Importance Iff God

A public discourse that recuses from any reference to a supreme and ultimate and ultimately binding moral order – that is, i.e., morally relativistic – forecloses any possibility of investing any public act with true and perfectly general meaning. When there is nothing that must in virtue of its factual meaning under the highest heaven certainly mean therefore at least one same thing to everyone beneath the orbit of the moon, nothing can mean the same thing to anyone except by happenstance, or by the constraints ever imposed upon all creatures by the logos of corporeal becoming (as, e.g., when the flood approaches and everyone feels it truly and existentially important and valuable to flee, regardless of their politics or sexual identification).

To put it bluntly: if you can’t talk of God and his will for us in a language that everyone understands and accepts (even if only pro forma), then nothing you say can be quite definite, in the final analysis, or therefore definitive, or then authoritative, or suasive. Every utterance then will be tentative, merely pro forma and nothing more; ergo, not really binding, or even interesting, but only conventionally. At most, you’ll muster only indignant insistence about this or that outrage, full of sound and fury but, as signifying really nothing, empty of any real conviction.

All that will then be left is vacuous Pharisaical signals of status, that indicate no real underlying state, but rather only an abstract bloodless and inconsequential agreement with the idea of such states. Other than for a tiny few fanatics, e.g., belief in anthropogenic global warming need not, indeed cannot, have any very material effect on the way one lives; but broadcasting belief in the phenomenon can. You gain no social credit by living an impoverished life for the sake of the planet, but a lot by advertising your intense conviction that poverty is ecologically correct.

But no one is ever quite fooled by these public displays, for they know full well how false are their own – no one allows worry over global warming to prevent his flight to vacation in the islands. So no one will quite buy whatever is said; nor then will anyone care much what happens, so long as their own oxen are not gored.

Yet we cannot bear to live as though it were true that nothing means anything. We want our public discourse and common life to matter in the great scheme of things. They do thus matter, of course; but in the absence of any public recourse to a great scheme of things, one can’t tell, or see, just how. Meaninglessness, anomie and despair then loom, for everyone. But that’s intolerable. No one can stand it for long.

Thus in order to obtain the significance and meaning that public acts must have if they are to be of any use as instruments of social coordination that can engage the emotions of millions along a common vector, they must resort to brute spectacle: noise, hurry, magnitude of crowds, extremity of risk or danger or virtuosity, intensity of manufactured emotion. If you want to catch anyone’s attention these days, you had better be sure to arrange for really big explosions or perversities or exploits. And if all you’ve got to offer is a series of meaningless tableaux, you have to keep amping things up in order to overcome the sensory acclimation of your audience and entrain their emotions. If no depth at all, then ever flashier intensities.

Such desperate measures may attract attention, for a time. But as meaningless, ergo stupid, they cannot hold it very long. Despite all the fireworks and scantily dressed girls, who cares about the stinking half time show, in the end? Apart from the titillation they tender, what use are the Kardashians? What difference will it make to anyone, other than the cooks, who wins the ginned up cooking contest on reality TV? Aside from the sheer madness or fun of the act, where is the significance of jumping off a mountain in a flying squirrel suit? It’s all vanity, gussied up as if it mattered.

If on the other hand we were to recur frankly to God Almighty as the source and author of all things, and our ultimate final arbiter and judge, then every tiny act would be vested with immense significance, far surpassing our poor powers to judge. The whole of life would then be sacred, more or less; and, therefore, important. We would not need to make a big show. Everyone would understand. The desperate pervasive anxiety would evaporate. Everyone could relax.

It could happen, again. All that is needed is another Great Awakening. Easy.

51 thoughts on “Importance Iff God

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  3. Without the transcendent only preferences remain, as many preferences as there are those who prefer. RC Sproul states it better than I.
    In other words, there is no meaning to anything.

  4. If on the other hand we were to recur frankly to God Almighty as the source and author of all things, and our ultimate final arbiter and judge, then every tiny act would be vested with immense significance,

    Translation: God is something humans invent to make themselves feel more important than they actually are.

    I’m sorry you find the things of this world so tawdry and meaningless. If you want to posit a God behind them all that imbues them with meaning, I really don’t care. It’s your insistence that everybody else accept your view that I find troubling. Apparently if everyone doesn’t agree, it doesn’t work or something:

    When there is nothing that must in virtue of its factual meaning under the highest heaven certainly mean therefore at least one same thing to everyone beneath the orbit of the moon, nothing can mean the same thing to anyone except by happenstance,

    There are a whole host of possibilities besides these two extremes. I’ll grant that maybe this isn’t obvious; there are many people like you who seem to think the only available choices are theism or nihilism. But it is obvious to me, at least, that neither of those philosophies makes sense, therefore the true nature of reality is not captured by either.

    • God is something humans invent to make themselves feel more important than they actually are.

      Not quite. Rather, if God does not exist, then nothing can be really important in the final analysis, no matter what we might think to the contrary. But if he does, then everything is important, somehow, at least a bit, and either more or less. How not, since he thought it worthy to create them?

      I’m sorry you find the things of this world so tawdry and meaningless.

      I don’t. On the contrary, I find the world wonderful, and full of significance, charged with importance. But if God doesn’t exist, that feeling can be nothing more than my private illusion – i.e., false, something I just tell myself to get along. It can be objectively true that creation is good only if God exists and judges it good. Otherwise, all judgements whatsoever are just wind. A judgement can be somewhat true only if there is a Truth, to which it may more or less closely agree.

      It’s your insistence that everybody else accept your view that I find troubling.

      What makes you think that I insist that everybody should do something? All I’m doing is explaining how things work, whether we like it or not. What someone then does with that information is up to him, not to me. Believe me when I say, a.morphous, that I would like it better if you and I both got to heaven with no fuss or trouble. It would be fun to meet you there, and raise a glass together, and maybe go fishing or something. But I’m not going to twist your arm – I have enough work to do on my own salvation, in fear and trembling.

      Apparently if everyone doesn’t agree, it doesn’t work or something …

      On the contrary: if God is in charge of things, they *absolutely must work out in the end,* no matter what any creature does.

      When there is nothing that must in virtue of its factual meaning under the highest heaven certainly mean therefore at least one same thing to everyone beneath the orbit of the moon, nothing can mean the same thing to anyone except by happenstance …

      There are a whole host of possibilities besides these two extremes.

      Are there? If there is no such thing as an absolutely objective reality, then our apprehensions might agree with each other only as illusions might; for there would in that case be nothing out there that our apprehensions were about; there would be rather nothing other than illusions.

      To get even the first jot of truth value (whether true or false) you need something out there to which your propositions might refer. Otherwise, all you’ve got is p and q, signifying nothing, utterly devoid of determinate meaning.

      • Not quite. Rather, if God does not exist, then nothing can be really important in the final analysis,

        There is no final analysis.

        But if God doesn’t exist, that feeling can be nothing more than my private illusion – i.e., false, something I just tell myself to get along.

        This is another false dichotomy. You think you need god to hold values together, and without him, all you have is your private illusions. But in reality, our lives and values are part of a shared social world. This is true despite the tendency of the modern world towards atomic individualism.

        What makes you think that I insist that everybody should do something? All I’m doing is explaining how things work, whether we like it or not.

        I inferred it from your earlier language:

        When there is nothing that must in virtue of its factual meaning under the highest heaven certainly mean therefore at least one same thing to everyone

        if you can’t talk of God and his will for us in a language that everyone understands and accepts

        And that the whole point of this blog is to insist that religion and politics be tightly coupled rather than separated into different spheres as they are under liberalism.

        If there is no such thing as an absolutely objective reality, then our apprehensions might agree with each other only as illusions might; for there would in that case be nothing out there that our apprehensions were about; there would be rather nothing other than illusions.

        There is a reality, although calling it “objective” is probably misleading. There՚s nobody outside watching it. We are inside watching it, and sharing it, and that is why our apprehensions agree to the extent that they do.

        I understand your argument, I think. You say that God is needed to make the universe orderly, stable, comprehensible, and have any sort of value. But I view God as a non-explanation, an attempt to dismiss the real mystery of reality by assigning it all to an imaginary being.

      • There is no final analysis.

        In that case, there is no analysis at all, but only blind nonsensical stabs into utter darkness, a fundamentally mistaken search for light when there is no such thing. If there is no Truth, then there is no truth: truth iff Truth. This statement being tautologically true, it is tautologically false that there is no truth. “There is no truth” is self-refuting. So there is a truth. Ergo, there must be Truth.

        You think you need god to hold values together, and without him, all you have is your private illusions. But in reality, our lives and values are part of a shared social world.

        If there is no God, then the shared social world is just as illusory as the individual illusions of which it is constituted. In the absence of God – an ultimate mind, in virtue of whose apprehension a purely objective Truth (ergo the completely objective reality which that Truth is about) subsists – the notions of a society are merely conventional: convenient but, as socially constructed out of thin air and not possibly derived from an objective reality that is not there to begin with, therefore illusory and ultimately erroneous projections onto the screen of a world that, as not objective, is again not really there to begin with.

