Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Hologram to Your Private Particle

We try to make a little progress every day, even if we are coming up against the hard limit of an important football game. 

Which reminds me of our neighbors down the street. We were once over there for dinner, when the wife called to the husband to come to the kitchen. He said, "Wait a minute -- there's an important game on." She responded that "there's no such thing as an important game."

Suffice it to say, they are divorced. 

Back to Augustine for a moment -- while still on the subject of holofractal time -- he writes of how "I cannot totally grasp all that I am. Thus the mind is not large enough to contain itself." But

how can it not contain itself? How can there be any of itself that is not in itself? As this question struck me, I was overcome with wonder and almost with stupor (in Louth). 

Well, good: a Christian koan!

Let's try to think this koan through -- to the stupor and beyond. First, if you're not a mystery to yourself, either you're not trying or you're a bit thick. No offense, because if you fall into the latter category, you're not reading this blog anyway, trolls excepted.

Most words function as "containers" for a "contained": the word "dog," for example, contains the essence of "doginess," and even babies know how to do this (albeit implicitly).

But some words attempt to contain what cannot be contained; their content cannot be "tamed," so to speak, the word "God" being the quintessential case, for it can only pretend to circumscribe the Mystery.

Likewise "transcendence." As Voeglin says, it is more a directional pointer than a destination; it ultimately points to what he calls the Apeiron, the

Unlimited, indefinite, unbounded..., the "unlimited" source of all particular things. Because it transcends all limits, it is in principle undefinable (Webb).

So it seems that human consciousness partakes of the Apeiron in the very sense described by Augustine, for it cannot contain itself, and (ortho)paradoxically is both itself and not itself

Which is another way of saying that the part is in the whole and the whole in the part, even while the part cannot be the whole per se. 

The first step to God is discovery of self, discovery of the self as a spiritual being that contains and transcends the material order (Louth).

Louth then quotes Pascal to the effect that 

It is not in space that I should search for my dignity.... There is no advantage to me in the possession of land. As space, the universe encloses me and swallows me up like a little speck, [but] by thought I understand (or embrace) it.

So, in understanding the cosmos, thought embraces what embraces us. Louth continues: "though the self"

is a vast and wonderful thing, it is not God, nor does it contain God. And yet, in a way it touches God, it strains beyond itself to God....

For the mind longs for the truth, for reality, for true joy, joy that endures, that abides in the truth; in this is reaching beyond itself. Truth is not something that man possesses: it is like a light that shines in his mind and that he apprehends, even if only dimly (emphasis mine).

In this experience, we are "collected and bound up into unity within oneself, whereas we had been scattered abroad into multiplicity." About which I will have much more to say, and in fact, already said:

In the end, we are no longer a scattered, fragmented multiplicity in futile pursuit of an ever-receding unity, but a Unity that comprehends and transcends the multiplicity of the cosmos.

Thus "the end of our spiritual destiny is really an origin... a return to the beginning, a veritable re-ascent of time back to its non-temporal source."

We are Ones again back by oursoph before the beginning, before old nobodaddy committed wholly matterimany...

Yada yada. Suffice it to say that if you haven't perceived the the hologram to your private particle, it was probably just lost in the mail.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Temporal Holofractality

Seems like every once in awhile we delve into the subject of Time. I don't know if we make any progress when we do, since I don't exactly remember what was said before. It's hard not to speculate, since it's such a slippery concept, much like its slithery cousin, consciousness. 

In fact, Augustine speculated that it is  

only within our own minds that we perceive the presence of time. Rather than being an external, observable phenomenon, time exists within our own consciousness.... Our consciousness is a powerful tool because it is able to differentiate between what has happened, is happening and will happen.... 
Augustine writes: “If nothing passes away, there is no past time, and if nothing arrives, there is no future time, and if nothing existed there would be no present time.” Time moves constantly from past to future, and we know this because of the physical changes we constantly observe (Ashcroft).

Well, thanks! I guess. 

But can't we do better than this? We have a word for the "future," but what exactly is it, and how? Likewise the past. And let's not even talk about the present, because how long is that without being the past or future? By time you even say "time," it's already past: "an interval with no duration" (Augustine). So, does this mean life itself is an interval with no duration between two slabs of eternity? 

Aristotle once referred to the present as “a knife edge without thickness" whose only function is to connect past and future. This inability to be able to point at a moment in time and say that this "now" is the present: this is an irresolvable problem for the human mind (Ashcroft).

Oh? Turns out a unit of time is exactly 10−43 seconds (AKA Planck time). However long your "moment of time," it is constituted of these temporal bits, much like how a CD or your TV screen only sound and look continuous.

Well, thanks! I guess.

Hold it a darn second -- or 10−43 seconds -- because in the case of those technologies, the bits are organized from the top down, not the bottom up. In other words, the point (or meaning) is the song or the movie, both of which are composed of smaller units, and you can't hear the song by examining one of the digital bits. 

That is to say, the meaning is anterior to the organization, and what is the relationship between what we call meaning and the units of which it is composed? A voice in my head is telling me that semantics cannot be reduced to syntax. 

Now I don't pay attention to every voice in my head, but when it's Robert Rosen on the line, I take the call. But he won't mind my putting him on hold for a moment, since he no longer exists in time anyway.

Back to the CD analogy: it is limited, since you can't hear the whole song by listening to one of the digital bits, but you can the hear the whole composition of the human body by listening to a unit of DNA, so to speak. 

In other words, here the part indeed contains information about the whole, and in what kind of universe is this even possible? In other words, it seems that the existence of DNA presumes a cosmos with part-whole relations. 

But again, does this holofractal property extend to time? 

Well, just off the top of my head it seems to, because many developmental processes are encoded into DNA, thus requiring time in order to explicate themselves, and what's up with that? 

This discussion is starting to careen above my paygrade or at least outside my lane, so we better consult an expert. 

Bob, what is your lane anyway? I don't see a lane, rather, a lot of off-road -- let's be polite and call it temporizing. But it still sounds like bullshit to me.   

Maybe. Augustine's road ultimately led to nowhere but paradox -- the bizarre kind: he emphasized

how difficult it is for humans to explain out loud what time really is. And in general Augustine is happy to leave things that way. He never puts forward a definitive definition of time, preferring to highlight the many issues that arise from our consciousness of time.  
In the end, Augustine doesn’t provide us with a good answer as to what time really "is." Instead he highlights the bizarre nature of time, which doesn’t seem to exist at all, and yet is nonetheless still deeply significant to human beings (Ashcroft).

Well, thanks! I guess. Then again, he does allude to the Whole, which is to say, 

God’s eternity, in which “nothing is transient, but the whole is present.” In eternity, there is no such thing as transition from past to present to future. Eternity is simply one whole present moment (ibid.).

Good for God. But I say we can do better. Let's ask another expert:

Time is but a spiroidal movement around a motionless Center (Schuon).

He sounds pretty sure of himself, and he's not wrong, but....

The moving image of eternity. 

Yes, Petey, that's another way of putting it. But what we're asking is whether, or to what extent, everything is somehow present in anything. A voice in my head says YES, but some details would be nice. Let's begin with a passage from an obscure book by an obscure philosopher, Atheism and Theism:

the totality, as a developed outcome of the process, reveals itself equally as the beginning and source of everything that was involved in the process of its own development. That process can occur only if the totality is already in some sense actual, and the whole can be actualized only in and through the process. 
Thus we speak of a whole which is at once eternally realized and continually realizing itself by means of a process throughout which it is immanent (Harris, emphasis mine).

