As the American presidential campaign trudges on, you may get some comic enjoyment from all the inanity by reading what the editors at Taki’s Magazine thought about the Democratic Convention: “An Overdose of Hope” My favorite paragraph modestly covers Sandra Fluke’s exposed twatness:
Sandra Fluke, the woman who couldn’t afford all the birth control she needs even though it’s very cheap, spoke ominously of the Wicked War on Women’s Wombs. Several other women spoke about being women and how women’s issues affect all women and how women need to focus on being women and how they’re not at all maybe a tiny bit narcissistically fixated on being women and therefore unwittingly reinforcing negative stereotypes about women.
What a carnival these United States have become!
I hope that our rabbinical friends have had an edifying Day of Atonement.
Over the summer, the Orthosphere’s Bonald wrote on contemporary physics and its underlying philosophical understanding: “Philosophy in physics: returning to measurement.” Bonald links to an essay by Stephen Barr on Big Questions Online wherein Barr argues that quantum physics undermines materialism: “Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?” It is a short but fascinating read. Barr argues that a materialist who accepts quantum physics is forced to justify his materialism by adopting the “Many Worlds Interpretation” of quantum mechanics. He seems to think that the metaphysical stinginess of materialists will make them hesitate to adopt such an outlook to save their materialism, thereby undoing their materialism.
Bonald, however, considers the Many Worlds Interpretation a genuine threat to traditional understandings about man and, I suppose, to a particular cosmological “paving” argument for the existence of God. I disagree and commented so:
I wish that there were more article’s like Barr’s — it is intelligible by the “uninitiated” without being condescending. It is hard to find well written explanatory articles about math, science, or philosophy that speak toward a broad, educated audience outside the field. We have become a society of insular experts.
Also, I do not see what is so alarming about the “many worlds” theory. I have wondered about it, though not from knowing any discussion of it in physics — and certainly not to defend materialism. Rather, I wonder if our thinking that our world is “the world” is similar to our thinking that our present is “the present.” I call the latter temporal chauvinism. For our “now” is not God’s now any more than the moment when Heloise and Abelard first discovered their great love or some occasion in the thirty-fourth century of the Christian era. For God is beyond time, and thus past and future are causal directions in cosmic history relative to a given “present” moment on that timeline. Maybe, the same holds for multiple worlds. God surely knows every possible world, of which ours is one. But is it “the one” or simply one for us? Perhaps the structure of modal logic actually reveals something about reality — wherein the principle of plenitude may hold.
Moreover, wouldn’t the many worlds theory itself discredit materialism? For if certain features/elements/entities show up in many worlds, and if there is an identity among them, then what is that very identity? If a particular baseball exists in so many different worlds, what explains the correspondence? Any decent answer will eventually have to resort to the non-material — form, an assembly of certain qualities (again, form), a relationship of the parts to the whole (formal structure yet again), and so on. Of course, we need not many worlds to see the same argument against materialism (thinking about atoms will suffice), but I find it queer that materialists would latch onto such an obvious refutation of their world view as a defense for that view.
Materialism seems to be called into question by the very theory that is supposed to support it. In multiple worlds, there is some sort of identity among certain elements/parts/unities/entities in the worlds, and that identity cannot be material. If each thing is utterly discrete/different, then what’s the point of the many worlds? It would seem a huge con. If there is an identity, then the materialist must explain such identity in material terms. Bonald responded:
The idea that my consciousness might bifurcate is one that I find troubling. Either all the bonald-states with nonzero amplitude are one person or they’re separate people. Either way, I would have to weaken my concept of unity and self-identity to either
A) something that could simultaneously hold two incompatible conscious states
B) something nontransitive, since in which (bonald after measuring result a) = (bonald before measurement) and (bonald after measuring result b) = (bonald before measurement), but (bonald after measuring a) =/= (bonald after measuring b)
I find both alternatives distasteful.
I do not share Bonald’s angst because I am rather agnostic about the nitty gritty details of metaphysics. As I have written before, what really are we? If my true being is an idea in the eternal mind of God, then we may see how Bonald’s objections can be answered. For the instantiation of myself in one world is really myself, and the instantiation of myself in an alternative world is really myself, though they are not the same instantiations of myself. The same mystery of existence holds true in our own world through time. Identify persists through change because the identity is something other than the combination of the temporal-spatial facts of any given moment. Such is Plato’s affirmative path as opposed to Buddhist nihilism’s peculiar via negativa from old Parmenides’ house.
