Friday, April 29, 2016

Philosophy and "Philosophy"

We left off yesterday with a comment by Josef Pieper about the nature of genuine philosophy, which, more than any other subject, reveals our deiform nature, being that it requires conformity of our totality to the totality of What Is; nothing less has a chance of succeeding.

Again, no individual "branch of the sciences inquires about the world as a whole. But philosophy is concerned precisely with this -- with the totality in all its aspects" (Pieper). It's rather amazing that we can do it at all, being that we know up front that the goal is strictly impossible and that we can never possess or contain the Metacosmic Subject-Object.

Rather, to practice philo-sophy is to be a lover of truth and seeker after wisdom, such that one must be satisfied with the path -- the "Raccoon lifestyle" -- pointing toward the goal, as opposed to actually reaching it. People who imagine they have reached the goal -- such as Marx -- cause most of the problems in the world. He was hardly a lover of Sophia but a possessive and controlling a-hole.

I don't think anyone has said it more pithily than Professor Commentbox, who remarked that "The quest, thus, has no external 'object,' but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable."

That's what it comes down to, but this luminous moment can be anything from a spark to a conflagration to a wet blanket, like your liberal professor.

Philosophy has no a priori formula or univocal perspective that "limits the openness of its gaze to this object" (Pieper).

Rather, it requires a kind of total receptivity; by way of analogy, instead of staring at a single star in the nighttime sky, you need to relax your vision such that the entire sky comes into view. Or better, it requires a dialectic between the two, the totality and the particular, a constant shifting of perspectives (which is really a kind of ontological metabolism, if you will).

Pieper takes his cue from Plato, whose "one worry is that nothing of the totality be left out, overlooked, concealed, kept quiet about, forgotten."

Misosophic scientism, for example, excises subjectivity at the outset and then wonders how this annoying and inexplicable phenomenon got in here!

But a Raccoon knows there can be no outside without an inside, no object without a subject, no horizontal without a vertical, and ultimately no man without God (however one defines the latter; the point is that man qua man is only comprehensible if regarded as complementary to O; if there is no God there is no man, just another liberal).

"Accordingly," writes Pieper, "it would be unphilosophical formally to exclude any achievable information about reality." If we're going to, for example, express an opinion on man, we need to include biology, anthropology, medicine, psychology, genetics, history, art, myth, religion, and anything else that isn't nailed to the floor.

All truth testifies to the One Truth -- like invisible light refracted through a prism to reveal a rainbow of individual color-disciplines; O is the white light and we are the prismhouse.

This has nothing to do with what the tenured call "philosophy." Any hope of real philosophy "capitulates at the very moment in which it sees itself as an academic subject or discipline" (Pieper). There can be no "final exam" in philosophy; or rather, the exam never ends. It's called your life. And the unexamined one is not worth living, since it is less than fully human.

That's a bit harsh. Let's just say that for the born philosopher the unexamined life isn't worth living. For the multitude, the examined life causes too much anxiety. (Pascal really eviscerates these oblivious folkers, but I don't want to get snidetracked.)

Note that in order to see, three things are required: an eye, an object, and the light to illuminate the latter and enter the former. As above, so below (and vice versa): "in exactly the same way, a divine light is required for the eye of the soul" to take in the nonlocal landscape. Again, this seeing is more diffuse and receptive, more right-brained than left, more holistic than analytic.

God is analogous to the sun. The sun illuminates everything, but if we try to stare directly into it we end up blinded. Thus -- and this is an important point -- many religious concepts are "that with which we look," so to speak, as opposed to being that which we stare at. Think, for example, of Genesis. If we take a nitwit lit-crit approach, don't be surprised if it starts to break down at the edges.

But if we deploy it as our nonlocal spooktacles with which to look, see how much comes into view! Thus, if I'm honest, I can't really say exactly why man is fallen. I mean, I have my ideas, but they tend not to speak to the head as powerfully as mythology speaks to the heart.

