Distributed cognition; the “They”; Geist; active intellect; transcendental ego; intelligibility; the One. These conceptions, though approached from different methodological and philosophical angles, constitute various conceptions of a something or group of somethings (a relation, a structure, a form, an entity, a substance, an idea, a spirit?), the neglect of which has brought us to the current crisis of meaning. By neglect I mean either a materialist denial of its existence, or a fundamental misunderstanding of its role and function in human life. The crisis manifests itself in myriad tangible ways in the West today: increases in substance abuse/suicide, increases in mental health disorders, politicized educational schemes, political violence, increasingly aggressive/reactionary public policy, erosion in institutional confidence…
In one way, this problem can be understood as a question of method. The methodological question must be asked because a sort of latent Jacobin tendency seems to be asserting itself all around us. There is a proliferation of groups that claim to know answers, yet one increasingly gets the impression that they are not even asking the right questions. The spirit of our age is a swirling cauldron of aggressive materialist forces battling over the objects of their various material desires. In the words of the late Fr. James V. Schall, we have a “politics of Heaven and Hell,” where my policy platform constitutes a moral imperative which, if passed into law, will bring us to the promised land. Whoever opposes it is by definition an evil person.
It seems that the mob disregards the role that the aforementioned immaterial forces play in fertilizing the soil of a healthy society, even while they are animated by the more pernicious forms of these forces. A new method, focused on the “spiritual” (if they can be so called) foundations of our malaise, might lead to a new set of questions and new ways of trying to answer them. For example, what are the foundations of intelligibility in art, literature, and politics? How does phronesis, the guiding spirit of practical life, come about? What kind of presuppositions are built into our language, and how do they inform our actions? Whence come the foundations that undergird the intellectual roots of science? of morals? Questions like these have the potential to be politically consequential.
In investigating questions like these, one will rarely, if ever, find apodictic answers. There is no algorithm for wisdom. In fact, I would argue that the public’s understanding of the scientific approach one finds in fields such as economics, political “science,” public policy, sociology, etc., is part of the problem. While these domains are all essential avenues for researching and understanding various problems that ail us, none of them are sufficiently metaphysical or foundational. They constitute different methodological approaches to their own parochial problems. That is, they do not encourage us all to speak the same language when confronting these problems. In the end, they are incapable of standing athwart the tidal wave of political disintegration that threatens the U.S. and the West in general.
I plan to explore this problem. This site constitutes a “notebook” of sorts; a place of collected thoughts on these problems and how people smarter than me have approached them. I do not intend for these thoughts to necessarily contribute to solutions or answers. In fact, it may be that this condition we are experiencing is an indelible feature of the human experience, amplified due to recent technological “advances.” At any rate, these essays are simply an outlet for me to make a bit more sense of these things rather than just jotting ideas down in the margins of whatever book I happen to be reading.
As for personal details, I am a former member of the U.S. military pursuing a PhD in politics at the Catholic University of America. I can be reached via the contact page for any inquiries. I am grateful and humbled by the fact that you are reading this. Thank you.