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Vomit the Lukewarm
2/29/2004
 


Shakespeare de jour:

And memory,
the warder of the brain, a limbeck only.

The Genius of WS is his concrete language- only Dante and Homer are his equal.

There are characters that exist for all of five minutes or less in Shakespeare, and we know everything about them. I suspect that every play has at least one. A great essay could be written about "Shakespeare's bit characters". Who Doesn't feel like they know everything they need to know about Orsic (Hamlet), The two murderers (Macbeth), Cicero (Ceasar), The apothecary (Romeo and Juliet)?

I could list off at least fourty more. Any suggestions? (along with a telling line from the character)
 
2/28/2004
 
My Review. Don't Read it if You Haven't Seen The Passion

God Gave that movie to us so that it could purge our imaginations from what was in them.
I used to have many images in my imagination which seemed so much more real and enticing than the everyday world (many things are in this everyday world: including the church and the sacraments). The old things that seemed so real don't seem so real anymore.

The old images used to torment me through my fascination with them. I can't remember if I ever had the audacity to ask God to remove them, or render them powerless- such a request seemed far too much to ask (ask too much of omnipotence? Why didn't I follow reason? Why wasn't I thinking?)

I don't know if the movie is an answer to a prayer, but it is an answer to a prayer I wish that I had made, and that I should have made. The images which used to rule my imagination like strongmen have been bound and thrown outside the city.

Hallelujah.
 
2/27/2004
 
Addition to Below

5.) Why do we need to see the widespread sale of papal indulgences as a sign of widespread cultural decay? most people no doubt bought them because they wanted a piece of paper from the pope (It's the same reason people buy crosses blessed by the pope today.)

Simony is wrong: but selling indulgences seems to be at least a disputed question.
 
 
oops: indulgences were material causes.
 
 
Random Thoughts on the Agent cause of the Reformation: Indulgences.

1) Well, Luther, we've worked out the problems with indulgences- Come on Back!
2) Even if the people in 1517 thought that an indulgence was an absolution from sin- why would they pay for something they could have for free? Were there coin locks on the confessional doors back then?
3) Why can I hear 10,000 accounts of indulgences without hearing the word "purgatory"?
4) Didn't it bother Luther to start the reformation on October 31? I'm not a superstitious guy, but how about waiting a day? (this point only relates materially to indulgences)
 
2/26/2004
 
Return to the Problem of Chance

Consider for a moment, a man winning a lottery. He may have prayed to win the lottery, and he may thank God after he won it. It may turn out that his winning it does a lot of good- perhaps his winning the lottery (per impossibile) makes him a saint.

Q.) Though it is true to say he won the lottery by divine providence, is the lottery rigged?

The answer is of course "no", and no one thinks that lotteries are rigged because God determines the outcome. If a man determined the outcome, the lottery would undoubtedly be rigged, as every game of chance would be if its winner were determined by a man.

Let me suggest that the awareness that "providence rules games, but it does not rig the game" is the best way to understand divine causality, and the least inflammatory. The lucky lotto winner can indeed thank God, but no one will ever begrudge him his victory, as though it were the product of shady dealing. To pray for good luck is not the same thing as to pay off the Mafia number runners.

I think this is the best way to approach, as much as we can, an nderstanding of the mysteries of the divine causality. The mystery will not be fully grasped, but we might at least get clear on what precisely we can't know.

 
2/25/2004
 
An (Again) Intermediate Post, on the Critique of Critical "Philosophers"

There are many philosophical truths for which Plato is the last word. His treatment of eros in the Symposium is one- his account of written language in the Phaedrus is another. But some of his most enduring observations are those which concern human nature: more exactly, human motivations.

To best understand this, first consider the following boilerplate from Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"

"Philosophers, always disputing among themselves about the discoveries that each would make his own, have brought their science into contempt among others and finally among themselves"

This of course is the core thesis of the entire Kantian project: arguments get nowhere, because metaphysics is impossible

Consider Plato's response:

"You know how it is, especially with those who spend their time arguing both sides- they end by believing that they are wiser than anyone else, because they alone have discovered that there is nothing stable or dependable in either facts or arguments... If anyone, nevertheless, through his experience with these arguments that seem to people to be sometimes true and sometimes false, attached no responsibility to himself and his lack of technical skill, but was finally content, in exasperation, to shift the blame from himself to the arguments, and spend the rest of his life loathing and decrying them, and so missed the truth about reality- would that not be a deplorable thing?"

It would indeed, I said.
 
2/24/2004
 
An Intermediate Blog on Homosexual Men.

As a modern man, I am aware of the pointlessness of talking about homosexuality. We all must agree with it or ignore it, no? To do otherwise makes one inhuman, judgmental, uncosmopolitan, "a hater", unintelligent, and the sort of guy who would dance on Matt Shepard's Grave, right?

