. 

This same grace prevents us from accepting the many partial truths we encounter along the way as final.  

Rather, we recognize that half-, or three-quarters, or even ninety-nine and a-half won't do ( 

Theosis or bust!

Furthermore, I'm gonna say that the Incarnation is the last word -- the last possible and actual word -- on this (↓) not only meeting us halfway, but all the way and thensome. 

It is precisely this grace that is on offer, but not without our free cooperation. 

Which is also a grace in the overall circular scheme of things.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Embarrassing Soph-Revelations

The philosophical opinions of a youth can only be interesting to his mother. --Dávila

I did once take a philosophy class. It must have been to fulfill an undergraduate humanities requirement or something. In any event, it was a course in logic which I ended up enjoying, even if I didn't make the leap to applying it to my actual life, let alone thought, since that hadn't yet made an appearance. It was beer, rock music, and goofing off, all the way down.

Not too long after that I did begin dabbling in philosophy per se, but never in any systematic way. Rather, the opposite: mostly randomly, but if anything, in a fully assbackward way, beginning in the present and moving backward.

In order to pretend that we know a subject, it is advisable to adopt its most recent interpretation.

Just as I assumed there was no meaningful music prior to Elvis, I assumed philosophy must, like science, be progressive. No scientist has to start with old and debunked ideas in order to study the current ones, so why shouldn't I begin by diving into the latest philosophical fad?

Back then there was no amazon, and in my neck of the woods just a B. Dalton Books with a few shelves of philosophy. Hmm. Being and Nothingnesss by Sartre, whose name I must have heard in a Woody Allen movie. 900 pages. That oughtta cover it!

The fool, to be perfect, needs to be somewhat educated.

With no context whatsoever, I dove right in, and soon enough believed myself to be a full-blown atheistic existentialist. I don't think I ever actually got through the book, as I found his prose to be indigestible. 

Speaking of which, I did read his novel Nausea, and that was sufficient to give me the bottom line: that there is no God and that life is meaningless; or rather, it is nothingness except insofar as we are forced to make choices that determine its meaning. We first exist, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it except define ourselves, since there are no essences or objective standards of any kind.

Philosophers often start from their conclusions in order to invent their principles.

For Sartre, we are condemned to a freedom which itself is a kind of nothingness, since it has no telos: existence is anterior to essence, meaning that we do not discover or perfect ourselves, rather, create ourselves via our choices. 

Somewhere Sartre says that existentialism is nothing but the attempt to draw all the consequences of a strict and consistent atheism. As such, precisely because there is no God, there can be no human nature. Wo, that is deep!

Confused ideas and murky ponds seem deep.

Only much later did I come to realize that Sartre had unwittingly proven the existence of God. For he takes the non-existence of God as simply axiomatic, while at the same time promulgating the complete contingency of the world and everything in it. 

Have you ever felt this way? I did for a few months in the 1980s, when my existentialism reached an acute phase and nothing meant anything, and vice versa. Then again, it may have just been a clinical depression.

Upon finding himself perfectly free, the individual discovers that he has not been unburdened of everything, but despoiled of everything.
In truth, an "absolute contingency" is not just absurd but impossible and unthinkable. Rather, contingency implies a necessity on which it must be parasitic, or at the very least, complementary to. In such a world there would be no basis or foundation for either theism or atheism. 

"Wait a minute," I recall saying to myself. "It isn't possible to live out the consequences of a strict atheism, unless one is literally psychotic" (by this time I had begun studying psychology, also in a random way, but enough to distinguish relative normality from complete craziness).

Modern man treats the universe like a lunatic treats an idiot.

Anyway, from dabbling in Sartre's nihilism I read randomly from Bertrand Russell to Wittgenstein to Nietzsche to Foucault, jumping around to Bergson and Whitehead, tossing in a few rationalists, then jumping all the way back to Plato. Stopping at Aquinas would have been a complete non-starter. Never would it have occurred to me that

Ideas less than a thousand years old are not fully reliable.

Or that 

He who does not place his life alongside the great texts places it alongside the clichés of his time.

