Saturday, May 31, 2008

More real than real

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An infinite series of causes is possible only potentially, not actually. Even St Thomas admitted the possibility of an eternal cosmos, as long as it was acknowledged that God is the primary cause of such a thing. Bertrand Russell was such a mathematician that he assumed working with abstract infinite sets granted their existence in the actual world, indeed AS the actual world. This is, however, as erroneous as saying that because we can, semantically and mentally, "handle" unicorns, therefore they actually exist. He made much of this in his 1948 debate with Copleston, citing Japanese novels as a case of fictional causes having real effects. But even this point fails to see that God is beyond being in an analogously supreme way to fictional characters who do indeed have a sort of personal efficacy, just as lines have an oblique, extra-dimensional efficacy in forming lines in Riemann spaces. If God were MERELY another efficient cause, he would indeed be subsumable to the total causal matrix of the cosmos, as reified by Russell. But, in fact, God is the transcendent cause of both cosmic efficient causality and the coherence of the physical "set" that may someday describe the cosmos in toto.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hooray for proper citations!

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Some months ago I wrote a short précis about Gordon Clark's The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God. I brought attention to Clark's claim that scientific reasoning is formally fallacious, whereupon a sometime interlocutor here spit that idea back in my face. To cite Clark:

A simple argument of verification proceeds as follows: The given hypothesis implies certain definite results; the experiment actually gives those results; therefore, the hypothesis is verified and can be called a law. Obviously, this argument is the fallacy of asserting the consequent; and since all verification must commit this fallacy, it follows that no law or hypothesis can ever be logically demonstrated.

Upon reading this, my interlocutor scoffed,

That is, flat out, the funniest statement on scientific verification I have ever read. An entire half century of debate from Popper to Lakotos simply ignored. Hypotheses do not imply certain definite results, hypotheses are statements about what we expect reality to be like, based on a prior model….

This is not the post (or the hour) to deal with the role of hypotheses in science. Let it suffice to say that it seemed to me odd that this critic would criticize Clark's claim, from a Christian perspective, when in fact Bertrand Russell, from a devoutly agnostic perspective, made exactly that claim:

All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true. This argument is, of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: "If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone and stones are nourishing." If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.

In any case, I was bothered about the provenance of this quotation, since Clark did not note it and the only places I could find it were in Christian sources, thus subjecting it to the odium of "Christian academic urban legend". Gladly, tonight I found a proper reference to Russell's words (in bold, along with the surrounding text):

"Limitations of Scientific Method", The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell. Ed. Robert Egner and Lester Denonn. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961. 620-627, pg. 622.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The epitome of petty

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It is the epitome of pettiness to be pestered by pettiness.
–– Elliam Fakespeare

Paper, scissors, agreement

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This last Friday I gave one of my junior 2 classes the last ten minutes or so free. We had finished the unit, and both they and I were lethargic on that sultry Friday afternoon. So, whilst, I made notes in my class log and hobbled through Wolfgang Smith's brief primer on quantum mathematics in The Quantum Enigma, my students did what they did. A chief joy of this class is a game they call "Cuff the Guava". This is basically a gang-bang style bout of the game "paper, scissors, stone".

A word now about this innocuous game, PSS. In my culture, it is utterly innocuous, a sort of whimsical means of coming to a decision between two or more people, and usually only two or three. Not so in Taiwan. Here, PSS has taken on truly paradigmatic proportions. It seems to be THE means of small-group decision-making, and not just among children, but at pretty much every age-level. Nor is it merely a sometime way of making decisions; it is the unquestioned default method for striking a decision. It is so ingrained in the Taiwanese to sift people and options via PSS, that I have seen nearly a dozen students use it at lightning-speed to whittle down to contenders and then one final scapegoat (or last-piece-of-pie eater, as the case may be). This all came to mind with vivid clarity as I observed "Cuff the Guava".

