Saturday, May 04, 2024

Anti-Academia and its Bitter Mutants

I'm old enough to remember when college was useless but fun instead of noxious and soul-deadening. Pieper is old enough to remember when -- try not to laugh -- academia could be defined as a "zone of truth"
deliberately set aside in the midst of society, a hedged-in space to house the autonomous engagement with reality, in which people can inquire into, discuss, and assert the truth of things without let or hindrance...

This ought to be 

a domain expressly shielded from any conceivable attempts to use it as a means to achieve certain ends, and in which all concerns irrelevant to its true purpose, whether collective or personal, whether of political, economic or ideological import, must keep silent.

How's that working out? And what happened? How is it that we've landed in a total inversion of Pieper's normative description, such that our elite universities stubbornly inhabit and inculcate a (in my words) zone of illusion

a hedged-in space to nurture the disengagement from reality, or engagement with unreality, in which people can affirm their truth, and celebrate their intersectional victimhood without let or hindrance; a domain expressly deployed to achieve certain collective, personal, political, economic, and ideological ends, in fact, any end short of the disinterested pursuit of truth.

And here we are, with normal people asking: Remind me, what is a university education good for? Detached from its proper telos -- which is to say, truth -- it cannot be good for anything but mischief. 

man's chief nourishment is truth.... anyone who wishes to live a truly human life must feed on truth. Society too lives on the public availability, the public manifestation of truth (Pieper). 

So, if the mind is not metabolizing truth it must metabolize something less, and in so doing become something other than it is. 

It's why these students don't just have "different beliefs," but rather -- as one look at them reveals -- are different, full stop, for they are like a subspecies that has devolved and veered away from proper humanness. They are missing something, with something else in its place. 

This being the case, we have a real problem, since it only takes a couple generations of these warped deviants and bitter mutants to displace the restavus. How do we de-Stalinize a whole generation that we've systematically Stalinized? 

I can't decide whether these people require cult deprogramming or exorcism, but why take chances?

Friday, May 03, 2024

The Divorce of Mind from Being

Change my mind:

The disease afflicting the modern world is in the first place a disease of the mind; it began in the mind, it has now attacked the roots of the mind (Jacques Maritain).

So, it is an autoimmune disorder, i.e., the mind attacking its own substance, or, in a word, college.

There are many ways to conceptualize the disease, and numerous historical epochs where we could situate its outbreak, but it really comes down to Genesis 3 All Over Again, i.e. to the rupture of human intelligence from the source of intelligence. The modern divorce of mind from being -- filed by Descartes and granted by Kant -- is just the most influential version.

Thus the mind is no longer docile -- AKA open -- to reality:

Indocile to the object, to God, to being, the mind becomes also and to the same extent indocile to all human authority, a rebel against all tradition and spiritual continuity.

Vertical closure is followed by horizontal closure, and the result is idiocy in its original meaning, a "private person" cut off from rational discourse. The inevitable consequence on the vertical plane is

that by losing its docility to human teaching and its docility also to the object, the mind in our time has proceeded in the direction of an absolutely brutal hardening and a progressive weakening of reason...

On the horizontal plane, the consequence is  

that the most profound and at the same time most human bonds of social life must have simultaneously become by an unavoidable consequence gradually loosened and undone. 

I call that a pretty good guess for 1931. 

I like what he says about the simultaneous hardening and weakening of reason, which again has to do with a self-enclosed rationality detached from its proper object. It is at once a hardened fortress against transcendent realities, but then dissolves "every object of speculation in a great fluid jelly called Becoming or Evolution." Modern thought is indeed pillar of gelatin.  

Now, "If the mind is not saved, nothing will be saved," and "nothing below the level of the mind can remedy this disease." 

Can reason save us? No, not if it is not conscious of its intrinsic limits: it cannot "look for its standard in itself and in the face of the mysteries below," rather, must be ordered to the free-flowing transcendent mystery above.

Play us out, Nicolás:

Philosophy has as its object above all to prevent the follies of the day from blocking the windows and walling up the doors.

The honest philosophy does not pretend to explain but to circumscribe the mystery.

When the authentic mystery is eclipsed, humanity becomes drunk on imbecilic mysteries. 

Humility is the epistemological condition of specific perceptions. 

The life of the intelligence is a dialogue between the personalism of spirit and the impersonalism of reason.  

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

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Workin' for the Cosmos

Just flipping through a book by Maritain on St. Thomas called The Angelic Doctor, and found many timelessly timely passages, for example,

The unity of a culture is determined in the first place and above all by a certain common philosophical structure, a certain metaphysical and moral attitude, a certain scale of values, in a word, a certain common conception of the universe, of man and human life, of which social, linguistic and juridical structures are, so to speak, the embodiment. 

Ultimately, the disunity we are seeing on our streets and college campuses is a result of inhabiting different and irreconcilable universes. Nor is there a "two universe solution," since there is by definition only one. Problem is,

The drama of Western culture consists in the fact that its stock of common metaphysics has been reduced to an utterly inadequate minimum...

