Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dr. Thursday's Post

Thanks again to Dr. Thursday for this hilarious post.

Rolling the other way: all chairs - or all camels?

Last week I omitted a warning I used several times previously. I did not mention that GKC was using "evolution" as an example - a rapid, en passant kind of example. I did so because I think it was well worth stopping to see what we were able to see in the brilliant light GKC provided. We have learned something almost NO other writer in the last century has been able to attain - an approach to true Scholastic thought, applied to one of the most pesty of issues. Alas for the scientists, and alas-squared for the philosophers, if that's what they still call themselves, who have not yet read GKC, and taken his writing to heart!

Now, we resume - and we find in front of us yet another chasm, shaped quite remarkably like last week's. But where evolution makes all things the same thing (or a flux and nothing more besides), this is the opposite. This is another failure to see things as they are - but now to see no degree of similarity of any kind.

But this time, instead of provoking thought, or anger, or boredom, I think this will provoke laughter. Actually, I laughed a good bit about last week's posting, and since then as well; I read some really strong comments in Fr. Jaki's The Road of Science and the Ways to God which made evolution seem... ah well but we must go on. Please finish your drinks and let us proceed...
Click here to read on.

GKC goes from one error of modern thought to another, shining light into the dark corners...
Then there is the opposite attack on thought: that urged by Mr. H. G. Wells when he insists that every separate thing is "unique," and there are no categories at all. This also is merely destructive. Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected. It need hardly be said that this scepticism forbidding thought necessarily forbids speech; a man cannot open his mouth without contradicting it. Thus when Mr. Wells says (as he did somewhere), "All chairs are quite different," he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them "all chairs."
Are your chairs quite different? Hee hee. If you have read GKC's earlier book, Heretics you may perhaps recall that we've heard something like this before. But it's lots funnier: is a very common phrase of modern intellectualism to say that the morality of one age can be entirely different to the morality of another. And like a great many other phrases of modern intellectualism, it means literally nothing at all. If the two moralities are entirely different, why do you call them both moralities? It is as if a man said, "Camels in various places are totally diverse; some have six legs, some have none, some have scales, some have feathers, some have horns, some have wings, some are green, some are triangular. There is no point which they have in common." The ordinary man of sense would reply, "Then what makes you call them all camels? What do you mean by a camel? How do you know a camel when you see one?"
[GKC Heretics CW1:167]
Some of you may be thinking this has something to do with evolution (it does, but probably not in the way you're thinking!) But animals can be fun, as well as dangerous, again, not in the way you are probably thinking. Let GKC explain:
A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished.
[ILN Jan 4 1908, CW28:21 - another 100 year old quote!]
Which reminds me of GKC's very hilarious view about giraffes:
When first the giraffe was described by travellers it was treated as a lie. Now it is in the Zoological Gardens; but it still looks like a lie.
[ILN Oct 21 1911 CW29:176]
Or this:
A man can coil a snake round and round inside his hat, though only a few individuals have indulged in this form of nature-study. If a man were to attempt to fold up a giraffe, or even to deal in this manner with the most compact or collapsible horse or dog, he would find that they were not sufficiently articulated animals.
[ILN July 25 1931 CW35:561]
I bother you with this nonsense because our good long-necked friend shall appear again in a little while, unless of course he has evolved into something else by then. Hee hee.

Ahem. But this is getting into something quite serious. The correct philosophical term is "universals" - the idea of something (and idea such as a quality like green or tall, or a category of thing, like chair or camel) which is common to various real (existing) things... Please remember what path we are on: the Suicide of Thought - the modern crimes which are attempting to destroy, prevent and eliminate thought. Let us hear the next bit, then:
Akin to these is the false theory of progress, which maintains that we alter the test instead of trying to pass the test. We often hear it said, for instance, "What is right in one age is wrong in another." This is quite reasonable, if it means that there is a fixed aim, and that certain methods attain at certain times and not at other times. If women, say, desire to be elegant, it may be that they are improved at one time by growing fatter and at another time by growing thinner. But you cannot say that they are improved by ceasing to wish to be elegant and beginning to wish to be oblong. If the standard changes, how can there be improvement, which implies a standard? Nietzsche started a nonsensical idea that men had once sought as good what we now call evil; if it were so, we could not talk of surpassing or even falling short of them. How can you overtake Jones if you walk in the other direction? You cannot discuss whether one people has succeeded more in being miserable than another succeeded in being happy. It would be like discussing whether Milton was more puritanical than a pig is fat. It is true that a man (a silly man) might make change itself his object or ideal. But as an ideal, change itself becomes unchangeable. If the change-worshipper wishes to estimate his own progress, he must be sternly loyal to the ideal of change; he must not begin to flirt gaily with the ideal of monotony. Progress itself cannot progress.
Pigs! Another animal, but I must stop here. No; I shall give the linking quite which unites this last thought to his previous work:
...this kind of vagueness in the primary phenomena of the study is an absolutely final blow to anything in the nature of a science. Men can construct a science with very few instruments, or with very plain instruments; but no one on earth could construct a science with unreliable instruments. A man might work out the whole of mathematics with a handful of pebbles, but not with a handful of clay which was always falling apart into new fragments, and falling together into new combinations. A man might measure heaven and earth with a reed, but not with a growing reed.
[Heretics CW1:117]
Make sure you select a stable means of measurement, or you'll never know if you are rolling, unrolling, or re-rolling - or just staying in one place. It may take all your running - as the Queen told Alice - to stay in one place - but sometimes you need to do it.

--Dr. Thursday

Emphasis by the editor, who sees connections there to the current political campaign.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Thursday,

    Jocularity is a good thing, but snakes and turkeys have never made me laugh. And neither can a 400 pound hog, no matter how tasty its bacon may turn out to be. And never mind a wild pig, especially when there is a real chance of meeting one in a dark forest.

    I suppose most of us have had a similar "occult and awful" experience when pondering some of these awe-inspiring creatures.

    Speaking of snakes and such, here is an evolutionary puzzle that may inspire an even deeper awe about God's mysteries of nature — a snake with legs has been found!

    Now, after a good laugh, (I hope you have had a good laugh), here is a posing question somebody asked me:

    Can you tell if this 92 million year old specimen was from before the Fall, during the Fall or after the Fall?

    What would be Chesterton's answer?


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