Why am I burdening the reader with these soph-indulgent reflections? To illustrate what happens when you dive into the sea of philosophy without a canoe or oars, let alone map or captain. How did I not simply sink beneath the waters of tenure and drown in my own BS?

In hindsight, I guess a turning point was bumping into Ken Wilber's The Spectrum of Consciousness. The book means nothing to me now, but at the time it provided the impetus for an ontological u-turn, in which I was able to reorient myself to a bright-side up cosmos, and take it from there. Now, instead of drawing the consequences of utter contingency, it became necessary to draw the consequences of Necessary Being.  

My main point is that there is an Order in things, and it is for us to discover and elaborate it, not invent it. How much wasted time could I have avoided if I had only been introduced to this order when I was a young adult in college, or maybe even high school, instead of having to rediscover the wheel?

The modern man is the man who forgets what man knows about man.

Oh well. In a certain sense I suppose it's providential, as my foundation in stupidity is quite secure. Having lived it, I know all about it, such that no one could talk me out of it (or back into it). This existential stupidity is indeed a ground of my certitude, and there are a number of aphorisms that prove I'm not alone:

It is not to increasing our knowledge to which we may aspire, but to documenting our ignorance.

Intelligence by itself possesses nothing but rebellious slaves.

Genuine atheism is to man’s reason what the ten-thousand-sided polygon is to his imagination.

Sartre famously said that "hell is other people." But in reality,
Hell is any place from which God is absent. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Good Enough Philosophy Out the Wazoo

Our subject is the basis of Authority, which I suppose is a more folksy way of talking about ontology and epistemology: of what is and on what basis we can claim to know it: being and knowing, reality and truth.

This (philosophizing) has been going on a long time -- ever since Homo sapiens elbowed ahead of the pack some 60,000 years ago -- except that western man took a u-turn roughly 400 years ago. In those centuries, the journey back to intellectual barbarism has resembled that of the mythical oozlum bird, which flies in ever-decreasing circles until it disappears up its own rectum. 

Which is where most contemporary philosophy stands today: in the darkness and tyranny of relativism. Ontologically and epistemologically speaking, it isn't possible to fall any lower than this, although of course the ongoing results cannot be known in advance: an endless apocaloop of The horror! 

For this is a form of politico-intellectual Calvinball, such that there is no stable ground because the rules keep changing moment by moment, based upon the needs of the left. Which is why it is always an error to call the left "hypocritical." Rather, they aren't even hypocritical, because there is no fixed rule to violate.  

Or, there is a kind of faux-stability, in the sense, for example, that the left is always "for the little guy," even when they are robbing and killing the little guy. They are always "for the planet," even when they render it more unlivable, and they are always "for the victim" even when countless citizens are being victimized by these sainted victims.   

Anyway, no one is saying your philosophy has to be perfect, or that you have to know everything about everything. Besides, that's impossible. But there are rules, as in any sport. 

Or better, there are the rules that render the game possible, and then there are the rules -- the strategy -- for winning the game. The latter exist because the outcome of the game is intrinsically uncertain, which in turn has to do with the one-way direction of time. 

This is one of Hayek's main points about the irreducible complexity of the Great Society and the impossibility of manufacturing this or that outcome, or of knowing it before it happens. 

Rather, the best we can do is legislate clear and unambiguous rules about the conduct of the game, and then leave the rest to personal strategy based upon knowledge on the ground of changing circumstances.

You Will Have Noticed that leftism is founded on the conflation of rules and strategy, and the seductive delusion that tweaking a rule can result in an outcome that can be known with certainty. This is now called "equity," but it's really just a new name for cheating and taking what doesn't belong to you.

But the left has become so intellectually lazy (minus the intellect) that they no longer even bother to pretend they can bring about the outcome they want. Rather, they just engage in word magic such as the Inflation Reduction Act. This is sufficient to satisfy the rubes (beginning with the media) -- just as it was enough to call previous delusions Obamacare, or Build Back Better, or the American Jobs Act, etc., etc. 

