On the Peculiar Difficulty of the Ascension

Herewith, a guest post from commenter PBW:

I

I had a lot of trouble with the Ascension. Every time I recite the Rosary, to take the most frequent example, I start with a declaration of belief: The Apostles’ Creed.

In saying the Creed, I assert a series of beliefs that are jarring to modern sensibilities, but not, for the most part, to me. I believe in God, and in his only begotten Son. I believe in his conception, by divine intervention, in the womb of the Virgin. I believe that, his body in the tomb, Christ descended into Hell. There is much here to ponder, but it is all comfortably within the assent of faith.

“[T]he third day he rose again from the dead …” This is the fulcrum of the Faith. Whilst the work of our redemption was done in the Passion, the sign of our redemption is the Resurrection. It is the incontrovertible revelation of the nature of Jesus Christ. “My Lord and my God.” I believe, unreservedly.

What is it then, in the midst of all these wonders, that makes for awkwardness about the Ascension? For one thing, it is the staginess of it. It is the levitating Jesus, who “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9.) It is the convenient cloud; it is the trapdoor into Heaven.

Continue reading

Gödelian Incompleteness → Creaturely Freedom

It seems we cannot be free.

To each moment of decision, the schedule of inputs is what it is, and as completely constituting the matter of our decision, so it would seem that it completely forms our act therein. We choose what we wish to do, e.g., given our understanding of our circumstances as we find them as each new moment of life arises; but it does not seem that we choose our wishes, nor does it seem that we can choose what, how much or how well we understand. Decision begins with wishes and circumstances as all alike data.

Nor do we seem to be able to choose the way that we choose. The operation of decision – which is our lever of control over our experiences – is not itself subject to our decisions. We are not in control of our means of control.

It seems to us that we choose freely from among options, to be sure. But then, the entire schedule of options really open to us at any moment, however uncountably vast their number, are just as definite ex ante as the facts already accomplished that constitute the causal basis of decision.

Thus the bases, procedure and options of our decisions, being given to each moment of decision ab initio and so unchangeably, would seem to determine us to but one such option, again ab initio and unchangeably. What seems to us to be the free choice of a moment in our lives might then be no more than what it feels like to proceed from the entire schedule of the initial matter thereof to the one option that satisfies the desires felt as an aspect of those data.

Where in this account is there room for freedom?

That room may be found in Gödelian Incompleteness. But to see how this is so, we shall have to traverse several steps.

Continue reading

On the Difficulty of the Cosmos

Twenty years or more ago someone I care about gave me a couple 3D wooden puzzles. I forget how I got them, or from whom, but I remember I care about them. So I kept them on a shelf in my study. Here is one of them, disassembled:

Here is the other, ordered on exactly the same principles, assembled:

Continue reading

Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Stack of Worlds & the Literal Fall; &c.

The stack of worlds implicit in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems furnishes a way of understanding the Fall as having happened literally, and in (so far as I can tell) complete congruity with the latter day scientific model of our own world’s history – and, indeed, with that of any other – and with the account in Genesis.

This post supervenes two others in a series respecting divers Philosophical Skeleton Keys: first, The Stack of Worlds, and then, The Play: Its Wright, Players, & Characters. It will I think be easier to understand this post if you review them, before essaying this one.

Continue reading

Traditionalism is the Reductio of Modernity

The tradition of modernity is to repudiate tradition per se. It’s right there in the term: ‘modern’ is from Late Latin modernus, from Latin modo, “just now.” So ‘modern’ means “what is just now.”

Traditionalists take the modern tradition with utmost seriousness, thoroughness, and consistency: they repudiate the tradition of modernity.

Traditionalists are the iconoclasts of iconoclasm. So likewise are they then the true postmodernists. In their hearts and in their minds, and so far as is possible in their acts, they live into whatever it is that shall inevitably ensue, once modernity has finished eating itself, and collapsed; once the people have awakened and shaken it off like a nightmare or Soviet Communism.

Traditionalists are ransacking the cupboards on the morning after Belshazzar’s Feast, looking for the coffee as the sour dregs of the Party lapse into biliary nausea, bitter existential regret, and alcoholic coma, and as the Persians begin to assemble their siege engines.

