Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Something I noticed was his references several time to the inner sanctum of the Rwandans, for all their poverty and simplicity, and to the sacred. Like Raskolnikov, he was brought to a hieghtened awareness of the holy and the conscience through circumstances, though he was not a murderer like Raskolnikov. Now he looks in a sense from the outside at the Western poers and sees them with a critics eye. He accepts the blunt criticisms by Paul Kagame , leader of the Tutsi army that restored peace, of our countries, knowing very well that we did nothing for them and cared nothing for them and that he has no reason to be diplomatic to those who let his people die.
This partially draws on the book by the same name, but it also adds a lot of material and of course, footage.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There above noise, and danger,
Sweet Peace sits crowned with smiles,
And One born in a mangerCommands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend,
And (O my soul, awake! )
Did in pure love descend
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure
But One, Who never changes,
Thy God, thy life , thy cure.
- Henry Vaughan 1621-1695
See also his "Come, come, what doe I here?" which seems to me to evince an eanest heartfelt English maranatha-ing.
Friday, October 27, 2006
I attended Richard Dawkins’s presentation regarding his new book The God Delusion at Politics and Prose Bookstore in DC today, 24 October 2006. Overall I was glad I went. Dawkins has been infamous on my horizon as a militant and eloquent atheist and I wanted to go because I believe Christians have available a mind and a sustainable rationality which famous detractors are in the end on a simple human level, not equal to. Dawkins raised a number of issues and then answered a number of questions from the crowd which I will try to reiterate here. I found him to be overall decent enough though like a silly school boy when it came to mocking religion. He revealed in a number of points what I take to indicate a rather poor grasp of religion, his chosen topic. Nevertheless, I found him in some ways helpful to an extent in defending reason (and in some ways close to the pope in his Regensberg lecture when he affirmed reason against blind emotionalism) though ultimately he undercuts reason itself. I had two questions coming in which I noted down beforehand: Would he give a response to the recent criticism of his book by philosopher Thomas Nagel in the National Review? He did not, but reiterated the argument criticized by Nagel and others (which I will cover briefly below) so I regretted not moving to the mic to try to ask it. However, my second question was asked by another: Dawkins has been taken at times as affirming a “strong determinism” and at other times seeming to contradict this. Philosopher Daniel Dennett, Dawkins’s American counterpart, another aggressive atheist, went into an explicit discussion of this when he wrote about Dawkins’s meme theory in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and he argued that Dawkins’s statements in The Selfish Gene suggesting human freewill were lapses that Dawkins rejects in later writings. Dennett is defending “strong materialism” and the notion that our thoughts are irrational forces that colonize our minds and that ultimately all thought is reducible to just that, irrationality (which is exactly the absurdism that Husserl spotted and described about a century ago in Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy). Dawkins replied in this Q & A that he saw there was a philosophical difficulty and that he didn’t know the answer and could only say that emotionally it doesn’t feel that way and that he couldn’t stand the thought of it being that way. He suggested that if it is an inconsistency to believe that we have freewill, we have to live with. So in this case, we may assume, he believes a delusion might be acceptable. This was in perfect conformity, it seems to me, again to Husserl’s description of the naturalist, in which Husserl asserts that the naturalist refutes himself by undercutting his whole moralizing enterprise by leaving no possible philosophical ground for his values and sermonizing tendencies. I think one draws the contention from Husserl that naturalism is more importantly a psychology than an argument. (See Husserl’s statements appended at the end of this summary). I do not wish to be to peremptory in describing his points but most of Dawkins’s comments were made in the form of populist appeal to emotional response and I wish to focus as much as possible on his arguments. Points he raised in the presentation, often mockingly, were: --The Trinity is mysterious… He expressed his certainty that it was just bunk. --The Aryan heresy….the debate about whether Jesus was God seemed stupid to him --The theological usage of the term “substance” seemed stupid to him. ---He accused theology of being obscurantist. ---He specifically attacked the Catholic church and those who wish to include Mary as part of the Trinity but that is condemned as a heresy if I recall right. He also attacked the multiplicity of saints and the many different Ladies. He spoke about some event where a man was shot and it was said that our Lady of Fatima guided the bullet so it didn’t kill him and joked, “Why didn’t she guide it so it didn’t hit him at all?” ---He went to covering content of chapter seven of his book entitled “The Good Book” in which he charged that following the Bible would be morally repugnant. He discussed the event where God told Abraham to go and sacrifice Isaac and then stopped him when he showed himself willing to carry it out. He found this repugnant and could see no way this could be explained. I think that it only looks that way when one makes too many assumptions. God was prefiguring his sacrifice of His Son, His very heart, exposed to the reviling of the world. In this way God clearly put His heart into the world. Abraham, as the father of faith was called a friend of God and entered into a level of reciprocity with God through God’s initiating command by be willing to sacrifice his promised son who doubtless meant more to him than his own life to God. The Scriptures explain that Abraham reasoned that God would resurrect him. They also say that the desire for human sacrifice never crossed the mind of God. The emotional distress, mystery and fear of the situation may have appeared like cruelty to Isaac but God is not afraid to appear bad or frightening when He has larger lessons to teach His faithful than the pastures within a small conception of God. ---He suggested that the jealousy God is described as having is sexual in its overtones because He chastises Israel for whoring after other gods. I often think of G.K. Chesterton’s quip that materialism is a schoolboy’s philosophy when I encounter comments like this which seem to show its enduring aptness. Also Schopenhauer’s quip that “materialism is the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself” occurs to me. Dawkins elaborated a little on this, generally showing that he no idea of why ancient people worshipped idols in the first place and preferred simply to ridicule it and make no distinction between Greek pantheons and monotheism. ---The next point he made is one that I think is the most difficult for me. He talked about Jericho and the complete slaughter God ordered the Israelites to carry out. He said these slaughters were morally indistinguishable from the slaughter of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein, etc. Dawkins raised some important points it seems about the life of these verses in the understanding of some modern Israeli children who saw them justified when it came to Israel because of their religious commitment but unjustified if the scenario was switched so that the perpetrator was not the ancient Israelites but a modern Chinese major. Several things I keep in mind in grappling with this issue are 1) it is God’s prerogative and would be His right to finish us all. I do not see how anyone could rationally argue that a perfect God is morally bound to allow any imperfection to exist, and because we are imperfect humans, that includes us. But that really is not adequate in itself. There is an emotional response it seems with some content. 2) God was dealing with a people in that time and situation and He chose only through historical time to unfold His plan. To do this He could not allow His unfolding message to be mistaken for man’s attempts to reach out to God. He had to inculcate in the Israelites the knowledge of His holiness, first by separating them from the Egyptians and preventing their assimilation with the idol worshippers around them. Then when they began to assimilate the idols anyway and turned away from God and oppressed the poor God used the Assyrians and Babylonians to preserve for Himself a remnant. So He was unfolding His plan even through the evil actions and violence of the Assyrians and Babylonians. But this still seems to me a difficulty because I wrestle, not with the right of God to annihilate us all but with the accomplishing of it by commanding the Israelites to slaughter. I think Scripture offers some explanation in the story which suggests that God awaited the sending of the Israelite army to scourge away these peoples until their sins had reached a limit of extremity warranting a terrible judgment such as His judgment on the world of violence through the Flood. --He also listed off some of the things people were killed for in the Old Testament and took some time to focus on one incident where a man broke the Sabbath command by gathering wood on the Sabbath and was stoned for it. He said a few more things. This is not meant to be a comprehensive coverage. I already mentioned the one question asked him above and his answer. He was also asked whether the agnostic position was correct and he agreed that we are all agnostics in that we can’t disprove anything, such as the JuJu and the flying Spaghetti Monster and faeries but in practice most people assume they don’t exist and he equates God with faeries. One man introduced himself as an atheist and related that he had a friend who believed in evolution and was homosexual and went to a liberal church and disbelieved most of the Bible except the Gospels and believed in separation of church and state and that he was really nice. Dawkins responded by saying that he did not believe religious belief could be closely correlated with whether a person is nice or not. (I recalled statements made by Dawkins that religious parents who raised their children religiously were abusing the child and wondered if this was not a contradiction but he later made a comment which helped me to understand his point of view better which strangely enough has some affinities with the Amish and Anabaptists and Church of Christ, etc.). He did say however that we should ask if religion causes an overall trend in bad directions. One man asked if he saw religion as a means that people separated themselves from others. Dawkins apparently didn’t see this as always true but did see friction in parts of Ireland for instance where there was nothing but religion and that by becoming identified with a religious label the anger and desire for retribution is generalized toward counterlabels. He expressed his distaste and his voice changed showing he had an earnest conviction on the point that it was like child abuse to label a child from the cradle upward Catholic or Protestant. But in this I think there is some agreement at least among a wide group of Christians. I am specifically