Saturday, April 20, 2024

Shedding Meta-Light on the Enlightenment

So, this Hamann fellow, despite all the never before seen light illuminating reality for the first time,

prophesied that the Enlightenment, theoretically unable to support itself, being based on illusions regarding its own rationality, would end in nihilism.

Which would have made him unpopular, supposing he cared about popularity: "he realized that his own writings were perhaps too difficult to be worth publishing," and "never wrote for the public anyway, except ironically, having written for individual readers who 'knew how to swim.'" 

Which of course reminds me of Dávila. For example, his first book 

remained virtually unknown because only 100 copies were printed and these were presented as gifts to his friends.... [He] made no attempts to make his writings widely known. Only by way of German (and later Italian as well as French and Polish) translation beginning in the late eighties did Dávila's ideas begin to be read among poets and philosophers.

There is still no authorized English translation of the Aphorisms. Which is fine by me. Some things are better when they're hot.

Kierkegaard was a big fan, calling Hamann "the greatest humorist in Christendom," even "the greatest humorist in the world." All others are number two, or lower.

He was a bit of a slacker and gentleman loaffeur before his time: "With an encyclopedic curiosity, which he later equated with dissipation," and "given ample time for leisure, he indulged his intellectual curiosity to the point of gluttony, virtually bankrupting himself on books." 

Until he had a dramatic conversion experience in 1758, when, while reading his Bible, he gradually then suddenly "began to perceive that God was somehow speaking to him and that the same one who authored the Bible was the author of his life." He "discovered that Scripture was 'living and active'" and "that in some strange way it was also addressed to him."

Afterwards "he could not go back to laboring for 'the god of the world,'" but "now aimed to work for God." Which made him, "in worldly terms, useless." Or even more useless than before. 

Which was okay, because he thought the Enlighteners were the ones left in the dark: "What a Nothing, what a smoke, what a pestilent Nothing are [our days] in our eyes when reason counts them!," for "All is labyrinth, all disorder, if we wish to see by ourselves." 

The German idealism of his contemporaries "precisely shut out the world, so that one no longer encounters in it anything other than reason," which "might as well 'be nothing.'" 

The joke's on them: "Christian humor is the appropriate response to the fundamentally ludicrous nature of idolatry, however refined and 'rational' its permutations might be." 

Hamann indulges in irony because in his view Christianity not only commends irony, but is essentially ironic.... the entire economy of salvation could be said to be ironic -- even humorous -- to the extent that the "gods" of the world are "outwitted."

Concur: "The Christian needs irony in order to humiliate the devil." Which is why the Babylon Bee, in its ironic humiliation of the diabolic left, is doing God's work.  

For Hamann, Socrates is the great forerunner, for "the wise know that they know nothing. Such is the irony, the divine joke, at the origin of western philosophy." 

whereas the way of rational autonomy popularized by the Enlightenment is ultimately dead and unenlightened, the way foreshadowed by Socratic ignorance and fulfilled in Christian humility is fruitful because it is alive to the illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit.  

Ironically, the cultured despisers of Christianity "are in fact the modern-day heirs of those who killed" Socrates, so ha ha.

This is as far as I've gotten in the book, so, the end for now.

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Meta-Critical Post-Secular Trans-Enlightenment Approach

In a post last week we mentioned the enigmatic 18th century German thinker Georg Hamann, whose baffling oeuvre is

peppered with allusions, riddles, jokes, epigrams, parodies, parables, and pranks, often in multiple languages.... The results can be anywhere between idiosyncratic and impenetrable. Reading him is like reading Ulysses in German.

You had me at jokes & pranks. Like any mischievous Raccoon, he has the "tendency precisely at the most sublime moments of his texts to indulge in the comical, the trivial, the fatuous, or even the obscene." He 

hides behind the appearance of a madman, painting the doors of his writings with bizarre signs, allusions, and ciphers -- not out of mere eccentricity, but as an appropriate, calculated posture before a proudly rational audience... a faithful enacting of divine folly in an age that proudly considered itself the age of "Enlightenment."

