Friday, May 20, 2011

A Freudian proto-argument against abortion…

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"A fetus lacks sufficient neural abilities to function, and therefore to 'count', as a human person. More to the point, a fetus is basically unconscious, so it doesn't suffer conscious pains if it is aborted. Therefore, fetal abortion is not immoral or cruel."


According to Freudian theory, a human functions in three psychic dimensions: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the dominant, fundamental dimension, comprising the most basic somatic drives. The ego is just the "tip of the iceberg" in human behavior. The real engine is below consciousness. Human nature subsists in its unconscious functions. Delving into a person's subconscious is delving into the person's real character. Conscious behavior is by and large a lattice of pseudo-drives and confabulation constructed to protect one's id or even to protect one's own ego from one's own id.

In so far as a fetus is an unconscious humanoid, it is an archetypal Freudian agent. It displays all the somatic drives that an ego will eventually gild: homeostasis, nutrition, expansion, crude stimulus response, etc. Just because the fetus does not (presumably) consciously feel pain during an abortion does not mean the abortion is not being performed against a human subject. Indeed, just because a psychiatric patient is not consciously aware of his innermost drives does not mean those drives are not human drives.

Therefore, a fetus is a true human person and abortion is cruelty against an unwitting subject.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If you must know…

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The following are notes on recent discussion I've been having in this post. I provide them partially to aid myself and partially to clarify a few things for my interlocutor or other readers. My interlocutor sees the Catholic Church as the ancient engine of global socialist oppression––which makes it all the more ironic that out-and-out socialists would beg to differ.

For instance, in the concluding remarks of this 1949 debate (cf. this citation) between a socialist, Max Shachtman, and a Catholic priest, Charles Owen Rice, Shachtman explains that:

socialism demands the collective ownership and democratic control and management of the means of production and exchange for the benefit and welfare of the people as a whole. … Do not be tickled under the chin by the idea that socialism has an absolutely fierce and murderous objective — against whom? a corner grocery? or a peanut stand? Are the corner grocers and the peanut stands ruining civilization? … The Catholic Church as an institution has been in all decisive events on the side of [anti-socialist] reaction. … The Pope in the Quadrigesimo Anno, the encyclical of 1931, says: no sincere Catholic may be a true socialist. Clear enough, isn’t it? … [T]he Catholic Church, even when it has not shared the view of reaction — and in many cases it has not — has always managed to work with reaction, has always managed to cooperate with reaction. Therein lies the fundamental basis for its opposition to socialism and on no other grounds.

Fr. Rice replies in conclusion:

[Citing a socialist pamphlet that cites Leo XIII:] ‘ “Human labor of every kind is the general source of the increase in wealth in this world.” Pope Pius IX quotes Leo to the effect that the wealth of states is produced in no other way than by the labour of workingmen.’ That is the quotation. That is exact.

The context in which it is, is a discussion of the functions of the two classes. Our Holy Father the Pope points out that both the managing or the employing class and the working class perform a function. Management performs a function. There will be a management class in your socialist utopia. In no place does he say that the workers are entitled to all the profits, that they give the only thing of value….

The stand of the church on the classes is that both classes are necessary, both classes perform a function. There are great evils and great corruptions in the capitalist system. There are great corruptions connected with the ownership of private property; but private property is such a bulwark of the liberties of man that you cannot permit it to be taken away from people and put in the state, because the thing you don’t like about capitalism is that not enough men have shares in productive ownership. …

Tyranny of the left is just as evil as tyranny of the right, and we’ve got to be against both. If we give our destinies into the hands of the state, as this little group proposes, we turn our entire destinies and put them in the hands of the state, you can call it anything you want, you can call it anything you want, it will be dictatorship. …

The Catholic Church is against all statism and all totalitarianism. There’s a place for the state and a place for the church. There are moral laws and there is justice that always, always, must be observed. And if you get away from your moral concepts, and if you think that any vast nation can live by a system akin to that of village atheism, you’re crazy. Wherever it’s been tried, you’ve had the madhouse of Hitler, an ex-socialist, Mussolini, an ex-socialist, and Stalin, who is now — at least he claims today that he still is — a socialist.