familiar from my Church of Christ background with their belief that a person could not believe until they were old enough to understand for themselves and for this reason they do not perform baptism until a person reaches what is considered the age of accountability and make the decision individually for themselves. The Amish also in their way acknowledge this reality with their coming of age custom that is covered in a well-known documentary whose name I forget. Both the Church of Christ and the Amish share Anabaptist roots. I agree with them and with Dawkins that a person must be old enough to understand and reason for themselves in order to appropriate their faith- that is I agree with Dawkins that a person should not just unthinkingly adopt any set of beliefs, though I would add religious or other, but that he should actively engage the intellect available to him. Yet Dawkins undercuts this rationality with his ‘strong determinism” and does not allude it by avoiding the philosophical issues emotionally but only earns the epithet of Schopenhauer that he has forgotten to take account of himself and demonstrates consistently through his eight or so books the correctness of Husserl’s critique who noted that application of naturalism to an account of oneself ends in absurdity by undermining itself. Dawkins said this point wasn’t related to faith anyway, suggesting that he was merely assuming that the irrationalism of all faiths. A lady, obviously a Christian believer of some kind, asked what he thought of the faith base of the twelve step programs that abound. Dawkins answered by dumb-foundingly revealing that he did not know that these programs were faith based and that he had learned something from her question. He said that it was not obviously stupid to persuade people to believe in a higher power and that even it is a good technique it didn’t matter. She said that in the Baltimore area they end the twelve step meetings with the Lord’s Prayer. He replied, “Well that is just stupid.” Another person noted the two body guards that had been provided by the store standing behind him and asked if he had ever been threatened. He replied, “I’ve never been threatened.” I thought this is interesting because religion supposedly encourages violence but in the West Christians have never threatened this famous atheist. It seems to me quite certain that he would be threatened in the Middle East but he has been focusing on Christians in the West and would like to make no distinctions between religions. Another asked him how he accounted for the doube helix and DNA and someone in the crowd yelled “Read The Selfish Gene.” Dawkins replied that it is a long story that he has been laying out in his eight books. He showed his conviction as he spoke of the “magnificent elegance in how you can get to staggering heights of complexity from a very simple process” and that once you see this your consciousness is raised to the power of science. He made the argument regarding the complicatedness of God which Thomas Nagel addressed in a recent article in The National Review. Here is an example of Dawkins making the argument from his chapter in the anthology Intelligent Thought:: ”Given that chance is ruled out for sufficient levels of improbability, we know of only two processes that can generate specified improbability. They are intelligent design and natural selection, and only the latter is capable of serving as an ultimate explanation. It generates specified improbability from a starting point of great simplicity. Intelligent design can't do that, because the designer must itself be an entity at an extremely high level of specified improbability. Whereas the specification of the Boeing 747 is that it must be able to fly, the specification of "intelligent designer" is that it must be able to design. And intelligent design cannot be the ultimate explanation for anything, for it begs the question of its own origin.” To this Thomas Nagel replies: “But God, whatever he may be, is not a complex physical inhabitant of the natural world. The explanation of his existence as a chance concatenation of atoms is not a possibility for which we must find an alternative, because that is not what anybody means by God. If the God hypothesis makes sense at all, it offers a different kind of explanation from those of physical science: purpose or intention of a mind without a body, capable nevertheless of creating and forming the entire physical world. The point of the hypothesis is to claim that not all explanation is physical, and that there is a mental, purposive, or intentional explanation more fundamental than the basic laws of physics, because it explains even them… All explanations come to an end somewhere. The real opposition between Dawkins's physicalist naturalism and the God hypothesis is a disagreement over whether this end point is physical, extensional, and purposeless, or mental, intentional, and purposive. On either view, the ultimate explanation is not itself explained. The God hypothesis does not explain the existence of God, and naturalistic physicalism does not explain the laws of physics.” Some of his statements cause one to wonder if Dawkins even knows what he is talking about when he speaks about religion. ---Another questioner raised the question of Pascal’s Wager where Pascal argued that if you don’t know whether there is a God or not isn’t it better to believe in a God in case it turns out that there was one and yo0ur not believing would make Him angry. Dawkins said that was a wonderful conundrum and that he thought Pascal was not serious when he said it but only joking and that either we believe something or we don’t. He went on to mock the idea of God caring whether people believed in Him or not, saying that made God sound insecure. APPENDIX “Characterisitic of all forms of extreme and consistent naturalism, from popular naturalism to the most recent forms of sensation-monism and energism, is on one hand the naturalizing of consciousness, including all intentionally immanent data of consciousness, including all intentionally immanent data of consciousness, and on the other the naturalizing of ideas and consequently of all absolute ideals and norms. From the latter point of view, without realizing it, naturalism refutes itself. If we take an exemplary index of all ideality, formal logic, then the formal-logical principles, the so-called “laws of thought of thought,” are interpreted by naturalism as natural laws of thinking. That this brings with it the sort of absurdity that characterizes every theory of skepticism in the fullest sense has elsewhere been demonstrated in detail. One can submit naturalistic axiology and practical philosophy (including ethics) as well as naturalistic practice to a radical criticism of the same sort. For theoretical absurdities are inevitably followed by absurdities (evident inconsistencies) in actual theoretical, axiological, and ethical ways of acting. The naturalist is, one can safely say, idealist and objectivist in the way he acts. He is dominated by the purpose of making scientifically known (i.e., in a way that compels any rational individual) whatever is genuine truth, the genuinely beautiful and good; he wants to know how to determine what is its universal essence and the method by which it [namely, that which is genuinely true, or genuinely beautiful, or genuinely good] is to be obtained in the particular case. He believes that through natural science and through philosophy based on the same science the goal has for the most part been attained, and with all the enthusiasm that such a consciousness gives, he has installed himself as teacher and practical reformer in regard to the true, the good, the beautiful, from the standpoint of natural science. He is, however, an idealist who sets up and (so he thinks) justifies theories, which deny precisely what he presupposes in his idealistic way of acting, whether it be in constructing theories or in justifying and recommending values or practical norms as the most beautiful and the best. He is after all, going on presuppositions, to the extent that he theorizes at all, to the extent that he objectively sets up values to which value judgments are to correspond, and likewise in setting up practical rules according to which each one is to be guided in his willing and in his conduct. The naturalist teaches, preaches, moralizes, reforms. (Haeckel and Oswald are good examples.) But he denies what every sermon, every demand, if it is to have a meaning, presupposes. The only thing is, he does not preach in express terms that the only rational thing to do is to deny reason, as well theoretical as axiological and practical reason. He would in fact, banish that sort of thing far from him. The absurdity is not in his case evident, but remains hidden from him because he naturalizes reason…It is manifest, of course, by this very circumstance how slight is the practically effective force for arguments based on consequences. Prejudices blind, and one who sees only empirical facts and grants intrinsic validity only to empirical science will not be particularly disturbed by absurd consequences that cannot be proved empirically to contradict facts of nature.This sort of argument he will put aside as “Scholasticism.” What is more, arguments drawn from consequences lead easily to an undesired result in the other direction, that is for those who are inclined to credit them with demonstrative force.” -Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, trans. By Quentin Lauer, “Philosophy as Rigorous Science”, (Harper & Row Pub., New York: 1965) pp. 80-82.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Now my interest is piqued to read Crunchy Cons.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
One can always interpret the monotheisms as sacrificial archaisms, but the texts don't prove that they are such. It's said that the Psalms of the Bible are violent, but who speak up in the psalms if not the victims of the violence of the myths: "The bulls of Balaam encircle me and are about to lynch me"? The Psalms are like a magnificent lining on the outside, but when turned inside out they show a bloody skin. They are typical of the violence that weighs on humans and on the refuge that they find in their God.Our intellectual fashions don't want to see anything but violence in these texts, but where does the danger really come from? Today, we live in a dangerous world where all the mob movements are violent. This crowd or mob was already violent in the Psalms. Likewise in the story of Job. It – the "friends" – demanded of Job to acknowledge his guilt; they put him through a real Moscow trial. His is a prophetic trial. Is it not that of Christ, adulated by the crowds, then rejected at the moment of his Passion? These narratives announce the cross, the death of the innocent victim, the victory over all the sacrificial myths of antiquity.Is it so different in Islam? Islam has also formidable prophetic insights about the relation between the crowd, the myths, victims, and sacrifice. In the Muslim tradition, the ram Abel sacrificed is the same as the one God sent to Abraham so that he could spare his son. Because Abel sacrificed rams, he did not kill his brother. Because Cain did not sacrifice animals, he killed his brother. In other words, the sacrificial animal avoids the murder of the brother and the son. That is, it furnishes an outlet for violence. Thus Mohammed had insights which are on the plane of certain great Jewish prophets, but at the same time we find a concern for antagonism and separation from Judaism and Christianity that may negate our interpretation.
