The Philosopher Millennial

Monday, March 21, AD 2016

Justin Bieber Church Christian Taco Bell Millennial Philosopher

Update Below

“You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.

If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco.”

– Justin Bieber

This is probably the quote of the year, from a Millennial no less.

(Hat Tip: Taylor Marshall at Maccabee Society)

Update: A few developments that have come up through reliable sources:

  1.  Justin Bieber does attend both Sunday service and Wednesday night Bible study weekly.
  2.  This may be an old Protestant meme with no relation to Justin Bieber.
  3.  If the graphics on the pic above are correct, I recognize the CNN Headline News logo and it may well be anti-Christian propaganda.
  4.  For the record, I do not dislike Justin Bieber, I just found the quote quite funny, but with these recent developments, please keep in mind that this could be another smear against professed Christians.
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17 Responses to The Philosopher Millennial

  • Justin Bieber, a Canadian migrant doing a job Americans just won’t do.

  • Meet the new press secretary for Pope Francis!

  • …wait a minute.
    Wasn’t it Justin Bieber who said?; “A mind is a terrible thing.”

    Mr. Bieber is one taco shy of a combo platter.

  • Justin Bieber is typical of today’s generation. There are intelligent, rational engineers in their late 20s or early 30s with whom I work who would say exactly what he said. This is the fruit of godless liberal progressive Academia.

  • Some day he might also be saying with the same authoritative voice, “If you go to Hell, that doesn’t make you a bad person”

  • O tempora o mores!

  • Deport him to Canada for gross stupidly!

  • Whoa! JB future Vatican star, you are so wrong with your food magisterium. Indeed, you are what you eat-so-enough tacos and you become a taco-just look around at so many on such a diet and you see immediately this is gospel truth. There are walking human Dunkin Donuts and living Whoppers. Same same-eat His flesh, drink His blood and become incorporated into the biggest fan club of all time-the MBOC. Mystical Body Of Christ. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • Taking Tito Edwards’ title a step further, I find it fascinating to [attempt to] discuss history, politics and economics with millennial philosophers. Some are surprisingly thoughtful, and appear to realize, “Yeah, that’s right.” (i.e., about capital drives all economics, you cant increase pay if you don’t increase productivity, that communism has been the greatest murderer in history with greatest living murderers still around us like Fidel & Raul, and the little fat man in Pyongyang, or historically, the sociopath named Lenin, the goon named Stalin (they don’t know he started as a bank-robber in Pt. Baku), nor the late round-faced god with his little red book that murdered upwards of 40 MILLION.

    Mind you, most of these people bring up the questions to me in the course of my work—I don’t volunteer or practice “solemn-nonsense proselytism.” Heaven forbid.
    ….
    But with many others, you reach a THC-addled, drug-fused wall (at least out here in CA) melted into a dense mantle of 12 years of ecological Leninism. Hard to penetrate. This is the stronghold of the Bernie supporters—emotion welcome, reason an enemy, rage a virtue. One person got terribly red in the face and positively outraged as I ticked off the evidence once—he asked me now—that global-warming aka climate-change was a fraud. His mother and his religion had been insulted.
    ….
    That young man is now teaching in the public elementary schools in Madison, WI. PIty the poor children. In another decade, all the more, pity us.

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  • He’s just paraphrasing a guy born in the 60s.
    .
    The 1860s.
    .
    “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”
    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/27312-going-to-church-doesn-t-make-you-a-christian-any-more

  • Steve Phoenix-
    the kids are unlikely to be any worse than the guy you talked to; he’s just copying the 60s era teachers that he had, who were most likely the only ones who acted like it was good for him to share the same views.
    Those of us who did not and do not agree with those teachers learned to shut up about it, unless it’s really worth arguing.
    The guys on the opposite side will abuse you, and the guys who in theory agree with you tend to be nasty because you haven’t been on their side since before you were born. The philosophical evangelism on the right sucks. Some of us will agree anyways, because it’s right, but we’re sure as heck not going to speak up on the subject even when politely possible unless we think it’s important enough to risk the scolds.

  • Foxfire, Billy Sunday was a Protestant – a Protester against the Church in which He refused to believe. To be a Christian is to be baptized into the visible Church, the Body of Christ. How ironic that a man whose surname was Sunday could not understand this.

  • A guy that i once knew well, when we were discussing going to Church on Sunday, came out with that statement, claiming he was a “good” Presbyterian, but didn’t need to go the Church..

    A couple of years later, he started an affair with his best friend’s wife, which I think is ongoing.

    I guess he thinks being a good christian is “by sharing the lerv”- in a manner of speaking. 😉

  • LQC-
    I rather guessed. Just was *sure* I’d heard that “going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to (place) makes you a (think usually found in that place)” line before. I was betting it was from the 60s, since it sounded like a usual hippy-dippy philosophy.
    I was only off by something like half a century……

  • @Don the Kiwi.

    The guy you once knew is everywhere these days. Clones? Maybe, but I’m sure it’s the taco sauce. Cheeky bastards.

  • I’ve heard the sort of remark attributed to pop-idol Bieber before from Protestants, especially ones who despise those they call “Churchians”. (I remind these separated brethren that Jesus did not leave us a book, he left us a Church–one that He promised the Gates of Hell cannot prevail against. I borrowed that from Steve Ray. It really messes with sola scriptura heads.)

Information and Metaphysical Conclusions

Tuesday, August 30, AD 2011

I was struck by Kyle’s post on Friday “Abortion, Rational Decision-Making, and Informed Consent“, but it took me a while thinking it over to come to an explanation of exactly what I find wrong about it. Kyle is addressing the issue of “informed consent” laws which require a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of her baby or read an explanation of fetal development at the stage of pregnancy her child is at. He is concerned, however, that such laws miss the real moral point:

Catarina Dutilh Novaes explains her worry about some new laws requiring physicians to show a woman an ultrasound of the fetus and describe its status, organs and present activity before performing an abortion. She writes: “It does not take a lot of brain power to realize that what is construed here as ‘informed decision’ is in fact yet another maneuver to prevent abortions from taking place by ‘anthropomorphizing’ the fetus” and “it is of striking cruelty to submit a woman to this additional layer of emotional charge at such a difficult moment.” She’s right, I suspect, about the underlying motivation behind the laws and the suffering their practice would impose. If the legislators and activists pushing these laws recognize the suffering they may inflict, they clearly see it as justified, weighing, as they do, the vital status of the nascent life as greater than the emotional status of the expectant mother.

There’s something to this. The information the physician is legally required to communicate by these new laws informs in a very limited way: it doesn’t provide evidence of personhood or a right to life or any such metaphysical or moral reality. The sight and description of the fetus may give the appearance of a human life worthy of respect, but, as pro-lifers note, appearance is not indicative of moral worth. An embryo doesn’t look like a human being, but that appearance doesn’t signify anything moral or metaphysical about it.

The woman, for having this information, is not in any better position to make a rational, ethical decision. It may cause her to “see” the nascent life as human, but it doesn’t offer her a rational basis for such a perception. Her consent is no more informed after seeing and hearing the physical status of the life within her, and so these new “informed consent” laws don’t achieve what they are supposedly designed to do.

There are places conducive to informing people about the nascent life’s stages of development and about what exactly, scientifically speaking, abortion does to that life. A high school health class, for example. There, the scientific information about the unborn life and abortion can be more thoroughly considered, and once fully understood, serve in other settings as a reference point for metaphysical and moral considerations. Consent to abortion should be informed, but the information these new laws require to be communicated does not on its own result in informed consent or provide an additional basis for a rational, ethical decision. Why? Because, by itself, appearance is not ethically relevant and can also be misleading.

Now on the basic point, I agree with Kyle: appearance is not moral worth. A person is not worthy of human dignity simply because someone looks at him or her and sees similarity. To say that would be to suggest the converse: that when someone looks at another and sees simply “other” he is justified in not treating that person with human dignity. For instance, one could imagine (though I think it is the far less likely option) a situation in which a woman is leaning against abortion because she thinks that the child inside her will look “just like a baby”, she sees a fuzzy ultrasound of something that still looks like a tadpole on an umbilical cord, and she thinks, “Oh, that’s all? It must not be a baby yet. I’ll abort.”  Clearly, in this case, the information would have led to the wrong conclusion.  An appearance of similarity or dissimilarity does not a person make.

At the same time, the suggestion that informed consent laws are a bad idea just rubs me the wrong way, not just from a pragmatic point of view but from a moral one, and when I have this kind of conflict between instinct and reason, I tend to poke at the issue until I come up with a reason why it is that the apparently reasonable explanation seems wrong to me.

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25 Responses to Information and Metaphysical Conclusions

  • Possibly part of your gut-level response is because of the baked-in assumption that the ultrasound/description laws are happening in a vacuum?

    The main reason I know that folks push for these laws is because women are lied to about what the fetal human is. Did my daughter’s ultrasound look like her six or so months later, at birth? Goodness, no, although the little footprint on the screen was adorable, as was the way she kept “blocking” the “camera” with her hand. The important thing is that she was clearly not a ‘mass of tissue’ and very much alive.

    Even pro-aborts tend to try to deny that a fetus is alive, rather than denying that the unborn are human. Seeing the kid move around really blows that out of the water. (Another form is to try to shift attention to the newly formed embryo, to distract from the way that most abortions do not involve humans before the woman even realizes she’s pregnant.)

  • I have not come across any pro-aborts that argue the fetus is not alive (if it’s not alive, why would it have to be aborted?). In fact, I have come across those who argue that even if it is a person, the rights of the mother (amorphous as they are) trump the right of the fetus to life.

  • Oh I have come across plenty of pro-aborts who still use the phrase “clump of cells”. In any case these laws are not directed towards pro-abort activists but women contemplating abortion. Truthful information about fetal development, including seeing an ultrasound of her child, would I think have an impact on more than a few of these women. Of course this is why pro-aborts like Catarina Dutilh Novaes fight these laws tooth and claw. I trust that I am not the only one who found her use of the term anthropomorphizing ( attributing human characteristics) in reference to a human child to be absolutely hilarious.

  • In the end, no piece of information is in and of itself evidence of personhood. And yet, it is through these incomplete clues, these pieces of information which do not themselves indicate personhood, that we know that anyone at all is a person — indeed, that anyone at all exists.

    I agree with you here, Darwin, but I maintain the that contemporary ambiguity about the unborn matters for mandating “informed consent.” In the case of identifying the banana, there’s more or less complete agreement about the fruit’s defining observable features. With the unborn and personhood itself, the situation is different. Here we see fundamental disagreement about the observable, defining features of personhood, especially with respect to the unborn. It’s likely that an ultrasound will “anthropomorphize” the fetus for those who view it, but the opposite reaction is also possible, if rare, and made more likely given the contemporary ambiguity.

    I’m all for ultrasounds before abortions being available and encouraged, and even publicly funded, but because they don’t necessarily achieve “informed consent,” could potentially achieve the opposite, and because they can inflict psychological suffering (upon someone who’s already psychologically suffering), I’d rather not see them enforced by law with no exemptions.

  • C Matt– because the “fertilized egg” is “a potential life;” “removing” the “clump of cells” is the same as not having sex in the first place….

  • Kyle,

    I agree with you here, Darwin, but I maintain the that contemporary ambiguity about the unborn matters for mandating “informed consent.” In the case of identifying the banana, there’s more or less complete agreement about the fruit’s defining observable features. With the unborn and personhood itself, the situation is different. Here we see fundamental disagreement about the observable, defining features of personhood, especially with respect to the unborn. It’s likely that an ultrasound will “anthropomorphize” the fetus for those who view it, but the opposite reaction is also possible, if rare, and made more likely given the contemporary ambiguity.

    I guess I’m having trouble following your line of reasoning here.

    I do agree that there is much disagreement in our society about what attributes point towards personhood, but if anything that seems like more of a reason to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” Sure, there will be the Peter Singers of the world who insist that it’s okay to “abort” up to a year or two post partum, but my hope is that when people are forced to confront the person they want to kill, they are more likely than not to change their minds.

    At first, I had taken you to be saying that it was inappropriate to require a mother to view an ultrasound before aborting because the appearance of her child was not direct evidence of his/her metaphysical nature.

    It sounds like we’re in agreement that the evidence of the senses are as much evidence as we ever get, and so while this may not result in perfectly “informed consent” it is as good a piece of evidence as any.

    Are you saying that we shouldn’t require the viewing of evidence unless we could be absolutely sure that everyone would be convinced?

  • Are you saying that we shouldn’t require the viewing of evidence unless we could be absolutely sure that everyone would be convinced?