That was written in 1931. We have since sunk beneath the minimum. And yet, there is always further to sink. But for Maritain, our task is to think "of the world and the present moment in light of eternal truths," which was one of the guiding purposes of the blog back in 2005 -- to interpret the "news" in light of the "eternals," or the transient under the aspect of the permanent. 

The good news is,

The greater grow the powers of illusion, the more lovers of truth will feel drawn towards the vast light of that wisdom... 


does not want to destroy but to purify modern speculation and to integrate all the truth that has been discovered since the time of St. Thomas. It is an essentially synthetic and assimilative philosophy...

Same here, because a man needs a hobby. As for Thomas, he pretty much had one hobby and "a single ambition: to discern and to demonstrate primary Truth." "He had only one thing to do and he did it well."  

Maritain asks, "What are the conditions on which this lost unity can be recovered, not as it once was, for time is irreversible, but reconstituted once more in new forms?" Problem is, we live in an age of crude materialism, and matter is the very principle of separation. Nor can man

find his unity in himself; he finds it outside himself, above himself. It was his determination to be self-sufficient which ruined him. He will find himself again only by becoming attached to his first principle and to the order transcending it. Pure subjectivity, like pure materiality, disperses.

Which checks out. Oddly, contemporary culture is simultaneously materialist and subjectivist, which is a true triumph of stupidity, since matter is incapable of subjectivity and subjectivity is immaterial. Oh well.

There is no greater delusion than to seek in immanentism the reconciliation of man with himself.  

It's a vertical zombie culture, that's what it is. What is a vertical zombie? I don't know, but this is close enough: 

that pitiful product which goes by the name of modern man, a being cut off from all his ontological roots and transcendental objects, who, because he sought to find his centre in himself, has become... merely a wolf howling in despair towards eternity.... 

Their cosmically pathological ideas  

are dead: though they may still encumber us for a long time, like cadaverous products, they are finished.  

In a flatland cosmos, in which transcendence has been immanentized, the zombie wolves are reduced to howling at race, class, gender, and Jews.

Western civilization "can now save itself only by working for the whole universe." Which is an interesting way of putting it: "Whom do you work for, Bob?" "Nobody in particular, just the cosmos." It says as much at the top of the blog:

In case it's not obvious, "principal" has a double meaning, since the first principle is the meta-cosmic Person. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

Secondhand Inspiration

While waiting around for inspiration and coherence to return, I thought I might yoink some fresh aphorisms I don't recall having previously purloined.

Lately I've been experiencing a lot of regret:

When we read a writer who has no talent, simply because he deals with an interesting subject, we always regret it.

Three aphorisms that are implicitly Gödelian: 

Rationalism is reason that forgets its assumptions.

Reason is an act of the spirit that analyzes a previous spiritual act. 
Reason does not beget, but educates what was begotten.

The color of victimhood:

The Marxist historian throws a uniform-colored coat of varnish on the polychrome tints of history.

Why dialogue is impossible:

Between the cultured man and the progressive any dialogue is soon extinguished. The first is silent in the face of such vulgarity, the second in the face of such “obscurantism.”

 Indifference? How about hostility:

Violence is not enough to destroy a civilization. Each civilization dies from indifference to the particular values that founded it.

Identity politics:

The individual ego believes itself absolved when it is compressed into a collective ego. 
The individual declares himself a member of some collective entity, with the aim of demanding in its name what he is ashamed to claim in his own name.

Used to be

Civilization is all that the university cannot teach.

Nowadays barbarism is all it can teach. 

The Aphorist says that
Mathematics is the poetry of the identity principle.
Which makes me think that revelation is poetry of metaphysics.

What happens when left brain ideology suppresses right brain contact with reality?
He who adopts a system stops perceiving the truths that are within his reach.
Biden and Pelosi:
For the leftist Catholic, Catholicism is the great sin of the Catholic.

I can't help it if I'm built this way:

Even our favorite ideas soon bore us if we do not hear them expressed with irony, with grace and with beauty.

And with brevity.

In clumsy hands theology becomes the art of making mystery ridiculous.

 As ridiculous as atheism. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

WHO Cut the Light

Yesterday's post asked Who cut the light?! Today we shall identify WHO took the light out of the Enlightenment, and it wasn't just Enlightenment thinkers. 

Rather, the roots extend back to certain medieval philosophical trends, especially nominalism. The whole catastrophe is described in the book Returning to Reality: Christian Platonism for Our Times, which we will be plagiarizing with this morning.

In many ways it mirrors the thesis of Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences -- nominalism being one of the most consequential ideas ever, since it drives a wedge between reality and our ideas of reality, the latter reduced to mere names, such that reality is no longer intelligible. You can trace a straight line from this to postmodern nihilism.

In a certain sense, Platonism is simply what philosophy is, i.e., the effort to apprehend the enduring reality beneath, behind, or above the flux of contingency and change. As Schuon puts it, "all the speculations of Plato or Socrates converge upon a vision which transcends the perception of appearances and which opens on to the Essence of things." 