        What makes you think that I insist that everybody should do something? All I’m doing is explaining how things work, whether we like it or not.

        I inferred it from your earlier language:

        When there is nothing that must in virtue of its factual meaning under the highest heaven certainly mean therefore at least one same thing to everyone …

        if you can’t talk of God and his will for us in a language that everyone understands and accepts…

        And that the whole point of this blog is to insist that religion and politics be tightly coupled rather than separated into different spheres as they are under liberalism.

        To point out that disaster will ensue if one thinks and acts as if x is false is not to insist that everyone must think x true. I’m leading you to water, not making you drink. If you like your disaster, you can keep it.

        Notwithstanding that, it is indeed true that you can’t have a properly coordinate society without a common cult that informs all its operations, including those customarily construed as “merely” political.

        [The reality, of course, is that as religion informs politics, so likewise politics circumspects religion – and every other factor of human life. So does economics; so does every social institution (Whitehead: “each atom [each perspective] is a system of all things”).]

        It is not therefore inappropriate for a culture to insist that all its members ascribe to its cult, and to ostracize those who do not. That’s what liberalism does. No traditional society would do otherwise. But most latter day tradents would rather deal with apostates by giving them a simple choice: live as if you ascribed to the common cult (no public obeisances required), or leave its domains for those of some other you like better. This is Moldbug’s exit: the liberty of each individual to vote with his feet for the cult and appurtenant political order that he prefers.

        My point in the post, however, was simply that atheist cults are disastrous for their human hosts, thus lethal to themselves. That’s why they must resort to flashy spectacle to distract the people from the vanity and emptiness of their lives, so as to forestall their despair. Still, if you want to keep your disaster, knock yourself out.

        There is a reality, although calling it “objective” is probably misleading. There՚s nobody outside watching it. We are inside watching it, and sharing it, and that is why our apprehensions agree to the extent that they do.

        It’s an appealing vision, of the cosmos as something like a sort of democracy or market or conversation or evolutionary game, arriving jointly and without coercion at a shared and stable order by means of mutual accommodations. I agree that something of the sort is at work in the world.

        But it doesn’t suffice. For one thing, the recognitions and negotiations and adjustments by which creatures procure their mutual accommodations presuppose a framework under which such operations may proceed. You can’t negotiate a path through the world if you don’t speak a common language with it. Nor can you take a step in a particular direction unless you know what the directions are to begin with, and where you’ve come from and now are in the volume they define. In other words, the accommodations presuppose a whole system of such accommodations. But the system of accommodations is not competent to procure itself; there is no such thing as bootstrapping in the absence of any dataset.

        That’s all pretty hard to see, perhaps. Perhaps then an analogy would be of use. Evolutionary biology treats the evolution of traits as products of a stochastic search by a population of replicators for fit phenotypes. This is fine so far as it goes. But it presupposes the existence of the population, of the capacity of its members to replicate, of its nisus toward fitness, and of the computational medium of its transformations.

        This sounds like a cosmological argument, and so it can be. But all I mean to do here is to indicate that more is needed than just a melee of creaturely perspectives jostling together and settling down eventually into cosmic order – into, i.e., intelligibility qua cosmos. You need a cosmos to generate a cosmos in this way. It takes a world to make a world.

        But there is a related yet deeper problem with the appealing notion that you suggest. Creaturely perspectives are all by definition local within some cosmos that precedes them in existence. They are all ineluctably subvisions – partial, biased, selfish. None can take the perspective of the cosmos as a whole, for none of them can precede it. Nothing less than a being who does precede the cosmos can suffice to furnish to subvisory creatures the cosmic context that their parochial perspectives all prerequire and presuppose, without which they could have no perspective in the first place.

        As no subvision can supervise all others, nor then either could any assemblage of subvisions. Subvisions cannot come to pass in the first place except under the aegis of that cosmic supervision – “Providence,” as that supervision has always been called – that establishes the reference frame of all their reference frames; sc., the cosmos itself.

        To obtain a partial perspective on a cosmos, you first need a cosmos to perspect. The cosmos, then, is prior to the whole assemblage of creaturely perspectives upon it. They cannot therefore construct it all by themselves.

        I view God as a non-explanation, an attempt to dismiss the real mystery of reality by assigning it all to an imaginary being.

        It may surprise you to learn that I think this an honorable position. It is next door to theism, and indeed to faith, separated from it by but a thin membrane.

        There is a mystery at the bottom of things that we are not competent to penetrate and comprehend. That incompetence is logical, and metaphysical. The mind cannot comprehend mind (likewise, creatures cannot create). At most, it can understand a few things about the mind. As for mind, so a fortiori for being and action. We may limn and name aspects of these things, but we cannot get to the bottom of them. Gödel has shown that there is no plumbing those depths, no bottom of which we can give a complete account.

        That does not mean there is no bottom – that, i.e., there is no final analysis. Theists name that bottom God – who as infinite has himself no bottom. He is not so much the explanation of the basis of being, as himself that basis; for, as there is no explaining him, there is no way to refer to him in order to understand this or that. Thus to adduce God as the source of all being is by no means to dismiss the mystery of reality, but rather to indicate that mystery, and to reckon it. Religion, then – worship – is to confront it, and emphasize it (this is what is meant by Christian talk of magnifying and glorifying God) ever more and more in thought, word, and deed. Worship induces a proper humility – which, in the final analysis, is a healthy awareness of our epistemological limits, ergo of our powers, in respect to the most basic and therefore mightiest aspects of the flux of being in which we discover we live.

        God is not something that theists dream up as a way of resolving the mystery of being. He is that mystery. To worship him is to reckon it, and to give it in the economy of our lives its proper due. Good health cannot but attend that propriety; as, indeed, the statistics seem to bear out.

      • “It’s your insistence that everybody else accept your view that I find troubling”

        Ah, yes. Of course, Liberalism doesn’t take this attitude at all, what with its heresies of racism, sexism, homophobia, ablism, etc. the list goes on. Religion is always imposed upon society, in fact without a religion, a society ceases to even exist. The only question is which religion is being put into practice and having its dogmas propagated. Don’t try playing this illusion of neutrality here. It’s entirely unconvincing.

        The greatest trick Satan ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. The greatest trick Liberals ever pulled was convincing the world they weren’t a cult.

        “Modern man believes he lives amidst a pluralism of opinions, when what prevails today is a stifling unanimity.”

        – Nicolás Gómez Dávila

      • me: There is no final analysis.

        Kristor: In that case, there is no analysis at all, but only blind nonsensical stabs into utter darkness, a fundamentally mistaken search for light when there is no such thing. If there is no Truth, then there is no truth: truth iff Truth. This statement being tautologically true,

        I think you need to work on your understanding of what a tautology is. Mathematics deals in tautologies, a metaphysical-ish argument like the above is not a tautology.

        I think (based on past posts) you have convinced yourself that you have an ironclad quasi-mathematical (that is, tautological) proof for your position. But I am not convinced. I՚m not sure it՚s worth going back and forth over.

        Also, this is another variant of the same false dichotomy that we are arguing about. You say either there is a God or there is nothing, I beg to differ, but you aren՚t providing any real support for your position other than you personally can՚t seem to wrap your head around the alternatives.

        [The reality, of course, is that as religion informs politics, so likewise politics circumspects religion – and every other factor of human life. So does economics; so does every social institution (Whitehead: “each atom [each perspective] is a system of all things”).]

        I agree with this! And to answer another commenter who asked why I am here: I think you folks are largely right that politics and religion are closely coupled. While I disagree profoundly with both your politics and religion, I am interested in how you explore the relations between them.

        It is not therefore inappropriate for a culture to insist that all its members ascribe to its cult, and to ostracize those who do not. That’s what liberalism does.

        Kinda. I agree that liberalism is not content-free and requires some common core beliefs of its members, but it does try (when it is working well) to keep them minimal. Eg, you have to have a basic respect for the dignity of the individual, but how individual choose to express their individuality should be as unconstrained as possible. That is the theory, in any case.

        Liberals have long been aware of the practical tensions such a stance can have. If tolerance is a virtue, what do you do about the intolerant? The answer to this is still being worked out, which is also an aspect of the liberal order (that is, it is an evolving rather than a static one).

        That’s why [atheist cults] must resort to flashy spectacle to distract the people from the vanity and emptiness of their lives,

        I don՚t think atheism has a monopoly on spectacle. Also, I find it weird to describe American pop culture as “atheist”, since in fact it is entirely permeated by religiosity, albeit usually with fairly shallow and tacky versions. Aside from a few scientists and comics, everything in the US has to make obesiance to God. Try getting elected to office as an atheist in this country. (Actually Bernie Sanders, an entirely secular Jew, may be breaking this rule, but everybody in the mainstream will tell you he is not in it).

        the recognitions and negotiations and adjustments by which creatures procure their mutual accommodations presuppose a framework under which such operations may proceed. You can’t negotiate a path through the world if you don’t speak a common language with it

        The frameworks are emergent just like everything else. See my previous remark.