    Not exactly. Raw data has to be interpreted and set within a framework for it to function of evidence of something. Evidence points beyond itself to come conclusion. The problem with ultrasound images here is that they don’t necessarily function as evidence because of our cultural ambiguity of what constitutes personhood. All you’re doing is showing raw date, so to speak, and not establishing the link between it and personhood that would make the imagery evidential.

  • I have to admire your patience, Darwin.

  • Substance and accidents.

  • People are understood–their worth, meaning, purpose–by way of Story. Apart from the scriptural narrative, the Christian concept of personhood would simply be nonexistent. There is no other way to ascribe to people their true identity. It’s the Story that gives us that understanding. I’ve realized for a while now that natural law, reason, and philosphy in general cannot do it. Only within the context of the Creation and God’s plan do we take on the importance we do. Only within that context do we have a script that must be followed. Faith in revelation. That’s all we have.

  • Brett,

    Yes. Anything that someone working from post-enlightenment principles calls “data” or “information” is necessarily going to be an accident. And yet, clearly to the extent that we know about substance (and I believe that we do, and I think that under his post-modern facade Kyle does at heart as well) we know it via the working of our reason on the sense experiences we have of accidents — combined with our inborn knowledge of creation.

  • Kyle,

    Not exactly. Raw data has to be interpreted and set within a framework for it to function of evidence of something. Evidence points beyond itself to come conclusion. The problem with ultrasound images here is that they don’t necessarily function as evidence because of our cultural ambiguity of what constitutes personhood. All you’re doing is showing raw date, so to speak, and not establishing the link between it and personhood that would make the imagery evidential.

    I’m not sure that your distinction between raw data and evidence holds up here.

    Unless you’re taking it that an expectant mother has no agency, if she is shown raw data, it will become evidence through her perception of it. Simply by viewing the ultrasound she will take it as evidence of something.

    Now, to be sure we cannot say with certainty what she will take it as evidence of. She might take it as evidence that it’s okay to go ahead and have an abortion, though given the concerns of the pro-abort writer you quote I think that by far the less likely of the alternatives. But at the same time, even something far more formed than “raw data” such at the ultrasound might not have the desired effect. No matter how fully formed, how reasoned, any communication is but “raw data” to the perceive, subject to interpretation in ways not desired by the one who communicates. The most compassionate pro-life woman in the world, one who had herself once had an abortion and lived to regret it, might tell her story to a woman considering abortion and end up having exactly the opposite of the effect she hoped for. We simply cannot control how others interpret what we say or what we show them. We cannot control how they turn the raw data of our communications to them, perceived through their sense, into evidence withing their own minds.

    If you find this to be an argument against ultrasounds, it is an argument against any form of communication to anyone about anything.

  • If you find this to be an argument against ultrasounds, it is an argument against any form of communication to anyone about anything.

    Except my argument isn’t against ultrasounds, but against legally requiring them with no exemptions given circumstances of heightened ambiguity and strong potential for suffering. You are right that we can’t control how people will interpret data such as ultrasound images, and this impossibility of control is a reason not to attempt such control through, say, legally required ultrasounds.

  • Except my argument isn’t against ultrasounds, but against legally requiring them with no exemptions given circumstances of heightened ambiguity and strong potential for suffering. You are right that we can’t control how people will interpret data such as ultrasound images, and this impossibility of control is a reason not to attempt such control through, say, legally required ultrasounds.

    We can’t control how a jury interprets data which might clear an innocent man accused of a capital crime either — but I would find it quite wrong to conceal the evidence as a result lest it make them feel uncomfortable for a while, or out of some odd epistemological scrupulosity.

  • [I’m re-posting this response to a comment from Kyle over on my own blog, since it keeps all the conversation in one place and I think it sums things up nicely.]

    Your first three points:
    because they don’t necessarily achieve “informed consent,” could potentially achieve the opposite, potentially give the implication that looking human means being human,
    strike me as very weak, because given a post-enlightenment (much less post-modern) understanding of sensation versus understanding this would essentially be an argument against every communicating anything to anyone even in the attempt to save an innocent person from suffering or death. (For instance, one could use the same argument to suggest concealing evidence that might keep an innocent person from being convicted of a capital crime: evidence is never unambiguous, it might be taken wrong by the jury, and it might give the mistaken impression that if this one piece of evidence were not convincing, then the accused was certainly guilty.)

    Thus, I can’t help thinking that it is your last concern that is in fact the primary concern here: because they can inflict psychological suffering (upon someone who’s already psychologically suffering)

    This would fit both with your laudable capacity for empathy and with the quoted piece which serves as your jumping-off point in the post. It also underlines a weakness which I think we would agree it is important for pro-lifers to avoid: that of acting as if the only person worth worrying about is the unborn child and ignoring the concerns of the mother.

    At the same time, it seems to me that in this case you’re applying a post-abortive mentality to the point in time before an abortion has occurred.

    Yes, a woman on the verge of having an abortion may well be suffering psychological pain, and showing her an ultrasound which makes more clear the gravity of what she is considering may make that pain more severe, but it seems to me that this needs to be weighed against that fact that at this point the pain which is realization may have the effect of helping her avoid the greater, longer pain and guilt of having caused the death of her child.

    God does not want us to suffer, and yet there are experiences which bring to us, naturally, suffering. When you put your hand on a hot stove burner, you feel pain because your body is trying to tell your brain, “Stop doing this!” When we experience pain as we do or prepare to do some evil action, this is a way in which all of nature attempts to scream out at us — to stop us before we are forever someone who has done what we are about to do.

    I was struck by this strongly recently reading Bloodlands. There’s a passage that quotes a letter that an Austrian policeman, sent to Belarus with the occupation forces in 1941, wrote home to his wife:
    “During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hoards would treat just the same, if not worse.” [I’m not going to quote the rest — I don’t want to give readers nightmares. This is from page 205.]

    You can hear there, in that long dead person’s voice, the suffering. And then he overcomes the suffering, and you feel the icy touch of damnation setting in.

    If I could, by some means, reach back and require some extra moment of looking on his potential victims, some greater suffering, such that he would not fire those ten shots and acquire that familiarity — become the person who had done those acts — I would. Suffering of that kind, to that end, is the suffering of light breaking through darkness — the suffering that saves us from ourselves.

    It is a false compassion to help people hide from themselves the horror of an act they may quickly do, and spend the rest of their lives regretting.

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  • Well said, Darwin.

  • Abortion can only be seen as wrong from the perspective that God is the Creator, that he has a plan for each and every one of us. That he is the giver of life and that that life is a gift to be cherished, not discarded. How can one express this to an unbeliever? I argue strongly that it cannot. One must believe it. One must have faith in God and the revelation given through Scripture. All philosophic defense and cultural sentiment has always rested on this. Apart from Christianity there is simply no defensible argument against abortion in our culture.

  • Reason is simply how people think at a particular time, and philosophy is formal thought based upon what people are then thinking. Yes, we are our own worst enemies. We must be saved from ourselves. Salvation comes to us from without. Otherwise we self-destruct. Our culture is reverting to paganism, to un-enlightenment, to the barbaric practices of the past. Nothing at all novel.

  • Correction–the Greeks began a sense of ‘natural law’ and this continued and became incorporated into Christianity. But the kind of natural law we have in mind that recognizes sacred life rests upon Christianity. It’s Christianity that transformed the thinking. Natural law would not have developed in that direction on its own and is insufficient by itself.

  • “During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hoards would treat just the same, if not worse.”[I’m not going to quote the rest — I don’t want to give readers nightmares. This is from page 205.]

    “You can hear there, in that long dead person’s voice, the suffering. And then he overcomes the suffering, and you feel the icy touch of damnation setting in.

    If I could, by some means, reach back and require some extra moment of looking on his potential victims, some greater suffering, such that he would not fire those ten shots and acquire that familiarity — become the person who had done those acts — I would. Suffering of that kind, to that end, is the suffering of light breaking through darkness — the suffering that saves us from ourselves.

    It is a false compassion to help people hide from themselves the horror of an act they may quickly do, and spend the rest of their lives regretting.”

    Amen Darwin.

  • Well said Darwin.

  • We can’t control how a jury interprets data which might clear an innocent man accused of a capital crime either — but I would find it quite wrong to conceal the evidence as a result lest it make them feel uncomfortable for a while, or out of some odd epistemological scrupulosity.

    So would I. However, the aim of the trial is not to control how the jury interprets the data, but to persuade them to accept the better of two interpretations (the prosecutor’s and the defendant’s). And, as far as my argument is concerned, I’m not suggesting that anything be concealed or hidden.

  • It is a false compassion to help people hide from themselves the horror of an act they may quickly do, and spend the rest of their lives regretting.

    Yes. As others have said, well said. But does it apply to my argument? I think not. I’m not for helping people hide from themselves the horror of an act: I think the ultrasounds in question ought to be available and encouraged, though I question whether they reveal the horror of abortion.

  • However, the aim of the trial is not to control how the jury interprets the data, but to persuade them to accept the better of two interpretations (the prosecutor’s and the defendant’s). And, as far as my argument is concerned, I’m not suggesting that anything be concealed or hidden.

    The problem is, we’re dealing with a peculiar trail in which only the prosecution is allowed to make its case — the defense has been excluded. The only way we can attempt to get any information through to the jury at all is by legally requiring the prosecutor to provide certain types of information — however half-heartedly we may be sure that he will do it.

    You, I know, do not desire anything to be concealed or hidden. But let’s face it — if abortion providers are not required to show an ultrasound, almost none will ever be shown. And one thing we seem to be in agreement on is that the showing of an ultrasound will serve as a disincentive to abortion more often than not.

    If we don’t require it, it will be concealed.

    But does it apply to my argument? I think not. I’m not for helping people hide from themselves the horror of an act: I think the ultrasounds in question ought to be available and encouraged, though I question whether they reveal the horror of abortion.

    Whether they “reveal” the horror of abortion has to do with how the viewer reacts, we have no idea what will happen there. In the case of the Austrian policeman, even the visual and tactile sensation of shooting infants failed, in the end, to get through to him the horror of what he was doing — we can certainly not be sure that a fuzzy and badly done ultrasound will.

    However, if the sensation of viewing an ultrasound fails to inspire in the viewer a feeling of the horror of abortion, then there is no psychological suffering — your reason for objecting disappears. If suffering is caused, it’s because the ultrasound is conveying the information we want it to, however imperfectly.

Trolley Madness

Friday, July 1, AD 2011

At last, I have come across the Trolley Problem which truly gets at the difficulties of modern life.

On Twin Earth, a brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley. There are only two options that the brain can take: the right side of the fork in the track or the left side of the fork. There is no way in sight of derailing or stopping the trolley and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows trolleys. The brain is causally hooked up to the trolley such that the brain can determine the course which the trolley will take.

On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If the railman on the right lives, he will go on to kill five men for the sake of killing them, but in doing so will inadvertently save the lives of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a bridge that the orphans’ bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans that will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant who would make good utilitarian men do bad things. Another of the orphans would grow up to become G.E.M. Anscombe, while a third would invent the pop-top can.

If the brain in the vat chooses the left side of the track, the trolley will definitely hit and kill a railman on the left side of the track, ‘Leftie,’ and will hit and destroy ten beating hearts on the track that could (and would) have been transplanted into ten patients in the local hospital that will die without donor hearts. These are the only hearts available, and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows hearts. If the railman on the left side of the track lives, he too will kill five men, in fact the same five that the railman on the right would kill. However, ‘Leftie’ will kill the five as an unintended consequence of saving ten men: he will inadvertently kill the five men rushing the ten hearts to the local hospital for transplantation. A further result of ‘Leftie’s’ act would be that the busload of orphans will be spared. Among the five men killed by ‘Leftie’ are both the man responsible for putting the brain at the controls of the trolley, and the author of this example. If the ten hearts and ‘Leftie’ are killed by the trolley, the ten prospective heart-transplant patients will die and their kidneys will be used to save the lives of twenty kidney-transplant patients, one of whom will grow up to cure cancer, and one of whom will grow up to be Hitler. There are other kidneys and dialysis machines available; however, the brain does not know kidneys, and this is not a factor.

Assume that the brain’s choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve as an example to other brains-in-vats and so the effects of his decision will be amplified. Also assume that if the brain chooses the right side of the fork, an unjust war free of war crimes will ensue, while if the brain chooses the left fork, a just war fraught with war crimes will result. Furthermore, there is an intermittently active Cartesian demon deceiving the brain in such a manner that the brain is never sure if it is being deceived.

What should the brain do?