-"What Is Occurring Today Is a Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale."
Sunday, September 24, 2006
"Depravity According to Nature": Herman Melville and the Anthropology of Naturalistic Determinism in Billy Budd
Here Melville, if my interpretation is correct, enters on an interesting tangential discussion of a naturalistic anthropology which appears to have its counterpart in current beliefs in genetic determinism. Melville makes the obvious parallel between Calvinistic and naturalistic moral determinism but departs from them by suggesting that it is the case only with certain individuals, specifically in reference to a right understanding of their particular depraved or wicked behavior. He suggests that some people's actions can be understood to have the veneer of rationality while finding their true sources in irrational and natural springs of action. I think he is correct to bring to bear critical light on those who would too easily dismiss naturalistic causes of behavior. Many who favor naturalistic determinism quickly and correctly point out pertinent cases where genetic or physical disturbances in the body clearly exert a compelling force on an individual's behavior, which qualify our attribution of evil to the behavior where elsewhere it would be considered evil without qualification. Melville points out, in the text quoted below, that the out of hand dismissal of "natural depravity" by some is not in harmony with the Biblical understanding of the evil in its references to the mysteries of evil. The Biblical account of human nature here seems most clearly to be the most realistic. There is still the moral tone in the reference to evil but there is also the sophisticated recognition of mystery. As far as Melville remains in speculation and does not assert with certainty the naturalistically determined "evil" he is correct but he errs as far as he may assert the certain knowledge of the wellspring of the human behavior as being naturalistically determined. Certainly in specific cases we can see that a person has been compelled perhaps by brain damage so that his violence has an an apparent mitigating factor. But are we free in all honesty to think of such persons as incapable of moral decision-making at some level perhaps remote from our perception? Neither freewill or nature are adequate in themselves to explain the mystery of lawlessness.
"But the thing which in eminent instances signalizes so exceptional a nature is this: though the man's even temper and discreet bearing would seem to intimate a mind peculiarly subject to the law of reason, not the less in his heart he would seem to riot in complete exemption from that law, having apparently little to do with reason further than to employ it as an ambidexter implement for effecting the irrational. That is to say: Toward the accomplishment of an aim which in wantonness of malignity would seem to partake of the insane, he will direct a cool judgement sagacious and sound. These men are true madmen, and of the most dangerous sort, for their lunacy is not continuous but occasional, evoked by some special object; it is probably secretive, which is as much to say it is self-contained, so that when moreover, most active, it is to the average mind not distinguishable from sanity, and for the reason above suggested that whatever its aims may be -- and the aim is never declared -- the method and the outward proceeding are always perfectly rational. Now something such an one was Claggart, in whom was the mania of an evil nature, not engendered by vicious training or corrupting books or licentious living, but born with him and innate, in short "a depravity according to nature." By the way, can it be the phenomenon, disowned or at least concealed, that in some criminal cases puzzles the courts? For this cause have our juries at times not only to endure the prolonged contentions of lawyers with their fees, but also the yet more perplexing strife of the medical experts with theirs? -- But why leave it to them? Why not subpoena as well the clerical proficients? Their vocation bringing them into peculiar contact with so many human beings, and sometimes in their least guarded hour, in interviews very much more confidential than those of physician and patient; this would seem to qualify them to know something about those intricacies involved in the question of moral responsibility; whether in a given case, say, the crime proceeded from mania in the brain or rabies of the heart. As to any differences among themselves these clerical proficients might develop on the stand, these could hardly be greater than the direct contradictions exchanged between the remunerated medical experts." -Billy Budd , in Chp 11 and 12
Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett suggest that all rational behavior is a mask for subrational behavior, that we are merely colonized by memes in service to genes, mere vehicles for naturalistically determined behavior. Melville describes the naturalistic determinism as rare and applying only to individuals but they take it to apply to all human beings. They appear to be less astute observers of mankind than Melville, applying the doctrines of their worldview systematically and dogmatically to corral the empirical, rather than deriving them from a keen and practical apprehension of human behavior which seems to have been a marked trait of Melville's genius. But Melville seems to be playing with the naturalistic notion speculatively close to the time of the inception of Darwinian theory. Dawkins and Dennett and Wilson and other moderns however are not marked by the speculative tone in their naturalistic anthropologies, a speculative tone that still permeated Darwin's Origin of Species to some extent. Rather, theirs is a priestly dogmatism that broaches no primal assessment of human nature but rather assimilates everything to the narrative without questioning the foundations.
Monday, September 18, 2006
"All types of structural thinking assume that human reality is intelligeible; it is a logos and, as such, it is an incipient logic, or it degrades itself into a logic."
[Girard is saying this in the context of a discussion of triangular desire, which is basically envy. It is different than the less complex desire between an subject and object. The envier surrenders the individual's "fundamental prerogative", the choice of the object of his own desire. Instead the desire for an object is mediated by another who's desire for the object they imitate. Thus the desire has become triangular and "structural."]
"It can thus be systematized, at least up to a point, however unsystematic, irrational, and chaotic it may aoppear even to those who operate the system. A basic contention of this essay is that the great writers apprehend intuitively and concretely, through the medium of their art, if not formally, the system in which they were first imprisoned together with their contemporaries."
[This reminds me of Plato's account of Socrates testing the wisdom of the poets and finding that they apprehended intuitively things that they were not able to explain but only represent in their verse, but they thought they knew more than they did about the things they intuitively felt through their verse. Socrates came to the conclusion that he would rather be ignorant of what they knew and know that he didn't know than to know what they knew and think that he knew more than that when he did not.