Yes, we are off-road, but I do believe we're getting somewhere -- a bit closer to the damn key to the world enigma.

Semantics is prior to syntax!

I haven't forgotten about you, Professor Rosen, we just ran out of time. Please call back tomorrow morning and we'll talk about it. Wait, now Polanyi is on the line, and I can't take two calls at the same time...

Friday, December 29, 2023

The Still Point of the Dancing Post

Yesterday we spoke of part/whole relations, and I've sometimes wondered -- for example, in the book of the same name -- if this principle applies to time as well as space. If so, then a ptee part of time would do duty for the holos of eternity. 

Or in plain English, every moment would be a reflection of all moments -- like an allforabit in the grammar of eternity.

You know how I hate to speculate, but out of nowhere yesterday's book touched on this possibility, in response to another fellow who argues that Aquinas' hermeneutic of the Old Testament is anti- or ahistorical, in other words, nonlinear and overly symbolic. 

Aquinas argues that God (from eternity, his eternal "present") creates because he has an end in view, [and] since God is God, moreover, we can assume that God's plan is efficacious... 

In the long run anyway, even if we can't see how at any given moment.  

In other words, if God is God, why can't he write with history the same way we write with language? Or why can't time be the language of eternity?

Thus, we can expect -- and we certainly cannot rule out -- that history has a unified meaning. Moreover, if God reveals that Christ is the key to history, then we can expect to find implicit references to Christ throughout history...

And not just vis-a-vis Israel, although that is where eternity would be most dense with references in time, or where Heaven has touched the earth, so to speak. 

(Not to jump down a different rabbit hole, but this book on How the World Religions Prepared the Way for the Phenomenon of Jesus highlights some of the references scattered all over the temporal and geographical place.)

Regarding the holofractal temporal resonance, Aquinas argued that

The author of sacred scripture is God, in whose power it is to signify his meaning, not by words only (as man can also do), but also by things themselves. 

This isn't so strange when you think of how man actually does the same in his creations, e.g., in novels and films. As Levering says, "It may well be of the very nature of history, in short, that 'the part illumines the whole.'" But that's all he says, leaving it to me to work out the details.

I didn't prepare anything, so you've put me on the spot, not unlike Augustine, come to think of it, who said (to paraphrase) that he knows all about time. Unless you ask him.

While I gather my few thoughts, let's ask the Aphorist if he has any.

Every beginning is an image of the Beginning; every end is an image of the End.

Very goodNicolás, because that indeed implies that all times are copresent, and besides, the Poet speaks of time future contained in time past, and of all time eternally present:

What might have been and what has been / Point to one end, which is always present. 

Hey, this guy's pretty good. It's not just poetry but gnoetry: A moment in time but time was made through that moment; and that moment of time gave the meaning

At the still point of the turning world.... there the dance is, / But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, / Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor / towards, / Neither ascent nor decline. / Except for the point, the still point, / There would be no dance, and there is only dance.

You get the point. In my beginning is my end, and that's all there is to it:

Or say that the end precedes the beginning, / And the end and beginning were always there / Before the beginning and after the end. Words strain, / Crack and sometimes break, under the burden.

And now you know why the book of the same bame has those two sections -- Before the Beginning and After the End -- and why the language is so cracked and broken. The words slip, slide, perish / Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place, / Will not stay still. Shrieking voices...

Well, no shrieking really. Nevertheless, I only steal from the best, except I call it borrowing. Nicolás, may we borrow another aphorism? 

One must live for the moment and for eternity. Not for the disloyalty of time. 

And now for something completely different, or at least a different angle, which is to say, the Koon Kult Klassic The Symmetry of God:

If it is to express the infinite and the eternal, theology cannot do without paradox, symbolism and myth.

And lots of cracked and broken gnoetry. Here's some from Thomas Traherne, recalling a childhood experience, when

all things abided Eternally as they were in their Proper Places. Eternity was Manifest in the Light of the Day, and som thing infinit Behind evry thing appeared... 

Time stood still between Everlasting and Everlasting, and yet there's the Dance referenced above, in "an instant that abides" (Aquinas).

Now, how can the instant express the eternal? Better yet, how can it not?

In order to speak of the eternal, it is sufficient to speak with talent of the things of the day.  

Or even of the moment: "For such a thing is instantaneously whole and unchanging -- it has no time in which to change" (Bomford).  

Stork raving infanity!

Likewise eternity is expressed in the very new, the new-born, in that which happens for the first time. 

Remama? Toddling loose & lazy beneath a diamond sky, too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM?

The uniting of the old and new, or first and last, emphasizes this quality. The enthroned Christ of the book of Revelation announces himself as The First and Last and the Lord God himself is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

The end. Except to add that St. Augustine addressed God as Thou beauty, both so ancient and so new. We will continue this investigation of temporal holofractality in the next post.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Part Abides in the Whole

As we know, there is nothing in science per se -- nor will there ever be -- proving the existence of a closed cosmos. At best, this is but a methodological assumption, but if it's an ontological truth, it can't be, because it could only be known from a transcendent standpoint. 

In short, to place an ultimate limit is to have transcended it,

for how could the intelligence limit itself, seeing that by its very nature it is in principle unlimited or else it is nothing (Schuon)?

In other words, 

science must transcend itself to remain science. It stands as evidence that something beyond its own limits is inherent in the very consciousness that makes it possible (Harris). 

Atheism is always based upon appearances -- appearances that are of a reality we could never know in the absence of God. Ultimately, "finite nature transcends itself in man," just as "science transcends itself in philosophy." Thus, "Man's self-transcendent awareness is the image of God immanent in this thinking" (ibid.). 

I guess we could say that the Unlimited has sprouted here within the Limited, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it except enjoy the show.

Any true statement we make is sponsored by the Absolute, otherwise there would be no such things as objectivity and certitude. A principle of wholeness is built into the very nature of things, such that knowledge of parts not only gives knowledge of the whole, but is predicated on it. 

Not to go all Deepak on you, but this is a holographic or fractal universe, otherwise we would have no basis for knowing it is a universe, i.e., an ordered totality.  

Which reminds me of Finnegans Wake, of all things, for When a part so ptee does duty for the holos, we soon grow to use of an allforabit -- man himself being this petit part, and science and philosophy being the allforabit with which we speak of the whole. 

This is even a key passage to approaching the text, and Joyce says so right afterwords: Here (please to stoop) and pay attention to that last gag. 

Besides, Somedivide and sumthelot but the tally turns round the same balifusion. This may sound bally, but our analytical division implies the prior fusion of the whole, and that's all there is to it. 

With this in mind, let us switch seers back to Augustine. I think we can stipulate that he was a part of the universe, but a "guiding principle" of his philosophy was a gnostalgia for the Whole,

a longing that is a longing to return, to return to the One who made it, a longing that is experienced as restlessness, inability to settle and rest anywhere, a pressing sense that in all created things there lies something beyond, something that calls us to God (Louth).  

This longing is already "the movement of the Holy Spirit Himself in our hearts," which is to say, (↑) is already (↓), these two constituting a kind of eternal spiral. 

Suffice it to say, they are not two -- any more than transcendence and immanence can ever be radically divided from one another, for they are distinct but not separate.

In a famous passage Augustine describes rising all the way up to the toppamost of the poppamost and thensome: "And higher still we soared," until "we came to our own souls, and went beyond them to come at last to that region of richness unending," to "the Wisdom by which all things are made" and beyond, to "Wisdom itself not made," for "it is as it has ever been, and so it shall be forever."

Waaaay up there, where "it simply is, for it is eternal." Where God abides -- "abides in Himself forever, yet grows not old and makes all things new!"