Excerpted from:
– Michael F. Patton Jr., “Tissues in the Profession: Can Bad Men Make Good Brains Do Bad Things?”, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, January 1988

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10 Responses to Trolley Madness

  • “Imagine you can only make one of two choices, and they’re both bad, and really complicated, and have some good come of them. What do you do?”

    “I call up Spiderman.”

  • (Can you tell I really hate these sort of philosophy questions?)

  • Indeed. I really loath the “thought experiment” approach to moralizing. I thought this did a pretty good job of showing up the absurdity of trolleyology and the like.

  • *grin* Sadly, I can see someone proposing this and being serious.

    Keep in mind, this is from someone who has a scheduled post coming up about what the X-men do wrong in their PR, and how unrealistic the response to them is; I could be a bit off-norm in what I consider serious.

  • We need the pop-top can.

  • “What should the brain do? ”

    Reprogram this Kobayashi Maru scenario.

  • The moral choice is to take the left fork.

    You guys are missing the simple logic of it all. In all the complexity of body counts, good and evil, and multigeneraltional chains of events, the author gives you the ultimate clue. The guy on the left track is named Leftie.

  • I’m just glad that the guy who designed the equipment to retrofit old soda kegs into homebrew kegs wasn’t involved. We need him.

  • Play golf. Then, whatever happens blame President Bush and make up jokes about Congresswoman Bachman’s confusion over where in Iowa John Wayne was born.

    This solution assumes the trolleybrain is named Barracks Obama.

  • An issue with this type of hypothical is that it promotes rationalization and that there is no right or moral answer. These are typically given to 18-22 year olds that do not have the knowledge to dismiss them as the junk moral problem they are by professors with an agenda.

Moral Sense and Unequal Exchange

Wednesday, June 22, AD 2011

Every week I make a point of finding the time to listen to the EconTalk podcast — a one hour interview on some economics related topic conducted by Prof. Russ Roberts of George Mason university. Roberts himself has economic and political views I’m often (though not always) in sympathy with, but he’s a very fair and thoughtful interviewer and has a wide range of guests. This week’s interview was with a semi-regular on the show, Prof Mike Munger of Duke University, and the topic was the concept of euvoluntary exchange which Munger has been attempting to create.

Munger’s project aims to identify why it is that some seemingly voluntary transactions are seen as morally repugnant by most people, and are either socially disapproved of or outright outlawed. So for example, say that Frank is very poor and desperately wants to provide for his family. Tom is very rich and is loosing eyesight in both his eyes. His doctor believes they can pull off a revolutionary new surgery and transplant a healthy eye into him, but they need the eye of a live, healthy person who matches Tom’s blood type and DNA well. Frank is a match and is willing to give up an eye in return for a million dollars.

Now, there are a few people who lean heavily in the rationalistic direction who would say this sounds like a great idea because it makes most people better off, but most people would react to this with revulsion, and it is in fact illegal to do this kind of thing in the US.

The interesting thing is that voluntarily donating an organ (so long as giving it up isn’t considered too big a detriment to you) is considered morally admirable, and is legal. So, for instance, there was a case a year or two ago in our parish where one young woman in the parish donated a kidney to another parishioner who needed a transplant.

Munger’s argument is that in the Frank and Tom example, the transaction may seem voluntary but it’s not really voluntary because of the disparity in means between Tom and Frank.

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17 Responses to Moral Sense and Unequal Exchange

  • DC,

    Very good blog posting. Informative and interesting.

    –Jonathan

  • Excellent post, Darwin. Much food for thought. I would suggest that perhaps what is morally permissible and what is morally admirable are two different things. While charity is admirable, it is not required that we give all resources beyond basic needs to the poor — though that would certainly be admirable. I sense that this understanding might contribute to the analysis, though I’m not sure. Perhaps I’ll add more later.

  • Very enlightening. So in Catholic terms, the works of mercy are ways of eliminating non-euvoluntary choices by increasing the BATNA.

  • You seem to be “mixing apples and oranges”, i.e., morals and economics.

    My understanding: economics is the study of the allocations of relatively scarce supplies/resources among relatively unlimited demands/wants. Price is the allocation mechanism. When morals, philosophy, theology, governmental interventions, etc. are applied, economics no longer is the driver.

    Then, what may be the unintended consequences?

    It is likely the recent US financial collapse was magnified by Federal interventions aimed at more widespread home ownership, and concomitant politically motivated “pro-borrower” and “pro-homeowner” policies.

    Contrast that with Canada’s banking system that has consistently promoted responsible borrowing and prudent lending and underwriting practices with little politically motivated interference, while the U.S. banking system seems to have been encouraged to pursue excessive lending risks to “low to moderate income” borrowers because of a political obsession with home ownership.

    N.B., The Canadian government takes responsibility for “affordable housing.”

  • While Prof. Munger may be onto something with his euvoluntary idea, his BATNA criterion is clearly wrong.

    Take the example of the guy who wants to sell me water for $1000 when I am dying of thirst in the desert A transaction is not euvoluntary if the disparity in BATNAs is too great. Suppose, though, that the guy says “hey, you’re our 1000th customer, so you get a bottle of water on the house!” In that case the disparity in BATNAs is even greater than if he charged me $1000. On the other hand, the more he charges for the water, the less disparity in BATNAs there will be.

    Additionally, I don’t think it’s right to say, as Munger does, that if a transaction is euvoluntary then it is necessarily just. In the case of organ donations, for example, you can’t pay for a kidney even if the person you pay has the same standard of living as you do, and I don’t believe you would be allowed to make a live donation of your eyes even if no money was involved.

  • Here’s another interesting wrinkle. In Prof. Roberts example, he is very uncomfortable about the fact that the place he was house-sitting for in Chile had a cook who was supposed to make him dinner. Suppose, though, that instead of house-sitting he had been put up in a hotel and part of his hotel room was free meals at the hotel restaurant. I suspect that Prof. Roberts would not have been uncomfortable at the thought he was being cooked for in that situation, even if the pay for the cooks in the two cases was the same

  • Isn’t this kind of why charging interest use to be a no-no, but it’s not these days? IIRC, the rule is from when you only borrowed if your life/family/serious well-being depended on it, and now borrowing is a simple economic tool or to make things easy?

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  • T Shaw,

    I would agree with you that economics is really only able to look at how systems work, while ethics and morality are used to examine whether some action is moral or not. Munger is clearly doing some kind of ethics or philosophy here, not economics, in trying to determine what sort of transactions are ethical.

    And as such, I’m not sure he’s entirely successful, in that I’m not sure that the inequality he talks about makes an action moral or immoral, though I think he has a very interesting observational point in that clearly a lot of people feel that this kind of inequality makes these actions immoral.

    Blackadder,

    While Prof. Munger may be onto something with his euvoluntary idea, his BATNA criterion is clearly wrong.

    Take the example of the guy who wants to sell me water for $1000 when I am dying of thirst in the desert A transaction is not euvoluntary if the disparity in BATNAs is too great. Suppose, though, that the guy says “hey, you’re our 1000th customer, so you get a bottle of water on the house!” In that case the disparity in BATNAs is even greater than if he charged me $1000. On the other hand, the more he charges for the water, the less disparity in BATNAs there will be.

    I may be misunderstanding this, but I was taking his assessment of BATNA to be a question of “how much worse does my situation get, compared to the current state, if no transaction takes place.”

    In that situation, the guy in the desert is going to die if he doesn’t get water, so things get much worse for him if he doesn’t get the bottle of water, no matter what the price. For the guy in the Jeep, he’s in exactly the same situation as before if he doesn’t make the sale — he doesn’t have the extra money that would come from price gouging, but he does still have the water, the Jeep, and one assumes a way to get out of the desert.

    If I’m right on this, I think Munger would say that the BATNA is the same regardless of the price charged for the water — but that because the disparity in BATNA is so high, we only feel morally comfortable with the water being given for free or for a “fair” price, not with a high price.

    Additionally, I don’t think it’s right to say, as Munger does, that if a transaction is euvoluntary then it is necessarily just.

    I would agree with you there. One can maybe gloss over it a bit by making a proviso that the parties to the transaction have to have rightly ordered desires, and thus ruling out anything that seems wrong as being not really voluntary because a rightly ordered person wouldn’t want it, but at that point one has just invalidated the whole line of argument.

    The one I thought of was: What if a person honestly wants to commit suicide, and he meets a big game hunter who has always wanted to try hunting a human — so they come to a deal whereby the hunter will give a large sum of money to the suicide’s family in return for being able to kill him. No matter how honestly both parties claimed to be acting freely, and how similar their social station, I don’t think many people would see this as a just transaction. (Though I suppose one could also try to bracket by saying the transaction is just, it’s just that it’s an unjust thing being bought.)

  • BA,

    Here’s another interesting wrinkle. In Prof. Roberts example, he is very uncomfortable about the fact that the place he was house-sitting for in Chile had a cook who was supposed to make him dinner. Suppose, though, that instead of house-sitting he had been put up in a hotel and part of his hotel room was free meals at the hotel restaurant. I suspect that Prof. Roberts would not have been uncomfortable at the thought he was being cooked for in that situation, even if the pay for the cooks in the two cases was the same

    Yeah, you’re right, there’s clearly a sense of directness that is causing the discomfort here. The student probably also wouldn’t have got upset if her hosts had said, “I’ll get your laundry washed for you by the woman who does our laundry,” and then paid the laundry lady the same amount.

    Though there are people who get worried about indirect transactions. For instance, I knew a couple of very earnest women who refused to buy any clothes labeled as being made in certain countries because they were worried that the workers in those countries might not be being paid enough.

  • I may not be getting this at all, but I’ll add my 2 cents.
    This is a question of will and of sin. I need to engage my will in a sin in order for a sin to take place. The house-sitter and the washing customer are only willing to carry on normal, innocuous activities. Their participation in exploitation is too remote to register prudentially. They do not match the (hypothetical) man who will not love his brother enough to give him a cup of water–the Levite wills not to love.
    Economic measures derive from our culture which is based on (Christian) truth. Where we would sin by withholding aid or solace (like the Levite who passes by the robbery victim) our culture strives, by various means including economic theories generated by it, to alert us and cause us to avoid it.
    It seems to me that the gal with the dirty laundry and the house-sitter are evincing scruples foisted on them by materialist liberalism.

  • Darwin,

    The BATNA doesn’t change depending on the price of the water. However, according to Munger’s criterion, what matters is not the BATNA per se, but the *disparity* between the BATNA and the transaction.

    For example, suppose we say that not dying is worth a million dollars to me (purely for purposes of illustration, mind you). If I have to pay $1 for the water, the disparity between the transaction and my BATNA is $999,999. If I have to pay $1000, the disparity is $999,000. If I have to pay $100,000, the disparity is $900,000, and so on. The more I have to pay, the less the disparity between than transaction and my BATNA.

    Or take the sweatshop example. The more you pay the sweatshop workers, the greater the disparity between their sweatshop job and their BATNA. In fact, if you their wages are low enough, then the disparity between their BATNA and the sweatshop job won’t be big at all. So the implication here is that the less you pay sweatshop workers, the closer sweatshop jobs come to being euvolunary. Which is clearly not an accurate description of how anti-sweatshop people think.

  • The BATNA doesn’t change depending on the price of the water. However, according to Munger’s criterion, what matters is not the BATNA per se, but the *disparity* between the BATNA and the transaction.

    Hmmm. I guess what I had taken Munger to be arguing (and what I think I said above, unless I mis-spoke) that he takes it to be a problem (a lack of euvoluntariness) to have a financial transaction in which there is a large disparity in the BATNAs of the two parties in the transaction.

    If your reading is correct, then yeah, his claim is totally incoherent and doesn’t even apply to his examples.

  • What if a person honestly wants to commit suicide, and he meets a big game hunter who has always wanted to try hunting a human — so they come to a deal whereby the hunter will give a large sum of money

    There are times when I am quite pleased I stayed out of philosophy classes.

  • You and me both Art! Whenever I despair over the maddening hairsplitting of the Law, I read some philosophy and I am consoled by the comparison!

  • Heh, fair enough. I’ll admit, that one comes pretty close to the “trolley-ology” that I despise. I just wanted to make the point that unless one is some kind of total relativist, one can’t claim that involuntariness is enough in and of itself to make an action just. 🙂

  • Art- Just the kinda stuff that folks come up with when they try to apply scientific method to right and wrong.

    Guessing everyone here has heard the shocking numbers of college students that would save their own dog before they’d save someone they don’t know when both are drowning in a river?

