Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Blind Looting the Blind

Kevin Williamson touches on many of the points discussed yesterday about top-down control of complex systems. You can't plan for creativity, novelty, and upside surprise. Rather, you can only foster conditions that either permit or strangle them. Guess which conditions liberal politicians prefer? When is the last time you heard of a politician being accused of creativity -- except perhaps creative ways to peddle influence?

"If we were relying on the intelligence, work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurship, scientific prowess, and far-sightedness of the members of Congress to produce treatments for allergic reactions or any other medical problem, we’d still have a million people a year dying from smallpox and preventable infections. We’d also be starving to death."

It's not that Obama or Bernie or Hillary aren't productive and valuable members of society. Not at all. Rather, they are outright parasites:

"You know what Bernie Sanders is? He’s a bum. He was damn near 40 years old before he ever found his way into a full-time job, and that was in elected office; before that, he collected benefits, sold his creepy rape fantasies for left-wing newspapers at $50 a pop, and never lifted a finger toward any genuinely productive enterprise. He’s been suckling greedily at the public teat since way back when he could remember where his car keys are. Funny thing, though: Now he’s a bum with a third home on the waterfront of a Vermont island worth the better part of a million dollars. Every good apparatchik eventually gets his dacha."

If everyone contributed as much to society as Bernie or Barack or Bubba, we would be living in caves. And yet, their personal affluence ranges from the very comfortable to the royally decadent.

Yes, every apparatchik eventually gets his dacha. For it is written (by Don Colacho): The progressive's intelligence is never more than the accomplice of his career. And Revolutions do not solve any problems other than the economic problems of their leaders. Well done, comrades!

Yesterday we spoke of the moral inversion of the left, which essentially comes down to a kind of fevered religious passion in the absence of religion, and involving a combination of childish idealism (to the point of naive credulity) and deep cynicism. You might say they invert Jesus' counsel, in that they are as wise as doves and innocent as serpents.

Two prerequisites are required for genuine liberalism, the second entailed in the first: freedom from authority such that truth is not imposed but discovered; and a tolerance of opinion rooted in the existence of philosophic doubt. Clearly, nothing can be discovered unless there is a space for the existence of doubt, and where scientific and religious faith are free to roam.

Note that leftism eventually redounds to the precise opposite of these, most notoriously on college campi. Which is why it is so noteworthy that one major university is actually pushing back against the liberal fascists. It is a mark of how far we have fallen that in America -- of all countries -- and on university campuses -- of all places -- it has to be announced that

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

A "safe space" is not an intellectual -- and certainly not spiritual -- space, and an eggshell mind in need of trigger warnings is simply not prepared to encounter or cope with the Hammer of Truth.

Leftists seem to think that religionists are the ones with all the answers, but isn't faith just the bright side of doubt? In other words, a functional faith opens the space between man and God, allowing for genuine adventure, discovery, and exchange of energies. Likewise, in order to make any progress, a scientist must doubt the present state of knowledge, while at the same time having faith that a deeper understanding is just over the horizon.

Even -- or especially -- the catechism of the Catholic church is hardly meant to be some kind of intellectual prison, but rather, the road map for a liberating journey.

Now, there are some things that cannot be doubted without the whole edifice of western civilization crashing to the ground. So, never wonder why the left doubts them. For example, it is only traditional ideals such as a commitment to truth that "can uphold a right to freedom of thought."

Note that the commitment to truth is illogical, or at least cannot be established by mere logic. As we know, logic is ultimately tautological, in that something from outside it must furnish the premises it operates upon, and there is no strictly logical operation for selecting them. Only human judgment can do that.

This is a major reason why the Anglo-American world was spared the intellectual and spiritual rot that overtook the European continent (and is also why the left wishes us to reject our own heritage and imitate the latter).

Since Polanyi wrote, the rot has not only spread to America, but is entering its end stages, especially if the left prevails in November. Until now, the spread of the disease "was prevented in the Anglo-American sphere by an alogical reluctance" to reject truth in favor of an absolute relativism. Polanyi correctly surmised that this reluctance was due "to the distinctive religious character of Anglo-American liberalism [i.e., conservatism]."

Furthermore, "the establishment of democratic institutions took place in England and America at a time when religious beliefs were still strong, indeed dominant." This "gave effect to the moral principles that underlie a free society," and grounded our rights and complementary obligations in transcendent reality.

This too is an example of positive closure, in that to doubt it is to damage the foundation of the whole structure. Which again is why the left relentlessly subjects it to its corrosive cynicism: progressives have been attempting to undo and override the constitution for over a century. Achieve that, and our whole beautiful tradition crumbles.

