Human actions are rational, or at least I'm old enough to remember when they were. Old Aristotle called man the rational animal, but he also called him a political animal, and boy, wouldn't that be nice: a rational political animal!
Ha (the hollow and bitter kind).
Now, how is it that man is rational? For the moment we confine ourselves to some rational system or model, we thereby become irrational. I suppose this is another way of asking how it is that man always transcends himself.
In the essay we were discussing yesterday, Voegelin says that human existence
is not opaque to itself, but illuminated by the intellect (Aquinas) or nous (Aristotle).... In the exegesis of existence, intellect discovers itself in the structure of existence; ontologically speaking, human existence has noetic structure. The intellect discovers itself, furthermore, as a force transcending its own existence; by virtue of the intellect, existence not only is not opaque, but actually reaches out beyond itself in various directions in search of knowledge.
This is at once obvious and deeply mysterious -- that we possess such a (as Schuon puts it) "supernaturally natural" faculty of transcendence. In fact, if we do not transcend mere rationality, we cannot be rational. As Voegelin explains, while "human action is rational,"
that rationality hinges on the condition of an ultimate end. The indefinite regress from means to ends, which in their turn are means to further ends, must be cut short at some point by an ultimate end, by a summum bonum.
This limit or end
is the condition of rationality in action.... there would be no substantive rationality in any action, if the whole network of a man’s action could not be oriented toward a highest good from which such rationality radiates down to the single actions.
Not only would the nature of the Good be destroyed without a limiting good that is no means to a further end, but there would be no reason (nous) in the world at large....
So, here we see an implicit relationship between the denial of transcendence and destruction -- ultimately the destruction of man and of reason: of man the rational animal. And by extension the political animal, since his politics will be deeply irrational and destructive as well.
As to the ultimate end or reason of things, clearly it
is not to be found by ranging indefinitely over the field of existent things. But if it is not to be found in the field of existent things, where is it to be found? To this question, Intellect, by virtue of its reasoning power, will answer that it is to be found in something beyond the field of existent things...
This tension-toward-transcendence goes to the very structure of being, and we just have to accept the truth of this, regardless of how pleasant. Voegelin describes it on the one hand as "awareness of the fundamental structure of existence together with the willingness to accept it." But
Correspondingly, we shall define untruth of existence as a revolt against the condicio humana and the attempt to overlay its reality by the construction of a Second Reality.
Now, leaping ahead to the implications, I think we can broadly define mental illness as a lack of conformity between psyche and world or reality. But not so fast, because if a whole world has become sick, then conformity to it will be sick as well. A "well adjusted Nazi" is a poorly adjusted human being.
Let's look at a couple of graphs I yoinked from PowerLine. The first one shows a dramatic decline in religiosity -- combined with a significant increase in woowoo -- among Democrats:
It's rather difficult to believe that as recently as 1999, Democrats were nearly as religious as Republicans, but it's not hard to believe that 37% remain religious, considering what religion has been reduced to on the left, which is to say, another form of spiritual if not mental illness.
Given the alarming rates of mental illness on the left, their religiosity takes the form of either acting out or a cry for help. The woowoo is mainly just estrogen-fueled magic, AKA toxic femininity.
Speaking of irrationality and spiritual illness, the following chart is even more alarming:
It doesn't break the findings down by party, but if 61% of the population wants the government to regulate speech, we're done. Unless we somehow make a remarkable comeback, but mental illness tends to be intergenerational, so this is not something that can occur overnight, but would take decades to repair.
Which leads directly to the next subject, an essay by Christopher Rufo called the Cluster B Society. Maybe you should read the whole thing and we can discuss it tomorrow.
Back for a moment to Voegelin's essay on the difficulties of debate in our time. Putting him and Rufo together, it seems to me that the question is going to come down to: how is it possible to argue with a mentally ill person? As a former clinical psychologist, I can assure you that argument will get you nowhere. But you already knew this, because you no doubt have liberal friends and relatives.
"Rational argument," writes Voegelin, "presupposes the community of true existence." Otherwise, "debate" becomes
medical in character in that it has to diagnose the syndromes of untrue existence and by their noetic structure to initiate, if possible, a healing process.