        Creaturely perspectives are all by definition local within some cosmos that precedes them in existence. They are all ineluctably subvisions – partial, biased, selfish. None can take the perspective of the cosmos as a whole, for none of them can precede it

        Well, yes. Yet an amazing thing about humans, limited though they are: they can imagine what it is like to have a perspective on the cosmos as a whole. Humans have cognitive powers of abstraction and self-reflection and projection, which is why they can take the experiential fact of observing an object and extrapolate from that a being that can observe the entire cosmos, and fantasize about what that might be like.

        Nothing less than a being who does precede the cosmos can suffice to furnish to subvisory creatures the cosmic context that their parochial perspectives all prerequire and presuppose,

        Again, this sounds like seeing a problem and inventing a magic [non]solution. Yes, it is hard to understand how the order of the cosmos came to be. Positing a magical being that “precedes” all of reality and solves all the hard problems for you is suspiciously convenient. Until you raise the obvious recursive questions – how did the order of the orderer come to be? And if you say quesitions like that make no sense because God is Order itself or something, that is also quite unsatisfactory.

        If God precedes the cosmos (your terminology), that is, if God is the kind of thing that can precede something else, then it is perfectly acceptable – nay, required – to ask what could precede God.

        There is a mystery at the bottom of things that we are not competent to penetrate and comprehend. That incompetence is logical, and metaphysical…Gödel has shown that there is no plumbing those depths, no bottom of which we can give a complete account….That does not mean there is no bottom – that, i.e., there is no final analysis. Theists name that bottom God

        If they were just naming, and if all you were doing was engaging in metaphysics, then I wouldn՚t be here arguing with you. You want to call the bottom layer God, Hindus call it Brahman, Buddhists call it tathāgatagarbha, Taoists do not know it՚s name but call it Tao, it՚s all fine with me.

        The problem comes from people who claim to have such a great handle on this mysterious unknowable bottom layer of reality that they can confidently employ its judgement to condemn various human actions or support various human political factions.

        You can՚t have it both ways. If God is the unknowable mystery of the cosmos, great, let us wonder at it together. If on the other hand you know the mind of God to the point where you are willing to employ the violence of the state to compel obedience to it, well, maybe you have a case but I think you have to give up your mysticism license at the very least.

      • I want to start by thanking you, a.morphous, for your courtesy in this exchange. It’s refreshing.

        I’m perplexed that you cannot just see that if there is no objective Truth, there is no truth at all. These are just two ways of saying the same thing. That’s why “truth iff Truth” is tautological. “There is no Truth” is just transparently self-refuting. I can’t figure out how you can’t see this.

        If there were no Truth, then you and I might have beliefs (although it wouldn’t be true to say either that we did, or that we didn’t), but they couldn’t be true (although it would not be true to say either this, or its contrary). Only if there is Truth might anything we think or say be possibly true.

        E.g., you have to have a basic respect for the dignity of the individual, but how individuals choose to express their individuality should be as unconstrained as possible. That is the theory, in any case.

        Problem is that it doesn’t work, because it can’t. “As unconstrained as possible:” that’s where the difficulty lies. To permit an act is to condone it, ergo to constrain it; and to condone it is to constrain those who would not condone it. So every sort of act is somehow constrained. All our acts have social value; which is to say, that all of them are evaluated by society, and ipso facto somehow constrained. To think otherwise is to labor under delusion. There is no such thing as unconstraint; not in a world, where there are other creatures that have causal effects upon us, nor either in a society of men who likewise affect and limit us.

        I don’t think atheism has a monopoly on spectacle.

        It doesn’t. It’s just that spectacle is the only arrow in its quiver.

        Also, I find it weird to describe American pop culture as “atheist” …

        If you were Christian, you wouldn’t. American pop culture is “Christian,” but not Christian; atheist, but not “atheist.”

        The frameworks are emergent just like everything else.

        Emergence is nifty. But you can’t emerge anything from nothing – not if you’re only a creature, anyway. Creatures can emerge things only from things. So creaturely emergence needs an ultimate necessary framework in order to get going. It can’t be turtles all the way down, or the stack of turtles would never have finished traversing the infinite height to the present turtle; and this is so for every turtle, thus for the whole stack of turtles. There has to be a bottom.

        Humans have cognitive powers of abstraction and self-reflection and projection, which is why they can take the experiential fact of observing an object and extrapolate from that a being that can observe the entire cosmos, and fantasize about what that might be like.

        Right! And what is more, they can deduce that such an observer must necessarily exist, or no contingencies could ever have come to pass.

        If God precedes the cosmos (your terminology), that is, if God is the kind of thing that can precede something else, then it is perfectly acceptable – nay, required – to ask what could precede God.

        Sure. And it turns out that the only coherently conceivable answer is, “nothing, because he is necessary (if you aren’t treating God as necessary, you aren’t treating of God at all) so that he precedes everything.”

        If on the other hand you know the mind of God to the point where you are willing to employ the violence of the state to compel obedience to it, well, maybe you have a case but I think you have to give up your mysticism license at the very least.

        Why? The mystic is in a better position than any other sort of man to know the mind of God, and to insist that we ought to do what he has seen that God wills us to do. Only if you presuppose that the mystic cannot know the mind of God any better than other sorts of men can you think that his political interventions might tend to sap his mystical credentials. But if he does in fact know the mind of God, then his political credentials are top notch, and we ought to listen to him.

        The difficulty of course is in discerning false prophets from true. But this difficulty is with us whether or not we believe prophecy is really possible.

      • @a.morphous

        I have a truly difficult time understanding the God you find so objectionable. Semitic theists have a bad habit of taking the mythical statements about God as if they were literally true, and so do you. As rational men, we know that God is not a person or a thing, that He does not exist in time or space and that when we speak of the world as created by God, we mean not that God at some point in time brought the world into existence from non-existence by an act of will, but that the dependence of the world on God is one of eternal logical implication.

        Knowledge of God comes about by ascending the scale or ladder of virtues until a man is purified to such a degree that he is able to have direct, non-discursive knowledge of God. This purification is necessary because, as Plato explains in the Phaedo, the impure cannot come into contact with the pure. This purification consists of “… dying to the distractions of the senses [so] that the higher life of the intelligible sphere is discovered. By dying to the senses, “the rushing stream of outward things,” the philosopher moves toward identification with the omnipresent higher strata of his being which has been obscured by his immersion in the confusion and multiplicity of the external world. Hence, the mystical ‘ascent’ does not occur in space any more than emanation occurs in time; rather, it is, to paraphrase Plotinus, “an awakening to a new way of seeing which all men possess but which few men use.” (David Fideler)

        However, since most men remain chained in the cave, we rely on the faith we have in those best of men who have ascended to heaven and returned with an account of the way to salvation and the best form of life by which this may be accomplished. This includes the forms of communal life. What is allowed to exist in a true civilization should only be those forms of art, philosophy and religion that can help men attain their final end, which is why we’re told in the Scripture of the Lion’s Roar of Queen Srīmālā:

        Lord, from now on, and until I attain enlightenment, I hold to this ninth vow, that when I see persons with sinful occupations such as dealing in pigs, and those who violate the Doctrine and Discipline proclaimed by the Tathāgata, I shall not take it lightly; and wherever my residence in towns, villages, cities, districts, and capitals, I shall destroy what should be destroyed and shall foster what should be fostered. Why so? Lord, by destroying and by fostering, the Illustrious Doctrine will long remain in the world, the bodies of gods and men will thrive, and evil destinies will fade. And the Lord, having turned the Wheel of the Doctrine, will continue to turn the Wheel of the Doctrine.

      • As rational men, we know that God is not a person or a thing, that He does not exist in time or space and that when we speak of the world as created by God, we mean not that God at some point in time brought the world into existence from non-existence by an act of will, but that the dependence of the world on God is one of eternal logical implication.

        I get the impression that most atheists don’t think about God in these terms, but as a thing among things and wholly within the system of the world. They find the notion absurd – which it is – and think that’s all there is to theism. So then they refute the flying spaghetti monster, and think they’ve refuted God.

      • I want to start by thanking you, a.morphous, for your courtesy in this exchange. It’s refreshing.

        And same back at you.

        I’m perplexed that you cannot just see that if there is no objective Truth, there is no truth at all.

        Well, I didn՚t say precisely that. I said there is a reality (that is, a state of affairs that is independent of any observer) but that “objective” is a misleading way to talk about it. In fact we don՚t have perfect access to reality so the only truths we have are imperfect approximations, (small-t truths) and the perfect tautological truths of mathematics. But there is no objective truth because there is no objective point of view.