Which is why this election is so cosmically important. America began with the promise of a new birth of freedom, even a relaunch of mankind -- of mankind 2.0 (not coincidentally rooted in a tradition that sees Jesus as 2.0 to Adam's bug-ridden 1.0). In America one would be free to be good, which is the only way to be good. A slave has no choice in the matter.

The healthy restraints that bind us to truth "were absent in the Continent," where the movement "was antireligious from the start." As such, it "imposed no restraint on skeptical speculations," such that unhinged reason prevailed over truth. When this type of moral inversion occurs, the guillotine -- or gulag or concentration camp -- isn't far behind.

Thus "there emerged a liberalism unprotected by either a religious or civic tradition," with no defense "against destruction by a logical extension of the philosophic skepticism to which it owed its origin."

Call our line of thought obscure if you like, but it points directly to why Europe is right on schedule to auto-destruct due to a pathological liberalism that has opened itself to barbarian hordes happy to exploit its rejection of the universal truths upon which a functioning liberalism must be founded.

If you do manage to free your society of the obligation to truth, don't be surprised if you find yourself displaced by people who have no such qualms about their own possession of absolute truth. Note that neither side -- leftists nor Islamists -- has the functional faith described above, only a myopic certainty of uncertainty at one end, and a blind certainty of certainty at the other.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Implacable Warriors for Impossible Dreams

One thing Polanyi found curious was that calls for social control and the diminution of freedom always came from the intellectual class, not the workers who would supposedly benefit from their prescriptions: "Those who needed cultural freedom most in order to get along with their chosen work formed the bulk of those most obsessed with the notion of curtailing it through adopting a planned economy."

Nothing has changed in the interim. Is it any wonder that Obama is our most educated indoctrinated president ever? Or that the more Americans attend college, the more strangled we are by political correctness and other obnoxious forms of thought- and social control?

One problem is that Reality is not an exact science. Therefore, the attempt to render it fully rational is the height of irrationality. It reminds me of a friend who is having a little trouble with her teenage daughter. It became clear to me that she is becoming frustrated, hurt, and angry because her rational approach is completely impotent against the vast power of female hormones.

Polanyi saw the irrationality of wishing for a planned economy -- indeed, "planned economy" should be understood as an oxymoron. Because the plan is impossible, it eventually redounds to totalitarianism, since nothing short of this can make the plan work. Since there is only one Plan, it must necessarily override millions of other plans, AKA individual freedom.

Thus, Obamacare, for example, is literally (lower case t) totalitarian, in the sense that it forbids you to make your own plans and decisions regarding your healthcare. If you do that, then it interferes with Obama's Plan to control you: "No individual has any justification to act independently under a State which alone knows the whole plans for the future welfare of the community."

It is not that leftists lack faith; rather, they place all their faith in the Plan: "Such faith is narrowed down to the point of idolatry and intensified to the pitch of fanaticism." And here is a key principle: "It produces a curious type of fanaticism, deriving its strength from the destruction of all ideals; combining fanatic passion -- in an entirely novel way -- with hardheaded, biting cynicism."

Here again, this describes Obama right down to the ground: in him resides the combination of irrational dreamer and hardbitten cynic. Dreams From My Father. Implementation from Saul Alinsky. He combines a cynical absence of empathy with a deep passion to Help Us, thereby assuring that he will give us an abundance of what we don't need, good and hard.

This also characterizes the Social Justice Warrior more generally. As Hayek wrote, the idea of "social justice" isn't even wrong; rather, it's just nonsense. But warriors they are, nevertheless. What do you call someone who is a warrior for an impossibility? Yes, insane and dangerous. No one minds much if they are just yelling in parks or on street corners. But who would be foolish enough to grant them the power to pursue and enforce their war on reality?

Every genocidal movement of the 20th century was characterized by this insane combination of the impossible dream and the implacable warrior. Polanyi noticed that "if you scratched... a purely scientific and objective Marxist, he bled moral passion profusely." On the surface he has complete contempt for the realm of transcendent values, but underneath is seething with a passion that turns him "into a fanatical, dedicated, and self-sacrificing proponent of the changes" he regards as "immanent in the world."

For Obama, the moral arc of the universe bends toward Social Justice. Or else.

"Greater love of tyranny surely has no man than this: that he is prepared to lay down not only his life for it, but his personal integrity as well." Look at all the ritual self-denunciations of people who accidentally say something to offend the left. For example, no Democrat is permitted call Black Lives Matter what it is: a terroristic and racist hate group.