The game is played, apparently, only in this one class, by about a half-dozen of the boys. They stand in a circle and toss the PSS gauntlet in rapid succession, one person stepping out without objection or pause if he defeats anyone else. The last person to be defeated is then cuffed: all the other guys rather savagely give him noogie after noogie. While I was watching this, I saw two girls playing a different game, apparently called, "0, 5, 10, 15, 20". For this game (I'll call it 0-2-0), both people make fists and then throw out either 0, 5, or 10 fingers, any combination of which will total 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20. On each round one player must call out any of those four values, and if that number of fingers comes out, she wins. (Winning usually means you can slap the other person's hand, or, more benignly, switch to the other person.) But how to establish who will guess first? Why, by no other means than good ol' PSS.

That's right: they play one hand game to decide how to play another hand game, the latter which could very well be the means by which they make some decisions at hand. Wheels within wheels, hands within hands.

As I watched all this (and got my hand smacked in my one bout of 0-2-0), I reflected on how different things are among small groups in the USA when making a decision. (And I should emphasize that I reflected on the difference, as I have been here long enough to learn to catch myself from simply saying something is so different, or more unique, or more outrageous, than at home, when the fact is, the exceptional character of something observed is usually a mental lapse: much the same happens in one's own home culture, but we take it for granted, until it is "exotified" in a foreign culture.) Upon reflection, I did feel there is a key difference at work. In my American culture, I believe small-group decision-making is much more verbal. In Taiwanese culture, by contrast, the arbitration is habitually non-verbal and kinesthetic. In my culture, decisions are events for personalities to mingle, or clash, in a, sometimes pyrotechnic, display of verbal nuance. In Taiwanese culture, by contrast, little games have become second nature perhaps precisely in order to minimize direct verbal impacts.

Why might this be so? I believe it was in Keith Devlin's Goodbye, Descartes that I recently read him saying England and Singapore's manners are more refined and central in dialogue, versus American and Australian manners being more rough and tumble, on account of the latter two places are broad, open countries, while the former two are small, self-contained island-cultures. As I read it, island-cultures have to cultivate better group-manners, since there is, almost literally, nowhere to escape from conflict, whereas larger countries allow for gruffer, more individualistic behavior, seeing as one individual can just up and move far away from the other individual source of complaint or trouble. So it is in Taiwan and America, respectively. In small, enclosed, densely populated cultures, like Taiwan's, there simply need to be automatic mechanisms for resolving social conflict, even in trivial matters, lest the pressure builds up like corn in a heated pot. In large, sparsely populated areas, by contrast, individualistic mechanisms for conflict resolution are permissible, not only because actual conflict can be diffused over the large geographical "option-space", but also because, in a land where each person can, ideally, at least, stake his own claim on his own plot of land, verbal skill is a way for individuals to stand out, to shine. In the USA, what often happens is that a difficult decision becomes a bickering match, fought over semantic nuances. "You misunderstood me; That's not what I meant; You never said that till now; I don't remember us agreeing to that; etc." You never see that sort of haggling in small-groups here. Everything stands or falls by the law of the flashing hands, if you will. It goes without saying that this faceless, hand-full method of conflict resolution elides the whole issue of personal blame or fault, since, in a verbal match, each person is accountable (and commendable) for his own words, whereas in a sub-verbal match, no one is to blame, since the hands flash in a basically natural, random way. (We do the same in the USA with coin tosses, but even that can become a verbal feud if someone does not flip the coin right or if it is debated who should be heads or tails in the first place, or if the coin should land on the floor or be caught and slapped on the back of the hand, etc., etc. The old "on three or after three?" problem.)

It strikes me as more than a bit odd that rational decisions (e.g., which road should we take, which item should we order, which movie should we rent, whose head should we crack, etc.) are decided by a completely non-rational, stochastic method. But that is a post for another time.

I mention all this because as soon as I linked the feral ones of "Cuff the Guava" and the tame ones of 0-2-0, I saw a fine possibility for a doctoral thesis in anthropology. "Small-Group Decision Methods in Taiwan", or some such.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brief log on my triathlon training

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My race is on July 6. I have about seven weeks left to train. The Olympic triathlon is a 1.5km swim, then a 40km bike ride, and then a 10km run. I am shooting for under three hours. I have wanted to keep a better record of my training progress, but I might as well just start now with what I can remember. …

Last Monday I ran 8km in 38 minutes after work.

