Sucking the Blood out of a Mosquito

I considered titling this post ‘On Surrealism’, but ‘Sucking the Blood out of a Mosquito’ sounded less stodgy, so I went with that.  Sorry if it grosses you out a little.  Anyway, here it is:

It was one of the primary goals of the surrealist movement to astonish its audience.  I believe the surrealists have succeeded wonderfully in that regard, but I am not sure to what end.  In terms of the impact, there is little difference between a hare getting a tortoisecut and an apple crawling out of a worm—both are surreal and astonishing, but neither one communicates to us a particular truth or wonder.  It seems that in trying desperately to liberate his expressive palette, the surrealist has actually restricted it and very nearly reduced it to utter meaninglessness.  Instead of reconciling fantasy with reality, he has rejected reality altogether, turning inward to the more vivid but even less satisfying world his of imagination.

Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) was a Spanish surrealist painter, and at times, a devout Catholic.  He is probably most famous for painting this:

The Persistence of Memory

Perhaps, considering how iconoclastic a movement he followed, it might astonish us that Dalí was ever a Catholic.  But I think this only reflects how greatly our modern society tends to misunderstand what it means to be Christian.  Unlike Surrealism, Christianity is an ideology with no preference for either novelty or convention.  The Surrealist movement has existed entirely for the sake of revolution—take away the radicalism and the astonishment dies.  But Christianity makes no comment on either the radical or the obvious, and if it harbours any implicit affiliation with tradition, it is that religious tradition exists for the sake of Christianity and not the other way around.  However, while the novelty of Surrealism then poses no incompatibility in itself, there still seems to be a conflict between the Surrealist movement as it originally began and Christianity.  That conflict is the alleged rejection of reason.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, there really is no such thing as illogical thought.  One can believe in the irrational but not experience it.  And this belief is what fuels conventional surrealist art, while also providing its greatest shortcoming.  What I find so uninteresting about an apple crawling out of a worm is not the situation itself, but its implied context.  Surrealism cannot help but take place in a world with no rules, a world with no limitations or conflicts.  But these adversities are the very things that make earthly life interesting in the first place, and to exclude them from an imitation of nature is to overlook the most beautiful thing on this side of eternity: the resolution of dissonance.  Good art doesn’t astonish merely for the sake of astonishment; instead it imitates nature, and that is astonishing in itself.  Perhaps making that kind of art might entail hares getting tortoisecuts or sucking the blood out of mosquitos, but at the same time, every incongruity ought to be rationally explained, and that will make it all the more beautiful.

Sometimes as Christians we can forget how astonishing the world really is.  We too might think that the only recourse from the dull vexation of this revolving planet under the sun is some kind of escape.  But in actuality, we need no compensation for the truth.  There is in fact nothing more astonishing than the most fundamental reality of our lives:

Dalí's painting of the Passion of Christ.
Dalí’s painting of the Passion of Christ.


There is nothing illogical about God’s creation, but everything about it is astonishing.  For we could not imagine something more beautiful or surreal than what Our Saviour has done for us in reality.  And what is the purpose of art or even of fantasy if not to reinvigorate once again our astonishment with that truth?

Incidentally, Dalí was also fascinated with rhinoceroses.

Gooey Philosophy

In Ecclesiastes 12:12, Solomon noted the vanity of excessive bookishness.  Just for giggles, let’s quote the passage from the Vulgate:

faciendi plures libros nullus finis frequensque meditatio carnis adflictio est

“There is no end to the making of many books, and contemplation is often an affliction of flesh.”

In case you’re wondering, yes, quoting from the Vulgate is quite frankly something that I do for giggles.

Often when I’m writing philosophy or music, I find it the most interesting to make the matter as complicated and involved as possible.  Philosophy is always more fun when it involves enough distinctions and qualifications to make your head spin, and music is more engaging when it’s intricate and difficult.  Moreover, I believe complexity is in fact something to be desired.  Reality is very complicated, so it only makes sense that the human quest for truth and beauty be equally involved.

However, I also recognise that there is something very off-putting about ‘gooey philosophy’, and for that matter, ‘gooey music’.  When things get really convoluted, philosophy beings to seem less plausible and music less beautiful.  I think that one of the most crucial observations to have gone unnoticed by 20th century composers is that once you have the goo, you’re only halfway finished with your work.  What ought to ensue is an elaborate process of simplification and polishing.  It’s all fine and dandy to do strange and barbaric things while at the piano with no one listening, but when there is an audience involved, all such wild inventions must be translated into a civilized form of rhetoric.

Simple, not Minimalist

lucem at quoque noctem plus vel enim amo.

Upon moving into my residence hall here at the university last week, I encountered a bit of difficulty.  It seemed my plans were too complicated for the room.  The microwave plug didn’t fit into the power strip and this meant that the whole apparatus I had formed—with the printer on top of the microwave and the microwave on top of the refrigerator—had to be relocated to a place in the room that would better accommodate for all the electrical connections.  I had, from the start, opposed my bringing of so many appliances to school, but my parents insisted that I do so in order to make the place more comfortable and ‘home-like’.

After trying out a few different arrangements of the room, each one feeling more cramped than the last, I settled on stuffing all the appliances except the refrigerator into a small storage space in the upper part of the wardrobe and moving the furniture into the least confining arrangement possible.  When I was all done with this, I felt quite remarkably liberated; suddenly the little space, which had seemed very much to resemble a prison only moments ago, transformed itself into a rather pleasant study and dormitory.  Now I have a big beautiful desk basking in natural sunlight beside the window where I can lay out my orchestra scores to work (see figure 1).

I told my mum how I felt about this when I rang her up that evening.  She and I both agreed that if I felt more comfortable without all the clutter, I didn’t need to use it, seeing as comfort was the original purpose of the supplies.  As I write this, all of the mentioned supplies, along with several other items, are sitting in that storage place, waiting patiently to be brought home.  The new order of my room is by no means minimalistic—aside from the refrigerator I mentioned, I also have here a good number of my books and my unicycle—but it is simple.  That’s the beauty of it.