The Materialism of Limited Toolset

Wednesday, January 19, AD 2011

I make a point of always trying to listed on the EconTalk podcast each week — a venue in which George Mason University economics professor Russ Roberts conducts a roughly hour-long interview with an author or academic about some topic related to economics. A couple weeks ago, the guest was Robin Hanson, also an economics professor at GMU, who was talking about the “technological singularity” which could result from perfecting the technique of “porting” copies of humans into computers. Usually the topic is much more down-to-earth, but these kinds of speculations can be interesting to play with, and there were a couple of things which really struck me listening to the interview with Hanson, which ran to some 90 minutes.

Hanson’s basic contention is that the next big technological leap that will change the face of the world economy will be the ability to create a working copy of a human by “porting” that person’s brain into a computer. He argues that this could come much sooner than the ability to create an “artificial intelligence” from scratch, because it doesn’t require knowing how intelligence works — you simply create an emulation program on a really powerful computer, and then do a scan of the brain which picks up the current state of every part of it and how those parts interact. (There’s a wikipedia article on the concept, called “whole brain emulation” here.) Hanson thinks this would create an effectively unlimited supply of what are, functionally, human beings, though they may look like computer programs or robots, and that this would fundamentally change the economy by creating an effectively infinite supply of labor.

Let’s leave all that aside for a moment, because what fascinates me here is something which Roberts, a practicing Jew, homed in on right away: Why should we believe that the sum and total of what you can physically scan in the brain is all there is to know about a person? Why shouldn’t we think that there’s something else to the “mind” than just the parts of the brain and their current state? Couldn’t there be some kind of will which is not materially detectable and is what is causing the brain to act the way it is?

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15 Responses to The Materialism of Limited Toolset

  • This is like saying, “I’ve examined books with the most powerful microscopes and chemical detection kits, and I can’t detect anything except ink and paper. Therefore books do not refer to anything else and do not contain any ‘meaning’ — it’s all just ink and paper.”

  • The atheist would respond by saying:
    1. Our non-deterministic mind may be like a computer’s random number generator. In certain situations, or perhaps constantly, our brains pick random paths and this can be emulated by a computer though obviously the computer would end up picking different paths.
    2. Things like appreciation for beauty and justice are hardwired.
    3. It’s illogical to believe in something that has no proof of being or at the very least it’s reasonable not to believe in something that has no proof of being.

  • SB,

    Well, I think it’s a bit different, in that a book is a static record of information, while a human brain clearly has a lot going on in it — it’s just unclear to me a that the measurable activity includes the actual cause of the activity. But I’m having trouble coming up with another analogy. Perhaps trying to replicate a car and expecting it to drive itself around while neglecting to account for the existence of a driver?

    RR,

    Oh, and believe me, I’ve encountered those in conversations. However:

    1. The random explanation does not seem to explain the actual experience. My experience of why I married my wife rather that someone else seems neither deterministic nor random, it seems chosen.
    2. If so, there’s no particular reason we should adhere to them, and yet most people do not think that. (Actually, more frequently, I’m told that justice and beauty are evolutionary adaptations for efficiency and can be arrived at through game theory, but again I don’t think that fits with our experience.)
    3. My whole beef with this line of thinking is that we do have evidence for the existence of the will — the evidence of experience. But in this line of thinking we completely dispense with that experience of being an I who decides things and instead assume that we’re not, simply because the particular set of tools we are using isn’t able to come up with a measurable thing which correllates to our experience. Now, I can accept it if someone is willing to explicitly say that he’s making a dogmatic choice to believe in the existence only of what is physically measurable, but I’m unclear why that should be considered an obvious or even necessarily rational choice.

  • They’re still better off trying to make artificial intelligence because it will be the will and intellect of man essentially presupposing decision questions and programming in the appropriate answers. If they ported the brain of a man into a computer, the computer would fail miserably, but would have the benefit of proving the effect of the will.

    Here’s what would happen, a robot run on a ported human brain would not have the will to help keep it in check. Let’s say the robot is set off to engineer a hybrid melon that is larger, sweeter, and juicier. The robot will start comparing known melon varieties and then naturally, because it has the mind of a man, start thinking of boobs. There will be no will to consider social norms or inter-human consequences and then divert the attention to the task at hand. The robot will then head off to grope the nearest woman and won’t stop until someone pulls the plug.

  • Doubt it? Then address how a harmless discussion about artificial intelligence led to mentioning boobs?

    🙂

  • So in all those Star Trek episodes where Kirk had to make an evil super-computer blow up by telling it something like, “Everything I tell you is a lie,” the easier approach would have been to send Uhura into flash the computer?

  • “…the easier approach would have been to send Uhura into flash the computer?”

    Gives a new meaning to flash drive.

  • I think a computer with a ported human brain would still have a self-preservation instinct.

  • The funny thing is, I already know what would happen when the copy failed; it would be decided that the computer wasn’t set up right, or didn’t account for interactions properly, or other hardware failure.

    Failure is always a hardware problem, not a theory problem.

  • How’s this for an analogy: you walk down a beach with a metal detector. You find nothing but metal. You conclude that there’s nothing buried in the sand but metal, and since you’ve swept it already, there’s nothing left buried in the sand.

  • If it was possible, then the real question is will this human-computer hybrid have the same mental defects that humans do? If so, what will an interconnected, pervasive, system-wide binary intelligence with feelings of envy, greed, lust and pride do?

    Will it be SkyNet, or will it be the Borg?

    Either way, nothing good can come from it. One has to wonder why Bill Gates has been hiring biologists at an alarming rate? What is he really up to? With his intellectual inheritance of population control and eugenics – it could go either way – wipe people out, or assimilate them. Hmm . . . it is much more pleasant to think about a different kind of boob than Bill Gates.

  • AK – You raise a good point: why would anyone want to recreate the human brain, if not for its will? To a materialist, the human brain is only a thinking machine, and a screwy one at that. So why enshrine it? Why limit a computer to the confines of human thought?

  • Initially I thought that speeding up the computerized brain would be a benefit but trying to make it do things that the biological brain wouldn’t, might drive it crazy.

  • Pinky,

    If you are a materialist, then you necessarily live in fear of being wiped out of existence as if you never existed in the first place, since material existence is all that there is. Liberated from the oppressive commandments of an imaginary god, all ten of those pesky thou shat nots, then you are free to do all that is within your evolutionary impulses and technological know-how.

    What could be better than ‘living’ on forever, so you can become god, yourself? Since your thoughts and superiority are naturally selected by chance, then you MUST exercise this superior power, before another intelligent monkey figures it out and uses it against you.

    This brain download thingy will make the one who controls it, the god of the machine that is our paltry meaningless existence. Boy, I wish I’d spent more time studying computer science, now I’ll never get to be god.

  • Darwin — in either case, the question is whether the material, directly observable object is all there is, or whether there could be something beyond that.

Fides et Ratio

Tuesday, September 14, AD 2010

Today is the anniversary of what might be John Paul II’s most important encyclical, Fides et ratio. Although I have not the time to give it a full treatment, if you have not read it I strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible. Catholicism’s eager embrace of reason & philosophy not only sets it apart from most other religions but also positions it to best respond to the philosophical failures that are hurting the modern world. If the modern world is to find some redemption, it will be because these words are heeded:

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves

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5 Responses to Fides et Ratio

  • I’d welcome — personally and professionally — any thoughts on how we might facilitate the “incarnation” of papal documents amongst the masses; I’ve got a few ideas, but I’d love to hear any thoughts my fellow contributors and commentators might have.

  • I think on Catholic social teaching as a whole, the best thing is to start referencing them in homilies. If the priests act as if Catholic teaching is important, the faithful will follow suit. Furthermore, I think reading clubs or such that go over the encyclical would be great to getting adults caught up; children should get a LOT more exposure to them in religion class/ccd.

    However, I don’t know if there’s anything the Vatican can do to get them respected by the masses-and that shouldn’t be the focus yet. Let’s get the Catholics to care before we start worrying about the non-Catholics.

  • I meant the Catholic masses, Michael… most of them — as you know — are just as clueless as the non-Catholics, much to our chagrin.

    Reading groups are a good idea, but the problem there is that most Catholics are afraid of even *trying*… I think the term “encyclical” must somehow be intimidating. 🙂

    My current thought: start a reading group that emphasizes incarnation, i.e. not just understanding the text intellectually, but embodying it in our lives. And the next crucial step: the participants who value the group need to step up and *invite* others to come! We Catholics aren’t very good at that.

  • I wasn’t sure which masses you were referring to! lol

    Well, most Catholics are afraid of trying-by themselves. They’re intimidated by the philosophy, whatever. I think they can have some success if led by the priest though after the priest builds up some trust in the parish. Even if people are just showing up to hear the priest talk and explain, that’ll do some good.

    That said, I think Catholics could probably use more philosophy in their training so they’re not so afraid of encyclicals.

    And you’re definitely right; the groups need to emphasize that this isn’t just book learning; this is helpful information for how to better live out our lives as we strive for holiness.

  • Agreed, with this caveat: I think those of us who are capable must take the lead; we need to get the approval/permission/endorsement of our pastor, but chances are, he’d be *thrilled* to have us offer something like this… the guys are stretched pretty thin these days, and as much as I’d love to have them doing the actual teaching, I’ll settle for them letting competent laity doing it if he can’t.

Is Islam Part of Gods Plan?

Sunday, July 11, AD 2010

Most of us are aware of the Christian exodus from the Middle East where the fundamental problem is Muslim intolerance towards non-Muslims.

Father Samir hopes to change all of that.

In this interview with Father Samir Khalil Samir done by Mirko Testa of Zenit, Father Samir explains the possibility of learning form Lebanon’s coexistence between Christians and Muslims:

The coexistence of Christians and Muslims is good for civil society because their mutual questioning of the other’s faith acts as a stimulus and leads to deeper understanding, says a Jesuit priest who is an expert in Islamic studies.

This is the opinion of Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Islamic scholar and Catholic theologian born in Egypt and based in the Middle East for more than 20 years.

He teaches Catholic theology and Islamic studies at St. Joseph University in Beirut, is founder of the CEDRAC research institute and is author of many articles and books, including “111 Questions on Islam.”

ZENIT spoke with Father Samir regarding the June 21-22 meeting in Lebanon of the Oasis International Foundation, which seeks to promote mutual knowledge among Christians and Muslims.

ZENIT: Why was the subject of education placed at the center of the Oasis meeting this year?

Father Samir: The problem we are experiencing both in the Church as well as in Islam is that we are not always able to transmit the faith easily to the new generation and the generations to come. The question we ask ourselves is: In what way should we rethink the faith for young people, but also in parishes or in mosques, in the talks that religious address to their faithful?

This is what we want: to make a study of the Christian experience in Lebanon, and the Muslim Sunni experience and the Muslim Shiite experience in this ambit. We want to compare, to identify even if it is only the common difficulties, to seek together an answer to them. I think this has been the main objective of our meeting in face of a dialogue of cultures in the Christian and the Muslim faith.

ZENIT: What effect would the disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East have on the Christian and Muslim world?

Father Samir: The disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East would be, first of all, a loss for Christianity, because, as John Paul II said, the Church, as every human being, lives with two lungs: the Eastern and the Western. Now, the Eastern Churches were born here in the land of Jesus, in the territories of the Middle East, where Christ lived. And if this experience, these millennia of tradition are lost, then the loss will be for the whole Church, both of the Christians of the East as well as the Christians of the West.

However, there is more to this: if Christian leave the Middle East, in other words, if the Muslims remain alone, an element of stimulation will be lacking — represented, in fact, by that element of diversity that Christians can contribute. Diversity of faith, because Muslims ask us every day: How is it that you say that God is One and Triune? This is contradictory. And we say: How is it that you say that Mohammed is a prophet? What are, for you, the criteria of prophecy? Does Mohammed answer to these criteria? And what does it mean that the Quran is from God? In what sense do you say that it descended on Mohammed? We say that the Bible is divine, but mediated through human authors, whereas Muslims want to remove Mohammed’s mediation.

These questions that they ask us and that we ask are a stimulus, not only for civilization, but also for civil society. It would be a great loss because the risk exists of wishing to found a society, a state based on the sharia, that is, on something that was established in the seventh century in the region of the Arabian Peninsula, even if for Muslims the sharia is generic and true for all centuries and all cultures.

And this is Islam’s great problem: how can Islam be re-thought today? The absence of Christians would make the problem even more acute.

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4 Responses to Is Islam Part of Gods Plan?

  • Nice ideas. Maybe they will work. We can pray. Our Lady is revered by the Muslims, at least as much as any woman is revered by Islam – she can lead them to the truth. We need to ask her.

