Ontological Integrity & the Possibility of Actuality

If reality were not coherent through and through – if, that is to say, the Many things were not integral in some One – then there could be no world. There is a world, in which every one thing is completely coordinated to every other; so reality is coherent, and integral in and as some One.

Notice that finite creatures are incapable of the infinite calculation needed to achieve an integral coordination of things. The One in and as which things are integrated must then be itself infinite. It must furthermore be eternal; for, as constituting by itself the mundane forecondition and matrix of all the items that go to make up any worlds and their temporal orders, it must be prior to all such orders, and to their constituents. Such orders then, and all the Many, supervene upon that One.

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The Beauty of Being

Commenting on a recent post about Beauty, Shenpen suggested that I had got terribly mixed up about the difference between the map – our feelings of beauty – and what’s really out there, which we feel is more or less beautiful. He said two quite disparate things, at and to make quite different points in his argument:

… what can [it even] possibly mean that beauty is objectively real? That a pretty flower objectively has the same physical properties we think it has?

… “beauty” is not even a property of things, but a property of sensations in our minds.

These two statements resonated together in my mind, after I had read and responded to his comment. Their conjunction got me started.

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The Stupefying Boredom of Latter Day Public Life in the West

So it’s election season again in the US, and the press is all abuzz over the recent declarations of candidacy. Last time around, I still cared a bit, mostly out of habit I suppose. I liked Romney, who I think is a fundamentally decent man, and I was disappointed to see such a talented, intelligent and enterprising fellow rejected in favor of an inept fool like Obama. So I was interested to that extent. 

But Christian reaction had by then so permeated my being that I knew the only difference the election might possibly make is that of a few percentage points in my federal tax rate. Not that those percentages are unimportant, for they are, and the welfare of millions hangs upon them; but thanks to the mind-boggling deficits of the first four Obama years, they are upward bound, for the foreseeable future, almost no matter what. Obama spent so much money that no future administration is going to be able to cut taxes. Obama has eliminated all room for such maneuvers. It’s a genius move, albeit not the move of a genius. 

Evil is fundamentally stupid. You can be ingeniously evil, but to be evil in the first place is stupid. E.g., you can devise a brilliant plan to rob a bank, but robbing a bank is an essentially stupid thing to do. 

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An Orthogonal Turn at First Things

From its founding, First Things has been the premier journal of high Christian engagement with the public square in the West. The basic proposition of the journal has been that American liberal democracy could be domesticated to Christ by a concerted ecumenical effort of philosophical evangelism. First Things intended to provide a forum for that discourse, and a rally point. Much good has come of this project. But with the recent spate of stunning reversals on sexual policy, and with Christianity ever more clearly in the crosshairs of our secular overlords, the writers of First Things seem to be recoiling from the profane culture of the West and its liberal cult of Moloch. They begin to see that their project has failed, and that perhaps it was doomed to fail from the start. More and more, they seem to realize that rapprochement with liberalism is in any case a pact with the devil.

It’s not just that the editors saw fit to publish an article by our own Jim Kalb back in December. In the February issue, First Things took a decided turn toward orthogony to secular political discourse, as if they all with one mind awoke to a realization that dawned on most traditionalists several years ago: America is too far gone to be saved. As Lawrence Auster then began to say, “It’s their country now.” Likewise also for the West in general.

First Things seems now to have reached the same conclusion.

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The Great Metaphysical Heresies

The Great Christian Heresies crop up again and again, and the Church will probably have to deal with them all the way out to the eschaton. They tempt the mind because they are simply easier to take on board than many of the most difficult and mysterious Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. Being easier to make sense of, they seem to make more sense. And they all start from, and partake of, some kernel of theological truth. This too increases their credibility. But they are all errors.

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Nominalism & Genocide

If nominalism is true, and there are no universals, then there is no God; for, God is the very universal of universals, the sum and source of the whole category of the universals, and so he is the universal in virtue of whom all other universals subsist, and operate, and participate.

