Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Experience of Experience of the Mystery of Mystery

Or something. This book on Karl Rahner turned out to be a bit of a chore. Seems rather disjointed and repetitive, plus the attempt to translate English into English renders the prose hardly less annoying. I'll salvage what I can. 

This chapter -- Man in the Presence of Absolute Mystery -- begins with a meditation on the very meaning of the word "God." What if the word were stricken from the dictionary? For an atheist, I suppose nothing would be lost, since the word refers to nothing anyway.

But even then, it must refer to something, even if only to a universal subjective experience, since there is no language that doesn't have an equivalent term for the ultimate transcendent ground of reality. 

Either the word will disappear or it will survive as a question..., a question about the goal and meaning of life. 

This is why I came up with the idea of using a semantically unsaturated symbol (O) for what the word "God" represents to different people -- and the symbol (?!) for the spontaneous irruption of the Experience.

Problem is, if everyone has their own idiosyncratic meaning, then no communication is possible. Rahner seems to have similar concerns, so "instead of a concept," he

uses the phrase "holy mystery." He calls it the "term" of transcendence. Term is related to terminus, end, or goal. This term is both present in transcendence and as the way to transcendence. 

Which very much reminds me of Voegelin, since he too sees transcendence as a term or pole of the great In Between we inhabit -- more like an arrow pointing toward a reality we can never reach: human experience is between the poles of immanence and transcendence. Moreover, the QUESTION is Voegelin's term for 

the transcendental pole of truth as such: "not just any question but the quest concerning the mysterious ground of all being." 

Clearly there is mystery at both ends of the tension (ours and God's), and it seems to me that the majority of mid-to-lowbrow cultural activity is designed to deny the mystery, to make it go away, or to distract us from it. But there it is. It's not going anywhere. Indeed, Rahner refers to it as a permanent existential, and why not? It is "a part of who we are," but

The discovery of this experience itself is a mystery. The mystery is not reducible to what we can say about our transcendental knowledge. 

Ultimately, "the concept of God is not a concept we can grasp. It is, rather, what grasps us." It is always over the subjective horizon, while at the same time being the ground of subjectivity. 

It reminds me of the Big Bang, only on the inside, in that consciousness too forever expands and differentiates. But from what and into what? It's a mystery, but not the unintelligible kind, rather, the infinitely intelligible kind. Like an owl staring at the sun, there's not insufficient but too much Light.

That's me talking. Or at least the caffeine. What does Rahner say? 

transcendental experience allows us to know ourselves as finite beings -- finite beings who can transcend their finitude.

And -- me talking again -- it seems that experience as such is always transcendental. Which is why it is impossible to describe or define, since any description or definition presupposes experience. It seems that experience as such is a rock-bottom, permanent existential -- that it is a ceaselessly flowing Mystery, and that this is simultaneously the least and most we can say about it.

Geez, I hope I'm not turning all Germanic on you, but wading around down here at the bottom of subjectivity is tricky. Here is Voegelin's stab at defining EXPERIENCE: it is "a 'luminous perspective' within the process of reality." And EXISTENTIAL CONSCIOUSNESS is

the reflective self-awareness of human existence in the metaxy, i.e., between poles of immanence and transcendence, finitude and infinity, imperfection and perfection, and so on. See also "truth of existence." 

Okay, don't mind if I do. This latter is "transcendentally oriented conscious existence" and 

involves the experience of: (1) finiteness and creatureliness; (2) dissatisfaction with imperfection and a sense of transcendental perfection; (3) the luminosity or manifestness of such experience in consciousness; (4) the self-transcending tendency of consciousness seeking fullness of truth.

Sounds like a luminous movement toward perfect truth, goodness, and beauty, or something.

For Rahner, 

transcendental knowledge comes from a direct contemplation of the source of transcendence. We contemplate it and call it "God."  

The problem -- or temptation -- is that

by speaking of God, we might lose sight of what we mean. What we mean is the source of the experience of transcendence, the holy mystery. It might be obscured by the concept we use to express it. If we try to describe the source as "absolute being," we might settle for an abstraction, not the source itself.