I can take a hint, so I picked up a copy of After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J. G. Hamann, in order to further investigate this distant Coon. A reviewer says of him that he

penetrated to the godless heart of the Enlightenment, anticipating where it would finally lead European culture as witnessed in the moral collapse of Modernity.... Dr. Betz brings Hamann to earth for mere mortal moderns, looking for the deep answers of Hamann for our time which boil down to an existential Christian-theocentric understanding of human anthropology without which we fall into nihilism, gnosticism, human self-worship and idolatry with crushing, often violent, consequences.

I searched the blog to find out if I'd ever mentioned him before, and found this aphorism buried in a post from 2008:

Who can hope to obtain proper concepts of the present, without knowing the future?

Good one. It really comes down to what man is for, i.e., his telos. If we don't know that, then how could we possibly situate ourselves on the temporal/developmental map? 

Not to say he would put it that way. I'm only up to chapter two, but from the preface I already know that that this guy "prophesied the nihilistic destiny of the Enlightenment more than two centuries ago," and made the "explicitly 'metacritical' argument"

that any notion of secular reason that would claim to be pure of tradition is an illusion, since both how we reason and what we reason about are a product of tradition; and... given this a priori dependence, reasonable persons would do well to heed the inspired tradition.... which comes to the aid of reason like "light shining in the darkness..."

Such an approach is both "more sure and ultimately more fruitful than the principles and works of reason alone." In other words, it is not reasonable to pretend to a pure reason that can account neither for itself nor furnish its own premises, which anticipates Gödel, in a way. It also brings to mind Schuon, who reminds us that

Reason is not Intelligence in itself, it is only its instrument, and this on the express condition that it be inspired by intellectual Intuition, or simply correct ideas or exact facts; nothing is worse than the mind cut off from its root.

Or in other words, things aren't true because rational, but rational because true. Otherwise to hell with it. To conflate the trans-rational with the irrational is a rookie move, for 

religion and all forms of supra-rational wisdom belong to this extra-rational order, the presence of which we observe around us, unless we are blinded by a mathematician’s prejudice; to attempt to treat existence as a purely arithmetical and physical reality is to falsify it in relation to ourselves and within ourselves, and in the end it is to blow it to pieces (Schuon). 

And rationalism itself is "perhaps the most intelligent way of being unintelligent." It 

is a “wisdom from below” and history shows it to be deadly. The whole of modern philosophy, including science, starts from a false conception of intelligence; for instance..., it seeks the explanation and goal of man at a level below him, in something which could not serve to define the human creature. But in a much more general way, all rationalism -- whether direct or indirect -- is false from the sole fact that it limits the intelligence to reason or intellection to logic, or in other words cause to effect (ibid.).

Betz proposes to steer "a decidedly post-secular course (and thus an implicitly eschatological course) beyond postmodernity," being that "the latter is simply the logical, nihilistic surd of modernity." 

In other words, postmodernity is but the logically illogical entailment of the principles of the so-called Enlightenment -- which, like any other revolution, eventually eats its own. And here we are, right in the thick of it. The only way out is back to the future, to an incarnated reason that is actually open to, and in contact with, the Real that transcends it. Reality comes first, then we can reason about it.

But our new dark age is so confused precisely because "the age of reason, having proudly refused the gift of the light of faith, has run its inevitable course into nihilism." It's only logical. Or logical only:

the ideals of the Enlightenment have run their course for more than two hundred years and the theoretical and moral foundations of secular humanism have collapsed in ways that Hamann predicted...

I call that a pretty good guess, but that's what prophets do: read the signs of the times in order to see the future entailed in them. Or in other words, if you proceed in the same direction, you're likely to arrive there. 

In Hamann's view the "Enlightenment" was a misnomer, resting upon principles that were both philosophically and theologically defective.