        I hope this position is at least clear, even if you disagree with it. Call it a mix of ontological realism and epistemological subjectivism.

        So every sort of act is somehow constrained. All our acts have social value; which is to say, that all of them are evaluated by society, and ipso facto somehow constrained. To think otherwise is to labor under delusion. There is no such thing as unconstraint…

        Your tendency towards absolutism betrays you again. No, there is no such thing as perfect and complete unconstraint, and certainly liberalism never promised that. But presumably you appreciate the level of partial and practical unconstraint you have as an American versus if you lived in (say) North Korea. As I said: “unconstrained as possible”.

        you can՚t emerge anything from nothing…creatures can emerge things only from things.

        What a weird grammatical construct…the whole point of “emergence” is that is a verb without an agent. Nobody emerges something else, things emerge on their own.

        me: what could precede God.

        Sure. And it turns out that the only coherently conceivable answer is, “nothing, because he is necessary (if you aren’t treating God as necessary, you aren’t treating of God at all)

        I guess you are missing my point, which is really that “precede” is a trick word, a metaphor, which undermines its own argument.

        The mystic is in a better position than any other sort of man to know the mind of God, and to insist that we ought to do what he has seen that God wills us to do.

        You have a different concept of mysticism than I do. A mystic who contemplates the ineffable being and emerges from the experience with marching orders for the temporal world seems to me like an obvious fraud.

      • … I said there is a reality (that is, a state of affairs that is independent of any observer) but that “objective” is a misleading way to talk about it. In fact we don’t have perfect access to reality so the only truths we have are imperfect approximations (small-t truths), and the perfect tautological truths of mathematics. But there is no objective truth because there is no objective point of view.

        I was tempted to think that, too, for a while; something like it, anyway. But eventually I realized that there are some important problems with it.

        In the first place – granting that understanding our world is difficult, and setting aside the a priori truths so that all we are dealing with are a posteriori truths – if the only truths we have are imperfect approximations, then *they are not truths,* properly speaking, but rather only imperfect approximations of truths, and nothing more. To put it baldly, they are falsehoods: delusions of understanding, hallucinations of understanding.

        To be approximately right is to fail to be right. It is to be wrong.

        In the second, if all we have are imperfect approximations, then it can be only imperfectly, approximately true that the only truths we have are imperfect approximations. Strong epistemological skepticism is autophagic. It cannot be true, because it is not even coherent.

        In the third, if there is no objective truth then there can be no possible way we might approximate to it. You can’t approximate to what isn’t there in the first place; can’t miss a mark that does not exist (those who reject teleology in favor of stochastic search generally forget this fact).

        Now that might not seem so fatal; we can approximate to each other, right? Wouldn’t that suffice to cobble together a world?

        No. If there is no objective truth, then there is no such thing as an objective truth about a.morphous or Kristor, that other beings might be able to approximate. If there is no such thing as an objective truth, then all we have to operate on, or produce as statements or acts, are fantasies.

        To get knowledge, you need an object of knowledge; you need something that your knowledge – and for that matter your mistakes – can be about. If there is no objective reality, *we can’t know anything at all,* because in that case *there is nothing to know.*

        So, to even start thinking about knowing, ergo acting, we must presuppose objective reality. It’s objective reality or nothing.

        As I said: “unconstrained as possible”.

        I know. My point was that (whatever a society might believe to the contrary about its own standards of behavior), every sort of act is *in fact* constrained along every dimension of constraint. What a society permits, it promotes, and the promotion of x is the demotion of its contrary: what is lawful may not lawfully be prevented. So, “unconstrained as possible” turns out always to mean “totally constrained, one way or another (regardless what people might think to the contrary).” Unconstraint is a shibboleth. How could it be otherwise in a world where the Principle of Sufficient Reason was true? Where, i.e., the causal nexus was tight, an unbroken web, so that in no event was there any jot or tittle of sheer randomness, but rather only everywhere immaculate orderliness?

        Any iota of unconstraint is impossible for any member of any world.

        [The] whole point of “emergence” is that is a verb without an agent. Nobody emerges something else, things emerge on their own.

        Right. In logic – albeit not in quotidian usage (which admits of such constructions as “It is raining” and “They say that a stitch in time saves nine.”) – “emerge” must presuppose efficient agents, because the idea that things emerge on their own makes no sense. Things don’t happen on their own, *ever,* unless they are absolutely uncaused. Only a being such as God could be absolutely uncaused.

        … “precede” is a trick word, a metaphor, which undermines its own argument.

        Why? What is tricky about “y follows x,” or “3 follows 2”?

        A mystic who contemplates the ineffable being and emerges from the experience with marching orders for the temporal world seems to me like an obvious fraud.

        Why? If the experience of the nature of God implied nothing about how we ought to live, this could be true. But it is silly to think that there is no such implication. If it is God’s nature to abhor evil, and if, being omniscient, he is incontrovertibly right in that abhorrence, then we too (if we want to be right) should abhor evil. This is obvious, and plain as the nose on your face. Where’s the fraud?

      • You have a different concept of mysticism than I do. A mystic who contemplates the ineffable being and emerges from the experience with marching orders for the temporal world seems to me like an obvious fraud.

        Since I am unwilling to put Plato, Plotinus, Porphyry, etc. in the class of obvious frauds, I will offer a short defense of these best of men. First, of course, the vision of God is vouchsafed only to the pure. This means, the only man who can authentically claim to have had an experience of the higher, non-empirical states of reality will be that philosopher who has trained himself in the higher virtues. Plato illustrates this ascent to the Good in the Parable of the Cave; Porphyry gives us a more scientific explanation in his On Abstinence:

        It is not possible to be familiar with a god – not even with one of the particular gods, let alone the god who singly is above all and higher than incorporeal nature – by following just any lifestyle, especially flesh-eating; one can hardly, even with all kinds of purifications of soul and body, become worthy of awareness of the god, that is if one has a fine nature and lives a pure and holy life. So, inasmuch as the father of all is simpler and purer and more self-sufficient, being established far from the impact made by matter, the one who approaches him should be pure and holy in all respects, beginning with the body and culminating in the inner man, assigning to each of his parts, or altogether to what is his, the holiness that is natural to each.

        What all holy men have discovered in their contact with the Divine is one fundamental truth:

        [T]here are two patterns set up in reality. One is divine and supremely happy; the other has nothing of God in it, and is the pattern of the deepest unhappiness. Theaetetus 176e

        If we are not to follow the teachings of the holiest and best of men in the conduct of our lives, in whom then should we have faith?

      • How can intelligent people subscribe to post modernism? It just boggles my mind.

        You can’t be an ontological realist and an epistemological subjectivist. You’re saying nothing more than “my opinion is based on no real support.” You could point to math, but that’s tautological. You could point to God, but that’s “boring.”

        YOU are the mystic who stares into the deep and comes out with liberal marching orders. How you go from epistemological subjectivism to gay marriage is beyond my understanding. I do suspect you are a fraud sometimes, a sock puppet Kristor uses to keep the conversation going around here.

        No matter how plain the contradictions of post modernism are… you must like them. You prefer contradictions to order? Do you fear being more than natural? Something is driving you, emotion, not reason, not epistemology, not objective truth. It’s all just your tastes and whims, isn’t it?

      • You can’t be an ontological realist and an epistemological subjectivist.

        Why not? You can label it “postmodern” if you like but it simply seems like plain common sense to me, reflecting the reality of lived experience. You don’t need fancy French intellectuals to understand that the world is perfectly real and yet all available descriptions of it are necessarily both partial and biased.

      • @ a. morphous
        Your philosophical profundity rivals that of Ayn Rand, whose observation that Existence exists refuted all would be metaphyscisians as effectively Dr. Johnson’s argumentum ad lapidem refuted Bishop Berkeley. And to think that I wasted so much of my life believing that Realism solved the problems of objective axiology when all I really needed to do was offer a series of unsupported propositions with mindless vehemence to prove that in Nominalism lay my true heartsease.

      • a. morphous is basically arguing for Hume’s fork (from memory) that propostions are either empirically verifiable statements about the world (though I think he thinks that verifiability is actually impossible) or relationships of ideas wherein statements may actually be provably True but are in some sense tautological.

        One problem with this is that Hume’s fork (and a.morphous’ idea, which he appears to believe to be “true”, that actual apprehension of the world as it is is impossible) is neither an empirically verifiable statement (even if it were, a.morphous would have to concede that it can’t be known to be true), nor a tautologically true statement about a relationship of ideas. But that’s too easy.

        There is also the problem that math can’t be reduced to a closed set of tautologies (Godel). There is also the problem that a.morphous begs the question when he calls knowledge of men “incomplete” and culturally informed and whatever else he said. He is clearly assuming a relationship between knowledge and sensory interaction with the world that ipso facto rules out direct apprehension by the intellect, and yet he claims to apprehend the consequences of his own epistemological suppositions!

