Of course that could play out, as it has, in everything from the last six decades of "The world as we know it will end in a decade!", to the trans-gendering mutilationists:"No, we can't define what a woman is, but would you rather have a dead son, or a live daughter?", to any of the DEI of 'Addressing Systemic Racism requires employing racist AF policies!' (way to go Supreme Court!).
- First: a sensational claim is made that's corrosive to what you believe to be true (amplified by the listener's ignorance of the nature of what's being considered);
- Second, the absence of any actual new knowledge being offered in exchange for what is to be disbelieved, only doubt upon still more arbitrary doubts, and
- Third, the assurance that accepting the Sophist's own belief in doubt, will lead you to an unspecified 'better' understanding of... something... or other... and solutions that urge you to 'support this'!
How we got to the point where such considerations would be easily, even routinely, disregarded, and have sophistries be seen as being 'legitimate', is worth looking into (a deep dive in coming posts on Epistemology), but it shouldn't be too surprising that the first step in that process began, as it had to, by discarding the pre-modern understanding of metaphysics, and its attention to identity and the necessity of making distinctions, which enables you to expose and discard contradictions from your thinking.
As with most of the absurdities of modernity, that process began taking shape with Rene Descartes (with an assist from Hobbes) and his blatantly arbitrary 'method of doubt', and along with that came his idea of mind/body dualism, which necessarily asserted that a human being is but a meat machine, which the mind 'somehow' causes to move about from within it. How it was that a substance-less thought of 'mind' was somehow able to cause your physical muscles to flex and strike a match to light a candle, was, according to Descartes, accomplished by the Pineal gland. How? Somehow. Why? Because reasons ("don't doubt him!" Ahem).
Of course, eventually those who followed after Descartes did begin to doubt that the Pineal gland could be 'the answer' for how immaterial thoughts could affect physical reality, but that was because its actual identity was never part of the equation, only what 'could be' arbitrarily doubted into consideration - this is a key point that's too often missed.
Accepting the advice to 'Doubt everything!', makes it as easy to arbitrarily doubt something both out of, as into, existence, as it requires no more substantive reasoning to claim that 'I doubt the Pineal gland does any of this stuff!', than to say 'I doubt that the Pineal gland isn't central to this stuff!', and the reality is that the reality of what the Pineal gland was, its Identity, was not the point of the exercise; what could be 'doubted' into the popular narrative, was, and is. The acceptance of causeless Doubt, surreptitiously elevates, legitimizes, and inserts the habit of arbitrariness into the essence of your thinking, and reduces the conception of a whole Truth, to a shard of splintered facts, and in doing so it forms and conveys an (irrational) illusion that your thoughts have power over reality itself.
It's worth noting that 'Arbitrary' means without basis, and without regard to what is true, or false, or completely contradictory (and fully opposed to Aristotle's 1st Law of Thought, the law of contradiction). Developing the habit of raising and accepting arbitrary doubts as key to your method of thinking, can just as easily lead people to skepticism, as to unfounded beliefs, precisely because that acceptance severs the habit of relating your thoughts to reality.
Once a person begins employing the sophistical 'Critical Dialectic', fully arbitrary justifications are offered as sufficient 'cause' for whenever and wherever the sophist feels the necessity of them, serving to further their purposes and further thwart whatever grip on reality that might still remain, as well as a forced pretense of certainty that they couldn't possibly be wrong. This is reflected in what I see as a signature distinction between the moderns and the pre-moderns, and we can see an example of it, in that where Issac Newton had affirmed his willingness to observe and measure the effects of Gravity, even though he didn't understand it, and he would not pretend to know what it was or how it operated, while in a full reversal of that, most moderns, such as Hobbes, Rousseau, and Bentham, have stridently doubted and denied the existence of observable realities such as Free Will (despite every human being having a continuous first hand empirical knowledge & experience of), because they couldn't explain how it could operate, and so they therefore concluded, rather pridefully, that it did not in fact exist.
Another distinguishing feature which separates people of modern times, from the pre-moderns, is the rise of indecision, faithlessness, and anxiety at the core of the modern mind, which, IMHO, is an unsurprising reflection of continually feeling that what you see as being important information and beliefs, are continually subject to arbitrarily being revised, denied, and 'canceled'. And yet, oddly enough, it's common for modernists to presume that 'reality' is the problem, and not their conception of it - they will routinely assert that their ideas trump reality.
