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.