Now, the Big Question is whether this post is getting anywhere, or if we're just going around in circles on some kind of wild nous chase. I can't answer that, but Rahner "proposes that we call the source of our original experience of transcendence the 'holy mystery,'" so as not to confuse it "with a stereotype, a myth, or a conventional image."

Certainly we can agree that "Anyone searching for God 'contained in' reality seeks a false God." But not so fast, because "Those searching for a God wholly other and distant will never know God or themselves" either.

So, it seems we can say a lot about God, but we can always say more: "that is why we acknowledge that God is infinite, indefinable, and ineffable." 

It's repetitive, but maybe it needs to be:

The experience of transcendence opens up to us the holy mystery. It is a "mystery" because we cannot fully fathom it.... Rather, holy mystery is what we encounter in the experience of transcendence. Transcendence moves us in freedom and love towards its goal.  

Which we never reach. For again, "We human beings are the tension"

between our categorical statements about God and the transcendental reality itself.... it is the experience of all people who know themselves as being constantly in a relationship with a mystery....

Instead of being an object we know, God is what allows any knowledge whatsoever to take place.

I'll buy that, but I'll tell you what: wouldn't it be nice if God himself could accommodate us and just incarnate as the Mystery or something? That would be a big help. Perhaps we'll tackle this subject in the next post. Or move on to a less annoying subject.

Friday, September 15, 2023

I Am the Question

The previous post ended with a description of our politico-cultural matrix, and the image comes to mind of a Roach Motel. If you're a roach, the best policy is to not venture in at all, because if you do, you're not coming out. 

You could say the motel is "designed to trap prey," but not really, because at least the predator has a use for the prey. Spiders don't catch insects just for the hell of it. Snakes only eat when they're hungry, which is only every week or two.

But it seems this Predator does enjoy trapping and toying with its prey just for the hell of it. I wonder what Uncle Screwtape would say? Not sure, but while looking it up I found this:

There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan (Lewis).

And this:

In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. 

So, the Motel is on the inside? And locks from the inside? Hell is

the outer rim where being fades away into nonentity.... the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end... the doors of hell are locked on the inside....  

Now, what does this have to do with the book I began reading yesterday, The Foundations of Karl Rahner: A Paraphrase of the Foundations of Christian Faith? Maybe we could start by asking why the human head is such a battleground, with claims and counterclaims.  

For Rahner, human beings are the "universal question." This being the case, I suppose there will always be bad, superficial, partial, and dysfunctional answers. The deeper point is that our unlimited questioning implies our own unlimitedness, i.e., transcendence:

we, in the very act of reflecting on our limitations, overcome those limitations.... We know ourselves as capable of knowing more, of transcending what had limited us before. This experience of transcendence provides an indirect knowledge of God... 

This is very much reminiscent of Voegelin, in that we are always situated between the poles of immanence and transcendence, and that's just the way it is: "the human being is open by nature," which is the key to transcendence:

We know ourselves as capable of knowing more. That is the essence of transcendental experience.

In realizing this, God is implicitly present: 

present as mystery, as the absolute and incomprehensible source of all that is. What we know, in knowing anything, is that our knowledge is a small vessel in a vast sea of mystery.


this is what makes us human. We have been created with the ability to encounter the transcendent God in the experiences of daily life.

Or not, which I suppose goes to the battlefield alluded to above. Which further implies that the real battle is between openness-to-transcendence vs. enclosed-in-immanence, no matter what form it takes. Could it be this simple? Or is it simpler?

As persons we are hearers, and

Hearers recognize that they are limited. But in that very recognition, they begin to imagine how they might surpass their limits. That is the first step to actually transcending them.

This will become clearer as we proceed, but this ability to hear is key, for

the philosophy that presumes that the human being is able to hear is not absolutely free of theology. In fact, it is implicit theology.

I would go so far as to say that human personhood presupposes God, for the human being

is capable of transcendence, responsibility, freedom, honesty, and openness to mystery. The Christian message presupposes that its hearers are people with these capacities -- in a word, are persons.

