Pensées

11 February 2018

I notice that many regard the absence of response from an interlocutor to be indicative of having conceded an argument. This seems to me a hasty generalization. It is just as likely that one’s interlocutor has simply concluded that you’re incorrigible. One shouldn’t be overly ready to take silence as evidence of concession.


23 January 2018

I think that if Thomas Aquinas were alive today, using our peculiar academic idiom, his designation for his own ‘field’ would be Truth Studies.


8 January 2018

The signature of modernity, that which cuts across all areas of inquiry, is the rejection of teleology. One might say that to call something ‘modern’ is precisely to call it ‘ateleological’. Thus in modernity all teleological aspects of any science—whether physics and biology or politics and ethics—are discarded. And any science which is necessarily teleological throughout its entire structure—such as metaphysics—is discarded entirely.

Martin Heidegger summed up modernity in a nutshell in what Francis Slade calls the “fundamental sentence” of Sein und Zeit:  “Höher als die Wirklichkeit steht die Möglichkeit; possibility is higher than reality, or the potential is higher than the actual.”


5 January 2018

The analogy between the philosopher and the monk, at least with respect to the orthodox Benedictine tradition, seems very apt:

A monk may ‘do’ a lot of things—read, write, cook, clean, blow glass—but they aren’t what make him a monk. What makes a monk a monk is the contemplative life.

Similarly, a philosopher may research, publish, debate, educate, even ‘think’—in the natural-attitude sense, the logical sense—but these aren’t what make a philosopher a philosopher. What makes one a philosopher is the act of philosophical reflection itself.


4 January 2018

Someone recently explained to me how they do not agree with the idea of philosopher qua disinterested spectator, saying that philosophers need to learn to “get their hands dirty.” But this misses the point of what philosophy tout court consists in. Philosophy in the strictest sense is a ‘contemplative’ as opposed to ‘active’ endeavor. A philosopher may “get his hands dirty” all he please, in teaching and instructing, but it is not these that make him a philosopher. Étienne Gilson explains the dichotomy brilliantly in his introduction to Le Thomisme, about how St. Thomas justified the monk—or friar, as the case may be—in his capacity as being active as a teacher, which consists in sharing the fruits of his contemplative life (the latter being his proper vocation).

It has recently become clearer to me that philosophy cannot be ‘taught’—not in the sense that, say, history or literature or physics can be taught—and this precisely because of its contemplative character. Philosophers can only teach by example, like Socrates. To become philosophical is thus in a sense like catching a cold.


12 December 2017

Any theory whose value is placed on praxis or merely pragmatic ends cannot rightly be called ‘philosophy’ in the truest sense. The human mind is characterized by two fundamental principles: ratio  and intellectus. Ratio is ‘reasoning’ properly so called, which is aimed at the acquisition of a particular ‘result’. Intellectus is, on the other hand, the contemplative gaze upon truth as an end in and of itself. As a general rule, thought in the modern era has tended toward the exclusion—or, in some cases, the outright suppression (e.g., Kant)—of the intellective principle. Hence ‘Rationalism’—the reduction of philosophy and the human mind to the ratiocinative principle alone.


3 December 2017

Like man, the “strength” of philosophy is “made perfect in weakness.”


2 December 2017

Strictly speaking, Truth is not an ‘object’ to be attained. The object to be attained is Being. ‘Truth’ means the mind’s correct relation or correspondence with reality. When we say we seek Truth what we are really saying is we seek to behold Being in its fullness. Hence we cannot make ‘our own truth’ simply because creation—the making of new reality, as it were, the bringing of something out of nothing—is not something we as mere mortals are capable of.


27 November 2017

Solid bodies manifest many truths of plane geometry, but plane figures do not manifest truths of solid geometry.

Similarly, corporeal objects manifest many truths of physics, but physical objects do not manifest truths of corporeality (à la Wolfgang Smith).


24 November 2017

The philosopher is not recognizable, not identified as philosophical, by the kinds of things he desires to look upon—be it God, gravity, or golfballs—but by the manner in which he looks upon them.


23 November 2017

One of the problems with today’s incessant photography is that people end up reducing memory to pictures. Rather than taking in a place and allowing the mind to do its work, people expend all their energy on taking pictures—most of which they’ll never look at again—and then the moment is gone. They end up losing the very thing they’re trying to preserve.


16 November 2017

To philosophize is to be human and philosophy is a uniquely human achievement. If “philosophy is dead” then so is human nature. I suppose, then, it should come as no surprise that the rise of the belief that human nature is “whatever we want it to be” and the belief that philosophy is “dead” happen to coincide.


15 November 2017

No object X can bring itself into being (i.e., “create itself”). In order to do so, X would have to pre-exist itself: it would have to exist before it existed. This is plainly self-contradictory. Regardless of whether or not one believes in a divinity, Hawking’s notion of “spontaneous creation” is at any rate illogical.


14 November 2017

The overwhelming majority of science fiction is, in actual fact, fantasy. Fantasy based on scientific theories as opposed to traditional fantasy based on magic and the supernatural.


13 November 2017

I saw a debate once in which a professor of philosophy made the claim—reiterating it from a book he’d recently published—that one of the first things that “follows from science” is atheism. Here is what that is like saying:

I live in this building. I know how many floors it has and the number of rooms, the dimensions of its foundation, the materials of which it is composed, and how many other people live in it. I have studied and collated all of its measurable aspects. One of the first things that follows from all these facts and observations is that this building has no architect.


5 November 2017

The only practicable expression of liberty in the Age of the State is secession.


1 November 2017

There is a real mystery — an underlying unfathomableness, as it were — in the fact of hylomorphism, insofar as neither form  nor matter  exists by itself; each is only one aspect of some thing. Form qua form — form as such — does not exist. And matter qua matter — matter as such — does not exist. And yet, every substance is a composite of form and matter! Neither of them, then, can be the rock-bottom reality of a thing: there must be an act of be-ing substance  which ‘founds’ any given thing — brings ‘reality’ to this or that thing — which is then manifested in the form-matter composite. This is, perhaps, the very meaning of ‘creation from nothing’: form is nothing, matter is nothing, but together they are something.


12 September 2017

It’s because of ideology and political parties that most Americans cannot look objectively at their own history. The victors get to tell the tale. What Hume called ‘philosophical alchemy’ is the bane of sound politics, and American politics is a crucible.


11 September 2017

Saying “the Union is older than the States” is like saying the cabin is older than the logs.


1 August 2017

I don’t believe in the existence of ‘plot holes’. For me the nature of imagination and ‘suspension of disbelief’ preclude the possibility of plot holes, just as they make it possible for poetry to be written without Meter. Whenever one encounters a so-called plot hole, one should consider the possibility that the writer(s) might have intended to give the story a shape different from what you’ve come to expect. Do Impressionist or Cubist painters simply lack the skill to make images in one-point perspective? Most likely not. Rather, they are painting in a style — and appealing to a taste — which differs from that which insists that pictures have an ‘obligation’ to perfectly reflect sensate reality.