But also Girard's point about the artists' imprisonment with contemporaries and an implied degree of transcendance from this imprisonment by the artists in their intuitive correspondence and apprehension of logos, the feeding on logos, the Lord's supper of knowledge, is more of a positive affirmation than Socrates seems to give].
Now here it is, Girard's bold statement of the goal of literary criticism, having laid some preliminary explanation:
"Literary interpretation must be systematic because it is the continuation of literature. It should formalize implicit or already half-explicit systems. To maintain that criticism will never be systematic is to maintain that it will never be real knowledge. The value of critical thought depends not on how cleverly it manages to diguise its own systematic nature or on how much fundamental issues it manages to shirk or to dissolve but on how much literary substance it really embraces, comprehends, and makes articulate. The goal may be too ambitious but it is not outside the scope of literary cristicism. It is the very essence of literary criticism. Failure to reach it should be condemned, but not the attempt. Everything else has already been done."
Sunday, September 17, 2006
First the West’s culpability is ably indicated in the following account from Human Rights Watch's Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda:
The Transformation of “Hutu” and “Tutsi”
By assuring a Tutsi monopoly of power, the Belgians set the stage for future conflict in Rwanda. Such was not their intent. They were not implementing a“divide and rule” strategy so much as they were just putting into effect the racist convictions common to most early twentieth century Europeans. They believed Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa were three distinct, long-existent and internally coherent blocks of people, the local representatives of three major population groups, the Ethiopid, Bantu and Pygmoid. Unclear whether these were races, tribes, or language groups, the Europeans were nonetheless certain that the Tutsi were superior to the Hutu and the Hutu superior to the Twa—just as they knew themselves to be superior to all three. Because Europeans thought that the Tutsi looked more like themselves than did other Rwandans, they found it reasonable to suppose them closer to Europeans in the evolutionary hierarchy and hence closer to them in ability…. This mythical history drew on and made concrete the “Hamitic hypothesis,” the then-fashionable theory that a superior, “Caucasoid” race from northeastern Africa was responsible for all signs of true civilization in “Black” Africa. This distorted version of the past told more about the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in the 1920s than about the early history of Rwanda. Packaged in Europe, it was returned to Rwanda where it was disseminated through the schools and seminaries…. Even in the 1990s, many Rwandans and foreigners continued to accept the erroneous history formulated in the 1920s and 1930s… The very recording of the ethnic groups in written form enhanced their importance and changed their character. No longer flexible and amorphous, the categories became so rigid and permanent that some contemporary Europeans began referring to them as “castes.” The ruling elite, most influenced by European ideas and the immediate beneficiaries of sharper demarcation from other Rwandans, increasingly stressed their separateness and their presumed superiority. Meanwhile Hutu, officially excluded from power, began to experience the solidarity of the oppressed.”
Secondly, our supposition of our own moral superiority is undermined when we consider the following points made by Elizabeth Powers on the First Things blog, September 14, 2006:
“For her ( Heather Mac Donald) it is the achievement of the secular Enlightenment that we are “more compassionate, humane, and respectful of human rights.” Just compare, she writes, the fourteenth century’s treatment of prisoners to today’s, “an advance due to Enlightenment reformers.”
As a scholar of the eighteenth century, I am familiar with this attribution of our supposed moral advance to the sages of the Enlightenment. The philosophes, however, independent scholars of their day, were simply capitalizing on the changed material environment in which they lived. Beginning in the early modern period, in the late fifteenth century, with European exploration of the globe and the opening of vast international trade, men (and mostly they were men) began to have economic opportunities beyond those dictated by tradition. The history of the West since then has been one of continuous improvement in the material life of more and more people, not simply the traditionally rich and privileged. With this democratization of wealth, ordinary men began to chafe at the traditional political and civic arrangements that kept them from wearing the clothes they liked, marrying the person of their choice, or choosing their own profession. The market began to offer “choice” not only in lifestyle but also in products. In response to this more liberal economic environment, philosophers began to enunciate ideas concerning liberty and individual freedom. But where would they have come up with the idea that each of us has a right to determine our destiny, if not for the moral legacy of Christianity, namely, the uniqueness of every person before God and the duty of that person to work out his individual salvation? All of liberalism’s important achievements—free political institutions, religious practice, intellectual and artistic expression—grew, in tandem with the wealth of the West, from that simple idea.
Don’t imagine that because criminals now have clean cells, even telephone privileges and access to law libraries, that we are more enlightened than our fourteenth-century predecessors. With our current material resources—a huge establishment of lawyers (many of them women), college degrees in prison management, cheap electricity, food providers, and so on—it would be irrational to keep criminals chained to walls in unheated cells for years, dependent for food on meals brought by their next of kin, and all the other horrors of incarceration brought to us by Alexandre Dumas. Liberals, and Heather Mac Donald, think that such “progress” is self-evident, as if ethics were something that accumulated in our arteries like cholesterol. But make no mistake: If we returned to the material conditions of the fourteenth century, prisoners would have their law books taken away.
While it is self-evident to Heather Mac Donald that “the rule of law” is transparent to “all rational minds,” try that idea on the Chinese, who are certainly rational (and infinitely skeptical, it would seem). One of the reasons that the concept of human rights has so much difficulty inserting itself in China is because of the absence of a Christian legacy. The Chinese are becoming more prosperous, but they have only the vaguest sense of what is second nature to us in the West—namely, the sacredness of the human person. The greatest reform movement in the world, the abolition of slavery, was led by Christians, not the philosophes. So, yes, Miss Mac Donald, we do live parasitically off the moral legacy of Christianity.”
I take it therefore as a sign of a failure of conscience when we failed to stand in solidarity and brotherhood with Rwanda. We do not have the evidence that we are better. Has not our wealth as a society as a whole come to us from forefathers who set up unjust systems based on stupid, wicked and inhuman pseudoscientific notions of racial superiority, and profited off it? In truth those who soothe themselves with the idea that we are more evolved or advanced than the African peoples are checking out of Hotel Rwanda and checking back into Hotel California.
Little girl: “Please don’t let them kill me. I promise not to be Tutsi anymore.”
Proverbs: “Those who close their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves cry out and not be answered.”
"...But the flame
Of thy brave Soule, that shot such heat and light,
As burnt our earth, and made our darknesse bright,
Committed holy Rapes upon our Will,
Did through the eye the melting heart distill;
And the deepe knowledge of darke truths so teach,
As sense might judge, what phansie could not reach;
Must be desir'd for ever... "
"Committed holy Rapes upon our Will"?! Carew seems here to make an indirect allusion to Donne's unexpected analogies with violence and sexual deviancy in his poetry (for instance when he says that he will never be chaste unless God ravishes him, or when he says that God is most pleased with the church when she is opened to most men), baffling and counterintuitive in their transformation of a dirty subject and, for the sinner like me, heart constricting for their conversion of the impure into a holy lesson. Like the parable of Jesus of the shrewd and corrupt servant left in charge of his masters finances who uses them to gain friends when he realizes that he will soon be cut loose, Donne's poetry is more earthen and real than otherworldly pieties are likely to permit or approve. This comes from Donne's life reflected in his poetry as he converts overtime from erotic excesses and profligacy (he wrote bawdy love poetry and caused scandal by eloping with a fifteen year old) into a saintly provisioner of true food (he was faithful and devoted to her the remainder of his life) in the black plague years in England as the Dean of St Paul's Church, writing some of the greatest Christian sermons and poems of all time. Here is one of Donne's great poems, a prayer that many like me who have fallen to the wiles of Ashteroth and the pleasure goddesses of this age may hope to say in our soul in full freedom and earnestness, that the sexually broken may be brought to chastity as Donne was:
"Batter My Heart"
by John Donne
Batter my heart, three person’d God, for, you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt town, to’another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy,
Divorce me untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
One of the girls that leads the effort once advocated for some homeless people who were not being allowed on the Subway, saying that if anyone especially needs access to the subway it would be them. This, it seems to me, conforms to the sober assessment of others in light of the gospel that it is incumbent upon Christians to adopt, an assessment which throws out the favoritism and caste like blind excesses and bogotry and over attentiveness to one's own comfort in favor of respect for human beings. My mind had recourse to this story again and again when I was reading James chapter 2 from the Bible this morning.