However, there is always the temptation to forgo the mystery in favor of something less, "to shift responsibility for their choices to something else -- to history, let us say, or to nature." Nevertheless, persons qua persons are always "more than what a mechanistic anthropology says we are":

The sciences tempt us to think that we can fully explain ourselves. But this is illusory. Transcendental experience suggests that I myself encompass every effort by science to explain me. The person transcends all attempts to reduce him or her to a system or to full comprehension. 

 So, lead us not into temptation, especially that one.

It's all very Gödelian, for again, "By reflecting on our limits, we begin to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and to transcend our limits" -- a bit like reversing figure and ground. We have plenty of answers, but they never provide a complete answer to the Question we are. Sorry for the repetition, but maybe you didn't hear it the first time:

Whenever a person affirms the possibility that he or she can question things, even in a finite way, that person surpasses the finitude. Why? Because the horizon of finitude is always receding as one discovers more. And as the person experiences that horizon receding, the person experiences himself or herself as spirit. One is spirit whenever one acknowledges one's limits. In that acknowledgement, one has already surpassed the limits...

On the other hand -- again, going to the battle -- 

one can dully and unimaginatively "accept" one's existence without curiosity. This happens when we acknowledge that existence poses a question, but nevertheless refuse to pursue it.  

But just because you are not interested in the battle, it hardly means the battle isn't interested in you: "we are ourselves limited. But in our limits, we are connected to what is absolute," and "We transcend what we are by being open to to what being offers."

one can try to to evade responsibility and pretend that one is merely a product of forces outside oneself. But that is a lie. 

Now, just "Who is the other who enables us to transcend ourselves? We call that other the ineffable mystery." I call it O, but that's the end of chapter one. Tomorrow we'll delve into chapter two, Man in the Presence of Absolute Mystery. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Horizontal Absurcularity in the Matrix of the Predator

As mentioned in yesterday's post, if the human subject is a miraculous gate opened up in the middle of creation, then so too is the object. We often speak of the irreducible intersubjectivity of human beings, but in Thomist metaphysics there is also a kind of "inter-objectivity" that renders knowledge possible.

That is to say, objects have a kind of dual existence outside and inside our heads. The latter is not the former, but nor is it not the former; specifically, "a thing is the object of the soul in a double way," and "knowledge takes place in the degree in which the thing known is in the knower" (Thomas). 

it is evident that extra-mental realities cannot be in the mind of the knowing subject per se, but they can be there by representation (Garrigou-Lagrange).

In other words, something of the object exists simultaneously in both the object known and in the intellect that knows, AKA the intelligible essence. If not, then to hell with it: there is no knowledge of reality, rather, just an ephemeral dream of a transient hallucination.

Again, "Objectivity is none other than the truth, in which the subject and object coincide" (Schuon). If ideas just relate to other ideas and not to intelligible reality, then Kant is correct: man "is imprisoned in his subjectivity" and "has no way to know if these things have objective existence or not" (Bina & Ziarani). 

Now in reality, it is precisely because of the intellect 

that man can recognize the truth independently of his own subjectivity. The very fact that men communicate with one another, and understand each other, is indicative of common, universal truths, to which all men have access (ibid.). 

This is not to say that man does not enclose himself in matrices of pure subjectivism and relativism: for obviously there are "Those who seek to enclose the Universe within their shortsighted logic" and who fail to understand "that the sum of possible phenomenal knowledge is inexhaustible":

In all this wish to accumulate knowledge of relative things, the metaphysical dimension -- which alone takes us out of the vicious circle of the phenomenal and the absurd -- is expressly put aside; it is as if a man were endowed with with all possible faculties of perception minus intelligence (Schuon).  

It is as if we place arbitrary limits on the limitless, and "Outside its self-imposed but unrecognized limits," intelligence "remains more ignorant than the most rudimentary magic":

One tries to explain "horizontally" that which is explainable only "in a vertical sense".... Such a science is assuredly cut to the measure of modern man who conceived it and who is at the same time its product (ibid.). 


Really, it's just Genesis 3 All Over Again: "The world becomes increasingly a system of stage-settings" while "imposing upon it an unshakeable conviction that all this is 'reality' and that there is no other." 

