Kaiter Enless of the stylish new reactionary blog Logos Club has kindly taken notice of On GNON, posted here at the Orthosphere last March. While nowise adversarial, his treatment of my statements about GNON – which he takes to be authoritative regarding the ontology entertained by those who hold to the notion – is nevertheless a bit mistaken; and on the basis of those mistakes, he has disagreed.
The nice thing about this situation is that clearing up those errors – which I shall now do – will end not only in the discovery that there is in fact no basis for disagreement between us, nor therefore in fact any such disagreement, but rather in a comfortable unanimity. I.e., it will show that, insofar as I may indeed be taken as a legitimate interpreter of GNON for those who take that notion to be utile, Mr. Enless has no true quarrel with GNON. It will end then in an affirmation of his basic project.
Quoting Mr. Enless in pertinent part:
The very excellent and incisive Kristor of the Orthosphere remarks:
Nature is nothing without her God. By herself, she is no more than a series of adventitious events, not as a whole ordered to any purpose transcendent to herself – which is to say, not ordered. Except insofar as they are grounded in Eternity and ordered under his Law, events are just stuff happening for no reason, and cannot therefore by themselves sway us authoritatively.
The summation seems a popular one in reactionary circles, but I find, here and there, faults with the reasoning. First and foremost is that, regardless of whether or not there is [an] intelligent ordering to the cosmos, there are inexorable laws, and there is [an] order to things, or rather, discernible patterns that brook no argumentation; laws which remain consistent and potent regardless of their ultimate derivation. For instance, it matters not, as regards the effecting of Man, whether or not some being causes the seas to churn or the wind to blow, they churn and blow all the same and Man is similarly [affected].
There is to be sure an inexorable Order to things. No argument there. The question then is whether the Order of things we find operating in Nature – by which, and in virtue of which, i.e., we find Nature operating – is ultimately grounded, or not. Is that Order necessary, or could it have been otherwise? If the former, then it does not need to be explained, and indeed cannot be. It grounds itself. If the latter, then it stands in need of some explanation in terms of an ultimate ground. Otherwise, it will be when all is said and done fundamentally inexplicable, even in principle; ergo, unintelligible, in principle, by any rational intelligence whatever; ergo, no order at all, properly so called.
The Order of Nature does not seem to be necessary. It seems as though it might be otherwise than it is. The values of the various physical constants, for example, don’t seem to be necessarily what they are.
Since the Order of Nature is not necessary, it must be explained. And for an explanation to be complete, it must terminate upon factors that are themselves necessary. Otherwise, it will not have terminated at all, but rather ended with explanatory entities that stand themselves in need of some reasonable explanation.
Explanations must terminate upon ultimate factors if they are ultimately to explain. No termination upon ultimacy, no explanation whatever.
What then is the ultimate basis or origin of the Order of Nature that, as necessary, need not and indeed cannot be itself explained? If there is no such basis, then what seems to us to be an Order of things is not really an order at all, but rather only the way that things have happened to turn out, for no reason (NB: by the Principle of Sufficient Reason, an insufficient reason – incompleteness being a sort of insufficiency – is tantamount to no reason at all).
But what is no order at all is just chaos. And things don’t look chaotic. So, not that.
Mr. Enless continues:
Also, he remarks that without a “transcendent purpose” the whole of Nature is “not ordered.” This I suppose is true in that for something to be “ordered” a conscious agent must do the ordering. But it seems to me that he is referring to consistency of structure rather than agency – if this is the case then one might simply posit that there is no reason to suppose that Eternal Laws require conscious writ.
A transcendent purpose does not quite get us to a conscious agent whose purpose it is. We’ll get there in a moment, but for now, it will do to emphasize that “transcendent purpose” is just another way of saying “transcendent final cause.”
The final cause of a thing – which is to say, the sort of thing toward which it tends – is an aspect of its formal cause (and vice versa; formal and final causes are convertible, each in terms of the other). A mature oak tree is a final cause of an acorn; this is a way of saying that a tendency to oak trees is a formal property of acorns.
All things whatever that have actual being somehow act. They somehow affect other things. So they all lead to something or other. They all have final causes, or teloi, that they tend or seek to realize (whether consciously or not); their formal order tends to certain definite ends.