Why the Dogmatism?

Perhaps there are some who feel that the whole world is strongly preaching against homosexuals. Let me assure you that it is not. Find one public school which has anything negative to say about gay men. Find me one major politician who will say the words "homosexual sodomy is wrong". Find me one mainstream catholic church which has preached against homosexual sodomy, and has called it a serious sin in the last twenty years. Dear Homosexuals, YOU HAVE NO ONE WHO SPEAKS AGAINST YOU, EXCEPT THOSE WHO ARE EASILY MARGINALIZED. YOU HAVE WHAT YOU WANT.

right?

Or is it that you want something else? Marriage? Go to Hawaii or San Francisco or Massachusetts or Europe. The co-habitators haven't demanded as much- why do you think they haven't? You want to be viewed as approved by the Law? Why do you think the drunks haven't made a civil rights issue about being, say, drunk in public? Blah blah blah "my being drunk is a civil right- how dare you judge me with your laws? I was born with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism!!!"... Why do you think there are no "Drunk Pride" parades? Why do you think there are no "Adulterer Pride" parades?

And to all you gay clergy- How come you don't explain away, say, drunkenness, sorcery, adultery, lying, blasphemy, envy, pride, sloth, killing people... etc? If the New Testament condemnation of gays can be explained away, why not some of MY sins? Huh? Don't you care about me, huh? Where do non-gay, non- feminist, non- left wing, non-modern people fit in to your dispensation? ... So I can Sodomize one hundred men, never repent, and still go to heaven: but I go to hell for... What again? As a matter of fact, Gay clergy, does anyone go to hell? No one? If hell is no worry, why should I care what you say? Why should anyone? HEAVEN FOR EVERYBODY. Yeah!

Look Guys, I'm no homophobe. I belong to the most homosexual- sympathetic group on earth, the Catholic Church in Modern times. Somewhere around 2% of our priests are actively homosexual. No Church I have ever been to has ever even hinted that homosex is wrong. Show up on a Sunday, gay men, we'll treat you like everyone else. Maybe for once you can just be a sinner like the rest of the world.
 
2/23/2004
 
The Problem of Chance for Those Who Do Not Believe in God As intelligent Cause of Being

Chance, as was seen in the last post, is the account given to a being which arises separate from the determination of the agent. A man determines that he should dig a basement, oil is determined (by whatever causes) to be in this particular place. But that the the man finds the oil happens (in our story) by chance. No analysis of the determination of either the man or the oil can give an account for why the one found the other. No analysis of the roultette player's intentions can explain why the ball fell where it did, and no analysis of the falling roulette ball can explain why the man placed his money where he did.

In any example we choose, we will see that it is necessary that some determined thing is prior to the thing which happens by chance. The priority is one of causality. If nothing is determined, then nothing can happen by chance.

What then is the cause of determination as such? It cannot be chance, for no effect can be prior to its cause. Neither will it do to merely insert some synonym for "determined", as some do when they say that a thing is determined because "it happens by necessity". But if a thing cannot come to be by chance, and cannot be explained by invoking some "necessity", then what remains? The only option seems to be "by the will of some intelligence". More on this in the next post.

 
2/22/2004
 
Introduction to the Problem of Chance For Believers in an Omnipotent God

A thing is said to happen by chance when the determination of the action did not include a result which occurred.

The the spinning of the roulette wheel will yield a determinate number (whatever it is). And the player determines his bets (hoping for the number to be the same). But there is no connection between a the number showing up and the fact that a player bet on it. We cannot determine the causes which led to the ball falling in, say, Black 14, but even if we could, one of the causes would certainly not be "because Joe had his money on red 28" (or even Black 14).

Another example of chance is "A man digging a basement finds oil". Here again, we can give many reasons for why the oil was in the ground- even a whole history of how it came to be there. We could also lay down all the reasons for why the man dug the basement. What we could never say is that the oil was in the ground so a man could find it, or that the man dug in order to find oil (because he didn't).

In both of these cases, a new thing comes to be. In the first, "a winner" (or a loser), in the second, "a discoverer of oil". These things are said to be "by chance".

Chance creates many problems for our understanding. Chief among the problems is the fact that things which happen by chance are irrational. We can line up hundreds of reasons for why a man bet on Red 23, or why a man dug a basement, but none of them can account for why the roulette ball dropped where it did, or why there was oil in the ground. (note also: it is not important that there are human agents in both examples- if a chicken pecked out a winning roulette number, or a dog struck oil while burying a bone, the problem would still remain). Our mind rebels against such irrationality- it seems as though all kinds of events free themselves from the principle of sufficient causality. For the religious person, chance seems to be an affront to the omnipotence of God.

