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Vomit the Lukewarm
7/29/2004
 
Deism

Deism is a theological opinion that asserts God created a universe that stands in no need of continuing divine action. Just as a clock, once wound, does not need of the watchmaker to perform its motions; or just as a coat, once stitched, does not need a tailor to keep sewing it; so too the universe, once created, does not need a creator to keep creating it.

It seems that deism is true for several reasons:

1.) Everything made has a certain autonomy from its maker. If a work needed some action it its maker for continued existence, then every work would disappear if its maker died. But this obviously does not happen. The universe, therefore, needs no action of God to continue existing.

2.) Everything that comes to be in the universe either is a local motion, or is reducible to a local motion. Once local motion has begun, however, it requires no agent to keep it moving, except per accidens, i.e. to overcome resistance. If God set the universe in motion, therefore, the universe does not stand in need of his continuing action, except perhaps per accidens.

3.) A greater cause has the power to produce a greater effect. It is better to cause something that possesses a certain autonomy, than to cause something that is wholly dependent on the cause. God's power is the greatest of all powers. His creations, therefore, ought to have autonomy in the most preeminent way possible, sc. The power to exist without the divine assistance.

Deism is very balanced and simple. With a minimum of principles it harmonizes many divergent opinions about God; for example, deism can both explain the need for the universe to be created, which is required by the nature of matter; and it seems to solve the problem of evil, by giving a certain autonomy to the things in the universe to act contrarily to the divine will. The theory is also very sympathetic to certain aspects of our own wildly successful modern experimental science, such as the sciences tendency to see the universe as a closed system of physical forces that neither come to be nor pass away, but merely change modes of existence.

In spite of all this, deism is a theory at odds with itself, and it posits superfluous, unnecessary premises.

(N.B. "matter" here means that by which material things are material thingsit is not to be confused with the more technical philosophical concerns about the first matter. In other words, we posit matter as Deists would understand it, which is the point of the argument.)

For matter either has a cause of its existence, or it does not. If it has no cause of its existence, then deism is impossible. But if matter has a cause of its own existence, then either it is itself the cause, or it is caused by something other. But nothing can be the cause of its own existence, for otherwise it would have to exist before it existed. matter, therefore, has a cause of its existence that is other than itself. Now all things that are other than the self are either intrinsic to the thing (a part of a man is not a man, but yet is intrinsic to the man) or they are extrinsic to the thing (The father of a son is not his son, nor some part of his son). If the cause of matter existing were intrinsic to matter, then deism is unnecessary, for it posits a cause for something that already has a cause if its existence intrinsic to itself. It is also impossible for existence to be caused by some intrinsic part of matter for three reasons:

1.) There is no difference between saying that an intrinsic part of matter causes its own existence and saying that matter causes its own existence. The former is merely a more explicit statement of the latter, and both are impossible.

2.) If existence were a part of something, then there must be another part different from it. Now the parts of a thing differ either because they are different things (a leg is not a hand) or because they have different definitions (the definition of "matter" and the definition of "a human body" are different, even though a human body is material). If the former, then existence could only be unified to what does not exist, which is impossible. If it is the latter, then one has explained nothing, they have only noted that the word matter and the word existence do not mean the same thing, which everyone knows.

3.) If existence belongs intrinsically to matter, then matter does not seem to differ from God, a being for whom essence and existence are the same. For God, whether by account or substance, is one. But deism attempts to posit some distiction between God and matter. If this distiction is only in account, then deism is pantheism- for God and matter are the same thing, only differing in definition. But this is totally against the intention of deism, for no deist would posit the universe as the divinity. If God and matter are different beings, the objection above stands.

If matter, however, cannot have a cause of its existence as some intrinsic part, then it must have it from some extrinsic agent. But to exist is obviously something that belongs to matter for as long as it exists. So matter must have an extrinsic cause of its existence for as long as it exists. But deism calls this extrinsic cause God. Therefore deism is fundementally at odds with itself. It is impossible to posit God as the cause of matter existing, and yet deny he is the cause of matter existing continually.

This same conclusion can be manifest from merely noticing that whatever causes something to exist per se is something that must be present so long as the thing exists, but one must distinguish between the per se and per accidens causes. If God is the per se cause of matter, as the deist posits, then God must continue his action upon matter.

Now to the objections:

1.) In things made by man, matter is presupposed, and the matter is in some way the cause of the existence of the thing. So long as the matter continues to exist in a certain way, the thing continues to be. But matter is not presupposed by the deist, but rather God is posited as its cause. Therefore the analogy is ineffectual. Moreover, the analogy does not prove what it attempts to prove. For since the thing caused to exist by matter plainly could not exist if its matter did not exist, we would expect matter itself to exist only so long as its cause exists. This cause, according to the deist, is the activity of God.

