Monday, July 22, 2024

God or Absurdity

Before getting to the crux of the master, I want to highlight a few more passages from Rebecca Goldstein's Incompleteness

On the one hand, I don't understand why more people don't appreciate Gödel. Then again, if a person or idea isn't helpful to the Matrix, the Matrix is adept at marginalizing or excluding them. There's a reason why logic and economics aren't mandatory in state run schools.  

As alluded to in our previous offering, postmodern proglodytes don't mind the Theorems so long as they can twist them to their own absurd ends, i.e., that there is no truth and man can't know it, which ends in power being the arbiter of truth. 

However, the existence of math alone proves that some truths are a priori. About these, Goldstein observes that

the mathematician neither resorts to any observations in arriving at his or her mathematical insights nor do these mathematical insights, in and of themselves, entail observations, so that nothing we experience can undermine the grounds we have for knowing them (emphasis mine).

Regarding the italicized passage, wouldn't it be nice if we could say the same of our ultimate theory, or of our theory of the Ultimate? 

Indeed, wouldn't it be nice if we were entitled to such an explanation? I don't mean this in any presumptuous way, rather, in the same way mouths are entitled to food, lungs to air, or male to female. 

Likewise, the intellect is entitled to truth, hence, the only philosophy worthy of man is a common sense realism that presumes the intelligibility of extra-mental being to our intellect. 

Which implies we have a God-given right to reject relativism, subjectivism, materialism, scientism, progressivism, or any other ontologically closed sub-reality.

Along these lines, a few more quick hits from Incompleteness which go to those perennial truths to which we say man is entitled. 

And by the way, when we say "entitled," perhaps we should emphasize that this only functions if it is complementary to a deep and abiding humility and even gratitude. Put conversely, deprived of its complementary aspect, our entitlement becomes a cosmically dysfunctional pride and presumption, as colorfully depicted in the events of Genesis 3.

On to the quick hits:

--Mathematicians carry all their gear in their craniums, which is another way of saying that mathematics is a priori.

--Once proved, a theorem is immune from empirical revision. 

--Gödel's conclusions are mathematical theorems that manage to escape mathematics. They speak from both inside and outside mathematics.... Our minds, in knowing mathematics, are escaping the limitations of man-made systems, grasping the independent truths of abstract reality.

--They [the theorems] are at once mathematical and metamathematical.... It is as if someone painted... a landscape or portrait that represents the general nature of beauty. 

--It is extraordinary that a mathematical result should have anything at all to say about the nature of mathematical truth in general.... mathematical reality must exceed all formal attempts to contain it (emphasis mine).

As to the latter, it is indeed extraordinary that mere quantity should reveal so much about qualities that transcend it.

But how does the seemingly closed system of math escape its own logic and break its own rules? How can 1 + 1 = 3? Or, how does a material cosmos loop around itself in the form of living systems? How does existence turn itself inside out and become experienceHow does subjective experience make another loop and begin reflecting upon itself? 

How is it that the Loop is not a closed circle but an open spiral? This might be the Question of questions, ultimately coming down to whether the cosmos itself is an open or closed system.

Shifting gears back to the perennial truths of metaphysics, in an essay called Esoterism and Tradition, Laude writes that religious tradition may provide "the best possible approximation on the terrestrial level of a conformity to Reality," even if it begins to fray at the "human margin." 

This is because tradition as such involves the attempt to clothe the formless in form. God is -- by definition -- supraformal, but is, in the absence of a terrestrial form, literally unthinkable. Thus,

the form is and is not the essence. The form prolongs the essence but it may also veil it. The essence transcends the form but it also manifests itself through it.

It seems that this is precisely the dilemma Gödel resolves vis-a-vis the theorems. For just as no formal system exhausts reality, "the Divine Essence... transcends all determinations" (Laude). Thus, 

We could say, simplifying a little, that exoterism puts the form -- the credo -- above the essence -- Universal Truth -- and accepts the latter only as a function of the former; the form, through its divine origin, is here the criterion of the essence (ibid.).

For Schuon, 

Esoterism, on the contrary, puts the essence above the form and only accepts the latter as a function of the former; for esoterism... the essence is the criterion of form; the one and Universal Truth is the criterion of the various religious forms of the Truth.

Now, "Inconsistent systems are of course complete, because we can prove anything at all in them. They're overcomplete" (Goldstein). They simultaneously explain too much and not enough -- or rather, it is precisely in explaining too much that they paradoxically fall short of a complete explanation.

I cited several examples of this phenomenon in a previous post -- Marx, Freud, and Darwin, for example, in explaining everything, end up explaining nothing. But this is what any ideology does: it superimposes a limiting framework on reality, thus confining what is to what the ideology permits us to see (and prevents us from seeing). 

Now, if Genesis 3 teaches us anything, it is that man is always tempted to reject transcendent truth in favor of a pride-driven, closed system of idea-olatry. But

no validation of our rationality -- of our very sanity -- can be accomplished using our rationality itself (Goldstein).

Thus, there exist millions of people who are sane from within their ideological system, but only insane from outside it. It's not quite correct to say that such ideologues can't be reasoned with. Rather, they can only be reasoned with -- in the manner described by Chesterton in Orthodoxy:

The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

Similarly, Goldstein writes that "Paranoia isn't the abandonment of rationality. Rather, it is rationality run amuck, the inventive search for explanations turned relentless." Such a person is "irrationally rational," characterized by "logic run wild."

