Saturday, April 27, 2024

Who Cut the Light?!

If, as Derrida says, there is nothing beyond the text, then language is a closed system that can never get beyond itself to the reality it is supposed to map: "language is hereby made into a closed, immanent totality, a 'prison-house' from which there is no escape" (Betz). Worse yet, such an approach denies

any point of contact with the substances we could call "real" or any "things" that would "match up" with our words for them....

 This means that

language has no outside, no beginning or end, no ultimate significance, and nothing is ultimately communicated through it. It is, in a word, pointless -- pointless dissemination without the possibility of any real communion or redeeming communication...

There is no "living presence" to speech, rather, "It must in a sense be dead." If this is true, then we are in quite a fix. Is there any way out of the darkness? 

Schuon writes that "man is not a closed system, although he can try to be so." In the Foreword to his last book, The Transfiguration of Man, he affirms that 

In reality, man is as if suspended between animality and divinity; now modern thought -- be it philosophical or scientific -- admits only animality, practically speaking.

Concur. Such a partial and fragmented image of man fails "to take account of his true nature, which transcends the earthly, and lacking which he would have no reason for being."  

As Hamann predicted vis-a-vis the Enlightenment,

Quite paradoxically, the cult of reason ended in that sub-rationalism -- or "esoterism of stupidity" -- that is existentialism in all its forms (Schuon).

Nevertheless, here we are: "On the whole, modern philosophy is the codification of an acquired infirmity; the intellectual atrophy of man marked by the 'fall,'" into "a hypertrophy of practical intelligence" and "the psychosis of 'civilization' and of 'progress.'" 

A reminder that leftism in all its ghastly forms is the institutionalization of man's fall.

Hmm. How do we put the Light back into the Enlightenment? I suppose by first acknowledging the ontological darkness in which it enclosed us. It tried to replace the divine Light with the human, but this is to sever the manifestation from the principle, the effect from its cause.

Just as our eyes are conformed to physical light, the Intellect not only has access to the higher Light, but is of the same substance as that Light. It is "At once mirror of the supra-sensible and itself a supernatural ray of light" (Schuon). Here it is

necessary to distinguish between a "created Intellect" and an "uncreated Intellect," the latter being the divine Light and the former the reflection of this Light at the center of Existence.

Whatever the case, it seems to me that Light is another irreducible, in that it is always here, and cannot be reduced to something less. In Genesis 1 the Creator's first act is the creation of light, and its division from darkness. 

This is paralleled in John, what with the light shining in the darkness, and the reference to John the Baptist bearing witness to the light, to "the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world."  In contrast to what was said above about the deadness of language enclosed in itself, John says that in the Word is "the life, and the life was the light of men." 

According to Bina & Ziarani, "Mental faculties are reflections of a deep-seated, limitless source -- but on a limited plane." However, "because it takes its light from that limitless source, it is able to point to its own limitation, and also to its limitless source." In short, we are able to use the light of reason to reason about the limits of reason: it is

precisely because man's mental faculties take their light from a limitless source within him that he cannot be confined to mechanistic systematizations.

In short, to say "that reason is the sole criterion of truth... is not rationally provable." As we know from our Gödel, "no sufficiently logical system can prove itself true from within itself, that is, by logical argument" (ibid.).

This reminds me of the question asked by Stephen Hawking: granting a lawful universe, "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?" Which in turn reminds me of an Aphorism:

The world is a system of equations that stir winds of poetry.

The Enlightenment essentially confined us to Plato's cave, to a world of appearances with no access to the Light. But for Thomas, "The intellectual light dwelling in us is nothing else than a kind of participated image of the uncreated light," and "the interior light of the mind is the principal cause of knowledge."

But we have to be open to the Light: "The highest perfection of human life consists in the mind of man being open to God" -- who is the Light and the Life, as per what John says above.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

A Few Words About Words


there is no philosophy without it, inasmuch as it lies at the basis of all thought; on the other hand, philosophers will be seduced by it as long as they have not inquired into its mysterious origin and appreciated the ways one can be deceived by it (Betz).

In Genesis, God lets Adam name the animals. Presumably Adam did not name them Steve, Gary, Fred, ad nauseam, but rather, lion, monkey, bird, etc. 

In other words, Adam was not a nominalist, rather, was capable of seeing universals and essences -- immateriality and transcendence -- from the get-go. Conversely, Eve is given a proper name, going to her human individuality and personhood.

But then, in the very next chapter, our furbears are sure enough seduced and deceived by language -- by the words of the serpent. And here we are.

So, language cuts both ways: without it one cannot tell the truth, but nor can one lie -- including to oneself.