Whew! Or is that too woowoo? For this appears to be nothing less than "a foretaste of the joys of heaven" (Louth), or at least Augustine thought so:

Sometimes You admit me to a state of mind that I am not ordinarily in, a kind of delight which could it ever be made permanent in me would be hard to distinguish from the life to come.

This state can't be continuous herebelow, because someone has to grow the food and take out the trash. 

Nevertheless, shoosh. I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' that Augustine's up there abidin' and takin' her easy for the restavus.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Openness to Openness

They say -- Chesterton did, anyway -- that the point of having an open mind is to eventually close it:

Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

Then again, perhaps the point is to never shut it, at least on the meta-level that is the very ground and possibility of our openness.

What I mean is that God himselves turns out to be an eternally open system. In the Trinity, the Second Person is 110% open to the First (and vice versa), and both are equally open to the Third, in one vast and merry goround of being. 

I AM is a function of WE ARE. Or rather, they eternally coarise, as there has never been One without the Others. In the grammar of being, God's pronouns are I and WE.  

That's the claim, anyway. But supposing we are in the image and likeness of this reality, then that's an important data point, without which we remain a mystery to ourselves, and not the good kind. An enigma, rather. A conundrum. 

Without a meaningful anthropology, ontology and epistemology go out the window too. For on what basis can man claim to know reality? Again, how is it that we are open to being? No other animal is remotely built this way. Rather, they are open to a thin slice of being dictated by instinct:

The animal cannot leave his state, whereas man can; strictly speaking, only he who is fully man can leave the closed system of the individuality, through participation in the one and universal Selfhood (Schuon, emphasis mine). 

Man is "the vertical axis where life opens onto the spirit and where it becomes spirit," and his very form is "an 'axial' and 'ascendant' perfection" (ibid.).

Gosh. If only we could interview the first man.... Wait -- breaking news from our reporter on the scene: 

Primordial man knew by himself that God is; fallen man does not know it; he must learn it. Primordial man was always aware of God; fallen man, while having learned that God is, must force himself to be aware of it always. Primordial man loved God more than the world; fallen man loves the world more than God (Schuon).

So, primordial man was spontaneously open to the transcendent, whereas fallen man is thereby enclosed? The very word "fall" implies verticality, and it seems that the lower we fall, the more we are enclosed in darkness, or rather, darkness is the "form" of closure. Analogously, think of a thick fog; it doesn't actually enclose us, but it sure looks that way unless we somehow rise above it.

For Voegelin, this existential closure is "the mode of existence in which there are internal impediments to a free flow of truth into consciousness and to the pull of the transcendental," in contrast to the open existence "in which consciousness is consistently and unreservedly oriented to truth and toward the transcendental pole of the tension of existence."

Best we can do? Yes, short of the transcendental pole becoming immanent, and I wonder what Voegelin says about that? The Incarnation is, among other things, "the symbolization of a divine movement that went through the person of Jesus into society and history." To which I would add, a realsymbol:  

Rahner’s notion of Jesus as God’s “realsymbol” proposed [an] analogy for conceiving how Jesus’ very humanity could be God’s self-expression in history and how the Church and sacraments could mediate that event to subsequent generations.

 A reminder that

Metaphor supposes a universe in which each object mysteriously contains the others.

And come to think of it, 

Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion.

Which means that, thanks to the Incarnation, we can (re)experience the We of God and man. "With the appearance of Jesus, God himself entered into the eternal present of history" (Voegelin). Our We with Jesus is his We with the Father, or what's the point? For if God and man are united in Jesus, and we are united with Him, it seems a simple matter of logic (or the logic of metacosmic grammar, precisely):

The mystery of divine-human participation is realized in different degrees by different people depending on the divine drawing and on the willingness of the individual to dwell in the truth of existence rather than an illusory Second Reality (ibid.). 

As Webb writes, 

It is a matter, in other words, of openness of existence as compared with existential closure... [I]n Jesus there was perfect existential openness and a fullness of divine-human participation that was unique among men.

Thus, "history is Christ written large," and "individuals participate to varying degrees in the perfect humanity that is fully realized in Jesus, and they do so to the extent that through the drawing of divine grace they become like him."

Reality, verticality, openness, participation; or O, (⇅), (o), and ʘ, I suppose, speaking of realsymbols.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Is There Such a Thing as Non-Christian Philosophy?

"No," writes Pieper in response to his own question, "there is no non-Christian philosophy."

So that settles it. You've been a great audience, and drive home safely.

But how can this be, for as we know,

philosophizing means [or used to, anyway] asking what is the meaning of all that we call "life" or "reality" or simply this "totality." 

Now, if someone already has an answer to this question about meaning, if one "believes," if one is Christian: how can he still use his reason in the very radical way mentioned? How could he still be able to philosophize?


He's got a point: when someone knows the answers prior to the questions, that's what we call ideology (or even ideolatry), not philosophy. Looked at this way, Christianity is not even a philosophy. 

Nevertheless, Pieper persists in his absurd claim, and now I'm curious.

Is our argument with progressives just an intrafamilal squabble between different sects of Christianity?

Well, if, for example, "trans rights are human rights," what are the latter, and where do they come from? It so happens that the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain played a central role in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and "his defense of natural rights"

influenced several of the members of the Drafting Committee of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, not only were some of Maritain’s key writings read in advance by the Drafting Committee, but one of its key members, Charles Malik, followed Maritain’s political thought closely in several respects. It is not surprising, then, that the Declaration has close parallels with the rights enumerated [by Maritain].

Now, I detest the U.N. as much as the next guy, but not because it's too Christian. 

At any rate, "trans rights" cannot be natural rights, for what could be more unnatural? Of course, members of the the Alphabet Brigade still have the same natural rights as the restavus, but it makes no sense to use Christianity to abolish Christianity.

Or does it? For if I were Satan, that is precisely what I'd do. Recall Landes' definition of the demopath: "enemies of human rights invoking them in order to destroy them." Not to mention "dupes of demopaths," i.e., "people with no ear for hypocrisy who accept demopathic argument as sincere."

Dupes, like the NY Times, and sincere, like the Mayor of Gaza City:

Why can’t Palestinians be treated equally, like Israelis and all other peoples in the world? Why can’t we live in peace and have open borders and free trade?

Gosh. We may never know the answer!

Along these lyin's, Landes' glossary of terms has another good one he calls the Human Rights Complex, which ignores "victimizers of color" and obsesses "about 'white' ones." Moreover, there is Humanitarian Racism, which makes "no moral demands of those designated as 'victims,'" and Underdogma, the "dogmatic assertion of humanitarian racism."

As we said before, to call our terror-supporting progressives "anti-Semitic" is giving them far too much credit. Rather, they have simply assimilated a vile and stupid ideology that transforms Jews into White Victimizers as surely as 2+2 = 4. 

Their hatred of the Zionist Entity is perfectly rational once one accepts the insane premises of the PoMo-PoCo (postmodern and postcolonial) cult. These zombified progbots suffer from "Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome," the belief that "everything is our fault" (ibid.).

Any ideology is a closed system. Which is what distinguishes it from philosophy per se, which is open to everything. Now, this everything must include the most consequential phenomenon of all, which is to say, the human subject (or even just subjectivity as such); nor will it exclude God on an a priori basis, because this is just a tautology: there is no God because there is no God:

The first element of the Greek concept "philosophy" has, in principle, a simple relationship to theology -- an openness, in principle, to theology (Pieper).