He saw it not as "the dawning of a bright new age," but rather, as a kind of deceptive light "which would bring about a new age of spiritual darkness." Its votaries "were not messianic saviors to a world living in darkness," but "demagogues masquerading as angels of light." He predicted that

so strict a separation of reason from religious tradition (of philosophy from theology) would be reason's own demise, and with it the creation of a moral vacuum...

I keep wanting to say and here we are, but damn, here we are: "the modern doctrine of reason is that of an autonomous rationality, which admits no light beyond its own," inevitably redounding to "the tastes and prejudices of the time."

Reason can hardly conjure the Light by which it sees. That's just a modern -- and now postmodern -- myth.

You get the idea. That's enough for a foundation. Details to follow.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sola Meta-scripture?

 "There is," writes the Thomist philosopher Walter Farrell,

an infinite chasm between the unspeakable things that are too base, too irrational for words and the ineffable things that are too high, too intelligible for the framework of speech.

Heights and depths, with a vertical abyss in between. And here we are. 

Speech, it seems, is too rational to reach down to the infrarational or up to the transrational. It only works in the temperate zone in between.  

Now, math is a language, but Gödel forever proved its insufficiency in mapping -- in a way that is both consistent and complete -- anything beyond itself, for any formal system contains assumptions that cannot be justified by the system. 

Does this mean we are sealed in tautology and absurcularity? In other words, is knowledge just the expansion of an otherwise closed circle?

As part of my continuing education, yesterday I read a book called Ideas at the Intersection of Mathematics, Philosophy, and Theology, hoping for some answers. Lately we've been talking about psychic integration, and the author -- who is both Christian and a mathematician -- was troubled by the lack of integration between the two:

There just had to be fruitful ways for either bringing Christian faith to bear upon the math I was learning in college or for bringing the math I was learning in class to bear somehow on my faith. 

However, there are "relatively few people interested in finding places where the Christian faith might intersect with mathematics." 

Concur. Most mathematicians -- like most people -- just breeze past Gödel as if nothing has happened: "the philosophy of mathematics has little or no influence upon 99% of mathematicians."

Am I the only one who cares about the rules?! 

Unfortunately, I didn't get much out of the book, but the author does bring Gödel to bear on the impossibility of sola scriptura, and you can probably see how. He begins with the Westminster Confession of Faith, which claims that  

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men.

But supposing the inviolability of the incompleteness theorems, no formal system can be self-justifying, independent of other axioms from outside the system: "the whole counsel of God cannot be deduced from an enumerable set of axioms allegedly given expression by scripture." 
when a person is going to begin talking about his or her formal theory in a meta-theoretical way, then that person will either have to begin saying things that are untrue or things that are unprovable -- at least from within that formal theory. And this uncanny property is not restricted to arithmetical systems. 

As it pertains to sola scriptura, "the proposition that one is being asked to confess" 

must be added as an additional axiom -- to those propositions that are said to be expressly set down in scripture, except this one will not be set down in scripture... 

I don't blame anyone for saying So what?, but that's all I got this morning.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Self-Help and the Devil's Menu

Speaking of integration around the good -- and the impossibility of integration around its converse -- the following words popped into my head this morning. No, they are not original to me:

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.

Once again we see a whole metaphysic expressed in narrative and dialogical form: on one side integration and harmony, on the other dis-integration and dissonance.

Now, we live in disintegrating times, but then again, it seems that all living systems at all times work against entropy, from biology on up. Where is the Center, and how do we keep things from flying apart -- from the same old anarchy being loosed upon the world? Another unbidden thought comes in for a landing:

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

To repeat in other words what was said yesterday,

On Aquinas's views, the internal integration necessary for closeness, union, and love is possible only in integration around the good (Stump).

If dis-integration is a kind of disease, then integration is the cure. And for Thomas, sanctification and justification are "the remedies for the psychic sickness whose source is the human propensity to evil." And "without these remedies, even God cannot be close to a human person or united to him."