A note to myself in the margin says THE MATRIX, and just this morning I read a good description of how it works these days -- and it seems to be working better than ever. The author says that sometimes

I can see it all around me: the grid. The veins and sinews of the Machine that surrounds us and pins us and provides for us and defines us now. I imagine a kind of network of shining lines in the air, glowing like a dewed spiderweb in the morning sun. I imagine the cables and the satellite links, the films and the words and the records and the opinions, the nodes and the data centres that track and record the details of my life....  
I see this thing, whatever it is, being constructed, or constructing itself around me, I see it rising and tightening its grip, and I see that none of us can stop it from evolving into whatever it is becoming. 
I see the Machine, humming gently to itself as it binds us with its offerings, as it dangles its promises before us and slowly, slowly, slowly reels us in. I think of the part of it we interact with daily, the glowing white interface through which we volunteer every detail of our lives in exchange for information or pleasure or stories told by global entertainment corporations who commodify our culture and sell it back to us. I think of the words we use to describe this interface, which we carry with us in our pockets wherever we go, as we are tracked down every street and into every forest that remains: the web; the net.

I think: These are things designed to trap prey. 

Same: I see it too, and where there is prey, then surely there is a predator. To be continued...

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Objectivity and Intersubjectivity

Some excerpts from (and comments on) a somewhat One Cosmos-ish article called The Natural Path to the Transcendent, by George Stanciu:

The great discovery of ethology is that animals do not perceive what things really are; an animal’s perception is limited to a few key elements that will cause it to act.... An animal’s world is not the world we see but more closely resembles “a small, poorly furnished room.”

Other animals essentially live in their neurology, which provides only a kind of crude model projected onto the world. One might say that their engagement with the world is on a need-to-know basis. 

Frogs, for example, don't even need to know about insects per se, but only "small moving objects." The frog "will starve to death surrounded by food if it is not moving. His choice of food is determined only by size and movement." 

How did -- and do -- human beings escape from this representational sub-world? Of course, Kant maintained that we do not and cannot. Rather, just like any other animal, we exist in our own projected categories. They may be more subtle or sophisticated, but we are ultimately no more in touch with reality -- itself unknowable -- than any other animal.

Well, first of all, like anyone could even know that:

If man is subjective and has no way of knowing anything objectively, then how did Kant come to know that man lives in his own subjectivity and is confined to it? In other words, how can a man imprisoned in his own subjectivity proclaim an objective truth about everyone, including himself? (Bina & Ziarani)

As Schuon rightly says, 

The first ascertainment which should impose itself upon man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of that miracle that is intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- and consequently the incommensurability between these and material objects, be it a question of a grain of sand or of the sun, or of any creature whatever as an object of the senses.

But the second -- or maybe even tied with the first -- would be the miracle that is objectivity, which is to say, the conformity of our own intelligence to the objects of the world.   

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity.... The intelligence is objective to the extent that it registers that which is.

Objectivity is none other than the truth, in which the subject and object coincide... (ibid.).

Back to Stanciu: 

Of all the natural creatures, only human beings can grasp the whole. The study of animal perception re-discovered the spiritual nature of Homo sapiens -- the capacity to be connected to all that is, a fundamental principle of every wisdom tradition.

Also true, but by virtue of what principle? For Schuon,

God has opened a gate in the middle of creation, and this open gate of the world towards God is man... 

Agreed, but how did and does the gate open? Stanciu affirms the One Cosmos view that it has to do with the unique conditions of earliest childhood: 

as the human infant emerges from the womb, it looks for a human face and listens for a soprano voice. Nature directs the infant to seek its mother. The very first experience in a person’s life is connecting himself or herself to another person.

In short, it is precisely our neurological immaturity that becomes the means of induction into the world of intersubjectivity and relatedness to others, eventually mediated by language:

Without language, without others to learn language from, the mental capacities that Ms. Helen Keller, you, and I were born with would not have developed, and our lives would not have been much higher than that of a chimpanzee or a bonobo.

Being subjectively "open systems" is precisely what lifts us out of the condition of being trapped and confined to our own subjective perceptions, which is the fate of other animals. 

But even then, it is possible to reify our own subjectivity and confuse the particular with the universal, which goes to the problem of mind parasites: 

The curse of social living is that every society implants ideas and instills habits of thinking and feeling that limit its members to a particular perspective, one that, as a general rule, is contrary to human nature and destructive to neighboring societies. The paradox is that social living greatly extends our capabilities and yet limits us.