It seems Fr. Rice missed a grand opportunity to convince Shachtman of the Church's socialist foundation.

Indeed, according to a 1957 Time article,

From socialism's earliest beginnings down through the years to the present, the Roman Catholic Church has branded the Marxist doctrine of socialism with its disapproval. That disapproval became such a political reflex that Catholic parties often seemed to be identified with opposition to social progress itself. The effort to correct this impression, plus the urgent menace of Communism, gave birth, in post-World War II in Europe, to the surprisingly successful Christian Democratic movements in Italy, Western Germany, Belgium and France. …

The Catholic Archbishopric [in the Netherlands] reiterated a mandate issued three years before, when the Catholic People's Party became alarmed over the inroads made among Catholic voters by the Labor (socialist) Party. Warned the mandate: "Whoever follows the development without prejudice must fear that our political power and influence will crumble. It is not permissible for a Catholic to be a member of socialist associations, such as The Netherlands Federation of Trade Unions, or to visit socialist gatherings regularly, to read the socialist press regularly, or to listen to the socialist radio network regularly." Those who defied the mandate were threatened with refusal of the sacraments. If an offender died unrepentant, he could be refused church burial.

Explaining this new insistence on an old position, a high Vatican official was candid. "Any time we collaborate with the socialists, it is to combat the worse evil of Communism. Whenever there is a danger that socialism may attain its program, we are against it. Now in West Germany, Holland and Belgium, socialism, instead of being an added strength against Communism, has turned into a strength-sapping preacher of neutralism. Those who vote for it, vote against a Christian concept of society."

Facts is troubling things.

I shall now provide quotations from the 1912 article on "Socialism" in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

[Socialism is a] system of social and economic organization that would substitute state monopoly for private ownership of the sources of production and means of distribution, and would concentrate under the control of the secular governing authority the chief activities of human life. The term is often used vaguely to indicate any increase of collective control over individual action, or even any revolt of the dispossessed against the rule of the possessing classes. But these are undue extensions of the term, leading to much confusion of thought. State control and even state ownership are not necessarily Socialism: they become so only when they result in or tend towards the prohibition of private ownership not only of "natural monopolies", but also of all the sources of wealth. Nor is mere revolt against economic inequality Socialism: it may be Anarchism…; it may be mere Utopianism…; it may be a just resistance to oppression. Nor is it merely a proposal to make such economic changes in the social structure as would banish poverty. Socialism is this … and much more. …

[T]he Collectivist idea, which is the economic basis of modern Socialism…, really emerges only with "Gracchus" Babeuf and his paper, "The tribune of the People", in 1794 [in the very midst of the French Revolution, no less, when the Catholic Church's influence was weakest in France!]. In the manifesto issued by him and his fellow-conspirators, "Les Egaux", is to be found a clear vision of the collective organization of society, such as would be largely accepted by most modern Socialists. Babeuf was guillotined by the Directory, and his party suppressed. …

[By the early nineteenth century,] the leaders of Socialism have not been slow to emphasize the lesson [of the poor support for co-operative economics] and to extend the argument, with sufficient plausibility, towards state monopoly and the absolutism of the majority. The logic of their argument has, it is true, been challenged, in recent years, in Europe by the rise of the great Catholic trade-union and co-operative organizations. …

As St. Paul pointed out, there must be a continual struggle between [material and spiritual prosperity]. If the individual life is to be a success, the spiritual desire must triumph, the material one must be subordinate, and when this is so the whole individual life is lived with proper economy, spiritual things being sought after as an end, while material things are used merely as a means to that end.