I want to say that to have an "open mind" is already prima facie evidence of God. For if we accept the evidence of natural selection -- which we do -- then you will agree that it is impossible for it to account for human traits such as our openness to transcendence, free will, objectivity, conformity to reality, sensitivity to beauty (itself an adequation to the Real), boundless creativity, etc.

Or just say human nature. And to say human -- to say it and mean it -- is to say God. We won't go so far as to say that God-human is a complementarity. Then again, we will say that the First and Second Persons of the Trinity are eternal complements, and that if we accept the Incarnation in principle, then we are given the opportunity to be participants in this nonlocal goround of reality. 

Seems like a good place to pause, because at this point my stream of thought iterates into various creeks, babbling brooks, & windy riverruns that deserve posts of their own, so to be continued...

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Jesosophy and Homerology

Didn't plan to post today, and still don't, but God laughed and pointed me to a book called The Philosophy of Jesus, by Peter Kreeft. I was moving some books around when it caught my eye. I recall having read it but don't remember anything about it. A search of the blog reveals a brief mention a few years ago. 

We've already stipulated that Jesus cannot be reduced to the category of "philosopher," but nor is he not one, since he must be the ground and possibility of philosophy as such, AKA the Logos incarnate.

Does this mean we're really engaged in logology or something? No, because it seems that word is taken: "Logology is the study of all things related to science and its practitioners."

Okay, how about... philology, love of the logos? No, that was Tolkien's day job, i.e., "the study of language in oral and written historical sources." 

There's Christology, but that's the study of Christ per se, not the content of his philosophy.

All the good names are already taken -- sophiology, theosophy, logosophy... Jesosophy? That's the ticket -- even google's never heard of it.

What we are about to discuss reminds me of the book The Beginning of Wisdom, by Leon Kass. It proceeds through the philosophy of Genesis line by line, treating it like any other classic philosophical text. e.g., Plato, Aristotle, or Marcus Aurelius. For example, Genesis conveys

an "anthropology," an account of the human being, embedded in its account of the good life. The Bible belonged in a conversation with those philosophical texts, where, I began to suspect, it could more than hold its own. 

Kass and his students approached Genesis philosophically, "solely for meaning and understanding, in search of wisdom." 

And guess what: Jesus wasn't only thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament, it may be the only book he ever saw. 

Right now I'm looking at the gospel of Matthew, and the second statement recorded by Jesus is "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," which means that he had Deuteronomy 8:3 right in his hip pocket. (His first statement in Luke is a slight variant of this.) 

Now I'm looking at John, where the first statement is a question: "What do you seek?," to which they respond by calling him Rabbi, which is to say, teacher. 

And here we are: teach us.

For Kreeft, the purpose of his book is, among other things, to show both Christians and non-Christians "a new dimension of philosophy, a new philosophy, and a new philosopher." It doesn't aim at conversion, rather, treating Jesus just as he would any other philosopher. 

In a trivial sense, "Everyone has some 'philosophy of life.' Even Homer Simpson is a philosopher." Especially Homer Simpson:

Jesus was a philosopher in the same sense "in which Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, Solomon, Marcus Aurelius, and Pascal were philosophers." "After all," wrote C.S. Lewis, "how full of argument, of repartee, even of irony, He is" (in Kreeft). 

Now, if Jesus has the answers, what are the questions? 

Kreeft adverts to the perennial questions of philosophy, which (to paraphrase) come down to what is (or is most) real, AKA metaphysics and ontology; what we can know of this reality (epistemology); who we are in the grand scheme of things (anthropology and psychology); and what we oughtta do (ethics). In short, these "are questions about being, truth, self, and goodness."

And if "the most interesting question of metaphysics is about ultimate reality," then "the most interesting question of epistemology is about knowing ultimate reality: how can we finite fools know infinite wisdom?"

Which tracks with what Schuon says about the subject: Job One for us is to distinguish appearances from reality and to conform ourselves to the latter:

To “discern” is to “separate”: to separate the Real and the illusory, the Absolute and the contingent, the Necessary and the possible, Atma and Maya. To discernment is joined, complementarily and operatively, “concentration,” which “unites”: it is -- starting from earthly and human Maya -- the plenary awareness of Atma at once absolute, infinite and perfect.

And in fact, 

there is no truth nor wisdom that does not come from Christ, and this is evidently independent of all consideration of time and place. Just as "the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not comprehended it," so too the Intellect shines in the darkness of passions and illusions" (ibid.).

To be continued...

Friday, December 22, 2023

If Christ is the Answer, What is the Question?

Christ is the truth. What is said about him are mere approximations to the truth.
Okay, but... what kind of truth? And excuse me, but what was the Question?

While we're on the subject of Augustine in particular, we are more generally on the subject of Christian philosophy. 

Now, some people think that, properly speaking, these two cannot coexist in the same head, since philosophy considers the whole scope of reality in an impersonal manner, with no preconceptions, while Christianity obviously limits itself up front by certain principles and axioms, for example, the doctrine of creation (including the special creation of the human soul), of monogenesis (all men are brothers, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it), of free will, etc. 

In fact, a whole lotta things must first be true before Christianity can even be possible. To cite one obvious example, deconstruction cannot be the case, because if it were, no stable communication would be possible between God and man. Scripture in particular would mean anything and nothing.

Which reminds us of an important aphorism:
Today we require a methodical introduction to that vision of the world outside of which religious vocabulary is meaningless. We do not talk of God with those who do not judge talk about the gods as plausible.

A vision of reality outside of which religious language is meaningless. There are many such worlds, the world presumed by deconstruction being just one of them. But we will insist that there is only one reality. And one human nature. And a surprising link between them.

As for the Christian world, there is great disagreement about the role of philosophy. At one extreme are those who claim that revelation completely overrides and obviates our vain philosophizing, while at my extreme is a person who will go so far as to insist that non-Christian philosophy is an impossibility and an absurdity; or, to put it a bit less bobnoxiously, that philosophy from our end is crowned and perfected by revelation at Godsend. 

I'm not even the first to suggest this. In an essay called Is There Such a Thing as a Non-Christian Philosophy?, Pieper answers "no, there is no non-Christian philosophy!," at least insofar as "we understand by philosophy what the great originators and fathers of Western philosophy... understood it to be." Which is to say,

It is wisdom as God possesses it: God alone can be called wise in the full sense; He alone has "the answer," the interpretation of reality from one angle (namely from Himself); no one but God knows what the philosophical question deals with: the whence and the whither, the origin and the goal, the design principle and the structure, the meaning and the organization of reality as a whole.

I just read a somewhat tedious book called Engaging the Doctrine of Creation: Cosmos, Creatures, and the Wise and Good Creator, but let no one say I don't eat my vegetables. It has a chapter on the relationship between scripture and philosophy that reminded me of the second aphorism cited above. Levering quotes N.T. Wright to the effect that "Western orthodoxy"

has had for too long an overly lofty and detached view of God. It has always tended to approach the Christological question by assuming this view of God and then fitting Jesus into it.

This goes to a genuine problem -- again, of revelation at one end and philosophy at the other, and is there a way to harmonize them? Which comes first? It's easy enough to say "God," but what if, for example, God communicates in a language or modality that we cannot understand? 

Thus, it seems that revelation is limited up front by man's (philosophical) capacity to understand it. God must condescend to our manner and mode of understanding him.

Am I wrong?

Let's take an obvious example, the word "God." Supposing we have no earthly conception of God, what can it mean that he communicates to us, and how could we recognize it? 