More cosmic Orthodoxy via Chesterton:

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.... The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

Chesterton makes some additional observations that prefigure Gödel:

the strongest and most unmistakeable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic's theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way....

His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cog-wheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world (emphasis mine).

One more important observation:

As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.

The normal man "has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet he sees all the better for that."

Note that this stereoscopy isn't so much horizontal as vertical: it requires the recognition of a hierarchy of levels. To reduce the hierarchy to a single level is to guarantee inconsistency and ultimately absurdity. To appreciate hierarchy is to situate things in their proper place. 

Contrast this with the ideologue, the man of system, the progressive lunatic. As Goldstein says, "Anything at all can be deduced within an inconsistent system, since from a contradiction any proposition can be derived." 

Where does this leave us this morning? With a binary choice: the cosmos is either open to something transcending it, or closed within itself. But if it is closed, it can't be. In other words, its presumed completeness will always generate inconsistency. Which is another way of saying God or absurdity.

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Christ is Adequate Enough For Me

Continuing with yesterday's post, substance is defined as the underlying reality of a thing -- what it really is -- apart from its local accidents. This substantial reality is not something that can ever be perceived by the senses, rather, only by the intellect:

Substance as such is not visible to the bodily eye, nor does it come under any one of the senses, nor under the imagination, but solely under the intellect, whose object is what a thing is (Renard).

We can perceive accidents -- for example, that this person is missing a limb or that that one has red hair. But these do not alter the substantial reality of the person in question. After all, a redhead is still a human being, as is even an assoul member of the bald community.

As an asnide, you can appreciate at once why identity politics is such a diabolical inversion, since it disregards substance altogether and elevates accidents -- e.g., race, class, and gender -- to a kind of pseudo-substance, as if one is defined by one's accidents. 

Note that in at least one context they do get it right -- for example, that a disabled person is not defined by his accidental disability: a man in a wheelchair is still a man. As is a fetus, but don't go there.

Now, yesterday we were wondering if conventional religiosity is a form of the substance of religion, this substance ultimately being God-in-himself. 

God is the only truly substantial reality, the restavus being only analogously so. As Renard explains, "only the substance of God is its own 'to be' and its 'to act,'" while we are always an admixture of substance and accident (there are no accidents in God, or so we have heard from the wise).

As it so happens. Schuon has a book called Form and Substance in the Religions, in which he seeks to enunciate universal truths "for which traditional... expressions serve as vestments," these vestments ultimately being accidental in relation to the substance. 

More generally, "there is inevitably a separation between the thing to be expressed and its expression." For example, the word "God" expresses what is most obviously beyond expression, thus the distinction "between reality and doctrine." 

Thus, "It is always possible to fault an" otherwise perfectly "adequate doctrine for being inadequate, since no doctrine can be identified with what it intends to express."

If the expression of a thing could be adequate or exhaustive in an absolute sense or from every point of view... there would no longer be any difference between the image and its prototype...

We are the image of God, but obviously not God, the events of Genesis 3 notwithstanding, for they depict a usurpation of what is proper to God alone, precisely. 

In reality, 

the role of doctrinal thought is to provide a set of points of reference which, by definition, are more or less elliptical while being sufficient to evoke a mental perception of specific aspects of the real. 

Having said that, some doctrines are inevitably going to be more or less adequate then others, this being "a matter of intellectual capacity, good will, and grace."

Cards on the table: I, of course, regard orthodox Christianity as being the most adequate doctrine, i.e., the form that most adequately maps the substance of God, even though any doctrinal form is ultimately inadequate to this task, as testified by mystics from all times and places, for example, Aquinas, whose doctrine is more than adequate to get the job done, and yet, "so much straw" in the face of the experience of the inexpressible Substance itself.

Schuon would be the last to minimize or disregard a "doctrine of the Absolute which, taken as a whole, is adequate." He especially highlights the role of beauty -- of sacred art -- through which the presence of God is made manifest. Indeed, one can judge the adequacy of a doctrine by its capacity to produce such art. 

You will have noticed that Scientologists, for example, have yet to produce any great art -- not even the novels of L. Ron Hubbard himself! Not only is their doctrine inadequate -- to put it mildly -- but so to is their art, such as it is.

"Every religion has a form and a substance," but again, "Substance possesses every right," being that "it derives from the Absolute." Conversely, even the most adequate form "is relative," so its "its rights are therefore limited." 

In a manner of speaking, since some forms are revealed by God himself, in order to serve as adequate expressions of what by definition must transcend them. 

But "In no wise" does this "prove that a given religious message is false," only that the form can never be the substance, just as, say, this or that circle cannot exhaust the possibilities of circularity as such. Every local circle is a more or less adequate expression of the nonlocal geometrical form of the circle.

So if we are on the right track, exoterism goes to the exterior form, while esoterism goes to the interior substance beneath, behind, or above the form, or to the supra-formal essence expressed via the existential form.

Having said all this, what is the Incarnation but the perfectly adequate expression of the substantial reality of God? This is the central claim of Christianity, and why not?

And it seems that this is further grounded in the reality of the Trinity, whereby the Son is the eternally perfect expression of the Father. And given the Incarnation, the whole point, I suppose, is that we are given the once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in this perfect expression of the Father. 

That's about as far as I've gotten this morning. But somewhere Schuon says something to effect that Christianity is an esoterism masquerading as an exoterism. Works for me, but there is, of course, much more to say, for, in the words of the Aphorist,

Christ is the truth. What is said about him are mere approximations to the truth.