In short, language can both deceive and reveal; it can turn philosophers into fools and fishermen into saints.

For Hamann, Kant is one of those philosophers-turned-fools as a result of his misuse of language. Hamann was one of the first readers of the Critique of Pure Reason, and its first critic. Or meta-critic, rather. (The chapter we're looking at and trying to wrestle to the ground is called Hamann's Metacritique of Kant: Deconstructing the Transcendental Dream.) And deconstruct it he does, only 200 years before deconstruction was a thing.

Hamann's Metacritique "has a strong claim to be the starting point of post-Kantian philosophy."

"What is crucial in Kantianism," writes Schuon, is 

the altogether “irrational” desire to limit intelligence; this results in a dehumanization of the intelligence and opens the door to all the inhuman aberrations of our century. In short, if to be man means the possibility of transcending oneself intellectually, Kantianism is the negation of all that is essentially and integrally human.
For Hamann, "the problems attending Kant's Critique ultimately stem from a misunderstanding of language." Ultimately, "language is never merely language; it is also a revelation." 

In short, language, whatever else it reveals, is already a revelation: it is always meta- in relation to its own immanent activities. Nor can we be enclosed in language without violating what language is -- which is to say, open to what transcends it. 

Hamann begins with the question of "how is the ability to think possible?," which "is the primary question Kant leaves unanswered." This is because language "is prior to reason": 

Not only does the entire ability to think rest upon language... but language is also the center of the misunderstanding of reason with itself... 

Again, it cuts both ways: the bad way repeats "the logic of the Fall," because "it separates things that in no way can be separated. Things without relations, and relations without things." 

Yesterday we spoke of irreducibles, language being one of them. But so too is relation irreducible, especially the relation between word and an extramental reality that includes immaterial essences. Otherwise we're back to giving each cow a particular name instead of seeing universal cowness.

Hamann ultimately grounds language in "the hypostatic union of the Incarnate Logos," and why not? If it didn't exist, we would have to invent something like it in order to account for the marvelous properties of language, which again is a spontaneous union of concept and thing, or intellect and intelligibility. "Here one is presented with a clear alternative": 

Is language a Gnostic "prison-house" in which thought is trapped because it cannot get outside the infinite regress of signification to some definitive "transcendental signified"?


a sacramental medium of divine self-communication, whose infinite regress is an image of God's own infinity and whose metaphorical richness is a foretaste of divine plenitude?

I'm going with #2, being that the infinitude of language is conformed to the infinitude of the "transcendental signified," or what we call O.

Hamann's metacritque is meant ultimately to save reason from theoretical suicide, i.e., from nihilistic auto-destruction...

And how is that working out?

either one capitulates to postmodernity, which can save neither reason, nor meaning, nor morality, nor even... the substance of the phenomena themselves; or one admits the possibility of illumination from another source..., not in the form of auto-illumination..., but as a gift that flows down from above, from "the Father of lights."

Here again, I'm going with door #2, not wall #1. And for a postmodern thinker such as Derrida it is literally a wall, for "there is nothing outside the text," which 

ultimately signifies a "closed system of signs, which only refer to other signs without ever meeting up with [a] referent." 

"Language is hereby made into a closed, immanent totality, a 'prison-house' from which there is no escape." It is 

to deny any point of contact with "substances," that we would call "real" or any "things" that would "match up with our words for them."

It comes down to illumination or nihilism: "either language inspired by the Holy Ghost in response to the Logos, or language inspired by Nothing at all." The Enlightenment pretended to invent the light by which it sees, but it was present way before we arrived on the scene.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Irreducibles

Irrespective of the content, how is philosophy even possible? What facts on the ground and principles in the clouds presuppose and justify its existence?

Perhaps you say it is not possible. However, supposing I understand your non-philosophy, one still requires a philosophy to account for the communication of meaning from one person to another.

So, it seems that one of our irreducibles is subject-to-subject communication of meaning. According to Stanley Jaki,

for all their differences, philosophers are at one in a crucial and fundamental respect, be they skeptics, dogmatists, realists, idealists, rationalists, empiricists, positivists, phenomenologists, deconstructionists, materialists, or what not.

How so?

They all use tangible means for the delivery of their respective messages. The means may be the spoken word, a clay tablet, a scroll, a parchment, a codex, a broadsheet, a book, an email projected on the monitor..., but it has to be a means, that is, something tangible.

"If philosophers are logical" -- admittedly a big if -- then

their strictly primary concern should be about the extent to which their particular philosophy justifies the use of any such means, indeed its very reality and all the consequences, both numerous and momentous, that follow from this. 