Polanyi refers to this as moral inversion: "the presence of moral passions so strong as to move those who hold them toward an immoralism in the means they adopt to satisfy these passions." They are armed bohemians, or weaponized hippies, or power-mad student body presidents.

But a genuine liberal (not leftist) society "entrusts its fate largely to forces beyond its control." This sort of trust is much closer to faith than it is reason per se; or, it is a higher from of rationality to understand the limits of reason to plan or even understand a complex system.

Leftists have no faith in the free market to solve problems, despite the fact that nothing invented by man has ever come close to its effectiveness in raising living standards for everyone. At the same time workers in England were doubling and tripling their wealth, Marx was coming up with a system that would freeze progress in place.

It is useful to imagine the counterfactual of what would have happened if socialist policies had been implemented at a given point in history. For example, if we had socialized medicine in 1900, today everyone would have access to the best medical knowledge and technology of 1900. Like a public school education, it may be worthless, but at least it's free.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Diagnosis and Treatment of Man

Sorry. This bloated and slow-moving post didn't proceed as far or as fast as I had hoped, and now I have to get ready for work...

What is wrong with man? Other animals may do damage, but it is within limits, whereas man's possibilities for mayhem seem boundless. It must have to do with our being conformed to the Absolute. That being the case, we are unbound at both ends, for both good and evil, intelligence and stupidity, beauty and depravity.

All religions -- and I suppose all philosophies -- begin with a diagnosis, although the worst ones tend to give man a clean bill of health, and instead diagnose the system in which he is embedded.

For example, Black Lives Matter finds nothing whatsoever wrong wrong with black people. To the extent that there is something wrong, it is 100% due to white people. So white people earn the diagnosis of being racist oppressors. And if you deny you are racist, that only makes you more racist -- just as a mentally ill person who doesn't know he's mentally ill is that much more insane.

You will have noticed that this reflects a larger pattern, in that the left never diagnoses man as such, but only a class of men. For Marx, you could say that the proletariat class was free of disease, whereas all classes above were sick and in need of treatment, up to and including literal eradication. For feminists, men are the problem, never women. It is written into Islam that non-Muslims are the problem, not Muslims.

Conversely, conservatives always begin with universal human nature, for both good and ill (the dividing line of which runs through the human heart). The left denies that there is any such thing, but this means there is an absurdity at the very foundation of their worldview, for if there is no such thing as human nature, then there can be no such thing as a deviation from it. The left can call its opponents "greedy," but on what basis can they say that greediness is wrong? So it's really a bait-and-switch operation, such that they deny human nature up front, only to impose their own version of it through the back door.

For example, what the left calls "homophobia" is probably a part of human nature -- and for obvious reasons if you believe in natural selection. This hardly means it must redound to oppression, let alone violence, but it does mean that it's something that cannot be legislated away. Likewise sexual differences. To imagine they can be eliminated is to have utterly misdiagnosed mankind.

This book on Polanyi is divided into four main sections: diagnosis, prescription, treatment, and evaluation. What does Polanyi say is wrong with us? And is there anything we can do about it?

"Many people today suspect that something ails the modern mind." Yes, problems have been amplified over the past century, but this is mainly due to mankind having the means to do what in the past it could only dream of. Would the Romans have nuked Carthage if they had had the means to do so? The effect was the same, only it took a lot more man-hours to to accomplish. Nor did the Romans -- unlike the US -- extend a hand of friendship and help the Carthaginians rebuild a thriving nation. When the Romans nuked you, you stayed nuked.

What if the caliphate had had nukes when they were thrown back at the gates of Vienna in 1529? Same thing. As a matter of fact, Levin highlights a problem we've discussed here, and that is a people possessing a technology that it could have never developed on its own. Which is why we don't worry about Israel possessing nuclear weapons, whereas Islamic nations possessing them is an entirely different matter.

Polanyi points out that "it was intellectuals... who played the largest part in destroying those very things" that make the intellectual life possible. The list of infertile eggheads who spoke well of communism and fascism is a who's who of modern progressivism (AKA liberal fascism), despite the fact that no intellectual life is possible in the absence of freedom.

As early as 1940 Polanyi wrote of the "prevailing progressive obsessions" which "led him to believe that the modern mind was not well." There must have been something in the air, because this is around the same time Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom, and both men ultimately touch on the nature of complex systems that are beyond the reach of intellectual knowledge and control (even though this was prior to the emergence of complexity as a separate scientific discipline).