    That being said, Lebanon was drowned in 15 years of civil war for political reasons born of the Muslim mind and that includes the influence of Islamic thinking patterns on Christians. Islam is like the Matrix, even non-Muslims living in Muslim lands are plugged into the lie.

    As for Muslims and Christians getting along in Lebanon – sure they do, however, some like Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizb’Allah, don’t like it and will only lie in wait until they are strong enough to do something about it. In any event most Muslims and Christians that get along are essentially secularists. I am not so sure that indifferentism toward all religion is a cure for the plight of Christianity in the region that Christ walked.

  • Is malignant melanoma part of God’s Plan?

  • There has always been a certain percentage of Muslims who sincerely seek the truth. Never more than a tenth of the population at any given time, they are the earnest ones who have questions about the Trinity and the Eucharist. Such Muslims by their very nature do not threathen the Christians. No Christian is about to abandon his home and hearth, just because he can’t handle the apologetics. Instead they are leaving because they are being murdered as in Iraq, through widespread intimidation and the unfailing standby of harassment of their women.

  • I think we need to discuss the Catholic ex cathedra dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus and not just accept the secular media’s interpretation. This is important for our understanding and relationshoip with Muslims.
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2010/07/apologist-simon-rafe-in-real-catholic.html#links

    Thursday, July 15, 2010
    APOLOGIST SIMON RAFE IN REAL CATHOLIC DIFFICULTY : MAGISTERIUM SAYS EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE A VISIBLE MEMBER OF THE CHURCH FOR SALVATION, EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS

    Apologist Simon Rafe says:

    The teaching of the Church is that a person CAN be saved if they are not a visible member of the Church.
    Lionel: Yes. True. This is not being denied.

    Rafe :To deny this is to cease to give full acceptance to the Church.
    Lionel: It is not being denied.

    Rafe:Non-Catholics can be saved, DESPITE their failure to be a visible member of the Church. This is the teaching of the Church.
    Lionel: This is not the official teaching of the Church. This is a popular interpretation.

    I would say everyone needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church to be saved and there are no known exceptions. If a person was saved without being a visible member of the Catholic Church it would be known to God only, we cannot know any such case.

    It’s a real Catholic difficulty these days, with the new doctrine, which goes like this: everybody needs to enter the Catholic Church for salvation except for those in invincible ignorance, the baptism of desire or a good conscience.

    When people say that everybody needs to enter the Catholic Church except for those in invincible ignorance, with the baptism of desire and a good conscience it could be right or wrong depending on the interpretation.

    1. It is WRONG if they mean that every one does not need to become a visible member of the church. Then this is a new doctrine and contrary to the Deposit of the Faith.

    2. It is RIGHT if they mean every one does have to become a visible member of the Catholic Church to avoid Hell and if there is anyone with the Baptism of Desire, genuine invincible ignorance and a good conscience it will be known only to God.

    (Note: Above I affirm the Baptism of Desire, invincible ignorance and a good conscience and I also affirm the dogma that everybody needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church to avoid Hell.)

    The dogma says everyone needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church.

    ‘…it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 302.). Ex Cathedra

    ‘…none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation…

    No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” – (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.) Ex Cathedra
    The dogma does not contradict other Church Documents regarding the Baptism of Desire.

    Simon Rafe’s problem is one being faced by many Catholics, including those who have orthodox Catholic beliefs.Some Catholics are describing the situation as ‘a mystery’.So Rafe is only repeating the problem as other Catholics face it i.e everyone needs to be a visible member of the church and everyone does not need to be a visible member of the Church.

    Catholics in erroe interpret the Catechism and the Vatican Council II according to the Jewish Left media and believe there is no other interpretation. Simon Rafe and others needs to interpret the Catechism of the Catholic Church,Vatican Council II and the Letter of the Holy Office 1949, in line with the ex cathedra dogma which says everyone needs to be a visible member of the catholic Church and there are no exceptions. Simon agrees everyone needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church for salvation but when I ask him of Lumen Gentium 16 contradicts this teaching of the dogma he does not answer.

    The Magisterium of the Church cannot reject an ex cathedra dogma.
    So interpret all Church documents according to extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    Catholic Church documents say everyone needs to be a visible member of the Church to avoid Hell and there is no Church document issued to refute it.

    1. For instance we can misinterpret the Letter of the Holy Office 1949.

    In order for someone to be saved, it explained, “it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church as an actual member, but it is necessary at least to be united to her by desire and longing.”-Letter of the Holy Office 1949. The same message is there in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    True however this (not receiving the Baptism of water as an adult and being saved) is only known to God. It is not as real as the Baptism of Water. So it was wrong to suggest that everyone does not have to be a visible member of the Church, as if the Baptism of Desire is explicit and visible by nature. So this is a distorted interpretation of the Letter of the Holy Office using the Cushing Doctrine. It is heresy. It is clear ‘double speak’. Discerning Catholics consider this new doctrine a hoax, the equivalent of the fabled Emperors New Clothes. Liberals call it a developed doctrine.

    Through his books Fr. Hans Kung uses the Cushing Doctrine, suggesting Lumen Gentium 16 refers to explicit and not implicit salvation, to question the infallibility of the pope ex cathedra. He maintains the Kung Deception that the Church has retracted extra ecclesiam nulla salus after Vatican Council II.

    Without the Cushing Doctrine, one could say: For salvation everyone needs to be a visible (explicit) member of the Catholic Church with no exception and if there is anyone with the Baptism of Desire or who is in invincible ignorance it will be known to God only.

    If this point in the Letter is ministerpreted one could also misinterpret the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the Church alone saves from the flood like Noah’s Ark and so everyone needs to enter the Ark to be saved. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    N.845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood.-Catechism of the Catholic Church n.845
    Here we have an interpretation of the Catechism affirming the dogma.

    3.”Outside the Church there is no salvation”

    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.-Catechism of the Catholic Church 846
    CCC 846,847 like Lumen Gentium 16 refer to implicit salvation, those saved ‘in certain circumstances’ (Letter of the Holy Office 1949).They are known to God only.

    847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.-Catechism of the Catholic Church,N.847

    848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”-Catechism of the Catholic Church,N.848
    Those saved implicitly (CCC 847,848) for us, they are just a concept, something hypothetical, a possibility. It is not explicit. Since it is not explicit it does not contradict CCC845, 836.It does not contradict Ad Gentes 7, Lumen Gentium 14 and the infallible teaching outside the church there is no salvation.

    CCC836 which says all people need to enter the Catholic Church include all Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church, Jesus’ Mystical Body.
    If CCC 846,847(invincible ignorance etc) referred to explicit salvation, it would be irrational. Since we cannot judge who has a baptism of desire or is in genuine invincible ignorance.It would also mean that the Catechism, which is the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, is correcting and contradicting an ex cathedra teaching. So it would be a rejection of the dogma on the infallibility of the pope.It would mean CCC 846,847 (implicit invincible ignorance etc) is a new Christian doctrine or Christian Revelation.
    Yet this teaching was not mentioned for the first time in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Vatican Council II (Lumen Gentium16).It was referred to in the Letter of the Holy Office 1949 to the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing. The popes over the centuries always considered those saved by implicit faith as, implicit. Hence the ex cathedra teaching said everyone with no exception needs explicit faith (the baptism of water and Catholic Faith).
    So 846,847 do not refer to explicit salvation. Otherwise it would be irrational, illogical and contrary to the Magisterium of the past and present.
    The Catholic Church is saying everybody needs to be a visible member of the Church to avoid Hell.Those who are aware of Jesus and the Church and yet do not enter are on the way to Hell, definitely.
    CCC is also saying that all non-Catholics in general need to enter the Catholic Church to avoid Hell. All. If there is anyone among them with the baptism of desire, invincible ignorance etc (implicit faith) it will be known to God only. We cannot judge.
    De facto everyone needs to enter the Catholic Church for salvation.
    De jure there could be the probability, known only to God, of someone ‘in certain circumstances’ (Letter of the Holy Office 1949) being saved with implicit faith. God will provide all the helps in the manner known to Him only; it could include explicit faith (the baptism of water).So if someone says the Catechism says that they can be saved who are in invincible ignorance etc, the answer is: ‘Yes, as a concept only. In principle.’ De facto everyone explicitly needs to be a Catholic to go to Heaven is the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.(CCC 845).Simon Rafe needs to clarify this point.

    “For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament” (CCC 1259).
    In other words everyone needs to de facto be a ‘card carrying member’ of the Catholic Church, everyone needs to have his name on a Parish Register. All who are in Heaven, people of different countries, cultures and times, are Catholics, the chosen people of God, the Elect, the people of the New Covenant. I think Simon Rafe and Michael Vorris would agree here. They recently produced a video on ONLY CATHOLICS IN HEAVEN! ( http://www.youtube.com/user/RealCatholicTV#p/a/u/0/2Dcfj0PU_JQ ) . It is highly recommended.( I try not to miss Michael Vorris’ videos)

    4.In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the sub title‘Outside the Church there is no salvation’ has been placed over N.846.It should really be above number 845.

    The ex cathedra dogma says everyone needs to explicitly enter the Church for salvation. It is in agreement with n.845

    N.845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church….(quoted above in full )
    Here is the ex cathedra dogma:

    1. “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215). Ex cathedra.

    2.“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.).Ex cathedra.

    3.“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.) Ex cathedra
    – from the website Catholicism.org and “No Salvation outside the Church”: Link List, the Three Dogmatic Statements Regarding EENS http://nosalvationoutsideofthecatholicchurch.blogspot.com/
    It says everyone needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church to go to Heaven and avoid Hell.

    So CCC 847,848 must be interpreted as referring to implicit salvation, in ’certain circumstances’ and unknown to us, otherwise it would contradict the infallible teaching.

    847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.-Catechism of the Catholic Church
    848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”-Catechism of the Catholic Church
    CCC 847, 848 do not refer to explicit salvation and so do not contradict the dogma. There is no de facto baptism of desire that we can know of. There is no explicit Baptism of desire that we can know of. While implicit Baptism of Desire is only a concept for us. Since it is known only to God.

    So if asked if everyone needs to enter the Catholic Church for salvation the answer is YES.

    5. Everyone explicitly needs to enter the Catholic Church for salvation and those who have the baptism of desire or are invincible ignorance would be known only to God.

    All men are certainly called to this Catholic unity. The Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ and all mankind belong to or are ordered to Catholic unity.-CCC 836

    Here again we have an affirmation of the ex cathedra dogma and the word all is used as in Ad Gentes 7.

    6.

    How do we understand this saying from the Church Fathers? All salvation comes from Christ through his Body, the Church which is necessary for salvation because Christ is present in his Church…-CCC846
    Here the Catechism places de jure and defacto salvation together. It does not conflict with the ex cathedra teaching that everyone with no exception needs to enter the Catholic Church .We cannot personally know any cases of a genuine invincible ignorance, baptism of desire or a good conscience.

    7.

    However, those, who through no fault of their own do not know either the Gospel of Christ or his Church, can achieve salvation by seeking God with a sincere heart and by trying to do God’s will (Second Vatican Council). Although God can lead all people to salvation, the Church still has the duty to evangelize all men.-CCC 848
    Those who are in invincible ignorance can be saved -and this does not conflict with the ex cathedra dogma that everyone with no exception needs to enter the Church to avoid Hell. It is a conceptual, de jure understanding.

    8. CCC 1257 The Necessity of Baptism

    CCC 1257 affirms the dogma when it says that the Church knows of no means to eternal beatitude other than the baptism of water. This is a reference to explicit salvation for all with no known exceptions.

    CCC 1257 also says that for salvation God is not restricted to the Sacraments. This must not be interpreted as opposing the dogma or the earlier part of CCC 1257. This is a possibility, ‘in certain circumstances’ (Letter of the Holy Office 1949) and we cannot judge any specific cases. Th Baptism of Desire is never explicit for us humans.
    I repeat the Church refers to the ordinary means of salvation (Redemptoris Missio 5. The word ordinary is used in RM 55).

    In Dominus Iesus the words de jure and de facto are used in the Introduction.

    In CCC 1257 we have the baptism of water as the ordinary means of salvation for all people with no exception.

    In CCC 1257 we also have those saved with implicit faith (invincible ignorance,BOD etc) as the extraordinary means of salvation.(‘God is not limited to the Sacraments’).

    VI. THE NECESSITY OF BAPTISM

    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.59 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.60 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.61 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. -Catechism of the Catholic Church 1257

    The Letter of the Holy Office 1949 while affirming the dogma and the need for everyone to be a visible member of the Church to go to Heaven with no exceptions- also says that ‘in certain circumstances’ a person can be saved with implicit faith, if God wills it.