But supposing we do have a conception, then how do we relate the two? For example, Jews have a particular conception of the job requirements of the Messiah, and reject Jesus on that basis. Moreover, just as we can point to OT passages that confirm our view, Jews will point to others that contradict it.

For Wright, it "is not that we know what the word god means and manage somehow to fit Jesus into that." Rather, the converse: that we must "somehow allow our meaning for the word god" to be reoriented around Jesus.

Now, Jesus is scandalously particular, whereas philosophy deals in universal principles, abstract concepts, timeless generalities, and transcendent truths. Which is another way of saying Logos. But the central claim of Christianity is that the universal Logos is particularized in a single man at a certain point in history. Which is again a scandal to the (purely) philosophical mind.

In the book, there are a number of discussions as to whether the purpose of scripture is to convey stable propositional truths, or to, for example, reveal God's love for us, or to provide a means to relate to him, or, more generally, to override our presumption that reality can be reduced to formulaic truths. 

Obviously the latter goes to how Protestants (at least the original ones) view scripture. It is not for us -- i.e., our depraved minds -- to understand it, rather, just accept it. 

But one can obviously go to the other extreme -- say, Jefferson's deism that excises the parts that don't fit into a preconceived philosophical template.

I like to think there's an easy solution to this problem of universals and particularity, of abstract and concrete, of propositional truth and the truth of relationship. Indeed, I can probably express it in two words, Incarnation and Trinity, the historical truth of the former revealing the propositional truth of the latter.

Levering cites one scholar who 

distinguishes strongly between biblical "particularists" and what might be termed philosophical universalists. The latter do not pay sufficient attention to God's actions in history as narrated by scripture; instead, they presuppose certain philosophical attributes of God and then impose those attributes upon the God of the biblical narrative. 

Well, don't do that. But don't just throw out the philosophical baby with the scriptural bathwater. Or is it the scriptural baby with the philosophical bongwater? My point is that we need both, in a kind of ascending dialectic.

I guess it all goes back to Gödel: from our end, any philosophical system will contain assumptions or axioms that cannot be justified by the philosophy. Understood. But this doesn't mean we should just chuck philosophy, rather, try to harmonize it with God's Own Principle, AKA the Logos

Philosophy ultimately fails because one has to speak of the whole in terms of its parts.

It reminds me of the old gag that God becomes man that man might become God. Well, the Logos becomes particularized that the particular might become universal, which is none other than the process of theosis or sanctification.

About this cognitive dialectic or spiritual metabolism we have in mind, the Aphorist says

The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason.

Supposing ultimate truth is not only a person, but irreducible person-in-relationship... well, let's just say that, thanks to the Incarnation of the Logos, 

The truth is objective but not impersonal.

Which circles back around to the aphorism at the top, and threepeat as necessary.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Who Do I Say That I Am?

For a thousand years between the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and the dawn of the Renaissance in the 15th century the torch of civilization in western Europe was carried mainly by the Christian church.... 

The supreme synthesis was achieved toward to the end of the period, in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, who produced a vast, capacious world-view harmonizing what were then the major thought-systems (Magee).

Vast, capacious, and harmonious. My kind of cosmos.

At the beginning of that millennium of dominance is Augustine, who "was arguably the outstanding figure in philosophy between Aristotle and Aquinas, a period of some 1,600 years" -- again, a long time to be The Man. 

In order to have been The Man for that long, there must have been something appealing about him -- not just the content, but the style. He must have been a congenial companion. No one can be popular for that long without being fun to be around. 

Here I must admit that I've only read the Confessions and dabbled in some other works. I'm hardly an expert, and you're probably not either, so let's learn something.

Looks like I'm right about his congeniality: Augustine is "one of the most attractive personalities in the history of philosophy." Then again, why does philosophy attract so many unattractive and unpleasant personalities? Probably because a lot of people who do a lot of thinking have nothing better to do. Social rejects, rejected for good reason.

Augustine was obviously not a social reject. To the contrary, he burned that candle right down to the nub. 

He rejected his mother's Christianity as an adolescent, but subsequently embarked upon "a philosophical quest that was to take him through several different intellectual positions," before -- to plagiaphrase the poet -- returning to the place where he started and knowing it for the first time. More generally, 

What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from (Eliot).

Granted, but why is that. And how?  

Every post is a new beginning, starting from nowhere and ending in your head, if I'm lucky. If not, it's just from my head to a different place in my head. Or perhaps a larger head -- mind expansion, as the hippies used to say.

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning (ibid.).

Exactly. That right there is what in the past we've called precision poetry. 'Scuse me while I look that one up. November 17, 2017. Nothing much there we can use today, except to repeat that

Precision poetry is not only possible, it is necessary. This is because truth and beauty converge and are ultimately two sides of the same reality.

At the moment I'm flipping through the complete works of Eliot, and he manages to get all the serious poems done in under 145 pages. That is admirable concision -- what the Aphorist calls finishing before making the reader sick. 

I wish I could do that -- indeed, it's my One Big Wish -- to boil down the previous 4,000 posts into, say 300 pages. And instead of inducing nausea, to end in a massive guffah-HA! experience.

But that's my problem. Back to Augustine. Eventually he became "a fully-fledged philosophical Sceptic," but later became skeptical of his skepticism, so join the club. He then wrote the Confessions, which is "the first autobiography in the modern sense." 

In the past we've touched on why such a venture would have been impossible prior to this, because what we call the modern self is a Christian development, precisely. We devoted a number of posts to a review of an important book called Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Looks like I'll have to reread them. 

Siedentop writes that the

intense account of Augustine's relations with himself and with God [in the Confessions] has led some to attribute the birth of the individual to Augustine.

Along these lines, he quotes the historian Peter Brown, who characterizes the Confessions as "a manifesto of the inner world":

Men go to gape at the mountain peaks, at the boundless tides of the sea, the broad sweep of the rivers, the encircling ocean and the motions of the stars; and yet they leave themselves unnoticed; they do not marvel at themselves (Augustine). 

He's not wrong. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this, the latter involving a vertical closure sealed in ontological narcissism and aggravated tenure. Schuon describes the right way:

The first thing that should strike a man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of the miracle of intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- whence the incommensurability between it and material objects, whether a grain of sand or the sun, or any creature whatever as an object of the senses.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Imagine There's No Imaginaton

It's pretty hard to do.

The imagination is the only place in the world where one can dwell.

Certainly it is where I like to dwell, and thanks to retirement, it is where I spend most of my timelessness. This blog is a kind of journal of that timelessness, because someone has to do it. I'm not an artist, but then again, I like to think I provide a service. Like any other artist. 

Appearance is not the veil, but the vehicle, of reality.

Now, vehicles are for movement, in this case, the vertical kind. Unless I'm missing something.

In the beginning is the Word: it seems that the world is made of language -- or that language is the bridge between immanence and transcendence. Conversely, the senses cannot make that leap, and can only register horizontal, surface-to-surface sensations on the immanent plane.

On the one hand, even before the appearance of Homo sapiens, transcendence is always here. But it must await humanity in order for it to be entered, articulated, and mapped herebelow. 

Imagination takes place in the great In Between, or what Voegelin needlessly calls the metaxy -- needless because it's just a Greek word for the same thing. In any event, we can imaginatively open ourselves to the Beyond, or be enclosed in immanence, in which case we drive our vehicle into an ontological ditch of non-being:

CLOSED EXISTENCE or CLOSURE: Voegelin's term for the mode of existence in which there are internal impediments [AKA roadblocks] to a free flow of truth into consciousness and to the pull of the transcendental (Webb).

The pull of the transcendental. No need to push. In that case, beam me up!   