Which is why "Homo sapiens is the only species that can act contrary to its nature." 

Running low on time, but this vertical enclosure is a Big Problem, and it is symbolized by the timeless events of Genesis 3, whereby man foregoes relationship with God in favor of sealing himself in his own pseudo-absoluteness. Is there a way up and out? Yes, but only one assoul at a time:

Of course, the unborn within me, my true self, was a complete mystery, so after stumbling around for years exploring Hinduism and Buddhism, I turned to the deepest understanding of the human person that Christianity offers.

To be continued... 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The World, the Adversary, and the Divine Presence

Unlike artificial intelligence, human intelligence is and must be aware of its limits, on pain of enclosing itself in unintelligence -- or in an intelligent stupidity. Not only is the history of philosophy a history of models of reality, so too is each and every person such a model. 

I suppose the average person has an implicit model composed of fragments and contingencies that one more or less tries to force reality to be; but reality is what it is prior to our thinking about it.

The Existential Climate Emergency is an example of a model that wants to be the reality. And for some reason, people want to be terrified by this model. Indeed, those of us who aren't terrified are lying dog-faced pony soldiers. 

Now, no doubt life itself -- at least in the human mode -- is an unending Emergency. People talk about "identity crises, "midlife crises," and "existential crises," which are somewhat beside the point in the face of the Crisis. 

What is this crisis? Here again, there are as many ways to symbolize it as there are people. Most people don't think it through to the foundation, for which reason a variety of retail crises are available to purchase off the rack, as it were. Higher education, for example, has become little more than the internalization of various crises, which again symbolize and conceal the crisis.  

For example, adolescence is always a crisis, the crisis of the loss of childhood and the uncertainty of what it means to be an adult. Back when I was an adolescent I assumed that attainment of adulthood would end the crisis, but it just replaces one with another.  

Come to think of it, I also assumed that acquisition of a Ph.D. would end the crisis of epistemology -- or, in the parlance of the times, of being an idiot, and I suppose it worked for at least a couple of weeks before I came to my senses and realized the models weren't the reality. 

It was around that same time that I was in my phase of peak leftism, which again allows one to project and externalize one's existential crisis into those various off-the-rack concerns alluded to above, from structural racism to nuclear power to American imperialism, et al. 

You can deny a lot of personal problems by pretending that we're all gonna die from, say, a nuclear power plant meltdown. I suppose you had to be there, but the hysteria worked, since it resulted in the abolition of nuclear power in California. Apparently there's one plant left, scheduled to be shut down in 2025

And yet, people are no happier, since one crisis is just replaced by another (and the "solution" to one crisis often causes the next one). Similarly, the moment homosexuals are allowed to marry, we find ourselves in a crisis of "transphobia." 

Along these lines, Schuon writes that 

Serenity is to keep oneself so to speak above the clouds, in the calm and coolness of emptiness and far from the dissonances of this lower world; it is never to allow the soul to immerse itself in impasses of disturbances, bitterness, or secret revolt....

The man who is conscious of the nature of pure Being willingly remains in the moment that Heaven has assigned to him; he is not feverishly straining towards the future nor does he dwell lovingly or sadly over the past. The pure present is the moment of the Absolute: it is now -- neither yesterday nor tomorrow -- that we stand before God.

In the same book (Echoes of Perennial Wisdom) he writes that

The habitual dream of the ordinary man lives on the past and future; his heart hangs, as it were, over the past and is carried away by the future at one and the same time, instead of resting in Being.

This is not what you would call practical or pragmatic advice, but then again, the most important truths are for their own sake, not for the sake of any lesser end. It seems that the implicit motivation for all those Practical Concerns is to finally abide in Being. Is it possible to bypass the middle man and proceed straight to Being? Asking for a friend.

Whatever may be the phenomena and whatever their causes, there is always That Which Is; and That Which Is, is beyond the world of tumult, contradictions, and disappointments.... Nothing can tarnish It, and no one can take it from us.... the accidents pass, the Substance remains (ibid.).