However, I can affirm with 100% certainty with Don Colacho that (paraphrasing from memory) There are two kinds of men: those who believe mankind is fallen, and idiots.

The philosopher does not demonstrate; he shows. He says nothing to someone who doesn't see. --Don Colacho

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Liberalism is a Spiritual Abortifacient

Clarke has an excellent working definition of the unsaturated pneumaticon (↑): it is the

"innate, unrestricted drive of the human spirit... toward the Infinite Good," the "great hidden dynamo that energizes our whole lives, driving us to ever new levels of growth and development..." It is what makes us restless for nothing less than the ultimate rest.

So, it is an energy, but like any other energy, it cannot determine the use to which it will be put (e.g., gasoline can power your car or make a molotov cocktail).

Thus, while "this radical dynamism rooted in our spiritual nature" is "the dynamic a priori of the human spirit as such," it can be misused and misdirected into, say, ideology, which is just the modern version of idolatry; ideology is always ideolatry.

You really need a kind of dynamic... double-cross to capture our total situation, one that would combine these two movements: (⇅) and (⇆).

For one thing, although we are ordered to the Infinite Good, it seems that the creation is ordered to us; which is why, for starters, we are able to study and understand it so deeply. Because we are "spirit wedded to matter," we are indeed the microcosm, i.e., "a synthesis of the whole universe" (ibid.).

Thus we are not confined to the horizontal peregrinations of (⇆), but can rise "above the dispersion of space and time to live in the spiritual horizon of supra-material meaning and values" -- i.e., shoot our eros into the heart of the metacosmic source and "set [our] sights on the Infinite and the Eternal" (ibid.).

Therefore, we can -- so to speak -- raise science (⇆) up to God and place it in its proper context. Nothing short of this suffices, because a world of pure (⇆) would be ultimately incomprehensible and thoroughly pointless. Pure vanity.

For Pieper, this is the whole point of a Liberal Education:

"[E]ducation as the activity of educating means presenting the whole of reality to the gaze of the student and listener, giving access to the totality of the world and showing the multiplicity of what we encounter to be both one and whole."

But "How can I bring anything to anyone's gaze if I don't see it myself?" In short, nowadays a "liberal education" amounts to crashing into the impenetrable Wall of Tenure and calling it a road trip.

This is why religion will never "die out," because it -- however adequately or inadequately -- always addresses itself to the Whole.

"The decisive point" in a real education "is that the world as a whole comes into focus" (ibid.). Contrast this with the education of the typical SJW, which restricts this tOtality to a tiny keyhØle of perceived victimhood and persecution. Talk about looking through the wrong end of the telos-scope!

Compare this with the grandeur of a proper education: "the human mind, like every spiritual being, is by its very nature a receptacle for the whole of reality" (ibid.). This receptacle is a womb, and this living womb is the opposite of the left wing educational matrix that prevents the second birth.

Really, liberalism in general is a spiritual abortifacient. Until this is recognized, the fight over abortion per se will unfortunately be somewhat beside the point.

[I]t is always the case that there is, in truth, a strong longing for a grasp of the totality.... No branch of the sciences inquires about the world as a whole. But philosophy is concerned precisely with this -- with the totality in all its aspects. --Josef Pieper

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I Was So Much Older Then

The nub of the gist of the crux of the master is that personhood "is not some special mode of being, added on from the outside, so to speak."

Rather, it is "nothing but the fullness of being itself, existence come into its own, allowed to be what it is by 'nature' when not restricted by the limitations proper to the material mode of being" (Clarke).

There is no reason to assume that what comes first in time is ontologically prior. We certainly don't do this with (other) organisms. (I believe Whitehead made the crack that biology is the study of the larger organisms while physics is the study of the smaller ones.)

Rather, for an organism, what comes last -- i.e., its mature state -- is the telos, the meaning, the summation of what comes before.

To paraphrase something I said in the book, who's to say whether this isn't what a ripe old cosmos looks like up close -- i.e., alive, conscious, and personal?