We've suggested before that every religion proposes a cure for the disease it diagnoses. And for Thomas, "all human beings have a sort of latent disease in the will." Give it sufficient oxygen and "In the right circumstances, it blows up into moral monstrosity." 

How do we integrate if it is not around the Good? Perhaps it's easier if we consider how it is possible for the intellect to be integrated if it is not around the True. Wouldn't integration around error and falsehood be disintegration, precisely? Or an a priori impossibility of integration?

But the mind, being a dynamic system, doesn't achieve integration in a static way. Rather, it must be an ongoing process. I am not the first to suggest that truth is to the mind as nutrition is to the body; thus it is a question of ongoing metabolism, whether speaking of biology or psychology: the mind needs truth, and in its absence cannot flourish. 

We might also say that the soul needs beauty as the will needs virtue; each of the latter terms is the telos of the former. Intellect, will, and sentiment must be conformed to the true, good, and beautiful, respectively, otherwise to hell with it.

Some people are just un-willing to be integrated, meaning that they must implicitly will to be dis-integrated. In such a case, "the defect in the will is such that it could be fixed by the person who has it only if she did not have the defect." 

Which is contradictory: a divided will trying to unite itself will redound to nothing more than an ad hoc patch-up job, like trying to repair your car while driving it. 

Which, if I am not mistaken, goes to the function of ideology, which is a kind of exterior and top-down structure the person takes on board in order to exert a faux integration. This is who we're dealing with. Prior to the content of the ideology is the existential desperation of the person who has adopted it. As with any delusion, the head-on attempt to disprove it only makes you part of the proof. For example, if you're not a racist, this only proves you are one.

In the past I have also suggested that the patient, in order to be healed, must relinquish the effort at self-healing, which is a symptom of the very dis-ease it is attempting to cure. And the means of self-healing on offer are too numerous to list, but everyone has their favorite. Truly truly, the Devil's Menu is endless.

Incoming again:

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Hmm. An alignment of wills, as it were. 

In Aquinas's terminology, this is cooperative grace, because in giving it, God is cooperating with a person's own higher-order desires....

By desiring a good will, she desires a good that God himself desires -- that is, her internal integration and with it the possibility of her union with God.  

The higher-order, meta-desire for the Good? 

The process in which God cooperates with a human person's higher-order desires for a will that wills one or another particular good is the process of sanctification.... By this means, [the person] will make progress in integrating her will around the good.

Progress, integration, sanctification, the latter of which "is not finished during a person's lifetime." It seems that the disease cannot so much be cured as treated. Then again, we do not call "hunger" a disease, rather, just a signal to seek nourishment. Likewise the hunger for the true and good. There is no "final meal" unless you're already on death row.

Stop resisting!, as they say on Cops:

Surrender of resistance and quiescence of the will are the start of the moral and spiritual regeneration required for internal integration, and for all the things for which internal integration is necessary...


In the surrender of sanctification, a person lets go of the effort to bring her will through her own activity into the state she wants to have. Instead, she seeks God's aid for her will, to strengthen her will in the good she herself wants to will.  

Oh, and "Both justification and sanctification are therefore also relational, and so is their goal," but that's another post.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

God Needs a Few Integrated Men?

Any shared experience ends in is a simulacrum of religion. --Dávila 

The meaning of that one is not self-evident, partly because the meaning of simulacrum is equivocal: 1) An image or representation, 2) An unreal or vague semblance, 3) A likeness; a semblance; a mock appearance; a sham; -- now usually in a derogatory sense.

Is the Aphorist knocking shared experience? Because developmentally it co-arises with "personal experience," in that the first experience is the discovery of the (m)other. At least that's the way it was with me: we are thoroughly intersubjectively entangled on the ground floor. It's how and why we're human.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering about the mysterious presence of the third Person of the Trinity. Could he be a "consequence," so to speak, of the joint loving attention of the first two, bearing in mind that the Trinity does not "develop" in time (as is the case for humans), but has always been?

