Saturday, January 28, 2017

Oakeshott Quote #1

"The modern history of Europe is littered with the projects of the politics of Rationalism. The most sublime of these is, perhaps, that of Robert Owen for 'a world convention to emancipate the human race from ignorance, poverty, division, sin and misery'--so sublime that even a Rationalist (but without much justification) might think it eccentric. But not less characteristic are the diligent search of the present generation for an innocuous power which may safely be made so great as to be able to control all other powers in the human world, and the common disposition to believe that political machinery can take the place of moral and political education. The notion of founding a society, whether of individuals or of States, upon a Declaration of the Rights of Man is a creature of the rationalist brain, so also are 'national' or racial self-determination when elevated into universal principles. The project of the so-called Re-union of the Christian Churches, of open diplomacy, of a single tax, of a civil service whose members 'have no qualifications other than their personal abilities', of a self-consciously planned society, the Beveridge Report, the Education act of 1944, Federalism, Nationalism, Votes for Women, the Catering Wages Act, the destruction of Austro-Hungarian Empire, the World State (of H.G. Wells or anyone else), and the revival of Gaelic as the official language of Eire, are alike the progeny of Rationalism. The odd generation of rationalism in politics is by sovereign power out of romanticism."

- Michael Oakeshott, 1962

A Word to Rationalists

О weariness of men who turn from God
To the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,
To arts and inventions and daring enterprises.
To schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited.
Binding the earth and the water to your service,
Exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,
Dividing the stars into common and preferred.
Engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,
Engaged in working out a rational morality,
Engaged in printing as many books as possible,
Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles,
Turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm
For nation or race or what you call humanity;
Though you forget the way to the Temple,
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.
- T. S. Eliot

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Rationalist is ... (paraphrased Oakeshott) ...

... always standing for independence from all authority except 'reason'
... the enemy of mere tradition
... contentious against authority
... skeptical (for him, nothing is beyond the criticism of 'reason')
... optimistic (for him, 'reason' can always find any thing's value)
... fortified by the belief that 'reason' is universal in man
... an individualist
... finds it hard to believe that another "who thinks honestly and clearly
can think differently than himself"
... insistent that his own experience is foundational to his 'reason's' materials
... ready to reduce experience to principles
... without peace in unclarity
... domineering over experience
... without appreciation for the minutiae of experience
... gnostic
... uncomprehending of the dictum - Oportet Quaedam Nescire
... a well trained, but not educated, mind
... ambitious to be a "self-made-man," not to live as part of the experience of mankind
... preternaturally deliberate in his life plans
... not a passive experiencer
... not sure how humanity has survived without his 'reason'
... living every day as if it were his first
... of the opinion that habits are failures
... temperamentally distrustful of time, hungry for eternity
... nervous and irritable about anything topical and transitory

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

IQ and Wisdom

IQ is ... the rate which a person can correctly experience things.

Wisdom is ... the fear of ignoring what experience tells you to do.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

EAIM: Truth and Reality

"... on Earth as it is in Heaven ..." - the Lord's prayer
Many a well-intentioned, open minded person, when seeing a way of thought differing from his own will cope with the adage, "we'll that's you're truth."

There are many relatable examples of this. Some good and some bad.

(i) In an unintentionally dismissive case, a "scientifically" minded person might say, "Yes, you're religion is a nice way to cope with the harsh struggle of reality: it is true in so far as it accords with the fact of survival mechanism in group solidarity; and this is your primitive way of expressing it." He says, "that's your truth" with emphasis on "that." For him, his whole world is made of facts, and whatever departs from a hard fact is a silly falsehood, either harmless, stupid, or dangerously wrong, but definitely ignorant. For him science is the means to ascertain what is definitely true and false. There is no grey area between facts and non-facts.

(ii) With a feeling of ease, not needing to be discriminating, a rich young hedonist spends all to experience all: bars, art-shows, sexual conquests. Each novelty excites him momentarily. And the moment is all that is lived for, without care. He, therefore, can especially enjoy whatever is around him, involves himself in that exact moment without past and future in mind. All is merely a show experienced to excite himself, and his own experience is all he cares about. If he actually momentarily recognizes the gleam of eternity in another's eye, a ray of religious light, he probably would brush it off with a, "we'll that's your truth," meaning, "don't bother my world of experiences; keep to your own."

(iii) A tourist in a foreign land, say, an American in rural Peru, realizes he does not comprehend the aesthetics of women wearing bowler hats, or of single houses taking generations to build, or the communal respect for the Catholicism particular to South America; and though he knows a little Spanish, he is far from fluent; nevertheless he accepts it as a way of life that could have a meaning to those who know it well, and he accepts it as a truth that has some place in his own, but cannot yet fathom it. And in the midst of all his travel, a curiosity pricks him to investigate. He says, "that's your truth," meaning, "I know something of what I'm seeing, but this world is so surprising and interesting, that I might have my whole world turned upside down by what I'm seeing. I had better pay attention."

Oakeshott would condemn the first and second for not living the the real world: the first does not care to take the responsibility of existence on his shoulders: he wants to live in the part that makes him comfortable; and the second arrogantly refuses to realize that the facts he knows are partial; they are partial because they are part of his truth, and his truth isn't the whole. He does not comprehend that science is a narrow world, that it only partially captures his experience: it could never explain to him the meaning of beauty or explain why the color red appears red. (Further, he does not even realize that science isn't all that an objective enquiry, free from passion, risk and error.)

The third gets it right. He acknowledges that his world of experience is his own, but he also sees that there is more to know. He does not believe that he knows nothing of reality at all. How else could he be excited to learn about the world around him? But he has a lot to learn, and his learning will change how he sees all things: his relation to beauty, to family, and to the meaning the word "God."

To live in the real world is to follow your truth where it leads. Our truth makes contact with reality when we follow where it leads. For we don't create the feeling of necessity that pushes us to know the world. No. This feeling is the calling of Reality for us to know it. Thus, as Oakeshott says, "Experience, truth and reality are inseparable." 
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling 
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover 
Is that which was the beginning; 
At the source of the longest river 
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for 
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always-- 
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded 
Into the crowned knot of fire 
And the fire and the rose are one. 
- T.S. Eliot in Liddle Gidding

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Purpose of Art

To believe that art exists for
a purpose is to be confused.
For those who do not see this,
I would ask you to ask yourself,

"What is the purpose of a landscape painting?"
And your inventing mind might invent a legitimate purpose
for that painting.

It could alleviate melancholy.
Maybe enchant the cubicled mind.
But to all these legitimate purposes we could add another:
our rectangular painting could serve as a dinner plate.

If you say that being a dinner plate is very different than being art,
I rest my case. For it is something like a prose article,
mascarading as a poem.

Monday, January 2, 2017


"And man, who is part of your creation, wishes to praise you, man who bears about within himself his mortality, who bears about within himself testimony to his sin and testimony that you resist the proud." - Augustine, Confessions
True humility is humility before the truth. Recognizing reality before us, we abandon our egos. To be deferential to any ego, is the opposite of humility.
"The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless." - T.S.Eliot, East Coker