One homeless man from Virginia told of his love for mountain climbing and climbing of all sorts when he was younger. He was now an old man. He said that he used to drink every weekend and when he retired he didn't know what to do with himself so he said, "Oh well, I'll have a drink" and things got out of hand.
Lydia and a homeless man who's name I forgot recounted a story about a homeless person they knew who was beaten up so that his face was bloodied and robbed. When the police were called, they did a background check on the man who had been robbed and discovered that he had a warrant out on him, so he had to go to jail too.
The starlings and sparrows hopped around beside the seated homeless. On a simple fundamental level God is always giving us these living object lessons in how He provides for us, whether homeless or wealthy, our daily bread. God is not far from the homeless.
One homeless man was dressed up stylishly and carried a GQ magazine with him.
One showed us her art which was pretty good, unique color drawings mainly of flowers. She talked about politics and anticipated a fatal day of judgement for Bush.
One homeless man, Reggie, had been a Marine and had gone on two and a half tours. He seemed quietly pleased with the fundamental level of human communion like nutrient that was mutually felt.
Friday, September 15, 2006
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love
This is true study. To apply myself to this, all my hour and day, growing wise through every word and every act that might bring me nearer to the living communion with the holy Savior who I treat so unbareably. Here is the entire poem:
from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:
¶ The Agonie.
Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.
Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach;1 then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
16. My beloved is mine, and I am his; He feedeth among the lilies
By Francis Quarles (1592–1644)
EV’N like two little bank-dividing brooks,
That wash the pebbles with their wanton streams,
And having rang’d and search’d a thousand nooks,
Meet both at length in silver-breasted Thames,
Where in a greater current they conjoin:
So I my best-beloved’s am; so he is mine.
Ev’n so we met; and after long pursuit,
Ev’n so we joyn’d; we both became entire;
No need for either to renew a suit,
For I was flax and he was flames of fire:
Our firm-united souls did more than twine;
So I my best-beloved’s am; so he is mine.
If all those glitt’ring Monarchs that command
The servile quarters of this earthly ball,
Should tender, in exchange, their shares of land,
I would not change my fortunes for them all:
Their wealth is but a counter to my coin:
The world’s but theirs; but my beloved’s mine.
Nay, more; If the fair Thespian Ladies all
Should heap together their diviner treasure:
That treasure should be deem’d a price too small
To buy a minute’s lease of half my pleasure;
’Tis not the sacred wealth of all the nine
Can buy my heart from him, or his, from being mine.
Nor Time, nor Place, nor Chance, nor Death can bow
My least desires unto the least remove;
He’s firmly mine by oath; I his by vow;
He’s mine by faith; and I am his by love;
He’s mine by water; I am his by wine,
Thus I my best-beloved’s am; thus he is mine.
He is my Altar; I, his Holy Place;
I am his guest; and he, my living food;
I’m his by penitence; he mine by grace;
I’m his by purchase; he is mine, by blood;
He’s my supporting elm; and I his vine;
Thus I my best beloved’s am; thus he is mine.
He gives me wealth; I give him all my vows:
I give him songs; he gives me length of dayes;
With wreaths of grace he crowns my conqu’ring brows,
And I his temples with a crown of Praise,
Which he accepts as an everlasting signe,
That I my best-beloved’s am; that he is mine.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
'TIS not how witty, nor how free,
Nor yet how beautifull she be,
But how much kinde and true to me.
Freedome and Wit none can confine,
And Beauty like the Sun doth shine,
But kinde and true are onely mine.
Let others with attention sit,
To listen, and admire her wit,
That is a rock where Ile not split
Let others dote upon her eyes,
And burn their hearts for sacrifice,
Beauty's a calm where danger lyes.
But Kinde and True have been long tried
A harbour where we may confide,
And safely there at anchor ride.
From change of winds there we are free,
And need not feare Storme's tyrannie,
Nor Pirat, though a Prince he be.
(Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. (1886–1960). Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th C. 1921. )
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
"Rieff's aphorisms - their eloquent crankiness- have a way of getting under your skin. ``A culture in which everything can be said and shown," he wrote in 1968, ``will produce, as night follows day, a society in which everything, no matter how terrible, can be done."
That sentence might well have appeared in ``Regarding the Torture of Others," Sontag's commentary on the Abu Ghraib photographs. And in 1996, looking back on her first collection of essays, including the one denouncing ``piety without content," she sounded this Rieffian note: ``The time we live in is experienced as the end-more exactly, just past the end-of every ideal....The undermining of standards of seriousness is almost complete.""
Monday, August 21, 2006
-Mansfield Park, Capter 2, p. 17 (ital. added)
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Let me make several points here which however hard they may be to take are true (and if you have not thought them out Doestoevsky and Nietzsche have). First, it makes no sense for a person to speak of morality who is a determinist. Apart from any consideration of whether the determinist position is correct or not, speaking of what a person ought or ought not to do is clearly meaningless because the person is propelled by outside forces and is not capable of making a decision according to the determinist position. Therefore it is a species of mendacity to protest that a determinist atheist may be moral too, from a determinist atheist point of view, because there are no categories of morality in determinism. Fate neither affirms nor denies moral behavior. Morality belongs to a civilization that believes in human freedom of choice. There is clearly no sense in claiming for determinists that they are moral people too since their very worldview repudiates notions of morality. Therefore it is deceptive mendacity to say that they are moral except if one is operating with the assumption of human freedom, and should a determinst argue this why should it not be supposed that they may also be lieing in the supression of the recognition of the authentic categories of moral perception in their core beliefs as well since they lie about their affiliation with systems of morality? But this is entirely about the deterministic atheist. It is true to say that not every atheist believes in determinism. Even Epicurus (not entirely an atheist though) introduced a mystical swerve into his account of the nature of atom's freefall to account for human freewill. But the question is, if we are not determined by outside physical causality, if we have real choice and therefore real moral categories, how do we account for these in a purely materialist worldview? To say here that materialists, etc. can be moral people is beside the point. The question is if their worldview accounts for their moral categories, if they have a comprehensible synthesis of human experience, or if they are really foolish and self contradictory as Bernanos charges. In what mysterious way can we hold to human freedom of choice and not circumscribe natural inferences from its essential independence to the ontological reality of the soul? If humans are able to choose morally then they are free. If they are free, then it seems they are independent in a significant sense from material casality at the point of their choice- they are not driven by material causality in their moral descision-making. If they are independent from material causality in such a significant, civilization forming way, then it is plausible that they have souls, that element that governs their bodies that are otherwise driven by material causality.
“Homophobia and racism are among the most serious and vexing issues of this generation, and both church and society seem to limit us to polarized options.
The anything-goes morality of the religious and political Left is matched by the sanctimonious moralism of the religious and political Right. Uncritical acceptance of any party line is an idolatrous abdication of one’s core identity as Abba’s child. Neither liberal fairy dust nor conservative hardball addresses human dignity, which is often dressed in rags.” P.75
“The heartfelt compassion that hastens forgiveness matures when we discover where our enemy cries.” P.69
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Here is a rich wealth of insight.
"Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns.