On the same day that I made these arrangements, I was thinking about economic styles of music, art, and writing.  Among the many examples of the aesthetic I had in mind were a couple of scenes in Shakespeare, that popped into my head, as well as the opening line of Milton’s famous epic, which reads:  “Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree”.  Part of the brilliance of this line is how simply it conveys something so large and complicated.  Instead of droning on and on pedantically to lay out the details of a theological framework for the ‘fall of man’, Milton leans into the lexical and philosophical associations already built into the English language—perhaps placed their directly by the hand of God himself—in order to discuss not only the hamartiology of an ‘original sin’ or ‘total depravity’, nor the soteriology of ‘salvation’, but the entire human understanding of all the associated ideas, dreamings, and truths that have been passed down via the Indo-European language from before the time of the Romans to the present, now to be contained in the single English word ‘fruit’.

You may have already sensed this by now if you read this blog often, but I am, quite frankly, all about complexity.  I make nearly every form of art or study that I engage in as complicated as I possibly can.  But the reason things ought to be so complex, in my mind, is because that’s the only way they can become simple.  One of the greatest transformations that western languages have undergone over time is simplification.  Dead languages often have very complicated grammars, and it is through these original complex systems that modern languages have come to posses the power they hold today in their much simpler forms.  We might also note, however, the way this complexity supported something simpler even in the ancient languages themselves.  If this post were written in Ancient Greek or Latin, you would probably be finished reading it by now (assuming you were as fluent in one of those languages as you are in English).   Indeed, you would have probably finished reading a good while ago; the reason for this is that the more complicated grammars allowed for more economic communication—simpler sentences had more complicated meanings than in modern English.

I am not here by proposing that ‘less is more’.  That’s ridiculous!  Less is less.  But somehow the God of the universe has been able to communicate to humanity everything they need to know in order to be self-conscious and self-willing creatures, and if so much is possible, then is it not our duty, as artists, thinkers, and human beings, to at least try, by virtue of that very possibility, to stuff the entire human experience into something portable and sharable?

The beauty of fractals is that no matter how much or how little of their detail you can make out, they look similar and appear the same.

On Aesthetics and Existence

Suppose there were some sort of nonhuman, rational being wandering the earth and observing human life.  This nonhuman, we will call him a ‘metahuman’, has nothing in common with humanity except reason alone.  He doesn’t experience the same desires that we do, nor possess the same needs.  In fact, let us say that he is subject to no desires or needs whatsoever.  As he makes his way through our curious little planet, he encounters a good number of phenomena with which his rationality is perfectly reconciled.  By virtue of being rational, he understands that a being must act in promotion of its own sustainment; this is simply a manifestation of adherence to the core principle of rationality–noncontradiction.  And so it comes as no surprise to him that people eat food.  A quick explanation of the natural science behind the human anatomy allows him to understand this act as rational and noncontradictory to existence.  He is also at ease when he sees people working for money to buy that food, exercising to help maintain the body in other ways, and getting married to help maintain the population.  With all these things, I believe our metahumane friend would be quite satisfied.

There is, however, an aspect of the human experience that I suspect might not sit as well with him.  That aspect is human philocaly, the love of beauty.  Upon extended observation of human living, I believe he might find himself asking, “why do these creatures so fastidiously obsess themselves with matters of absolutely no relevance to their existence?”  “Why,” he might ask, “do the sit for long hours watching the sunrise?  why do they drive themselves mad over the colours of oils on canvases or arrangements of sounds over time?  The time they spend on these things could be better spent working for food, eating food, exercising, or reproducing.” It seems that art is a superfluous facet of human existence.

However, while such an observation might vex our metahuman, if he is capable of being vexed, I do not think that he should outright object to it.  There is, after all, nothing inherently self-contradictory about art.  Art is, by all means, rationally permissible, but what the metahuman would understand, and we must realise, is that, ostensibly, art is rationally unnecessary.

It seems that art neither opposes nor promotes human existence.  And for the metahuman, a being’s existence is the first step in a deductive proof that merits his or her actions.  By taking existence as a given, the metahuman can prove that a human being must eat and exercise and must not undergo self-imposed starvation or deprival of exercise because such do’s and don’t’s are rationally necessary.  All behaviour that a being exhibits is only made possible by his or her existence, and so, in order to be rationally sound, none of such behaviour may oppose that being’s existence, for to do so would be to create, as it were, a contradiction in the normative ‘proof of actions’.  In other words, there is a logical fallacy in a chain of reasoning that reads, “A exists, therefore A acts, therefore A does not exist”*.  Likewise, there are certain actions that a being must take in order to sustain existence, which may be called ‘rationally necessary’.  Obviously, to neglect to do such things is to passively oppose existence and to, therefore, once again create a logical fallacy.  Ergo, all rational beings are demanded, by their reason, to avoid actions that oppose their existence and execute those that promote it.

However, in a sense, art neither promotes nor opposes human existence.  No one has ever starved from musical malnourishment (though I have had nightmares …) nor died of prolonged exposure to oil paintings.  It seems then, at least prima facie, that art has no baring on the metahuman’s proof of actions.  Hence, how it should be handled in the formal proof becomes quite a difficult matter.  Occam’s Razor might suggest that we remove it by default, but this seems a mere ‘easy way out’ of a question that rests on empirical evidence which powerfully suggests alternatives. The very fact that humans do indeed partake in the enjoyment of art seems to suggest that Occam’s Razor cannot be here applicable for one of three reasons: (1) humanity is not rational after all, as demonstrated by her irrational aesthetic passions, (2) art is a necessary part of the proof of actions in some more nuanced way than we have yet understood, or (3) art is necessitated by something other than the ‘primal premise’ in the proof of actions.

(By ‘primal premise,’ I mean existence; the jargon is intended to portray the analogical link between this and the Primal Cause Argument for the existence of God.  It is supposed, under the Primal Cause Argument, that given the existence of the universe and humanity, within the context of causality, a ‘primal cause’ that came first and without a cause of its own is a metaphysical necessity.  Our currant discourse takes the existence of humanity as the ‘primal premise’ in a proof of actions that demonstrates the rational necessity of self-sustainment.  This link will be important later on.)