2.) Local motion pertains per se only to bodily things. But all bodily things are material. This objection therefore presupposes matter, whereas the deist seeks to give a cause for it.

3.) A greater cause does always create a greater effect, but only as much as is possible. But it is not possible to create something that is the cause of its own existing, either initially or for as long as it exists, for it is simply impossible for a being to be the cause of its own existence, for then it would have to exist prior to itself.










 
7/27/2004
 
One Aspect of Theology
 
There is no part of theology immune from serious and devastating criticism. Whether the criticism is ultimately correct will be of little immediate consequence to the man who has to deal with it- knowing the argument will be difficult, confusing, and long. The "argument from evil" for example, has at least a hundred variations- and this argument is not even the most fundamental of the arguments against theology. Does one really need to ask how God could exist given the evil in the world when most theologians are incapable of proving how God could exist at all? Stop any professed theologian an ask him to prove the following: "a being without a body can (and then must) exist."Until they can do so, what do they have other than opinion, and a shaky opinion at that? After all, no one has ever seen a bodiless being, and it is impossible to imagine any such thing existing. The materialist begins with the benefit of the doubt, and absent a good argument, he will win the day.

But even if one could give the definitive argument against the materialist, they have not yet begun theology. There are years of arguments and discussions left: along with hair splitting distinctions, Greek verb parsing, abandoned theories of the universe, and no shortage of impenetrable texts- any one of which could often be the stuff of a whole career. I don't say this to detract from theology, but as a warning to whoever would speak of it. The discussions are dense, subtle, and easy for men to lose interest in. Don't be stunned when you see many men starting such discussions, and then getting disgusted with them after a matter of minutes or seconds. There is nothing startling about this at all: theology's just not their thing.

No one, of course, needs to know theology. Human needs in a certain way seem to point away from knowing theology- it is difficult to provide for oneself by being a theologian, and so one hazards not only the comfortable life, but everything that comes with it (being considered eligible springs to mind, so does being considered normal.) There are also the nagging anxieties of one's own thought, the annoying people who diminish the need for theology (all you need is love), and of course the ever present critics that deny the very possibility of theology (God is impossible/ God is totally unknowable/ God is unnecessary/ or -most maddeningly- God is easy to understand. Here, let me tell you all you all there is to know...)  

If there is any consolation in the difficulty of theology- inasmuch as it is merely difficult- it is that it is hard to disprove it too. The majority of the arguments I have heard against the possibility of theology are flimsy, incoherent and at best suggestive or rhetorical. Very few of them are in any way grounded, and even those who believe minimalist or popular theologies have no ability to prove the first thing in them.  the best arguments against theology remain  the ones given by theologians themselves- right before they refute them. But the arguments are serious, and any one of them, left to wanter ouside of it's proper context, could sever someone from a belief in God. Many such arguments have done so.


 
7/24/2004
 
Thoughts on Pity 
 
To control another’s pity is to feel like one could control God

Between commanding pity and flirting, a woman can control every second of a man’s life

The doe who plays hurt will attract many bucks, and eventually the wolf.

Some seek pity for having done nothing wrong, others for having done nothing right. The first, as a rule, are liars; the second, as a rule, are repentant. 

The mediocre will boast of depravity, and be seen as noble.

Few seek pity for what they most deserve it.

If we showed our faults, all men would see us as disgusting. We would deserve the treatment. So would they.

Men can seek pity to hide their faults, and avoid them.

To have nothing and be given everything is not fair.



 
7/23/2004
 
The Charm of the Savage
(and another smashed in theme)
 
Being savage is the opposite of being civilized. Savagery has its own peculiar pitfalls, sorrows, joys and consolations, because every kind of human life does. The charm of the savage has been a prominent theme among civilized men for the last three hundred years, and I suspect it is a theme that has always existed.

Modern manners are such that it is impolite to say the word “savage”, because modern manners are hyper-sensitive about the use of certain words. This makes a certain amount of sense- modernity must deal with the majority of people, and the majority of people immediately reduce large contrary and opposite categories wholly into “good” and “bad”. But everyone is loath to have savages reduced to being merely bad, and so we agreed to drop the word all together.

