Friday, October 23, 2009

Wretchard on fire: testament to the truth of faith

Moving on from his original post on Pope Benedict's recent entreaty to conservative Anglicans, Wretchard of Belmont Club has been leading a discussion with some excellent comments. I particularly like this last:
It is the side-effect of this “otherworldliness” that fuels many of the common notions of freedom. Every worldly religion tends toward a closed system. Part of the power of the Declaration, I think, stems from the idea that the world is even in principle never completely definable by a human agency. It leaves the door open to new information from outside the system, represented by the notation “the Creator”.

Winston Smith attempts to rebut O’brien’s assertion of the Party’s omnipotence by pointing out that O’brien himself was aging; that Party members died; that it could not control the natural laws. O’brien responded with the torture machine. He made the five fingers he held up seem as many as he claimed. O’brien argued that the Party did not seek dominion over nature. It sought dominion over man. The quotes supplied by Storm Rider and cited below are true, but not in the way they are commonly supposed. From a purely secular point of view, what they signify is that for a Kingdom of This World to be complete, it is first necessary that God should not exist. The Universe must be closed. The Party’s word must be final. It is imperative that the Last Prophet should have come. The book is ended and the ultimate words are written, not as an earnest of more to come, but as a grant of absolute power to those who rule on the earth.
“It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man.” Henri de Lubac

“If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What Dostoevsky might have said is that for everything to be permitted to the State, then God must not exist. If God does not exist, then the State is free to organize against man. The ideological imperative of global warmingism is this: even nature must be brought into the political system. There is no “out there” there. Not God, not Nature. Not anything you might want to call the Creator. Everything is subject to the political process. Man must control the climate. If the climate goes bad, it is because our politics is bad. Sacerdotal dictatorships have not advanced much beyond the shamans of millenia past. We still sacrifice for rain. Only we sacrifice jobs, abort children, extinguish our dreams. Nothing is beyond their purview. We should never be allowed to think something the state cannot give or approve of. Hence “hate speech”. More than that, we ought never to be able to even dream of what it cannot bestow. Unless the far green country under a swift sunrise is manufactured by the state, it should never be allowed to enter into our visions. “It’s for the children” refers to us.

All real totalitarianisms are ultimately intellectually sterile, not simply spiritually barren. That is why global warming is in many respects anti-science. Real science has never heard of truth by consensus. Science leaves the door of knowledge open. We continuously learn from what is “not of this world” — in the sense that which is not within our purview yet. We learn from what is over the next hill, across the wide ocean, beyond the gulfs of space; we learn from events that occured before we were born and perhaps of events after we die. The first thing that faith must preserve is wonder; and the second is a childlike curiosity. Freedom stems from the sense of the possible. It believes there’s always a door leading out of the building. A far green country under a swift sunrise.
Oct 23, 2009 - 10:18 am
Belmont Club » The lighting of the beacons

I would only add that given that this faith in open-endedness, in a further truth beyond our present and conceivable human systems, is indeed a real necessity for human freedom; and given that many people today just are not going to be capable of faith in some supernatural "God" as explanation for this reality of an inexhaustible truth (the inexhaustibilty of the ways in which the human might come to know itself in future), this is just the reason, as I was suggesting to Dag the other day, that we need to allow ourselves to explore the anthropology of the human concept of "God", not to diminish the basis for real faith by attempting to reduce what cannot be reduced to systematic knowledge, but to create a greater faith in the human ability and necessity ever to expand the degrees of freedom in our shared systems and forms of sacrality.


Rob Misek said...

How about having faith in the truth?

The only faith that humanity needs to share for in peace is faith in the truth.

There are a growing number of people who apparently believe that the truth is defined by subjective opinion. That there are no absolutes.

Do you really think there are no absolutes?

We perceive the meaning of every word in our language by its definition. The perception of anything else is absolutely wrong. Those who are persistently wrong are absolutely lacking intelligence.

If one does not posess the intelligence to understand what defines truth they can never reach a logical conclusion, will never experience the successful conclusion of a debate making debate with them a pointless waste of time.

1+1=2 is as absolute as it gets, which makes it good enough for everyone in society except them.

Are you getting the picture?

How serious are you that free speech is a value that we must fight to preserve?

Free speech is a value intended to spread knowledge and strengthen democracy.

Lying is the intentional witholding of knowledge from others, usually to maintain a corrupt power advantage over them.

Lying directly opposes free speech.

Now choose sides.

All lying is hatred and a crime. Criminalize it.

truepeers said...