In the book we're looking at -- Wandering Through Darkness -- Stump writes of "joint attention," or of what is called "triadic attentional engagement," the "triadic shared attention" which joins "two people's attention upon a 'third' element or target": it

"occurs when an individual is psychologically engaged with someone else's psychological engagement with the world." Another researcher says of the two subjects engaged in joint attention directed toward some third object that "each subject is aware, in some sense of the object as an object that is present to both subjects."

It's a rather mysterious thing -- how two interior subjects can share awareness of a third in what is called "transitional space." But 

somewhere in the period between 9 and 12 months of age, most infants begin spontaneously to use a pointing gesture to call things to the attention of their care-givers and to share attention directed toward the object with the care-giver.

Remama? Probably not, but it is recapitulated in the shared experience we have with our own infants. Unfortunately, "Autistic children show significant deficits in the triadic form of joint attention," and before this, in "dyadic shared attention":

It is now apparent that triadic joint attention is a development of dyadic attention-sharing, which begins much earlier in infancy, in mutual gaze and in gaze-following.... By as early as two months of age, infants already have some sophistication with regard to dyadic attention-sharing.

I don't like the implications of being born with an attenuated ability to engage in this intersubjective mutuality, but I suppose that if it is possible for things to go right, it has to be possible for them to go wrong. And, last I checked, early intervention in autism can have a major impact on outcomes. Moreover, we're all a little autistic. But in any event, 

for mentally fully functional adult human beings, full-fledged dyadic joint attention is required for significant, as distinct from minimal, personal presence.

And God's own

direct and unmediated cognitive and causal contact with everything in creation is still insufficient for God's being omnipresent. In order for God to be omnipresent, that is, in order for God to be always and everywhere present..., it also needs to be the case that God is always and everywhere in a position to share attention with any creature able and willing to share attention with God.

God needs a few integrated men in order to be present to them? Or, some assembly is required of us?

while God has the power to produce unilaterally some kind of personal presence, for significant personal presence even God's power is not sufficient. Significant personal presence of God to a human being requires mutual love and mutual closeness, and what is mutual cannot be produced unilaterally. 

This reminds me of God's first statement to Adam after the nasty business in the garden: Where are you? In other words, where did you go? It can't be referring to.a spatial location, because that's no way to hide from God, rather, to an ontological location, in that Adam is no longer present to God, even while God is as present as ever.

Speaking of which, it is also noteworthy that Adam feels shame, about which Stump says is "another route to internal fragmentation." And again,

unless the beloved person is internally integrated, even God is kept from closeness and union with the person he loves.

And for Thomas, "the internal integration necessary for closeness, union, and love is possible only in integration around the good." Put conversely, no one can be truly integrated around evil -- there will always be cracks, fissures, hypocrisies, inconsistencies, lies, self-deception, and multiple wills at odds with each other. 

So God apparently needs a few integrated men who are integrated around the Good (leaving the True and Beautiful to the side, although they are equally central to integration, and in fact, are themselves integrated at the top, in God).

  • Monday, April 15, 2024

    Integration and Presence

    Still slogging my way through Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. If it hadn't set me back thirty bucks, I would have given up by now. Why all the five star reviews? Maybe it's just me.

    In fact, there's a chapter on why it might be me, called Narrative as a Means of Knowledge: Francis and Dominic. It seems that the book may be aimed more at the former than the latter: the Dominican approach 

    is helpful for making clear distinctions, especially distinctions focused on details, about which argument is possible and often frequent. 


    The Franciscan approach is not much help with definitory details or crisp distinctions, but it can be evocative, memorable, and illuminating.

    The first is more philosophical and metaphysical, the second more embodied in story, myth, and narrative. The Franciscan would say that There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, while I say Try me. 

    The Franciscan type says 

    that there are things we can know that are philosophically significant but that are difficult or impossible to know and express apart from stories.  