The next morning I ran 8km in 40 minutes with my roommate.

Wednesday I went to Lugang and did a night out.

The next day I swam** 1200m, comprised of: 200m breast stroke warm-up, then 200m cycles of various drills (e.g., breast stroke, front crawl, motorboat, butterfly, legless front crawl, and a little bear crawl).

Friday I was simply tired so I slept a couple hours then read a fair share.

Saturday morning I ran about 7–8km in 35 minutes. Then, after more reading and a micro-nap, I rode 9km uphill (slight grade), the same back, and then poked around mapping distances for running for another 7km.

Today, Sunday, I went to Mass and then took it easy at home until about 7pm, when I headed to the pool. There, I did 200m of warmup using breast stroke, butterfly, and motorboat. Then I did three sets of 500m front crawls, with one minute of rest between each set. My first three splits were 9'10", 9'45", 9'20", and then after a couple minutes of rest, I did another 500m in about 9'30". It felt great. Swimming is definitely my favorite event of the three, but I can feel my body reawakening to the fabled "joy of running"; it just takes time for my ankles, shins, and hips to adjust to the motions as I up my distances. The bike is, so far, the least pleasurable, since, one, I had trouble for a few days with a bad tube, and, two, I really don't like driving amidst the majority of [UNCOMPLIMENTARY MODIFIER] drivers here.

Tomorrow after work I would like to run a 2km warmup to a quiet spot I know, then do 10 x .6km alternates, which is to say, run .6km slow, then "haul ass" for .6km, then .6km slow, then haul tail, etc. After this 6km of alternates, I will run 2km back home.

The [UNCOMPLIMENTARY MODIFIER] news is that I've agreed to a 6:30am run with my roommate every Tuesday. This means I will probably swim 3km Wednesday and then do about 40 minutes on the trainer Thursday night. I might just take Friday off and then do a 40km ride Saturday, and a 5km run later in the day. God only knows.

[** The front crawl is what most people call freestyle, the ol' paddle and kick.

The breaststroke is like parting the curtains and doing a frog kick.

The bear crawl is something of my own devising, basically a reverse breaststroke, in which the hands are pulled toward the chest. It reminds me of judo, so I like it.

The motorboat is just a leg drill, in which you lie on your back and kick like a paddle boat; I sometimes push my hands down along my side for a little propulsion of 1.5 strokes, or do a more sinuous turbine motion with my shoulders and hands.

The butterfly is a sort of lunging swoop; the frog kick lifts you out enough to swing your arms forward. I find it to be the most grueling of all the strokes I do.

The legless front crawl, also of my own devising, perhaps, is sort of the reverse of the motorboat: with your heard out of the water and your legs more or less doing nothing, except occasional stabilizing kicks, you paddle the front crawl. It really works the shoulders and biceps.

One other stroke I devised for myself is the "staggered front crawl": an exaggerated lateral twist that requires a full, strong arm scoop and strong scissor kick, to rotate the other way in slow, deliberate cycles.]

A review of A. Reimers's _The Soul of the Person_

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The soul as the principle for principles of behavior

In *The Soul of the Person* (TSP), Professor Reimers has written a very fine book of contemporary philosophical anthropology. He has accomplished this both in terms of content and composition. In terms of content, or style, it is rare to find such a lucid, vivid writer of philosophy as Prof. Reimers. This is surely due to his Scholastic bearings, for, all Reformation and Enlightenment canards aside, the Scholastics were habitual masters at the telling, concrete example. I blew through this book, largely because I almost never found myself stumbling over Reimers's syntax, diction, or rhetorical flow. (The only snags came when poor editing had let a number of typos and omissions slip through.) The ease with which Reimers guides the reader through ostensibly arcane topics as Peircean semiotics, "ArisThomistic" hylomorphism, and Wojtylan phenomenology of action, indicates vast and deep learning on behalf of Prof. Reimers. I am quite reminded of Prof. James F. Ross, one of my favorite philosophers, who also succeeds in vivid exposition and seems to "breath Thomism" as naturally as Reimers does.