Of course the first of these three reasons is, in its present form, utterly absurd because it denies the existence of human reason, on which it is dependent, as evidenced by its classification as a ‘reason’.  However, we might refine it a bit to say that, while humanity is capable of being rational, art is an example of her departure from rationality, however exceptional such a behaviour might be for her.  But that is a rather lame explanation of art, especially considering the fact that this blog purposes to demonstrate that beauty is a fractal construct of reason.  Therefore, we will be finding that the better option is either two or three.

In order to consider the reason for human philocaly, we must begin by considering the reason for human philosophy˚.  As it turns out, human philosophy is indeed rationally necessary, however its necessity is less clearly linked to the ‘primal premise’.  If belief is–as many have considered it to be–the act of depending on a supposed truth, then human beings have no choice but to believe in some things and not in others.  By sitting here, typing this post, I am believing that my computer will not explode in my face and kill me.  I am counting on that fact.  If I were to believe that my computer is going to explode, then my act of writing this post would be irrational, as it would be opposing my existence.  Hence, in order to be a rational being, I must believe certain things and not others (which, in this case, means that, given my sitting here typing, I must believe that my computer will not explode and not that it will).  This is because the rationality of an act (i.e. its promotion and non-opposition of existence) is dependent on certain suppositions that surround the act–that is, we must ‘count on’ or ‘believe in’ certain supposed truths in order for the action, or more accurately, the intention behind the action, to be classifiable as an action (or intention) of self-sustainment.  But the only rational way I can arrive at a belief is by way of philosophy.  In other words, it is irrational to count on the veracity of a given supposition without reason to do so.  Hence, the existence of reason (which is simply a more specific facet of the ‘primal premise’) is self-sustained by philosophy.  And so, philosophy is rationally necessary.

Recall from the previous ALUC posts that art, the discourse of emotions, is really an extension of philosophy, the discourse of reason, in that emotions are fractal constructs of rational processes.  Therefore, it seems that art may be necessitated by the mere fact of philosophy’s necessity.  If we are required, by reason, to rationally deliberate truth in order to arrive at rational beliefs, then why would we not also be required to do the same emotionally?  Human engagement in art is, in this sense, simply a way of making use of all methods of discovering truth available to the human.

Now would be a good point in the essay to point out a flaw in our model of reason thus far; I think I’ll do just that: The average Christian or reasonable thinker reading this post has already been quite troubled by the whole idea of self-sustainment.  We Kantian moralists, who make up most of the world, like to think that morality is an extension of rationality, and as such, must be governed by the laws of reason.  Therefore, the idea that reason would incessantly demand our constant attendance to self-sustainment is troubling to the Christian who believes that self-sacrifice is the core principle of all morality.  Hence, it seems our model has been all too simple.

Allow me, therefore, to do a bit of remodelling.  In Computer Science (the science of programming computers) there are conceptual entities called “objects”.  An “object” is something that sits out somewhere in the computer’s memory and can be called to perform tasks or can be acted on by other objects.  The particular tasks that a given object might be able to perform are decided on by the programer, and the possibilities are nearly endless.  However, one task that an object can never perform is self-deletion.  This is because of the logical fallacy that we have been discussing; it simply doesn’t make logical sense for something to destroy itself, and computer science reflects this inescapable normative principle.  However, sometimes, as you might imagine, objects do in fact need to be deleted.  For this task, the system itself must be called.  In other words, to delete an object, we must act not within the object’s personal scope, but within a larger scope that contains the object, which is called the system in the case of computer science.

A very similar phenomenon occurs in life outside of computers.  Sometimes there comes a point when objects need to be deleted, persons need to die.  At such a time, the principle still holds that a moral agent cannot delete himself, but a larger scope must be called on for his deletion.  So far, we have discussed the proof of actions as a self-contained system of rationality—something that is demanded to be non-contradictory with itself.  But if reality is fractal, then this “larger scope” that we are calling on must actually be self-similar; it must be similar to the “proof of actions” construct which it contains.  Hence, the deletion of a person must be appealed to the primal premise not of a proof of actions contained within the person, but of such a proof contained only by the scope of reality itself.

If you’re wondering what such a primal premise could possibly be, recall the disgustingly long and tastelessly obtrusive parenthetical element above in which the link between a ‘primal premise’ and a ‘primal cause’ was alluded to.  Herein lies the point: if the self-similar construct that is reality contains moral agents with proofs of actions that are premised on the respective existences of those agents, then reality itself is a massive proof of actions that is premised on its own existence (and since its existence is premised on its primal cause, we may say that this is the primal premise of the universal proof of actions, and consequentially, is the universal analogue of a moral agent’s existence).  Hence, the first line of the universal proof of actions reads: “Reality is.”  And because reality is subject to logic, all following lines must be non-contradictory to the existence of reality—or more specifically, to the existence of the primal cause and its particular nature.

And so, we appeal to this universal proof of actions for the deletion of a person; however, even within this larger scope, the deletions of persons is irrational.  Because reality is fractal, the principle that a moral agent cannot be deleted (which originates within the scope of the agent himself as a principle of self-sustainment) is reconstructed in larger, congruent scopes by necessity, including the scope of reality itself.  So the fact that there come occasions when persons must be deleted poses a serious threat to the logical soundness of the universal system (reality).

However, notice the phrase “a person must be deleted”; this implies that the deletion of the person is logically necessary.  Hence, we have a contradiction.  The principle of non-deletion that is perpetuated up through the self-similar system demands that persons are never deleted, however, sometimes reality demands that they are (e.g. in the case of war).  This tells us that something went wrong earlier in the proof of actions; some phenomenon has opposed reality and defied logic.  We will explore the phenomenon in a later post.  At present, we must merely understand that there is a contradiction, and that the contradiction must be fixed.  Logic demands that something be done in the universal proof of actions in order to correct the error.

So allow me to present the contradiction clearly:  Two moral agents are placed on a metaphysical see-saw, but only one is allowed to step off, leaving the other to go hurling down through the endless abyss of nonexistence (that is, of death or whatever the particular situation calls for).  Each moral agent is demanded to preserve both himself (by his own proof of actions) and the other agent (by a congruent construct of the other agent’s proof of actions).  It’s quite a pickle.  The only rational solution is the beautiful mathematical principle of Substitution.  One of the agents must choose to substitute his own primal premise with that of the other agent; that is, he must value the other agent’s existence in place of his own.  People less esoteric and nerdy than myself call this “love”.