Thomas Henry Huxley (Darwin's bulldog, the grandfather of 'Brave New World's author, Aldous Huxley) asserted that our thoughts are less like motive powers, than like the whistle on a steam powered train, contributing nothing to it's power and motion, other than as noise added onto its exhaust. It should be no surprise that in such mechanistic and deterministic views, the role of govt and schools are expected to be used to form an environment around you that is suitable to how they need you to behave, and to keep you, useful little widget that you are, on track towards their idea of the 'greater good'.
What Nicolás Gómez Dávila said with "The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.", should be kept in mind with sophists whose dialectic is so focused upon denying that we can have knowledge of causality, and that Free Will is a dillusion, and even that the 'Self', is a delusion. If that's not clear enough, obfuscating or denying causality, is a means of eliminating the irritant to the state of 'individual rights', and a Constitution devised to uphold and protect them.
When the ploys of these dialectics come your way, whether it be the denial of Free Will, or that solid objects are only illusions, one question to ask yourself when their sensational statements cause you to pause and think, would the identity and telos of that direction they're intending to take your thinking in - are they informing, or deforming, your thoughts? And what would you need to already know, in order to know that (psst! That's Metaphysics)? Whether that which they are proposing to drive your thinking with from there on out, is rooted in sound causes (of what are real and true), or a fuzzy causelessness (everything from 'your truth may not be their truth' to 'a more diverse people and sustainable future'), is an extremely important distinction to make, as is knowing how, and how not, to make it.
Causality and the distorting of it
Do we understand Causation better today, than in Aristotle's day? Well, yes, and no, as we are able to understand more about causation today, than in Aristotle's day, afterall, even for all he knew of physics, biology, logic, rhetoric, ethics and politics, he had no understanding of individual rights in the sense that we do, and little of the idea of equality before the law, because the thought that all human beings are created equally human, and that no one is a lesser human because of the circumstance of birth, race, ethnicity, or wealth, was unknown to them. The idea that all men are created equal was unheard of in Aristotle's day, it took the Judeo-Christian half, to reveal that truth to the Greco-Roman half, of our Western world.
Similarly on the material side of causation, whereas what was known prior to modernity was only what could be observed on the surface, and they could only speculate about what lay beyond that, today we've developed a more detailed knowledge and scientific understanding of the chemical and molecular nature of the world around us, which penetrates past surface appearances to reveal the hidden structures of characteristics that make a thing like metal, metalic, while also explaining why both hardness and melting are fully consistent with the nature of being a metal.
And yet for all that, with the hierarchical understanding of the forms of knowledge they had (Empeiría/Epistemé, Tékhne, and Sophia), they had a better understanding on the whole, of the little that they knew, than most of us have today (especially the 'educated'), as knowledge itself has been collapsed by modernity, into a semi-empirical mush.
So while we are able to know and 'know thyself' more thoroughly than pre-moderns like Aristotle could, most of 'those who know best' in modernity, have actively evaded, denied, and even denigrated, what the pre-moderns understood about Metaphysics in general and about Identity and Causality in particular, without which a person cannot properly understand what they should. Fortunately, the only real power the moderns have over any of us, is our remaining ignorant of that understanding which they've discarded, and so while we today are still able to understand and penetrate deeper into the nature of the world around us, and into the Logos (a broader understanding of Reason, than the moderns ascribe to 'reason') within, than at any time in the past - we only need to be willing to see what there is to see, IOW, will you continue on with the causal Blue Pill you were fed in school, or choose to take the Red Pill?
To see how distorted our understanding of causality has become, we need to be clear on what causality does and does not entail, for despite surface appearances, it would be wrong to say that certainty is the measure of Casuality (though that is a common ploy for impugning our understanding of it), for while we can predict with certainty that applying sufficient heat to metal will cause it to melt, and with a lesser degree of certainty that stating that 'there are only two genders' will cause a Woke person to meltdown, we can only calculate the probability of being able to cause the result desired from the Quantum realm's waves and particles and Schrodinger's boxes seemingly full of cats that are both living and dead, even so, it would be wrong to say that our understanding of Causality is affected by those varying degrees of certainty, or to assume that those differences indicate that Casuality operates any differently in the material, human, or quantum, realms.
Casuality is not about making predictions, it is about recognizing the importance of identifying what you are considering, so as to properly integrate that within the forms of knowledge involved within a given context. It is of course true that with sound knowledge, we're often able to make a number of accurate predictions, but causality will not provide us with either the omniscience or absolute certainty, which have no part of the identity of being human. And yet as we'll see, it has been by treating Causality in modernity as if it could provide such abilities, or by presuming that lacking those abilities somehow invalidates or diminishes what we as human beings can know, which has played a large role in undermining our understanding of Causality, of Identity, of Metaphysics, Knowledge, and our ability to 'know thyself'.