Personhood is simply the perfection of being. For what would being be like if it weren't in principle alive and conscious? It would not only be dead but incapable of life and mentation, like a vast liberal university campus from which we can never graduate.

"To be fully, without restriction, therefore, is to be personal" (ibid.). And personhood is characterized by a freely active and luminous self-presence that is ordered to the true, good and beautiful, the latter of which giving it its evolutionary movement in time.

Personhood is existence ratcheted up to the highest degree of intensity. In this regard the existentialists have it precisely backward, because existence is "like a person," not vice versa.

Each of us is a kind of window on and in existence: "thus any finite being is really a limited act of existence, existing now as a new whole distinct from all other real beings" (ibid.).

And God is "unlimited existence," or existence not limited by any particular essence; or, as they say, his essence is existence (he cannot not exist).

If we consider the whole existentialada, i.e., the nonlocal metacosmic hierarchy, man is the highest of material beings (woo hoo!) but the lowest of spiritual beings (d'oh!).

Your cosmic mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make your "way back to God by a journey through the material world, coming to know and work with the latter through the mediation of its multi-sensed body" (ibid.).

So, whatever else existence is, it's a ladder of personhood with degrees of intensity and rungs of cooncentration.

As we know, the soul doesn't "have" a body, nor does the body have a soul; rather, the soul is the form of the body. The two are complementary, but, as in the case of all complementarities, one must be prior, in this case, Mr. Soul. Thus,

"the soul must possess its own spiritual act of existence, transcending the body, which it then 'lends' to the body, so to speak, drawing the latter up into itself to participate in this higher mode of being as the necessary instrument for the soul's own journey of self-realization through the material cosmos..." (ibid.).

Just as we need an instrument in order to actually play music, we need a body in order to play the game existence to the end of the beginning. It is Not Dying, not to mention the Meaning of Within.

"Thus we are magnetized, so to speak, by our very nature toward the Infinite Good, which draws us in our very depths, at first spontaneously below the level of consciousness and freedom, but then slowly emerging into consciousness as we grow older" (Clarke).

Or younger, depending upon how you look at it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Communing with Reality

So, ultimate reality is not characterized by substance -- as believed by materialists -- or by pure relation -- as maintained by Buddhists and some process philosophers -- but by the irreducible dynamic complementarity of substance-in-relation.

For as Clarke says, if we deny relation, then there is no way for the existent substance to manifest itself to other beings:

"There would be no way for anything else to know that it exists; it would make no difference at all to the rest of reality; practically speaking, it might just as well not be at all -- it would in fact be indistinguishable from non-being."

But we live in a totally interconnected cosmos in which everything is related to everything else, right down to the quantum level and back up to the metaphysical (i.e., Trinity). In short to be is to be related.

This first occurred to me in reading Whitehead, and it first occurred to Whitehead in the late 1910s, when he left mathematics for philosophy and began pondering the implications of recent discoveries in physics. I'm going to briefly hand the lectern over to Professor Wiki for a moment, while I search for a quote:

"In the notes of one his students for a 1927 class, Whitehead was quoted as saying: 'Every scientific man in order to preserve his reputation has to say he dislikes metaphysics. What he means is he dislikes having his metaphysics criticized.' In Whitehead's view, scientists and philosophers make metaphysical assumptions about how the universe works all the time, but such assumptions are not easily seen precisely because they remain unexamined and unquestioned."

Whitehead "argued that people need to continually re-imagine their basic assumptions about how the universe works if philosophy and science are to make any real progress, even if that progress remains permanently asymptotic. For this reason Whitehead regarded metaphysical investigations as essential to both good science and good philosophy.

"Perhaps foremost among what Whitehead considered faulty metaphysical assumptions was the Cartesian idea that reality is fundamentally constructed of bits of matter that exist totally independently of one another, which he rejected in favor of an event-based or 'process' ontology in which events are primary and are fundamentally interrelated and dependent on one another" (emphasis mine).