As far as the content of TSP goes, Reimers begins by addressing the "status of the question" of the soul in contemporary ethology and philosophy of mind. This presents a pretty standard lay of the materialist land à la Dennett, Searle, the Churchlands, Le Doux, et al., and thus indicates the backcloth against which Reimers's ArisThomistic account will be constructed.

He then proceeds to the, so to speak, matter of matter, defining materiality as reactivity. This raises the question, Is the human person merely material? Reimers denies this, moving on to a discussion of the, so to speak, spirit of the spiritual, which he presents as the capacity in humans to seek, grasp, and produce truth, goodness, and beauty. This is a crucial advance in the argument, since, if it can be shown humans authentically seek these things, and that these things exceed the logical and metaphysical bounds of sheer material reactivity (even when understood in Aristotelian terms of various organic teleology in the human organism), then we see how humans spiritually transcend the confines of materialism.

The way that Reimers illuminates our spiritual powers--as rational habits directed toward truth, goodness, and beauty--is to examine in Peircean and Wojtylan terms the phenomenology of action as habitus. Peirce presented three forms of rational analysis in human life: the deductive (logical), inductive (scientific), and abductive (or hypothetical). Ultimately, Reimers brings Peirce's abductive rationality together with the ArisThomistic account of practical syllogisms. This is important for his argument because under this schema, we can see how authentic human behavior differs from that of other animals. We are not sheer deductive logic machines. Neither are we sheer inductively trained lab rats. Rather, we are a species uniquely endowed with the abductive ability to imagine ourselves in different settings, following different values, in different ways, etc. Humans, in other words, are endowed with a principle of rational imagination, which allows us to encompass all being as such (ens), transcend each thing (res), and all things, as we know them in se, and, ultimately, integrally order our own lives based on a range of immaterial (or, super-material) values. This principle of rational discernment and self-arrangement, Reimers calls the soul. While all things tend to their own perfection based on their own formal natures (e.g., plants tend to pollination and fruition, animals tend to growth and reproduction, electrons tend to positive poles in a certain range of velocity, our organ systems tend to satiation, etc.), only human beings can, in principle if not always in practice, transcend these various entelechies in favor of rationally meaningful "signs" of value understood to supervene on things and urges. There must be some accounting for why humans so consistently ignore or contravene both strict logic and hardcore biological urges--and this account comes via the soul as an immaterial principle that integrally orders the body, physically and habitually, to act in various ways, for various goods, based on intelligible realities transmitted via the senses.

My favorite part of reading this book was learning about Charles S. Peirce's thought, even if only in cursory fashion. As Prof. Reimers notes, Peirce's dictum that the human "mind is a sign, developing according to the principles of inference", serves as his working motto for this book, some five years in the writing. It was also very nice to get exposure, even if, again, cursory, to Karol Wojtyla's phenomenology. In this vein, one of the most important points Reimers makes is that rationality--as the capacity for grasping intelligible goods--is antecedent to consciousness in the human organism. Indeed, consciousness is, Thomistically speaking, simply the application of rationality to this or that particular case (as when we focus our attention on one voice in a crowded room; or reexamine our action during a social event, gone awry, with intense scrutiny on how we dressed; or when we focus on our wrist angle rather than our opponent's footwork during tennis practice, etc.). This shift in emphasis, from consciousness to rationality as the primary order in human mental life, not only dispels pretty much all of the haranguing that goes on about the "hard problem" of consciousness (and qualia and zombies and inverted spectra, etc., etc., etc.) in contemporary epistemology, but also reveals how thought is not severed from action; as, Prof. Reimers puts it, humans are rational right to their fingertips.

When I said that learning about Peirce's thought was a great benefit of this book, I should have made explicit, as I am now doing, that Peirce's treatment of signs as value-driven practical hypothesis was what made Peirce so fulfilling. This is the sort of thing that makes philosophy a perennial pursuit, even when regarded as abstruse and useless by others: in reading a book like this, you actually come to know yourself better. "Ah, so THAT is what I do when I make a mistake, or set a goal! Of course!"