Notice then therefore that if we have specified the form of a thing exhaustively except with respect to its teloi, we have not completely or sufficiently specified it. If you leave out the oak tree, you have not told the full story of the acorn; leave out the chicken, and the egg makes no sense at all; and vice versa, whether for tree or fowl. The formal specification of any thing then, must include a specification of its teloi if it is to be complete.
So, if Nature as a whole and in all her parts is not ordered to teloi, then she is not completely specified, or therefore completely specific, or therefore fully definite. And a thing that is not fully definite – that is not fully and precisely what it is, rather than something else – is not any particular thing. I.e., it simply is not, at all (for only particular things are concretely actual). If then we want to say that Nature as a whole or in any of her parts is truly ordered, we must admit that she and her parts are all ordered to some teloi (even if we are unclear on what those teloi might be).
And the teloi of Nature as a whole must be transcendent to her. She must tend toward an end other than herself, if she is to be completely specific in what she is – if, that is to say, she is definitely to happen, as a whole or therefore in any of her parts. A telos within Nature cannot be the telos of Nature as such.
Excursus: To take an example: pins are the teloi of pin factories, but they do not furnish the telos of the whole system of pin and pin factory. To understand the pin and the pin factory, one must understand the telos of pins. And that telos of pins is transcendent – and basic – to the whole economy of pins and their factories. Without that telos of pins, there would be no pins, nor any pin factories.
Excursus: There might of course in that case be still such things as pens, and feathers.
If Nature is to exist definitely, then, she must be ordered to teloi transcendent to herself.
How then do we get as promised to the conscious agent who is the source and end of Nature? Nihil dat quod non habet: a thing cannot cause what is nowise present in itself. This is easy to demonstrate: you can’t get hydrogen from a state of affairs in which hydrogen is not already potentially present. You can get it, in other words, only from a state of affairs that is potent to generate hydrogen.
Another way of saying nihil dat quod non habet is to say, “you can’t get x from an absolute nothingness of x.”
So, whatever we find in Nature must first have been present at least potentially in Nature’s cause. Consciousness is a feature of Nature. It must therefore be a feature of Nature’s cause. Ditto for volition, and agency. So we get to the conscious agent who willed our system of Nature, in virtue of whose agency, consciousness and volition all these properties are present actually in Nature.
Mr. Enless continues:
Additionally, such a universal ordering would deprive Man of the ability to direct the nature of the Cosmos insofar as he was able, such a venture would be heretical and roundly scorned as hubristic insanity – “How dare you play God!” One might well remark, “To the man that wishes for the grandest possible game, what else is there to play?”
Not quite. On the contrary, in fact. How could universal order deprive us of the ability to act? The ability to act is the sine qua non of being, for to be *just is* to act; it cannot therefore be the case that the Order of being forecloses being per se; so it does not foreclose our acts.
Universal order is a forecondition of coherently ordered acts. No order, then no possibility of action aptly coordinate thereto.
Traditional religions have never suggested that man is incompetent to direct Nature, or that he ought to be. It’s just the opposite. Adam was given nomological power over all other creatures. And traditional religions all aim man at the highest conceivable achievement: familiar intimacy with the Ultimate.
They also, of course, abjure violation of God’s laws – moral, natural, spiritual. But this is only common sense. It’s a Really Bad Idea to disregard such laws. They will come back to bite you every single time. Anyone who wants to disregard them is a bit of a fool.
Ultimately, GNON is simply [an] esoteric stepping stone that the orthodox-faithful Christians utilize in a veiled attempt to convert the questioning and open minded.
It’s rather the opposite, as my post On GNON makes clear. GNON is a way to table the religious questions for a nonce, so that atheist and theist reactionaries can get on together without further ado to the practical near term business of overthrowing modernity and reviving tradition – which is to say, among other things (and despite the disinclination thereto of the atheists, notwithstanding their preponderant avowed recognition of its importance): traditional religious orthodoxy.
Mr. Enless worries that GNON is anthropomorphic, like God, so that in effect GNON is tantamount to God. So he is, in the eyes of theist traditionalists. But the whole point of GNON is to relieve atheist traditionalists of their discomfiture at any anthropomorphic construction of the Logos of Nature – for a while, at least. Were it otherwise, we’d all, simply, refer to GNON as God.