Consider the following example:

Ignatius is wounded in battle and goes to a hospital. At the hospital, he reads about the saints. Through reading this book, Igantius is spurred to piety, and becomes a saint. (True story, by the way)

Now all of a sudden (at least for the believer) the idea of chance becomes shaky. What was not a problem before with gamblers and the basement digger seems to be a problem. But the same structure remains. The soldier who wounded Igantius in battle did not intend for him to read a book, and the book was not written so that Ignatius could read it in a hospital. (Find the guy who wrote it- this would never have been his exact intention). The feeling is that we must not say that this happened by chance, but rather that chance is only apparent. By a regressive reading, we will be forced to say that chance was only apparent in the roulette winner and the man who discovered oil. These things could not happen "for no reason".

This opinion, while it seems pious, is actually materially blasphemous. It reduces the divine causality to mere human causality: it is willing to ascribe to the divine power no greater kind of power than we have ourselves. Nor is the problem wholly academic. This exact mistake of reducing the divine power to our power leads to heretical doctrines concerning predestination, or pelagianism. But the problem is easier dealt with if we concern ourselves with the problem of chance. More on this in later posts.



 
2/21/2004
 
Note on below

Number One is only true when love is reciprocal between them. Discuss.
 
 
The Things I Know are True For the most Part About "Relationships"

1) Women make men act better, men make women think better.
2) Eros can be materially the same as friendship, but it is always formally different. There is no form without matter, or matter without form.
3) "Friend" does not, mean "Non-lover", any more than "triangle" means "non- square"
4) All love has degrees, and the same qualities do no always belong to different degrees. The beginning of erotic love is Flirting or fascination- and we can flirt with many different people. Because we can both flirt with many people, and be friends with many people, the two sometimes get confused- i.e. eros and friendship.
5) Nothing real can be as great a fantasy as fantasy.
6) There are no limits or obligations in fantasies. On the other hand, there isn't any satisfaction either.


 
2/20/2004
 
A False Inference About Infinite Regress

We prove the existence of God By showing the impossibility of certain things having an infinite regress (Motion, causality, contingency...etc.)

One of the most common inferences from this is that God's causality in things must be very far away. After all, we are only sure that the causes are not infinite How many are there then? Billions?

When I was discussing this proof with a class yesterday, everyone in the class was quietly convinced that this God, even if he existed, must be very far away. If God acted on the here and now, he only did so with a very long pair of fire tongs, or through a universe of middle men.

But this is to profoundly misunderstand the proof. If we actually follow out lines of causality (remember! Causes as causes are simultaneous!!!) There are probably not more than five intermediate causes between any action or being and God (very often there are none). All things which reduce to some natural motion or desire are in immediate contact with the Divine causality, for nature is nothing other than an openness to be moved by the divine mind in a certain way.

This is only to say that if there are intermediate causes, there usually are not many between the first and the final. To deny an infinite regress is not to assert an immense one.
 
2/18/2004
 
Written on the 10, thinking about concrete, and the possibilities for a city.

A Layman's Wish to Future Architects

Cities come from concrete
and concrete comes from ash.

I'd like to think that this could make a city
like the Phoenix that would rise up from the ash.

Then perhaps we'd see a city where
the skyline buildings stretched like proud crane necks;
With freeways fanning out like raven wings.

I wouldn't mind to live in such a place
I'd like to ride the back of that proud bird.
 
 
Part Six: the Implications of The First Principle

We did not learn the first principle. That we know it, is certain, and nothing known can be more certain. As soon as we have any other knowledge, we already have the first principle: and before we know it, we know nothing. Our minds are determined to the first principle. Our minds grasp the first principle infallibly, or rather, the very grasping of our mind is the first principle. The Principle is infallible.

Upon reflection, when we consider our own knowledge, we see that "All cannot not know that being is, and cannot not be". There are three things we can gather from this truth.

1) Our own individual knowledge is co-extensive with both being and not-being. If it were not, how could the first principle be the principle of my mind?

2) If the mind is open to all being as such, then no one can place a limitation on knowledge which constricts my knowledge to anything less universal than being as such. (for example, sensible being, the being observed in experiment, or the being given by a particular culture or time). If a philosophy sets "the horizon of human thought" at anything less than being as such, it only does so because it has failed to take account of the first principle of knowledge, which is being as such.

3) All claims to skepticism, empirical limitation, cultural determination or historical conditioning, as helpful as they may be in their own limited field of determined being, go astray when they seek to limit the mind to anything less than being as such. Every critical theory fails in this fundamental way- it does not take into account the transcendental implication of "being is and cannot not be".

Well, that's all I wanted to say about my philosophy as such. Tomorrow I'll go back to the sort of posts I was writing before.
 
2/17/2004
 
Equality Correction

Huge mistake with an example. "equality" does have the unity of a single meaning.

the single meaning is "unity in quantity". I was seduced by how well "equality" worked as an example. I stand by the thing it was an example of.
 
