Friday, June 21, 2024

The Big One

The following is a heavily edited post from four years ago. However, it turns out that it provides an excellent foundation for our forthcoming discussion of Christ the Logos of Creation. I suppose I like the book because it says everything we've been saying for the past 18 years, only in an academic and scholarly way, absent all the Olemical freevangelical pundamentalism. 

The conduct of any discipline, from physics at the bottom to theology at the top, is determined by its proper object. You don't use meditation or introspection to study rocks or chemicals, just as you don't use calipers to measure the soul. Different objects, different approaches.

Agreed. So, what is the object of philosophy? Correct: being, which is to say, everything and beyond, up to and including the cause or Principle of Being, which we will call O because it is as in-finite and unsaturated as the meta-domain it symbolizes; we can point () to the latter, but never contain it, for it is the very Principle of Uncontainability. 

This everything is not the immanent sum of every single thing, rather, the transcendent unity of them all. Thus, philosophy (the verb) is guided by the implicit assumption that we indeed inhabit a cosmos, i.e., a single order ordered by a single principle.

This Big One cannot be a mere (immanent) object, no matter how big, because this would exclude the vastly larger world of subjectivity, personhood, and verticality more generally. If reality is a material object, then there goes philosophy.

Only man can philosophize, so any total philosophy must account for its own possibility. To argue, for example, that thinking is a side effect of "selfish genes" is just weaseling past the academic knaveyard.

Let's put it this way: reduction is fine as a method, but terrible as a metaphysic, i.e., when it is unironically expanded into a fool-blown Ism and all-encompassing vision of the whole. One is free to do this, but only if one puts on 2-D glasses and sinks from 20/∞ to 20/Ø vision.

Suffice it to say that ideological blindness isn't just another form of vision, any more than a feminist is just another type of female; rather, the negation thereof. (Or as Cousin Dupree says, like a woman only worse.)

Put it this way: philosophy is the quintessential act of vertical transcendence; it is always at a right angle to (mere) existence, and opens out to the Absolute and (therefore) Infinite.

This is obvious enough conceptually, i.e., in the abstract, but it is also concretely accessible experientially, barring a self-imposed intellectual autism (and autism is like a man, only worse, so we're even).

As we know, we are surrounded by silly, inadequate, and even diabolical philosophies that can only be caricatures of the real thing:

it is common to all these sham-realizations that they not only fail to transcend the world but that they bring it ever more firmly and irrevocably under one dome; that they serve to confine man ever more within the world of work [i.e., anti-Slack] (Pieper).

Thy thing-dome come, thy will (to power) be done. And here we are.

Such slackless and spurious forms of pseudo-philosophy result in "man's sealing himself off from the extraordinary," AKA the purblind alley of the cosmic nul de slack.

This is among the first things we want to say to leftist anthropoids swaddled in their own ideological diapers: that's not a proper philosophy adequate to the phenom o' man -- it's a prison! Which recalls those worthywords about how the Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy.

But not necessarily, and certainly not inevitably. We can always draw the cave blinds open and let the Light stream into our mancave.

Yes, we have to grow up, which is to say, actualize our latent or implicit potential. Like any other animal, man is ordered to a transcendent telos, only ours can never be exhausted in time. 

Or in other words, we are ordered to O, which is another way of saying that we are the implicit image and potential likeness of the very Principle that landed us in this queer situation.  

Believe me, there are ways, Dude. There are always doors and windows, and best of all, a spiral staircase, and why would stairs lead nowhere?

Chesterton says something about modern philosophies to the effect that they are like doors with no home attached. Certainly this is the case of any Kant-inspired rationalism that furnishes a key to everything except the damn door. At the other end, empiricism gives us a house of walls with no doors or windows. 

Pieper is in essential agreement with Led Zeppelin that 1) there are two paths you can go by, and that 2) there's still time to change the road you're on:

whither is the philosophizing person transported when transcending the [horizontal] world of work? Obviously he crosses a boundary: What kind of realm is this that lies beyond the boundary? And how is the realm into which the philosophical act penetrates related to the world that is surpassed and transcended through just this philosophical act?