Now it is an insight as old as the hills that civilization is made possible by the rational definition of sexual activity. This is by no means a sufficient cause- plenty of savage people have rational definition of sexual activity- but it is to say that civilization and sexual definition are like horses, and we cannot ride them both. I use the word “definition” in order to stay general; definition is naturally tied to the fixed nature of something, but there is little agreement as to the cause of this fixed nature when it comes to sexual activity. That sex is fixed in some way is simply a given- take our modern agreement that child molestation is outside the limits of ordered sexual desire- but this leaves the main point of contention untouched. The great debate is over whether the nature of sex when it is set and fixed and defined is fixed like the lines of a battle or like the lines of something triangular.

The lines of a battle are set by the balance of opposing wills, with at least one will desiring to eliminate the other. These sorts of lines might abide for a long time, and may even be stable for some time (think of the border of North and South Korea). But the line is intrinsically unstable and undesirable. Success in the face of such limits is found in “pushing the envelope” and destroying lines of battle along with everything that creates the lines.

The lines of something triangular (or of any set shape) are precisely the opposite of this. Whereas success with battle lines is defined by destroying the lines, success with the lines of something triangular is found in making the lines as perfect as possible. The master workman is set apart from the novice by the perfection of his cuts and lines.  Battle lines are intrinsically unstable, and motion and change are the norms to be expected, and are signs of power, intelligence, and perfection. Motion and change in the lines of a workman are signs of incompetence, and the motion of his lines can only lead to a corruption of what he is trying to make.

The norm in our time is to see sexual definition as the lines of a battle, where success is defined by destroying the line and everything that causes it. This happens because modernity sets the limits of what is acceptable sexual activity at consent. What is consented to is good, what is not consented to is bad. But if consent is viewed as the cause of goodness, then whoever consents to more kinds of things will have more kinds of good. Whoever consents to more sexual activities-in thought or action- will be better (more liberated, more attractive, more fun) and whoever consents to fewer of them- by approval or activity- will be viewed as worse (more repressed, more ugly, more weird).

The limit of consent, like the limiting lines of a battle, is a balance of opposing wills. The limit is not intrinsically set, but intrinsically fluid and dynamic. But this is the same as saying there is no limit at all. There is no reason that the line should be here as opposed to further except our own weakness and imperfection. Virtue will be found to the extent that we do away with the line, and everything that causes the line. We have a battle to win and an enemy to conquer.

Regardless of whether this is the correct view of the limits of sexual activity, this view of sex has long been accepted as inimical to civilization, and civilizations often fantasize about the savage’s lack of rational definition of sexual activity (No Limits!)

It’s worth pointing out that savages need not be wholly the exotic persons of far off lands. To the extent that an imperfectly civilized person can be called a savage (and this seems reasonable to do) then adolescents and children are savages. The love of the savage and the love of youth can spring from a can font, and often do. 

 
7/22/2004
 
Thoughts on the Roots of Error.

The basis of most of the false things people believe is something subtly false, and/or something obviously false. The first is rarely rooted out because few have the desire and intelligence to see such things, the second is rarely rooted out because man finds obvious things unsatisfying to ponder- unless he feels he discovered it himself.

Most men have preferred to hold something false that they thought up themselves, rather than something true that would make them like everyone else.

St. Thomas, who is less prone to exaggeration than any man who has ever lived, said "presumption is the mother of error" (e.g. because we know bodily things best, we assume bodily things are all that exist)

The break between classical and modern philosophy happened when Descartes inquired about the philosophical implications of error- not simply the errors of philosophy.

Pascal claims that most men are actually right, given their point of view.

We cannot choose whether we philosophize, but few choose to do it well.

 

 



 
7/21/2004
 
A Forgotten Concept
 
We have a bizarre modern taboo against not praising sex enough. Anyone who brings the topic up in a moral context- whether they advocate chastity or promiscuity- feels the need to talk for awhile about the wonderful nature of doing it. Contrary to popular creation, there are no dour old church ladies shaking fingers or yelling blunt advice: everyone starts their talks, classes, shows, sermons, and discussions about sex with some blather about how “meaningful” sex is. They are right of course, and they have their reasons to say these things, but something very important has been forgotten in all this- something that needs to be remembered:
 
Sex is obscene.
 
Obscenity is the forgotten concept. Obscene things are things that happen “off stage” or in modern terms “off camera”. The word traveled into English meaning only “foul” or “against modesty” but originally it was the word for a magnificent stage device, and it is necessary for scripts that need to have sex in them. Having something happen off camera which is fully known by the audience to be happening off camera is the best way to preserve the narrative and the artistic power of the story. Whenever there is sex on the screen, the narrative is broken and interrupted. People may certainly be interested in the scene, but everyone would agree that the minute there are boobies on the screen, the plot-awareness-meter completely flatlines.
 