        There is more. But it’s late.

      • if the only truths we have are imperfect approximations, then *they are not truths,* properly speaking,

        Call them what you will, it won՚t change the reality of the situation.

        properly speaking, but rather only imperfect approximations of truths, and nothing more. To put it baldly, they are falsehoods: delusions of understanding, hallucinations of understanding.

        I do not understand this position. Newtonian physics is an imperfect model of the actual physical laws of the universe, but it is not a delusion or hallucination. Later physical theories are better but they too are imperfect. Perfect understanding is not accessible to human beings, so you are saying in effect that only god can have any understanding at all.

        In the second, if all we have are imperfect approximations, then it can be only imperfectly, approximately true that the only truths we have are imperfect approximations.

        This is not news to me, and should not be news to anybody born after 1900 or so.

        In the third, if there is no objective truth then there can be no possible way we might approximate to it.

        There՚s a reality and we can test our approximations against it.

        It’s objective reality or nothing.

        I think we are reaching the point of pointless round and round. You keep making assertions like the above, which seem self-evident to you, and I continue not buying them.

        So, “unconstrained as possible” turns out always to mean “totally constrained, one way or another (regardless what people might think to the contrary).” ; Unconstraint is a shibboleth. How could it be otherwise in a world where the Principle of Sufficient Reason was true? Where, i.e., the causal nexus was tight, an unbroken web, so that in no event was there any jot or tittle of sheer randomness, but rather only everywhere immaculate orderliness?

        Are we going to open up the free will can of worms now? Like there aren՚t enough hoary old questions being batted about here already.

        Anyway the context was political freedom and constraint and whatever your views on free will and causality and orderliness, political freedom (or its lack) is something everyone can recognize.

        me: … “precede” is a trick word, a metaphor, which undermines its own argument.

        Why? What is tricky about “y follows x,” or “3 follows 2”?

        It is tricky because it is a metaphor. Given what I said above, I have no problems with metaphors, which are a species of imperfect representation, but you should, because you seem to think your understanding should be objective and perfect.

        So, to say God precedes everything else is to use metaphorical language to describe something otherwise indescribable. Like I said, I have no problem with it. Time is part of the cosmos, so we can say that God precedes time itself, but then what does “precede” mean? It can՚t mean temporal precedence, so it means something else. What is that something else? It may be impossible to say, which again, is fine for me, but sucks for you, since you seem to be wanting to draw definite consequences out of this type of thinking.

      • Newtonian physics is an imperfect model of the actual physical laws of the universe, but it is not a delusion or hallucination.

        Sure. But notice that, in this uncontroversial sentence, you have relied upon, and referred to, the existence of “actual physical laws of the universe.” You need those out there in order for any particular model of physics – which is to say, any approximation of the actual laws of the universe – to be an approximation, rather than just some cool stuff we invented out of thin air. If the actual laws are not somehow or other out there, then there is nothing to which our physical models may asymptotically approximate. In that case – the case where there are no actual laws out there – our models are fantasies.

        They are more, of course, than fantasies. So there must be actual physical laws somehow or other out there, to which our models may approximate.

        Perfect understanding is not accessible to human beings, so you are saying in effect that only god can have any understanding at all.

        Not quite. I am saying that in order for us to have any understanding at all, properly so called, there must be an understanding somehow or other out there which is absolutely true and perfect, to which our understandings may approximate.

        I am *not* saying that perfect understanding is inaccessible to human beings. That is one of those claims that seems straightforward and, prima facie, rather obviously true, but which is in fact astonishingly far-reaching, a huge, sweeping assertion. It turns out upon examination that it cannot – logically cannot – be true, because it is self-refuting.

        In the second, if all we have are imperfect approximations, then it can be only imperfectly, approximately true that the only truths we have are imperfect approximations.

        This is not news to me, and should not be news to anybody born after 1900 or so.

        You don’t get it. This isn’t about QM or something. If you can never be perfectly correct, then your statement that you can never be perfectly correct is one of those statements of yours that can’t be perfectly correct. There are therefore some cases in which you can, in principle, be perfectly correct.

        This is how strong epistemological skepticism devours itself.

        … whatever your views on free will and causality and orderliness, political freedom (or its lack) is something everyone can recognize.

        I don’t mean to be difficult here. I, too, value liberty. It’s just that, like I said, it’s where we decide to draw the boundary of the permissible that the difficulty lies. We should not imagine that there is less constraint upon us if we draw it in one place rather than another. All that has happened if we move that boundary is that we are exchanging one form of constraint for another. There is no free lunch. We should not therefore make the mistake of thinking that anarchy (to take the extreme example) is less constraining than, say, monarchy.

        … you seem to think your understanding should be objective and perfect.

        No. I think that in order for us to have even imperfect understanding, there must be a perfect understanding somehow or other out there, to which our own may approximate, and in principle perfectly agree, at least from time to time.

        … to say God precedes everything else is to use metaphorical language to describe something otherwise indescribable.

        When classical theists say that God precedes everything else, we mean something quite clear and not at all metaphorical: that God is a necessary logical forecondition of anything else. We don’t mean that God happened before time, because that notion makes no sense. We mean that he is logically prior to all other things.

        Prima facie, there’s no particular difficulty with understanding logical priority. To take an example – not a metaphor, mind, but an actual instance of the very notion under consideration – the set of all numbers is logically prior to any number. You need all the numbers somehow or other out there in order to procure any one of them. The nature of, say, 5, implies and presupposes all the other numbers.

        It is nevertheless true that at a deeper level we have a great deal of difficulty understanding anything in itself. That sort of understanding might not be really feasible for us. Thus it may be accurate to say that all our understandings are metaphorical.

        What, after all, is logical implication? We can recognize it well enough, describe its operation and furnish examples of it ad infinitum. But we cannot try to investigate it (or for that matter think at all, about anything) except by the use of logical implication. The same sort of limit constrains our research into a number of axiomatic features of experience per se: what are consciousness, intention, causation, existence, possibility, and so forth? Inquiry into any of these topics involves us in a profoundly bewildering recursion.

        That does not mean that such inquiries cannot possibly succeed, just that they are tricky. Nor does it mean that a “merely” metaphorical understanding is in any respect an illegitimate sort of understanding. But it does mean that if all our understanding is metaphorical, then it cuts no ice to criticize this or that theory or model or understanding on the basis of the fact that it is merely metaphorical (I’m not saying that this is what you are doing).

      • He’s saying that only God can have *perfect* understanding, yes. You wouldn’t disagree with this, except you don’t believe in God. But at the end of the day you *must* believe in God, otherwise imperfect human understanding means absolutely nothing since there’s no perfect standard to measure it by, … by which to declare it, well, “imperfect.”

      • So there must be actual physical laws somehow or other out there

        I think I՚ve said about 3 or 4 times that I believe in an observer-independent reality, so I՚m not sure why you keep trying to prove it to me.

        It’s just that, like I said, it’s where we decide to draw the boundary of the permissible that the difficulty lies. We should not imagine that there is less constraint upon us if we draw it in one place rather than another

        Really don՚t understand what you are getting at here. We may have no freedom at all by a strict definition (that is, nothing we do is independent of the physical causal laws that drive everything else). Nonetheless, political arrangements differ in the degree of perceived freedom. Call it decentralization of decision-making if that is less confusing.

        No. I think that in order for us to have even imperfect understanding, there must be a perfect understanding somehow or other out there, to which our own may approximate,

        Why? As long as we can validate our understandings against reality, why does there have to be some perfect understanding?

        When classical theists say that God precedes everything else, we mean something quite clear and not at all metaphorical: that God is a necessary logical forecondition of anything else. We mean that he is logically prior to all other things.

        Note that you have failed to escape or cash out the sequentialist metaphorical language. “forecondition” and “logically prior” are both rooted in temporal metaphors.

        I՚m not sure I can explain my point here very clearly, much less convince you of it. What I am trying to get at is the idea that your concept of priority (logical, temporal, or otherwise) is being deployed inappropriately. Your concept of God as something that is outside and “prior to” the cosmos is incoherent (or at the very least, I find it intellectually unaesthetic).

        the set of all numbers is logically prior to any number.

        Sez who? That is either nonsensical or false, in all systems of philosophy of mathematics I am aware of. “Logically prior” makes sense given a particular formal deductive system; it makes no sense when talking about platonic mathematical objects like numbers or sets. And when mathematics is rigorously constructed from first principles, concrete numbers come first, with the set of all numbers defined by an infinite sequential inductive process.

        Thus it may be accurate to say that all our understandings are metaphorical

        Well that is something we can both more or less agree on, at least.

      • I think I’ve said about 3 or 4 times that I believe in an observer-independent reality, so I’m not sure why you keep trying to prove it to me.