2/16/2004
 
Part Five: Concrete nouns and The Things Said of Them

The "point at being" game initially gives us a string of concrete nouns, like "couch", "tree" or "Joe". Consider for a moment the couch- my couch that is. Most of the people reading this have slept on it at one time or another. It's about eight feet long, it's brown, it holds about four people, I like it, it's in the living room, it's thirty years old...etc. Why didn't "brown" show up in the being game? Look, there's brown- as clear as anything. Brown is, and it cannot not be brown

(note: you can add "at the same time and in the same respect" to the above sentence if it is helpful.)

Any of the above characteristics can be placed in the principle of contradiction- so they must all be beings in some way. But at the same time, they are not what we first mean by a being. Brown only exists because it exists in some being that is brown. Ditto on "eight feet long", "thirty years old" and "in the living room". But when we call the above things "beings" we don't mean the same thing that we meant when we called the couch a being. A couch does not take it's continued existence from another, but brown does. The philosophical word for the sort of being the couch has is "being per se", the word for the sort of being brown has is "being per accidens".

Why don't we say that "being" is wholly common, and said in the same way, and that there is a difference only in the per se and the per accidens? For example, a triangle is different from a square, but "figure" is said in the same way about both of them. Why not say that "being" has the unity of a single meaning, like "figure"?

The first answer is clear from the last post. We cannot conclude from the fact that there is one word said of many things, that there is one meaning for the word. Consider "sharp" or "equal". Some words have the unity of analogy, not the unity of a single meaning.

But the more definitive answer to the question is found by recognizing that being cannot contain differences within its notion in the way that "figure" can. "figure" contains within it's unique, single meaning many things which differ among themselves, and are not exactly the same as figure. Not every figure is a circle, so there must be some difference between "figure" and "circle" (even though every circle is a figure).

What sort of difference could we find between "being" and "the per se"? If the per se is different from being, the per se must be non-being: for only non- being is different from being. Pick anything that seems to be a difference: either it will be, in which case it is not a difference; or it will not be, in which case it cannot be a difference. The problem is only solved by realizing that being is not some name with a single meaning- a name for one kind of thing. Being does not have that kind of unity, it has the unity of analogy, like the word "equal". Isn't this what we would expect? Isn't the word "equal" in many cases a way of expressing "is", like in the equation two plus six is eight? ("is" is just the third person singular of "to be"). I don't doubt that we can say some things about being, just as we can say some things about equality (equals added to equals are equal). But the term does not have the unity of a single meaning, but rather the unity of analogy.

As was seen with the example of the word "equality", things have the unity of analogy by being referred to some one first thing known, called "the per prius". The per prius of being seems to be the thing manifested by the concrete noun: which we called "being per se". The later meaning is "being per accidens". The traditional terms for "being per se" and "being per accidens" are "substance" and "accident".

It is all important not to lose sight of how we got to this point. If we do so, we will throw around words like substance and accident without any idea of where they came from- they will become mere jargon. Jargon is a most hateful thing to philosophy. To the extent that we use it, we are no more wise than a parrot or a signpost.
 
 
Correction to Part Four (below)

I was thinking about equality last night, and I think that the per prius of "equality" in geometry are the radii of the same circle. The equality of these lines is given by definition (a circle is a figure whose points are all equidistant from the center) and based on the equality of these lines, other equal lines can be constructed (prop. 2 and 3).

I think this makes the point about analogy in equality even stronger, and easier to see. Because "radii" is more manifestly not the same as "coincidence" or any of the other definitions of equality.
 
2/15/2004
 
Analogy and Being

An analogous word is one whose meaning has been extended to include a new proper sense. The meaning of the word is said to be extended when it is used in a way other than it's definition or account. When Homer says "dawn spread her rosy fingers..." The word "fingers" means "light". This is obviously not what "fingers" means- but Homer's genius finds a way to extend meanings of words. This kind of extension is called "metaphor"

But a metaphorical word is not the same as an analogous word. The metaphor does not give a new proper meaning to the extended word (proper here means "unique") but analogy does.
For example, the word "sharp" was probably first said of a knife edge, but later the word took on a host of other proper meanings: consider "sharp cheddar", "sharp pain", "a sharp dresser", "the key of D sharp", "a sharp mind". The metaphorical word, in contrast to this, does not get a new proper meaning: Homer used "fingers" for "light", but no one ever says "turn on the fingers".

The word "being" is used analogously. This is a cause of discomfort for some, since analogous words do not have precisely the same definition. Why not be more precise? Why not give a new word for each of the proper meanings? Or why don't we find out what all the meanings of "being" have in common, and call "being" in the fullest sense that thing? To answer these questions, a few things need to be said.