Over the summer, Steve Sailer commented on a New York Times editorial by David Brooks, “Why Our Elites Stink,” wherein Brooks contrasts the privileged responsibility of the old W.A.S.P. establishment with the privileged irresponsibility of the new “meritocratic” elite. Sailer interprets Brooks’ piece as a subtle hint to his fellow high-placed American Jews that they are not fulfilling well the role of a social elite: “David Brooks almost goes there.” For how can rabbinical Jews accept the leadership role sincerely and in good conscience when they continue to see themselves as alienated and ever the potential-perennial oppressed victim of the majority? Or so the argument usually goes. The replacement of the old W.A.S.P. establishment and the rise of American Jewry are some of Sailer’s pet subjects, and he writes about them frequently. So, if you are so inclined, read Sailer; he always writes clearly and usually with insight and humor.
I am not sure to what extent there is an ethnic dimension to our sad story, it does seem that the leadership class that has arisen in the West no longer follows the old rules of the delicate social compact in our liberal commercial regime, where privilege entails responsibility, there is a generally peer enforced code of honor (with a noblesse oblige consideration of the underclasses), and the Brahmins have a paternal feeling for the society that they rule, whether in government, business, the arts, and such. Yet, we can see this disconnect as strongly with the undeserving, blue eyed, post-Episcopalian heirs at the Ivies as with the new Jewish (or Indian or Chinese ) elites. Indeed, the condition seems just as rampant, at least to an outside observer, in the United Kingdom and in the rest of the Anglophone world. As our societies have become more truly democratic, they have developed the characteristic vices of democracy. Among such is the rise of individualism, where a man looks only toward his own interests, and of correspondent generational selfishness, where ancestors and decedants are given no thought in decisions.
Why should majority rule decend into such baseness? I think that it relates to the rise of relativism and the obscuring of a natural order that democracy quietly teaches to its citizens. If each man (and woman!), regardless of his wisdom, virtue, knowledge, and experience, is given an equal say in public affairs, then people gradually come to believe that each man’s opinion is equally valid—that each has an equal claim on how the state should be run. Individual will and the seeking after each individual’s approach to whatever he perceives to be his good become the prime mover of the commonwealth rather than adherence to a collective understanding of the common good, which people believe to be transcendent to their whims and desires. Democracy invariably becomes a celebration of the living, voting masses, with no respect of tradition and no concern for consequences to posterity, and of their collective mob will, which paradoxically is simply each man’s jostling to secure a better social position at the expense of everyone else. Our new elites, whether Old American, Jewish, or Persian, are simply adapting to the new regime in the West.
Mark Steyn writes about the Libyan mess that Western powers have facilitated in “Disgrace in Benghazi” in National Review.
Demokratie, Demokratie über alles . . .
As Orthodox Christians just began our new year a few days ago, allow us to extend such greetings and wishes to our rabbinical cousins who begin theirs today.
Bonald has posted a reflection on love and what it means for Christian traditionalists and how it differs from love according to modern liberalism on the Orthosphere: “Christianity, Liberalism, and Love of the Other, Part I” and “Christianity, Liberalism, and Love of the Other, Part II.” Expanding Mark Richardson’s treatment in “Does liberalism allow group survival?,” Bonald defends the conservative insistence on differing levels of moral obligations against the Kantian universalism of liberalism, and he argues that such discrimination accords with the Christian understanding of love. Hence, he attacks liberal Christians’ position at its theological heart.
Even though I find Bonald’s general argument sensible, I have to ponder further Bonald’s assertion that one cannot love an essence. For he maintains that the object of love is always particular. Only with God—the ultimate object of love—does one love an essence, as God’s existence, in Thomist terms, is the same as his essence. I am uncomfortable with that Christian Aristotelian framework, though perhaps I would agree that such is true of God’s creative energies. I am too ignorant of Palamite wisdom, and I do not know how to reconcile or even to translate the Thomist understanding into a metaphysics where God is beyond being rather than being the beingness of beings. If the divine energies are the Thomists’ beingness of beings, then what is the relationship of God’s essence to his energies with respect to how we love God? What exactly is the “object” of that love? We love God, and I am not sure that we can move beyond that mystery. Metaphysics itself is perplexing enough; how are we to understand the unfathomable interactions between creator and creation?