 The recognition and use of this origional meaning of the word obscene allows us to understand the sorts of things that are truly for “mature audiences”. I watched people do it in movies an on TV for years, and I knew exactly what they were doing. But To be quite honest, I was “way past 21” before I realized that Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara end up doing it the night he takes her up the staircase (which is a classic and wonderful moment in cinema, and a perfectly obscene one). Shouldn’t “mature” movies be the ones that only mature people can understand? Wouldn’t you feel more mature if you could realize that there was a part of the plot that you could see that you knew a younger or less sexually aware person could never see?
 
The obscenity of sex does not need to be proven; it is as self evident as our need to wear clothes. Perhaps it could be proven from something more self evident, but if you’re looking for a relevant moral premise more evident than “don’t walk around naked in public” you’ll look a long time. Nakedness is obscene: sex is so a fortiori.
 
It is tragic that the word “obscene” didn’t bring to English the power and clarity of it’s original meaning. The obscene is a tool of great art, and a necessary one. It is a mysterious and beautiful philosophical insight into human sexual appetite, too often overlooked due to our constant need to never be seen as speaking ill of sex.

 
 
7/20/2004
 
De Rerum Natura
 
Somewhere along the way we decided to entertain ourselves with the boring minutiae of everyday life, or at least the boring minutiae of pretty, rich people’s lives. “The Real World” was the first attempt at this that I remember, and shows like it still come and go. The shows don’t tend to be top tier by anyone’s standards: “Big Brother” (and several forgettable spin-off’s with forgotten names); “Elimidate” (or for that matter, any dating show); “The Osbornes” (which is the closest to being a non-groaner). All are generically called “reality shows” but the label might hide more than it reveals. Some such shows are simply game shows (that Donald Trump show everyone likes is an example) others are  more interested in confronting the ugliness of humanity, and can occasionally give wonderful insights into human nature (“Cops” is good, but the best is “Cheaters” in it’s earlier seasons).
 
The hook of all these shows is that they are “real”. The word “real” is slippery, and the definitions of it probably take up 20 columns in the OED. In these shows, however, the word “real” is used as the opposite of the word “artistic”- with the relevant art being “storytelling” or “scriptwriting” (a description which, it is important to point out, includes both fiction an non- fiction).
 
This is a strange conflict, and in some way it might be the tension of all art. Art imitates- it “holds the mirror up to nature” but it is not entirely clear how the imitation of a ballet is common to a play, or a symphony, etc. The history of art can be seen as a dialectic of “realists” and some other group, call them “the non-realists”. Iconographers and Medieval artists don’t seem interested in painting something that has a one-to- one identity with an actual human face (so call them “non- realist”), but the most renaissance painters did. The Impressionists seem bored with one- to one correspondence of line, color, etc to the painting- and why not? If you want a photograph, take one, this is a painting. The opposition between painting and photographs got so extreme as to make concrete things in our own experience seem unartistic- hence “abstract” art. Why bother with portraits or still lifes? That is for a guy with a camera… I work with canvas, I’m an artist.
 
All of these views of the things that entertain us will have effects on the culture at large. Art doesn’t of course make someone do anything (enough of that silly straw man argument) but it does dispose people in a certain direction (inasmuch as it is pornographic, it actually does make people do things, because it harms brain function but more on this some other time). What are the effects of our present love of the minutiae, of this love we have of the most extreme realism? Isn’t it a tautology to point out that it will, of course, lead to a lack of interest in art?
 
7/17/2004
 
Thoughts on Historical Vanity
 
The ancients, and all other men who have ever lived, considered themselves “moderns”.
 
In the 1930’s people did not walk around in jerky, black and white movie reels with ragtime piano tinkling in the background.
 
Togas, bloomers, bell bottoms, calf-tights and silver-buckle shoes were all modern fashions.
 
Who has a better claim to being “the end of history”? Bill Gates, The makers of the Apollo Moon vehicle, or Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare? Is it even meaningful to talk about the end of history?
 
Imagine actually seeing your great -great grandmother when she was eighteen. Why doesn’t she look like a great-great grandma?
 
If a man dies at the age of 65, why does it make any more sense to remember him as what he looked like at 65 than at 60? Or at 50? Or at 15? Or as a fetus?
 
Why does the psalmist, living 2500 years ago, say that “the number of man’s years is seventy, or perhaps eighty”?
 
It’s been said about Sci-fi movie fashion “no one in the future wears plaid”. Why are all the walls in the past stone or mud? Why don’t women decorate their houses in historical movies?
 
