22 April 2012

Framework I

Welcome back, last time we spoke of foundational ideas, today we will explore the framework that is anchored on that foundation.  In review, the foundational ideas were; idea, story, war, and polity.  Today we will build out and up from there and erect a framework.  To what end?  Ah, good question you little closet Aristotelian you, to continue the analogy we are building a house, and that house is my current philosophy of life, the universe, and everything, my weltanschauung (yes Liebchen, there are German philosophers other than Nietzsche).  You see, I realize now that I have yet to really systematically examine the whole totality of what I think, believe, and feel.  I've thought about my thoughts of course (I am not a sheep), but never committed those thoughts to paper (or bits) that could be collated, organized, and referred back to.  Of 'course I may discover that my thoughts do not warrant such public display, or merit such labor, but for now I'm humoring myself.  And at least the exercise will get me writing.

Out of idea let us briefly consider two instances; Greek Philosophy and Ethical Monotheism.  These specific ideas were neighbors in time and space, and even at the time ideas cross pollinated with each other.  The Greeks were so greedy for foreign ideas (like English speakers are for foreign words) to incorporate in their grand systems of thought that had a word for it, synecretism.  One thing to keep in mind now, everything in philosophy, especially moral and political philosophy, has already been done by the Greeks.  Every variation, every morality, every political system, every way of looking at man and his condition.  Hell, philosophy is a Greek word.  Now, I could literally (no I mean literally, not figuratively), literally spend a lifetime studying, learning, thinking, and writing about the Greek philosophers and their philosophy, but I'm not going to to.  I don't have to, history has already done the work of winnowing down the philosophy of Greece to a manageable list.  Sturgeon's revelation is basically correct, at least 80% of everything is crap, and may safely be ignored.  Of those few that remain*, only one man's philosophy has not only survived, but thrived, been taken up into our inherited history and tradition and orthodoxy of the West; Aristotle.

What's so special about Aristotle?  Everything.  No really, go check out the wiki entry, I'll wait.  This is the man who invented logic, literary and dramatic criticism, and natural philosophy, and who developed accounts of epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics that are unrivaled to this day.  All modern philosophy fails when it is asked, 'what is it you explain that isn't explained better and more simply by Aristotle'.  Like politics, the Greeks did philosophy first, and did it better.  And if any believer in materialist scientism tries to tell you that 'science!' makes philosophy and metaphysics unnecessary, ask him this; why does the universe exist?  If he tells you 'because of the big bang', ask him why there was a big bang.  Even at its most honest and truthful, natural philosophy (this is all science! is) is only capable of describing the falling of dominoes.  When asked to find the cause of the falling dominoes (the universe) it is reduced to saying it just is, or positing an infinite number of dominoes, like the ancient cosmologies that were in the reduced to 'turtles all the way down'.  In the end, we must rely on Aristotelian metaphysical conceptions of teleology (end directedness) and hylomorphism (form and matter in one substance) to arrive at reason, free will, responsibility, the capacity for virtue in addition to base vices.  How do we know this?  Because every other attempt to create a philosophical groundwork for such has been an abject failure, resulting in either cultural, biological, or economic-historical determinism, or no account or explanation of free will at all.

The second instance we should consider is Ethical Monotheism.  The revealed word of G-d.  The Law.  It is well to consider that any account of law that includes a source of law other than Human Positive Law (law made by men, changeable by men) must posit a source for law other than man, and superior to man.  All human cultures have a religion and god(s), and if the Lord did not reveal himself, we would be obliged to make him up.  This is because religion serves a purpose for mankind, it is in man's nature to have gods, and if this wasn't true and good for us, we wouldn't have these things anymore than we have thumbs or reason.  Like man's tools and technology, religion is just as natural (within human nature, which is included in universal nature, aka 'nature' as usually used colloquially) as butterflies or supernovae.  Now of course, since I'm not a crazy mankind-hating environmentalist, I do not confuse the 'natural' for the 'good'.  Because of man's corrupt nature, things that should be good for us; reason, technology, appetites, virtues, and even religions can be corrupted and evil.  But remember evil is only the absence of good, the corruption of good.  So the existence of evil and corrupt religions, or religious leaders or movements within a religion, in no way discredits all of religion or specific religions any more the vice means there is no virtue.  What is important about Ethical Monotheism is that it is a doctrine of personal action, in a community context.  It is a concept of justice and fair play.  Love they neighbor as you love yourself, all else is commentary.  This an belief system for making just communities, free communities, good communities.  It is no accident that one of the primary models the American Founders kept in mind when framing our Constitution was the tribal confederation of Ancient Israel; governed by tribal councils, consensus, and judges.