It turns out that the same intellectual pathogen that resulted in fascism and communism was very much present in the west. Now that I think about it, this pathogen can be traced all the way back and down to Eden, in that it is the presumption of a kind of omniscience that is absolutely barred to man. Any form of socialism is rooted in three delusions about mankind, which come down to the problems of incentive, the problem of knowledge, and the problem of calculation. These three not only make socialism difficult, they make it strictly impossible.

Nevertheless, there was a "concerted movement in England in the 1930s to deprive science of its autonomy and to make it responsible to society and for its welfare." This ends up not liberating science, but constraining it -- very similar to the billions of dollars governments spend on subsidizing the global warming hysteria that inevitably results in greater government power. Can you imagine the state subsidizing research -- or even paying for an education -- that calls for its shrinkage? That's like enlisting cancer to fight tumors.

To be continued...

Monday, August 22, 2016

No Cosmos For Old Men

Might as well continue our review of this Introduction to Polanyi. Like the Tommy Lee Jones character in No Country for Old Men, we "always like to hear about the old-timers. Never miss a chance to do so. You can't help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Can't help but wonder how they'd have operated in these times."

I'll just flip through it and highlight some of my highlights. Here is one that gets right to the heart of the nub of the gist: "Popular thought seemed to imply that only scientific theories were capable of verification (i.e., proof), and that moral or ethical or political or religious ideals and principles were essentially unprovable, mere matters of emotional preference."

Well, not so fast. The existence of both a free science and the free society it depends upon are not themselves scientific principles. Rather, they rest "upon freely held beliefs in ideals and principles that not only could not be proved, but could not even be made wholly explicit." But just because they cannot be proved hardly makes them unworthy of belief.

We'll have more to say on what he means by explicit knowledge as we proceed, but think of it as analogous to one of those magic-eye 3D pictures. The three-dimensional picture is "composed" of the thousands of little two-dimensional dots, but cannot be reduced to them. The dots may be compared to implicit knowledge. Many if not most of our explicit beliefs and convictions are of this nature, such that we cannot specify all of the implicit clues that point to this or that belief.

Come to think if it, this goes to the overall purpose of this blog. We are always trying to understand how the countless clues surrounding us may be reconciled with the whole existentialiada. This is the very meaning of One Cosmos. It is why the book begins with the quote by Richard Weaver, comparing modern man to someone "furiously beating the earth and imagining that the finer he pulverizes it, the nearer he will get to the riddle of existence."

But that direction is not only away from meaning, but renders any logically consistent meaning impossible. Thus, "No synthesizing truths lie in that direction. It is in the opposite direction that the path must be followed..."

How is this latter even possible? Or, more to the point, is the meaning we attain real or only imaginary? This cuts right to the heart of our postmodern dilemma. Postmodernists have no problem per se with meaning. Rather, meaning is anything we want it to be. The text of the constitution means one thing to you, something entirely different to me. So, meaning exists. It's just that it's arbitrary and horizontal, pointing to nothing objective.

One thing Polanyi accomplishes is the reconciliation of our intellectual freedom and objective truth. As such, he is the best cure for postmodernism I've ever discovered. Instead of denying it and fortifying an intellectual position "prior" to it, he blows right through and past it. Truly, he is uniquely post-postmodern.

When I refer to myself as a neotraditional retrofuturist, this is what I'm referring to: I don't want to defend Christianity by denying current sensibilities, but by picking them up and carrying them through to safety. Falling back on mere dogma is fine -- at least it'll keep you out of trouble. But this is explicit knowledge, and it is always pointing to a gnosis that is its fulfillment, AKA (k) --> (n).

Here again, this is the meaning of verticalisthenics and mental gymgnostics. We are not like bodybuilders who only exercise their muscles in order to make them bigger. Rather, we exercise them in order to do something and get somewhere (and be someone). We are spiritual athletes playing a game. The glass bead one, to be exact.

From the first post that pops up:

It reminds me of Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game, which, if I recall correctly (it's probably been 30 years), is about a league of gentlemen slackers who play a sort of game in which the point is to unify diverse strands of knowledge, say, a Bach fugue with the laws of physics.

Here, let me look it up... Yes, here's the description: "Hesse's final novel is set in a 23rd-century utopia in which the intellectual elite have distilled all available knowledge of math, music, science, and art into an elaborately coded game."

Another review says that it is "about humanity's eternal quest for enlightenment and for synthesis of the intellectual and the participatory life. Set in the 23rd century, the novel purports to be a biography of Josef Knecht.... Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy. This he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi," or Master of the Game.