That is exactly what has happened in the case of the universal proof of actions.  As a consequence of some error, humanity got set on a chain of reasoning that leads directly to death, but because it is logically necessary for man to keep on existing, the Primal Cause himself made the Grand Substitution.  The existence of man was substituted for the existence of Reality, causing all the equations to boggle about as reality demanded its own destruction and the very principle that called  for the deletion to be made was set to be deleted, reversing the error and undefying logic.  All this, we know, must have happened for two reasons: (1) it is the only possible solution to the contradiction, and (2) it maintains self-similarity with other proofs of actions (e.g. when a man sacrifices his life for his country).

As a result of all this, Substitution has become a principle of logic.  It logically necessary (and therefore morally right) for persons to sacrifice themselves for others because Reality has sacrificed itself for them.  The principle of Substitution trickles down to latter iterations of the universal fractal in this way.  For that matter, I might point out that logic is simply defined by whatever the Primal Cause does.  In other words, self-sustainment is logically necessary because the Primal Cause exists and continues to exist, and self-sacrifice is logically necessary because the Primal Cause sacrifices itself; every action that the Primal Cause takes is imitated in every smaller scope of reality due to its self-similar structure—that’s what logic is.

So logic is defined by the actions of the Primal Cause.  This might leave us wondering: why does the Primal Cause act in the way it does?  Or to put it more bluntly, what defines the actions of the Primal Cause?  The only answer I have for this is “the Primal Will”.  The “Primal Will” is the end of the line in the determining of actions.  The Primal Cause does what it does simply because that’s the way things Absolutely are.  Christians and non-christians alike might find interesting what the Bible has to say about this.  In Revelations 4: 11, it say, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive Glory and Honour and Power, because you created all things and through your will they exist and were created”.  Where I have translated “through your will,” the ancient Greek reads “διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου” which we might also translate “because of your pleasure”.  So in one sense, we understand that things are the way they are because they ought to be (because it’s God’s will), but in another sense, they’re just that way for the fun of it (because of God’s pleasure).  Either way, the verse contends that He is to receive glory and honour for this—God’s will or pleasure is absolutely Good.  However, what this means is that as intricate and difficult to decipher as reality is, the fractal is that way in part because that is how it ought to be, but also simply for the mere fun of it.  God choose to create, to love, and to die for that love for the sake of his good pleasure, his θέλημά.

Now that was a pretty long tangent.  Remember, this post is about philocaly.  And so I ask what is art if not the highest form of Substitution available to man?  Art is the surrendering of one’s self to beauty, the giving of one’s soul to all of humanity.  An artist is demanded to be courageous and bold; he must wildly surrender everything with which his creator has endowed him to the creation of something beautiful—a love letter to humanity.  When he performs this creative task, he is acting rationally and in congruity with his maker’s primal act of creation and self-sacrifice, which was conducted under the Καλός Θέλημά (Good Will or Beautiful Pleasure, Καλός being the word from whence we get ‘philocaly’ – the love of beauty; the love of good).


* Obviously an application of the transitive property to this statement makes it read “A exists, therefore A does not exist,” which, needless to say, is utter nonsense.

˚Just when you thought those ivory towers couldn’t grow any higher and the thinkers inside them couldn’t become anymore distanced from the real world, the philosophers start philosophising about philosophy.

The Essential Consequence of the Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity

Yes, I realise the title is disgustingly long, but it had to compete with A Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, which is a German title in translation—so that’s not really fair.


Acts of Reason

From the little research I have done, I have found that the concept of speech acts mostly has its origins in the philosophy of one J. L. Austin.  Austin proposed the theory that certain forms of speech are actions in themselves.  For example, whenever one begins a sentence with “I promise …” an action beyond the mere act of speaking is being performed—the act of making a promise.  Likewise, whenever people persuade, inform, or rebuke using speech, they are performing speech acts.  On the most basic level, a speech act is any form of speech by which an act beyond the mere pronouncement of words is performed.

Similarly, I should like to propose that there exist forms of thinking that may be called “thought acts,” or “acts of reason”.  These include acts such as believing, assuming, and expecting.  By the very thought, “this is true,” the act of belief is performed.  The thought, “this will happen,” constitutes the act of expectation.  These are forms of thinking that constitute actions beyond the mere act of thought itself; however, they are still only thoughts, or declaratives, found in the nonphysical realm of the mind.  Notice that both in the case of speech acts and acts of reason, the acts that are performed are normative.  Nothing physical takes place, for example, when a person makes a promise, but we still consider promising to be an action.  Therefore, promising, like all other speech acts and acts of reason, is an action that takes place in the nonphysical realm.  Hence the nonphysical is, in part, active.

This fits nicely with our usage of grammatical theory to explain the nature of the nonphysical.  Declaratives may be active or passive just as they are by grammatical convention.  However, it is important to realise that this is something of an extended usage of those terms.  For example, suppose Mr. Smith looks at his dog, Charlie, and thinks, “Charlie is eating”.  By doing this, Mr. Smith has performed an act of reason, and his declarative is active in two ways: (1) Just as grammatical theory would tell us, the declarative is active because the subject (Charlie) is performing an action (eating), but also (2) the declarative is active because it constitutes the act of believing (Mr. Smith believes his dog is eating).  Let us call this first meaning of “active” “grammatically active,” and the second meaning, “functionally active”.

Activity and Passivity (Voice)

It must be understood that all thoughts can only be called active or passive in the context of a particular verb.  Speech acts demonstrate this phenomenon more clearly: the speech, “I promise to love and obey” is active in the context of the verb ‘to promise’ but passive in the context of the verb ‘to run’ because the speech itself constitutes the act of promising, but not of running.  Hence, if this speech causes a bride to run, it has not performed a speech act in so doing, though it has passively caused that action.  (But of course it still performs the speech act of promising, and therefore is active in that context.)  The same will be true of acts of reason.  Every thought has a functional voice only in the context of a particular verb.