    However, those, who through no fault of their own do not know either the Gospel of Christ or his Church, can achieve salvation by seeking God with a sincere heart and by trying to do God’s will (Second Vatican Council). Although God can lead all people to salvation, the Church still has the duty to evangelize all men.-CCC 848

    St.Thomas Aquinas says God will ‘provide the helps necessary for salvation’ by sending a person to baptize the one needing help in this extraordinary situation OR telling the person what he needs to do.

    Here we are in a conceptual area, open to theories since this is the nature of the baptism of desire etc which cannot be explicitly known to us humans.
    St.Thomas Aquinas also said that everyone with no exception needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church for salvation. De facto everyone needs to enter. De jure there could be the man in the forest for St.Thomas Aquinas. He did not have a problem with de facto and de jure.

    On the Saint Benedict Centre website, the community founded by Fr.Leonard Feeney in New Hampshire,USA it is written, that Fr.Leonard Feeney knew that his view on the Baptism of Desire was only an opinion.
    Finally everyone’s view on the Baptism of Desire is ONLY AN OPINION. De jure. This is seen clearly in CCC 1257.
    It reminds one of Jesus’ saying that ‘he who does not collect with me disperses’ and ‘those who are not against us are for us.’

    9.When it is said that only those who know about the Catholic Church need to enter to avoid Hell (Ad Gentes 7) we can mistake this to mean only this category of people are on the way to Hell. Instead we know that all non Catholics are on the way to Hell with no exception ( ex cathedra dogma) and if there is any one among them who is in invincible ignorance etc it will be known only to God.

    Those who are in invincible ignorance can be saved-and this does not conflict with the ex cathedra dogma that everyone with no exception needs to enter the Church to avoid Hell. It is a conceptual, de jure understanding.

    So the Catechism is not asking us to reject the notion that one can be saved without the Sacraments according to the ordinary way of salvation. (Redemptoris Missio 55).If one says it does it is a misinterpretation of the Catechism.

    Where it refers to being saved without the Sacraments it is referring to that exceptional case, which in ‘certain circumstances'(Letter of the Holy Office 1949) are known only to God. We do not even know if there has been any case of the Baptism of desire during our lifetime.

    A.Practically speaking everyone needs to enter the Catholic Church to go to Heaven.

    B.Theoretically (de jure, in principle) a person can be saved through implicit faith (if God wills it) even without the Baptism of water.This is the official teaching of the Church.

    B is in accord with the Catechism which mentions the Baptism of water as a concept (it cannot be anything else other than a concept)

    B is in accord with Fr.Leonard Feeney who mentioned the Baptism of Desire (catechumen).It was a concept in his mind (something dejure).

    B is in accord with the website of the Saint Benedict Centre,one of Fr.Leonard Feeney’s communities, which defines the Baptism of Desire. A definition is a concept.

    So when Simon Rafe says in his e-mail to me that ‘Non-Catholics can be saved, DESPITE their failure to be a visible member of the Church. This is the teaching of the Church.’ it is true ( de jure, in principle). However de facto everybody with no exception needs to be a visible member of the Catholic Church, Jesus’s Mystical Body to go to Heaven and avoid Hell.

    -Lionel Andrades

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    Simon Rafe

    Simon Rafe is a former undergraduate in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at Sheffield University, England. An immigrant to the United States, he is an adult convert to Catholicism, formerly being what he describes as a “militant atheist”. Simon has been heavily involved in the Internet for over a decade, working as a webmaster and performing web design for several companies in the UK. He is well-versed in the ethos of the “New Evangelization”, having both found his wife and come to know Christ and the Catholic Church thanks to the Internet. He is the author of the book “Where Did The Bible Come From?” and consultant-author for the Saint Michael’s Basic Training series.

    ——————————————————————————–

Science and Technology in World History

Monday, July 5, AD 2010

Technological history is a unique point of view that always caught my eye.  David Deming of the American Thinker gives us a brief synopsis of his latest contribution in this genre.  Keep in mind how integral Christianity was to the recovery of Europe after the barbarian invasions and the safekeeping of knowledge by the monastic system that allowed Europe to recover and blossom into what we now call Western Civilization:

Both Greece and Rome made significant contributions to Western Civilization.  Greek knowledge was ascendant in philosophy, physics, chemistry, medicine, and mathematics for nearly two thousand years.  The Romans did not have the Greek temperament for philosophy and science, but they had a genius for law and civil administration.  The Romans were also great engineers and builders.  They invented concrete, perfected the arch, and constructed roads and bridges that remain in use today.  But neither the Greeks nor the Romans had much appreciation for technology.  As documented in my book, Science and Technology in World History, Vol. 2, the technological society that transformed the world was conceived by Europeans during the Middle Ages.

Greeks and Romans were notorious in their disdain for technology.  Aristotle noted that to be engaged in the mechanical arts was “illiberal and irksome.”  Seneca infamously characterized invention as something fit only for “the meanest slaves.”  The Roman Emperor Vespasian rejected technological innovation for fear it would lead to unemployment.

Greek and Roman economies were built on slavery.  Strabo described the slave market at Delos as capable of handling the sale of 10,000 slaves a day.  With an abundant supply of manual labor, the Romans had little incentive to develop artificial or mechanical power sources. Technical occupations such as blacksmithing came to be associated with the lower classes.

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2 Responses to Science and Technology in World History

  • The Europeans developed the stirrup which made possible heavy cavalry of armored knights. Before that cavalry rode in on the flanks of infantry and either fired arrows or threw javelins. Then retired. With the stirrup, the knight would remain on his war horse even waffter he skewered his foe.

    In my wasted youth (I was drinking more tha I was thinking) I had to take a course in European history in the Middle Ages. One of the books assigned was on technological developments in the Age. That was Spring 1970.

  • Could this be why BHO has just made ‘reaching out to the Muslim world’ foremost mission for NASA?

    That’s a great idea, they are killing us with low tech, so we should help them acquire high-tech so they can kill us better. Liberals are so smart.

No More Generations?

Monday, June 7, AD 2010

On the NYT’s philosophy blog, there was an article written about the decision to have children. I didn’t realize it when I first read it, but it was written by notorious pro-abort Peter Singer (and by notorious, I mean that he’s pro-choice even after birth).

But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child’s life would be especially difficult — for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally

All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don’t usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence. This has come to be known among philosophers as “the asymmetry” and it is not easy to justify. But rather than go into the explanations usually proffered — and why they fail — I want to raise a related problem. How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?

A quick observation will point out that Singer assumes that health is a requirement for happiness, an assumption well refuted by many anecdotes about the joy of those who suffer with illness.

However, I find it amazing that Singer is willing to attempt to determine how “good” a child’s life will be.

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12 Responses to No More Generations?

  • I’m beginning to think that Peter Singer is the greatest (unwitting) Christian apologist of our generation.

  • Comment #4 at NYT:
    “Perhaps it’s my depression talking, but I have long maintained that I was done a disservice by being created in the first place. I would not inflict that pain on anyone else.”

    Comment #6:
    “I think about this a lot – so many pregnant women are out there, and I wonder where they find the hope to have children. My son is a young adult, and I feel that the likelihood of his living out a natural lifespan is small. Environmental disaster, terrorism, the end of the world feels awfully close. Frankly, I love the idea of a planet devoid of people, healing itself from our damage, taken over by animals and plants. I don’t think most people lead such fabulous lives, and I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing our beautiful home to let more people slog along.”

    This is what we’re dealing with.

  • Singer makes an odd structural decision in his piece. He lays out all the reasons for not reproducing, and then throws in with no explanation in the last paragraph:

    I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now. But justifying that choice forces us to reconsider the deep issues with which I began. Is life worth living? Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence? And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?

    Which leaves us with the question: if he think that life is actually worth living, why? Or is this his own blind leap of faith? From what he lays out before, there seems little reason to come to this conclusion. It strikes me as a rather intellectually cowardly approach not to even provide support for your own conclusion.

  • Yes, that struck me too. It does seem that in essence he has faith in progress (and science presumably) that the suffering scales will be tipped.

    What I don’t understand is how it is justified to make the generations in between suffer (including Singer as he continues to live a life not worth living) so that the future generations can enjoy a life worth living.

  • “But you have to give Singer credit for being logical. If there is no good, no purpose in love or sacrifice and no eternal life, then perhaps life is not worth living and humanity ought to cease to exist.”

    Isn’t it none-sense to speak about what will be good or bad for a nonentity? I mean, before conception, “you” don’t exist. And if my life is so bad, how could it be better for me to die when (if you believe the self perishes at death), there is no more “me” in the equation?

    Singer is playing with square circles as if he were doing serious geometry.

  • Singer is playing with square circles as if he were doing serious geometry.

    When I first heard of the David Benatar book Singer cited, I thought the same thing — it’s sheer nonsense. To what entity does the “good” of nonexistence accrue? What does it even mean to talk of “good” if there is no existence to assert what is good or bad?

    These guys need to do some serious reflection on the meaning of Exodus 3:14.

  • Singer’s position seems to be that life may be worth living in the future, so he thinks it’s worth continuing the species in hopes that we get there, and also because most people today already assess life as worth living.

    I took him to be raising questions more than providing answers, so I don’t fault him for not providing more support for his position. He may, in fact, have developed his position quite thoroughly elsewhere.

  • God however, does have the capabilities to sort through all the factors to decide when it is best that a child come into the world.

    Would you say that when each and every child comes into the world, that God has decided it was best?

  • Kyle:

    I have a feeling “best” is the wrong word, b/c I don’t know if there ever if a “best” time for a child. I do think that God finds that it would be good for a child to be born and so it happens. If it would be bad for a child to come into the world, I don’t think it would happen.

  • Wow, someone from Vox-Nova defending Singer. Shocking.

  • Karen,

    Kyle was not defending Singer’s views, he was just trying to figure out what the heck they are. In that regard, he was doing no differently than I.

  • Karen,

    I have no qualms about defending Singer when I think he’s right. In this case, though, I merely noted how I understood his position: I didn’t judge his position as right or wrong.

5 Responses to Hakuna Matata Heresy- So Tempting

  • “ the Heavenly Feast is worth the sacrifices, worth the wait- just persevere, seek righteousness, be compassionate, and desire personal holiness which comes from God and God alone.”

    It’s so appropriate you should post this today. It speaks to my heart. As I read through Joe’s posting of movies below, I thought back to a movie I saw a long time ago entitled “King Rat”, based on James Clavell’s novel about a Japanese POW camp in 1945. I don’t have the time to do this posting justice, but woven into the fabric of the movie were moral questions about honor, duty, love, compassion, greed, envy, etc., each virtue or non-virtue integrated in varying degrees in each individual man from different cultures – American, British, Australian, and Japanese, and the degree to which each would compromise his particular moral code, or lack thereof, in order to survive. One poignant line that I will never forget was spoken by a dying 22-year-old, from starvation or fever, probably a combination of both — this is not verbatim — “I came from dust and will return to dust with just 22 years in between.” If that was spoken by a Christian, there is much hope and meaning, for our Lord is merciful and forgiving and is the resurrection and the life. If spoken by one without any particular belief in Our Lord Jesus, it causes me to be almost to the point of despair for his soul.

    “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

  • This was incredibly insightful and made some striking points (and analogies) synthesizing a cultural problem very well as well as putting it into proper Christian perspective. Thanks Tim.

  • Hakuna Matata speaks to an autonomy of the moral order

    Scar is heteronomous.

    The circle of life is participatory theonomy.

    From Veritatis Splendor.

    40. The teaching of the Council emphasizes, on the one hand, the role of human reason in discovering and applying the moral law: the moral life calls for that creativity and originality typical of the person, the source and cause of his own deliberate acts. On the other hand, reason draws its own truth and authority from the eternal law, which is none other than divine wisdom itself.69 At the heart of the moral life we thus find the principle of a “rightful autonomy”70 of man, the personal subject of his actions. The moral law has its origin in God and always finds its source in him: at the same time, by virtue of natural reason, which derives from divine wisdom, it is a properly human law. Indeed, as we have seen, the natural law “is nothing other than the light of understanding infused in us by God, whereby we understand what must be done and what must be avoided. God gave this light and this law to man at creation”.71 The rightful autonomy of the practical reason means that man possesses in himself his own law, received from the Creator. Nevertheless, the autonomy of reason cannot mean that reason itself creates values and moral norms.72 Were this autonomy to imply a denial of the participation of the practical reason in the wisdom of the divine Creator and Lawgiver, or were it to suggest a freedom which creates moral norms, on the basis of historical contingencies or the diversity of societies and cultures, this sort of alleged autonomy would contradict the Church’s teaching on the truth about man.73 It would be the death of true freedom: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:17).