Our quest for truth is motivated by an inbuilt passion for it. Think about this orthoparadox: sober science doesn't really get anywhere unless it is drunk with passion -- specifically, "a passion to attain comprehensive and meaningful wholes..." For Polanyi, organisms are "primordially meaning-seeking centers." The very first iteration of life had the ability to detect "meaning," if only the distinction between self and not-self.

Now, the mind, no different from the heart, lungs, and kidneys, is an organ. But it is different from the latter, in that it is obviously invisible. However, it is no less real, for it is our first hyperspatial organ. It is clearly multidimensional, operating transtemporally from past to future, vertically up and down, and horizontally in and out.

That's a lot of dimensions to juggle, but reductionism simply drops the colored balls by reducing their movement to brain activity. The brain too is an organ, but the material brain can never account for the transcendent abilities of our hyperdimensional minds. Truly, that is to reverse the arrow of meaning -- to deny what it is pointing toward and to aim it backwards. With this soph-defeating approach we deny ourselves the ability to novelgaze around the ocean of being.

This is no better than changing street signs in order to create a new world. This is what the British did in order to confuse the Germans in the case of an invasion. If the Germans landed in England and tried to use their maps, they would be utterly confused. Not only would they be meaningless, they would point in the wrong direction.

Is it any wonder that the postmodern beneficiaries of a liberal education are similarly confused, only in the transcendent realm? With a liberal education one internalizes all sorts of signs which either give bad directions or point nowhere.

In reality, the human being "points" to the God who is its sufficient reason, its meaning, its ground and destiny. Take away that vector and the human being is reduced to an absurdity. Postmodernism tries to come to the rescue by saying man is anything we want him to be (even a her), but that only exchanges absurdity for nihilism (a void which is immediately filled by power).

This is a job for which only a child is qualified, for in the child we so vividly see the mind transitioning from meaning to more comprehensive meaning as its world (both interior and exterior) expands. Reminds us of Heraclitus' old gag that The Aeon is a child at play with colored balls. So, amen for a child's job.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Liberalism and the Propagation of Mind Parasites

This book on Polanyi I'm randomly rereading is quite good. Polanyi is definitely one of the fondling fathers of our cult, in that his thought ranges from metaphysics to science to economics to politics, in a completely intellectually consistent manner.

Furthermore, he offers a cogent critique of pretty much everything that is wrong with the world, philosophically, politically, educationally, and economically. Perhaps I don't mention him often enough, because I have long since internalized his ideas as my own. I playgiarize with them all the time.

It reminds me of what Stevie Ray Vaughan did with Jimi Hendrix. Vaughan so mastered the Hendrix style that it became just another color in his musical pallete. He incorporated Hendrix without slavishly imitating him.

If there were a Gagdad University -- like Prager University -- then Polanyi would be one of the core courses.

As Prosch writes, "no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties."

His philosophy is simultaneously revolutionary and restorative, or liberal (in the true sense of the word) and conservative; you could say that it is classically liberal, underlying the permanent revolution that is the quest for truth. Science always "rebels" against what it knows by trying to see further and deeper.

One refreshing thing about Polanyi (to put it mildly) is that he was not a philosopher per se. Rather, he was a highly accomplished scientist, and only began dabbling in philosophy around mid-life. Nor did he ever immerse himself in philosophy as such. He didn't read everything that came before. As far as I recall, there are few if any references to past philosophers. Given his age, I don't think Polanyi had the time to both study philosophy and conduct it. Therefore, there is a freshness to his approach, as he takes nothing for granted, and is always dealing with fundamental issues.

In this regard he is similar to Whitehead, who also came to philosophy late in life, after a career as one of the most eminent mathematicians in history. In neither man did mere academic knowledge interfere with their not-knowing. And it turns out that this very principle is one elucidated in Polanyi's philosophy.

For the philosopher, it is a question of whether one "should be a physician or a servant -- whether he should continually try to improve the minds and souls of his fellow citizens, or try to serve their existing tastes and interests" (Prosch). Like Socrates, Polanyi is clearly a physician of the soul. And his prescription is pro-biotic, pro-psychic, and pro-pneumatic. He activates Life on all levels, without saturating or stifling it with pre-digested dogma.

Several key principles come to mind when I think of his philosophy: freedom. Exploration. Adventure. Discovery.

His philosophy disposes of contemporary liberalism in such devastating fashion, that it is surprising how long it took for me to abandon it. In other words, I read and was influenced by Polanyi long before I discovered the truth about the left, and switched sides. How is this possible? What about the cognitive dissonance?

Well. There are pro-abortion and pro-redefinition of marriage Catholic Democrats, so we should never be surprised at the contortions of which the mind is capable. Look at all the liberals who insist we should discriminate on the basis of race when it comes to college or employment, but not practice common-sense affirmative action in policing or airport security.