Given this ubiquitous vertical pull, it seems that we aren't like a ship in the doldrums, as it were, waiting for the wind to propel us. 

Come to think of it, in the new universe discovered by Einstein, what we call gravity is a curvature in spacetime. Used to be that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. But nowadays it's also the longest distance, since if you proceed in the opposite direction you'll eventually wind up at the same point.  

So there's a kind of gravitational attraction -- the Pull -- but there's actually a mutual attraction. It seems that the big O depicted below is attracted to us as much as we are to it, tracing the arc of a great circle route or something: 

[T]he presence of a massive body curves space-time, as if a bowling ball were placed on the rubber sheet to create a cuplike depression. In the analogy, a marble placed near the depression rolls down the slope toward the bowling ball as if pulled by a force. In addition, if the marble is given a sideways push, it will describe an orbit around the bowling ball, as if a steady pull toward the ball is swinging the marble into a closed path.

And here we are.

About bridges, the Aphorist says that

The bridge between nature and man is not science, but myth.

And that 

The world is only interesting when it is mirrored in man's imagination.

Which is what we call Art, I suppose.

Imagination is the capacity to perceive through the senses the attributes of the object that the senses do not perceive.

Music, for example, is an "object" that is perceived through the senses. But the senses do not reveal its transcendent nature; hearing is not listening, just as touching is not grasping or seeing perceiving.

Man is spirit incarnate.... But the object of his existence is 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 (Schuon).

So, here we are, situated in matter while transcending it, and there's not a thing we can do about it. Indeed, not to boast, but

The very word “man” implies “God,” the very word “relative” implies “Absolute” (ibid.).

The Aphorist reminds us that  

Values are not citizens of this world, but pilgrims from other heavens.

Or hells. To which people are also attracted, or rather, which exert their own annoying pull.

Perhaps transcendence could be doubted, if error, ugliness and evil were not its incontrovertible shadow.


The vulgar epistemology of the natural sciences is a burlesque idealism in which the brain plays the role of "I."

It's vulgar because it is like imagination imagining there is no imagination, when in fact -- and principle -- it's the only place to really be, or to be real, precisely. 

How is it that there is such a thing as the self, the I that knows and loves and finds fulfillment in communion with other I's (Varghese)?

For in reality, immanence and transcendence are but bipolar "directions" or pointers, and we can never (in this life) arrive at the place where they point. Although C.S. Lewis was not wrong in wishing to find the place where all the beauty comes from, i.e., "my country, the place where I ought to have been born." 

Suppose we go there, it is a going to or going back

Gosh. It's all very trinitarian when you think about it, isn't it? And faith isn't a leap in the dark, but rather, a leap into its Light:

[T]he doctrine of the Trinity is the breathtaking truth that makes sense of all other truths, the luminous mystery that illuminates all other mysteries, the dazzling sun that allows us to see all things except itself (and this is not because of darkness but its excess of light) (Varghese).

All other mysteries?

Yes, because "Every time we think..., we manifest, however imperfectly, the beginningless-endless act of knowing," of "generating and spirating that is the Trinity." 


Only a consciousness and an intelligence free of any limitation whatsoever could serve as an explanation for the existence of any consciousness and intelligence in this world (ibid.).

Imagine that!

The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles are the appearance.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Who Do You Say that I Am? And Why?

As per the usual custom, after hitting the publish button yesterday I picked up a book at random and it proceeded to comment on the post. 

In this case the book is called The Christ Connection: How the World Religions Prepared the Way for the Phenomenon of Jesus. Recall that the post touched on philosophical Cynicism and Scepticism, and this book is full of both. 

Indeed, the very first paragraph of the preface characterizes the book as "a journey through the religious history of humanity," with our fellow travelers falling into "one of three categories: religious believers, skeptics, and seekers of ultimate truth." I'm all three, but perhaps I'll be less of the second by the end.

For both skeptics and seekers, the only thing that counts is evidence. So what would constitute evidence in the present quest?

Good question. We are entitled to evidence, especially for extraordinary claims, although the threshold of proof differs for this or that person. A crusty old cynic demands more than a credulous yahoo, so I need a lot. 

Again, not much of interest happens philosophically between Aristotle and Augustine, so the book turns out to be timely, going to the "philosophy of Jesus":

Augustine was arguably the outstanding figure in philosophy between Aristotle and Aquinas, a period of some 1,600 years (Magee).

That's a rather long time to be top dawg. I certainly respect him, but he's never been my alpha intellect. Just not my style, exactly. I'm too... something. Whatever I am too much of, I know it when someone speaks to it. 

Anyway, back to the evidence -- the evidence for Jesus. Is there any? Of course there is. In fact, there's as much if not more evidence for Jesus as there is for most any other person of antiquity. But that's not really the question. 

Rather, the real question is more like Who do you say that I am? In other words, he obviously walked the earth, but who was he? Here again, it's easy enough to read the gospels to examine his philosophy, but who do you say he is? And who do you say he is?  

I think about it this way: there is plenty of primary evidence for his existence, but there is also a kind of secondary (and tertiary) evidence, and the latter kind turns out to be more consequential. Indeed, Jesus says as much, i.e., Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Now,  just because we are among those who have not seen, this does not mean there is no evidence for our belief. Rather, it's just a different kind of evidence -- the secondary or tertiary kind.

Bob, you're being annoyingly cryptic. What are you talking about? Well, the Aphorist says exactly what I mean regarding secondary evidence:

When he died, Christ did not leave behind documents, but disciples.

In other words, he left behind transformed people, and it is this transformation I am calling "secondary evidence." And although it is secondary in time, it is actually more important than the primary evidence of his (mere) historical existence. 

Put conversely, his existence in the flesh would have scarcely mattered absent its transformational impact upon those who saw, knew, and touched him. They became utterly different people, and of course this requires an explanation.

For example, if we want to be skeptical about this secondary evidence, we could say that the transformation of his disciples was really a conspiracy that they came up with in order to dupe people, gain followers, and found a new religion -- yes, a brilliant plan to be persecuted and martyred. How fiendishly clever!

Later in the book there is a chapter on all of the alternative explanations for the transformation of the disciples, for example, the "Passover Plot," whereby Jesus planned his own fake death in order to back up the claim that he had risen from the dead. Don't laugh, because it was a popular book, and indeed, my own secular Jewish father-in-law was a believer. 

The whole "quest for the historical Jesus" begins in the 18th century. For example, we're all familiar with the so-called Jefferson Bible, which consists of the teachings of Jesus with the supernatural and miraculous elements excised from the text. 

Some of these researchers go so far as to even deny the primary evidence for Jesus' existence, but no serious historian believes this anymore. "In fact, Marx and Engels made the nonexistence of Jesus a dogma of Marxism," speaking of profoundly unserious historians.

Then there was a guy named Ernest Renan, who "argued that Jesus was a moral teacher whose mission failed and whose teachings have been misrepresented by a repressive church." Another popular and even appealing idea was that between his appearance in the temple as an adolescent and his public ministry at around age thirty, he traveled to India and learned all about Buddhism and Hinduism. 

Unfortunately there is no evidence for this. Which is more than enough evidence for Deepak, who has actually published two books on the subject.

Anyway, back to the evidence. If the secondary evidence is the transformation of the apostles, what we are calling the tertiary evidence is the ongoing transformation of present day followers, but also of the Church itself. Indeed, the mere fact that such a poorly run institution has survived for 2,000 years is an argument for miracles. After all, if it can survive Señor Bergoglio, it can survive anything.  