More mere approximations and attempted adequations to follow.

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Exoterism is to Esoterism as Form is to Substance?

I wonder if determinate existence is to Essential Being as formal truth is to transcendental truth. The wondering was provoked by the following passage in The Philosophy of Being: "the search for Truth is a constant process," and

much of the knowledge thus obtained can be classified and organized into unified bodies which we call "science"; but each field of science has its own limitations, and at best can give us only a portion of truth (Renard). 

Now, according to Gödel, any formal system is going to contain axioms or assumptions that cannot be justified by the system, rather, "there will always be at least one true but unprovable statement," says Prof. Wiki. 

I don't whether Gödel would approve my liberal use of his theorems on non-mathematical systems, but it seems self-evident to me that they apply to them as well. Of course, I could be missing something, but I can't think of a single ideology or philosophy that doesn't begin with some indefensible claim or assumption. 

Except for ours, i.e., that Being Is. There are no assumptions there, only entailments. The only thing we suppose is reality, and the rest follows. The question is,

Can man know reality; does his knowledge correspond faithfully to the things that are; are objects of his knowledge what he thinks they are?

To answer in the negative is "to deny the possibility of philosophizing, of thinking, or of living." Therefore, supposing you are engaged in any one of these three, then you are affirming a philosophy of being -- that being is intelligible. To repeat:

This truth is so obvious that it cannot be demonstrated, and so necessary that it cannot be denied without the shipwreck of all knowledge (ibid.).

Back to Gödel, I wonder if his incompleteness theorems -- or at least something like them -- go to the differences between exoteric and esoteric religion? For the former is to the latter as form is to substance. In other words, every form represents a kind of limitation on the act of pure being, the latter transcending any such constraint.

For me, this solves a whole lotta problems, e.g., the inevitable inconsistencies, aporias, and fissures that result from the rigid application of any formal exoteric or dogmatic religious system.    

As we know, the theorems mandate that any system can be complete or consistent, but not both; completeness is purchased at the price of consistency, and vice versa. According to Prof. Wiki,

The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of natural numbers. For any such consistent formal system, there will always be statements about natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system.

The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.

Here again, this strikes the Raccoon as self-evident -- that no one outside of God could be wholly complete and consistent. 

Physics, for example, is rigorously consistent but obviously incomplete, helpless as it is to explain (for example) the consciousness of the physicist, let alone the conformity of mind to being. To paraphrase Einstien, the most incomprehensible thing about reality is its durn comprehensibility.

Most religions take a stab at completeness, but if one pushes the doctrine too far, it will reveal inevitable inconsistencies. 

But any incompleteness is down to our not being God. Somewhere Schuon has an illuminating comment about this, or at least a plausible alibi. That is to say, on the one hand,

only sapiential esoterism, total and universal -- not partial and formalistic -- can satisfy every legitimate need for logical explanations.... it alone can answer all the questions raised by religious divergences and limitations.

Nevertheless, there are inevitable limits to the expressible, and

it is no one's fault if within every enunciation of this kind there remain unanswerable questions, at least in respect of a given need for logical explanation and on the plane of dialectic.

For, just as no form can exhaust the formless, "it is all too evident that wisdom cannot start from the intention of expressing the ineffable." 

Thus, wisdom can never be complete, but it is certainly more complete than any profane knowledge, reason, information, or fact. There's an incompleteness built into the nature of things, at least on this side of the rug, if only because isn't that side.

In the book Incompleteness, one of Goldstein's main objectives is to correct the common misconception that the theorems forever seal us in a closed world of subjectivity, cut off from reality. 

She compares this misconstrual to the common misunderstanding of Einstein's theory of relativity, which is actually a theory of absoluteness. Yes, motion is relative, but to an absolute: the speed of light. Nevertheless, many folks apparently take it to mean that "everything is relative" or something.

Likewise, a common postmodern misinterpretation of the Theorems maintains that

the very notion of the objectively true is a socially constructed myth. Our knowing minds are not embedded in truth. Rather the entire notion of truth is embedded in our minds.... Epistemology is nothing more than the sociology of power. 

And we all know where this leads: to Foucault and other metacosmic perverts and inverts. Could Gödel actually be an unwitting oddfather of these progressive oddballs? Maybe, for as Goldstein explains,

Gödel's theorems don't demonstrate the limits of the human mind, but rather, the limits of computational models of the human mind (basically, models that reduce all thinking to rule following).

Along these lines, just for some transcendental fun I re-skimmed meta-biologist Robert Rosen's Life Itself, wherein he suggests that

The celebrated Incompleteness Theorem of Gödel effectively demolished the formalist program. Basically, he showed that, no matter how one tries to formalize a particular part of mathematics, syntactic truth in the formalization does not coincide with (is narrower than) the set of truths about numbers.

In short, semantics -- i.e., meaning -- cannot in principle be reduced to syntax -- i.e., to order. This is Important, for it means that "no finite set of numerical qualities"

exhausts the set of of all numerical qualities. There is always a purely semantic residue that cannot be accommodated by that syntactical scheme.

This means that Meaning itself always persists despite our efforts to contain it via form. Which goes precisely to our larger point -- or intuition -- that esoterism can never be reduced to the exoteric formulations of dogma. 