Supposing it is not justified, or is (more likely) simply taken for granted, then

the philosopher will be guilty of a sleight of hand, however sophisticated. He will have to bring in the back door the very objects the use of which his starting point has failed to justify.

But let's be real(ist): "The use of means, of any means, obligates the philosopher to recognize the objective truth" of such means. Nor can this truth 

be evaded, let alone refuted, because the refutation itself is an act of communication, an implicit falling back on objective means whereby alone can other philosophers be reached.


the first duty of a philosopher is to endorse the reality of the book (or the physical reality of discourse) which is the means making his message available.


So, here is a seeming irreducible without which one cannot take the first step into philosophy. But how is it here, and can it be further reduced to a deeper principle? 

In Christian metaphysics it can be, because what is the immanent Trinity but an endless communication to, and reception of, the Word? And supposing we are in the image and likeness of this interpersonal goround, well, there you are: just what one would expect.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Waiting for the Miracle or Something

That's it: no more posts until further gnosis, or until there is a spontaneous eruption of aggravated logorrhea. I don't want to write just for the sake of writing. Rather, one must respect the rhythm of inspiration, which has its own annoying logic. It doesn't start and stop at our convenience.

There are never too many writers, only too many people who write.  

And we don't want to sink into the latter category. 

Human activity has its technical side and its miraculous side. In the former, a certain act produces a predictable result; in the latter, the effect is not commensurate with its cause. The technical procedure is effectively constant, whereas there are no rules for writing noble verse.

I won't say I'm waiting for a miracle, let alone noble verse. Rather, I'll settle for an interesting book. Part of the problem is a run of uninspiring books that just haven't been blogworthy. I have a couple of promising ones arriving later in the week, but we'll see. Meanwhile, enjoy the slack. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Language is a Battlefield

Apologies for this meandering post.

Just flipping through After Enlightenment in search of the seed of a post, and this sentence stands out: "if language is lost to secularism, everything is lost." 

A Bold Statement -- everything? -- but I vaguely recall many posts on the idea that language is indeed a battlefield and that it is a quintessentially spiritual battle. It is nothing less than spiritual warfare, with one side pretending to enclose spirit in language, the other side engaged with spirit per se, i.e., a vertically open system, open to what transcends human speech -- especially reality.

What is man without language? But what is language if it is but a closed and self-referential system that does not make contact with the Real?

The Aphorist writes that 

It is not the ideas that I look for in the intelligent book, but rather the air that one breathes there.

Agreed, but what kind of air is this, and why do lesser books result in spiritual asphyxiation? In the case of the latter, 

Reading makes the fool more foolish. 

Say Yes to drugs:

Reading is the unsurpassed drug because it allows us to escape not only the mediocrity of our lives but even more so the mediocrity of our souls.  

For Hamann, "the origin of language is not human or divine," rather, "at once human and divine." In the final analysis "the mystery of language is fundamentally a Christological mystery": "language is revelatory, to the point that one can say, 'No word, no world.'" It "mysteriously touches upon all things: it is the point of contact between things divine and human."

It seems that language itself is already a revelation, over and apart from what it reveals. For Hamann,

language was everything: it is what miraculously reveals the world, and... equally miraculously, God reveals himself.

"Contra postmodernity, far from being an immanent totality or function of the will to power, it is the 'tabernacle' and 'chariot-throne" of the Holy Spirit."

Which is again one more way of saying that it cannot be enclosed in immanence without betraying itself and sinking into a deformation of the soul, into one of the varieties of pneumopathology. 

Like Universal Existence, which is its prototype, language encloses us ontologically in the truth, whether we wish it or not: before all words, its all-embracing meaning is "Be"; it is Divine in its essence. "In the beginning was the Word” (Schuon).


All expression is of necessity relative, but language is nonetheless capable of conveying the quality of absoluteness which has to be conveyed; expression contains all, like a seed; it opens all, like a master-key...

According to Pieper, "By its very nature, speech points toward something which is not speech. What is it then? It is reality!" In an essay called The Abuse of Language and the Abuse of Power, he writes that

It is above all in the word that human existence comes to pass. And thus if the word decays, humanity itself cannot fail to be affected, cannot fail to be harmed. 

For speech has a two-fold function and therefore a potential two-fold dysfunction, "the corruption of the link between the word and reality, and the corruption of the word as communication." Thus,

Speech which emancipates itself from the norm of (real) things, at the same time necessarily becomes speech without a partner.

Postmodernity is nothing less -- because there could be nothing less -- than speech about nothing addressed to nobody. "The moment a person"

deliberately ceases to govern his words with a view to stating the reality of things, he automatically ceases to communicate anything. For language becomes communication the moment it expresses a link to reality, and by the same token it ceases to be communication the moment this link is destroyed.