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blowing where it will? And did you know your stairway lies on the same whispering wind? Denying this is effictively to be a rock and not to roll.

Now, last time I checked, we live in a cosmos of relations. While this sounds like a banality, it is among the most consequential facts of existence, for it is a necessary condition of everything else, certainly including the possibility of philosophy -- or of any other kind of knowing, for that matter, which is always in relation to intelligible being.

Imagine, for example, a pile of rocks. We can see that one rock is externally related to another, that the pile is related to the landscape, etc. But as Pieper says, a stone isn't really "in" a pile, "with" its fellow rocks, or "next to" anything at all. 

Rather, "Relations in the genuine sense are formed from the inside-out; relations are only possible where there is an interior."

So in reality, to say "relation" is to say "interior," and this is the revolutionary part, for we live in a cosmos of interior relations, so what needs to be explained is how a heretofore (before 4 billions years ago, when Life appeared -- ex nihilo again, as it were --from nowhere) exterior cosmos can suddenly become interior to itself, how organisms are possible, or how existence becomes experience. 

Here is what we need: a principle of interior relations. Now, what could this be? It cannot be a mathematical, or material, or any other immanent principle, which would eliminate -- and de-illuminate --precisely what it needs to explain, thus leaving us with no explanation and no one to explain it. End-stage tenure

Whitehead banged this conundrum from a purely scientific angle; for example, in Adventures in Ideas he writes that

the foundation of metaphysics should be sought in the understanding of the subject-object structure of experience, and in the respective roles of the physical and mental functionings.

Or between the poles of immanence and transcendence. Instead of a vicious and insoluble mind-matter dualism, we see a dynamic and fruitful complementarity in the tension between them.

What exactly does Christianity reveal that must be regarded as axiomatic to the meta-thinking man? Undoubtedly the most important is the Trinity, which entails not only person as ultimate category, but the intersubjectivity -- or interior relations -- thereof. 

Another big one is the doctrine of creation, for which reason creation will always bear the imprint of the interior relations of the big Three-in-One.  

God desperately wants to help us think, but only in a certain way, for thinking isn't just anything. Let us, with the Aphorist, count some of the ways:

Thought can avoid the idea of God as long as it limits itself to meditating on minor problems.

God does not ask for the submission of the intelligence, but rather an intelligent submission.

Religion is not a set of solutions to known problems, but a new dimension of the universe. The religious man lives among realities that the secular man ignores.

To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

The modern aberration consists in believing that the only thing that is real is what the vulgar soul perceives.

There is no stupid idea which modern man is not capable of believing, as long as he avoids believing in Christ.

By unmasking a truth, one encounters a Christian face.

There was never any conflict between reason and faith, but between two faiths.

The believer knows how to doubt; the unbeliever does not know how to believe.

When their religious depth disappears, things are reduced to a surface without thickness, where nothing shows through.

Now back to where we were: a cosmos -- any cosmos, AKA ordered totality -- is a field of relations, and this field is always interior or it simply cannot be. This then leads to the principle that

The higher the status of the being with with an interior, that is, the more expansive and comprehensive its power to enter into relations is, the broader and more multidimensioned is the field of relations associated with it; alternatively expressed, the higher the being stands in the hierarchy of reality, the larger its world and the greater its status.

The human person is objectively higher than a rock because his interior is more expansive, comprehensive, multidimensional, and densely related. I know what you're thinking, but Joe Biden is the exception that proves the rule: we're talking about man as such, not such-and-such a rockheaded man.

This whole line of inquiry is dense with further implications, but that's enough for today.


julie said...

"Relations in the genuine sense are formed from the inside-out; relations are only possible where there is an interior."

It's funny, I suspect that many would struggle with the idea - beyond a surface-level understanding - of man as relational. Surface is easy, and a plenty of people seem to be interested in just that and little more. Interior, that's a different story.

Gagdad Bob said...

Social animals because a social God.

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