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De Vita

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You’re going to die within a span of 80 years or less (unless you’re oh-so-lucky to live until a decrepit state where you’ll be dependent on other people constantly), and everyone’s going to forget that you ever existed not long at all after you’ve passed, so stop giving a damn about the small things and your petty problems and enjoy the short flight that is life and fancy.

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Written by KarlH

May 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm

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[Notes from the Journal #1]: A Brief Introduction to the Question of the Teleological Suspension of the Ethical in “Fear and Trembling” and a Less-Conceptualized Rumination on an Age-old Dichotomy and Dualing Ideologies

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I’ve decided to simply post notes from my journal. These are unrevised, mostly hardly-conceptualized ruminations, and I don’t claim them to be in any way indicative of my concrete thought and solid opinions. If the titles seem pretentious, it’s because they are just as much for my labeling and sorting as they are for any purpose.

There is an everlasting controversy, reaching back from the Euthyphro to the modern age, wherein the question arises whether or not moral actions are caused by their relation to realities (that is, lived experience) or whether or not they come from God as pre-existing forms and universals. Now, if it is posited that God exists as an Absolute reality providing some basic substructure (read as trust in our present state of consciousness wherein we must trust that goodness is something that can be communicated) to phenomena, it also makes sense that there are certain actions that will disrupt the harmony of the interconnected nature of phenomena. However, to what extent are we bound to apophatic morality (my term)? Is lying bad as a pre-existent entity or because lying hurts people and affects them?

One might answer “both” but are there not certain circumstances wherein lying lessens the impact of necessary penalties? We make these lies all the time. It’s cultural. “No, you don’t look fat in that dress.” “You’re very talented!” These examples are shoddy—it is understood that asking a person whether or not one looks fat in a dress cannot be answered in the affirmative. The answerer is essentially bound to replying in the negative—the answer is contained within the question. Too much of this type of thinking cannot really cause historical change, however. One must not merely be bound by cultural norms or there is no room for things like poverty and poor education of the lower classes to be lessened. God becomes an idol of prescribed moralities that is no longer required to have any meaning in the lived-out sense and becomes an image and formalism. On the other hand, have no image and there is no change. This is what Aristotle’s entire theory is founded upon, of course. It is the idea that the rule of thumb exists because there is a world to which it can relate.

It is undeniable that this type of endlessly-constructed check-lists of proper behavior are common to all historical realities. People are always looking for theories of everything, some sort of prescribed path to follow. Now, these paths really can help a person to become better people—when one makes a vow to never make a lie there is something indelible and, indeed, divine about such an individual. This is why characters like Alan Watts’ Rorschach of Watchmen fame are so appealing. On the other hand, there is the paradox of the inevitable destruction of the world if SOMETHING is not done. But is it ever alright to kill millions of people? Doubtfully so—it might work out in the short-term but it is obvious that a society founded upon such principles cannot really respect or give dignity to the lives of its citizens. It’s easy to say that equivocation is okay in certain circumstances, but let’s be honest. We are not all that quick on our feet. We do not all have the opportunity to even partake in this endless moralizing.

This is really the fundamental philosophical problem of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and it has never been suitably answered. Well, it has—one will find endless elucidations for both sides of the dichotomy during all time periods. At certain periods in history and in particular historical situations, one view will rise above the other. A synthesis has hardly ever been reached, and the ideas and ingrained worldviews of each are in motion, often colliding.

Written by KarlH

May 2, 2011 at 2:51 am

Eternal issues of systems, etc.

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Eternal issues that I have never seen satisfactorily resolved by any ideology, religion or developed society:

1. Whether or not theoretical work has value if it is never useful. Closely related, the relationship between the quantitative and the qualitative.

Example: Mathematics. I’m much more sympathetic of the Platonic view of such than I used to be, but even if we admit that mathematics has its own sphere of reality and mathematicians should not be “bothered” by silly liberal arts cretins if their discoveries have no applications…to what extent does this apply to other fields? Philosophy in the last 20th century has taken a turn towards highly theoretical, jargon-ridden methods of looking at reality, particularly in the general field of “metaphysics” that attaches keen importance to various geniuses with very different approaches who seek to outdo the ones before, all seeking to be original (if you’re reading this and you’re from the U.S. and live close to my area of Upstate NY, you might not understand this as metaphysics is not very seriously considered as a branch of philosophy around here). But if these are not being applied to things, what are they? It is apparent that if the “truths” unearthed in philosophy have an existence, it is not altogether of the same sort and it does not possess the certainty of mathematics. However, these “truths” of philosophy do seem to explain how and why things happen (as in the Hegelian dialectic). I sometimes fear that man has reasoned himself out of existence in the view of his relation to the world and views the truths of other fields (even the common, non-academic fields of knowledge like your mother telling you to not grow up to be a little shit because it will hurt you and other people) as unsatisfactory because they are “human.” But if knowledge is wholly exterior to man, and if knowledge acquired that seeks to find meaning or an explanation for things is only an illusion of damaged psychological mechanisms…well, this is not really an acceptable view. It might be true, but I do not think a society or system that conceives man as simply such can really give him dignity. Because, of course, dignity’s just an illusory phenomenon living in some non-existent realm that doesn’t really MEAN anything.