To better understand what it means for a thought to be functionally active, let us consider what it means for one to be functionally passive.  In grammar, when a sentence is in the passive voice, its subject is being acted upon rather than doing the act.  For example, if Mr. Smith had instead thought, “Charlie is being eaten,” his thought would have been grammatically passive.  However, the thought is still functionally active, as we are using the term, because it still constitutes the act of belief.

The functional analogue of grammatical voice is simple.  If a thinker is performing an action, his thought is functionally active, but if an act is being performed on the thinker, his thought is functionally passive.  The functional voice of a thought is the same as the grammatical voice of the clause which describes the thought’s action and in which the thought is the direct or indirect object.  For example, in the clause, “Mr. Smith believes the thought, ‘Charlie is being eaten,'” the thought is the direct object of Mr. Smith’s believing, and the clause is grammatically active (i.e. Mr. Smith is acting upon the thought); therefore, the thought is functionally active in the context of the verb ‘to believe’.  However, in the clause “Mr. Smith is troubled by the thought, ‘Charlie is being eaten,'” the thought is the indirect object, but the clause is grammatically passive (i.e. Mr. Smith is being acted upon by the thought); therefore, the thought is functionally passive in the context of the verb phrase ‘to trouble’. Hence, believing is an act of reason constituted by the thought, but troubling is not.

This discussion might bring to mind a rather intriguing inquiry:  Is not ‘troubling’ something that occurs in the mind?  If so, should we not expect it too to be an act of reason?  Indeed, I believe we should, but only when paired with a different thought, which in the context of such a verb, would be active.  More on this later.

Relevant Qualities of the Nonphysical

Recall this explanation of the nonphysical which I wrote in my post on the Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity (henceforth, ALUC): “Things in the nonphysical behave in accordance with our cognition.  For example, whenever one imagines a circle, it exists in the nonphysical, because all that is required for the spawning of an object in the nonphysical is the decision that it exists.  If I decide that there is a circle of radius R, then there is.”  From this we see that the nonphysical can be embodied in human cognition.  We do suppose that the nonphysical is a realm of truths and falsehoods that exists with or without human awareness of it, but humans can also think about it, and in so doing, embody some part of the realm within their minds.  For example, the properties of fractals were, for a time, normative facts sitting out in the nonphysical, waiting to be discovered, until finally they became embodied in human understanding once the proper math was completed.  To be clear, let us henceforth refer to the nonphysical as it exists independently of humanity as “The Nonphysical Realm,” and as it is embodied in the minds of persons, it will be called “a nonphysical realm”.

(I wrote at the beginning of this post that acts of reason occur in the nonphysical; this statement may now be refined.  More specifically, acts of reason occur in a nonphysical realm; that is, they occur in the mind of the person doing the thinking.  Hence, when I say that a thought constitutes an act, I mean exactly that—a functionally active thought, as it exists in a nonphysical realm, is the same thing as a nonphysical act.)

Also notice from the above quote that human embodiment of the nonphysical is related to human will.  As I have written, “all that is required for the spawning of an object in the nonphysical is the decision [i.e. act of volition] that it exists”.  Hence, when Mr. Smith performs an act of reason in his mind, he is willing the spawning of a functionally active declarative in a nonphysical realm.  Indeed, acts of reason are the purest forms of willed acts, for whenever people act on their wills, they first intend to do something, and then attempt to do it.  But it is this second step that is often corrupted by misinformation and inability.  Indeed, even the first step (of intending) can be corrupted by logical fallacy or falsehood of premisses; i.e. a person can intend to do good, and out of that willed act, intend to do something that he or she thinks is good, but is mistaken.  In this sense, the relationship between acts of reason and general intentions of will is similar to the relationship between the intentions and the outcomes of a character’s actions in a play.  In both cases, we often come across “purposes mistook fallen on the inventors’ head”.  This is why Kant traces the character of a will all the way back to its noncontradiction with itself.  That is, the quality of a will can only be determined by examining the self-coherence—or lack there of—of the will’s initial intention, the intention of being good or evil, from which all other intentions are derived within more specific contexts.

This point will be important later on, but I digress from my present purpose.  What must be understood at the moment is that acts of volition are also acts of reason because intending is an act of reason.  (This harkens nicely back to the model of the soul with two faculties: the intellect and the will.  Without intellect, a will is just a random decision maker; therefore, in order for a will to be free, any act a will makes must also be an act of reason.)  To justify the claim that intending is an act of reason, we will turn to the model of functional voice developed earlier, but first we must understand a nuance that further complicates our model of acts of reason.

Human Thought

Thinking is, by nature, paradoxical.  As I have argued elsewhere, reality is infinite. Therefore, all passive thoughts and acts of reason are subject to infinite ignorance.  However, as we have found in the ALUC post, “every understanding and misunderstanding of a given scope of reality is congruent to that of the whole“.  Hence, the paradox of thought is as follows:  Thinking is, by the nature of reality, required to be infinite, but by the nature of humanity, it seems it is finite; ergo, all human thought must be inaccurate—and in fact, infinitely inaccurate.  But yet, we know, by the ALUC, that human understanding is congruent to accurate understanding, even with all its fallacies.  Thus a dichotomy exists between the validity and falsehood of thought.  To solve this paradox, we must understand the meaning of the mathematical jargon in this philosophical context.

Though it may seem a bit crude, it will be useful, for a moment, to think of the accuracy of human thought as a scalar quantity.  Suppose that any given thought has a measurable quantitative parameter of “truthiness,” if you will.  In theory, a perfectly accurate thought would have an infinite truthiness value (because reality, the truth, is infinite), but human thoughts have truthiness values that are lower than this.  The question becomes: how much lower?  Because human thought is subject to infinite ignorance, we know that its truthiness is infinitely lower than that of the theoretical ideal, but this fact alone does not tell us by what order of infinity human truthiness is less than perfect validity.  For that, we must turn to the ALUC.