Biology may indeed appear "soft" to a hardheaded physicist, but don't confuse complexity with softness. Rather, as Rosen points out, a material system is not necessarily -- in fact, is usually not -- a simple system but a complex one, because the latter has more qualities than can be accommodated by mere syntax.

For example, this is why climate science is such a travesty. Economics too, at least the conceited kind that pretends to leap over Hayek's Wall and pretend to know the unknowable.

Now, esoteric meta-questions about this or that exoteric discipline aren't contained in the field itself -- for example, physics isn't equipped to answer metaphysical questions about itself, and to the extent that it tries to do so via its own limited stock of ideas, merely beclowns itself, insofar as it tries to magically explain the higher via the lower. Big. Mistake.

It is even the Big Mistake, because it attempts to contain what is by definition uncontainable by any formal system. 

Where does this leave us? We'll explain where in the next installment.

Friday, July 19, 2024

The Business of Isness and the Degrees of Being

Being. What a concept! 

Being Is. If it isn't, then Non-being Is, which is impossible. Sounds like a modest claim, but it is the basis for any other claim -- any judgment -- of what Is. We have to start somewhere.

So, if the first axiom is that Being Is, the second is that Being is Intelligible. Indeed, Being never stops communicating to us, such that one begins to suspect that reality might as well be made of language -- like a transcendent-and-therefore-immanent Logos or something. 

Now, it's one thing for the Logos to speak, another to be heard and understood. My dog, for example, knows nothing of Being, even though she surely is a being, and is moreover an intelligent one in her own way. But this intelligence does not reach the concept of intelligible Being. 

Rather, only man reaches Being, and isn't that a kick in the head. How is this possible? If something is, then it was possible for it to be. By virtue of what principle is it possible for us to know both intelligible Being and all the little beings of intelligibility? 

Just wondering, but why we do we even wonder? Again, my dog doesn't wonder about anything, which is to say, about the reality beneath appearances. Rather, she's perfectly content to abide in appearances. It is very much as if our Wonder is ordered to Being. Or ought to be, anyway. 

Which makes me further wonder: are the events of Genesis 3 a fable about the rejection of reality -- of Being -- for appearances, which are non-being insofar as they are detached from the principle of Being?

Well, all I can say is that these annoying thoughts were provoked by a book I'm reading called The Philosophy of Being, so blame Renard. That this "introductory" text was published in 1943 goes to show how much stupider we've become since then. And why? Because we've forgotten all about Being. 

I know I did for a good while. I've mentioned before that when I first took the plunge into philosophy, it was with the assumption that it was progressive, like science, so it was best to start in the 20th century, in my case with the existentialists. Anything prior to, say, Nietzsche, was relegated to the "history of philosophy," not philosophy as such. Analogously, no one needs to study premodern science in order to understand modern science.

Now existentialism is the polar opposite of the philosophy of being, since it starts with existence rather than essence. We don't actually have an essence, for this would imply God, and we can't have that. Therefore we simply fashion our own being out of nothing, by our choices and actions, which is to say, will. We will ourselves into being. But this is not real being, rather, something of our own invention.

Hence the title of Sartre's Being and Nothingness: being is nothing until we will it into something. But from nothing, nothing comes. Which I realized pretty quickly, as my existential phase lasted only a year or so. 

It's hard to remember, but I think another 20th century philosopher, Polanyi, was a big part of the cure. He didn't take me all the way to the other side, but certainly he lifted me out of any radical immanence. Says Prof. Wiki, 

Our pursuit of self-set ideals such as truth and justice transform our understanding of the world. The reductionistic attempt to reduce higher-level realities into lower-level realities generates what Polanyi calls a moral inversion, in which the higher is rejected with moral passion. 
Polanyi identifies it as a pathology of the modern mind and traces its origins to a false conception of knowledge; although it is relatively harmless in the formal sciences, this pathology generates nihilism in the humanities. Polanyi considered Marxism an example of moral inversion.

This goes to the reduction -- or expansion -- of science to a scientism which precisely reduces those higher-level realities to lower-level ones. 

Never forget the levels! I once wrote an ironic post on The Seven Levels of Reality, based on a remark by Paul McCartney when he was high on acid. Back in the day, this was the most frequent search term ("there are seven levels") that landed folks at One Cosmos. Now I don't know how they get here, if at all.

More generally, Vanderleun was my main link to the outside world, or rather, the outside world's link to me. Sure miss him.  

In reality there are more or fewer than seven levels, depending on how you look at it. The exact number is somewhat arbitrary so long as you remember the big ones, which I suppose we'll be getting into. According to Bina and Ziarani, there is 

no unique classification of the various degrees of being, and depending on the scale of gradation desired, different accounts can be given. 

At the far end, some "have proposed forty states," while others posit as few as two, which is to say, "the Divine Order, and that of all that is created, namely, Creation."

We'll try to limit ourselves to seven or less. We all know about the Great Chain of Being, a hierarchy that

has God at the top, above angels, which like him are entirely spirit without material bodies, and hence unchangeable. Beneath them are humans, consisting both of spirit and matter.... Lower are animals and plants. At the bottom are the mineral materials of the earth itself; they consist only of matter. Thus, the higher the being is in the chain, the more attributes it has, including all the attributes of the beings below it.

As Ken Wilber says, each level transcends but includes the level(s) below, in the above case God, angels, man, animals, plants, minerals, so, six. If we toss in the apophatic God-beyond-God, that would make for seven, so Paul was right after all. 