She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table." Proverbs 9:1-2
She has indeed- in such writings as Bernanos's, and elsewhere. Here are some quotes from Bernanos's later essays:
Excerpts from The Last Essays of Georges Bernanos, translated by Joan and Barry Ulanov (Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1955) (culled from a larger list of quotes compiled at the following location place: http://leowong2004.blogspot.com/2005/08/bernanos-last-essays.html)
"It’s a question of knowing who will win, technology or man."
"The millions don’t care a bit about learning that we don’t despair of ourselves. What they want to know is if they can place their hope in us. They care nothing about our optimism. Our optimism does not reassure them at all. Quite the opposite, it sends a shiver down their spines."
"I realize that anyone who refuses to be deceived today must someday or other pursue his path all alone, as I have been doing for a long time. I’m used to it now. I even think that a little solitude is not too high a price to pay for certain modest privileges which no one dreams of trying to take away from me, such as the right to speak the way I do—with a tranquil frankness—in my own name alone."
"Speculation commanded machines, and thanks to machines commanded power as well. Thus, in a fabulously short time, by the single miracle of technology and of all techniques, including that which not only allows the control of worldwide opinion but also the making of it, it has created a civilization in the image of a prodigiously diminished and shrunken man, a man no longer made in the image of God, but in the image of the speculator—that is to say, of a man reduced to the two states, both equally miserable, of consumer and taxpayer ".
"It is necessary above all to re-spiritualize man. . . . It is right to put these ideas back into circulation, as formerly people took old coins and melted them down [LW: not repackaged] into gold and silver again "
"Hope is a heroic virtue. People think it easy to hope. But the only people who hope are those who have had the courage to despair of illusions and lies in which they had once found a security they falsely took for hope."
"But what if man really was created in the image of God? Suppose there is in him a certain element of freedom—however small one may imagine it—to what would their experiments lead then, if not to the mutilation of an essential organ? What if in man there does exist that principle of self-destruction, that mysterious hatred of himself which we call original sin, which the technologists have not failed to observe, for it explains all the frightful disappointments of history? It’s true that they don’t attribute these disappointments to man’s sin but rather to an evil organization of the world. But what if they are mistaken? What if the injustice is inside man himself and all their constraints do nothing but reinforce the evil-doing? What if man can only fulfill himself in God? What if the delicate operation of amputating his divine part—or of systematically making this part atrophy until it falls off, dried up, like an organ in which blood no longer circulates—should turn him into a ferocious beast? Or worse, perhaps, a beast forever domesticated, a domestic animal? Or, even worse, something abnormal, deranged? "
One understands nothing of man if one imagines him to be naturally proud of what distinguishes him, or seems to distinguish him, from animals. The average man is not at all proud of his soul; he wants only to deny it and does so with great relief, as upon awaking from a terrible dream. He thinks, with a kind of incomprehensible pride, that he has just discovered that it really doesn’t exist. Metaphysical anxiety in the average man is almost always shown by this sly denial, this pride, the thousand tricks which only tend to lay aside some part, it doesn’t matter which, of this burden, this harassing consciousness of good and evil. . . . If only that soul didn’t exist! If it does by some mischance exist, if only it were not immortal! Very far from being the consoling illusion of the simple-minded and the unknowing, belief in liberty and in the responsibility of man has been for thousands of years the tradition of the élite; it is the spirit of civilization, civilization itself, transmitted through genius. For ages, billions of fools, fools without number, in languages without number, have said again and again, with a knowing look, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” If they haven’t said these exact words, it was because they didn’t dare, because they were ashamed to say them; they preferred to trust in those more learned than they, the wise ones. But as soon as the prestige of the wise and the authority weaken, as soon as civilization gives way, the men of the masses begin again to look for a vacant lot, a street corner, on which to lose their immortal souls, with the hope that no one will bring them back to them. And suddenly now, in our time, this gesture held to be ignoble, until now, has been adopted by the wise men too. Those one always thought of as guardians of the highest traditions of the species have refused to keep it in their charge (ibid.).There is something more in man than those deceivers think who believe him inspired only by self-interest. There is in man a secret and incomprehensible hatred, not only of his fellow men but of himself. One may cite for this mysterious feeling any cause or explanation one wishes, but one must explain it. As for us Christians, we believe this hatred reflects another hatred a thousand times deeper and more clear—that of the Unspeakable Spirit who was the most resplendent of the stars of the abyss, who will never forgive us for his terrible fall. Apart from the assumption of original sin, that is to say of a basic contradiction in our nature, the concept of man becomes clear, but it is no longer man. Man has passed byeond the definition of man, just like a handful of sand between his fingers (ibid.).. . . a world without a god . . . will soon be a world without men. Thus, it makes more glorious still the mysterious solidarity of God and man which is the most august mystery of Christianity (ibid.)."
"I blush at the idea that [a non-Catholic] may think I address him from the depths of my security as a believer—as from a safe and warm resting place—that I hold myself apart from the risks he runs. It isn’t true, no, it isn’t true, that faith is security, at least in the human inflection of the word."
"The scandal of the universe isn’t suffering but freedom. God made His Creation free—that’s the scandal of scandals, for all others proceed from it."
"Right now, in our world, in some obscure church or some old house or at the bend of a deserted road, there is some poor man who is joining his hands and from the depths of his misery, without really knowing what he is saying, or perhaps without saying anything at all, is thanking the good Lord for having made him free and capable of loving. Elsewhere, it doesn’t matter where, there is a mother who is hiding her face for the last time against the little heart that no longer throbs, a mother, close to her dead child, offering God the moaning of an exhausted resignation, as if the Voice that threw the suns into the great void the way a hand disperses grain, the Voice that makes the earth tremble, had just sweetly whispered in her ear: “Forgive Me. One day you will know, you will understand, you will thank Me. But now, what I await from you is your pardon. Forgive Me.” Those people—the harassed women, that poor man—are at the heart of the mystery, at the core of the universal creation and even inside the secret of God Himself. What can I say of this? Language is at the service of intelligence. But what these people have grasped, they have understood by a faculty superior to the intelligence, though not at all in conflict with it, or rather by a profound and irresistable impulse of the soul which engages all the faculties at the same time, which thoroughly absorbs all that is natural in them. . . . "
"In his recent book, Les problèmes de la vie, the distinguished University of Geneva professor, M. Guyénot, has gone back to the distinction between body, mind, soul. If one accepts this hypothesis, which Saint Thomas did not reject, one tells oneself, with horror, that innumerable men are born, live and die without even once making use of their souls, really making use of their souls, even if only to offend the good Lord. To what extent are we not of the same species? Won’t Damnation be the tardy discovery, the discovery much too late, after death, of a soul absolutely unused, still carefully folded together, and spoiled, the way certain precious silks are when they are not used? Anyone who makes use of his soul, however clumsily, participates in the life of the universe, becomes a part of its great rhythm, and at the same time enters on a level with the saints that communion of the saints that which is the communion of all the men of good will to whom Peace was promised, that Holy Invisible Church which we know includes pagans, heretics, schismatics or non-believers, whose name God alone knows (ibid.)."
"For, after all, it is as easy for us to recognize what the Church has of the human in her as it is difficult to know what she has in her of the divine. How else then would you explain the oddity that those most entitled to be scandalized by the mistakes, the deformations, or even the deformaties, of the visible Church—I mean the saints—are precisely those how never complain about her?"
"The saint is the person who knows how to find in himself, and to make gush forth from the depths of his being, the water of which Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman: “Those who drink of it will never thirst.” The water is there in each of us, the deep cistern open under the sky. Undoubtedly the surface is cluttered with debris, broken branches, dead leaves, from which arises the smell of death. On it shines a cold and hard light, that of the rational intelligence. But immediately under that pernicious layer, the water is so limpid and pure! Still a little lower, and the soul finds herself again in her native element, infinitely purer than the purest water, in that uncreate light that bathes all Creation—in Him was life, and the life was the light of men—in ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum (ibid.)."