"learning" means to come to knowledge of something we didn't actually know, by using what we already know. A child can learn addition if he knows how to count, and he can learn multiplication if he knows addition. We start to learn from the things best known to us, and we use what we know to learn other things. Sometimes when we do this, we extend the meaning of a word to include another concept, because this helps us to understand. Consider the use of the word "equal" in Euclid's geometry. The word equal first means "coincidence", that is, if two lines are placed on each other, and have the same end points, they are called equal. Later on, however, we a proposition that says "triangles under the same parallels and which are on the same bases are equal". Here, the original meaning of "equal" (coincidence) is of no value in its exact meaning (the triangles can be of radically different shapes), but everyone effortlessly knows what Euclid means when he says that the triangles are equal. Later on, Euclid extends the meaning of "equal" to include proportion (equal ratio) measure (equal number). None of these meanings is exactly the same; when we speak of equal ratios, we aren't talking about the same thing as equal lines- equal ratios can have very unequal lines, or no lines at all (numbers).

It is of no value to try to get some single definition of equal. If we try, we only say a bunch of words which are synonymous with "equal" like "same" or "no different". It also doesn't help geometry much. There is no need to find some one definition of equal which could be said in exactly the same way of "equal lines" (coincidence) and equal numbers (same units). Why keep the word "equal" then? The answer is obvious, because it helps us learn. If we coined a new word for "equal" everytime the definition changed, then our geometry would be nothing but a bunch of jargon, which never explained things in terms of what we already know.

The unity in the word "equal" is not the unity of one shared precise meaning. The word "sentient" has one shared precise meaning which can be said of a cow, a horse, and a man. But the word "equal" has the unity of analogy This means that on the basis of some first known thing (coincidence) we can come to know other things which are equal even though they cannot coincide (numbers, figures, ratios, units, volumes... To say nothing of the word in the phrase "all men are created equal"). The philosophical term for what is first known in the unity of analogy is the per prius. In the word "equal" the per prius is "coincidence"; in the word "sharp" the per prius is "the edge of a knife"; in "hot" the per prius is a fire or something like it.

What is the per prius in the word "being"? The best way to manifest this is to play the "point at being game". Run around the room and point at things with being, then write down your results...

(I'm doing this now)

I got: chair, plant, man, cup, curtain, keyboard. No matter how long you play the game (philosophers can go on for a while... So can five year olds.) What you find is that you list off a string of proper nouns. In fact, this is the start of what my five year old pupils call "the noun game". Note also that we always mention what are called "concrete nouns": "Justice" is a noun, but it doesn't tend to show up in the being game.

(Random theological and therapeutic digression: the being game- or the noun game- is a great way to experience the innocence of youth again... There is a certain way in which some of us can get "to grown up" to ever be philosophers: we grow suspicious of the knowledge we had as children)

So the per prius of "being" is what is revealed by the concrete noun. More on this in the next post.
 
2/14/2004
 
Part Three: Distinctions in the Word "Being"

The first principle of our philosophical knowledge requires that being and non-being are both absolutely universal, co-extensive, and mutually exclusive. They are absolutely universal because there are no words which can be said of more things than "being" and "non-being". They are absolutely co-extensive in our minds, because there is no part of "being" which does not have "non-being" as its negation, and no part of "non-being" which is not the negation of being. They are absolutely mutually exclusive because being is, and cannot not be; which requires that non-being is not, and cannot be.

(note: some people include in the principle of contradiction the phrase "at the same time and in the same respect". I have no objection to this, but the phrase is not necessary, and it opens the door to an indefinite amount of cumbersome qualifications, which do not add to the principle, but which only help some people understand what is meant by "being is and cannot not be")

Non- being cannot be. Said another way, non- being is not able to be. Whatever is able to be must therefore be contained in our word "being". But what is possible or potential is able to be. Therefore the possible and potential must be called being.

The possible is also opposed to the actual. But what is actual is manifestly a being. Therefore we call by the name "being" both that which is potential, and that which is actual. But to be possible is not the same thing as to be actual. Therefore the word being is not always used in the same way.

Some object to calling the possible a being, saying that some possible things are not. This happens because of a confusion about the words some possible things are not. The words "are not" need not indicate that the possible thing is a non-being, only that it is not an actual being. But actual being does not exhaust all the things which we say are beings. Furthermore, there is no need to always have the word "being" mean exactly the same thing. This happens with many words: I call a steak "good" because it is cooked rare, I call a day "good" because I got a lot done- but "to be cooked rare" doesn't mean exactly the same thing as "to get a lot done". The classical example is better: I call medicine "healthy" because it causes health, but I call a man healthy because he has health. The word "being" is like this- it is used in many ways which aren't exactly the same, and though it is always opposed to non-being, this does not always happen in the same way.

