Monday, February 22, 2010

moral chaos

It just occurred to me that we do indeed live in a morally chaotic universe. Only my understanding of "moral chaos" differs from the typical secular critic, e.g., the popular critics of Hammett, and perhaps Hammett himself. They would say that we live in a morally chaotic universe because there is no natural law, because we can be wiped out by random forces at any moment.

But I say that moral chaos is only intelligible against the presupposition of moral order. The natural law is real. And events are caused by minds, whether by God, angels, or humans. But sometimes angels, and all the time humans, are fallen creatures: they adopt a standard that diverges from the natural law, and there is no way of knowing where their ultimate loyalties lie. In that respect, and in that respect only, can one accurately speak of moral chaos. The fact that there are different moralities does not prove that there is no objective morality. The fact that there are different moralities proves that we have fallen short of the demands Reality makes on us. We are rebels that must lay down their arms.

So, yes, we do live in a morally chaotic universe; but that chaos is parasitic on an originary morality of pure righteousness. We live in a morally chaotic universe precisely because we can never finally count on anyone to abide by the natural law.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

infinite comprehensibility

I wrote the following somewhere else originally as a reply to an argument that, since God, if He existed, created everything, including human consciousness, we should know intuitively -- i.e., without anyone telling us -- that God existed. But since we have no such intuition -- since everyone is "born an atheist" (that's what this person said) -- it's obvious that God doesn't exist.

On the contrary, Chesterton said: "If there were no God, there would be no atheists."

Christians never claimed that the human race wasn't flawed; hence the doctrine about Fallen Nature and Original Sin. If humanity were perfect, each human would indeed know of God's existence by direct intuition. If God exists, and if humanity is not what it ought to be, mightn't most of humanity (except for your rare Socrates) completely reject God from the outset, in favor of self? For God, so our parents "indoctrinate" us to believe, wants us to participate in the natural law. Why assume that it is on account of the non-existence of God, rather than the imperfection of Man, that Man does not achieve this perfect intuition of the Divine?

Christians believe that, given the fact of fallenness, God resorted to a more direct means, by revealing Himself in history first to the Jews, and then by the Incarnation of His Word, Christ Himself. To demand that the ways and means of God revealing Himself be limited to something strictly "spiritual" or "immaterial" is to assume alot about The Way God Ought To Be. Whence does anyone derive this assumption? It seems to presuppose that God is merely a human invention, and results in unsound argument; viz., "If God existed, then X would happen," but one must first establish that the existence of God would necessitate the occurrence of X.

In any case, how can one expect that God can be completely known and determined by the finitude of human thought when even such this-worldly sciences as quantum mechanics are considered beyond the pale for most? Something that comes crashing in from outside has to be at least as unlike anything we expected than the most rigorous of the natural sciences. Rather than alot of spiritualist mumbo-jumbo, the records that we have in fact show that it is more than a mere matter of dialectic: it is a matter of history and biography as well. Consequently, once again because of human fallenness, even many Christians (e.g., Evangelical Protestants) do not accept the glories of the material world such as you find in the originary and ancient faiths of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, which believe that God manifests Himself everyday by material means in the Sacraments, and in the very activity of the life of the Church. If God invented matter as a means for humans to communicate with one another, why shouldn't He use matter to communicate with humans?

But such is the Platonico-Cartesio-Kantianism of our epoch...

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I'm watching, or rather studying, Citizen Kane and the best documentary made about it, The Battle Over Citizen Kane. I'll have more to say about it later, but I just love Orson Welles, the man. He reminds me of myself, though a very extroverted version and unapologetically arrogant version. He's what I would be if I truly Didn't Give A Fuck.