I first read Polanyi in the 1980s, while working on my masters degree (not for my masters degree; rather, just for future blogging material). I didn't know anything about economics at the time, nor did I have any interest in it, so I must have just skipped over those parts. And so stupidly confident was I in the self-evident truth of leftism, that it is possible I simply hallucinated Polanyi's agreement with me.

Again, we shouldn't be surprised at such feats of ignorance. For example, Justices Ginsburg, or Sotomayor, or Kagan are no doubt 100% convinced they are defending the Constitution. They have read the document as surely as I have, and yet, somehow think it agrees with their positions. So, I wasn't exceptional, just a typical deluded liberal.

Cognitive dissonance. I can't stand it, on any level. Rather, the Raccoon demands complete consistency. The other day, Dennis Prager was saying the same thing. He wondered out loud if there are liberals who have listened to him for a long time, and yet, remained liberal, asking any such specimens to call in. I only heard one before I reached my destination, and he very much reminded me of me, back in the day. A lot of disconnected left-wing talking points were lodged in his head like rocks in a machine.

If you want to see a real-time example, then read the comments of our recent troll, whose mind has been entirely infiltrated and hijacked by self-replicating left-wing talking points. Speaking from personal experience, these memes take over the host in the same way viruses enter the nucleus of the cell and begin reproducing themselves.

Is a virus alive or dead? Has that question been decided by biology? At least on the psycho-spirtual plane, it is a kind of negative facsimile of life: it resembles a living process while promoting death and disease. Likewise, a liberal indoctrination surely resembles an education. But it serves death, not life.

Speaking of which, I ran across an article by Anthony Esolen called Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization. It's a little turgid, but he does point out how the left wrecked education, ruined everybody's lives, and ate all our steak. He focuses on the philosophically and spiritually retarded John Dewey, who

"was classically trained but would have none of it for the ordinary democratic masses. He had no use for the useless things -- that is, the best and noblest things: no use for poetry, flights of imagination, beauty, religion, and tradition. He was a hidebound innovator."

Hidebound innovator. That is a good encrapsulation of liberalism, in that it is regression masquerading as progress, or barbarism dressed in Pajama Boy's clothing. It is tyranny disguised as liberation, mobocracy as democracy, discrimination as equality, stupidity as wisdom, and cruelty as compassion.

By the 1960s, Dewey's methods had produced a cohort "well trained in his democratic scorn. Out with the notion that the academy is not a place for political recruitment, precisely because it is to be devoted to the truth. 'What is truth?' said the serious Dewey, and he could not wait to give us all his answer: truth was only what could be ascertained by empirical observation and measurement. That meant that only the hard sciences could rest upon their foundations. Every other building could be commandeered by the politicians, or blown to bits."

It is this hideous, anti-human philosophy that Polanyi tears to shreds. But liberals continue their insane project:

"They began to turn arts and letters into instruments of politics, or to blow them to bits. Thus the demand that literature be 'relevant.' Homer is relevant to me because Homer is relevant to man. But once you deny that there are stable truths to be learned about man by studying his history, his philosophy, and his art, what is left for Homer but to be adopted by a few curious souls who happen to like him.... And there are nearer ways to go to burn down buildings than by struggling over Homeric verbs. So in a few short years, centuries of learning were merely tossed aside. The central pier cracked, the bridge buckled, and the waters came crashing through."

Which is why a liberal indoctrination leaves its recipients all wet. A few weeks ago I was talking to our son's tutor, an extremely bright college graduate. She must be about 22, and has been accepted to graduate school. I don't recall how we got on the subject, but I mentioned the founders and their vision of a limited government.

Long story short, it was all new to her! Because she is bright, she was extremely interested in what I had to say, but I was telling her things she should have learned by the 6th grade.

For the left, it is not that such things are simply "not taught," i.e., ignored or overlooked. Rather, they are aggressively untaught and displaced by un-American principles like "diversity," multiculturalism, and state-imposed "equality," i.e., illiberal leftism.

That reminds me. Another listener called into Prager's show that day, and said that her son's high school history book has a chapter on the Cold War. In it there is no mention of Stalin, but a helpful chart that lists the pros and cons of communism vs. capitalism!

I would no sooner send my son to a public school than let him walk around uninoculated from disease.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What We Can’t Know & What We Can’t Not Know

Well, for starters, we can’t not know that there are things we can never know. All living beings know. Only man can know that he doesn’t know, and know that the latter category is inexhaustible. Thus, there is no permanent cure for curiosity; rather, the answer is the disease that kills it.

