Saturday 13 October 2018

First Principles

It should be self-evident that first principles can't be proved by logic or reason. They are deeper than that and consequently can only be known. If they are not known or denied or argued against, it is because the mind, for motives of its own, has cut itself loose from the moorings of truth. It has separated itself from reality and enclosed itself in illusion.

I am prompted in this thought by a questioner of my post on homosexuality who asks why can't we live and let live? Why can't homosexuals just lead their lives as they wish if it doesn't harm anyone else? An understanding of first principles should make the reason why quite clear but the point is that it does harm others if a society ratifies something which is against truth. That society has now cut itself off from the reality of God. It has rejected first principles and thereby put itself out of alignment with reality, and the consequence will be separation from the good and a descent into a downward spiral.  Disharmony and chaos will be the result and that will lead to eventual psychological breakdown. You might think I am exaggerating, and it is true this scenario will not happen overnight. But it will happen unless there is some kind of correction. You cannot swim against the tide for long without eventual exhaustion.

First principles are something about which we all should have an instinct. A culture that challenges first principles is one that is on the way down. It's a classic sign of decadence and has something in common with a jaded mind that seeks stimulation by breaking convention. The destruction of a society's forms and conventions, built in some sense on first principles, releases an energy that does indeed provide temporary stimulation but that energy is soon dissipated and you are left with nothing except an inevitable feeling of inertia and ennui that demands more stimulation to invigorate its faded sense of being. The downward spiral continues. The only solution is a restoration of first principles.

What are these principles? Funnily enough, they vary according to individual cultures. That is to say, they don't actually vary at all but the form they take does and focus might be on different aspects of the whole. That having been said, a primary requirement is acknowledgement of transcendental reality. This means an appreciation that this world is not sufficient in itself but is a creation. There is something behind it that is not directly perceptible by ordinary means, specifically thought and the senses, but is nonetheless the very basis of all things that are so perceptible.

Then there is the connected idea that human beings have within themselves the capacity to embrace higher levels of being, if they will. They are not just as they seem to be but destined for greater things. The recognition of this fact is very important because it means we do not just rest content with appearance but constantly aspire to see behind that and go beyond it. We do not rationalise our bad and wrong and sinful behaviour but know it to be an aberration which will hold us back from proper fulfilment.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about first principles is that goodness, beauty and truth are not constructed things, depending on an individual's preferences, but objective realities. Only if a culture acknowledges this will it seek to coordinate itself to the good, the beautiful and the true and discourage, or even outlaw, the expression of what goes against these things. We now have a sentimental attitude to freedom and self-expression believing, more or less, that anything goes, especially if it can be rationalised as art or justified as pushing the boundaries back a little more. A wiser society would know that many things will lead to its spiritual corruption and downfall if they are allowed to flourish unchecked. I would point to music as significant in this regard but one could include art of any description as well as sexual practice and even certain scientific pursuits. For that matter, even some forms of religion or what passes under that name.

It should be obvious that the contemporary world has almost completely lost contact with first principles. As it has expanded its idea of what human beings are in strictly material terms, it has abandoned any sense of a higher spiritual reality and the fact that men and women should be seen in that light. Not only are first principles denied, we actually believe that in so doing we are bravely forging ahead to a more enlightened world. Truly, the extent to which we are self-deceived is astonishing. The question is, why have we done this? Why have we rejected first principles? And the answer to that is we have become puffed up and proud, convinced of our own rectitude and wisdom. It is a kind of hubris and the ancient Greeks knew very well where that led.

First principles are not up for debate. They are fundamental to the well-being of any culture. They entail a recognition of God or the gods, and the understanding that this world has a proper pattern which should be adhered to if we would live in harmony with it and ourselves. The contemporary severance from first principles is unparalleled in history and will result in ever greater alienation and societal breakdown as human psychology buckles and perhaps even breaks under the strain of living in a world divorced from truth.

To relate the theme of this essay with the theme of this blog I would say there is no chance of Albion awakening until it rediscovers first principles. Something along the line of The Elizabethan World Picture would be a start even if that should be updated a bit to conform to contemporary consciousness which, although largely disconnected from truth as things currently stand, still has its own contribution to make when brought back into alignment with first principles.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Good stuff.

"why can't we live and let live?" - that is a legitimate question - but its context is that humans cannot, or at any rate do not *ever*, 'live and let live' - least of all the people that use this argument.

On the contrary, according to the government and media and all major institutions we are Not Allowed to live, express (or even think) many non-politically-correct ideas. How can people not see this everyday reality - which has been established since the middle 1960s and is getting more extreme with every passing month?

I know of so many, Many, MANY examples of this from my personal experience that I would not even begin to attempt to 'prove' it - it would be like trying to convince a doubter that the sun rises in the East.

In this world we actually live in, with teh actual people who live in it; those who argue that we should live and let live are either being ignorant, foolish or dishonest - and therefore such people will always fail to live by this principle; will apply it selectively to favour themselves.

At any rate, all the evidence is that humans *cannot* live and let live, nor do they want to live and let live, and whatever the reason it means that our choice is either to live by First Principles (as best we can), or against them. We cannot be agnostic about such matters - and to be (pretend to be) agnostic is actually to have-decided that there are No first principles.

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Bruce. Live and let live is right and proper - up to a point. If it conflicts with what is true then it is clearly destructive on a spiritual plane even if that is not immediately apparent on the material level. And often it's just an excuse to do what you want so is a dishonest argument.