    I appreciate the sentiment, but for me the narrative contains and expresses an implicit metaphysic that we can unpack and explicate, which goes to its value, precisely. For example, Schuon writes that 

    Revelation is none other than the objective and symbolic manifestation of the Light which man carries in himself, in the depths of his being; it reminds him of what he is, and of what he should be since he has forgotten what he is.  

    The Bible, for example, "expresses complex truths in a language that is indirect and full of imagery":

    its source is neither the sensorial world nor the psychological or rational plane, but rather a sphere of reality that transcends these planes and immensely envelops them, while yet in principle being accessible to man through the intellective and mystical center of his being, or through the “heart,” if one prefers, or pure “intellect.”

    The Bible itself is the multiple and mysterious objectivation of this intellect or Logos. It is thus by way of images and enigmas the projection of what we carry in a quasi-inaccessible depth at the bottom of our heart; and the facts of sacred history -- where nothing is left to chance -- are themselves cosmic projections of the unfathomable divine truth. 

    The Franciscan approach is also more personal in nature: it is not knowledge that, but of -- of other persons. It is intersubjective, relational, and participatory, or knowledge by acquaintance. 

    I get it, but for me the ultimate metaphysical principle is the intersubjective Person(s) -- i.e., substance-in-relation -- so my approach is able to handle the Franciscan with ease. For me, the two are deeply complementary. I would be the first to confess that we can know a great deal about God without knowing God. But I don't need a narrative to tell me that. 

    The next chapter is called Narrative and the Knowledge of Persons, and it goes to the various pathologies that can interfere with this knowledge, especially autism, which represents "a disruption in the system of child-in-relation-to-others." 

    We touched on this in yesterday's post, which comes back to the question of subjective openness, or of openness to other persons, which is to say, "the knowledge of persons and their mental states." To repeat:

    To be emotionally connected with someone is to experience someone else as a person. Such connectedness is what enables a baby... to differentiate people from things.... It is through emotional connectedness that a baby discovers the kind of thing a person is. A person is the kind of thing with which one can communicate (Hobson). 

    Now, if God is a person, then the same principle applies, only on the vertical plane. Simple as. Here again, no narrative is needed. I get it. As does Aquinas: "if real love has its way and is not somehow driven off course, it will eventuate in shared union with God" (Stump). It seems to me that this principle is embodied in a more narrative form when Jesus says  

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    Vertical and horizontal, respectively, while anchoring the latter in the former. These are primordial complementarities, but the vertical is prior. 

    Stump does have some interesting things to say about what interferes with this relation, mainly a failure to integrate, i.e., a subjective fragmentation in which we are inhabited by multiple wills at cross-purposes with one another. Aquinas, for example, 

    thinks that there is no peace for a person who is internally divided in herself, since, if she is divided against herself, she will have some unfulfilled desire no matter which part of her conflicting volitional states she acts on. The good of the person thus requires internal integration (emphasis mine).

    Which goes to what Jesus just said about all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. What part of All do we not understand? Well, there is the little matter of our fallenness, which is the ultimate ground of this division, am I wrong? 

    This is addressed later in the book, but here's a preview: "all human beings have a sort of latent disease in the will," and Thomas "takes this defect to be part of the universal post-Fall human condition"; "it follows that all human beings in the post-Fall condition lack internal integration to some degree."

    This reminds me of something I proposed in the book -- that the objective measure of "cultural health" is the degree to which it facilitates both the actualization of our latent potential and of our subjective integration. Nor can these two be separated, since the more the person is integrated, the more they can actualize their potential, the ultimate potential being nothing less than union with God. For example, Stump writes that

    Even God cannot be united to [for example] Jerome if Jerome is alienated from himself. Insofar as Jerome is resistant to internal integration, he is in effect also resistant to union with God. 

    After all, God is omnipresent, while we may be more or less present to this Presence, again, because we are divided against ourselves and not integrated.

    Good place to pause.

    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    The More Things Change

    To write for posterity is not to worry whether they will read us tomorrow. It is to aspire to a certain quality of writing. Even if no one reads us. --Dávila 

    I would like to someday publish another book. But what would be the point? It's all here -- and thensome -- and besides, who would be the potential audience? 