Again and again in modernity, our ability to understand has been assaulted by denying or ignoring what can be understood, while dropping the relevant contexts, in order to evade what we should know, to plant false expectations of what we can know, and to dissuade us from looking for what is real and true, in order to 'legitimize' any number of heinous fictions that require treating human beings as deterministic meat puppets, into popular belief.
What we do not know, and what we cannot know, does not invalidate what we do know, within the context of what we can understand, and while further developments of our knowledge will likely reveal additional distinctions and contexts for us to consider and anticipate, it won't diminish what we already understand about the causes behind them, or how to apply that to our understanding here on the human level of reality, both materially, and immaterially.
Casuality reflects and confirms the identity and telos of what we are considering within a given context, affirming that Casuality is identity in action, and interaction, no matter whether what is being examined is animate, or inanimate.
Why all of this matters outside of lecture halls, is that there's no basis for understanding and respecting a person's ability and need to think and make choices, without a grounding in metaphysics in general and causality in particular, for without that a person has little basis for understanding and defending an individuals inalienable rights, or the importance of their society upholding and defending those for all.
The central drama in our regressing to the illiberal state of affairs we find ourselves in today, was formed from the notions that were proposed by the very modernist Enlightenment-age skeptic, David Hume, who believed, despite believing that nothing can be known, that he could confidently explain exactly how he knew that the cause of causation was all an illusion (a veritable harvest of contradictions are always sure to follow in the wake of skeptics who don't just question what is and can be known, but unironically claim to know that nothing can be known).
Those foundations of The West that Descartes began fracturing, Hume began the process of shaking them down to the ground (where we are nearly at today), by declaring that we don't and can't really know anything about Causality at all, that we don't actually know how and why the sun rises, or even what causes one billiard ball to roll when hit by another, and so on, worser & worser.
According to Hume, what we thought we knew, was nothing more than a matter of playing the odds from what preceded and followed the occurrence of something yesterday, would probably do so again tomorrow. IOW: Those events we know of as sunrise, noon, and sunset, are simply events that just happen to follow each after other, and have nothing to do with what we think we know of and about them, and although probability says they'll happen in the same order, we don't know that for certain, and they could easily happen in reverse, or entirely out of order. You see, our knowledge then, is but a scheme of statistics and odds making (of what, he doesn't say, as he cherry picks and discards which bits of understanding is convenient to the reality he just knows we don't know of), was what Hume declared to be 'Science!', and a great many in modernity agreed, and still agree, with that.
Hume of course took the implications of that further than our inability to know what causes the sun to rise, in that if we can't know what causes those appearances, what can we possibly know about what causes humans to behave as we do? And by reducing science to statistics, what isn't measurable and quantifiable, isn't science (you may recall that measurability is a necessary, though lesser part (Empeiría), of what Science (Epistemé) is), and if it isn't Science well then, it's of no cause or value at all (good news for Neil deGrasse Tyson, bad news for religion, art & music). The fulcrum of this notion, which he uses to pry our minds apart from reality, rests on the observation that a thing or event, is not the same as our evaluation of it - IOW 'identifying' that this liquid is poison, is a different thing from identifying this liquid as bad - and soOooo, if they aren't the same, how can two identifications refer to the same thing? He's serious about that. He goes on to say:
"...instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, it's necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. ..."At this point I'll urge you to review the three types of knowledge in a previous post, for the fact that Hume is equivocating upon different forms of knowledge to reduce the entire hierarchy of knowledge, to its flattest factoid, and you can rest assured that by allowing the littlest bit of that to slip by you, it will eventually lead in a straight line from there to the chaotic avalanche that besets us today with the physical mutilation of children being excused as 'gender affirming care'.
Once you've allowed causation to be equivocated down to the flattest of facts, the fact that what 'ought' to result from a cause upon inanimate objects is all too easily ignored, and isn't determined in the same way that it is for animate objects, such as people. You might object that metal has no choice in responding to heat, while the human being most definitely does, but Hume had a way around that difference, as for you to be able to know anything at all about causality, you must be a you, and that too Hume denied, saying that:
"...I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement..."IOW, there is no 'you' to object to this, only a bundle of physical impressions, an illusion. And with no 'you' in mind to mind, how could a bundle of sensations possibly be able to convert sensory data, into the immaterial fictions of 'moral qualities'? This was what his infamous 'is-ought question demanded, asking:
'Does an IS, imply an Ought?'IOW, how can a material fact of what IS, a provocation for instance, imply an immaterial response that ought to happen? Well then, he 'reasoned', since a material thing can't be an immaterial 'ought', then clearly an IS cannot imply an Ought, and so there is no basis for reasoning about manners, civility, or ethics, as:
"reason is, and ought only to be the slave to the passions", 'proving' again that we don't really know anything about anything at all, and all of our supposed knowledge is but the result of passions and happenstance, and your saying that you know what will result from any cause, can be nothing more than a rolling of the dice and bookies playing the odds on what score they turn up.