        You have indeed. What you have not yet done is recognize the implications of that objective reality, which I keep trying to elucidate. I’ll try again.

        The project of understanding reality, in which we are all of us ever willy nilly engaged, presupposes that it is amenable to our understanding. It presupposes, i.e., that reality is intelligible to intelligences such as our own. Implicit in the notion of understanding of some phenomenon by an intelligence such as ours is our capacity to formalize it to any desired degree of specificity: i.e., to develop a system of propositions that describe its behavior accurately. If a thing is to be truly intelligible, it must be intelligible through and through, without any remainder of absolute unintelligibility, at least in principle; so that its causes and operations can be completely specified.

        If a thing exists, its causes and operations likewise exist, as proper to it. A true model or theory then will pick out causes and operations in reality that are in fact present and operative in it. Thus e.g. while there may likely be more to mass than we have so far suspected, yet there is something in reality that our notion of mass does indeed accurately pick out, so that when we talk of mass we are talking about something real.

        Reality being thoroughly intelligible, there is then in principle a formal specification of all the causes and operations at work in reality. There must, i.e., be a completely accurate, totally adequate and utterly comprehensive – i.e., a True – Theory of Everything. No finite mind could fully comprehend it, obviously, but it must be out there, ready and waiting for finite minds to notice its features salient to their purposes. Only thus could our theories approximate to it, or scientific discoveries count as discoveries, rather than inventions.

        To say that there is a True TOE is just another way of saying that reality must be intelligible (and to say that it is intelligible is to say that it is causally coherent; for, what is not causally coherent cannot be understood, and vice versa). It is to say furthermore that this intelligibility of things is implicit in their actuality, as an aspect thereof: if things did not have specific – i.e., specifiable – forms, we could not notice their forms in the first place, or therefore distinguish them from each other. They would be indefinite: not quite completely actual.

        Now, to all of this so far you might well agree. But just here is where the trail turns up into territory you might find more challenging, and difficult to surmount.

        If there is a True TOE out there (as there must be if things are to be intelligible or causally ordered to each other) then, as proper to reality as such, and ergo to every instance of reality, it must be presupposed by any given actual entity in the system of reality. It must, that is to say, somehow exist if anything at all is to exist. You can’t instantiate an order or a form that has no reality at all other than in its instantiation. This is just to say that you can’t instantiate a form that isn’t possible to instantiate, whether or not it has ever yet been instantiated. Things all presuppose their forms.

        Thus the True TOE must precede everything.

        The True TOE is what the ancients called the Logos.

        Call it decentralization of decision-making if that is less confusing.

        This is the Catholic social doctrine of subsidiarity. No tradent – whether Catholic, or not – would reject it. Subsidiarity however insists upon a hierarchy of authority, which liberalism has rejected.

        We do not disagree with liberalism that liberty is appropriate to the human condition, and essential to true human flourishing. We just think that liberalism is too prodigal with liberty, by half at least; so that as implemented it rejects that hierarchy of authority by which alone human society may be properly ordered, instead implementing that hierarchy sub rosa and dishonestly, thus imposing its own sort of tyranny.

        Our argument is that it is impossible to eliminate the hierarchy of authority. Better then to recognize it explicitly.

        As long as we can validate our understandings against reality, why does there have to be some perfect understanding?

        Perhaps I should not have used the term “understanding,” which you introduced in saying:

        … you seem to think your understanding should be objective and perfect …

        The exposition at the head of this comment should suffice (I hope!) to make my meaning clear. I would note however that the Logos cannot subsist except as the form of some mind, and minds cannot subsist except insofar as they are concrete. Truth is a character of an act of intension on the part of a concrete actual being; there is no other way to get something that might be true. So, “understanding” is not inapt in this context.

        … your concept of priority (logical, temporal, or otherwise) is being deployed inappropriately. Your concept of God as something that is outside and “prior to” the cosmos is incoherent …

        How, exactly?

        “Logically prior” makes sense given a particular formal deductive system; it makes no sense when talking about Platonic mathematical objects like numbers or sets. And when mathematics is rigorously constructed from first principles, concrete numbers come first, with the set of all numbers defined by an infinite sequential inductive process.

        You can’t validly reason your way to a conclusion that is not implicit in your premises to begin with. Thus the infinite sequential induction by which we may specify the whole set of numbers could not work if the numbers were not first each implicitly ordered to all others according to some formalizable relation. All the numbers are implicit in any one of them (5 makes no sense in the absence of 3 or 23, to which it is *essentially* related); and each of them derives its meaning from its relations to all of them. So, to express the concept of any one number in the first place, you must presuppose all the numbers.

        Put another way: the infinite sequential induction by which all the numbers may be specified does not create those numbers, but rather only formalizes their relations. It is a discovery, not an invention. The reality of the numbers and so of their formal relations precedes our formalizations – precedes our thought about them. If it did not, our thoughts about them would not be about anything real. I.e., they would all be false. There would then be no such thing as truths of number theory.

      • All this go round and the only pertinent conclusion one can draw is that a.morphous does not believe in the existence of objective Supremacy AND does not believe that a white man can “make all the right moves,” ie., be perfect.

        This belief, held personally, will be its own kind of self-annihilation. But this belief “preached” to the masses REQUIRES acute counter action for it leaves “us” in a position to only separate or annihilate those “willing” to infect the masses with such rabid belief.

      • Thor, we were not talking about supremacy or whiteness. You’re off topic. This comment, and yours, should be deleted.

      • “See” how that worked, Earl?

        At the level of total mind war, where the virtual world lay mercy to a weaponized Logos, the process of universalizing “equality” DEMANDS a total redundancy. At some point, Kristor simply must accept that A.morphous does not seek a resolution because this would falsify a total redundancy. And likewise, with no resolution, Perfection is falified in the mind of A.morphous. This is a DESIRED state of being WHICH WILL INEVITABLY necessitate total separation or total annihilation for those who reject total redundancy, ie., those who embrace Singularity. But it is also, at the meta-racial level, simply a case of the white man’s head divided.

        So even when A.morphous is made aware that to “know” total redundancy is to ACCEPT The Singularity… He WILL NOT comprehend. He’s at war with “us” because he is “us.”

      • If a thing is to be truly intelligible, it must be intelligible through and through, without any remainder of absolute unintelligibility

        You keep doing this rhetorical move of insisting that if x partakes of some quality y, it has to partake of it entirely and absolutely. I never can see the logic there. Why isn՚t it possible (eg) for the universe to be only partially intelligeble? That seems to actually be the case.

        Re the rest of your argument about TOE and the instantiation of forms: I am very suspicious of your logic but don՚t have the energy to try to pick it apart. There are all sorts of hidden metaphysical assumptions there (many of them so baked into western thought that it is very hard to see them for what they are). All this presupposition and instantiation of forms strikes me as so much phlogiston.

        [liberalism] rejects that hierarchy of authority by which alone human society may be properly ordered, instead implementing that hierarchy sub rosa and dishonestly, thus imposing its own sort of tyranny.

        You are wrong; liberalism does not reject authority, it rejects arbitrary authority.

        So, to express the concept of any one number in the first place, you must presuppose all the numbers.

        I think we got onto this tangent by your assertion that the set of all numbers “preceded” individual numbers. My point was that, even given the default Platonic philosophy of mathematics, this is incorrect. All mathematical objects are hanging out eternally in mathspace, none of them preceding any of the others. And in non-Platonic mathematics, the individual numbers are constructed first.

      • A.morphous, thank you first for your continued involvement with this discussion.

        You write:

        You keep doing this rhetorical move of insisting that if x partakes of some quality y, it has to partake of it entirely and absolutely. I never can see the logic there. Why isn՚t it possible (eg) for the universe to be only partially intelligible? That seems to actually be the case.

        But I am not insisting that if x is to partake of y, it must partake of it entirely and absolutely. I am saying rather that if x is to partake of y at all – to whatever degree – y must really be out there to partake of in the first place, whether or not x happens along.

        This is what Arrogant Prig is saying. If you are going to obtain a bit of blue, you need blue to begin with – not necessarily the actuality of blue, mind, but certainly, and at a minimum, you need the possibility of blue in order to get any blue at all.

        Thus if we are to understand the universe even a bit, the universe must be intelligible, completely – albeit not, perhaps, to any merely creaturely, finite mind.

        You write:

        … liberalism does not reject authority, it rejects arbitrary authority.

        This is what liberalism likes to think of itself. It’s a noble thought! But it doesn’t hold up. What liberalism considers arbitrary authority is what we here would call natural authority – the authority that men naturally and rightly and happily grant to the wise, the strong, the intelligent, the courageous, the canny, the holy, the skilled, the foresightful, the alert, the enterprising, the diligent, the tough, the experienced, the accomplished, the understanding, the compassionate, the generous, the insightful, the charitable, the inspiring, the truthful, the righteous, the hardy, the steadfast, the reliable, the talented, the beautiful. The leaders selected by liberal political orders must all manifest some of these qualities in some degree, too, or no one would ever have taken notice of them in the first place, as fitted to elective office. So liberal orders, too, reckon natural authority, and govern by it. One can’t not.