    Some authors have to first create the audience for whom they write, and at this point in -- approaching 5,000 posts deep -- it would be a real challenge for me to write for any other audience. 

    For one thing, I don't like to argue. Rather, I'm just trying to help. If the reader doesn't find it helpful, the last thing I want to do is to try to talk him into it. 

    We're just articulating a vision, take it or leave it, and no hard feelings. Still, it would be nice to reach the anonymous Raccoon who doesn't know he is one. What a sad and lonely life! Surely they're out there, but

    We need to write simultaneously as if no one whatsoever will read us and as if everyone will read us.


    To write honestly for others, one must write fundamentally for oneself.

    Turns out that I am the first member of the audience I have had to create in order to write. This may sound circular, but over the years I have indeed become increasingly influenced by my own writing, to the point that I actually assimilate my own vision as it sinks in post by post. 

    Looking back on it, the vision was first articulated as long ago as 1988, in my doctoral dissertation. 

    Every writer comments indefinitely on his brief original text.

    I just pulled my dissertation from the shelf, and it begins with a quote by F.L. Kunz:

    There is in the modern mind a growing wonder at the baffling depth and immensity of the perspectives being opened up by science, and a growing sense that they are somehow grasped together within a supremely intelligible context having more dimensions than space-time -- a context which man is perpetually engaged in reconstructing from the glimpses afforded him by the play between reality and understanding. 

    The more things change. Flipping to the end, I see there's another quote by the same F.L. Kunz:

    There is one universe, and modern understanding requires that all experience and knowledge be seen as a consistent part of the whole. Unity is possible because the reality is non-material and continuous and therefore universally present.

    Good times. And here we are. 

    My dissertation had an audience of four: me, my chairperson, and two advisors, but I have serious doubts about the last three. Rather, I suspect they gave it a glance and concluded that this guy seems pretty serious about what he's saying, so let's give him a pass. They were not members of the audience I hadn't yet created.

    I mean, woo woo: how did I get away with this?

    Just what exactly is a human? Where did we come from? What is consciousness?  

    One must bear in mind that human beings are only in the initial stages -- the first 50,000 years or so -- of the process that a species goes through in evolving to a level of complexity which includes the capacity for self-reflection. 

    If you say so, Bob. 

    But ironically, the book I'm currently reading -- Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering -- actually reviews some of the same findings discussed in my dissertation. The author is a theologian, but there is a whole chapter devoted to the evolution of persons within the dynamic space of the mother-infant dyad:

    Central to mental development is a psychological system that is greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts. The parts are caregiver and infant; the system is what happens when they act and feel in concert. 
    The combined operation of infant-in-relation-to-caregiver is a motive force in development, and it achieves wonderful things. When it does not exist, and the motive force is lacking, the whole of mental development is terribly compromised (Hobson, in Stump).

    That is precisely what I said in my dissertation. Even "a pre-linguistic infant can know her primary care-giver as a person" and "read the mind of her primary care-giver to some limited extent" (Stump).

    To be emotionally connected with someone is to experience someone else as a person. Such connectedness is what enables a baby... to differentiate people from things.... It is through emotional connectedness that a baby discovers the kind of thing a person is. A person is the kind of thing with which one can communicate (Hobson). 

    Stump continues:

    it has become clear that a pre-linguistic infant's capacity for social cognition is foundational to the infant's ability to learn a language or to develop normal cognitive abilities in many other areas. 

    She even correctly relates this to the right cerebral hemisphere, which is a pretty good guess for a theologian: "left-brain skills alone" will not

    reveal to us all that is philosophically interesting about the world.... Breadth of focus is a right-brain skill. So are many abilities useful in interpersonal relations.... those who are impaired with respect to right-hemisphere functions have an "inability to give an overview or extract a moral from a story... or to assess properly social situations."

    I'm still not sure where she's going with all this, but I guess we'll find out.

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