On “That 90’s Show”, half of the cast will have tongue studs, nose piercings, and will listen to Green Day.
 
How will suburbia look significantly different in 20 years? How about 200?
 
Seventy years of roman history is contained in only one medium length book. How much history would you have to leave out of a book that chronicled 1934-2004? Think of all the rich events of your own life, all the humanizing events. Would any of them be in the book?
 
How would you feel about hearing someone say “life in 2004 was very difficult, uncertain and dangerous” in the same way that we talk about life on a 19th century farm?
 
7/14/2004
 
Vices

Our Vices are our needs, and so they make us live as persons that must always be meeting their needs, as it is with starving people. No one can do all or even most of the things he wants until he provides for the things he needs, but our vices leave us continually in a state of need. As a consequence, our vices always keep us from doing what we want.

There were many things I have wanted to do, and that were very much within my power to do. I have done few of them. Our vices keep us too busy doing nothing to do anything. We might do what we want for an hour, or a day, or a scattered few days, But the demanding schedule of vice will crush what we want within minutes or hours or days, rendering it a wish, or a daydream... a thing that we must try to do later, or tomorrow, or some other time.

The basis for calling a certain habit a vice is that it keeps us from doing what we want. Certain uses of our ability to determine our own lives (freedom) result in habits that destroy our ability to determine what we want to do with our lives. There is room to dispute whether the habit of doing X or Y is a vice, but there can be no doubt at all that whatever is a vice is an action where we habitually do what is bad i.e. what we do not and cannot want. The ultimate problem with man is that he only has a vague idea of what he really wants. That being said, we are all clear enough on not wanting to be junkies, drunks, whores, obese gluttons, complainers, arrogant jerks, or stingy pinchpennies. None of these people do most of the things the want, and what few things they do, they do more often then not poorly or in a self destructive way.

Vice flips our lives inside out. We were meant to have our needs on the periphery and our wants and loves at the center of our lives. Vices make our needs central to our life, and our wants and loves get pushed further and further into the periphery, until everything we ever wanted out of life recedes and is shrouded in weakness and shadow.
 
7/13/2004
 
The Essay That Got Away

Anyone attempting to name Shakespeare’s most popular and well known play could hope for no better than a five way tie. To know Shakespeare at all is to know at least two or three of his titles: and anyone with a more than forced interest in him could name at least six or seven. Most of the liberally educated should be able to list off at least fifteen titles with relative ease.

Shakespeare, however, wrote at least 37 plays, so unavoidably some have fallen into obscurity. Occasionally, one of these plays will flash to life again: there was a fantastic version of “Titus Andronicus” made a few years back, and I have seen playbills for “Pericles” and “A Winter’s Tale”. Others seem to languish in perpetual obscurity: like “Anthony and Cleopatra” or “Timon of Athens” or “Coriolanus”. It may be just as difficult to name Shakespeare’s most forgotten plays as to name his most celebrated, though I would suggest one candidate: “The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth” (Another candidate might be the Wagnerian-length trilogy of Henry the Sixth, but its immense length is at least a trivia fact that might save it from obscurity).

But not all works are forgotten for the same reason. Some are simply born obscure, others corrupt to obscurity, and others have obscurity thrust upon them. This is to say that some works simply have no relevance to anything whatever (this is probably the case with most things written or produced). Other works have their moment and lose it- i.e. they command assent for some time and then are crushed by new findings, new theories, etc. Other works become marginalized by snobs, small minded critics, educational fads, bizarre ideologies, or even less malevolent forces, like lack of interest, or the need to study other things first, etc. Which is the case with Shakespeare’s plays, and who is fit to answer the question? This question is larger than Shakespeare, of course: Did Plato’s “Cratylus” or “Lesser Hippias” deserve to be forgotten? How about Aristotle’s “On Prophesy in Dreams”? What about St. Paul’s “letter to Philemon” or The Book of Zephiniah? What about Chaucer’s version of “Troilus and Cressida”… or Shakespeare’s, for that matter? And what are we to make of what might well be his most obscure and little known play, “King Henry VIII”? There can be no substitute for simply hearing the play and passing our judgment.

I watched the play last night. It suffers from a horribly dense and confused first scene, and a ham-fisted, bootlicker ending scene, but the rest of the play is spellbinding. It can be watched with pleasure by anyone of liberal mind, but it would be of particular interest to students of Henry’s fascinating history- which I think is as close as any story can come to having something for everyone. It’s not everyday that a story can prominently, and perfectly display the conflicts and tensions between church and state, men and women, virtue and vice, tyranny and freedom, Protestantism and Catholicism, modernity and the middle ages, even academics vs. the common people, still at the same time be a story of romance, of war, of modernity and (perhaps most significantly) of conscience.

