Thursday, November 29, 2007

Impartial, yes ...

... objective, no: The Nature of Objectivity.

I kept thinking, while reading this, of Thomas Aquinas's view of the intimate relation between knower and known, that the two are in fact one. Bear this in mind the next time you read Ulysses. Joyce was an avid Thomist, who read a page of Aquinas daily - in Latin.


  1. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Except for most of us this knower & known reality- which must be an absolute and its contradiction a concession to falseness("He who is not with me is against me"... Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23)- is at best an abstract in a dusty corner of the consciousness, while in the face of a the reality spoon-fed from our worldly masters, we very quickly flee into schizophrenic arms of truthless relativism, and in total violation of Truth accept satanic mostrosities such as torture, and argue that this is 'being realistic.'
    As Dostoevsky wrote in Notes from Underground:

    Every decent man of our time is and must be a coward and a slave. That is his normal condition. I am deeply convinced of it. He's made that way and arranged for it. And not in the present time owing to some chance circumstances, but generally in all times a decent man must be a coward and a slave. That is the natural law of all decent people on earth. If one of them does happen to get a bit of pluck in something, let him not be eased or pleased with that: he's still quail before something else.

  2. Anonymous10:26 AM

    And in the case of our torture supporting schizophrenic, the knower and known are also one, as what they 'know' is false, and their sense of self also false.
    "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."

    Needless to say the wide gate is as popular as ever, as mainstream culture sinks ever deeper into the morass of idiocy.

  3. If it helps, David, the Thomistic position regarding the knower and the known being one is based on the idea that, for Aquinas, the intellect is not a mere passive receptor of data, but an active faculty that dynamically grasps the form of what is known and makes it part of the knower, who is thereby enriched in being. That is what Mr. Bloom is doing on Bloomsday - enriching his being.

  4. Anonymous11:00 AM

    Yes, that is the stand-point from which my opinion is coming also, Frank. As you say, the intellect, or sense of self as a whole is not a mere passive receptor of data, but an active faculty that dynamically grasps the form of what is known and makes it part of the knower, who is thereby enriched, or contrarily defiled, in being. The doing of an action such as torture does not leave the doer in the same static state as he was prior to the doing; he becomes internally the doer of his external actions. Instead he quickly descends into deeper evil, and that is why an Abu Ghraib is in no sense an aberration once one begins on this path. Similarly can the horrors on the gulags and concentration camps be explained. Means determine ends.

  5. Well, yes, David, action follows from being. You cannot torture someone without being a torturer and the act of torturing someone is going to markedly affect the being of the torturer (to say nothing of the one being tortured).
    But this post wasn't about torture, I might add, and to use it as a springboard for a political pronouncement seems odd at the very least. But, to continue the discussion anyway, what you say is true of anything one does. War, for instance. Whether you're on the right side or the wrong side in a military action the violence is bound to affect who you are. I know this much about myself: That if I had in front of me a man who knew where my kidnapped daughter was, I could go pretty far in getting him to divulge that information to me - and I would have no pangs of conscience over it whatsoever. If that makes me a potential monster, then you're free to make the most of it.