Speaking of the God-beyond-God, this is where Schuon begins, i.e., with "beyond-being," so that being itself is its first specification, so to speak. 

We've spoken in the past of how this could be translated into the terms of Father and Son, so we won't repeat it here. We were just speculatin' anyway. I won't hold me to it, but what's wrong with saying the Son is the eternal determination of the indeterminate Father? Probably something, but this is just a hobby, so I'll leave it to the professionals. 

Actually, there might be a flaw in the concept of Beyond-Being, but let's first review the levels as described by Schuon: these are Beyond-Being, Being, Spirit, Soul, and Body; or Godhead, Personal God, Angelic or Celestial, Psychic, and Corporeal/Material. 

These five levels can again be reduced to two, in that the uncreated Divine encompasses Being and Beyond-Being, while created Existence pertains to Spirit/Intellect, Soul/Psyche, and Body/Corporeal. 

But yesterday in Renard I read an abstruse analysis of why Beyond-Being is problematic, and let's see if I understood it and can even explain it.

The doctrine of Beyond-Being is found in the neo-Platonists, especially Plotinus, who posits "something higher than 'being,'" and from which everything else proceeds. This is because Being appears to be many.

Of necessity, then, there must be "THE ONE," supremely perfect and positive, above all multiplicity [the latter of] which implies imperfection.

However, Renard explains that our difficulty here arises from a confusion of the meaning of "one" as it pertains to transcendental reality. That is to say, "the fundamental mistake" is the failure 

to distinguish sharply between the "the one" which signifies indivision of "being" and "one," the mathematical unit of measurement. The difference between these two is very great.

In reality,

"The one" is a transcendental concept, and as such, "adds" nothing to the concept of "being" which is not already virtually contained in that concept, and, hence, in no way restricts it.

In other words, 

"The one" does not add anything to "being," but is only a negation of division: for "the one" means undivided "being." This is the very reason why "the one" is the same as "being." 

Bottom line: Plotinus' "'the one' adds nothing real to the concept of 'being,' but merely denies the division of the 'to be.'"

Therefore, it is enough to say Being, which is already beyond any determination or division. 

So, where does this leave us? Something to do with the Trinity, I'll bet. Let me wonder about it and get back to you in the next post.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Four Horsemen of Delusion and the Psychosis of Oughtism

In my never-ending struggle to understand the left, I stumbled upon another helpful way of interpreting their misinterpretation of reality. It's in Dutton's The Naked Classroom, where he calls it "the psychosis of oughtism," something we've touched on in the past.

That is to say, there is is and there is ought, and one ought not -- actually, must not -- conflate them, for doing so leads to absurdity in one form or another. But at the same time, we must respect the fact that the ought is, only on a higher plane than the isness of material science.  

As we've discussed in the past, man qua man lives in contact with the transcendent Ought, which is to say, conscience. Some people try to reduce the transcendent Ought to the immanent Is, but they are, of course, asses. Again, mustn't do that.

Is oughtism literally a psychosis? In order to answer this question I'd have to don my psychologist's hat, and I forget where I put it. Certainly it is a kind of cultural or collective delusion. For example, if you and everyone you know is a cannibal, is that wrong? Is that frowned upon here?

I don't even own a historian's hat, but a quick rundown of History reveals an endless history of similar delusions, so one must be cautious in assuming one is somehow free of these mind parasites and collective viruses that attach themselves to the human subject. Suffice it to say,

History shows that man's good ideas are accidental and his mistakes methodical.

And that

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God and another who believes he is a god. 

For which reason it is always best to start with what we don't know -- with a kind of Socratic skepticism or learned ignorance or even apophatic theology. 

Dutton refers to the Four Horsemen of Delusion, which include 1) Low Decoupling Ability, 2) Motivated Social Cognition, 3) Concept Creep, and 4) Catastrophization. We've probably discussed these concepts in different terms, but let's stick with Dutton's analysis.

First, decoupling 

refers to the ability to distinguish descriptions of what is or what might be (science) from what should be (philosophy, ethics, and policy).

Right there I must respectfully disagree, because for the Raccoon, philosophy trumps science in the Is department: indeed, 

Without philosophy, the sciences do not know what they know.

We could cite many more aphorisms along these lines, but they all go to the ineradicability of the transcendent, or to "meta-science." Thus, 

Properly speaking, the social sciences are not inexact sciences, but sciences of the inexact.


“Irrationalist” is shouted at the reason that does not keep quiet about the vices of rationalism.

The doctrines that explain the higher by means of the lower are appendices of a magician’s rule book.

Which is why we have no issue with the science of evolutionary psychology (Dutton's racket) so long as it doesn't pretend to exhaust the mystery of man (let alone God), for when it does so it essentially reduces to its own form of magical Oughtism. 

Or in other words, never immanentize the eschaton. Rather, respect the Tension (between immanence and transcendence). 

As we know, ideology in all its forms represents a failure to Respect the Tension, precisely. As Dutton rightly points out, "ideology warp's people's ability to think logically," to which I would add trans-logically. For example, 

If good and evil, ugliness and beauty, are not the substance of things, science is reduced to a brief statement: what is, is. 

Now, we agree that what is, is. But that is hardly the end of it, rather, only the beginning, for there are different levels of isness, starting from quantifiable matter below, to math and logic in between, to metaphysics above, AKA the three levels of abstraction. The latter (the third level) goes to the very principles of reality which entail the lower ones.