Along these lines I must add that Prof. Reimers himself seems like a beautiful man, which only adds to the enjoyment of this book. By beautiful I mean that he obviously has a great and tender regard for the human frame, in all its ages and conditions. Indeed, in the acknowledgments section, he calls his wife, who works with mentally and physically handicapped people (as does my mother), his "philosophical conscience", noting that if his account of the soul can't or doesn't deal with the least of these, it isn't much good. Throughout the book it is clear how deeply influenced Reimers has been by the beauty of John Paul II's theology of the body.

The only complaints I have with TSP are 1) that I wish Reimers had delved more deeply into the Latin and Greek of the foundations of his ArisThomistic anthropology, and 2) that he might have elaborated more on the immortality of the soul in the epilogue. Also, 3) the recurrence of minor typos was worrisome for a publisher as august as the Catholic U. of America. It might not be fair to call the first two complaints complaints, since they just amount to me saying Reimers should have written more just as well! I simply wanted more textual elaboration from Aristotle and Aquinas (then again, that's why they wrote what they wrote in the first place: so I can read it for my self).

*The Soul of the Person* is a very good book for people to use as an introduction to Wojtyla's personalism, a topic that can be, alas, prohibitively expensive to study, if Amazon prices for this book and related matters are any indication. Happily, I was able to find a copy of Wojtyla's *The Acting Person*, translated by Andrzej Potocki, online at

A review of M. Heller's _Creative Tension_

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Avoiding "methodological anarchy" enables true encounter

*Creative Tension* (CT) is the first of Fr. Michael Heller's books that I have read. I doubt it will be his last. CT begins a bit slowly and vaguely for my tastes, but by the second section (on certain perspectives in the history of science), Heller presents interesting details on the actual medieval view of humanity's place in the cosmos, as opposed to the stereotyped view that Kepler overthrew medieval geocentrism. Far from it. In fact, the medieval view of Earth was, as Heller cites C.S. Lewis, "anthropoperipheral". What Kepler did accomplish was the mathematization of our galaxy, which ultimately led to the idealized displacement of man from the mathematical world. Interestingly, Heller notes how, while the medieval cosmology was anthropomorphic but anthropoperipheral, the modern cosmology is more anthropocentric in terms of man's formalized investigations being the very substance of cosmic order. (One is reminded of A. Guth's quip that we can form universes out of thin air.)

The section I found most challenging, and most interesting, was that concerning Fr. Heller's area of expertise, namely, working towards integrating general relativity and quantum gravitation by way of noncommutative geometry. While Heller is merciful for boneheads like me, and kept the exposition of this new field of mathematics at a very lay level, I did appreciate learning that noncommutative geometry renders points, and the time in which they are traversed, meaningless, which, in turn, renders the talk (à la Hawking, Hartle, et al.) of fundamental singularities meaningless. Once we cross the Planck threshold (i.e., above 1 x 10^-33 cm, 1 x10^93 g/cm^3, 1 x 10^-44 sec), we are able to work with points in Poincaré fields, but beneath that threshold, the proto-singularity is atemporal and aspacial, terms that certainly render the Augustinian and Thomistic views of creation as timeless more palatable for modern theology (as against the objections by process theologians that timelessness renders God inactive and static). Noncommutative geometry allow for dynamic progression, but not in classical or even quantum terms.

The care with which Heller delineates noncommutative geometry is driven by his explicit differentiation, in the spirit of St. Thomas, between creation qua ontological dependency and the cosmos's beginning qua empirically analyzable event. It is precisely this care in delineating the methodological boundaries between science and theology that avoids what Fr. Heller calls "methodological anarchy". In their proper bounds, science cannot ground or refute theology, while theology cannot simply refute, nor vampirize, science. A key point Fr. Heller makes is that, because science cannot go beyond itself, it is the privilege and task of theology to see science in a larger metaphysical, and indeed moral, perspective, "from the outside" as it were.