By the ALUC, we know that human thought is congruent to the theoretical ideal.  In math, two systems are congruent when they differ only by a scaler multiple.  For example, two triangles are congruent if each of the sides of one triangle relates to each of the respective sides of the other by a common ratio.  Hence, a pair of congruent triangles can be derived from one triangle by multiplying the lengths of each side by the same number.  Therefore, if human truthiness is both congruent to and less than perfect validity, it must be a fraction of the whole.  Hence, the difference between human truthiness and perfect validity is a lower order of infinity than that which describes the magnitude of perfect validity.

All this may sound a bit distant from the actual philosophical thread at the moment, so allow me to draw the connection:  Recently, a friend of mine and I met and discussed the ALUC.  Upon reaching the section about the limitlessness of conceivability, our discussion branched away from the piece slightly as we began to ponder the plausibility of human beings conceiving of the infinite.  I leaned towards the belief that humans can conceive the infinite, and my friend took the other side.  “Imagine a thousand elephants,” he prompted me, “now imagine one thousand and one elephants.  What’s the difference?”  His point was that when one conceives of anything on a very large scale, the detail of the concept is sacrificed.  My mental image of a thousand elephants is the same as my mental image of one thousand and one elephants.  This is because when I conceive “a thousand elephants,” I am not really picturing an exact number of elephants, but rather some large sum of them.  However, as I argued, my mind does differentiate between the concepts themselves.

In calculus, there is a somewhat cliché idea that “infinity is a concept not an number”.  This is usually taken to mean that we can’t treat infinity like an ordinary number (i.e. we can’t perform arithmetic with it), but we can understand it as an idea.  Thus, in a sense, one cannot “wrap one’s head around” the infinite, but in another sense, humans must be able to conceptualise infinity by virtue of having a word for it.  So, while I cannot conceive one thousand different elephants at the same time, I can think the thought, “one thousand elephants,” and differentiate it from the thought, “one thousand and one elephants,” both of which have different significances to me.  In this way, a human thought can be congruent to infinite thought, which is necessary in order for it to be congruent to perfect validity.

Rational Processes

In planning for this essay, it was at first my desire to write about acts of reason in terms of individual “rational processes,” or processes of the mind, rather than in terms of what we have hitherto been calling “thoughts”.  A thought, as the term has been here used, is a declarative which exists in a nonphysical realm (a person’s mind), but people don’t always think in “thoughts” in this sense of the word.  Sometimes people think more abstractly.  For example, when a composer invents a piece in his head, he is thinking, but he is not producing concrete declaratives.  Hence, thinking may take on various forms, some of which are hard to embody in words, but in all forms, thinking is made up of many rational processes.  When Mr. Smith sees Charlie’s state of distress, his mind has to take in the empirical facts (the things his senses tell him about) and process them with a number of rational processes before he is said to be thinking, “Charlie is being eaten”.  The declarative is itself a rational process, but it is made up of “smaller” rational processes.

Indeed, by the nature of reality we know that a perfectly true thought has, associated with it, infinite rational processes, each of which constitutes the act of understanding one of the infinite parts of reality.  In this way, a perfect rational process must be made of multiple other perfect rational processes, each of which are made of others ad infinitum, thus forming an infinite, self-similar structure.  Of course, human thought, being only congruent to accurate thought, does not quite form this structure, but creates a congruent structure.

This model helps us to fix some of the awkward uses of language that have been made thus far:  Some may have found it strange to call “believing” an act beyond mere thinking.  We may, indeed, be tempted to suppose that believing cannot be an act of reason at all, for the verbs to think and to believe are often used interchangeably (e.g. “I believe you are correct” or “I think you are correct”).  And if believing is the same as thinking, then when Mr. Smith thinks, “Charlie is being eaten,” he is not performing any act beyond the act of thought itself, and therefore he is not performing an act of reason.  But there is also good reason to suppose that thinking and believing are not always the same thing, for it seems it is possible to think something without believing it.  The thought that Charlie is going to be okay may cross Mr. Smith’s mind without him believing it, for there is a difference between Mr. Smith thinking, “Charlie is well,” and him thinking that Charlie is well.  Hence, it may have been slightly inaccurate to say that Mr. Smith’s thought was the act of reason which was being discussed.  Perhaps instead, the act of reason is a different rational process in which Mr. Smith actually believes the aforementioned thought.  This rational process, however, is impossible to embody in words.  And so our language must be stretched when discussing acts of reason.

Perhaps we might say that the thought “Charlie is well” constitutes the act of believing only when it is believed.  This works the same with speech acts.  If an actor in a play says “I promise …” then he has not actually made a promise.  He only truly makes a promise if he says the words in conjunction with performing the normative act.  However, we still understand the words as being, themselves, the act of promising.  They are the manifestation or embodiment of the act, though the act does not necessarily occur upon their verbalisation, but cannot occur without it.  Likewise, Mr. Smith’s thought constitutes the act of believing if he believes the thought.  It is in his thinking “Charlie is well” that he believes it, though he can also think those words without believing them.

The Rational Process of Intention

The above argument was necessary in order to understand how intention is an act of reason.  We might say that Mr. Smith intends to do something when he thinks “I will save Charlie”.  However, some may not like this usage of language.  It seems that Mr. Smith is likely to never think the words “I will save Charlie,” but rather, will simply intend to do it.  Hence, intention is some abstract rational process which is hard to put into words.  Therefore, in order to determine the functional voice of intending, let us use the method arrived at earlier, but represent the rational processes of intending as a variable.  Suppose ‘A’ represents Mr. Smith’s intention to save Charlie.  The clause which describes the thought’s action might then be worded, “Mr. Smith intends A”.  Hence, Mr. Smith’s intention, A, is the direct object of an active clause, where Mr. Smith is performing an action, and therefore, intention is functionally active.  Hence, acts of volition are necessarily acts of reason.

The Volitive Nature of Emotion

In my post, “A Philosophy of Love,” I arrived at the conclusion that love is an act of volition.  I now wish to complicate this claim.  Indeed, not only is love an act of volition, but all emotion is a manifestation of the will.

The only reason a person feels any emotion at all is because he or she chooses to care about things.  If Mr. Smith hadn’t decided in advance to care about Charlie (to love the creature, in a sense) then he would have never been troubled by the fact that Charlie was being eaten.  Thus, Mr. Smith’s being troubled is an extension of his will to love.  This is why I began with a philosophy of love—all the other emotions are derived from love or the lack there of.  Hamlet feels grief because he first chose to feel love.

