Freedom & Sufficient Reason

In commenting on my recent post Atheism is Not Strictly Conceivable, readers Vishmehr, Cincinnatus and Leo all pointed out that the Principle of Sufficient Reason [PSR] appears to rule out freedom for God, or for creatures, or for any sort of being. Leo provided a link to a short review of arguments that the Principle of Sufficient Reason entails necessitarianism.

It does not.

This is a good thing! If we were not free, then we would not be free to understand or intend anything. But if the PSR were not true, then everything would be unintelligible, and we could not understand or intend anything. Either way, as Vishmehr pointed out, we – and all other minds, including the Divine mind – would not actually exist. In order for minds actually to exist, the PSR must be true and minds must be free.

Fortunately, this is possible. Freedom and intelligibility are compatible.

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Will Europe Follow Atlantis?

Two of three parts of my essay on “Lewis Spence, True Myth, and Modernity” have appeared at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website. Part I is “The Atlantis Myth – Its Pedigree.” Part II is “Will Europe Follow Atlantis?” Part III, “The Table Round of Atlantean Eccentrics,” will appear next Saturday.  The essay explores Scotsman Lewis Spence’s lifelong meditation on the meaning and probability of Plato’s Atlantis Myth.

Part I is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-europe-follow-atlantis-part-i-true-myth/

Part II is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-europe-follow-atlantis-part-ii-lewis-spence-and-the-occult-war/

Part III is here: http://peopleofshambhala.com/will-europe-follow-atlantis-part-iii-the-modern-west/

I offer an extract:

Spence resembles William Blake, William Butler Yeats, perhaps even Arnold Toynbee, a bit staid in style but hardly so in content, in his visionary proclivity to see local events in the largest possible context, as participating in the cycles of a Platonic Great Year, or something like it; and as boasting always and everywhere a metaphysical-eternal as well as a physical-temporal meaning. So too Spence resembles Joseph de Maistre on the French Revolution, who grasped the Jacobin uprising as an ultimately self-punishing recrudescence of idolatry and human sacrifice, as both insufferable profanation and sanguine atonement all at once. Spence, who referred to himself as a ‘British traditionalist,’ prefigures later Traditionalist figures like John Michell (1933 – 2009) and Geoffrey Ashe (born 1923), whose thought goes perpendicular to anything established. Michell’s View over Atlantis (1969) and Ashe’s Camelot and the Vision of Albion (1975) follow in the eccentric path first trail-blazed by Spence. Their eccentricity – and Spence’s – likens itself to the fortuitous topography of the Nile Delta according to the Egyptian priests in Plato’s Timaeus, sheltering the adytum of insight-in-eccentricity from the deluge of opinion in conformity. The discussion must return to this topic of eccentricity, closely related as it is to the opposition of myth and poetry to economics, and to the much-underrated value of eccentric people and their views under a conformist regime; but for the time being let Spence’s marvelous tome be to the fore.

PS. I would like to thank the thoughtful and charitable party who sent me the set of beer-mug coasters.  Any other gift that I might receive during the Christmas Season will pale, I fear, next to them.

Evola Brand

What Is It Like To Be Uncaused?

The problem of free will is that to the extent that our acts are uncaused, they are irrational, but that if they are wholly caused (ergo wholly rational), then they are not free, but rather are straightforward functions of their causal inputs – in which case, they do not actually exist as entities disparate from those inputs.

It would seem that if we are somewhat free, we are to that extent irrational. There’s the rub.

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True Gnosticism

As with any other resilient heretical or erroneous doctrine, there is a kernel of truth at the heart of Gnosticism: namely, that if you are *merely* worldly, then the world is indeed truly evil, and with it the whole of our existence in it. By itself the world cannot but redound to its own corruption and eventual certain dissolution, rendering all creaturely suffering endured along the way completely pointless, base, and stupid. Mere worldliness is no more than ugly death.

The world and our life in it can be good only insofar as we approach it sub specie aeternitatis. In the world, but not of it; that’s the ticket.