"He also argued that the most basic elements of reality can all be regarded as experiential, indeed that everything is constituted by its experience.... In this, he went against Descartes' separation of two different kinds of real existence, either exclusively material or else exclusively mental. Whitehead referred to his metaphysical system as 'philosophy of organism,' but it would become known more widely as 'process philosophy.'"

Back! Thank you, Professor. As you can see from what my colleague just said, there are several key principles, including the ideas that reality is organic, that subjectivity and experience are intrinsic to it, and that nothing is radically independent from anything else. While I am not a Whiteheadian per se, those are certainly three of my non-negotiable demands.

I never retrieved the quote I was looking for, but you get the picture. As Clarke says, "relationality is a primordial dimension of every real being, inseparable from its substantiality..."

What I would add is that this ontological openness applies both horizontally and vertically, i.e., with other local existents and with the very nonlocal source of local existence itself.

That would be another key Raccoon principle in addition to the three mentioned in the paragraph above. So we're up to four, including organicity, subjectivity, interdependence, and vertical/horizontal openness. Or really, one could reduce the four to organism, for every organism is characterized by subjectivity, dependence, and openness.

But in order for there to be organisms, we must ask the question: by virtue of what principle are organisms possible?

The most metaphysically simple and elegant answer is: Trinity. Without this principle, it is impossible to account for the most astonishing features of existence, up to and including the human mind.

If we try to look at it the other way around and begin with physics, well, physics has absolutely nothing interesting to say about Life or Mind, which operate at a right angle to it. Or, Life operates at a right angle, while Mind is like the "subjective angle" of Life, or Life turned toward the great interior horizon.

"All being," writes Clarke, has an "introverted" or "in-itself" dimension, and an "extroverted" or "towards-others" dimension. Or, as we say around here, man is truly I-AMphibious, or an I who is (like any other I) intrinsically related to a Thou (or to Thou-ness as such).

"To be, it turns out, means to-be-together. Being and community are inseparable." Communion is simply The Case: "Personal being, therefore, tends ultimately toward communion as its natural fulfillment" (ibid.).

And supernatural fulfillment: our "universal dynamism towards the Good turns into an innate implicit longing for personal union with the Infinite Good..." This whole cosmos is one "immense implicit aspiration towards the Divine."

That would be another Raccoon principle to add to the others.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tripersonal Metacosmic Ecstasy and You

I'm rereading an excellent little book called Person and Being which traces the soph-evident fact of our own personhood up to ultimate reality -- the Trinity -- and back down again. I don't recall blogging about it, or at least not as much as I could have or should have.

I mean, it's a Big Idea, maybe the biggest of them all: that human personhood is the most adequate reflection of the ultimate principle of the cosmos. Of course it says so in the Bible, but Clarke makes no appeals to authority or scripture, rather to pure metaphysics.

To jump ahead a bit, the central idea is that substance is not ultimate, but nor is the pure relationality of, say, Buddhist metaphysics; rather, the irreducible reality is the complementarity of substance-in-relation: there is no substance that isn't in relation, and no relation that isn't between relatively autonomous existents.

Because substance is always in relation, it is always self-communicative. This accounts for the intelligibility of the world, in that everything that exists somehow gives itself over to our understanding.

Something that didn't do this would be simply nonexistent: to exist is to be known (at least in potential), and to be incapable of being known is to not exist.

Which puts an interesting twist on the idea of being known by God: God doesn't know us because we exist, but rather, we exist because God knows us.

Substantiality is the "in-itself" modality, whereas relationality is the "toward-others" aspect. Again, humans always have both, but only because God does. It's a very strange idea, but God has his own otherness built into him!

Which I think helps to explain why a lot of bad things happen down here. Let's say that everything, right down to the itsiest bitsy, is a fractal of the trinity.

This means that nothing is really under absolute control, because everything is always giving itself over to what is not itself (beginning with the Father wholly and unreservedly giving himself over to the Son).

That's true from the bottom -- say, vis-a-vis the unpredictability of quantum physics -- to the top, whereby fully functional human beings routinely give themselves over to relationships they do not control.