Returning to Bonald’s assertion, is it true, then, that we cannot love justice itself? Or beauty itself? Or wisdom? Bonald argues that our appreciation of those qualities as manifested in men does not imply love for such men but rather esteem. But what about the qualities themselves? I do not think that men speak metaphorically when they state that they love justice. Bonald might be hesitant to accept such love because then he would then have to address the Left’s so called “love of man.” Yet, it seems right to acknowledge that we can love the essence of man. Indeed, if that essence is good, it must be loveable, and so we may not fault the Left for its love of man. Rather, we fault Leftists for their confusion about what that love entails.
What is love? Bonald offers two traditional definitions from the modern Christian debate—that of eros, which desires communion with the beloved, and that of agape, which desires the good of the beloved. It seems silly that one would will the good of an essence; its good is secure. However, one may will communion with that which he loves, and it is in this sense that one loves God, justice, beauty, and the like. Erotic love is a desire for union, which is why human sexual love is such an obvious and therefore useful carnal example of eros. Perhaps a broader, though maybe unhelpful definition of love is the appropriate reponse of a loving creature to that which is good. Love may then be desire disconnected from its self-centered, self-referencing nature.
So, why does Bonald think that we may not love essences? I suspect that the metaphysical stumbling block here is understanding how we relate to essences and to their manifestations in particulars. Platonists and other realists do not understand an essence as simply a generic category into which we group various particulars. It has an integrity on a certain level of being, and it manifests in particular things (“of sights and sounds”), which are simply the showing up of essences in time and space—that rich tapestry of meaning and being that we call the world. Perhaps, Bonald as a semi-realist Christian Aristotelian considers an essence (“apart” from the substances that it informs) as a placeholder only, and, as such, we cannot love a generic man. Thus, Bonald’s contention that we cannot love men generically; rather we love particular men and communities of men whom we know.
Anyway, I recommend Bonald’s short essay. In addition to his points, I think marriage and the bond between parents and children illustrate well that our differing levels of obligation and love are divinely ordained. We human beings are limited in time and space; our attention and care have necessary bounds. Familial obligations are such that they could not survive a universal application. As the wise minds at Pixar stated, if everyone is special, then no one is. Similarly, if all space is treated as equally sacred, then every place will be seen as profane. Likewise, if you owe everyone your time and resources equally, then you will not give much of either to any one. Liberal universalism is a recipe for selfishness and atomism; the tragedy of the commons applies just as well to the human heart.
Last month, I watched the competitions at the London Olympics along with the games’ ceremonial pageantry. I was horrified and dismayed that the British showcased John Lennon’s “Imagine” as their post-Western anthem sung by ethnically diverse children in creepy, quasi-religious hallowed tones. I have a soft spot for Lennon, but “Imagine” is a repellant song. It gives voice to the murderous-suicidal creed of a monstrous ideology, yet its singers seem oblivious to the destructiveness of their words. “Imagine there’s no country.” Imagine that there is no unifying social reality to human life; all that remains is the self and the casual, temporary extensions of the self with other selves, based on nothing but the whim of the self. As I wrote in “Abortion as a Sacrament” and “Nominalism, Nihilism, and the Will,” “modernity is fundamentally an idolatry of the will.” Obligations and realities above the self curtail the absolute freedom of the ego, and, as such, are hated objects of repression for radical, consistent liberalism. Hence, imagine no country, no family, no marriage, no religion, no culture, no ethnicity, no civilization—those “divisive” concrete particularities that can actually serve as an environment within which selves can meet, live, flourish, and love. As Nietzsche noted in On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, men require a limited and limiting horizon in which to live. Such limitations are like biodomes that divide men from those in other domes, indeed, but they allow for men and their communities to breathe—to survive. Liberal universalism wants to fling every soul into lonely space—as isolated atoms swirling in the black void. All that then remains is the self and whatever adventure beyond solipsism the self happens to entertain—if the self is fortunate to be able to cross the threshold of distance even to encounter another soul. Lennon’s song and its ideology diminish civilization to the appetites of the individual and reduce all communal relations to the level of our decadent contemporary society’s “**** buddies.”