And truly truly, tenure takes care of the rest. It's the Devils's Bargain, for "when words lose contact with reality, they become an instrument of power." Lose your soul and gain the world

When one person ceases to speak to another in the artless and spontaneous manner which characterizes genuine conversation, and begins to consciously manipulate his words, expressly ceasing to concern himself with the truth -- when, in other words, his concern is something other than the truth -- he has, in reality, from that point on ceased to regard the other person as a partner in a conversation. He has ceased to respect him as a human person. Thus, strictly speaking, from that point on all conversation, all dialogue, all mutual exchange of words, comes to an end! 

No wonder it is impossible to have a rational conversation with these people, for language is turned against itself before it even speaks. And

Once the word, as employed by the communications media, has, as a matter of principle, been rendered neutral to the norm of truth, it is, by its very nature, a ready-made tool just waiting to be picked up by 'the powers that be' and 'employed' for violent or despotic ends.

Fake news leads to real violence -- for example, with the BLM riots or the anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas violence of our elite universities.

Entirely predictable, in that "the abuse of language by the communications media could actually be diagnosed as a symptom of the despotism to come, while the virus [was] still in its latent stages."

Once again we see that -- as was to be expected -- the fate of society and the fate of the word are inseparable. A relationship founded on violence... corresponds to the most pernicious destruction of the link to things as they are.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Those Who Do Not Escape History are Doomed to Progress

I'm well into the book -- After Enlightenment -- but it's a bit repetitive, so I'm not sure there's enough new material with which to build a post. But for us there is only the hammering & yammering. Whether it results in a habitable structure is down to forces beyond our control.  

For Hamann, "history is a revelation of something more than reason and therefore requires more than reason, namely, faith... as the sine qua non of its interpretation" (Betz). Again, it is only reasonable to appeal to the supra-rational -- which is not the irrational. Which calls to mind Aphorisms:

Nothing is explainable outside of history, but history is not enough to explain anything. 


Real history exceeds what merely happened. 

But whatever it is,  

History would be an abominable farce if it were to have a worldly culmination.

So, apparently it has either a trans-rational meaning or it is the A.F. alluded to by the Aphorist. Disappointed?

The promises of life disappoint no one but the one who believes they are fulfilled here. 

Hamann suggests that history is "a sealed book, a concealed witness, a riddle that will not be solved unless we plow with another heifer than our reason." What heifer might this be, and how do we yoke it?

More concretely, the choice is between a multi-dimensional Christian understanding of history... and a uni-dimensional secular view of history, which has no fulfillment but the social and technological progress that every subsequent moment supposedly brings....

In short, the choice is between a Christian view of history as a kind of unfinished divine poem, whose meaning can be grasped only in part, and a secular view of history as a series of discrete moments which, having no part to play in any larger poem or unfolding drama, expressing nothing but the banality of "progress as such" (Betz).

Really? A binary forced choice? Sources can confirm that

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

History is not cleared of its miasmas except in the brief periods in which Christian winds blow.

Suffice it to say, those winds aren't blowing at the moment -- local gusts notwithstanding -- thus the farcical abomination of our politico-cultural miasma. 

He who does not smell sulphur in the modern world has no sense of smell. 

And certainly no taste. Or vision, for that matter. Let those with ears hear! There is

a worldly way of knowing, which merely "puffs up" and redounds to the glory of the knowing subject, and a higher, Socratic-Christian way of knowing [which] glories ironically in weakness and limitations, whereby the intellect is made receptive of divine light and wisdom. Herein, not in any proud rationalism, lies the true path to enlightenment. 

I'll buy that. Here again, it is a matter of being a vertically open system, open to what transcends history, to its nonlocal source. For if we were actually confined to history, we could never know it. Am I wrong? We are in history but surely we are not of it? 

Who wants to be enclosed in history, with no possibility of ingress or escape?

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 (Betz).

Otherwise to hell with it. Literally, for

Hell is any place from which God is absent.

Or, put conversely,

Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized. 

Hamann is not against reason, rather, "against only a puritanical form of secular rationality, summed up in the phrase 'pure reason,' that hypocritically presumes to do without faith." 

apart from faith, reason itself and the entire enterprise of human knowledge is ultimately defenseless against skepticism and nihilism (Betz).

A reminder that 

Man calls "absurd" what escapes his secret pretensions to omnipotence.

I like to think of faith in the broadest sense imarginable as openness to the transcendent object, O.   

And that

God is the guest of silence.

 Of a silent openness, or of an open silence.

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