        The difference is that liberal orders insist that they are paying no attention to natural authority, instead using purely bureaucratic procedures to select leaders.

        But it’s a pretense, however honestly undertaken. I should perhaps say then rather that it is at best a pretension. Liberal leaders, too, are natural leaders, somehow or other. Thus whatever the bureaucratic means of their selection, their leadership is equally “arbitrary:” i.e., given and discovered, and recognized, rather than invented out of thin air and conferred. This does not mean they are honest, good, or wise, NB. It means only that they are somehow or other better than the average bear. It means at minimum only that such leaders as liberal political orders selects are good at the game of liberal politics.

        You write:

        I think we got onto this tangent by your assertion that the set of all numbers “preceded” individual numbers. My point was that, even given the default Platonic philosophy, this is incorrect. All mathematical objects are hanging out eternally in mathspace, none of them preceding any of the others. And in non-Platonic mathematics, the individual numbers are constructed first.

        The precedence of the set of all numbers under Platonism is not temporal, but logical. Just as you need blue itself, and all the variations of blue, in order to get any blue at all, so you need numbers, and all the numbers, in order to get any one of them.

        Non-Platonic mathematics presupposes Platonic mathematics. If the numbers are not somehow or other real prior to whatever we might say about them, then nothing we say about them can be true.

      • If there is no intelligibility in itself, how can anything be intelligible in any degree? That’s like claiming that there is no color blue, but that there are things that are more or less blue. I have the same problem with your odd idea of authority. The legitimate ruler is he who is more truly man, i.e. instantiates the Form of Man more completely and possesses more reality and more goodness than hoi polloi, and has, therefore, a greater claim to authority. This is also the basis for the argument against mob rule (democracy) and in favor of Monarchy or Aristocracy.

      • A.morphous…

        Liberalism does not reject “arbitrary authority.” On the contrary, liberalism equals tolerance plus nondiscrimination equals all-accepting indiscriminancy equals “arbitrarily deadly.” Liberalism CREATES DEADLY ABITRARY FORCE.

      • A.morphous seems to believe that the definition of “arbitrary authority” is any sort of authority liberalism rejects. He’s said before in these threads that his goal is to destroy traditional hierarchies, including family hierarchy.

        I’m reminded of Noah Webster’s expression of concern over the influx of immigrants to America during his day. “Many of them,” he said, “come here with violent prejudices against arbitrary government, and they seem to make no great distinction between arbitrary government and a government of laws, founded on free elections.”

        A.morphous suffers from the same problem – he makes no great distinction between arbitrary authority and legitimate authority founded on natural law and natural reason. Indeed, these – arbitrary authority and legitimate authority founded in the nature of the thing – he considers to be one and the same thing. His mind is firmly fixed on this because his heart is in the wrong place.

        There’s nothing “noble,” in thought or in deed, that seeks to destroy paternal authority!

      • If there is no intelligibility in itself, how can anything be intelligible in any degree?

        I have no idea what that is supposed to mean or what it has to do with what I said.

        That’s like claiming that there is no color blue, but that there are things that are more or less blue.

        That is the actual case, more or less. You chose a pretty bad example since we have available an entirely reductionist model for what “blue” is, so we have no need to imagine that it՚s some pure platonic form. As a concept, it is both fuzzy and entirely conditional on our evolutionary history that produced a receptor sensitive to a certain range of wavelengths of light. So in some sense there is no color blue, at least, not in the sense of some platonic concept that pre-exists the historical trajectory that produced humans with that concept.

        I have the same problem with your odd idea of authority. The legitimate ruler is he who is more truly man, i.e. instantiates the Form of Man more completely and possesses more reality and more goodness than hoi polloi, and has, therefore, a greater claim to authority. This is also the basis for the argument against mob rule (democracy) and in favor of Monarchy or Aristocracy.

        It՚s an insane argument that nobody in the modern world could accept. I՚m dubious that intelligent people in the pre-modern world accepted it; it՚s clearly propaganda used by thugs to intimidate suckers.

        Well – on second thought, there՚s something to it, and you can see it in the (quite imperfect) democratic process, where too often people select candidates based on how well they match some imaginary archetype (Reagan comes to mind, also Donald Trump, who instantiates the Form of Asshole, and thus possesses so much reality he had his own reality show). This is because democracy in its existing form has not sufficiently overthrown monarchical ideas of leadership.

      • A.morphous…

        So you desire liberation without separation. And it is the “because I” that presages an inevitable catastrophe all around. Yours is the desire of the human-like parasite. What should “we” do with a recognition of your kind?

      • “It’s clearly propaganda used by thugs to intimidate suckers.”

        Ha, ha. As the Redsticks might have put it, “you talk like woman.”

      • “You are wrong; liberalism does not reject authority, it rejects arbitrary authority.”

        Here we can see where a.morphous’ lack of understanding stems from. He sees all men being equal, and so to have men rule others is apparently ‘arbitrary’, so the solution to anarchy for him is for all of these equal men to get together and choose one from among their equal selves to lead. Then they will equally congratulate each other, white, black, green on how equal they all are.

        This is why metanarratives are so vital. The metanarrative of equality informs this lunacy. One of the first things the thinking man must reject is equality. Men are not equal. As Codreanu put it, to have a nation vote for its leaders is as ludicrous as having a nation vote for its athletes or its scientists. When a.morphous views aristocracies of the past, he sees pretenders, men who were just as good as him and so had no right to rule anything. We see men who were uniquely qualified in the order of their caste to direct the nation politically. This is what an aristocracy is, the rule of the best.

        The Russians call democracy ‘dermocracy’, a neat epithet which means the rule of excrement. How right they are.

      • But I am not insisting that if x is to partake of y, it must partake of it entirely and absolutely. I am saying rather that if x is to partake of y at all – to whatever degree – y must really be out there to partake of in the first place, whether or not x happens along.

        Oh OK, I get what you are saying (was kind of unclear from Mr. Prig՚s post). It all hinges on this metaphor of “out there”, that there is a platonic world “out there” that we make imperfect approximations to based on our limited resources “in here”. (Of course, what you said initially was “If a thing is to be truly intelligible, it must be intelligible through and through, without any remainder of absolute unintelligibility”). Out there is prior or more foundational, or something, relative to “in here”.

        This way of thinking is at least coherent, and it has a long history in Western philosophy. I feel it reflects something very wrong and broken, but I՚m not going to be able to convince you of that, I՚m not sure I can even articulate my objections to my own satisfaction. I՚ve argued against some of the consequences earlier.

        This is what Arrogant Prig is saying. If you are going to obtain a bit of blue, you need blue to begin with – not necessarily the actuality of blue, mind, but certainly, and at a minimum, you need the possibility of blue in order to get any blue at all

        See the previous comment. He couldn՚t have picked a worse example.

        What liberalism considers arbitrary authority is what we here would call natural authority – the authority that men naturally and rightly and happily grant to the wise, the strong, the intelligent, the courageous…The difference is that liberal orders insist that they are paying no attention to natural authority, instead using purely bureaucratic procedures to select leaders.

        I really don՚t know what you are talking about. The liberal order we live under is completely shot through with hero-worshipping of charismatic leaders: CEOs, presidents, thought leaders, etc. The only difference from monarchy/aristocracy is that such positions are (theoretically) earned by merit rather than birth.

        I personally would like to see all that overthrown, since I find it nauseating, but liberalism hasn՚t done it and won՚t.

        The precedence of the set of all numbers under Platonism is not temporal, but logical

        That is a nonsensical statement, a type error. Logical precedence holds between logical propositions and deductions; Platonic mathematical objects in general do not have those types of relationships.

        Non-Platonic mathematics presupposes Platonic mathematics.

        Glad to see we have settled that difficult question.

      • This is what Arrogant Prig is saying. If you are going to obtain a bit of blue, you need blue to begin with – not necessarily the actuality of blue, mind, but certainly, and at a minimum, you need the possibility of blue in order to get any blue at all

        See the previous comment. He couldn՚t have picked a worse example.

        If there is in reality no such thing as blue, then our apprehensions of blue are simply illusory; they are about something that does not exist.

        The liberal order we live under is completely shot through with hero-worshipping of charismatic leaders: CEOs, presidents, thought leaders, etc. The only difference from monarchy/aristocracy is that such positions are (theoretically) earned by merit rather than birth.

        Right. In denying its ineluctably illiberal reality, liberalism is an exercise in radical bad faith. Better to be honest about the reasons we elevate some men over others, namely their various extraordinary virtues. It would breed less resentment.

        Platonic mathematical objects in general do not have [logical] relationships.