But if the word "being" is not always used in the same way, is it possible to establish some order among its meanings? There does seem to be an order among the being we call "actual" and the being which we call "potential"; for we are inclined to call actual being more fully being than potential being. In this sense, actual being is prior to potential being (it more fits our idea of what the word "being" means). In another sense, though, among things which are in time, a being is potential before it is actually a being, and so considered temporally the potential has some priority over the actual. The knowledge of the priority of certain words which do not always mean the same thing is the logical study of analogy. This will be the subject of the next post.
 
2/13/2004
 
The First Principle of Philosophy

(Note: this post, of necessity, uses the same word many times. I Know how easy it is to become snowblind by looking at the same word over and over again. Do not let the word lose it's power, though. If you ever become sick of hearing "being" for the millionth time, run around the room pointing at things saying "look, a being!"... "another one!"... "another!"... "I LIKE GAME!"...)

We find Philosophy when we find the most general, indistinct thing that can be said of all things as such. Now it is certainly true that all things are things. Said another way, it is certain that everything is a being (thing and being here are synonymous). Being is, in this sense, the most general and indistinct thing that we can be aware of- it is so evident and obvious that no one mentions it much. The first judgment we can form about this thing "being" is that it is Again, this is such a general and straightforward judgment that it seems trivial: Being is.

There is also another judgment in our minds. In addition to knowing that "being is" we also know that non- being is not. Like any negation, it presupposes knowledge of the thing negated: non- being is known from being. Being can be affirmed truly of all things that are, and non-being can never be affirmed of the things that are, but must be always denied of them. From this, we can see that being and non-being are both equally universal and co-extensive in our minds. Non- being must always be the negation of being. If non- being were not co-extensive in our minds with being, then some part of being would not have non-being as its negation. The universal principal we see in this is "Being is, and cannot be non-being". More elegantly put:

Being is, and cannot not be

This is the most fundamental statement about being as known ( I say as known because negations only exist in the mind) And Being as known is the most fundamental thing known. This is therefore the most fundamental principle of all Philosophy.
 
2/11/2004
 
Part One, The Meaning of the Word "Philosophy" To Us

In everyday usage, the word "philosophy" means a general statement of something fundamental. When an advertising executive talks about his department's "marketing philosophy" he means that his company has a general understanding of how it does marketing, and this understanding in some way lies at the heart of all the marketing decisions. The statement is, of necessity, general and is somewhat vague. It is not vague as to it's meaning, but it is very vague-in fact it has practically nothing to say- about how exactly the philosophy will be applied in the particular actions of, say, picking out colors for ads, or going to meanings, or deciding who has to talk to which client. One could, however, tie all these decisions in some way back to the "marketing philosophy"- though no one would ever really be inclined to do so.

Philosophy is by nature a statement of something fundamental, and for that reason it must have a general character (because it must apply to many particular and diverse actions). Because it is of a general character, it must be indistinct (general and indistinct are here synonymous) and every indistinct thing is in one sense vague, but also very complete. It is vague because it does not tell us about all the particular things in their particularity (what does a "marketing philosophy" tell someone about, say, allowing a casual Friday?) But at the same time, the philosophy is present in each of the particular decisions (it is, after all, a statement about what the employees are supposed to be doing there). The philosophy tells us everything about the whole marketing department, taken as a whole: but it tells us nothing about the whole marketing department in terms of its various particular parts. Some other more particular knowledge tells us about those.

And so any thing calling itself a "philosophy" has at least three characteristics: 1) It is a thing which concerns fundamental things; 2) It is general, and for that reason indistinct; 3) it concerns the whole, taken as a whole. Philosophy simply speaking (as opposed to a "marketing philosophy" or a "legal philosophy" or "my philosophy of life") seeks after those things which are most fundamental, most general, and which concern all things inasmuch as they are all things. Philosophy does not tell us about the particulars inasmuch as they are particulars. Philosophy does not tell us about how to do particular things, neither is philosophy distinct knowledge of any particular thing- since it applies to all things generally taken.

 
 
Introduction.

A good deal of my blogs claim that there is only one philosophy. I am aware that I am open to the charge of being absolutist and overly simplistic. I have criticized pluralism, modernity, and the belief that philosophy does not have some one, final resolution (essentially). I am aware that people of goodwill may have some weighty objections to my claims. If I claim that there is one philosophy, I better be able to show it. The next ten posts will be dedicated to an articulation of what the author claims is true philosophy.
 
2/09/2004
 
Pluralism

Pluralism is a state of affairs where no one system of thought is dominant. As a philosophy, Pluralism states that this state of affairs is desirable and/or inevitable.