The title of this post alludes to a concept in developmental psychology called "good enough mothering," popularized by the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. Speaking of word magic, I see that Wokipedia has changed the entry to "good enough parent." God forbid we trigger any birthing people! 

Perhaps I should change our title to Good Enough Opinion, but that would only enable self-deception, lying, and tenure. 

Of what does a good enough philosophy consist? What is the bare minimum, such that any philosophy that fails to reflect this bare minimum results in error on a grandiose scale, due to the principle (itself part of the Bare Minimum) that a small mistake at the beginning redounds to a big one at the end?

To be continued...  

Monday, August 22, 2022

Sez Who?

Even a woken crock is bright twice a day, or at least unwittingly stumbles into an honest question from time to time, in this case the question of authority. Who or what is the ultimate authority, and how can we tell? 

He mentions the Bible, but that can't be right, because it is only recognized as authoritative on the authority of another entity. Obviously, no writer of the Bible had the slightest idea that he was a co-contributor to a compilation that was only closed and canonized as infallible hundreds of years later. 

At the same time, any number of would-be gospels and apostolic letters were rejected for inclusion by this same authority. So our principle of authority can't be located in the Bible, except by extension from the prior authority upstream from the Bible itself.

Yada yada, we can trace this authority back from the apostles, bishops, popes, councils, saints, and doctors to Christ himself, who founded the Church and handed on the authority to teach what he had orally communicated. 

Ultimately the buck stops with God, but ignoring the mediators is as illogical as denying secondary causes in science, as in the occasionalism of Islam or the double-predestination of Calvin that renders human life utterly superfluous. Besides, who died and left Calvin in charge?

The same commenter asks if our ultimate authority might be something a philosopher said, but again, it depends on the source of the philosopher's authority.  

Let's get right on down to the real nitty-gritty, with the Cosmic Flow Chart: at the top of the Flow Chart is the initial bifurcation between Authority and non-Authority. 

Supposing we choose the latter, then there is and can be nothing but opinion, and we are thereby plunged into the tyranny of relativism. Everything is truly just your opinion, man, which then redounds inevitably to a nihilistic world of pain and coercion: MARK IT ZERØ!  

But this isn't 'Nam. Rather, we choose Authority, which is to say, absolute order (or order of the Absolute). 

That sounds a bit fishy, so stop being coy: who or what is Bob's Ultimate Authority? When Bob says he "chooses" the Absolute, isn't that implicitly saying that Bob is the authority, no better than, say, Luther, who pretends he isn't the authority who authorizes the authoritative principle of sola scriptura

Settle down, Beavis! There are ways out of this nul de slack of solipsism and special pleading, but is there any way out short of faith? 

No, there is no way short of faith. However, there are reasonable and unreasonable forms of faith. Let me turn the wheel over to the Aphorist while I try to sort this out. 

There are arguments of increasing validity, but, in short, no argument in any field spares us the final leap.

Thank you, Nicolás, that is absolutely correct. Anything else?

Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.

The first aphorism goes to the faith required of any truth in any field -- even to the very existence of truth, and of our capacity to know it. 

So if you want to know the source of my terrestrial authority, it rests on this faith: that there is a total order of intelligible reality spanning the horizontal and vertical, interior and exterior, subjective and objective realms, AKA the cosmos; and that this order is intelligible to human intelligence, which is to say that being is convertible to truth, uniquely so in the human being.

The second aphorism is almost equally important, as it goes to the spiritual organ ordered to this totality, which is to say, the intellect as opposed to the profane ego, the latter having more to do with adaptation to this or that human community. This intellect sees before it knows, such that it is indeed the perception of a special order of realities.

BUT. This is only half the story, and that's not even the half of it. We'll discuss how that other half lives in the next post -- and in particular, how it can live in us.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Idiot's Guide to Being a Complete Idiot, Part 1

One can't blame someone for believing that philosophy is essentially an endless argument with no clear victor, and no way to even determine what victory would look like. 

But since there is only one reality -- change my mind -- there can be only one correct philosophy, and maybe that's a clue. For example, if there is only one reality, then any form of relativism is a non-starter. 