If there is one constant theme in the story of Henry VII, it is conscience. I am aware of no other story where the characters so universally are concerned with conscience and make it the center of their disputes, their arguments, and their concerns. The primacy of conscience is attested to by all who tell the story, and by many significant quotations surviving from the actual historical persons. This constant theme makes the story wonderful, for conscience is, for good or ill, what we are. Conscience is the voice which will one day speak for us to the face of God.

 
7/10/2004
 
Random Thoughts on Darwinianism Vs. Intelligent Design; Science Vs. Theology, etc.

(Point #1 too technical and too long. Points 3-8 presuppose some familiarity with a theory called "intelligent design"- a theory that I neither deny nor accept.)

2.) So Dawinianism sees no distinction between man and animal. In a certain sense, who cares? Geometry sees no distinction between a man and an animal either, since both are continuous quantities, neither does modern physics, since both are measurable corporeal bodies.

3.) Are all the fallacious attempts to talk about “two truths” or “NOMA” ("non overlapping and mutually exclusive" spheres of authority- ed.) really just bumbling attempts to say that philosophy and “science” do not have the same formal ratio? For example, a geometer can consider a baseball inasmuch as it is quantified and spherical, and a physicist can consider it inasmuch as it moving with a certain velocity- since both are true of a baseball, we could say that there are “two truths” about it, and two sciences which treat of it. We could go further and consider it merely as a being as such, and then we could talk about “three truths” and so on ad infinitum. In other words, if “two truths” and “NOMA” mean that there is a difference in ratio between philosophy and “science”, then they are true. But the idea that modern science “grasps the whole of reality” is the sophistical argument that confuses what is most known to us (material bodies) with what most truly is (incorporeal intelligence). Why doesn’t ID point out and explain this confusion? Explaining this sophistry is not optional, since it the very essence of the materialist position.

4.) The materialist philosophy is plausible only because the existence of corporeal beings is self- evident, whereas the existence of incorporeal beings must be proven philosophically. Where is this philosophical proof in ID? We must no doubt begin with the thing most known to us that is (in fact) incorporeal, and then prove it to be such- and this thing is our own knowledge. Plato’s proof in the Phaedo is good (the soul is not a harmony of bodily things), and Lewis follows it more or less- but it is not a rigorous demonstration, and platonic answers can dispose one to platonic errors. St. Thomas proves the point more exactly in De Veritate Q. 2, art. 2. This demonstration proceeds from a definition of knowledge as a middle term.

5.) What is the account that ID gives of “intelligence”? If it is “that by which a final cause is given to things” then how could ID expect to be a scientific theory in the modern account of science, since its formal ratio only admits of measurable and mathematical things? If people want merely to study things inasmuch as they are quantified and measurable, why should anyone object? This only means is that most people do not want to be philosophers- but this has always been the case. Most people also make the mistake that Socrates observes in the artisans: because they are wise about some one thing, they think they are wise about everything. Because Gould and Dawkins know something about corporeal, measurable being, they think they are qualified to talk about the incorporeal. But their opinions are really just a bunch of jibber- jabber. If these men are not open to learning philosophy, why bother with them? And if they are open to learning philosophy, why not teach them philosophy?

6.) Isn’t ID’s account of intelligence per accidens? To be intelligent does not mean to give purposes to things, even though if there is a purpose, there must be some intelligent being. Rather, to be intelligent means, “to be the form of another”. (cf. De Veritate, Q. 2 art 2, and Summa Theo. I, Q. 14, art. 1)

7.) If ID’s account of intelligence is “that which gives final cause to things” then it would seem to be a part of the science called “natural philosophy”. If this is the case, why is it that ID makes so little mention of anything in the science of natural philosophy? Where are matter and form? Where is motion? Where is the account of chance as “something that is only a cause per accidens”? Where is the account of time, or of place? Where does ID prove that everything that is moving is being moved by another? Where is the proof for the existence of God from motion which can be given regardless of whether the universe is eternal or not?

8.) Again, If ID is a part of natural philosophy, as opposed to what is today called “science” then ID is far more universal and abstract than science. But we have to ask: what is the goal, to rid a science of its errors, or to refound the lost science of natural philosophy? If it is the latter, read #7 again.