The philosophy of pluralism is the most irritating ingredient of the modern mind. The mere fact of pluralism is lamentable, but it should also be the spur to great deeds. Philosophy was "pluralistic" before Aristotle (who could see the middle way between Parmenides And Heraclitus, Anaximander and Anaximines, Thales and Xenophanes, The Stoics and the Hedonists... Who else could deal with the battle between common sense and philosophy?) Philosophy was also "pluralistic" before Thomas Aquinas. But these men did not give some muddle- headed, effeminant, "we- all- have -many- perspectives", response to the hand they were dealt. THEY TRIED TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Whether they solved it is not relevant now- it is only relevant that they saw "pluralism" as a problem. The fundamental ennui of modern times is maddening. Philosophy is worth fighting for. It is worth losing friends over. It is worth an all-but-infinite discussion about the most basic things.

I am always careful when I critique modern people to make sure that I have good reason for suspecting that this state of affairs in distinctly modern. I think this pluralist effeminancy is. Who has ever had an attention span short enough to think that a ten second statement in class should be able to solve a philosophical problem? (This is what the modern grad- school acts like... Thank you TV). What culture has ever been more skiddish about "hurting someone's feelings" than we are? (you can't take the pain out of having your beliefs refuted). What culture has more celebrated the infinity of human taste than we have? (It is precisely the love of this kind of infinity that gives pluralism its "charm") Has there ever been a more bored and boring culture than our own? (I'm including, by necessity, Europe and Canada).

This soft- peddled nihilism is offensive both for being nihilism and for being soft- peddled. Nihilism is at root pathetic and ugly. It is the dead branch which eventually (and without regret) should be cut off and thrown in the fire. Eventually it will be. Pluralism as a philosophy is a covenant with death- and God is not indifferent toward such things.
 
2/08/2004
 
Young snakes are more dangerous than adults because they bite at any provokation and inject all the venom they have. Ever since our race decided to imitate the serpent, our young have been like this also.
 
2/06/2004
 
Modern Philosophers and The Locked Room

Modern philosophy begins, famously, with the writings of a man who is alone in a dark room. Descartes celebrates his room, seeing it as the sort of place one has to go to if he really wants to do philosophy. Philosophy has yet to leave that room. It is clear from Hume that he is alone in his room (see his examples of identity in the Treatise). Kant, who lived a social life until the age of 46, became reclusive for ten years in order to dedicate himself to his Critique. Marx spent ten hours a day in the London library writing Kapital. Nietztche lived alone in a swiss village, and was pelted with rocks by the local children.

although they had no contact with the world, all these men had a desire to speak to the whole world. Descartes writes his philosophy for "the gentleman" (not for the scholar or trained mind). Hume urges all men to abandon Metaphysics, and he was disappointed when his book did not sell well. Kant claims to solve every problem of thought. Marx addressed the whole world (and tragically won it for an hour). Nietzsche saw his Zarathustra as a sort of Christ, and Christ obviously spoke to the whole world.

We all know how "easy" things are to figure out when we have no real experience with them: children can be wholly good or bad if we have none... Politicians can be wholly depraved if we don't know any of them... When we don't have a woman, all women can easily be seen as wholly evil or everything we want... Young people and children can have absolute opinions about everything. Lack of experience makes everything "easy"- we can draw conclusions about things without any distinctions, and without any thought. Lack of present experience can lead to great ease in thought.

All modern philosophers have sought this sort of ease. If there is any doubt about this, review their statements concerning metaphysical discussions with other people. To a man, they will all say such discussions are pointless and silly- it is this reason that forced them into the locked room in the first place.

Anyone who has discussed metaphysics knows why they say this- they are the sorts of guys who aren't content with anything unless they say it. Or perhaps they are merely the sort of guys who expect the wrong things from metaphysics- for it is, in a certain sense, a very small science. It only treats of those things which are completely certain and separate from what we know best. This is not many things. If we expect what it can't give, we will be disappointed.

Metaphysics can't get you to the moon, it can't solve the problems in your life, it doesn't make you a good man, it's terms are very general and "don't seem to be saying anything", it "seems like a word game", it can't verify anything by experiment, it is not a falsifiable hypothesis,
It doesn't make you rich, it isn't intelligible to well over 99% of the population, it doesn't let you be creative or express yourself in it, it takes a long time to learn, it sometimes insists on obvious answers to things we want to prove, and it gives very subtle answers to things that seem obvious to the many. It critiques, painfully, the way we are living.

I know the desire to make metaphysics easier, and more accessible. ther will always be the desire to have others see and be interested in the things you love. But he sorrow is that there is no easy way to metaphysics, only the illusion of ease and the illusion that metaphysics can be addressed to the whole world. Both illusions are best lived if we stop our discussions and sit alone in our room.
 
2/05/2004
 
On the Ozone Layer

I just found out that there is no longer a hole in the Ozone layer. The hole shows up in the arctic winter (when there are six months of darkness) because ozone is made by sunlight. You may have noticed that no one has spoken about it in a while. It is now on the great ash heap of scientific apocalypse stories: Global cooling, global drying, diminishing whale populations (turns out the whales were in another part of the ocean), global starvation by 1980, population explosions, Y2K... etc, etc, etc.