"For there is something which is worse than dying—it is to die deceived."
Thursday, August 17, 2006
There is a film clip of his sister as a little girl performing pirouettes, played several times in the movie. A beautiful moment of innocence and beauty. She died young from bloodpoisoning and it tore her family apart. The pain, and the perversion.
Mr. Friedman stated that he molested his younger brother over a period of two years. Apparently this is where it began for him. The younger brother, a man of 65 years of age, living together with another man in a homosexual relationship, can not remember any molestation. The confusion over a long evil seems to persist. The pain Mr. Friedman suffered could have been dealt with in a healing way. I dismiss the mendacious genetic determinists from the room. We are human and as human we have a choice and a responsibility to chose the right. He repeatedly chose the wrong. I too have repeated sins in my life. Let the folly, the sorrow and pain of others be a lesson to all of us who struggle with persistent sin. The mother has sought to heal and has seemingly made the most progress in the family.
I am reminded of a sermon by John Donne in which he urges the confession of sin immediately upon my or your first awareness of it, lest sin concatenate on sin. Our private sins may cause more untold misery than we now imagine. Lord, to be clean and clear of every sin, confessing everyone at its inception!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
His characters always act from weakness and sorrow and struggle and failure. Gaston, the socially inept, the ugly, the slow-minded, reaching out to Japan with the most powerful thing in the world, love, but covered in a ball of rags.
Like Scandal this novel contained characters deeply effected by warcrimes that those close to them had participated in. The hitman Endo (Endo likes to make the criminal characters reflect identity with him in some way in some of his novels, naming the hitman Endo or making the main character of Scandal a Christian writer, like Endo, of a Life of Christ.) turns to a life of hatred and coldblooded murder when faced with his brother's having carried out orders to burn the occupants of a village and the brother's subsequent framing by his commanding officers. Gaston persistantly, doggedly, beyond all civil tepid-ity, urges Endo from a position of weakness not to go through with his plot of revenge on the officers. Gaston, despite his outer weakness and failure, is a real man, as the character Takamori discerns, because he takes a stand for the right thing despite his weaknesses that he could have so easily taken as excuses not to do what he should. It is integrity to the gospel that Endo has witnessed, bears witness to, keeps within himself. The "fool" is wonderful for this integrity, this sacred obedience, this longsuffering love, which endures blows and persecutions by the ones he is trieing to help, and which has takes the courage to recognize that he can and must help, that he must, despite all his weakness and absurdity in the eyes of the world, come to Japan for love. Hallelujah!
Endo ends by tieing Gaston's mysterious end into the early Japanese story, "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter." Gaston is a descendant of Napoleon and a stark contrast to the prideful dictator.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Here are key excerpts from my remarks:
It seems to me that if we assume that science is quintessentially materialism, we should expect that materialism would produce the best scientists. In fact is this what we find? How many fullblown materialist scientists (a full blown materialist being someone like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins) are among the best scientists in history? ...
Let me quote here again Eric Voegelin describing the nature of materialism:
its primary purpose is not an inquiry into nature. The materialistic metaphysics
rather serves the purpose of eliminating nature as a source of disturbances of
the soul, by disasociating it radically from all actions of the gods. If nature
in general and the celestial bodies in particular do not embody divinities, as
they were thought to do in popular belief, but are merely moving matter, a large
section of the environment of men will be emptied of powers potentially to be
feared..." (History of Political Ideas, Volume 1: Hellenism, Rome and Early
Christianity , p.82)
As Voegelin points out correctly, it seems to me, the main purpose of materialism is not an inquiry into nature. It is rather an emotional reaction to pain and suffering in the world, one psychological option for coping with the emotional stresses that exist. Do people who adopt such a worldview, which appears to me emotionally off kilter, produce the best scientists or are they rather primarily rockstar celebrities like Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins with a little science and a lot of philosophy?In one sense it is clear there is no particular worldview required to merely investigate material causalities. It takes assiduity and a certain orderly discipline, etc. But for the real geniuses, I wonder how many we can find that were willing to stand the rigid boundaries of materialism and keep their fertile thought cupped inside it...
Theism corresponds most precisely with reality when it is clarified properly. It has the innate potential for such clarification. But Materialism does not correspond precisely with reality which is why I evince such doubt about it's being good for science in the long run for so many people today to be conflating science with Materialism. It is a pseudo scientific development from my perspective and pseudo science whether Materialist or creationist is just as bad in my opinion for science....
Theism is more accurate because it takes better account of the observer. As many wise scientists have remarked we should not hold the two aspects of existence apart and think that we can reach the answer to everything by ommitting one. Even Feynman I believe said this. A clarified theism would be one which would eschew the gnostic despising of the world suggested by certain readings of Plato and so would avoid both the extreme of materialism and the extreme of a view that despises the physical existence. Theism can hold these two together, and indeed in Christ they are perfectly united. Materialists are unable to understand by constriction of their doctrine that Socrates was hitting upon reality, or indeed most of the wiser literary giants. They are devoted to a system that inures them to Socrates' goads to self-examination. Even the fairy tales are hitting upon reality. This is something that escapes materialsts because they have become servile to a method and are not first being men and women in correspondence with truth proper...
Modern materialists have allowed their infatuated attachment to the methodology of the natural sciences to cripple them to basic understandings of the world beyond this and so by trieing to make one aspect of man's theoretical synthesizing nature carry all are distorting and destroying the synthesizing nature of man altogether. It seems to me that materialism ultimately results in the undermining of science. It is supposed that whatever exists is the result of random processes and selection as a result of randomness. Then the assumption seems naturally to follow that the order which our minds percieve in the natural world is essentially a construct and that if we are true to the nature of reality as our faith in naturalism tells us it is, then we ultimately, with enough application of the logic of our theory must deconstruct all perception of order into a chaos of randomness. Laws that result from randomness are not truly laws. How can they be? If the laws came before and bounded the randomness than the question obviously arises where the laws came from. Teleological answers are the best answers here. Because teleological answers relieve us of the burden of resolving everything into randomness we are enabled to gain a dynamic confidence about the order we percieve and a proper confidence in their reliable nature...
...the notion expressed by Democritus (and Sagan) that the universe is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be. Again there is too much extraneous content in just this doctrine alone. The suggestion that scientists are engaging in materialism is a poetic comparison of two very different things , a worldview and a method. Whereas the method of focusing on material causality in order to learn about the order witnessed in nature is harmonious with theism and is a true common ground, the worldview of materialism emotionally aims at excluding belief in God by any means, whether by reason or rationalization (see Gilson's comments in the previous post about Epicurus, and Darwin's thought on Lamarck). As the reoccurence of materialism with the other doctrines is seen in Darwin as well as Epicurus it seems to hint that the specialized use of the term materialism that you argue for does not take into account the essential historical continuity of materialism as a psychological unit of these doctrines (especially with its undeniably important shaping under Epicurus and Lucretious). Another doctrine of materialism was that the cosmos had always to exist, so the Big Bang was a huge surprise. Up until the last century it had been possible to argue for a Lucretian cosmology still. But now an escape hatch for the endless time to make the slight of hand of inifinite possibility most effective on the mind is in speculation of endless universes without empirical evidence but reviving the life in this psychologically necessary doctrine of materialism...