As they say, having a child is like having your heart running around loose in the world. Imagine how the Father felt!

All those liberal dreams of control are anti-trinitarian -- and therefore anti-reality -- to the core. They shouldn't call their predictable destructiveness "unanticipated consequences," but rather, inevitable catastrophes.

So: "self-expression through action is actually the whole point, the natural perfection or flowering of being itself, the goal of every presence in the universe" (Clarke). This "innate dynamism" is "in the very nature of actual being as such." The point is, human beings are not the Great Exception, but rather, the Highest Exemplar this side of God.

In other words, "the very nature of the Supreme Being itself -- even before its outflow into creation -- is an ecstatic process... of self-communicating love" (ibid.).

Within the Godhead there is both giver and receiver, in a movement which in turn "flows over freely in the finite self-communication that is creation. No wonder, then [as alluded to in paragraph four above], that self-communication is written into the very heart of all beings" (ibid.).

I've been pondering this for, I don't know, thirty years, and am in 100% agreement that the approach we are discussing represents "one of the few great fundamental insights in the history of metaphysics, without which no viable metaphysical vision of the universe can get off the ground."

In short, trinitarian personalism -- or tripersonalism -- is the First & Last Word.

Have you discovered the beginning and now are seeking the end? Where the beginning is, the end will be. Blessings on you who stand at the beginning. You will know the end and not taste death. --Gospel of Thomas

Friday, April 22, 2016

Conservatism = Enjoyment

So, acedia is at bottom a refusal to carry out the work of becoming oneself. It is both a cause and consequence of boredom, and boredom is a much more serious problem than people realize. It is the source of much liberal mischief and mayhem, since a person who isn't bored with his own life won't generally try to get his jollies by interfering with other people's lives.

In fact, experts say that the #1 cause of aggravated noodgery is boredom.

Acedia is associated with a "wandering unrest of the spirit" (Pieper). This is because the spiritual life draws us toward our center, such that the alternative is a flight to the periphery of ourselves; the acediacidal mooniac "has to make the vain attempt to break out of his own center -- for example, into restless work [or "activism"] for the sake of work," or "into the unquenchable curiosity for pure spectacle," or into the myriad ways "of abandoning oneself to the world" and ultimately avoiding onesoph.

This is the same unrest that drives one of those compulsive fallow travelers "from one part of the world to another." It also goes to "the endless talk that fills up everyday existence." Ever been to a house where the TV is on all the time, even though no one is watching it? More generally, it's becoming impossible to avoid the Screen, whether at the doctor's office, airport, gas pumps, etc. Why is that? I would say it's not even distraction; rather, distraction from distraction.

Which is again a capital sin. Acedia is full of possibilities, none of them good. It is as if the acediac "wishes that God had not given him this gift" -- i.e., the Adventure of Consciousness -- "but had 'left him in peace.'" He "does not want to attain the end which is really designed for him and is appropriate for him" (Pieper).

Interestingly, because acedia is misleadingly translated as "sloth," you wouldn't know that acedia and leisure are at antipodes. In other words, laziness has nothing to do with genuine Slack.

Many things in life legitimately serve other purposes, such as working in order to eat. But leisure involves activities -- or inactivities -- which serve no purpose outside themselves. Their value is intrinsic, not extrinsic. And all of the higher and laughty things in life are intrinsic, e.g., love, truth, beauty, humor, music, baseball, this blog, etc.

There is servitude and there is freedom, and only the intrinsic is truly free. This was originally the difference between the liberal and servile arts. Which is ironic, because today's unemployable liberal arts major has, of course, obtained a degree in a "useless" subject.

However, the degree is doubly useless, because it has neither extrinsic nor intrinsic value. Rather, it's just very expensive unalloyed bullshit -- a total waste. And it certainly doesn't contribute to personal liberation, rather, to the auto-oppression of liberal victim ideology.

Someone left a comment on yesterday's post adverting to the importance of ears over eyes, of hearing over seeing. Well, "Leisure is precisely that form of silence which is a presupposition for hearing something" (ibid.).