However, even on its own terms, research shows that people struggle to be logically consistent. That is, they are "just not able to assess basic logic accurately," often because "ideology impair[s] their reasoning; they [are] low decouplers."

To this I would only add that it is also necessary to decouple what applies to one level from what is true of a higher level, something which Dutton does not address. 

In any event, people with low decoupling ability are often the victims of Motivated Social Cognition, which is 

the idea that people's beliefs are, in part, adopted because they satisfy some psychological needs.

Which is really just another way of saying wishful thinking, and truly truly, if wishes were horses, progressives would ride. 

Concept Creep goes to 

the observation that many more things are described as harmful or violent today than was once the case, reflecting an increasingly liberal moral agenda, in which you competitively signal your liberalism, and supposed sensitivity, by finding more and more things "harmful." 

This accounts for the gradual and then all of a sudden creep from mere political correctness to full blown wokeness in the space of a generation or less, which has led to the Catastrophization of everything from the weather, to the impending death of Our Democracy™, to the 1,000 year Reich of the Orange Man. In brief, 

The Four Horsemen of Delusion have created a psychosis of oughtism. Oughtists are incapable of accepting a scientific statement when it conflicts with their worldview.

But they are also incapable of accepting philosophical statements when they so conflict, for example, the principles of non-contradiction (e.g., a man is a man and therefore not a woman), of the intelligibility of being (the opposite of which is postmodernism), and of sufficient reason (evolutionary psychology itself being insufficient to account for the phenomenon of man).

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us with the choice of ending the post here or of veering into a whole new subject, which I suppose has to do with decoupling the lower isness of science from the higher isness of perennial metaphysical truth. We choose to end the post.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Cosmic Neurotic or Priestly Caste?

How much of our character is hardwired? Back when I was in grad school in the 1980s, the assumption was that everyone is a product of their interpersonal environment, especially the first five years.

This appears to be All Wrong, or at least Way Off, because evidently the Big Five personality traits are highly heritable. There is still room for environmental influences, just far less than we had imagined. According to the wiki article, 

openness to experience is estimated to have a 57% genetic influence, extraversion 54%, conscientiousness 49%, neuroticism 48%, and agreeableness 42%

Again, this still leaves more or less room for the environment, but it is as if genetic influences represent a kind of attractor or entelechy that limits or guides it.

Moreover, just as we can posit a general factor of intelligence (G), Dutton suggests that there must be a "General Factor of Personality" (GFP) in which winners of the genetic lottery 

are high in aspects of Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Openness, and are low in Neuroticism. As a result, they are socially effective, with the GFP predicting high socioeconomic status.

Which makes sense. Me? I know I'm high in A, C, and O, but definitely deficient in E and with a generous dollop of N. Back when I was an environmentalist I assumed the N must have been a product of the environment, despite my environment having been perfectly stable and entirely non-traumatic. Now I realize that I was just born this way. 

Sure, there was mutual incomprehension between me and my parents, but that is to be expected with a child who was born this way. It's nobody's fault.

As for neuroticism, it has its upsides. According to Dutton, it is associated with being a "religious seeker," which checks out. Elsewhere he writes that "anxiety acts as a motivator towards diligence" and 

Neuroticism means you desire greater certainty about the nature of the world and believe you can attain this through higher education.

Is this what I am -- a cosmic neurotic, wondering and worrying about things that are none of my business? Well, according to the Meyers Briggs test I am an INTP, and these folks "want to understand everything in the universe." They

can’t help but puzzle over the mysteries of the universe -- which may explain why some of the most influential philosophers and scientists of all time have been INTPs. People with this personality type tend to prefer solitude, as they can easily become immersed in their thoughts when they are left to their own devices....

[They] hardly ever stop thinking. From the moment they wake up, their mind buzzes with ideas, questions, and insights. At times, they may even find themselves conducting full-fledged debates in their own heads. And it’s not uncommon for them to drift off during conversations. Their mind simply executes a detour to uncharted territories of thought where new ideas are constantly being born.

I like that description because it reframes the neuroticism in a more positive light. Besides, 

it would be a mistake to think that these personalities are unfriendly or uptight. When they connect with someone who can match their mental energy, INTPs absolutely light up, leaping from one thought to another. Few things energize them like the opportunity to swap ideas or enjoy a lively debate with another curious, inquiring soul.

Looked at from another angle, could it be that GFP is another way of looking at caste? According to Schuon,

Psychologically speaking a natural caste is a cosmos; men live in different cosmoses according to the "reality" on which they are centered; it is impossible for the inferior really to understand the superior, for he who really understands "is" what he understands (Schuon).

So, I live in a different cosmos from the the person who doesn't ever worry about the cosmos, which is big enough to take care of itself. 

Elsewhere in the same essay (The Meaning of Caste), Schuon writes that "the fundamental tendency in a man is connected with his 'feeling' or 'consciousness' of what is 'real.'" 

It seems that the idea of caste is a kind of implicit recognition of what we now understand as enduring character. 

For example, our criminal class -- or underclass, if you prefer -- tends to be low in intelligence but high in time preference and impulsivity. Intelligence itself is more heritable than any of the Big Five, and is in turn positively associated with 

pro-social behavior, planning, impulse control, empathy, health, social status, memory, and even being trusting; on the other hand intelligence is negatively associated with criminality [and many other negative traits and outcomes] (Dutton).

As to what is more real to this or that caste, for the contemplative (priestly) type it is "the transcendent as such, whereas for the knight-warrior it is the transcendent ideal as instantiated in action and struggle: his imperative is to vindicate the ideal in battle." 