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The Mind / Body Solution

The problem of how the mind relates to the body arises only if we presume – as perhaps is only natural for moderns – that bodies are prior to minds. If you think that minds somehow derive or emerge or supervene upon bodies consisting of mindless stuff, then you’ve got a problem: you’ve got to figure out how lifeless mindless stuff generates living minds. It’s an impossible project! Almost always, the effort to square this circle involves a lot of vague grandiloquence and handwaving.

The problem vanishes – is not there to begin with – if you presume the contrary: that bodies derive from mental processes. In that case, the body we now apprehend is as it were the record or fossil of the mental procedures of a moment ago. Just take mentation as fundamental, and bodies as derived from it, and hey presto, no problem.

I admit of course that the notion that the mental is procedurally prior to the corporeal is a stretch at first. I mean, it is one thing to think that my body as I now apprehend it reflects my mental acts of a moment ago – this is after all *exactly what our lives are like* – but what about all those other bodies out there in our sensoria? What about that rock? Is *it* a relic of some mental procedure?

Why not?

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The Argument from Finity

I have from time to time argued that this or that indispensable aspect of our lives presupposes in its partiality and incompleteness the prior exhaustive comprehension and completeness of the eternal divine act, so that absent that act we could not do what we do in fact constantly do. The Pragmatic Argument from Verisimilitude and The Argument from Truth both come to mind. The basic motion of such arguments is this: you can’t get a posteriori partiality or finitude of any sort unless wholeness and infinity have been accomplished a priori. More simply, the a posteriori as such presupposes the a priori, and cannot come to pass without it. No infinity, then no finite thing whatever.

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The Argument from Imperfection

In general, an imperfection of x cannot be obtained in the absence of a perfection of x. This is most easily seen with noise. There can be no defect of signal if there is no signal in the first place. Likewise you can’t disorder what is not ordered. Nor can you sin if there is no righteousness, or kill what is not alive.

Partiality is another sort of imperfection: you can’t be a part of a whole that is not there to begin with. So likewise, participating a form is impossible if there is no such form.

Then there is incompleteness. What cannot be completed cannot be incomplete, strictly speaking. We can’t count to infinity; if we count to 100, then, we have completed, not part of the count to infinity, but only the count to 100. Likewise, partial knowledge is not knowledge at all in the absence of omniscience.

Our lives are pervasively imperfect. They point always toward perfection. They indicate it; and they aim at it. If there were no such perfection in the first place, there could be no imperfection in our experience, nor therefore any nisus to correct it. If there were no perfection, it could not be a problem for us that we feel we have not achieved it, and we would not feel its lack as painful. Yet we do.

Imperfection presupposes perfection. The latter is therefore prior to the former, and is its forecondition.

The Pragmatic Argument from Verisimilitude

What would life be like if God did not exist? If we found that such a life would be quite unlike our own lives as actually lived, that would be a pretty strong indication that atheism is false; that it disagrees with reality as we actually encounter it. Since God, if he exists, is by far – infinitely far – the biggest most important thing there is, our decision about whether he exists is the most important and far-reaching decision we can make in life. Thus if God exists, and we approached the question of his existence in the wrong spirit, it would be the worst mistake of our lives; as if we had spat on the Good King, but far, far worse; for the King in question would be the King of Everything.

It behooves us to approach the question in the right frame of mind, so that we are less likely to err in our thinking.

Part of approaching the question in the right spirit is being honest with ourselves about how things would be if God did not exist. To begin with a closed mind, or to beg the question and insist that nothing could be different if God did not exist, would be to cheat the whole project. But it is crucial to recognize that, in cheating the project, we would be hurting only ourselves.

What are the aspects of life that we are going to find most indicative? What, that is, are the things that might be quite different for us if there were no God? Well, what are the basic features of our lives?

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The Irreducible Remainder of Improper Reduction

If you reduce all x to nothing but y, then what you have left at the end of the process is no x at all: nothing to explain. To say that x is nothing but y is to say that there is really no such thing as x in the first place.

Eliminative reductionists generally prefer to overlook this difficulty. They try to explain explananda exhaustively as nothing but collisions of dead items, yet retain their reference to the explananda. They won’t take the last entailed step of asserting that there is in the first place simply no such thing as the explananda.

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