Like right now, I'm banging at the keys but I'm listening at the same time, for "Only the silent person is able to hear. Leisure is the attitude of purely receptive immersion of the self into reality; the soul's openness, to which alone are given the very great fulfilling insights that no [mere] 'intellectual work' can achieve" (ibid.).

Not so much cerebration as celebration. I think it was Russell Kirk who said that the essence of conservatism is enjoyment. It is enjoyment because it is rooted in the feast of the now which extends backward and forward, down and up, all the way into eternity. It is "to see the world as a whole and to celebrate it," to experience ourselves as "related to the totality of the world through a free activity" (Pieper).

And through such truly free activity we crown the creation which has only been groaning for this liberation for like 14 billion years...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Liberalism: The Lazy Man's Way to Hell

Continuing with our little exploration of the nature (and supernature) of selfhood, Pieper has a relevant chapter in his book Tradition as Challenge (meh, not really recommended), called The Hidden Nature of Hope and Despair. In it he discusses an important subject -- acedia -- that we maybe haven't blah-blah-blogged about as much as we should; a quick search finds it mentioned in only seven posts.

For Kierkegaard acedia is a kind of "despair from weakness" which, according to Pieper, "consists in man not daring to be himself, even explicitly not wanting to be himself. He refuses to be what he really is; he does not accept his own being."

Now, this usually occurs as a result a failure of one's being to be affirmed by one's parents. In other words, what begins with a perceived rejection (of the child's developing self) ends in a refusal (of one's being). The child internalizes this rejection, essentially foreclosing his true self before the world can re-traumatize him by rejecting it again. It's a pre-emptive auto-destruction.

Back in the 1970s, a brilliant and sensitive psychoanalytic theorist named Heinz Kohut elaborated a whole developmental theory based on this idea, called self psychology.

It's quite simple really (and also common freaking sense). In order to avoid various developmental catastrophes, the child most needs two things: a person to empathically mirror him and a person to idealize. With obvious overlap and exceptions, the former role often fell mostly to the mother, the latter to the father. Failure of either results in various forms of pathological narcissism and other psychological illnesses.

A normal person never loses the need for both types of relationships. And now that I think about it, it is easy to see how, for example, failure to have a proper ego ideal can result in acedia and developmental stasis. In other words, we always need exemplars to look up to and emulate. I can totally see this in my son. It began with me, but it has branched off into other similarly awesome heroic and virtuous self-objects (the technical term for these relations).

If you want to bring this down to a very concrete level, consider the failure of Obama's self-objects (his worthless mother and alcoholic, bigamist, and manslaughtering father), and how he found his ego ideals in disreputable types such as Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers, and other lowlife demonoids.

You can't ask someone who has never known normality to understand why, say, we have different restrooms for boys and girls. And our culture is cranking out more and more narcissistically damaged and therefore fundamentally confused people, in my opinion (partly) because of widespread single parenthood and abandonment of children to daycare. How could this not have damaging psychological consequences?

As we've mentioned before, acedia has been poorly translated as sloth, which connotes laziness or lack of productivity. But what it really means is "that a person does not engage in working at his own self-realization, that he refuses to make the required contribution to his own truly human existence" (Pieper).

Again, it doesn't refer to exterior but interior work, i.e., "to the carrying out of [one's] personal being, a duty which we know -- without a word being spoken, yet unmistakably -- that we are required to perform" (ibid.). It's your cosmic duty! What did that fellow say? "The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint."

Failure to answer your telosphone is a Big Mistake, because it's God calling: there's a reason why acedia is a capital sin, because so many other sins flow out of it: "In sloth..., man resists the demand which comes with the dignity of his own status.... above all, he does not want to be that to which God has raised him -- a level of being far above what his purely human nature can achieve" (Pieper).

And the most catastrophic outcome occurs when the narcissistically wounded person props up his own damaged self as his ego ideal. This is why sin and madness flow from the Obama administration like a toxic stream from its swollen headwaters.