Psalms 42. Quemadmodum.
- LIKE as the hart desireth the water-brooks, * so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
- My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: * when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
- My tears have been my meat day and night, * while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God? …
Christmas Tree; Burning Bush; Tree of Life; Yggdrasil; Menorah, Tree of Lights; Pillar of Cloud & Fire; Chariot Throne (wheels in wheels); Sun of Righteousness; Heavenly Host; Cosmos (host in order of battle); Sabaoth; Jacob’s Ladder; Rainbow Bridge: Milky Way; Gate of Heaven; Vine; Flowering Rod of Aaron; Root of Jesse (“Yah Is”); Tropaeum; Faithful Cross; one and only Noble Tree. All are types of the manner of our Lord’s descent and manifestation to us, of his creation, preservation, and blessing of all this our life; of his Incarnation and Passion, his Redemption of his world, of his Resurrection, and his Ascent.
It’s not that atheist explanations are wrong, so much as that, qua explanations, they are in the final analysis simply impotent. At bottom, they have no basis in necessity. So, at bottom, they end up able to say no more than, “this is the way things happened; er, that’s all.” They are descriptions, rather than explanations. Not wrong; not uninformative; often utile; but, just inadequate. Atheist explanations cannot close the deal; for, they have no ultimate cash value.
This is why the juridical question is efficacious against an atheist. Just keep asking “Why?” Eventually, he will be forced to reply with an exasperated, “Because that’s just the way it is; there is no further explanation.” So saying, he cannot but reveal his unreason; which, as sapping the very foundations of his doctrine, so vitiates the whole structure thereof – and so, could he but see, ruins it utterly.
A proposition that cannot be carried into practice at all cannot be true. An act that cannot be implemented in actuality must be somehow incoherent: self-refuting – for example, you can’t mean it when you say, “this statement is a lie” – or a contradiction in terms either simple or implicit – e.g., there’s just no way to implement “2 + 3 = 4,” for it is a contradiction in terms. That such propositions can’t work logically means that they can’t work in practice.
But a proposition that can be carried into practice might be true. E.g., “It is best not to defer gratification.”
When we sin, we assert one or more of a number of propositions:
- God does not exist.
- God is not omniscient.
- God is amoral.
- The world is amoral.
- God does not care whether I behave well or not, nor does the world.
- Whether or not God cares about my behavior does not matter (to me, at least).
And so forth. When we misbehave, we effectually attest to our belief in at least one of these propositions, or else in one of a number of other propositions like them. And to attest belief in propositions is to testify to their truth, and so is to urge their truth: behavior is an effectual proposal for how it might be well to behave.
Son: Daddy? Where do cats come from?
Father: They come from other cats.
Son: But where do all cats come from?
Father: Well, they come from the rest of the world. Things kept happening in the world, and then one day, with all those things happening, cats happened, too.
Son: Where do things come from? They had to come from somewhere, right?
Father: Maybe they were always there. Maybe there have just always been things.
Son: But why are there always things?
Father: Maybe it’s impossible for there to be nothing.
Son: So there has to be something.
I have long been intrigued by the conservation laws. Conservation of energy, momentum, charge, and so forth all seem to point to a more basic conservation, of which they are all instances. I was therefore interested to read in Bill Dembski’s latest book, Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information, his discussion of Conservation of Information in search routines. He has apparently demonstrated (I have not read the demonstrations, which appear in the technical literature he cites in the book) that increasing the likelihood of a successful search – i.e., a search that has an object and finds it – over and above the walk of a blind drunkard who is not looking for anything in particular may be accomplished only through additional investment of information in the search routine. This can be done in a number of ways: by a more comprehensive specification of the configuration of the object, or by adding a feedback circuit to the algorithm, or by adding strange attractors to the configuration space (so that the environment of the search itself embodies more information) or some other similar measure. But any such improvements of search efficiency – of the likelihood of success – come at a cost of their own: it takes information to inform the search. At best, then, informed search will cost just as much as blind search, and cannot cost less. But then also if the information added to the routine is not essentially perfect – free of noise and error – then the addition will cost more information than it saves: the overall cost of the search, plus the cost of the search for the improvements to that search, will exceed the cost of random wandering about the configuration space.