        Really? Did you take geometry?

        The general point I am trying to make is that in order to get any of the mathematical truths, you need the whole system of them. You can work your way to all of them from any of them (at least in principle) only because they are already eternally linked together in a nexus of mutual logical implication.

        The nexus and its nodes – the various mathematical objects, and the truths about them – arrive all at once, as a package deal. Nevertheless, the whole is prior to the parts. If there simply were no whole system of mathematical truths, then no mathematical object could be coordinated to any other: every one of them would be sui generis.

        They are not any of them sui generis. None of them can even be defined except in terms commensurable to the whole system of such terms. No one of them can be defined except by reference to all of them. So each of them presupposes all of them.

      • If there is in reality no such thing as blue, then our apprehensions of blue are simply illusory; they are about something that does not exist.

        That’s your language, I would never say something as stupid as “there is no such thing as blue”. I said there is no platonic ideal of blue, which is something quite different. There is a blue in our universe, a real one, which doesn’t need an unreal ideal to wrap itself around. The real blue is a fuzzy cultural category grounded in some hard facts of physiology.

      • The real blue is a fuzzy cultural category grounded in some hard facts of physiology.

        I.e., it is a mere phantasm generated by our neural machinery, that does not refer to any real aspect of our world – there being, as you say, no discrete section of the spectrum that is blue.

        You would not be so stupid as to say explicitly that there is no such thing as blue. But even very intelligent people such as yourself can fool themselves into thinking that they have avoided saying it implicitly.

        I understand that you’d like to evade the necessity of admitting that categories are real, that things have real essences (whether Aristotelian or Platonic). But unfortunately, you can’t. If categories are not real, then as you say no part of the spectrum is really blue, but then *nor is there really such a thing as a spectrum.*

        This probably seems to you to be an outrageous, unwarranted leap. But not so: categories are a sine qua non of thought in general. Dispense with categories, and you lose thought in the bargain, and with it knowledge, indeed even experience as such.

      • I.e., it is a mere phantasm generated by our neural machinery, that does not refer to any real aspect of our world – there being, as you say, no discrete section of the spectrum that is blue.

        You can translate my perfectly sensible statements into your framework and make them into nonsense, but that says more about your framework and/or translation abilities than it does about what I am saying.

        I understand that you’d like to evade the necessity of admitting that categories are real

        Well of course categories are real, they just aren՚t predefined in some alternate world. Instead, they are emergent from the real one. Blue is real because of the way humans are and act, not because some gaseous phantom decreed an eternal timeless abstraction.

        You have an odd idea about what “real” means. Apparently it is the opposite of my common-sense one. According to you, something is only real if it is a shadow of something unreal.

      • A.morphous, you’re the one who said that there is no discrete section of the spectrum that is blue. Blue, you said, is a fuzzy cultural category. Because there is no discrete section of the spectrum that is blue, it does not refer to anything in the real world, but rather only to a phantasm within our minds.

        Who said anything about an alternate world? I think blue is a real feature of our world, regardless of us.

      • A.morphous, you’re the one who said that there is no discrete section of the spectrum that is blue. Blue, you said, is a fuzzy cultural category.

        Do you deny any of that?

        Because there is no discrete section of the spectrum that is blue, it does not refer to anything in the real world, but rather only to a phantasm within our minds.

        Uh, that’s quite a leap there, which I do not agree with at all.

        Perhaps you can show me the hard boundaries on the electromagnetic spectrum where blue starts and stops.

      • I do not of course deny that the boundaries of what is blue are fuzzy, in the real world, in our minds and in our discourse. But that is a very far cry from the suggestion that there is no definite blue portion of the spectrum, or that blue is no more than a fuzzy conventional category of artifacts of the nervous system. One can’t say that blue-green is blue-green if there is no such thing as blue. What is blue on the spectrum? Call it the midpoint of the spectrum between violet and green: wavelength 472.5 nm, or thereabouts.

        Boundary cases like blue-green don’t undermine the reality of categories, but rather affirm them. It is not the boundary case that sets the definition of a category, but the central, paradigmatic case – the Platonic ideal. No central value, no boundary values either. You can’t get blue-green without both blue and green.

        How did we get on to this tangent about blue, anyway? Ah yes; Arrogant Prig used it as a metaphor for the world’s intelligibility: you can’t get intelligence if there is nothing intelligible out there in the first place, regardless of whether anyone is looking for it. But intelligibility is not like blue. X may be more or less blue in itself. But it may not be more or less intelligible in itself. Either x is completely intelligible in itself, or it cannot actually exist.

        Here’s how. If x is not completely intelligible in itself (in principle at least), then obviously no complete account of its causal factors or effects could ever possibly be achieved, by any mind, no matter how powerful. But the only way that such an account could be impossible even to omniscience is if there simply was no such account – which could occur only if x were *in fact* partly uncaused.

        But that never happens. Things always happen for sufficient reasons, and this requirement is a metaphysical necessity: the reasons sufficient to a thing define it, so that any insufficiency of such reasons – any sheer randomness in it – would underdetermine it, leaving it indefinite; which is to say, not uniquely and ascertainably itself, versus something else; which is to say, inactual. Actualities are sufficiently caused, ergo completely definite; so they have a complete set of causal factors sufficient to define them as just what they are, and to differentiate them from all others. And this means that in principle a sufficiently intelligent mind could compile a complete causal account of them – i.e., find them intelligible.

      • The physiological basis for blue is well-known (peak is at 420nm as it happens).

        I do not of course deny that the boundaries of what is blue are fuzzy, …But that is a very far cry from the suggestion that there is no definite blue portion of the spectrum, or that blue is no more than a fuzzy conventional category of artifacts of the nervous system.

        A very far cry? It sounds identical to me. (Of course blue is not purely conventional because it is rooted in a very particular piece of physiology — my point is that that explains blue without having to resort to Platonic ideals).

        I think we are largely talking past each other at this point. There is a large body of work on theories of categories that aren’t as broken as the traditional ones, you might want to take a look.

      • A very far cry? It sounds identical to me.

        It isn’t. You can’t have a boundary (or any other property), fuzzy or not, of a thing that is not actual and definite. In your world, everything is fuzzy boundaries, with nothing definite and nailed down, nothing actual, everything in flux. I admit that life does often seem that way, especially up close. The notion has an honorable pedigree, going back at least to Heraclitus. I don’t mean to repudiate flux. But in the final analysis, flux has to be of something or other. You can’t step into the same river twice; but you can step into a particular definite river. No river, no flux.

        [Blue] is rooted in a very particular piece of physiology – my point is that that explains blue without having to resort to Platonic ideals …

        My point is that it doesn’t. An arrangement of molecules with the label “blue” slapped on it does not get you blue. It gets you only an arrangement of molecules with the label “blue” slapped on it. To find out why the arrangement of molecules *means* blue to a mind, *feels* like blue to a mind, you have to refer to something other than the arrangement of molecules, in which it and the mind that perceives it both participate.

        Indeed, the very notion of “arrangement,” of configurations that manifest certain characteristics which other configurations do not, smuggles formal causation back into the scheme without admitting to having done so.

        This goes equally for prototype theories of categories. You can’t get closer to the center of the bird category with robins, or further away with penguins, if there is really no such category, with a definite center. No archetype, no prototype.

    • a.morphous…

      It would be more exacting for Kristor to say one white male must choose between white Supremacy or anti-white Supremacy. Neo’s reaction believes itself able to float in between. But, there is no longer a third way this close to Final Liberation. “Your” side imposes the only relevant litmus test these days and the “victory” is no stronger than your nemesis’ willingness to fail rather than face exile at the hands of “your” side. And “we” both agree how absolutely pathetic this is… Yet, it MUST BE a mutual anti-white Supremacy at play?

    • A.morphous: Why would you be “troubled” by anything Kristor says? If you consider it untrue and choose to come to the Orthosphere of your own volition, how can it possibly cause you any trouble in your life whatever unless you yourself will that all abide by your dictation of what is true? It seems to me you are accusing Kristor of the exact fault you are yourself guilty.

    • As I get older, I admit that my judgement on anything calling itself religion or philosophy is increasingly informed by a saying of Musonius Rufus: Indeed philosophy is nothing but the practice of noble behavior. Impious behavior by the votaries of any particular sect, regardless of how venerable, causes me to look for the worm in the rose.

  5. Let our enemies go by their old dull tracks,
    and theirs be the fault or shame
    (The man is bitter against the world who has only himself to blame);
    Let the darkest side of the past be dark, and only the good recall;
    For I must believe that the world, my dear, is a kind world after all.

    It well may be that I saw too plain, and it may be I was blind;
    But I’ll keep my face to the dawning light,
    though the devil may stand behind!
    Though the devil may stand behind my back, I’ll not see his shadow fall,
    But read the signs in the morning stars of a good world after all.

    –Henry Lawson

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