    41. Man’s genuine moral autonomy in no way means the rejection but rather the acceptance of the moral law, of God’s command: “The Lord God gave this command to the man…” (Gen 2:16). Human freedom and God’s law meet and are called to intersect, in the sense of man’s free obedience to God and of God’s completely gratuitous benevolence towards man. Hence obedience to God is not, as some would believe, a heteronomy, as if the moral life were subject to the will of something all-powerful, absolute, ex- traneous to man and intolerant of his freedom. If in fact a heteronomy of morality were to mean a denial of man’s self-determination or the imposition of norms unrelated to his good, this would be in contradiction to the Revelation of the Covenant and of the redemptive Incarnation. Such a heteronomy would be nothing but a form of alienation, contrary to divine wisdom and to the dignity of the human person.

    Others speak, and rightly so, of theonomy, or participated theonomy, since man’s free obedience to God’s law effectively implies that human reason and human will participate in God’s wisdom and providence. By forbidding man to “eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, God makes it clear that man does not originally possess such “knowledge” as something properly his own, but only participates in it by the light of natural reason and of Divine Revelation, which manifest to him the requirements and the promptings of eternal wisdom. Law must therefore be considered an expression of divine wisdom: by submitting to the law, freedom submits to the truth of creation. Consequently one must acknowledge in the freedom of the human person the image and the nearness of God, who is present in all (cf. Eph 4:6). But one must likewise acknowledge the majesty of the God of the universe and revere the holiness of the law of God, who is infinitely transcendent: Deus semper maior.

  • I have always thought that Hakuna Matata was an excuse for kicking back, taking it easy and doing nothing. As such, I suspect it is the most widely followed philosophy ever devised by fallen Man!

  • In philosophical terms, I’d label it hedonism, a type of materialism that sees the experience of pleasure and the avoidance of pain as the only true goods. It always reminds me of the tv character Frasier. All of his grand intellect and learning were solely focused on his personal enjoyment.

Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-First Note-Preservation of Type

Sunday, February 28, AD 2010

Continuing on with my series on the seven notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before proceeding with this post.  We will now take the remaining notes in numerical order.  This post will deal with the First Note-Preservation of Type.

In regard to Preservation of Type, Cardinal Newman takes pains to point out that the idea underlying the doctrine remains of the same type while the external manifestations of the idea may change greatly.  His illustration from Roman history conveys his point well:

On the other hand, real perversions and corruptions are often not so unlike externally to the doctrine from which they come, as are changes which are consistent with it and true developments. When Rome changed from a Republic to an Empire, it was a real alteration of polity, or what may be called a corruption; yet in appearance the change was small. The old offices or functions of government remained: it was only that the Imperator, or Commander in Chief, concentrated them in his own person.  Augustus was Consul and Tribune, Supreme Pontiff and Censor, and the Imperial rule was, in the words of Gibbon, “an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth.” On the other hand, when the dissimulation of Augustus was exchanged for the ostentation of Dioclesian, the real alteration of constitution was trivial, but the appearance of change was great. Instead of plain Consul, Censor, and Tribune, Dioclesian became Dominus or King, assumed the diadem, and threw around him the forms of a court.

In other words in determining  whether there has been the preservation of type in a development of doctrine we must look at the substance and ignore the form.  For example, in the Middle Ages laymen would often receive communion once a year out of great reverence for the body of Christ.  Now we are encouraged to be frequent communicants.  However, the underlying reverence that the Church commands for the body and blood of Christ remains the same.

Cardinal Newman concludes:

An idea then does not always bear about it the same external image; this circumstance, however, has no force to weaken the argument for its substantial identity, as drawn from its external sameness, when such sameness remains. On the contrary, for that very reason, unity of type becomes so much the surer guarantee of the healthiness and soundness of developments, when it is persistently preserved in spite of their number or importance.

Newman on the First Note:

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The Claremont Reviews Advent Interview with Fr. James V. Schall

Tuesday, December 15, AD 2009

Since 2002 Ken Masugi, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and lecturer in Government at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, has conducted Advent interviews with James V. Schall, S.J., author of over thirty books on political theory and theology. Fr. Schall teaches in the Government Department of Georgetown University.

The interviews themselves are a delight to read and span a variety of topics from current events to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI to issues in philosophy, theology and ethics — and sometimes, in addition, what books Fr. Schall himself is reading at that particular moment in time.

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4 Responses to The Claremont Reviews Advent Interview with Fr. James V. Schall

Obama The Theologian

Friday, September 4, AD 2009

It’s interesting that during a Ramadan dinner at the White House President Obama mentioned that Islam is a great religion.

Since when is he qualified to make such theological statements when questions of this magnitude are above his pay grade?

Did President Obama mean how the followers of Islam subjugated the Christian lands of the Middle East, North Africa, Anatolia, the Balkans, and Spain?

Enslaved millions of black Africans in the slave trade to Europeans?

Not to mention defiling the Hagia Sophia, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and many, many more Christian shrines and churches.

President Obama you have no idea what you’re talking about.

_._

To go to the RealCatholicTV.com website click here.

To download the Vortex by Michael Voris, S.T.B., on RealCatholicTV.com click here.

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12 Responses to Obama The Theologian

  • by Pope John Paul II in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”

    A very different discussion, obviously, is the one that leads us to the synagogues and mosques, where those who worship the One God assemble. Yes, certainly it is a different case when we come to these great monotheistic religions, beginning with Islam. In the Declaration Nostra Aetate we read: “The Church also has a high regard for the Muslims, who worship one God, living and subsistent, merciful and omnipotent, the Creator of heaven and earth” (Nostra Aetate 3). As a result of their monotheism, believers in Allah are particularly close to us.

    I remember an event from my youth. In the convent of the Church of Saint Mark in Florence, we were looking at the frescoes by Fra Angelico. At a certain point a man joined us who, after sharing his admiration for the work of this great religious artist, immediately added: “But nothing can compare to our magnificent Muslim monotheism.” His statement did not prevent us from continuing the visit and the conversation in a friendly tone. It was on that occasion that I got a kind of first taste of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, which we have tried to develop systematically in the post-conciliar period.

    Whoever knows the Old and New Testaments, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation. It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son. In Islam all the richness of God’s self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside.

    Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.

    Nevertheless, the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers in Allah who, without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not at all.

    The Council has also called for the Church to have a dialogue with followers of the “Prophet,” and the Church has proceeded to do so. We read in Nostra Aetate: “Even if over the course of centuries Christians and Muslims have had more than a few dissensions and quarrels, this sacred Council now urges all to forget the past and to work toward mutual understanding as well as toward the preservation and promotion of social justice, moral welfare, peace, and freedom for the benefit of all mankind” (Nostra Aetate 3).

    From this point of view, as I have already mentioned, the meetings for prayer held at Assisi (especially that for peace in Bosnia, in 1993), certainly played a significant role. Also worthwhile were my meetings with the followers of Islam during my numerous apostolic trips to Africa and Asia, where sometimes, in a given country, the majority of the citizens were Muslims. Despite this, the Pope was welcomed with great hospitality and was listened to with similar graciousness.

    The trip I made to Morocco at the invitation of King Hassan II can certainly be defined as a historic event. It was not simply a courtesy visit, but an event of a truly pastoral nature. The encounter with the young people at Casablanca Stadium (1985) was unforgettable. The openness of the young people to the Pope’s words was striking when he spoke of faith in the one God. It was certainly an unprecedented event.

    Nevertheless, concrete difficulties are not lacking. In countries where fundamentalist movements come to power, human rights and the principle of religious freedom are unfortunately interpreted in a very one-sided way-religious freedom comes to mean freedom to impose on all citizens the “true religion.” In these countries the situation of Christians is sometimes terribly disturbing. Fundamentalist attitudes of this nature make reciprocal contacts very difficult. All the same, the Church remains always open to dialogue and cooperation.

  • Now, Tito, just as it is not right to say Catholicism did X, Y, and Z because of what some of its followers did, it is not right to say X, Y, and Z are from “Islam” unless you can show how it is universal Islamic teaching.

    The Fall of Constantinople is very interesting to bring up. First, we all know Catholics before Muslims sacked the city and indeed, destroyed religious relics and holy sites (though it was not Catholicism which did this). The sacking of Constantinople was a great defiling and it was Western Christians that did it. By this fact, Constantinople was weakened enough to be taken centuries later. Second, in the taking of the city, many Christians were in the army of the Turk (indeed, a great number) — we are talking about empires, not religions.

    Now saying this, it is true to say a lot of followers of Islam have done evil things, just like followers of Christ have done evil things. But let’s not use that to define Islam, just as we don’t use the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition to define Catholicism.

  • Did President Obama mean how the followers of Islam subjugated the Christian lands of the Middle East, North Africa, Anatolia, the Balkans, and Spain? Enslaved millions of black Africans in the slave trade to Europeans? Not to mention defiling the Hagia Sophia, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and many, many more Christian shrines and churches.

    I think this is an unnecessarily uncharitable reading of the President’s remarks. If President Obama had said that Christianity was a great religion, I certainly would not have understood him to be praising the Spanish Inquisition. As with Christianity, so with Islam.

    Additionally, ‘great’ has multiple meanings, for instance ‘most significant’, ‘influential’, ‘extensive in time or distance,’ which strike me as at least as plausible in this context. It seems unlikely (to me) that President Obama was praising Muslim theology, per se. Moreover, even if he was praising Muslim theology in general terms, there are certainly enough points of agreement between Islam and Christianity that this should not necessarily offend Christians; it’s not like President Obama was praising Sharia law or commenting on the divinity of Christ.

    great (gr?t)
    adj. great·er, great·est

    1. Very large in size.
    2. Larger in size than others of the same kind.
    3. Large in quantity or number: A great throng awaited us. See Synonyms at large.
    4. Extensive in time or distance: a great delay.
    5. Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent: a great crisis.
    6. Of outstanding significance or importance: a great work of art.
    7. Chief or principal: the great house on the estate.
    8. Superior in quality or character; noble: “For he was great, ere fortune made him so” (John Dryden).
    9. Powerful; influential: one of the great nations of the West.
    10. Eminent; distinguished: a great leader.
    11. Grand; aristocratic.
    12. Informal Enthusiastic: a great lover of music.
    13. Informal Very skillful: great at algebra.
    14. Informal Very good; first-rate: We had a great time at the dance.
    15. Being one generation removed from the relative specified. Often used in combination: a great-granddaughter.

  • Whoops, just noticed Henry had already used the Spanish Inquisition…should have come up with another example. ‘Nobody expects…’

  • Henry K. & John H.,

    Excellent points all the way around.

    Without getting into any nitpicking which I want to avoid, President Obama would never have said anything about Islam the way Pope John Paul II has so eloquently stated.

    His was more of a political statement to the appeasement of his liberal sensibilities that all religions are the basically the same.

    Which isn’t true at all.

    His comparison of Islam to Wicca, Buddhism, and Christianity shows his lack of depth on the subject of religion.

    This coming from a man who didn’t know that Jeremiah Wright was a racist while attending his ‘church’ for 20 years.

    …I like the quotes pulled from Pope JP2. He is one of the major reasons why I am a Catholic today.

  • Catholic Anarchist,

    You are now banned from all of my postings.

    Enjoy purgatory!

  • “His was more of a political statement to the appeasement of his liberal sensibilities that all religions are the basically the same.”

    Actually that is also not what he said, and that is the problem. As the Church has consistently pointed out, we do not reject that which is true in other religions; to say that (which is what his quote from Ali is about) is not to say they are all equal.

    I thank God St Thomas Aquinas found much truth through Muslims!

  • I have to say, I think this particular broadcast went a bit too far.

    Obama’s use of the word “great” did not need to be subjected to such hair-splitting analysis.

    I certainly believe we have a right and a duty to criticize the president when he says or does something morally objectionable, but I have little respect for people who are simply looking for any reason they can find to lay into him.

  • Of course, to say what a specific Muslim does is not “Islam” is a fair statement. But then you can look to the founder and founding texts. In those texts, there is a much closer relationship between Islam and violence than between the Inquisition and Catholicism.

    But, all in all, I doubt the O was making any great theological statement on Islam – he was just being cordial. No point in antagonizing where there is no need to.

  • c matt,

    Of course, to say what a specific Muslim does is not “Islam” is a fair statement. But then you can look to the founder and founding texts. In those texts, there is a much closer relationship between Islam and violence than between the Inquisition and Catholicism.

    nailed it.