For Polanyi, there are “five indeterminacies to which he believed all our knowledge is subject and which must prevent our ever reaching complete objectivity and detachment” (Prosch). For example, reality “is always richer in its capacities to manifest itself in the future than we have grasped it to be in our explicit thought about it.” There is nothing we can do to make the surprise! go away.

For example, the most exhaustive account of physics nevertheless renders life completely inexplicable. Before 4 billion years ago, there was no biological life, only matter. No one could have predicted what was about to happen, i.e., the emergence of life, and with it, a theretofore inconceivable dimension of inwardness, awareness, experience. We can’t even say “inconceivable,” because there was no one to conceive or not conceive.

But just as climate change models cannot retrodict the past, nor can physics. Part of this has to do with complexity, as most systems — including the whole realm of biology — are too complex for physics to cope with.

Time out for Schuon: Whether we like it or not, we live surrounded by mysteries, which logically and existentially draw us towards transcendence. To put it another way, one thing our explanations can never explain is our transcendence — our transcendent ability to posit explanations.

Second, “The rules for deciding whether a discernible pattern in nature is due to chance… can never be rendered determinate.” We really can’t know where order ends and freedom begins. Take again the emergence of life. Most people who have thought about it realize it cannot have been random, because the number of finely tuned variables needed for that to occur approaches infinity. Is it therefore built into physics, something bound to happen? If so, then it only proves how little we know of physics, or about the deep laws governing the universe.

Time out for Schuon: When God is removed from the universe, it becomes a desert of rocks or ice; it is deprived of life and warmth, and every man who still has a sense of the integrally real refuses to admit that this should be reality…

This touches on Gödel, because man — as opposed to any computer — always transcends his own program, so to speak. This also goes to something Russell Kirk said to the effect that ideology is the opposite of conservatism, because the former is a closed system while conservatism is not only open to transcendence but is the tension between transcendence and immanence: it is the recognition of timelessly true principles from outside the universe, and the struggle to instantiate them herebelow, AKA “ thy will be done.”

Thus, To give oneself to God is to give God to the world. And If we want truth to live in us, we must live in it (Schuon).

Third, we do not necessarily “know on what grounds we hold our knowledge to be true.” This touches on what was said yesterday about the function of intuition and imagination. Any knowledge we render completely specific is an impoverished knowledge, or at least knowledge of a very simple system. I don’t know what I know or how I know it, and one of the purposes of blogging is to find out. Even so, I never really know why I know something of a higher order. I just know that it satisfies something in me, something that exists for that very purpose.

Time out for Schuon: It is a fact that man cannot find happiness within his own limits; his very nature condemns him to surpass himself, and in surpassing himself, to free himself. We're always searching for the teloscape that sees all the way to the end of things.

Fourth, “To focus on the subsidiaries in a scientific integration makes us lose sight of the vision formed by their integration.” The integration of subsidiaries is the meaning they point toward. Therefore, to reduce the vision to its components is to destroy the vision. If a pianist focuses on his fingers, he loses sight of musical truth he is trying to convey through them.

Which is why, ultimately, Only the science of the Absolute gives meaning and discipline to the science of the relative (Schuon). Science not only has no meaning outside God, it has no possibility, for the relative depends on the absolute, not vice versa.

Fifth, “we internalize that which we make function subsidiarily,” and “pour our body into it.” You might say we are incarnated, and that we specifically incarnate certain ideas and principles in order to see beyond them.

Even more basically, we are logocentric, such that language penetrates us all the way to the ground; being steeped in language, we use its internalized symbols for the purposes of exteriorization and exploration. Our logosphere is a kind of ever-expanding universe; or not, depending on other factors. But there is always an element of personal, even intimate, involvement in our internalized judgments and commitments. Language can never be reduced to mere words, only the Word that is prior to it.

In the end, “there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence…” And “with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite” (Schuon).

And although the circle is "closed," it ceaselessly expands both exteriorly and interiorly, thus combining absoluteness with infinitude.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

God is a Meta-Mathematician

This article on What It's Like to Understand Higher Mathematics (HT Happy Acres) touches on a lot of the ideas discussed in our previous post on Guided Ignorance and Faithless Stupidity.

So, what is it like to be a genius at math? Ironically, it cannot be quantified, and mathematicians usually lack the qualitative/literary skill to express themselves mythsemantically. But this one is quite clear, and many of the skills he describes are generalizable to other fields, say, medical diagnosis. A skilled diagnostician can filter out all sorts of noise that may distract and deceive the novice, and hone in on subtle clues missed by the uninitiated.