9.) Even if all of Darwin’s claims were true, would they affect as much as Darwin or his devotees think? Even if things come to be by chance, would it follow that they had no function or purpose? Would it change anything about the function of a car or a computer, or a fork if you found out that it was formed by chance? This Word Perfect program that I am writing on now would still be for writing, whether it was formed by a man, or by the random winds of a hurricane. In other words the question of “what a thing is” does, in a certain manner, precind from the question “how did it come to be”?

10.) On a similar point, If a chicken pecked out the greatest line of poetry ever, I would have no doubt that it was pecked “at random” but is the standard by which one judges the greatest poem random? Would any of the words in the line be things that signify “randomly”, or would they signify random things? Furthermore, what do the Darwinians mean by “random”, and is it justified by any experimental observation? I will freely admit to being conceived by a random sperm cell, and a random egg (no study of that egg or that sperm would ever reveal that it was “intended” to make the author of this blog) and yet it is not the case that I was conceived randomly in every sense- the act that did it was intentional.

11.) Even if humans came to be from monkeys, does this tell us anything about what a human being is? Does it change that I am a rational animal and therefore have moral obligations? Again, if a triangle came to be at random (or from a warping circle), would this change the fact that it is “a three sided rectilinear figure”, and therefore has certain properties?

12.) Does ID require anything more than the obvious observation that natural motions have some term? Ice freezes things, fire heats, water flows downhill… etc. St Thomas takes all these things as examples of “nature acting for an end” (SCG, III, c 1 “whether all things act for an end”) Why bother with elaborate scientific theories to prove ID? Why not just give people what they really want: a true speculative natural philosophy leading to God? Why not just explain Aristotle’s Physics, at least for starters?

13.) On a similar note, there is no opposition between teleology and determinism. Every determinist philosophy is teleological, for “that which the thing is determined to” is the end, and the form. The determinist does not posit intelligence, but this is only to say that he gives no reason for the determination. The one who calls himself “a determinist” and means that he denies intelligence is merely a person who refuses to answer the question of how things must be determined as they are (this determination requires intelligence).

14.) Do Gould and Dawkins show any understanding of what it means to act for an end? Is acting for an end even a disputable point, once one understands what is meant by the terms? Does Darwin show any understanding of the correct meaning of “a species” or “matter”? When they “attack” what they think is Aristotle or St. Thomas, aren’t they all just slaying straw men and chasing windmills? Why take any of them as deep thinkers?
 
7/07/2004
 
Liberalism and Conservatism

“Liberal” and “Conservative” are both bodies of opinion. This is fitting and necessary to their being political labels. Greater participation in political affairs makes for better politics, and opinion can be the basis for great participation wheras knowledge cannot be, because knowledge is hard to come by, and takes much time and study.

Opinion also allows for people to unify into large groups. There is little tolerance for error in knowledge, and errors are easy to make. Opinion, however, is forgiving of diversity of belief in a way that knowledge and science are not. People can have a great deal of difference in their political world view, and still be called “liberal” or “conservative”. This may be clear among two contemporaries but it is more clear when we compare what the word liberal meant even twenty years ago, and what it means today; or if we compare what the word “conservative” means in our country, and what it means in another.

The liberal and conservative labels also give smaller factions a larger framework in which to find common ground with other smaller groups. It is therefore harder to marginalize any one smaller group. But this widespread acceptance is only made possible through liberal and conservqtive being sorts of opinions.

There are several things to keep in mind about political opinions, though.

1.) Because they are opinions, they often are partial and can prove different, even contradictory conclusions. Should a conservative be against birth control because it is not traditional, as he understands tradition, or should he be for it because it belongs to individual liberty, at least as he understands it? Likewise, should liberals hate birth control because it allows for “big business” to get away with lowering wages (fewer children to provide for, after all) or should it love birth control (for whatever reasons it does now)? All of these arguments have been made many times. If you take any point of political action, chances are one can make a plausible conservative and liberal case for it.

2.) Because they are the sort of opinions that allow for mass appeal, they will tend to share the characteristics of a mass of people. Now masses are prone to overwhelming passions, they are powerful, they are often unified around some one object for a time, but quickly forget about it. Do not, therefore, expect liberal or conservative to mean the same thing over time, or in different countries. Expect it to have the characteistics, both good and bad, of a crowd.

3.) Because Liberal and conservative are variable, do not look to them as the ultimate standards for what is true or false. Inasmuch as one is liberal or conservative, they have some truth and some error in them. The labels were not meant to be entirely consistent, exhaustive world views, but rather a mass of opinion that allows for political life.