Continue reading

DIE: The Contradictions of Anti-Racism

Richard 01

The article below is not by me (Tom Bertonneau). Its author is a friendly Californian acquaintance who fears losing his job if he publishes his arguments online under his own name, but who wants to see them published nevertheless.

It used to be that people admitted that there must be limits to affirmative action. No one wants an affirmative action surgeon, or affirmative action pilot, for instance. Those are matters of life or death. Having academics who know nothing, students who attend the same brain-dead class in race and gender taught in a multitude of departments, teachers who cannot teach, social workers who are dunces, none of those things matter because things just muddle along regardless. It all contributes to hopeless mediocrity and a downgrading of life on earth, but no one is dying in the streets, if rioting in American cities is ignored. United Airlines has changed all that by saying that fifty per cent of its pilots must be women or people of color, though far fewer women than men are interested in airplanes or flying, or have acquired the necessary flying experience. This dictum will presumably include air traffic controllers, either now or in the future. Customers are apparently willing to actually die – to be incinerated in giant balls of jet fuel, or to die on impact – in the name of diversity, inclusion, and equity. DIE. Now that Americans are prepared needlessly to DIE, the only jobs not susceptible to DIE will be jobs associated with convenience. No one will accept a car mechanic, or computer repairman, who cannot actually repair cars or repair computers. No one will accept computer programs that do not work. So, we will truck with our own deaths at the hands of inept surgeons and pilots chosen for their skin color, but not for matters of ease. A phone that does not text, gets sent back to be fixed or replaced under warranty. Whereas once, if an actually bigoted person wanted to damn someone else, he might call the person a Jew-lover or an n-word-lover, the equivalent contemporary accusation would be “white-lover.” Low-key signs saying “It’s okay to be white,” which are hilarious in the sheer modesty of the assertion, are now regarded as racist and worthy of expulsion from a college campus – whether faculty or student.

Continue reading

The Concerted Salients of Our Demoralization

The morale of the West – and, thus, its capacity to morality under pressure, so then its economic vigor and geopolitical power – has throughout 2020 been assaulted on many fronts at once, more and more acutely. It is odd that things seem to have gone so badly in so many ways, all at the same time, and as it were in concert. The question naturally arises, whether that concert is orchestrated.

Continue reading

Preference Cascade Incoming

As an investment advisor, I’ve been pretty tied up the last couple of weeks, for obvious reasons – although I will say that the reaction of our clientele so far to the corona virus crisis – or, is it a ‘crisis’? – seems to be, “Well, these things happen from time to time, best to just hunker down and wait; after all, that worked well the last 23 times this sort of thing happened.” Which is true. Now more even than usual, any investment decisions we might make in view of the present crisis are in the nature of things obsolete by the time they occur to us. And when the market plunges, pretty much the best thing looking forward is to own the market – because reversion to the mean. But their reaction is heartening, too, as a testament to their sanguine equanimity – which is to say, to their wisdom.

What is more, we are tied into a network of roughly 100 advisory firms such as my own, and that reaction seems to be pretty normal among all their clients, in their thousands upon thousands. Which is doubly heartening.

Continue reading

Can Evolutionary Biology and Naturalism Provide a Foundation for Morality?

1

From Tom Stoppard’s play “The Hard Problem”

Naturalism, physicalism, and materialism are synonyms. They are names for a truncated metaphysics that omits any notion of transcendence and divinity. Someone might try to take dualism seriously without God; a dualism that posits material reality, and consciousness as a separate substance with its own substantial reality. But this would mean recognizing that there is something nonphysical and invisible that cannot be explained by science and operates in independence from purely physical forces. In other words, a spiritual reality. Most materialists recognize this and have been leery of even using the word “consciousness.” At the present moment, for some reason, some percentage of analytic philosophers are willing to use David Chalmers’ phrase “the hard problem” to refer to the puzzle of how subjective awareness could arise from the lump of meat in a sentient creature’s head. Positing a giant mystery at the center of human existence is a dangerous game for a materialist. They will find the hard problem to be an indigestible lump that spells the death knell for their physicalist complacency. By accepting that it is a problem at all, they are effectively admitting defeat. If the hard problem were a gift, they would be wise to return to sender. Daniel Dennett puts it thus: “I adopt the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the 2way that dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up.”[1] Continue reading