Some may find this notion absurd.  Surely, whether I like it or not, I will feel sorrow if, for example, my arm is chopped off.  However, it seems evident that my sorrow over the loss of a limb is only made possible by my original decision to value my limbs and the things I can do with them.  Inevitably, I will feel physical pain upon disarticulation, but any emotional pain is still a nonphysical act which takes place in a nonphysical realm, and must, therefore, be a willed act.  The fact that emotional pain felt over the loss of a limb is volitive only strikes us as strange because the decision to value one’s body parts comes so naturally.  It is like subscribing to a weekly news letter on the internet.  Whenever you sign up for anything, the option to subscribe to the news letter is almost always checked by default, and so it is easy to passively decide to subscribe.  (By the way, if you do not wish to be subscribed to this blog, click here.)  Likewise, it is natural to passively decide to feel certain emotions.

This gives us good insight into the inquiry raised earlier regarding the functional voice of the verb ‘to trouble’.  Recall that because the clause, “Mr. Smith is troubled by his thought,” is grammatically passive, his thought is functionally passive.  What has not been said hitherto is that functionally passive thoughts may still be understood as acts of reason; however, they are passive acts of reason.  Mr. Smith is passively deciding to be troubled.  (Realise that the above clause is grammatically passive in the context of the verb ‘to trouble,’ but it is grammatically active in the context of the verb phrase ‘to be troubled’.  That is, the act of troubling is being performed on Mr. Smith, but Mr. Smith himself is performing the act of being troubled.  In some languages—Latin, for example—there is a single verb that means ‘to be troubled’.)  This lets us differentiate between emotions that are actively willed and those which we passively decide to feel.  For example if we say, “Mr. Smith loves,” then he is actively conducting an act of reason because the clause is grammatically active, but if we say, “Mr. Smith is grieved,” then he is passively conducting an act of reason.  Hence Mr. Smith actively decides to love, but passively decides to be grieved as a result of that love.  Notice that we may say, “Mr. Smith is feeling grief,” and find that he is actively feeling grief, but he is nonetheless passively being grieved.  He has actively chosen to feel his grief by choosing to think about that which grieves him, but he as passively chosen to be grieved by such a thing.


And so, emotions, whether active or passive, are acts of reason.  To feel is to think, and to think is to feel.  Emotion is a form of reasoning; a complex construct of concrete thought.  This construct must be congruent to the fractal that is reality.  Hence in its theoretical form, an emotion is made up of infinite rational processes—though human emotion is only congruent to such a construct.  And so art, the discourse of emotion, is the discourse of infinite reason.  There is no need to temper emotion with reason or reason with emotion, because both are the same thing.  Emotions are fractal constructs of reason.

Therefore, just as good philosophy must rely on sound reasoning, so must good art rely on fractal constructs of sound reasoning, on sound feeling.  Just as we demand philosophy to be noncontradictory with itself, self-coherent in its reasoning, so must we demand that art be self coherent in its emotion.  Hence, those who say, “there is no right or wrong in art,” are wrong.  There is much philosophy to be written, but there is certainly also a right and a wrong in philosophy, and likewise, while there is much art to be created, there is also a right and a wrong in art.

Mr. Smith ended up saving Charlie and everything turned out okay … for now.

Was that an actively active act of reason?


It is most common, in the music compositional world, that upon meeting a new person and discovering some of his or her thoughts or attitudes about art, one quickly finds that he or she is the sort of person for whom music is an outward action possessing little more personal connection to the self than the physical appearance. I do not wish to overly condemn the use of the physical appearance as a means of communication.  Though I am utterly appalled at the modern, superficial obsession with the body and all things temporal, I do not object to, but, on the contrary, encourage, the use of the outward appearance as a means of conveying the inward, and therefore it is even appropriate that the physical appearance should, at times, be considered a part of the entity that we call a mortal human being. It should, however, never be forgotten that all this is merely the mortal expression or embodiment of an everlasting splendor.  That being the end for which we have the outward appearance, we must consider how one should ‘design’ such a faculty.

Consequentially, it seems to me quite clear that the physical appearance should be among the least important parts of the embodiment.  While the way one carries, dresses, or takes care of one’s self physically does say a small thing about him or her, it is, doubtlessly, among the most impersonal of his or her means of expression.  It is also, therefore, the most barbaric and inhuman.  Thus, to hold art in a similar fashion seems to me utterly absurd, and even irresponsible, considering that it is capable of so much more. Rather than holding it at such a distance, we should let it contain our very hearts in much the same way that our bodies contain them physically.  Not that it is our ultimate love, but that it is among the most intimate embodiments of ourselves. Art is not something that exists outside of us, that we may sit around drinking tea and making rhetorical comments about˚.  No, art is the embodiment of the human experience; it is something that we are all invited to become a part of.

The acceptance of that invitation is an act that requires great courage and sincerity.  It is no small task to become a part of the human experience, the mortal beginnings of the immortal body of Christ, but that is the very thing that art demands of us.  We are not to be observers but members of art.  There should be no human scope which exists outside of the scope of a work of art–art is to be real.

It is for this very reason that great courage and sacrifice is required of the artist additionally.  No man should call himself an artist who creates a mere bit of light entertainment.  Art is not merely entertainment, an “escape from reality,” but rather the fuller realization of reality–there is a big difference between craftsmanship and artistry.  The artist is demanded to exist and to allow his existence to beget his art–thus making the perfect imitation of God’s creation of us.  He should, in fact, feel as though he has lost a part of himself into the work he has created†.

Indeed, there is no act of greater intimacy with the soul than that of artistic creation.  It is the act of stripping the spirit free of its mortal clothing leaving behind nothing but bare, naked humanity–or so is its goal.  Just as every other act done on the face of the earth, the act of art is incomplete.  It is the striving for freedom from mortal limits, but those limits remain ever in place until the end of earthly living.  We have but ‘la cima del purgatorio’ to await, and then too shall our souls be free of the outward appearance.

