Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Common Sense

     “What is real?” is the supposedly confounding question of the Berkelian idealists. Many of them aren’t aware that it was asked long before they latched onto it. Nor did that original asker stay for an answer.

     Leaving the origin of the question to the side, the answer isn’t as difficult as those who pose it appear to believe. Samuel Johnson did it quite some time ago. Trouble is, the answer is tabulative, rather than intensive. It leaves the asker an opening: “Very well. What else is real?”

     To answer a question that begins “What is...” is to offer a definition. An intensive answer must follow a particular structure.

  • It first states a genus: a superset to which the set being defined is a subset.
  • It qualifies the members of the set being defined with a differentia: a characteristic possessed only by members of the defined set.

     That’s an intensive definition: a statement that allows any arbitrarily chosen item to be tested for membership in the defined set. The sole alternative is the nomination of specific items as members of the set, followed by the imperious closure thereof: “These and only these are members of the set being defined.” That’s the tabulative approach. It asserts a kind of personal authority over the set being defined: an authority others might choose to dispute or reject.

     Reality is intended to refer to the ultimate superset: the set that is not a subset of any larger set. Therefore, reality can have neither a genus nor a differentia, and so cannot be defined intensively. Philosophical inquiry is inside it, and cannot be stretched to enclose it.

     We experience reality sequentially, as a train of perceptions and events. We kick stones, bruise our feet, and rebound knowing that a real event, involving objects whose properties are not mere matters of opinion, has occurred. Sometimes we formulate theories about those events and objects that will later prove useful...or destructive.

     By corollary, each person’s experience of reality is unique. What Smith experiences today will vary, at some level of detail, from the experience of Jones. That doesn’t make Smith “right” and Jones “wrong.” It merely makes each man’s experience and the knowledge gained from it partial.

     When two persons are present at the same event, certain elements of their perceptions will be common: i.e., agreed upon, except in cases of hallucination and deliberate deceit. They may attempt to interpret the event differently, but the event itself will have fixed, known properties.

     This common sense of things is what the deceivers among us – they whose agendas are impeded by reality – perpetually strive to warp.

     Consider the following scene from the extraordinary movie 300:

     “It is not fear that grips him...only a heightened sense of things.” That heightened sense of what is real and imminent is what calls most urgently upon our special powers of apprehension and reason: First, to know what is; second, to reason out what must be done about it.

     When the alternatives have been reduced to survival or death, there can be no airy-fairy philosophizing about “what is real;” there can be only perception, reason, and unhesitating action.

     The events of the past few years have given rise to a common sense of things that includes the following elements:

  • There are malevolent forces abroad.
  • Some seek our enslavement; others intend our deaths.
  • Some have established beachheads among us, on our soil.
  • Some of the beachheads are situated within the halls of power.
  • Our media strive to shape our perception and understanding of those forces:
    • Their size,
    • Their power,
    • And their objectives.

     When a Muslim terrorist extinguishes eighty lives in a single incident such as the one in Nice, France, it’s extremely difficult for any organ to prevent the news from getting out. When a man with a rifle takes the lives of five police officers and wounds seven more, the media have a somewhat greater (though not absolute) degree of control. When a man we have foolishly entrusted with political authority uses his position and its prestige to further an unwholesome agenda, his media protectors (if he has any) will move heaven and earth to dress his actions in the garb of purity and civic virtue – and such is the power of the unholy alliance between the media and the political elite that they will often succeed in blatant contradiction of reality.

     But all success at warping the common sense is temporary, for word gets around. If nothing else, the simple accumulation of incidents with common elements on garish display will make the pattern impossible to gainsay.

     Since September 11, 2001, there have been nearly 29,000 terrorist attacks by Muslims. The conviction that Muslims cannot be permitted to mass their numbers among free peoples has become widespread and invincible. When Newt Gingrich proposes that those Muslims whose allegiance belongs to shari’a in exclusion of the Constitution should be deported, it resonates with the common sense among ordinary Americans.

     The Black Lives Matter “movement” is an organized campaign, well funded by the financiers of the Left, to disrupt the normal order of life in the United States. It has trashed two cities and taken the lives of five policemen. But it gains no ground with ordinary Americans, for it is their common sense that Negroes kill Caucasians far more often than the reverse. (Indeed, most Negro homicide victims are killed by other Negroes.)

     Despite extensive media protection and exculpation, Hillary Clinton’s protests of innocence in the Benghazi atrocity and the classified-email scandal are falling on deaf ears. The facts have become too widely known; the obfuscations and dissimulations have lost the power to cloud the issue or change the subject. That the Clintons are inherently dishonest and self-serving is now the common sense of Americans. If there are Americans who dissent, it would be the Clintons themselves.

     Developments of grave import have accumulated and accelerated. Tensions of several kinds have come to a head. Issues of survival or death – personal, social, and national – are now at the forefront of many millions of minds. The American public is moving toward exactly that “heightened sense of things” that permits no further evasions. Its common sense of where we are and the train of events that got us here will stand for no more stalling or deflection.

     If America is to survive and flourish once more, the common sense must lead us to a common sense: a common grasp of what may continue and what must be expunged; what may be tolerated and what must not; to whom one may listen in confidence and who must never, ever again be allowed to occupy any position of profit, trust, or power to persuade.



Tim Turner said...

Very well put, Fran. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think there is still time, brother? We have been approaching the falls for a very long time, and whether we go over them in a moment, or we went over them a moment ago, the one thing I know is that we don't have time. A hard rain is gonna fall.

Francis W. Porretto said...

If the axe has not yet fallen, there is still time. This isn't a case of a man having jumped from the top of the Empire State building, with no net beneath him and only five more floors left to fall.

People have more power than they normally realize. OF course, if things are allowed to get worse, more power and resolve will be required for a turnaround. There might well be a "point of no return" after which no turnaround is possible without Divine intervention. But as I believe in God, I'd still hold out hope even then.

The absence of hope is despair -- and despair is the one unforgivable sin.

Anonymous said...

In time or not.. Divine intervention will be needed to right the ship and then steer her on a true course once again. The collection of minds that shaped the foundation of these United States is to me on of the great unsung miracles of all time.

Anonymous said...

Last scene from On The Beach