For the merchant "it is riches, security, prosperity and well-being that are 'real.'" I have some very successful businessmen in my extended family (billionaires even), but talking to them about anything transcending matter would be like discussing poetry with my dog. Indeed, they even have a kind of condescending and worldly cynicism about the transcendent, as if we are trying to put one over on them.   

We can see how this plays out in our elite merchant hive of technoid insects. The vertical Dunning Krugery in these inferior superiors is strong. These folks not only lack "the mentality of the higher, but cannot even conceive of it exactly," which results in an interpretation of what we are saying in terms of what they are capable of understanding, which isn't much. Thus,

men whose souls are fragmentary and opaque pretend that they can instruct us in the "psychology" of greatness and of the sacred.

When this type of person poses as an "intellectual," the intellect remains tied to the opaque and the fragmentary, AKA matter. How could it not? 

As Schuon says, "caste can be lost but not acquired." People are who they are, and not someone else. Pretending otherwise is a great source of vulgarity -- for example, the editorial page of the NY Times, which features anti-intellectual lunatics posing as intellectuals. They are also full of pride, which is always a giveaway. 

There is an interesting inverse analogy between the philosophical man with no worldly point and the pointless man, since both wander off the grid, so to speak. The "shudra" is like "a body endowed with human consciousness" and therefore "properly qualified only for manual work of a more or less quantitative kind."  

I myself toiled in solidarity with this type for a good portion of my life, for not only did I work in a supermarket until I was 33 years of age, I fit right in. I was one of them -- a body endowed with human consciousness -- until some sort of light unexpectedly switched on when I was around 25 or so. Nevertheless, I still consider my self a thoroughly blue-collar suburban shaman.

This is an accurate description of the way I was back then: "it is bodily things that are 'real'; it is eating and drinking" or "the satisfaction of immediate physical needs" which "constitute happiness." You can usually trust this kind of person, because they are very uncomplicated and predictable.

I'm pretty sure that when that light switched on in my mid-20s, it was just the activation of my nonlocal attractor, which was going to manifest in one way or another. We are who we are. Or become who we are, rather.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

To Be or Cannot Be, That is the Question

Not everyone has the inclination think about the ins & outs of ultimate reality, but some of us can't help it. How did we get this way? 

Perhaps because we are like men, only worse: "Man was made to know and love Truth" (Renard), and metaphysics is just the contemplation of the necessary truths that ground and entail all the rest. So, we're just doing what man was made to do, only taking things a bit far.

Psychology is a science, but I found out pretty quickly that it doesn't go far enough for me. For "each field of science has its own limitations, and at best can give us only a portion of truth." However,
most men, even so-called educated men, are content to rest here without seeking further into the ultimate truths that are the foundations of the special sciences (ibid.).

Well, I am not content to rest there, and it's just the way I'm built. After all, if being is intelligible, then we have to do something about it!

This truth [that being is intelligible] is so obvious that it cannot be demonstrated, and so necessary that it cannot be denied without the shipwreck of all knowledge (ibid.).

Has western civilization become shipwrecked? Who could deny it?

Ideologies are fictitious nautical charts, but in the end they determine which reef one is shipwrecked upon.
Ideology is not just the opposite of metaphysics, but the denial of its very possibility. Every ideologue is a deficient metaphysician:

Metaphysics deals with the most abstract and most universal concepts. It enables us, therefore, to analyze and study the fundamental principles of reality and those primary truths on which the validity of all other sciences depends (ibid.).

We live in an age of relativism and subjectivism, but the principles we're talking about 

are true not only for my intellect, but for every intellect, in as much as every knowable object is subject to these principles, both in my knowing it and as it exists apart from my knowing it (ibid.).  

So, a cure -- the only cure -- for the intellectual disease that afflicts our day and age. Or a way to get those shipwrecked boats to float again.

Some people want to return to a Christian worldview, but such a view both entails and is entailed by a very specific metaphysic. 

I suppose the biggest little words in all of creation must be I and AM, which imply that ultimate reality both is, and is personal.  

Likewise, "be" is an innocent enough sounding word, and yet, it is of the greatest consequence. For every debate, every dispute, every argument at every level, comes down to a judgment of what is. I say 2+2 is 4. You say math is a white supremacist conspiracy. Which is it?

Is Trump Hitler? Or is it the case that people who say so are out of their minds? 

In truth, the higher we ascend, the more we converge upon the apex of absolute and necessary, hence eternal, truths. No truths can be more secure than these, because the very possibility of truth is grounded in them.  

At the top of the cosmic hierarchy is necessary being: 

Only God is His Existence; He alone is Being Itself and was able to say, "I am that I am," or, "He who is." In contrast, every other being has existence (Garrigou-Lagrange).

You and I surely exist. But we aren't existence itself. We aren't necessary. We are contingent, wholly dependent upon that which exists necessarily. So, there is a gulf between being and merely having or participating in being. 

Now, as alluded to above, every dispute comes down to what is and isn't the case (and what could or couldn't be, based upon real potential).  

"To be" is "at the basis of all judgments," and is indeed "the soul of judgment." Someone with poor judgment, for example, makes decisions rooted in things that are not the case, that have no being (or potential being, like socialism, or "social justice," or transgenderism). 