That last bit is worth ranting about. No one reads theology anymore, at least in the ways it has been read—that is to say, engaged with their contemporary thinkers. No one remembers that even the early scholastics had to engage with people who simply did not agree with them and their philosophy was shaped by that. People forget that the Desert Fathers (and Mothers!) were very careful (whether consciously or not) to not establish Christianity as some sort of stable doctrine of metaphysics. Not that it is without metaphysics, but does it not really feel like something is lost when overanalyzed with language? I say this as someone who works, breathes and lives language. I cannot and simply do not understand a word unless I know how it is spelt, for instance. At any rate, it is my intuition that there needs to be room for the unquantifiable (or not easily quantified) in any system. I’m sure many other people have said this much more finely than me.

2. The drive for the adherent of any intellectually-motivated field (intellect conceived in this instance as conscious action) to be “original.” Conversely, the drive to be so committed to timelessness that the unendurability of all art forms is ignored.

There is a certain sense in which there really is nothing new under the sun. A writer realizes this very well. A good man will accept this repetition and be humble about it—indeed, it becomes his greatest joy. This is the secret to the appeal of the Christian Inklings: they are timeless. But here again is the issue: timelessness must also contain the very temporary cultural “progressions” of art/music/etc. It is part of the nature of Reality that there are multivarious ways to approach the same thing and thus the “thing” in some sense should encompass the multivariety unless a harsh dualism arises. It is not good for God to be alone as it once was said. A man who is spiritually knowledgeable (I do not mean that in a sectarian sense to exclude secularly-minded folks, pay close attention) will see past these passing appearances. A man of strong, moral character, a man who really has his head on straight should be able to accept these passing trends. Sure, they’re passing. They’re also eternal, even if they do not last much past their time. Bach’s great concertos will one day be lost forever as will all the current trending bands. This is okay. Punk and metal are really terribly crude art forms but there is something expressed in them that does transcend the various voices of official “critics” (and by “transcend” I mean hit them firmly in the face with a Gibson). What is it? What is their appeal? I’ll also add that I really don’t like much modern music outside the Weird Folk movement (is it still alive in other areas?) and a few fringe bands so perhaps my position may seem indefensible. But a person who comes to such a conclusion does not realize anything I am saying. Do not judge, that’s a simple commandment. Do not judge the intellectual elitism that looks down on other people’s musical tastes when it spurs new creativity, do not judge the unwashed hordes and their revolting music, do not judge the philosophers who have few answers and many questions and are willing to admit that. They know a lot more than everyone because they’re not afraid to listen to someone else. And a person of true character should recognize that these philosophers are rarely found in universities and often found in very common places.

3. Presuppositional apologetics, used in a very broad sense because in all of my reading I haven’t encountered a term that accurately describes this phenomenon, thus an attempt to describe what exactly is meant by that (outside of boring American Calvinist theological discourse) is necessary. I mean this: people are always forgetting first principles. I do not think that many realize that the first principles of absolutely everything are simply the result of trust. Trust in what? I cannot put it into words. What then is being SAID? So few can see beyond the infinitely discursive methodology that is human reasoning. And it is infinite. What then, do we amass as much “data” or thoughts and ideas as possible, all disconnected ways of looking at reality that are just pale analogies of the Real? Of course, that’s a natural and human impulse (though maybe these thoughts and ideas don’t have to be pale). Perhaps there is something ignored in approaching all of reality with knowledge as if reality is something better to be mastered rather than learned. If none of this makes sense to you, do not continue to think about this. Go outside for a fresh walk and you will understand more clearly what is being said by not being mentioned. The God of Aquinas and Krishnananda is not contained within their great works although God contains Himself in such.

Written by KarlH

January 29, 2011 at 8:25 am

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