Like theism, naturalism has a doctrine of the ultimate: of the outermost limit of being and of thought, of the source and end and matrix of everything that is. The differences between the theist and naturalist notions of the ultimate lie, not in its operations upon the world – worlds can’t do without some environing context or other – but in its character. The ultimate of the theists is intelligent, rational, omniscient, good, supremely real, and so forth; whereas the ultimate of the naturalists is stupid, chaotic, unintelligible, blind, mindless, and unreal.
How could blind vacuous chaos give rise to an ordered, rational, sentient, intelligible world? In no possible way. It takes value to make value. Naturalists are therefore driven, willy nilly, to the conclusion that despite appearances, the world is in fact not at all ordered, rational, sentient, or intelligible. Thus it – and everything in it – cannot possibly be explained, there being in the first place nothing to explain (for under the naturalist presupposition, just everything is a brute fact), and in the second place no such thing as explanation. Naturalism elides smoothly into nominalism, and skepticism; and so, to nihilism; for, one’s vision of the ultimate is one’s vision of the essential character of existence as such. What’s to keep the nothingness back, after all, if in the final analysis everything is nothing anyway?
We’ve been saying that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors, that the most important wisdom is to acknowledge God, and that intuition is the foundation of wisdom. But what about the liberal who refuses to acknowledge the order of being?
Or, more generally, what about the man who denies what intuition suggests? The most basic truths are known through intuition but since intuition sometimes seems irrational, not based on clear-cut data and sharply-defined modes of logical reasoning, the man who wants to deny an intuitive truth can easily fool himself into thinking that since “it isn’t supported by evidence” (or so he thinks), it must not be true.
Consider a simple example that is nevertheless a paradigm for all valid intuitive knowledge: The existence of your consciousness. If someone challenged you by saying “Prove to me that your consciousness exists,” how would you respond? Continue reading
Once and Future Traditionalist blogger and orthospherean Casey Ann, now on hiatus from her doughty online efforts so that she can concentrate on college, recently commented on a post from 2013 in which I offered an ontological argument for the existence of God, asking for help with the covalent ontological arguments of St. Anselm of Canterbury and of Alvin Plantinga. She wrote:
I’m currently suffering through a Philosophy of Religion course (the democratic nature of these courses is sickening), and we have just gone over the cosmological arguments, arguments from design, the ontological arguments, and their respective criticisms. I’m writing an essay about which I prefer and discussing its strengths and weaknesses. I immediately go toward the ontological argument per St. Anselm, which I have loved for years now. The problem is that each time I study it I find myself peering at it through seemingly various aspects that become obscure to me as the next one approaches (this also could be linked to sleep issues, but anyway). I would love to get your perspective on it. What do you make of St. Thomas’s criticisms of it? Can a Thomist use the ontological argument? Do you think that there are really two ontological arguments made by Anselm? How do you approach Kant’s criticism and does it reject the traditional notion of God as Being? Is modal logic orthodox? (ha…seriously). Lastly (at least for now), what about Plantinga? I’m very unfamiliar with analytic philosophy, so I hardly even tried to tackle his writing on it. I wrote on a paper for a concise summary of his argument, “If it is possible for God to exist, then it is impossible for God not to exist,” and yesterday morning it CLICKED, wonderfully (but at the same time I feel as though there’s a strange gap between the two statements that I need to work out). Is it possible to reconcile this with Anselm’s, whose I am assuming can be thoroughly defended (double question)? What about Aquinas? Please, Kristor, don’t be vague (not to say that you tend to be); I really could use your help even from a personal position. Thank you.
The rest of this post is my response.
The modern crisis all goes back to nominalism. The modern muddlings of clear definitions, confusions of really and essentially different things, and denials of essences or definitions in the first place are all outworkings of the nominalist turn. Once suppose that categories are merely conventional, that universals are merely nominal, that life is never simply black or white, but rather only shades of grey, and you find yourself on a steep and slippery slope to chaos.