The moral privilege of theology in allowing science to find a home in the complete metaphysical cosmos ties in with a crucial point Fr. Heller makes, namely, that rationality is a moral choice, because it is a free choice. As the empirical method cannot account for, much less ground, itself, rationality amounts to a free, moral "faith in reason" (as Popper called in *The Open Society*). Hence, Heller calls the Greeks' logical ethos their moral code. (You can see how potent this insight is during a conversation, on [...], involving Fr. Heller and R. Dawkins: when Heller asked Dawkins whether he believed in rationality, Dawkins said of course, and when asked why, he replied, because it works, at which point Fr. Heller smiled. If rationality is "right" because it works, how do we know it works? Because it is self-evident? No. Because it works? In what terms? Etc.)

The basic message Heller has for theologians is twofold. First, take the science seriously, not only in terms of "going along with" the current "scientific world-image", in order to avoid complete communication failures, but also in terms of true competence in the field one wants to examine. Second, while science cannot "explain" or "prove" religion, it can teach by analogy. For example, if we can fathom atemporal, aspacial dynamics via noncommutative geometry, can we not also gain further insight into the aspacial, atemporal God? And if we can see the failure of ordinary language in increasingly rarified sciences, can we not also take more seriously the nuances of "God-talk"?

CT is a fine primer for Fr. Heller's work, but the interested reader really will want more, as apparently can be found in his other woks in the past couple decades. I was disappointed to see Fr. Heller did not cite Fr. Stanley Jaki's work, as Jaki argues for much the same methodological strictures on the "impassable divide" between theology proper and science. Related books of interest would be A. Nesteruk's *Light from the East* and pretty much anything by T.F. Torrance and Wolfgang Smith.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The present from the past in the future

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Reading John Haught's God After Darwin, I have come back once again to the theology of history. This is because Haught makes repeated reference to a "metaphysics of the future" as a means not only of accommodating the neo-Darwinian "story" about the world, but in fact, ultimately and coherently explaining that story on theological grounds. In contrast to both a deterministic "metaphysics of the past" (e.g., materialism) and a static metaphysics of esse (being) (e.g., dehistoricized dualism-idealism qua escape from material reality), Haught argues that only a metaphysics of the future––a theology of hope––does justice to both the authentic biblical-prophetic vision, and the painful, erratic contingency of the neo-Darwinian story. Instead of seeing God as some static, otiose First Cause in the past, or as some impersonal ground of being behind or beneath every object, Haught argues we must see God as the Absolute Future, as the personal field of alluring potentiality that draws the world from its determined past and chaotic present into ever greater harmony. If the world is a mere sequelae of the past atomic state of affairs, or is simply a tiresome palimpsest veiling a deeper eternal reality, then the world as such is a distraction, a mere afterthought. If however the world is a genuine field of novelty and unheralded beauty, then life takes on greater meaning.

As a Thomist I am not entirely onboard with Haught's process, Teilhardian, Whiteheadian, Rahnerian zeal––in particular his offhand disdain for esse, since there must BE something which undergoes any process––because I think classical Thomism has tremendously deep resources for situating God as the intimate-immanent cause of the world, which both sustains and propels it in the same way Haught's Absolute Future does (cf. St Thomas' Fifth Way). I also find weak Haught's argument that, whereas an absolutist, presentist metaphysics motivates oppressive uniformity (presumably by rejecting 'elements' that bar a return to a once-perfect past), since it could just as easily be argued––and, if Marxism at play is any indication, be executed––that present elements must be excised as obstacles to attaining the great and happy someday future.

