A conceptual thing

There is no such thing as “unaided human reason.”

Reason itself were not a machine. The thing itself cannot be sped up by artificial intelligence with quantum computers. This should be evident to anyone who has tried to think something through. There is human reason, but it requires concepts, which exist outside of us.

Time and space also do not exist, as most Neoplatonic philosophers were aware. This is because their parts don’t exist, and how does one construct something very big out of non-existent parts? There is nothing so materially wanting as “a moment” in time, “a location” in space: the one quickly invalidates the other. And yet they are.

Don’t take this lightly: brilliant men in Arabic, and Latin, wrestled with this. The pagan, technocratic Romans made fools of themselves trying to reduce space alone to just two practical dimensions. Alexandrian Greeks had already foreseen this would get them nowhere. Had they slide rules, they would have worn them all out.

The Alexandrians had better concepts (Euclid understood three dimensions). Even the Romans acknowledged this at times. Yet concepts are also made from non-existent parts, unavailable to the technocratic mind.

Nevertheless, as they were sometimes wise, philosophers in what we call the Dark Ages “moved on” from e.g. trying to co-ordinate a determinism that could explain themselves to themselves, from what they had not realized were horizon lines — another visible non-existent.

Or so I vaguely determined in my youth, when struggling with ancient commentaries on Aristotle. (Note the direction of this activity: I was determining, not being determined, by my time and location. The pagans had real problems with free will.)

It is a good mental exercise to try, by the projective imagination, to see the world as others see it. This frees one, in moments, from the tyranny of one’s own being. It is part of what made the Christian missionaries great anthropologists, from the first centuries: their attempt to grasp pagan ways of thinking, as part of the project to convert them. It involved showing others, used to being treated as subhuman, some unaccustomed respect — even the primitive tribal types, such as they were then meeting in Europe. (And in the course of that, coming to a better understanding, themselves.)

The technique proved incredibly successful, as we see today in places so diverse as Africa and China. We mastered how to translate our Christian concepts, through all the languages we encountered.

Missionaries could not start from facts, which their interlocutors had no reason to accept. The God Who Is Christ, for instance, was only a fact, observed locally and briefly, while He was biologically present; first one must conceive the historical possibility. One must find one’s way into “a vision of the thing,” for this precedes all facts.

Why is “scientific method” such a scandal? Everyone hypes it, nobody follows it. There can be no advance in understanding, scientific or of any other sort, without a prior metaphysical leap — as opposed to physical.

Let us revisit young Newton, home from Cambridge because of the plague. He is sitting in the orchard of Woolsthorpe Manor, where the apples are falling. I will not litigate the fact-checker’s question, of whether an apple fell directly on Newton’s head.

Probably not, however, for in order to learn from observation, he would have had to be watching, impartially. The point, or rather the line, was straight. The apples fell straight down. Everything was falling, unless something interfered, in straight lines towards the centre of the earth. … Aha, gravity!

Does gravity exist? This is a question like, does the Sun revolve around the Earth, or vice versa. Children are made to laugh at this today, but like me, they really don’t know. They replace one concept with another, and are taught to disparage the older one. Yet it took centuries upon centuries for anyone with the wit of a Copernicus, or a Newton, to entertain the possibility that ancient Alexandrians had been right about our planet — the same fussy Greeks that the children of pagan Rome had been taught to laugh at. … Har-har-har!

That “settled science” is a crock, I take for granted, as will anyone who knows anything at all about science, but it is not the issue here. Rather, that the world of concept is alive. It cannot be reached by the unaided reason. The brain itself had to be conceived, before all worlds.

A robot can be designed to pretend that it is Christian. But there will never be a robot who actually believes. And this is not because robots are by nature irreligious. It is because their concepts have to be installed. Whereas, for us, faith and reason are necessarily intertwined.

As sage Heraclitus said (in Diels fragment 40, I think), “Abundance of knowledge does not teach men to be wise.”

Only a man (a concept which counterfactually includes women) can become a Christian. It is a conceptual thing.