Now all these stories were moral stories. This is not meant to be an obscure point- all were really critiques of various moral questions: consumption, materialism (our big corporarions don't care about...) , sexual morality (the only way to stop this population explosion is to insist that the Church...!), the dependence on technology (we give our lives to computers, and in the year 2000...). The fact that all hese things were moral stories helps to explain why no one wants to talk about the refutation of the various apocalypse accounts- the particular consequence passes, but the problem still remains.

Now in many ways, this sense of doom is congenital to our race- if we give authority to anything, this thing will eventually tell us that the end is near- whether our authority is science, or shamans, or people claiming visions. As I said below, we all have one history and temporal unity: and sooner or later it will tell a dark tale about itself. No doubt the person who tells the dark tale will also tell us about a way we can be saved from our fate. When science tells the dark tale, it will see any resolution of it as a scientific one. When the shamans tell the tale, they will offer a shamanist salvation.

Examine the evidence, and look within yourself; the fear of doom and the hope of salvation are irrevocable in our race. But whose account of the doom, and the salvation gives the account of the deepest fears and hopes in your own heart?
 
2/04/2004
 
The Unity of The World in Time


Chronology is the placing of events on a timeline. This is something we ask five year olds to do, but it used to be a serious science, because there was no universally accepted calendar among the ancients. One city said "this happened under the archonship of Cleosthenes" another would say it happened in the fifth year of the sun (by which they meant a 353 day lunar year) another would say it happened on the ides of Janus, another that it happened in the sixth olympiad. Calculating these dates was a good deal of hard work, and some guess work. A "history of the World" was an unthinkable task. There was no way to correlate enough dates with any accuracy.

Imagine the ancient mind. Everyone's history was a self contained universe. With us, the dates of many people can be "lined up", and we can do this without a thought. We have reckoned everything in years- all the way back to the big bang. We can relate all events with certainty (in time) even though most have nothing to do with each other. We instictively know that there is one history for all things- that there is a unity among all men.

Think for a moment about the event that made this calendar possible (it's the year 2004 of what?) That is the cause of the temporal unity of the world. That is the reason we can truly have one history for all men.
 
2/03/2004
 
A Great Benefit of Perennial Philosophy

What the church calls "perennial philosophy" is often scoffed at as being too dry, and lacking anything to stir the heart. We are told it lacks mystery, that it makes everything too pat and obvious, that it neglects the higher and more profound parts of the human person. Everyone who has studied perrenial philosophy has thought this at least once, even if they went on to become a disciple of it.

These criticisms may not be correct, but they are not irrelevant. Philosophy does claim to satisfy human longing (if only on a natural level), and so whatever is in itself not satisfying cannot be true philosophy.

Against this charge, let me list one of the necessary conclusions of perrenial philosophy. The following premiss is not a metaphor, nor is it to be qualified in any way- but stands as a complete and necessary truth:

"Human lips came to be for the sake of the kiss- it was the kiss that made the lips to be what they are"
 
2/02/2004
 
On Contemporary academics

Modern academics have no desire except to teach, and none of them has ever taught someone.

Teaching means to bring another to knowledge on the basis of what the other already knows. But no academic has ever bothered to figure out what his students know- and he could not possibly care less. All a modern academic does is repeat things that he has read in books: they never start with what their students know, they start with the first principles of some guy, and they never attempt to justify them from the things the student knows. All first principles are "________ist" or "_______istical" or "_______ Theory" and they are all equal, and have nothing to say about each other. None of them are true or false, and neither is anything based on them.

At the same time, modern academics live and move in a desire to teach. Since principles cannot be inherently valuable, the modern academic tries to make them universal by getting everyone to agree with him, or at least parrot what he says. Any denial of his principles will be met with a rage stemming from a desire to protect his own all to fragile ego. Any real opposition or argument will always be met with a windy bombastic evasion, or a petulant dismissal, or an outright misrepresentation of the opposition, or the completely unbelievable phrase "we'll talk about that later" or "we need to move on". When a modern academic insits on "cultivating a discussion" or "hearing opposite points of view" all he really means is that he wants an infinite chatter arriving at nothing binding or true. Sometimes he means he wants everyone to find a verbose way of either agreeing with him, or at least not contradicting him.

Modern academics have never had a meaningful discussion about anything. Even if they did, they certainly didn't intend to. Their life is a contradiction: they have no ground worth fighting for, and they defend it to the death; they have nothing to say, and can't shut up about it.

 
2/01/2004
 
Typo

Spell check inserted the word "hyper-socialized". It should read "hyper-sexualized"
 
Traditio aut Vanitas

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