Before ending this preliminary examination of the evidence, let's consider a few more aphorisms:

Christ was in history like a point on a line. But his redemptive act is to history as the center is to the circumference.

The ongoing relationship between Center and circumference is the tertiary evidence, precisely.

By the way, some researchers suggest that Christianity (like any other manmade religion) is just an exercise in wish fulfillment. For my part, if I were going to invent a religion to suit my desires, it would not resemble Christianity. But 

Christian doctrines have the implausibility of objects we do not construct, but that we stumble across. 

Unlike, say, the Koran,

The Bible is not the voice of God, but of the man who encounters him.

Again, it is a source of tertiary evidence, supposing it encounters, touches, and transforms us in the now.

To be continued... 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Premodern and Postmodern Nihilism

Yesterday we spoke to the post-maturity of progressive demopaths who pretend to defend human rights while destroying them. Today we will speak to the post-reality of the postmoderns. Starting at the beginning, Landes asks precisely "What was the 'modern' that postmodernism claimed to go beyond?"

Good question: what was so wrong with modernity that couldn't be fixed with more of it? Seems like we were on a pretty good trend from ancient to premodern to modern. Why blow up the whole train and the tracks that got us here? Let them answer the question of what is post- in postmodern:

According to them, it was the Western "grand narrative" of the conquest of nature through objective science, rational (phallo-logo-centric) discourse, and its world-transforming technology.

Excuse me, but technology and penises? Really? And how can postmodernism be a narrative that isn't one? Easy: just throw out your phallocentric logic, and anything is possible. 

Wait -- cut off your ontological johnson? 

Some things are too stupid to critique, so I'm tempted to move on -- back to our survey of philosophical starters and nonstarters. To be sure, postmodernism is one of the latter, but I had wanted to proceed in order. There are rules. 

In the book we're using as a template, there are chapters on the Cynics and Sceptics, but postmodernists are the opposite: naive, credulous, and parochial. They're also dickless, but it's nothing to boast about.

Actually, the Cynics weren't cynical in our sense of the word, but were surprisingly dudish: "They were what we would now call dropouts" who embraced "a basic, simple life." However, they eventually went too far and became more than a little nihilistic, advocating "no government, no private property, no marriage, and no established religion."

But Diogenes went even further than John Lennon's most florid imaginings. He

aggressively flouted all the conventions, and deliberately shocked people, whether by not washing or by dressing, if at all, in filthy rags, or living in a burial urn, or eating disgusting food, or committing flagrant acts of public indecency. 

A pederast? It doesn't say. But given his retrograde attitude, he would likely have had no compunction to steal a valued item, nor does it say whether he purchased the burial urn, but it's not like you can rent one. Even the most modestly priced receptacle is a hundred and eighty dollars, but they range up to three thousand. And there's no Ralph's anywhere.

Well, say what you want about the Cynics, at least it's an ethos. Unlike the Sceptics. These dipshits beliefed in nussing! NUSSING! 

Recall that Socrates knew that he didn't know anything, but at least he believed "that knowledge was possible, and, what is more, he was bent on acquiring some." But the Sceptics maintained "an active refusal to believe anything." 

In a way, they confronted the same problem as the postmodernists, in that there were so many conflicting narratives on offer, why not jettison the whole belief in narratives? 

Seeing "the diversity of opinions that are to be found among human beings," they essentially said fuck it:  

For almost everything believed by the people in one place there seem to be people somewhere else who believe the opposite.... The best thing was to stop worrying and just go with the flow, that is to say swim along with whatever customs and practices prevail in the circumstances we happen to find ourselves in.

Truly truly, confined to such a worldview, strikes are gutters and gutters are strikes, and who can say there's any objective difference, even in a league game?

Nevertheless, no one is wrong about everything. Gödel smiles: 

[Pyrrho] pointed out that every argument or proof proceeded from premises which it did not establish. If you tried to demonstrate the truth of those premises by other arguments or proofs then they had to be based on undemonstrated premises. And so on it went, ad infinitum. No ultimate ground of certainty could ever be reached. 

Is he wrong? Yes he is, because Gödel's point is not that we cannot know truth, rather, that we can know truths that we cannot be proved with mere logic. Big difference.  

True enough, reason per se is tautological:

What a valid argument proves is that its conclusions follow from its premises, but that is not at all the same as proving that those conclusions are true. 

This constitutes a vicious epistemological circle, such that "every 'proof' rests on unproven premises," from "logic, mathematics, and science" to "everyday life." 

Having said that, some arguments are better than others. And the best argument of all is that we can indeed know a great deal about everything -- which is to say, Being -- but that we can never know everything about anything, not so much as a single gnat.

And for the same reason. In other words, the same principle accounts for our capacity to know being but never know it fully, for then we would be this principle, which is to say, God.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

That's Not Empathy, That's Post-Maturity

Democracy is a miracle, considering human psychological disabilities (Eli Sagan, in Landes).

I'll go one step further: considering human psychological abilities. In fact, Landes implicitly says as much:

[I]n the twenty-first century, some of the most determined, even dogmatic cognitive egocentrics come from the most progressive, empathic circles of warm thinkers and activists. For there are two major variants to cognitive egocentrism: the unempathic projection of ill-will and the overly empathic projection of good will. 

In reality, neither variant is truly empathic, because neither recognizes the actual thoughts and feelings of the other person or group. At best, the second variant is presumptuous or condescending.

It is also self-evidently immature, since genuine empathy involves the ability to place oneself in the other fellow's sandals or under his soiled keffiyeh. Pretending a jihadi psychopath is just like the rest of us makes one clueless at best, not empathic. 

Likewise pretending Islam is a Religion of Peace, or that jihad doesn't exist, or that the Koran doesn't mean what it says about Jews and Christians, pigs and dogs. Empathy is not masochism. 

I'm also reminded of something Ogden says:

In the paranoid-schizoid position, everything is what it is (i.e., events speak for themselves), whereas in the [more mature] depressive [AKA historical] position, nothing is simply what it appears to be (events do not have intrinsic meaning).

At the extremes this implies on the one hand immaturity, but also something like "post-maturity," or overshooting the mark -- for example deconstruction, whereby everything means anything (e.g., the "living Constitution"). 

In fact, Landes refers to the latter as eisogesis which involves "aggressively reading outside meaning into a given text," or "imposing meaning" onto it (in contrast to standard exegesis).

Recall the odious Rashida Tlaib, who claims that From the river to the sea is just "aspirational." Never mind that it is the aspiration to genocide, precisely. 

Elsewhere Landes defines cognitive egocentrism as "projecting one's mentality into others," and properly speaking, projection is an immature defense mechanism, not an indication of maturity. 

In fact, Landes uses the term "demopath" to describe "enemies of human rights invoking them in order to destroy them." Thus, there's a whole lotta demopathology going on, especially among the young and immature.

Again, that's not empathy. It's not even Stockholm Syndrome. Nor is it even standard issue Jew hatred, rather, the same pomo or poco (postcolonial) stew of factors that motivates older progressives, which is to say, some combination of ignorance, stupidity, indoctrination, status anxiety, conformity, mental illness, and diabolical influence. 

That's what progressives are made of, and there are no other ingredients. For example, their smugness -- their facial punchability -- is really a reflection of status anxiety, while their bizarre characterization of conservatives is just projection (which is in turn a reflection of psychological immaturity). Likewise the ubiquitous intellectual dishonesty.  

The Golden Rule is a fine thing, but it only works with one's psychological cohort -- in other words, with people at roughly the same level of emotional maturity. To take an extreme example, it wouldn't have worked for the Jews vis-a-vis Hitler -- Gandhi's idiotic advice notwithstanding (speaking of insane demopathy). 