If there is no God, then there is no image of God. In that case, men are not made in that image, or for that matter in the image of any other universal – such as, e.g., the universal, “human nature.” There is then nothing to man but whatever we happen to call man, for whatever reason, or no reason.

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Beauty

The only way that our apprehensions of beauty might not be illusory is if they are possibly true – if, that is to say, the beauty we apprehend in things is objectively real, regardless of our apprehensions, so that our apprehensions of it can then be either accurate, or not. But as only finitely scient, creatures cannot establish what is objectively real. They can establish, rather, only what is real to them in their partiality and incomprehension. They can establish, to put it plainly, only what is subjectively real. So it is beyond our powers to establish objective truths of any sort, such as mathematical truths. At most, we can discover them (this incapacity of ours to establish objective truths is but a department of our incapacity to create objects of any sort – to bring things into actual existence from nothingness). So then likewise also with beauty. We don’t establish it, but only apprehend it – or, fail thereat.

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Wrongheaded Reduction Redounds

When you explain something away, the explanation is no longer about anything, for the explanation has deleted the thing explained from among the things that are real, and that are therefore amenable to explanation. But this means that the explanation itself signifies nothing. Statements of the form, “x is nothing but y,” then, are strictly meaningless. If there is no such thing as x, but only y, then there is no relation between x and y, and so no way to explain such relations. If there are no unicorns, then we might be able to discuss and explain the *idea* of unicorns, but not unicorns themselves, there being no such thing to explain. Explanations of fabulous things are all themselves fabulous.

So, technically, eliminative materialism is just meaningless noise. Thoroughgoing eliminative materialists do not disagree with this statement.

Proper reduction never explains away; rather, it increases the specificity and concreteness of our understanding of things. So, not, nor anything like, “thoughts are nothing but neuronal firings,” but rather something like “thoughts are manifest in neuronal activity.” That thoughts are manifest in neuronal activity deletes no jot of the ontological facticity of thoughts. On the contrary; it fleshes out that facticity.

Hatred Enslaves

When you hate something, you are enslaved by your hatred; and your hatred is a form of idolatry, because it assumes inordinate power in your psychic economy (idolatry is generally manifest in practice as undue attention to something or other – to unjust or disproportionate intentions). Hatred can warp and tweak a man every bit as much as a vicious addiction. What is worse, it can lead him to injure others, directly and intentionally; whereas addictions generally redound first to the addict, and only then to his fellows.

What are the warning signs? If it seems to you that all, or almost all, of the problems in your life go back to the same thing – your mother, your spouse, that lover who spurned or betrayed you, the government, the war, liberals, banks, whatever – then there is a good chance you are idolatrously enslaved. If you often find yourself fulminating about some injury done to you long ago, and unable to let go of it, then you are almost certainly stuck, snared in the toils of hatred: and in rehearsing your wound you irritate and enflame it all the more. Then are you like a man who turns again repeatedly to stumble over a scandal, rather than picking himself up, shaking the dust off, and moving on.

One of the reasons Jesus tells us to love and forgive our enemies is so that we can get free of such obsessions.

Orthodox Panentheism

Panentheism is the notion that everything is in God. It defines itself in contradiction to pantheism. Nevertheless it is a controversial idea, not least because to some it rather smells of pantheism. But in fact it isn’t anything like pantheism. Furthermore, the idea that we live and move and have being in God (Acts 17:28) is perfectly orthodox:

God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident; but as an agent is present to that upon which it works. For an agent must be joined to that wherein it acts immediately, and touch it by its virtue … therefore as long as a thing has being,, God must be present to it according to its mode of being. But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing … Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly.

… Although corporeal things are said to be in another as in that which contains them, nevertheless, spiritual things contain those things in which they are; as the soul contains the body. Hence also God is in things containing them; nevertheless, by a certain similitude to corporeal things, it is said that all things are in God; inasmuch as they are contained by Him.

–  Summa Theologica 1.8.1