    But, all in all, I doubt the O was making any great theological statement on Islam – he was just being cordial. No point in antagonizing where there is no need to.

    No, he wasn’t making a grand theological statement, since he’s an avowed secularist, and likely an atheist at his core, how could he? He was making a value judgment, suggesting that all religions are equally good and can be used to further his agenda. WHich is why he refused to participate in the national day of prayer, but hosts a Ramadan feast in the White House. Appeasing the Islamo-fascists is in his agenda, appeasing true Christians is not.

  • Henry K.,

    We only accept what is true in other religions.

    Joe Hargrave,

    He is the president of the United States, we should expect only the best from our president. This man accomplished so much that by the age of 35 he wrote TWO memoirs!

    Tito

  • I certainly believe we have a right and a duty to criticize the president when he says or does something morally objectionable, but I have little respect for people who are simply looking for any reason they can find to lay into him.

    During the previous Republican administrations, where exactly was this seemingly virtuous stand that so bravely confronts the underhanded pettiness on the part of the president’s cruel critics?

    Or is it the case that the president need be a democrat, or better yet, a Pro-abort democrat, for that matter, or simply Obama, in order to deserve this kind of just treatment and defense?

The Loss of Limits… the End of Art

Sunday, August 16, AD 2009

A priest friend and I are reading through Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ posthumously-published work, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile, and it’s been an enjoyable read thus far, even in the places where I disagree with the author.

For the purposes of this post, I wanted to share a citation which I found very intriguing regarding the impact on art of modernity’s flight from anything which might be remotely conceived of as limitation.

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One Response to The Loss of Limits… the End of Art

Diagnosing contemporary conservatism's ills.

Monday, June 22, AD 2009

Apropos of DarwinCatholic’s post on the meaning of conservatism, the following comment from Francis Beckwith (What’s Wrong With The World) struck a chord:

“Conservatism–as a philosophical, cultural, and political project–does in fact have boundaries, and those have been set by the cluster of ideas offered by such giants as Burke, Lincoln, Chesterton, Lewis, Hayek, Chambers, Friedman, Kirk, Weaver, Gilder, Buckley, and Reagan. There are, of course, disagreements among these thinkers and their followers, but there is an identifiable stream of thought. It informs our understanding of human nature, families, civil society, just government, and markets.

“What contemporary conservatism has lost–especially in its Hannitized and Coulterized manifestations of superficial ranting–is the connection to a paternity that is necessary so that its intellectual DNA may be passed on to its progeny.

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16 Responses to Diagnosing contemporary conservatism's ills.

  • DEAR GOD! YES! YES! YES!

    Christopher, this is one of those moments when someone puts fragmented thoughts into coherent words.

  • This also reminds me to write that letter to FOX as to why I think Sean Hannity should just be taken off the air.

  • I confess I don’t see much of a identifiable stream of thought among the figures mentioned. Some of them, no doubt, would have been horrified at being identified with others in the group, or explicitly disclaimed any conservativism.

    The intellectual foundations of conservativism have always been something of a post hoc affair (I’m not saying this is unique to conservativism). The way people talk, you’d think the average Goldwater voter could have quoted you chapter and verse from Russell Kirk. I doubt it.

  • Perhaps our writer would like all conservatives to be nice and polite and drink tea with pinkies upended. When the world of ideas is a moshpit where knees and elbows are needed. He forgets that William F. Buckley Jr. of blessed memory, an elite by birth, used very sharp elbows and knees in public debate. Firing Line was the model for many of the Fox News programs- Buckley would invite liberal guests, only to undress them clothing article by clothing article. In the Media World, conservatives operate at a disadvantage of numbers and resources. Hannity, Coulter, et al, even with the ratings dominance of Fox, must compensate with honking rhetoric at times. Meanwhile, El Rushbo gets bigger numbers than anybody anywhere. Mostly on the strength of his ideas.

  • Blackadder — true, it’s not that cut and dry. On that note, I had recommended this introductory essay on the other thread — on the disparate influences and intellectual threads of “American conservatism” and their points of agreement.

    I found George Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 is also a good read.

    Regarding Beckwith’s criticism, while before my time, I’m disappointed that we don’t have a television show of the calibre of, say, Buckley’s Firing Line.

    The wasteland of Fox News’ “pseudo-conservative” television has to some degree been replaced by blogs and online interactions. Websites like “First Principles” and the various journals (First Things, Weekly Standard, etc.) which might encourage such a return to and examination of conservatism’s intellectual sources.

    Due credit to Ann Coulter, however — apparently she did recommend Chambers’ Witness in one of her books and prompted a number of them to take it up.

  • *laughs* Of course the TV guys aren’t known for their great philosophical arguments!

    They’re not dealing with highly philosophical folks who want to listen and reason– they’re dealing with folks who either already agree, or who are disposed *not* to agree and will only consider their words if they’re sufficiently startled.

    Sweet Mother, most of the folks watching will be results of the public school system– the same one that has more years of sex ed than history ed?

    Would we also be surprised at sidewalk preachers who appeal less with sweet reason than with ways to get your attention, then direct you to places you can get more information?

    Sure, they’re shallow– but they get the ideas out.

    I’d argue that right thought is less suited to this style of being spread, which is why left thought is so much more common in the area.

  • There has to be some kind of middle ground where we are able to firmly articulate our beliefs backed by a fairly in depth understanding of our historical roots. I’d agree with Frank and with Chris on the boorishness of Fox News and most of its talking heads, though I think he’s underestimating Laura Ingraham and, to a lesser extent, Coulter.

    What we’re seeing time and again in these blog debates are two groups kind of talking past one another. There are a group of conservatives that are tired of taking what seems to be the Marquess of Queensberry approach to political debate, and another concerned about the crassness of some of the political commentary. While I can understand the hesitation on the part of the latter group, it does seem that there’s a subtext to this debate as often the people who cry the loudest for a more temperate tone also want a more temperate kind of conservatism, one that abandons some of the core principles and policy positions of modern conservatism. This only angers the other side even more, and so the rhetoric becomes even more intemperate.

    And as much as it pains me to say this, perhaps we should stop being overly academic. There’s absolutely nothing wrong – and it’s in part necessary to understand the philosophic roots of conservatism. But we’re not going to make that many advances with master’s theses and doctoral dissertations (that was a very painful sentence to write). We should be able to convey the eternal principles of conservatism without boring the masses to sleep, but without the gutteral thoughtlessness of people like Hannity.

  • It strikes me that part of the thing here is that if one has a political movement which a larger percentage of its voters are actually interested in, it will have a fairly loud/populist tone to many of its spokespeople. One can only get away with having a calm, elite, academic tone to all debate if one’s actual voters are such absolute sheep that they don’t bother following any of the movement discussion.

    The solution is simply to have layered communication vehicles, some of which are okay with remaining small because of the limits of their appeal. Fox News and talk radio by their nature need to appeal to tens of millions of people. Magazines like National Review, American Spectator or First Things necessarily take a higher brow approach, and have a smaller appeal.

  • “Sure, they’re shallow– but they get the ideas out.”

    Well said Foxfier. People like Rush, Hannity, Levin, Ingraham and Coulter have to entertain in order to stay on the air. They also carry the conservative message to a mass audience, something that National Review and blogs simply can’t do. I would also note that when WFB started National Review it was attacked as sensationalist and boorish. I recall one initial review stating that the country needed an intelligent conservative journal but National Review clearly did not meet the bill!

    There is more than enough room in the conservative movement for both conservatives of the head and of the heart.

  • To the extent that Rush Limbaugh can communicate the core convictions and ideas of conservatives and/or the Republican Party in a popular medium, he has my wholehearted support.

    Where I get off the Limbaugh train is, say, his off-the-cuff loose cannon remarks — for example, on the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib:

    “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it, and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?”

    and taking a cavalier “it’s not torture if you can survive it” approach to waterboarding.

    To the extent that these kind of remarks become — given his popularity (and Hannity’s, and Coulter’s, et al.) — the public face of American conservatism for the masses and the media alike, I see that as an impediment.

    And I don’t think even William Buckley himself, despite his penchant for “sharp elbows and knees”, would have approved.

  • I believe it was William F. Buckley, he of the upended pinky and refined manners, who referred to Gore Vidal as a “fa___t.”

    So, as long as we’re talking about superficial ranting, which Buckley did plenty of times, I don’t really see the difference between him and Hannity, except that Beckwith uses him to make his alleged point.

    By the way, Beckwith compares favorably with Hannity, Coulter, et al., in his own ignorance of his tradition when he speaks of Catholicism.

  • Nemo,

    On Beckwith and his comprehension of Catholicism (as a convert to such): irrelevant and stick to the topic.

    Paul,

    Completely agree w/ your comments @ 11:03 am.

    I admit these days much of what I see — from the pundits at Fox News to the recent RNC resolution to call on the Democratic Party to rename itself “Democrat Socialist Party” to Michael Steele’s “the GOP needs a Hip Hop makeover!” and rationally-challenged articulation of pro-life principles — makes me wince.

  • I believe it was William F. Buckley, he of the upended pinky and refined manners, who referred to Gore Vidal as a “fa___t.”

    Buckley once called Vidal a queer during a heated exchange in which Vidal had referred to him as a crypto-Nazi. I doubt it was an exchange he wished others to emulate.

  • In regard to Michael Steele Christopher, we are in complete agreement. The man can’t seem to make up his own mind as to what he believes, let alone lead the RNC!

  • It’s on youtube if you’d like to see it in context, too.

    Frankly, I can’t say an accurate sexual slur rises to the level of offense of “you are a wanna-be mass murdering, eugenically-minded quasi-pagan trying to take over the world.” Not very productive, but I’d have offered to clobber the tootaloo too.

  • “I believe it was William F. Buckley, he of the upended pinky and refined manners, who referred to Gore Vidal as a “fa___t.” ”

    Buckley said it on nation-wide television, although he used the term “queer”.

    Here is a link to the video and the transcript:

    http://concordlive.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/william-f-buckley-jr-vs-gore-vidal-1968/

    As far as I know Buckley never expressed any regret for what he said, and considering it was said to Gore Vidal, good novelist but rancid human being, leaving completely aside his sexual preference, I can understand why.

Freedom as a Political Good

Thursday, December 18, AD 2008

Historically the Catholic Church has had, or has been perceived to have, a rocky relationship with “freedom” in the sense that the term has come to be used in a political and cultural sense since the Enlightenment.

Freedom in the modern sense is often taken to mean, “I’m free to do whatever I want without anyone telling me what to do.” The Church, on the other hand, generally takes freedom to mean, “Freedom to do that which is good.” The Church sees sin as enslaving and as reducing one’s capacity to choose freely in the future, and as such even where acting contrary to the good is in no way forbidden, doing wrong is not seen by the Church as exercising “freedom”.

So the in the moral sense, the Church does not hold “freedom” in the sense of simply doing whatever you want to be a good. Rather, the Church holds doing the good to be the good, and freedom to be the means of achieving that.

I speak above in the moral sense. However, let us look now at the political question of freedom.

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2 Responses to Freedom as a Political Good

  • The issue about the state restriction of freedom, which Walter Berns advocates for very eloquently and I am sympathetic to, is a rather tricky one. Certainly we should not value freedom as the highest good, but to what extent to trust the state? Given the constant morass of sinful humanity, might it be better to have, for example, something like free speech absolutism where we can argue and shout and make fools of ourselves, and hopefully convince? We have something like this on the Internet, and I think it works well enough (child abuse is the only thing not instant accessible and not tolerated. Everything else is a go….often for the worse, but not without the good.

  • State power should always be used sparingly. As Washington noted: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

    Government should stop us from wrongfully harming others, one of many reasons why I believe government should ban abortion. Government can and should impose time and place standards of decorum: no parading nude down a public street. In the area of marriage, since the expansion of state power prevents it from being solely a matter for religions, the state perforce must make rules as to how marriages are made, who may marry, and how marriages may be dissolved and what happens afterward.

    One difficulty we are now experiencing is that the expansion of the role of government over the past 100 years has made it hard to limit government involvement in a plethora of areas which used to be dealt with by other means. For example, the whole area of divorce. Government decrees “easy” divorce. People take advantage of this and a whole host of new problems: child support, visitation, abuse by “step” parents, etc, are created which government must also act to “solve”. To what I am sure would be a total lack of surprise to the Founding Fathers, the government “solutions” tend to work poorly, are enormously expensive to administer, and undermine self reliance. At incredible cost we have developed a nanny state, but unfortunately we do not appear to have Mary Poppins running the show, but rather one of Homer Simpson’s sisters-in-law from the DMV.