Conversely, prudence -- rightly ordered practical judgment -- is founded upon conformity with reality: 

true judgment itself corresponds to reality -- that is, to the existence of things.... Judgment is true if it affirms that which is and if it denies that which is not.

It seems strange that all men cannot agree on such a self-evident truth -- that truth is, and what is is true --  nevertheless, here we are, ruled by intellectual tyrants who insist that we live in an imaginary ideological world of never was, can't be, and never will be. Make America Real again. That is to say, return to a commonsense realist metaphysic.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Being Is, Therefore I Am

I was still thinking about learned ignorance and the ignorance of the learned when I remembered a tweet by the late lamented Happy Acres guy that crystalized an important aspect of the problem: "Recently, and in its defense, I've heard leftism likened to Credo quia absurdum."

Or, in plain English, I believe because it is absurd. 

Now, no one should believe something merely because it is absurd, but the deeper point is that superior truths often appear absurd to inferior, trollish minds struggling to grasp matters above their comprehension. 

Call it metaphysical Dunning Kruger, and there is no question that it is a genuine limitation. Schuon has many comments and asnides along these lines, for example, that if all men were capable of metaphysics, there would be no atheists. 

Being is not absurd, but it is absurd to imagine we could ever exhaust or contain what contains us. Nevertheless, you can well imagine how the credentialed midwit might pretend otherwise. In reality,

That which is incomprehensible increases with the growth of the intelligence.

Or simultaneously increases and decreases, such that the more we know, the less we realize we know (or the more there is to real-ize).

Proof of metaphysical Dunning Krugery resides in the tenured and all who come under their malign influence, because it is precisely the somewhat intelligent who are most susceptible to internalizing the truth or paradigm or false ideological certitudes of the day. 

Thus the tyranny of inferior minds, which is the very principle of DEI if not Our Democracy™ itself:

In an essay called The Philosophical Spirit and the Sense of Mystery, Fr. Garriguou-Lagrange provides a helpful map to the stars and beyond. What is it, he asks, that "differentiates the philosophical spirit not only from common knowledge but also from knowledge obtained by the cultivation of sciences that are inferior to philosophy"?  The former

differs from them above all and essentially by its formal object and by the point of view under which it considers its object. 

This or that science establishes only "the laws of phenomena" -- for example, the object of physics is the material world, while the object of mathematics is the quantitative world. 

But to reduce reality to what mathematics or physics can say about it is an error that is fatal to the intellect, since it eclipses its proper object, which is to say, intelligible Being itself. 

It is to put the effect before the cause, the part before the whole, the many before the one, existence before essence, matter before form, accident before substance, exterior before interior, container before contained, related before Relation, potentiality before actuality, possible before necessary, surface before substrate, appearance before reality.

Ultimately you could say man before God, but that is the subject of a slightly different post.

In any event, as a result of this inversion the intellect literally sophicates, since it is created to breathe in the upper atmasphere of Being. 

With regard to the latter, yesterday I read a little book called Metaphysics: A Basic Introduction in a Christian Key, which sings the following:

In the beginning, all. In the end, all. Being before beginning. Being after end. For being, beginning is end and end is beginning because being is. Being prior to existence because anything that stands out in its being thanks to being. Being before me because it is clear that there was a time -- most of the time -- when I was not. Thanks to being I am.

Which is either clearly absurd or absurdly clear. For Garrigou-Lagrange,

the sciences that are inferior to philosophy, such as the positive and mathematical sciences, in certain senses resemble sense knowledge insasmuch as they have objects that are less universal than philosophy's object [which is to say, being].

Empirical knowledge, for example, can know only of this or that man. But the intellect transcends the particular and ascends to knowledge of mankind, to the universal. Without this mysterious operation, "no other knowledge would be possible." Indeed, even to deny it is to affirm it.

St. Thomas is not promulgating a theory, much less an ideology. Rather, he is simply describing what we are spontaneously doing when we think: we are thinking about intelligible being. The alternatives are to not think at all or to think about non-being.

This latter defines the left, for to think about non-being is to affirm things -- to make judgments -- that are not the case. The purpose of the leftist education-indoctrination complex is not to help the intellect reach beyond the stars but to clip its wings and mire it in sub-celestial pseudo-realities. It is a trap, literally. 

But the trap is ultimately self-imposed, as the inscape hatch is always present in the truly philosophical spirit, which

seeks to connect, in an explicit and distinct manner, all things to the most universal, simple, first principles. That is, the philosophical spirit wishes to connect all things to the most general laws of being and of the real.

The intellect perceives "the mysteries of the natural order where the common outlook sees no mystery; indeed, it sees them where even the inferior sciences do not suspect there to be such mysteries." 

The most prominent mysteries are present to us in the vertical interstices of reality -- for example, where matter somehow becomes animate, where biology becomes self-aware, or where intellect conforms to intelligible being. 

Suffice it to say that none of these mysterious discontinuities are eliminated with recourse to reductionism; this merely deluminates the mystery and drags the intellect from the celestial to the terrestrial -- like an ontological fall or something.

For between matter and even the most teenytiny sensation of matter is an abyss -- an abyss that is Against the Law -- the law of a scientism that pretends the lower can be the sufficient reason of the higher. Such dull and unimaginative sorts

never see any mystery, any profundity, in the same place where the philosopher is astonished with the wonderment that is, as Aristotle has said, the very beginning of science. 

We'll leave off here. Let's just repeat that Being Is, but that this is hardly the end of it, rather, only the beginning -- or again, the beginning and end. 

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