Of course, although you might want to point out that his saying that 'You ought not say that an is implies an ought', is saying that an IS implies an Ought, but... if you've ceded the ability to say what IS, you certainly cannot say what ought to follow from that. Do you see how slippery this slope soon gets? All of metaphysics - identity, knowledge, causality - are eliminated through Hume's kill shot (if you accept and permit it). Once you allow the connection between truth and reality to be severed, or even frayed, you've let go of your ability to claim to know anything at all, or to claim any interest in or concern with truth or goodness, or beauty. Gone. Wfft. As with your credibility in saying that this, might lead to that, and therefore you ought not to permit it. All gone.
To come at the problem from another direction, the necessity of his denial of Free Will, is that his own is-ought issue is the wrong question; or rather it is a misdirection, which deliberately ignores the identity of a human being, and leads the listener away from grasping that the reality of human life, is that the question if asked at all, ought to be asked more like this:
'Does an IS, imply Oughts?', plural, and the answer to that is an unequivocal and hearty 'Yes!', but that can only be said if you know what is, and know how you know it, and what causes anything to occur in accordance with what you know of it.
Despite how Hume and modernity's attack our ability to know anything at all, with our inability to be free from error, it's not a failure for society or any individual in it to lack omniscient and unerring 'knowledge', rather recognizing that in us all, is a sign of having successfully identified ourselves as being human! While on the purely material level (which, you'll remember, is what science provides us the lowest level Knowledge of), an 'IS' does imply an 'Ought' - heating bronze to xDegrees ought to result in its melting, its material identity provides for only that reaction - but the possibilities of which 'Ought' to result from provoking a human being, whose very different identity and knowledge isn't constrained or determined in the same manner as metal is necessarily determined to respond to heat. Instead, based upon the knowledge and understanding of the person involved, and the context the provocation is posed within, there are some, sometimes many, responses that a person ought to make in response to an IS, and they might choose from those, or originate something entirely new and previously not considered, not as a result of happenstance, but from reasoning.
That is one of the consequences of being human, but Hume's skepticism had blinded himself to that identity, and that right there, between necessity and possibility, lies what the materialist hates and fears the most: Choice and Chance.
The modern materialist evades and abhors chance and choice, and however harmful it will be to their own selves, they will adamantly assert that for human beings 'an IS doesn't imply an Ought!', which is a half-truth (AKA: a full lie), whose abuse of truth has been highly causal in the philosophical disintegration, anxiety, and soph-destruction, we are drowning in today.
Denying and evading the full understanding of what the pre-moderns knew, which the modernist places safely out of mind, Hume advised::
"...If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion...", that this was an egregious act of sophistry kant be denied, and by awakening Immanuel Kant from his 'dogmatic slumbers' - less to disagree with Hume, than to obfuscate the implications of what he'd claimed (more on that later), Hume's ideas fanned the smoldering embers of modernity into breaking out into the philosophical firestorms that were soon to be ignited by Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Marx, and which we're still dealing with today.
When a society lacks a solid grasp of metaphysics in general, and identity, knowledge, and causality in particular, then skepticism (causeless doubt and/or denial of knowledge) rushes into the vacuum of popular imagination, and for those skeptics amongst them to preserve their skepticism (and oh will they ever fight to do that), they will evade, deny, denigrate, and claim the need to treat human beings as only a slightly higher form of inanimate matter, having no choice or rights that need to be respected, so that those who (somehow) see themselves as being those who *know* best, will be empowered to 'perfect' the lesser folk for 'the greater good'.
Ironically, to know anything of causality, or even to be able to deny such knowledge, requires making the choice to understand or evade it - Free Will must exist in order to deny the existence of Free Will - and yet most of modernity, especially the post-modernists, deny and evade it. It requires the deliberately chosen denial of Free Will, to successfully deny reality. And whether admitted or denied, we are able to understand, materially and philosophically, that causation is the result of the deepest identity of what something is, and that 'change' is what results from being in sufficient proximity with what something else is.
IOW, Causation is Identity in action (and interaction), and because we are human beings we are able to choose to understand that. But of course, we're also able to choose to evade and deny that, and for those who choose to seek power over their fellows, you need to deny and lie about what everyone can clearly see is true - which is easier than you might think.