I have to say, Rob, that this is getting tiresome. Have you ever thought that maybe it is you who isn't getting the picture? Indeed, what does it mean to "get" a picture? If you dwell on that question, you will hopefully see that with pictures you are dealing with a different kind of truth than the truth of 1+1=2.

Truths about our humanity are truths that cannot be handled the same way as mathematical or natural scientific truths. We cannot stand outside of humanity and observe it. The truth about humanity is relative to how we are positioned to observe it. That does not mean we have a license for cultural relativism, because human truth still depends on the reality of the shared events by which we observe it. We can't just make things up because we are all in it together.

Truths about our humanity are essentially uncovered by history; in other words, they are observed retrospectively, after they have been revealed by the laboratory of history, or the marketplace of competing desires. If you know anything about markets you will know that they don't trade on "absolute truth". Indeed, perfect knowledge of value can only kill trade, which requires uncertainty about value. Only at the end of the day, when the market has discounted all our expectations do we come to any consensus about value and reality and then this knowledge, widely shared, just makes the next day's trading in newly calibrated but still competing desires a new thing with new complexities and uncertainties.

Human truths are usefully divided into moral and ethical truths. There may be some fundamental moral truths, e.g. the ultimate equality of all human life. Murder is universally a crime, however much some hedge on its definition. But in day to day life, we cannot hold to absolute equality if we are to have any freedom of action. Reciprocity, which is also some kind of human imperative, requires differences to be traded. Trade has to organize itself in ways that allow for the recognition of differences, and not just of equality. And so we get ethics - rules of organization - that are different from moral absolutes about the need for equality and reciprocity.


truepeers said...


Human truths emerge from shared events. The meaning of any significant event is not reducible to 1+1+2. Human truths emerge on shared scenes and are recounted in stories and pictures, which often compete with one another to capture the mysterious "truth" of the scene. If truth were unproblematic, we would have no history of art and literature. Everyone would just know it, unless, that is, everything is just a lie. But only low-down nihilists believe everything is just a lie.

The bottom line is this, if truth about our shared humanity were some absolute, the knowledge of which we are only blinkered by lying, then we have to assume that all of history is a lie. Because if we all just saw the truth, what would there be left to do? Hunter gatherers would have remained hunter gatherers in happy possession of the truth; there would be no need for historical change and evolution. But we do change, not because we can see the final truth towards which history is evolving - and it is the lie of Utopian politics that we can see the end of history - but precisely because we have to act in good faith that we can overcome present conflicts by discovering some new modus vivendi. When we discover that new peace treaty, we discover a new "truth" about the possibilities inherent in our humanity, but we don't discover the final and absolute truth because conflicting desires contine as a human reality, or truth, and new peace treaties and hence new truths will become necessary in future. In other words, we will need to "get" new pictures that we cannot yet imagine.

The truth of history is not predictable in advance. Human truths, like economic truths, are only grasped in relation to what has already happened, and cannot be applied programmatically to the future. Only in orthodox Christian religion, where the kingdom of God is carefully divorced from this world, can we safely imagine an end of history, a final truth.

Are you getting it yet?

Rob Misek said...

That was long winded.

Why did you bother if by your own reasoning it could not be true?

How convenient for you that with an infinite number of definitions of truth in your bag, you never have to be wrong.

In all your long winded responses from your pulpit, you will never say, "gosh, you were right".

Face it, truth is meaningless to you.

Don't pretend to value it.

Your word is worthless.

truepeers said...

You need to slow down and read...

Where have I ever said that truth is ungraspable?

What I am saying is that we can only grasp a partial, forever incomplete, truth. What I am saying is that one's grasp on this partial truth depends, in part, on where one is standing, and in part on the nature of the scene that we all share. Why am I so long-winded? Because I want to know better where I am standing and better what is this shared scene; I want to know better the nature of the history in which I am immersed. The more I think and write, the more feedback and dialogue I get, the more I can know; but this does not provide me some cute key that opens all doors; it does not make me infallible, omniscient, omnipotent, godlike.

Hence the dictum, the more you know the more you know what you don't know. But knowing that doesn't tend to shut people up; it can rather be a source of joy at one's apprehension of, and membership in, the infinite. Of course some people get trapped in nihilism, depression, resentment when they realize that childish desires for godlike powers cannot be fulfilled in this world. But hopefully that's all in my past.

Rob Misek said...

None of us know what tomorrow brings, yet we have still defined truth.

The truth we grasp today is absolute regardless of what may come tomorrow.

That is all we must share for peace on earth.

The purpose for life must include life.