Thus, "You are often confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof for it." We call this "intuition," but that doesn't mean it isn't rooted in a kind of real perception (or perception of reality).

Rather, "you have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true to maintain the harmony of the conceptual space."

This is one reason why it can be frustrating to try to explain a higher or deeper truth to someone who isn't as intelligent or perceptive as you are. You may not be a particularly systematic thinker, so you may not even be able to articulate the implicit steps that led you to your conclusion. You could say that it's a "feeling," but it is much deeper than that.

For example, I always have a particular "feeling" when I read Schuon, but it's not merely an emotion. It's very hard to describe, because it is what it is and not something else. But it includes a kind of deep and expansive pneuma-cognitive satisfaction, almost comparable to how we are somehow satisfied by a musical piece. Why should music satisfy us at all, and what is being satisfied? There's something about the logic of the piece, as if everything about it is inevitable and complete.

When I read Schuon, there is a strong feeling that he goes as far as thought can take us. In that regard, it is very "satisfying." Again, what is being satisfied? Well, being that man is made to know, it must be a kind of comprehensive satisfaction of that need.

I suppose scientists and mathematicians experience something similar, but it's hard for me to imagine anything approaching total satisfaction from those fields. So much is left out of even their most sophisticated models, that they would leave me hungry for more.

I have read any number of biologists who talk about the deep intellectual satisfaction that accompanies their appreciation of natural selection. Well, yes. I am well aware of that feeling myself. Maybe I just have a bigger appetite, but I consider it only a first course. Metaphysics is the dessert. And theology is the after dinner cigar.

Polanyi was a "meta-scientist," as it were. He basically examined the logic of scientific discovery, and built a more general theory of knowledge based upon it. Thus, "imagination sets actively before us the focal point to be aimed at, but it is intuition that supplies our imagination with the organization of subsidiary clues to accomplish its focal goal, as well as the initial assessments of the feasibility of this goal. Intuition thus guides our imagination" (Prosch).

And all of this action takes place beneath the surface of consciousness. We are always guided by we-know-not-what. But it doesn't mean we aren't being pulled by this invisible gradient of meaning, AKA a nonlocal attractor.

Indeed, many if not most of the things we believe are due to prior non-conscious "commitments" to ideas, principles, concepts, and conclusions of various kinds. For Polanyi, these can never be rendered fully explicit, but we can in a sense know them by that to which they point. So, if, say, an atheist tells you that you cannot specify all the reasons why you believe in God, it is no different for the atheist: nor can he specify all of the implicit and subsidiary clues that led him to his conclusion.

A key thoughtlet occurs to me: if you believe all of your evidence can be rendered explicit, you have to be a pretty shallow individual. This was the philosophy of positivism, and although it has been discarded by philosophy as such, there are still a lot of crude scientistic positivists running around.

I recently evaluated an intelligent young woman who said she had discarded her Catholicism for Science. The problem is, you can superimpose Science on yourself from above, but it won't do anything to speak to all of those implicit clues demanding an answer. Therefore, you have to dismiss them as irrelevant, which can lead to a kind of existential pain that doesn't seem to have any "cure."

Here is another example of what it's like to be a math wiz: "You develop a strong aesthetic preference for powerful and general ideas that connect hundreds of difficult questions, as opposed to resolutions of particular puzzles."

Now, such ideas can obviously mislead, and we have to be cautious about indulging this ability. For example, Marxism is a quintessential case of a "powerful and general idea that connects hundreds of difficult questions." It is also utterly false, but that doesn't diminish its appeal to the susceptible.

To be perfectly accurate, we all have this susceptibility to total explanation by virtue of being human. It comes with the standard package. But is a total explanation even possible without God at the top? No, it is not. For starters, if there is no God, then there is no top or bottom at all, just as Darwin says. And there is no reason in the world we should pay attention to the pompous declamations of a randomly evolved talking monkey.

The piece concludes with a good one: "You are humble about your knowledge because you are aware of how weak math is, and you are comfortable with the fact that you can say nothing intelligent about most problems."

However, this particular mathematician just said a number of intelligent things about human problems. But it wasn't via math per se, rather, a meta-mathematical analysis of the mathematician's cognitive abilities. Quality trumps quantity every time, for the same reason that semantics can never be reduced to syntax. Math has no meaning that isn't ultimately self-referential. It requires a deeper insight in order to extricate oneself from that closed loop and make contact with the transcendent real, AKA God.

God is like a good accountant: he's surely adept at math, but can also tell you what to do to avoid an audit.