Regarding absence of empathy, 

People raised in cultures that are predominantly organized around cooperative rationality cannot imagine any other rationality: So when people use violence it must be that they are driven to it by desperation or searing injustice, and they will stop when given justice. No one, we think, could possibly prefer war (Landes).

Think again. Or rather, for the first time.

What is a little odd about progressives is how they assume the best of our enemies, but imagine -- to the point of delusional ideation --  the worst of conservatives, e.g., racism, sexism, fascism, et al. 

The former fails to see what is obviously there, while the latter sees things that aren't -- or, as was said above, the overly empathic projection of good will and the unempathic projection of ill-will, respectively.

Oh well. Life's Rich Pageant.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Once Upon a Time There Was a Caliphator Coming Down the Road with a Bomb Strapped to His Chest

Caliphator: one who believes that in our day, in this generation, Islam will triumph over all other religions and establish a global Caliphate, i.e., a participant in an apocalyptic millennial movement (Landes).

So, crazy. But why? What makes millions of people believe in the impossible? 

And of course, just because it's impossible, this hardly prevents them from causing great damage to reality -- not just the lives lost or ruined, but the billions of dollars that must be spent to manage this primitive menace, to keep the Caliphators from flying planes into buildings, setting off suicide bombs, warring with their neighbors, etc.

Way back in the early days of the blog, there were many posts on the failure to synchronize our calendars, what with Christendom existing in the 21st century, Islam back in the 7th. Even if they're living in the 10th or 15th, that's still a lot of catching up to do. 

Problem is, the Caliphators also want to synchronize the calendars, only by turning ours back

Now, outside human experience, time is just time: it has no qualities, but rather, is just quantitative duration, a measure of change, except with no one there to notice that things changed. 

In order for time to be noticed, one must partially transcend it, and this is what humans do, some of us more effectively than others. 

Again, we've had many posts on the subject of developmental time, but yesterday's post got me to thinking about it again, because Caliphator time is very different from... what shall we call our time? I don't know, but something will pop into my head as we proceed.

Suffice it to say that the time of physics is not the time of humans, let alone that of God, who is of course "outside time," but not completely, otherwise he wouldn't be here with us. In this regard, he's like us, only more so. Indeed, you could say he's even more in and out of time than we are. Or just say Emmanuel, God with or amongus.

Schuon says some things about time that touch on our way of looking at it, for example, "Concrete time is the changing of phenomena; abstract time is the duration which this change renders measurable," which is what we mean by the distinction above between mere clock time and human developmental time.

Regarding developmental time, think of how an infant must experience time versus how a child or adult does -- and everyone in between, both healthy and pathological. 

Even thinking about these differences makes me suspect I've bitten off more than you'll want to chew. Nevertheless, let's keep chewing, even if we won't be able to swallow it all in a single post, much less digest it.

Unfortunately for readers, the first name that pops into my head is Joyce -- no, not (yet) Finnegans Wake, but rather, a certain portrait of him as a child. On its first page he tries to paint a verbal picture of what it is like to exist in what Piaget would call sensorimotor time, perhaps on the cusp of language acquisition:

the sensorimotor stage "extends from birth to the acquisition of language." In this stage, infants progressively construct knowledge and understanding of the world by coordinating experiences (such as vision and hearing) from physical interactions with objects (such as grasping, sucking, and stepping). Infants gain knowledge of the world from the physical actions they perform within it. They progress from reflexive, instinctual action at birth to the beginning of symbolic thought toward the end of the stage.

What must that be like? Don't you remama the infanity? Joyce does:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.... 

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.... 

When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.

His mother had a nicer smell than his father.... 

Mine too! I also remember the rough stubble. On my father, that is.

"Joyce called the new way a presentation of the past as a 'fluid succession of presents.'" 

There is no past in the book: only a continuous present with a style that shifts to follow every curve in the fluid continuum, expressing or "discovering" it (Anderson). 

Explain this Important Quote:

These first lines of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man represent Joyce’s attempt to capture the perceptions of a very young boy. The language is childish: “moocow,” “tuckoo,” and “nicens” are words a child might say, or words that an adult might say to a child. 
In addition to using childlike speech, Joyce tries to emulate a child’s thought processes through the syntax of his sentences and paragraphs. He jumps from thought to thought with no apparent motivation or sense of time. We have no idea how much time goes by between Stephen’s father telling him the story and Stephen wetting the bed. 
Moreover, the way Stephen’s thoughts turn inward reflects the way children see themselves as the center of the universe. Stephen is the same Baby Tuckoo as the one in the story his father tells, and the song Stephen hears is “his song.” As Stephen ages, Joyce’s style becomes less childish, tracking and emulating the thoughts and feelings of the maturing Stephen as closely as possible. 

Eventually we learn-- some of us at any rate -- that we    

are separate from the environment. [We] can think about aspects of the environment, even though these may be outside the reach of the child's senses. In this stage, according to Piaget, the development of object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments. 

Object permanence is a child's understanding that an object continues to exist even though they cannot see or hear it. Peek-a-boo is a game in which children who have yet to fully develop object permanence respond to sudden hiding and revealing of a face. By the end of the sensorimotor period, children develop a permanent sense of self and object and will quickly lose interest in Peek-a-boo (Wiki).

This is much more important than you might suspect, but in order to explain why, we'll have to go even more irritatingly far afield, into Winnicott's theory of transitional objects:

One of the elements that Winnicott considered could be lost in childhood was what he called the sense of being -- for him, a primary element, of which a sense of doing is only a derivative. The capacity for being -- the ability to feel genuinely alive inside, which Winnicott saw as essential to the maintenance of a true self -- was fostered in his view by the practice of childhood play. 

More to the point, 

Playing can also be seen in the use of a transitional object, Winnicott's term for an object, such as a teddy bear, that has a quality for a small child of being both real and made-up at the same time. Winnicott pointed out that no one demands that a toddler explain whether his Binky is a "real bear" or a creation of the child's own imagination, and went on to argue that it's very important that the child is allowed to experience the Binky as being in an undefined, "transitional" status between the child's imagination and the real world outside the child. 

For Winnicott, one of the most important and precarious stages of development was in the first three years of life, when an infant grows into a child with an increasingly separate sense of self in relation to a larger world of other people. In health, the child learns to bring his or her spontaneous, real self into play with others; in a false self disorder, the child has found it unsafe or impossible to do so, and instead feels compelled to hide the true self from other people, and pretend to be whatever they want instead. Playing with a transitional object can be an important early bridge between self and other, which helps a child develop the capacity to be genuine in relationships, and creative.

Playing for Winnicott ultimately extended all the way up from earliest childhood experience to what he called "the abstractions of politics and economics and philosophy and culture... this "third area," that of cultural experience which is a derivative of play."

With this in mind, we're finally in a position to better understand the apocalyptic dream of Caliphator time. But haven't I taxed the reader's patience long enough? I well remember sitting in class, when the time between 2:45 to 3:00 was an eternity. I remember my butt falling asleep, or at least it felt that way, and I don't want to do that you, for you've suffered enough.

We'll end with a passage by Landes and resume tomorrow, when the feeling in your butt has returned:

Caliphators believer that now is the time for Islam to fulfill its disrupted destiny, and where there was Dar al Harb (realm of war, of free / unsubjected kuffar / infidels), there shall be Dar al Islam (realm of submission to Allah and his servants, of dhimmi kuffar).

All because our psychological / developmental calendars aren't synchronized. 

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