If only there was a belief system that combined the best features of Greek Philosophical Metaphysics and Jewish Ethical Monotheism.  Oh wait, there is!  Its called Christianity and is the religious belief system of the West.  Welcome to Christendom.  What about Aristotle's special insights that I just got done calling the apex of Greek thought?  Oh, he gets updated by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica which is to this day the standard theological and metaphysical work of the Christian world.  Christianity is ours and it is good.  In as much as we have clung to her beliefs we have waxed strong and prosperous.  In as much as we have turned our backs oh her, we have wained and lost our vitality and riches.  Today we have almost completely abonded her, and while anyone can ignore reality, no one can long ignore the consenquences of ignoring reality.  Mark my words, this will end in tears and fire.

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,

I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

*The shortlist?  Pythagoras, Democritas (tho his 'atomic' theory is not as nearly as 'scientific' as some would have you believe), Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Seneca, Aurelius, and Cicero (OK, Romans, but I cheat, if you're not cheating, you're not trying!)

17 April 2012


Hello World.  Welcome to this space, again.

My name is Joshua Doc Shaw and this is my Web Log.  My rebooted Web Log since I haven't posted anything in years.  Well, if you're wondering, much has happened to me in the meantime.  I got married, had a daughter, changed jobs, and more.  So here I am, years later, wondering what happened to my desire to write and get published. 

The most important thing about writing is to actually write, and so I remembered my old blog.  It also helps to have something to say.  Which brings us to this post's title, 'Foundations'.  What will this Blog be about?

Well, many things, since I'm an eclectic sort of guy. 

First, the unifying theme of my thinking is the primacy of ideas, of fundamental ideas, of Philosophy and Religion.  Ideas have consequences, they shape how we interact with the world.  Ideas like Philosophy and Religion are just as important in these scientific latter days as they were for our ancestors, if not more so.  Consider, from a socio-biological point of view, Philosophy and Religion must serve a purpose that increased the survival chances for the humans that use those tools.  Now consider that the combination of Philosophy and Religion of the Western Civilisation (which includes Science by the way) must be objectively better than all others since Western Civilisation is that much more advanced and powerful.  To turn the saying around, Right makes Might.  So what then, is the Religious-Philosophical system of the West?  This is not a difficult question, but the answer is most unpleasant to the secular mind; Orthodox, Catholic, Apostolic Christianity, Thomistic-Aristotelian Scholasticism, and Natural Philosophy (Science!).  So the secular materialist has deliberately discarded two legs of the mental tripod required to make the West what it was.

Second, as a consequence of the primacy of idea and the medium of language, through which we understand the world, is the importance of Story.  We understand the world through ideas, but we understand ourselves through stories, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  If men are to live together as men and not as crabs in a bucket we must have good stories to serve as our measuring stick, our ruler.  Man does not live by bread alone, change his ideas, his stories, and his ass will follow.  Note, this is an argument for virtue, as classically understood, not necessarily cleanliness or sterility.  Life is down and dirty, and no one gets out alive.  If you don't get dirt and blood on your hands once in a while, you're doing it wrong.  I for one adore the uncensored, original Grimm's Fairy Tales.  But if the dirty-ness does not serve a greater purpose, then what is the point?  Dirt for dirt's sake is an empty phrase, give me dirt for better contrasting the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Third, as a consequence of our alieness to each other, our inability to understand each other's language, culture, to judge each other's earnesty and intent, and our existentially different and threatening Religious-Philosophical-Political assumptions and conclusions about the world, warfare is _the_ defining feature of Human experience.  In fact I would go so far as to say that 'Peace is a hypothetical state of affairs whose presence has been deduced from the fact that there are intervals between wars' (if someone else hadn't already said it).  This will only change when A) the state of nature that prevails in the society of states is replaced by a global sovereign and B) the civilization of the world are united by a single culture and language and philosophical-religious system.  Whether or not this state of affairs is, or can be, virtuous and desirable I leave to the reader.

Finally, since warfare is the default state of relations of mankind as a whole, the State is necessary, like fire.  For it is the State, unique amongst all the forms by which humans can organize themselves, that reliably wins wars.  Or at least survives loosing them.  But the State, like all the other tools made by men, is meant to serve their needs, not to master men.  That method by which a ship of state is piloted, that we call government and politics, and it is a matter of literal life and death.  Thusly are those who attack the ship of state, seeking to break up her timbers and 'free' man into the swirling waters of the raging seas of fate are called he general enemy of mankind.  Yet also must those who wish to seize the helm and reduce the crew to servile things that were once men be resisted. 

In conclusion, another name for this Blog could have been the Middle Way, but riffing off my middle name and my favorite pulp hero just couldn't be resisted.  Remember, virtue exists as a median between two extremes of two much and not enough of a good.  Evil has no existence of its own, only privation, just as the darkness is the absence of light.  All that is happening has happened before, there is nothing new under the sun.  And while Winter _is_ Coming, after Winter comes the Spring.  Thus, hope springs eternal.

16 April 2012

Testing 1, 2, 3... Is this thing on?

Testing a slightly changed format for a blog reboot... watch this space.