4.) Because they are masses of opinion that do not strive for absolute consistency, they will be (duh) inconsistent at points. This means that both will always be open to some extent to the charge of being stupid, unsophisticated, and hypocritical. This will allow for various people to continually pop up and make their careers o the follies of the other political group. Also, because opinion is often concrete, and can be dispensed and held without much subtlety of mind, the people who point out the foibles of the other opinion need not have much tact, intelligence, or restraint in speech.

5.) It is easier to be passionate about the things we believe than the things we know. This is not because opinion is more suited to passion than knowledge is (In fact, the reverse is true) but rather because opinion can be held by far more people, and therefore we will always have more people to egg us on, and whom we can talk to, so long as we stay within the realm of things believed, and not things known. In some sense, this is a corollary to the second point above: the mass can act more passionately than one man alone, and opinion belongs to the masses. Do not be surprised when people get worked up into a frenzy over their political beliefs, i.e. when they start railing about the liberals or the conservatives, etc. It is one frenzy out of a hundred that is not either a partial truth, error, or opinion.

6.) Political opinions are a very good means of attaining to philosophy, perhaps they are even the best way. But philosophy is not political opinion, rather it transcends all opinion. Philosophy can no more be described as “conservative” or “liberal” than it can be described as “mathematical” or “architectural”

7.) Conservative and liberal are political opinions, and politics is the highest practical science of man. If man were the highest thing, than politics would not need to be subject to some higher thing- but man is not the highest thing in the universe. So politics is contingent on some higher thing. There are two ways to be higher than political opinion: either you are higher than opinion, or you are higher than politics. Only knowledge is higher than political opinion, but knowledge, as was said above, is too rare to be a basis for political life, i.e, knowledge is for the few, but politics is for the many. So what is needed is an opinion that is about something higher than politics. The proper name for such an opinion is faith in God.
 
7/02/2004
 
On Quitting Smoking

I told the Lord that if he wanted me to stop smoking he had to get me a woman first. I’m not entirely certain that my activity was theologically sound, and it certainly isn’t the sort of activity one would read about in any of those devotional holy books. But the Lord kept up his end of the deal, so I had to keep up mine. To be honest, I’ve had been dating and smoking for around two months. But I quit five days ago.

Smoking is, of course, carnal, the mark of which seems to be you periodically hate the thing when you do it, and periodically love it when you don’t. No sooner have you quit the thing out of shame and disgust than you take it in again like you would take in a long lost lover. You miss the thing (from time to time) far more intensely than you ever wanted it when you had it and in fact only as intensely as you hated it when you had it.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That broke the gerbil wheel.


Smoking is at the center of my vice world. I drink to enjoy smoking more (both the deep drags you get, and the easing of my lung pain). I am lazy since the smoking takes all the energy out of me. I drink tons of coffee and never eat because I like smoking with coffee, and it keeps me from feeling hungry- at least I told myself it does this. There was some quantity of cigs that could equal a meal… whatever it was. I wouldn’t get up in the morning since my lungs hurt; I hourly had to dim down the light of the intellect to get it to the point where I could smoke without feeling guilty. Smoking would run me down, and it contributed to more than one depression. It also was in some sense the center of my life. I have done nothing as dependably as I have smoked. Regardless of where I was, regardless of whether I was sicker than a dog or not, regardless of how broke I was, or how long I had to spend in airports or non-smoking places, I always, um, provided that I would find some way to smoke many times everyday. I have probably spent between five and ten grand on cigs alone. Something is wrong when the thing most arguably at the center of your life is also the center of your vices.

I’m not judging anyone here- there’s probably some smokers in heaven (and their butts would actually be relics in such a case, you know). But I wasn’t the sort of guy who cold smoke and hope to stay good for too long. Now that I’ve quit, the mind is playing all the usual tricks on me. The flesh is clever, and it has many sophistical arguments. Over the last four days, I have become firmly convinced (for a minute) that:

-the best way to put in a p-trap is to smoke while thinking about it.
- The psychological change I am going through will cause me to love the woman less (confusing, since I only quit on her account… but the flesh has its arguments)
-I can’t stand on the back porch without smoking.

Then there’s just the urges, the blind commands- DO IT!

None of these things are rational, all of them fall apart. What connection is there between smoking and writing a paper? Stress? What stress did it take from me? Only the stress I got from the famously quick Nic- withdrawals. Comic. Minus the relief of a self inflicted itch, it was no more relaxing than zoning out and staring at the wall.

I feel too preachy. I’ll stop. Most of this is an indirect thank you to the woman. And the Lord.



p.s. (I'll be out of town for a few days. Next blog by wednesday, I hope.)
 
Traditio aut Vanitas

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