After "Face of God" and this fine effort, I'm a confirmed Scrutin fan. In "Soul", Scruton continues his analysis of what it means to be human as opposed to atoms, cells, chemicals and adaptive evolutionary programming.
"I know that I am a single and unified subject of experience. This present thought, this pain, this hope, and this memory are features of one thing, and that thing is what I am. I know this on no basis, without having to carry out any kind of check, and indeed, without the use of criteria of any kind -- this is what is (or ought to be) meant by the term "transcendental". The unity of the self-conscious subject is not the conclusion of any inquiry, but the presupposition of all inquiries. the unity of consciousness "transcends" all argument since it is the premise without which argument makes no sense."The paragraph is a bit longer than "I think therefore I am", yet I see it as gaining commensurate meaning from that added length.
As humans, "we" have to start somewhere, meaning we have to find some way to postulate that we actually exist from "nowhere". If we sit quietly, focus on only "our" breathing, watching our breaths happen on their own, our thoughts come and be acknowledged/dismissed as "we" return to watching our breath, our emotions pass through us as we acknowledge them and gently return to calm attention on our breath, the question arises as to "what or who" is doing the watching?
We will discover as millions have discovered throughout history (and millions more have not), that "I", is not our physical body, not our thoughts, and not our emotions. We each "have" all those things, but we, ARE something else. Another version of this realization is covered in an Atlantic article that I reviewed not long ago. Reality IS experience.
So if what we experience IS all there is, then how might we think about that?
"There is a culture of long-term thought and abstract conception, represented by Moses; and a culture of short-term pleasure and easy communication represented by Aaron. The first points to the transcendental ground of being; the second reduces beings to idols.:In this section of the book, Scruton uses music as the example of how to know the difference. I believe however that this quote goes a long way toward the heart of the matter:
"... the difference is between preventing silence, and letting silence speak. Music in the listening culture is a voice that rises out of silence, and which uses silence as a painter uses the canvas ..."Scruton is seeking to capture "the ghost in the machine" of physical creation, as many lovers and believers have before him. (and what are true lovers but believers?) I think we all understand that if we step back and let the silence speak, it DOES speak -- which is why the forces of Aaron work incessantly to make certain we never stop and listen!
"In music as in sex and architecture, the relation between subjects can be uprooted and replaced by an arrangement of objects. And in a hundred ways the result of this is is a culture of idolatry in which freedom and personality are obliterated by intrusive images, clamoring for an addictive response.""We are spirits living in the material world" (as "The Police" once put it). Much of modern man's time is spent trying to anesthetize that knowledge via clicks, games, music, drugs, media, work, relationships, ANYTHING!
"The Fall did not occur at a particular moment in time; it is a permanent feature of the human condition. We stand poised between freedom and mechanism, subject and object, end and means, beauty and ugliness, sanctity and desecration. And these distinctions derive from the same ultimate fact, which is that we can live in openness to others, accounting for our actions and demanding an accounting for theirs, or alternatively close ourselves off from others, learn to look on them as objects, so as to retreat from the order of the covenant to the order of nature."
Why is it critical for the left to cover their ears and scream "safe space! Nah, nah, nah, nah"? Because in a fallen world, even a fig leaf is imagined to provide "covering" of the nakedness of corrupted nature denying it's soul. The unbeliever MUST deny their soul, the pain of it's corruption is unspeakable, so they can ONLY "cover", never account for their fallen state until they accept redemption.
For the lover and the believer, the idea of hiding our true face and soul from others, especially those we love, is painful in the extreme. Many of us must do this in order to maintain any relation at all with family, to hold our jobs, or to interact socially.
The question "Why"? is addressed from I to you. It is thrust upon us in those moments in extremis when the order of creation irrupts around us. It is then that we cry out to God -- who will tell us why we suffer, why we live, and why we die. Within the envelope of nature there are only causes. But for the eye of faith the envelope has a telos, a reason for being as it is. And to have faith is to believe that the worlds teleology will account for my afflictions too."Irrupts" -- to enter forcibly or suddenly.
In this week before inauguration day 2017, the year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I stand in awe of the power of God and of Satan. My sense is that "The Fall" was the "reification" of the spiritual perfection of creation. "Reify" is a dangerous word which I believe holds a paradox within itself. The literal meaning of the word is "to make something abstract more "real" as in "understandable" ".
Since I believe that what we see as "reality" through our fallen senses is what scientists might call a "quantum flux" and God calls "spirit and truth", the act of "reification" is the act of making MORE FALSE -- making something seem to be more physical, or "quantified", "measured", "real".
In my world view, mathematics is closer to "truth" than engineering (applied physics). Reification as it is commonly used is actually "making a graven image" from a spiritual perspective.
Scruton has helped me immensely in trying to "un-reify" my world ... as in "sanctify", or "recover the spirit".
HIGHLY recommended to those who seek to recover the spirit.