Sounds good! Where do we sign up? 

Let the world be what it is and take refuge in Truth, Peace, and Beauty, wherein is neither doubt nor any blemish.

Easier said than done?

there is in every man a tendency to attach too much to this or that element of passing life or to worry about it too much, and the adversary takes advantage of this in order to cause troubles for us.

Probably to understand the nature of this adversary is to stop externalizing him into all those myths provided by the world to explain and justify our unhappiness. Rather, it is necessary to 

not allow ourselves to be excessively troubled by the things of the world, seeing that dissonances cannot but exist, the world being what it is.  

Life would be great if it weren't for... the world.   

Now, the world -- our world, anyway -- is person, time, and place; I mean everybody has to be someone somewhere at some time. 

On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to being what one is, and on the other hand one has to become a place of the Divine Presence....

On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to being where one is, and on the other hand, one has to turn this place into a center through the remembrance of God....

On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to living in the moment in which one lives, and on the other hand one has to turn this moment into an Eternal Present, which every present moment becomes through the Remembrance of God... 

So, we got that going for us.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Being, Reality, Absoluteness, and Other Truths that Matter

I'll keep repeating it as long as Davila keeps saying it:

In each moment, each person is capable of possessing the truths that matter.

Each person is also capable of feeling puzzled by all the ins & outs and what-have-yous that must be integrated and woven into the cosmic area rug. Maybe it's just the stress talking, but sometimes the mind is not limber and the plan is too complicated. We're suddenly out of our element and lose our train of thought. There is no frame of reference. 

When this happens to me, I go back to basics -- to the truths that matter to which the Aphorist alludes. What are they? 

We touched on the subject yesterday, but only very lightly. We need a plan -- not a complicated one, because something always goes wrong with one of those. Rather, one that is beautiful in its simplicity, like a Swiss philosopher.

Schuon's simplest book is called Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, consisting of short passages, often a single sentence. I wouldn't say they're aphorisms, since their more blunt, nor do they twist the knife, as do so many of Davila's wise cracks. For example, here is the first one:

The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute.

Of course, this has a lot of missing context and implications that the reader must bring to the table. Davila may convey the same idea, but more in the form of a guffah-HA! experience -- for example, 

Each one sees in the world only what he deserves to see.


The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment. 


We conservatives provide idiots the pleasure of feeling like they are daring avant-garde thinkers.

I suppose the Absolute is literally the simplest idea -- as is God, who is "absolute simplicity, which consists of all perfections eminently in harmony" (Garrogou-Lagrange). We are able to participate in these perfections, even if we can never be them. 

A few posts back we were discussing Beyond Being, about which G-L has this to say: the Deity is 

above being (super-being)..., as it is the Thought of Thought and the subsisting love of the Supreme Good.


From this it follows that the Deity as such is naturally unknowable and consequently ineffable. 

Nevertheless, we can know at least that much, which is far from nothing. We know that O is and must be, and that we are not O. We can deny the Absolute, but "Error cannot descend lower." Nevertheless, fallen man never stops trying to fall further.

The very last section of this massive tome is entitled Conclusion: the true God or radical absurdity. As in change my mind: "We must choose one of the two: either the ineffable essence," 

or else the universal confusion and destruction of all forms of truth and goodness in an absurd identification with error and evil.

Is it really that simple? The short answer is Yes, although it takes G-L 900 pages to explain why. But deny the Absolute, and "the words 'integrity' and 'lying' no longer have any precise significance. There are no longer any lies, but merely successive opinions." Truly truly, everything is just your opinion, man.

But here's the deal: "The supreme Cause is more knowable and intelligible in itself than all other causes." Likewise, "Matter of itself is obscure, God is light; time is more obscure than eternity." 

These are all implications of the simple affirmation that The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute.

This is why it is impossible to engage in honest debate with someone who denies the Absolute, because such a person has made an absolute of the constricted matrix in which he dwells. As Voegelin describes it, "Rational debate" cannot prevail

because the partner to the discussion [does] not accept as binding for himself the matrix of reality in which all specific questions concerning our existence as human beings are ultimately rooted; he has overlaid the reality of existence with another mode of existence.