This is why John Milton so classically describes angels as being free to put on whatever physical form they desire at any given moment.  It leaves the soul (or, equally, the will) entirely exposed, bound to no immutable appearance, but entirely expressed in its every quality.


˚ The irony is that I am writing this post about art and actually drinking tea throughout the entire process!  To be technical, the remark is more about the treatment of a work of art rather than of the subject of art in general.  Additionally, this point uses the notion of ‘the mockery,’ a concept about which I will likely post in the future (so tune in next time!).

† Art is much like the “tithing of the soul” in that it is an opportunity for the artist to give his soul back to God, to whom it belongs anyway (much like money), and in so doing display his absolute confidence that God will continue to provide.

Absolutely Postmodern

Oh dear, I really have to stop being so self amusing with my titles.

A note to the reader: good luck.

Most recently I got myself into a discussion, as I have a most curious way of doing, about the absoluteness or relativeness of aesthetics.  My friend and I got to discussing the effects of frame of reference on the understanding of a work of art.  We both agreed that it was possible for an artist to create something that is excellent in his own culture and “artistic language” and horrid in another.  Where my friend and I differed, or perhaps, ironically, where we were unable to properly resolve our misunderstanding, was on the conclusion that should arise from such an axiom.  The reality is that while a work of art is not absolute, what a work is about is.  I may have been less than clear about this in my discussion.

What makes a work of art excellent is not that it is universally understood in all frames of reference, no work is, but rather that what it means is absolutely good.  That is, if art is bound to language, then of course its quality is relative and temporal, but its content need not be.  If I were to write the sentence “God is good” on a sheet of paper and mail it to someone in China, I should not reasonably expect the recipient to have the faintest understanding of it, but that doesn’t mean that God is not Absolutely good, that He is good here in America but not in China, it simply means that most people in China don’t speak English.  This example might seem rather trivial, but it is, I believe, the very heart of the issue.

We live in an age where Indian music is just a click away, African dance can be seen on TV, and Hispanic cultures are flourishing in our own neighborhoods.  What used to be an incalculable expanse of mystery and wonder, the earth, is now a small collection of stimuli that can be accessed right from our living rooms (or at least it seems this way)†.  But the truth of the matter is that we no nothing about Islamic sacred art, though we often might think we do.  Just because people in Japan find things to be beautiful that we do not doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as beauty, but rather, as I’ve been telling you all along, that Virgil is a pagan.

Every tribe and nation has a language and an art, and within that art and language they can say lovely things and horrible things.  But the art itself is not the lovely thing or the horrible thing, it is merely a means of communicating that thing.  Good art tells the story of God in mortal words, bad art doesn’t; it’s that simple˚.  But no art is God.  We may call a butterfly ‘beautiful,’ but only a pagan would worship a butterfly; in reality, the butterfly is not beautiful, but is rather a reminder of that which is beautiful, that of which we all know deep within our hearts but are yet to see face to face.  Butterflies are like Virgil.

In the classical world, it was less practically important that this distinction be made, but today, society stands no hope without this understanding.  As the world continues to progress in its complete accessibility, we draw perceptibly nearer to the end of time, “La cima del purgatorio,” and it becomes necessary for humanity to choose between art and beauty, Virgil and Heaven.  The world has always been full of Pagans, but never has Paganism posed so great a threat to the heart of mankind as it does today.  In classical times, paganism was among the most useful tools for building the church–for causing the “Word to become flesh.”  This is why Dante’s guid is so important to Him.  God built the church by transposing, as Lewis calls it, his fractal truth into something that could be held in the mortal minds of humanity.  He used language and art, pagan faculties, to communicate that which is immortal.  But now we are coming to the point where those faculties have served their purpose and are no longer needed, where “the word of the Lord has reached every nation.”  Mind you, I do not wish to say we are quite there yet, nor do I wish to comment on how close the end of time is (though it has always been very close), I merely wish to point out that this is the direction in which we are moving.

Please do not misunderstand me, La cima del purgatorio is much more than an artistic movement, but like most things in the scope of reality, it plays itself out over and over again in all different ways and on all different levels.  In art, we are reaching La cima del purgatorio where the mountain that sits below us is a symbol of the work we have done to understand language.  We are now coming to the point where we no longer need to believe that a work of art is Absolutely good or bad, but rather that Beauty and Goodness are Absolute and art is but the mortal expression of those immortal, Divine characteristics.  Our model of aesthetics has reached a new level of purity.  This is what the purgatory analogy is all about: we humans work and work to refine our models, our relationships with God, and our very beings, for this is good for us to do, even with our knowledge that all our toil does not even begin to close the gap between us and Heaven (the doctrine of sanctification). But there soon comes a point where we no longer need to work and God reaches down through His son and carries us home.

Reality is fractal, that is why, while our older models are true within their own scopes (thanks to the complex), they can always be “refined.”  We are essentially stretching their scopes.  It’s as if I thought my family was out of orange juice and so I told someone that I was going to go to the store to get some, but when I looked in the fridge I realized that we had orange juice but were instead lacking milk and went to get that instead. If after returning from the store with milk a family member asks me if I had gone to the store yet or if we had orange juice now, I may report that both are true and create for them a function accurate model of the truth; however, that model may further be refined if I told them the whole story.  In this example, the whole story is a finite set of facts; in the case of reality, the whole story is fractal.  Therefore, part our purpose as humans, while were here this short while, is to continue to refine our models–not so they can encompass the “whole story,” they never will, but rather because it is simply Good, in an Absolute sense, for us to do this.  It is an exercise of our finite love for God.  After all, it is out of this finite stuff that He is going to make us infinitely refined beings in Heaven; it is our duty to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

If good is infinite, it should not surprise us that there would be infinite finite ways to worship Him.  If God is Absolute, it should not surprise us that there would be ways to not worship Him.


† This is a good example of why paganism must now die in a sense that it has not hitherto: the earth used to seem so beyond Human comprehension that one could get away with worshiping it or casting their worship of the true God onto the earth out of their ignorance of His name.  Now as the earth ‘shrinks,’ paganism begins to pose a new threat to humanity.

Art is trying to do the opposite, see “A Timeless Shakespeare”

˚ “There are two kinds of music: good music and bad music” -Louis Armstrong