Come to think of it, I remember Schuon saying somewhere that he was fundamentally an Absolutist. Therefore, just begin with the Absolute and draw out the implications. How easy is that? 

However, Bob maintains that it is possible to begin at either end, with the Absolute or with the evidence of the senses; in fact, Bob furthers believes these two approaches are complementary and that they complete one another. Moreover, if you attempt a wholly one-sided metaphysic, you will inevitably leave out some important features of reality.

The archetypal example is of Plato vs. Aristotle: the former distrusted the endless change of temporal phenomena in favor of the timeless and transcendent forms, while the latter brought heaven back down to earth and sought to understand the nature of terrestrial change. But these two approaches complete each other and are harmonized by Thomas.

Nevertheless, there is and can be no complete map of reality that leaves nothing out. This is a controverted point, but I sometimes wonder if even God doesn't possess such a map, for reasons having to do with the nature of freedom and creativity (including continual creation), and that God cannot act outside his nature. But that's a sideshow, or rather, the final dot on the last i, and we're not there yet. We'll cross that t when we get to it.

A common definition of reality is that which doesn't go away when we stop believing in it, and I don't know if I can top that. However, in another sense, reality is what appears when we do believe it, precisely. This is where confusion enters the picture, because it is impossible to live as a human being without some kind of map and metaphysic, whether explicit or implicit. 

In fact, this is one of the principles of classical liberalism, which is fine as far as it goes, but eventually ends in the absurd tyranny of relativism under which we are currently sophicating. Before our eyes we see how the absolute relativity of "diversity" and multiculturalism lead to the anti-intellectual bullying and ontological terrorism of the left, with the violence of the state and the ignorance of Big Tech enlisted to enforce compliance. Institutional violence + mandatory stupidity never ends well.

About those things that persist even when we stop believing in them, at the top of the list (by definition) is what folks call God. But for a number of reasons, that's not the best word to use, at least at the outset. 

For example, when I use the word and an Islamic terrorist does, we're not referring to the same thing. Similarly, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi believe in a god who most definitely doesn't exist when they stop believing in him. It is purely fanciful to imagine such a being, let alone Being as such.

That much is obvious, but another intrinsic problem is that infinitude can never be reduced to finitude, such that anything we say about this Absolute has the capacity to mislead. 

However, this is actually no different from any other form of knowledge. For example, physics tells us a great deal of about the world, but if we then imagine that nothing in the world exists outside of physics, then we have fallen into scientistic idolatry. 

False gods are everywhere, but only because -- obviously -- there must be the true God. The other day we alluded to the principle of sufficient reason, the idea that everything in time has a cause, and that the cause must be sufficient to explain the effect.

Let's begin with something that is right under, over, and behind our noses: consciousness. Its existence is self-evident, the question being, what is its cause or sufficient reason? If your metaphysic cannot provide an intellectually satisfying and non-trivial answer to this most basic of questions, then I declare you to be a Shallow Person Unfit for the Conduct of Philosophy. 

About those false gods, you will no doubt have noticed that the metaphysical atheist crowd is always proving the non-existence of gods that do not and cannot exist, and which no sophisticated person believes in anyway. 

It would be analogous to my using the example of climate change idiocy to prove the non-existence of science. More generally, an important side-principle is that the corruption of the best is the worst, whether it involves the maiming of the intellect by ideology or of a pizza with pineapple.  

By the way, there is such a thing as intellectual sin, and it comes to us in many forms, for example, the type of intellectual dishonesty that absolutely pervades the media-academic complex. 

Another form is the idolatry referenced above, as well as any form of relativism. To this I would add any denial of the principle of identity, or any conditions for the intelligibility of the cosmos. These latter can be summed up in what Chesterton called the 

thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own.

What thought might that be? It is any thought that renders the world unintelligible and therefor the thinker a complete idiot: relativism, deconstruction, idealism, rationalism, materialism, scientism, atheism, CRT, Marxism, Son of Marxism, Bride of Marxism, etc.

To be continued...