A major point on which I do concur with Haught, is his denial that there ever was a pristine past which we have fallen from as historical vagabonds. Instead, he argues, we are born into a world-condition that ineluctably leads to "fall backward" from our covenanted promise in God. Instead of having fallen down from a pristine Eden, we consistently fall back from, and retreat from, the future as the field of novelty and hope that God promises to us. In this light, Haught says, "Nature is essentially promise." By this he means that only the promised fullness of God's fecund futurity accounts for the genuine novelty in evolution and in the human spirit. Nature is not constituted exclusively by its past or its present but in fact is "faithfully" formed and potentially reformed by the ever-broadening field of the future in which God dwells. Indeed, insofar as the past is gone, and the present is always on its way out, the future is, biblically and phenomenologically, the most real and dynamic mode of temporal existence. Complexity theory and self-organization are indicators of the cosmic nisus––and I would say, telos––toward ever greater beauty. Insofar as beauty consists in the harmonious balance between disparate elements, even ugly on their own, the Darwinian saga is the canvas on which God allows nature, and mankind within her, to forge its own distinct, integral, free harmony of competing elements. If I begin writing a line of random scribbles on a paper, and then suddenly shift into writing a coherent sentence, two things have have happened. First, there has been no break in the physical, causal chain between the scribbling and the sentence. Second, order has emerged in a non-physical, but rather an informational, way. This is, analogously, how God brings order into the world, without imposing an extrinsic, causally disruptive order upon nature. Information is the "void" around which physical matter attains increasing complexity, as a window "forms" around the empty space in the wall. All this is so, because God, as self-emptying, self-restricting love, allows the world to "be" and become in its own properly natural way, and thus kenotically ratifies the metaphysical space in which the Darwinian saga has taken place.

Reading all this, I am immediately reminded of Fr. Keefe's great work on the theology of history, Covenantal Theology. I think Keefe's work offers Haught a much deeper grounding in the Catholic tradition by showing how the myth of a perfect Eden-cosmos must defer to the truth that creation only exists IN CHRIST. Keefe, like Haught, assaults the millennium-old obsession with a cosmic order apart from God-in-Christ, an order that terminates in either meaningless necessity, or meaningless chaos. For my own part, I would say, anagogically speaking, that a trinitarian schema for analyzing history is such: the Father is the past, the source of ultimate origin; the Son is the present, the source of incarnate divine kenosis; and the Spirit is the future, the source of promise on Whom we always wait for more, more both from the Father's eternal wisdom and from the Son's sacramentally immanent solidarity with us as Theandros.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wisdom from… (4 May 08)

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JOHN OF CHRYSOSTOM (347–407): Christ is our guest

When people receive a dear friend in their homes, is it not obvious that everything is a pleasure for them, and that they run about in all directions, sparing no effort to please their guest, even if it means spending all they have? Well, Christ is our guest, so let us show him that we are really happy, and do nothing to displease him. Let us decorate the house he has come to as a sign of our joy. Let us put before him the kind of food he likes best to show our delight. What is this food? He tells us himself: My food is to do the will of him who sent me. Let us feed him when he is hungry, and give him a drink when he is thirsty. If you offer him a cup of cold water he will accept it because he loves you. However small a loved one's gifts may be, they have great value in the eyes of a friend.
(Hom. XX on John's Gospel.)

Patriarch of Constantinople, St. John spent a life of preaching and earned the title of "the golden-mouthed" (chrysostomos).

ST AUGUSTINE: Christian Grief for a Saintly Mother

Gently, I closed my mother's eyes. An immeasurable sorrow flowed up into my heart and would have overflowed in tears. But my eyes, under the mind's strong constraint, held back their flow. As my mother breathed her last, the child Adeodatus broke out into lamentations. We checked him and brought him to silence.
-- Confessions 9, 12

Prayer. Lord, I know that my mother always forgave others with all her heart. Please forgive her, too.
-- Confessions 9, 13


Whoever does not fear death is a fool. He runs a great risk of being lost forever, because the place to which we go after death is eternal. We will be saved or damned for eternity. The great servants of the Lord were very much aware of this and feared this terribly important event…yet all the same they joyfully desired and sought it, confident of the outcome.
(Sermons 62; O. X, p. 318)


HAPPY is he and more than wise
Who sees with wondering eyes and clean
This world through all the grey disguise
Of sleep and custom in between.
Yes; we may pass the heavenly screen,
But shall we know when we are there?
Who know not what these dead stones mean,
The lovely city of Lierre.
('Tremendous Trifles.')