For Plato, "philosophy is the knowledge of the Immutable and of the Ideas" (ibid.), and what's the Big Idea? The Good, which diffuses its light into the world of appearances. If not, then to hell with it, because philosophy is doomed from the start. Truly truly, it reduces to anti-philosophy -- to misosophy or philodoxy (love of opinion) -- masquerading as philosophy:

This stance does not think that Meaning and Reason are there in Reality; rather, it holds that all meaning and reasoning and all reality beliefs are human constructions..., rather than defensible claims concerning how things ultimately are (Tyson).

In contrast, the Christian Platonist "holds that the unseen God really is the present source and ongoing ground of all created reality," and that "the qualities of beauty, goodness, and truth, wherever they are in some measure discovered, are divine revelations of real meaning that give the world in which we live its value and purpose."

To this outlook intangible qualities are more basic than any temporal expression of truth, and true meaning... is reflected partially in the human mind rather then generated there. To this outlook there is more to reality than simply what meets the eye. Here reality exceeds that which can be discretely quantified, mathematically modeled, or logically demonstrated. 

And why not? Gödel himself was a "committed Platonist," and

According to Gödel's own Platonist understanding of his proof, it shows us that our minds, in knowing mathematics, are escaping the limitations of man-made systems, grasping the independent truths of abstract reality (Goldstein). 

You know what? I'm feeling a bit scattered this morning, plus we've been down this path so many times before that there's no need to do so again. Rather, I'll just pull some excerpts from past posts that pretty much summarize the argument:

Exactly what was this "nominalist revolution"? To make a long story short, it simply has to do with the question of the reality of transcendentals, or universals. For realists such as Aquinas, universals were ultimately real, while for the nominalist insurgency, they were considered mere names (immediately you see the seeds of deconstruction, which attacks universals -- and therefore Truth -- with a neo-barbaric vengeance).

Seems like a mundane enough academic squabble, doesn't it? Well, no. This is the wedge that plunges right down the center of Christendom, and cleaves Western man to this day.

Now, the God of the scholastics could be approached with reason. This being the case, the divine realm was ordered, hierarchical, and subject to man's comprehension (up to a point). But the nominalists swept this entire order aside, which had the perhaps unintended consequence of radically changing the character of God.

For one of the implications of nominalism is that God cannot be approached rationally, since this is to compromise his divine omnipotence. God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to such an extent that he actually becomes far more distant and fearsome -- an object of pure awe instead of understanding.


Secular humanists follow in the wake of the late medieval nominalists who convinced themselves that the principial realm of transcendental truth was words only, and that only concrete material things were ultimately real. This ousted them from the transcendent and created the split that continues to this day between realists and materialists. 

In turn, this split is very much at the basis of mundane politics, as conservatism may be defined as that philosophy which sees the world as the instantiation of "permanent things," or archetypal ideas that are not subject to change. We do not judge or measure them, because they judge and take the measure of us. We are either evolving toward, or away, from what we are in our deepest nature.

But because the left has exiled itself from human reality, it can never understand the simple truth that the world is disordered because souls are. And then in its ontic backasswardness, it tries to order souls by changing the world, and is always surprised when disordered souls re-exert themselves and spoil their beautiful plans. To paraphrase Eliot, they are always dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good, which is to say, a rightly ordered soul (since souls don't exist for them anyway).


As to when it all started, Richard Weaver, in his consequential Ideas Have Consequences, blames the triumph of nominalism over realism, or Occam over Thomas, way back in the 14th century. According to Prof. Wiki, Occam is considered "the father of modern epistemology" by many modern idiots

because of his strongly argued position that only individuals exist, rather than supra-individual universals, essences, or forms, and that universals are the products of abstraction from individuals by the human mind and have no extra-mental existence.

So lacking in self-awareness was this Occam fellow that he didn't even realize that the philosophy of nominalism is itself an abstraction.

Imagine a fish who denies the existence of water becoming the most important thinker among fish. That's what happened to man: despite being founded on an overt denial of reality, this denial became the new foundation of western thought (or anti-thought, if you want to be literal).

Occam was also "a theological voluntarist who believed that if God had wanted to, he could have become incarnate as a donkey or an ox, or even as both a donkey and a man at the same time."

He is closer to Islamic than Christian metaphysics, because he is one of those folks who would say that God doesn't command certain things because they are right and good, but that they are right and good because God commands them. If God commanded abortion, or theft, or Gender Affirming Care, then these would be good instead of immoral. There is no natural law written on our hearts, because abstract universals can't exist, and besides, we're so wrecked by original sin that we can't think straight anyway.

Oddly enough, just two days ago I ran across the same analysis in Barron's The Priority of Christ, except he's much more polite about it. He writes of how Occam's kooky voluntarism renders both God and man "self-contained, capricious, absolute, and finally irrational."

 Barron writes of how the turn away from realism redounds to

a not very convincing form of Christianity and the opponent to whom it naturally gave rise. Modernity and decadent Christianity are enemies in one sense, but in another sense, they are deeply connected to one another and mirror one another. In most of the disputes between Christianity and modernity, we have advocates of the prerogative of the voluntarist God facing down advocates of the voluntarist self (emphasis mine).

In short, the human world is reduced to will vs. will, and may the most ruthless win. The infinitely wider, deeper, and richer world of human intelligence and divine intelligibility is reduced to will and to the power to enforce it.

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