This is especially true in how he uses a system to totally mock and deprecate the same system. In this case, the film industry. It is remarkably similar to Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, which outraged Louis B. Mayer. Both films can boast being the greatest films of their time -- Kane can boast being the greatest film of all time -- and in so doing they reveal the very motion picture system in which they work to be full of shit. It reminds me of how I function in the university. It's rather like being an intellectual spy, or, as in Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, a philosophical detective.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hammett and the Hammettesque

I don't how many times I've said this, or something just like this, or how many times I'll have to say it again. I wish I could say something new or original, but I can't. There is some deep, grotesque, spiritual doppleganger effect between me and Dashiell Hammett. Show me anything in post-1920's popular culture and I can point to origins in Hammett. I can't explain it. It's just the way I'm wired. Somehow, some way, every aesthetic value I have is in his fiction, and in many ways my personal, moral values. I feel I am exaggerating; but I feel it every time I praise Hammett. And if it's not in Hammett, it's in T. S. Eliot. And yet Hammett read and admired Eliot -- and the vicious circle continues.

What sprung this particular wonder? I'm in the middle of Citizen Kane, and I'm seeing all kinds of traces of Hammett's fictions. The newspaper reforms exhibit, and immediately send my mind to, traces Red Harvest and The Glass Key.

But maybe I'm exaggerating? But if it be so, the exaggeration is involuntary. I'm not trying to convince anyone to love or to like Hammett, certainly not as I do. I'm just trying to give credit where credit is due, praise where praise is due. I'm only trying to make clear -- largely to my own mind alone -- this phenomenon.

Also: H. P. Lovecraft is reading well. His Sense of Tale is to horror and gothic and the macabre what Hammett's is to our criminal and political fictions. And Lovecraft's fine, 18th-century prose-style is rubbing off. I certainly wouldn't read him if his writing did not bear such elegance.

And, once again: Etienne Gilson is the shit.


I am officially re-"in love" with the great Etienne Gilson, the only French philosopher of the 20th century who isn't full of shit.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"But economists!!"

From the start, Obama has flouted the notion that he has "Economists" backing him up and all of you people just have your political ideologies.There are two things wrong with this:

(1) Just because someone is an economist doesn't mean he isn't an ideologue! There are plenty of economists who want socialism, not because it will make the best economy, but because of their "ideological" motives. But in spite of that...

(2) Anyone who knows the most basic axioms of economics knows that, in principle, there simply cannot be "many economists" who agree with his policies.

He may well be basing his ideas on "what economists say": but who these economists are matters a great deal. You can't say, "Oh, but an economist said so!" and be let off the hook.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

films noir

Over the past couple weeks I have watched twenty-something noir films for the first time. Since for the moment I've pressed "Pause," I'm making a list of every one that I can remember. I've marked ones that I take to be quintessential noir with "^"; the ones marked "*" are new favorites, i.e., favorites not just of film noir, but of all movies.

The Asphalt Jungle^*
The Postman Always Rings Twice^*
The Stranger
Double Indemnity^*
Act of Violence^
Mystery Street
They Live by Night
Side Street^
The Big Heat^
Criss Cross^
Where Danger Lives
Crime Wave
The Killing
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
The Big Combo^
The Blue Gardenia
The House on Telegraph Hill
Strangers on a Train
Sunset Boulevard^*
This Gun for Hire^

It seems like there were more than that, but I think that's actually all of them.

Films I want to see in the very near future are:

Blast of Silence
Kiss Me Deadly
Night and the City
The Big Clock
Detective Story

Ultimately I want to see the entire cycle. And ultimately I am going to have many, many things to say about the most intelligent form of film ever.

Monday, February 1, 2010

ode to modern woman

Where have the ladies gone?
This familiar form which purrs before me,
A ghost's fedility, a tomcat's story,
Has all the features of what once passed for virtue.

But strap-on in one hand, fancy pills in the other,
She approaches, to smother you and laugh with decadence.

So I'm inventing a sport about this vicious new animal,
This predator of late-night watering holes;
It can't be tamed and it can't be domesticated and
(Unless you're a cannibal, alas)
It can't be made into a useful evening meal.

All that's left for any to do is mount thy loyal steed,
Strapped to the teeth with blades and gunpowdered lovelies.
All that's left, that's not fit to burn,
We leave as a feast for ravenous birds of prey--
They, at least, cannot help themselves.