One problem with adopting "methodological naturalism" or "methodological materialism" as the definition of science is that it involves science in nonempirically based material explanations of reality. If we merely defined science as the search to understand chains of material causality and removed from science the burden of justifying a worldview if necessary by pure imagination, such as with alternate universes, the focus of science would be made more healthy and keen, more on target. The concepts that the use of a term like "methodological materialism" implies are unnecessarily broad and embroil science in imaginative flights that conflict with other syntheses which also incorporate all known empiricial knowledge but which may be contrary to the imaginative constructs of imagined material causalities that are not emprirically verifiable. There is no reason to suppose that science must be able to come up with material causality for the Big Bang, but only that if we look at the Big Bang scientifically we would be looking for such causality. In the absence of empirical evidence science properly should stop. One may have intuition that there may be empirical evidence not yet uncovered to support a hunch one has and people are free to search out these hunches but until they have empirical support they should not be considered science. Science should be protected from that kind of thinking. Materialism accepts speculations as truth but science demands material explanation be empirically supported in order for it to be accepted as knowledge...
The following are some arguments that seem to me to be keeping faith with materialism but not with science:
-Marxist conceptions of human nature
-the transspermia theory that Francis Crick and others adopted
- the belief that the first living cells were planted on our planet by alien lifeforms (alien lifeforms would still be denizens of the natural world so Crick avoids the difficulty of dealing with the complexity of life without breaking faith with materialism, through pure imagination, and this is sometimes called science because irresponsible people keep conflating science with materialism).
-The authors of Rare Earth , convinced that the earth is so finetuned for life that indeed life on earth is the only life in the universe, keep faith with materialism nevertheless by postulating that in the future mankind developes so much that they go back and seed themselves, or something preposterous like that. The bottom line is there is no empirical evidence and this is not science but science fiction and such things often masquerade as science.
-The theories of alternate universes- speculation that is ingratiating to materialism but unsupported by science.Science and materialism should be clearly distinguished so that scientists can do their work without unnecessary associations and consequent hassles with trieing to fight materialisms battles for it on non empirical bases.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
“Ordinarily the meaning of sexual love is supposed to lie in the propagation of the species, for which it serves as a means. I consider this view incorrect- not merely on the basis of any theoretical considerations, but above all on the basis of facts of natural history. That propagation of all living creatures may take place without sexual love is already clear from the fact that is does take place without division into sexes. A significant portion of organisms both of the vegetable and the animal kingdom propagates in a non-sexual fashion: by segmentation, budding spores and grafting. It is true that higher forms of both organic kingdoms propagate by the sexual method, but the organisms which propagate in this fashion, vegetable as well as animal in part, may likewise propagate in a non-sexual fashion (grafting in the vegetable world, parthenogenesis in higher insects). Moreover, setting this aside, and recognizing as a general rule that the higher organisms propagate by the means of sexual union, we are bound to conclude that this sexual factor is connected not with propagation in general (which may take place also apart from it), but with the propagation of higher organisms. Consequently, the meaning of sexual propagation (and of sexual love) is to be sought not in the idea of the life of the species and its propagation at all, but only in the idea of the higher organism.
We find a striking confirmation of this view in the following important fact: within the limits of animals which propagate exclusively in the sexual mode (the division of vertebrates), the higher we ascend in the hierarchy of organisms, the weaker the power of propagation becomes, but, on the other hand, the greater the power of sexual attraction becomes. In the lowest class of this division- among fish- propagation takes place on an enormous scale: the embryos produced every year by each female are counted in millions. These embryos are fertilized by the male outside the body of the female, and the method by which this is done does not admit of any powerful sexual impulse. Of all the vertebrate animals this cold-blooded class undoubtedly propagates most of all. In the next stage- that of amphibians and reptiles- the power of propagation is far less significant than among fish (though some of the species of this class, not without basis, are assigned in the Bible to the number of creatures that swarm in great quantities); together with a smaller rate of propagation, we already find in these animals more intimate sexual relations… Among birds the power of propagation is far weaker, not only in comparison with fishes, but also in comparison, for instance, with frogs, yet the sexual attraction and the mutual attachment between male and female attain a development unheard of in the two lower classes. Among mammals, which are already viviparous- the power of propagation is significantly weaker among birds, and sexual attraction, among the majority at any rate, is less constant; but, to balance that, it is far more intense. Lastly, in humans, in comparison with the whole animal kingdom, propagation is effected on the smallest scale, but sexual love attains its utmost significance and its highest power, uniting in the superlative degree, both constancy in the relation (as in birds) and intensity of passion (as in mammals). So then, sexual love and propagation of the species are found to be in inverse ratio to each other: the more powerful the one, the weaker the other. Speaking generally about the aspect which is being examined, the whole animal kingdom develops in the following order: At the bottom there is an enormous power of propagation with a complete absence of anything resembling sexual love (owing to the absence even of division into sexes). Farther on, among the more perfect organisms, sexual differentiation, together with its corresponding sexual attraction, makes its appearance. At first the attraction is extremely weak, but later it gradually increases in further stages of organic development, as the power of propagation diminishes (i.e. attraction is in direct ratio to the perfection of the organization and in inverse ratio to the power of propagation), until finally, at the very peak- in humans- the most powerful possible sexual love makes its appearance, even to the complete exclusion of propagation. So, if in this way, at the two extremes of animal existence we find on the one hand propagation without any sexual love, and on the other hand sexual love without any propagation, then it is perfectly clear that these two phenomena cannot be bonded indissolubly with one another. It is clear that each of them possesses its own independent significance, and that the meaning of the one cannot consist in its being a means to the other. The result is the same if we examine sexual love exclusively in the human world, where it is incomparably greater than in the animal world, and where it assumes that individual character by power of which just this person of the other sex possesses for the lover absolute significance, as unique and irreplaceable, as a very end in itself.” -Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love, Chp. 1, Part 1.
Two intense examples which come to my mind of what Solovyov is speaking of when he alludes to human sexual love without any propagation are the love of Dante for Beatrice and the life long love of Gibran Khalil Gibran for the woman who loved him but submitted to an arranged marriage to a man who cheated on her.
(Solovyov was a friend of Doestoevsky. It is thought that both the chracters of Alyosha and Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov were based on this outstanding figure in Russian history).
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
From Pascal's Pensees:
"Caesar was too old, it seems to me, to go off and amuse himself conquering the world. Such a pastime was all right for Augustus and Alexander; they were young men, not easily held in check, but Caesar ought to have been more mature." #49
"It would take reason at its most refined to see the Grand Turk, surrounded in his superb seraglio by 40,000 janissaries, as a man like any other." #44
(#44 is a very impressive little essay by itself on the Imagination as it relates to the vanity of man. Reading these sentiments by Pascal is refreshing after reading what struck me as excessive praise of Caesar by Eric Voegelin recently. Interestingly enough the subject of Caesar converged in three separate books I am reading through in my readings this evening, in Voegelin's History of Political Ideas: Vol. 1 Hellenism, Rome and Early Christianity and in David Hume's An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and in the above. I would quote Hume and Voegelin but I think it more to the point to consider a passage in The Wonderful Fool by Shusaku Endo. Endo's main character, Gaston, is held hostage by a hitman (named Endo) who plans to use him to accomplish his plan of revenge on the superior officers who used his brother as the fall guy for warcrimes committed during the WWII. Gaston realizes in the time he is held captive that Endo is like this beaten little dog he had previously taken under his wing. Endo is a feared hitman, but it takes someone like Gaston, considered a fool by most in the world, to see Endo's true nature. In Grahame Green's Gun for Hire the hitman in the story in the opening goes to the house of a minister he is to murder, of whom it was said that he was a lover of humanity and had no friends.
Alexander the Great was reported to have said, "Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to be Diogenes." Once, while Diogenes was sunning himself, Alexander came up to him and offered to grant him any request. "Stand out of my light," he replied. When asked why he went about with a lamp in broad daylight, Diogenes confessed, "I am looking for a [honest] man."