AKA a Second Reality, such that 

behind the appearance of rational debate there [lurks] the difference of two modes of existence, of existence in truth and existence in untruth. The universe of rational discourse collapses, we may say, when the common ground of existence in reality has disappeared....

"In more gloomy moments" -- such as the moment we are collectively living through -- this corrosive force "may look strong enough to extinguish our civilization -- unless of course you are an ideologist yourself and identify civilization with the victory of Second Reality."

In which case, things are going just great

About the collapse of reality, let's switch seers to a very compact book called Philosophy of Science in the Light of the Perennial Wisdom that asks, "how do we know if anything is true?"

before we can begin to look for a criterion of truth, we have to ascertain that there is such a thing as truth. Now, unless one accepts that there is indeed such a thing as truth, nothing holds: remove truth and everything collapses.

Well, not if I have anything to say about it, for even to say "I do not know" is "to imply that I know one thing is true and that is precisely the fact that 'I do not know.'" 


To say there is such a thing as truth is to speak in absolute terms. The notions of "being," "reality," "truth," and "absoluteness" are thus intrinsically interrelated. Reason cannot prove them; on the contrary, it takes them for granted, that is to say, it cannot function in their absence.

To be continued.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

A Map of the Bewilderness and God for the Perplexed

Scholastic Thomism, neo-scholastic Thomism, existential Thomism, analytical Thomism, phenomenological Thomism, transcendental Thomism, ressourcement Thomism, Cracow Circle Thomism, River Forest Thomism... 

Sometimes things just get too complicated for the simple trailer Thomist. Just when I think I've found a congenial precursor -- Rahner -- come to find out he's already yesterday's nous. In a book I read yesterday called Principles of Catholic Theology, White tells me I'm fifty years behind the times:

The theological anthropology of Karl Rahner that greatly influenced the life of the Church in the 1970s presumed a kind of normative modern European intellectual consensus in the academy and the Church that no longer exists today. 

He claims that this consensus "has perished in the flames of postmodernism," but then again, what hasn't? Postmodernism is the fire it pretends to extinguish, the pneumatological disease it pretends to cure. If it doesn't come straight from hell, nothing does. It is the Voice of the Abyss, a universal acid, and not the good kind.

Both this book and the one mentioned in the previous post give far too much weight to contemporary approaches to philosophy, when philosophy as such should be absolutely impervious to such trends and fashions. Harumph.  

White also cites "the rise of analytic philosophy and the return of scientific positivism," as if these have anything to do with the perennial philosophy, timeless truth, and irony-clad wisdom of the Raccoon. 

I see that Edward Feser has a  series of posts breaking it all down, but not simply enough for the trailer Thomist. 

Far from being liberated by postmodernity, White goes on to say that today's students

suffer acutely from the lack of any normative philosophical orientation or basic unified intellectual formation at all. Typically they are offered no unifying account of reality that spans across the diversity of their intellectual disciplines. And indeed, where could they procure one?

Besides here at One Cosmos? 

Students often long for some way to make sense of the unity of philosophical experience, so as to see how the world might have some analyzable, overarching meaning.

Do they? Harumph. Besides, who cares what students think? Isn't their very purpose in life to STFU and listen? 

We can begin by stipulating that there is One Cosmos, which bats away a host of contenders for the One Philosophy, since the latter (philosophy) must be ordered to the former (cosmos). I'm a simple man, so I begin with O and (¶), the rest being commentary.

Simple but not simplistic, for the space between intelligence and intelligibility is an infinitely evolving one; O is Absolute Being, while (¶) is the transcendental subject, and between them the party never stops. We exist in the tension between immanence and transcendence, or time and eternity, and that's just the way it is. Voegelin:

Eternal being realizes itself in time.

So there. Nor does eternal being "wait for philosophy in order to realize itself," since it never stops happening. History itself "is the process in which eternal being realizes itself in time." 

The locus of this realization is the philosopher, the "lover of wisdom" who "opens his soul to its irruption." 

There is no philosophy without philosophers, namely without men whose soul responds to eternal being.

All those other guys? Not philosophers. And all those other philosophies? Not philosophy.  

Harumph. Details to follow...

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