… From the Christian point of view material necessities are to be kept at a minimum, and material superfluities as far as possible to be dispensed with altogether. The Christian is a soldier and a pilgrim who requires material things only as a means to fitness and nothing more. In this he has the example of Christ Himself, Who came to earth with a minimum of material advantages and persisted thus even to the Cross. The Christian, then, not only from the individual but also from the social standpoint, has chosen the better part. He does not despise this life, but, just because his material desires are subordinate to his spiritual ones, he lives it much more reasonably, much more unselfishly, much more beneficially to his neighbours.

The point, too, which he makes against the Socialist is this. The Socialist wishes to distribute material goods in such a way as to establish a substantial equality, and in order to do this he requires the State to make and keep this distribution compulsory. The Christian replies to him: "You cannot maintain this widespread distribution, for the simple reason that you have no machinery for inducing men to desire it. On the contrary, you do all you can to increase the selfish and accumulative desires of men: you centre and concentrate all their interest on material accumulation, and then expect them to distribute their goods." This ultimate difference between Christian and Socialist teaching must be clearly understood. Socialism appropriates all human desires and centres them on the here-and-now, on material benefit and prosperity. But material goods are so limited in quality, in quantity, and in duration that they are incapable of satisfying human desires, which will ever covet more and more and never feel satisfaction. In this Socialism and Capitalism are at one, for their only quarrel is over the bone upon which is the meat that perisheth. Socialism, of itself and by itself, can do nothing to diminish or discipline the immediate and materialistic lust of men, because Socialism is itself the most exaggerated and universalized expression of this lust yet known to history. Christianity, on the other hand, teaches and practices unselfish distribution of material goods, both according to the law of justice and according to the law of charity. …

Again, ethically speaking, Socialism is committed to the doctrine of determinism. Holding that society makes the individuals of which it is composed, and not vice versa, it has quite lost touch with the invigorating Christian doctrine of free will. This fact may be illustrated by its attitude towards the three great institutions which have hitherto most strongly exemplified and protected that doctrine — the Church, the Family, and private ownership. Socialism, with its essentially materialistic nature, can admit no raison d'etre for a spiritual power, as complementary and superior to the secular power of the State. …

The State, it is true, must ensure a proper basis for its economic life, but beyond that it should not interfere: its business is not to detach the members of the family from their body in order to make them separately and selfishly efficient…. The business of the State is rather that of helping the Family to a healthy, co-operative, and productive unity. The State was never meant to appropriate to itself the main parental duties, it was rather meant to provide the parents, especially poor parents, with a wider, freer, healthier family sphere in which to be properly parental. Socialism, then, both in Church and Family, is impersonal and deterministic: it deprives the individual of both his religious and his domestic freedom. And it is exactly the same with the institution of private property. …

If man, then, has the right to own, control, and use private property, the State cannot give him this right or take it away; it can only protect it. Here, of course, we are at issue with Socialism, for, according to it, the State is the supreme power from which all human rights are derived; it acknowledges no independent spiritual, domestic, or individual power whatever. … It is true that the institutions of religion, of the family, and of private ownership are liable to great abuses, but the perfection of human effort and character demands a freedom of choice between good and evil as their first necessary condition. This area of free choice is provided, on the material side, by private ownership; on the spiritual and material, by the Christian Family; and on the purely spiritual by religion. The State, then, instead of depriving men of these opportunities of free and fine production, not only of material but also of intellectual values, should rather constitute itself as their defender. …

If it be found on examination that the general trend of the Socialist movement, the predominant opinion of the Socialists, the authoritative pronouncements of ecclesiastical and expert Catholic authority all tend to emphasize the philosophical cleavage indicated above, it is probably safe to conclude that those who profess to reconcile the two doctrines are mistaken: either their grasp of the doctrines of Christianity or of Socialism will be found to be imperfect, or else their mental habits will appear to be so lacking in discipline that they are content with the profession of a belief in incompatible principles. Now, if Socialism be first considered as embodied in the Socialist movement and Socialist activity, it is notorious that everywhere it is antagonistic to Christianity. This is above all clear in Catholic countries, where the Socialist organizations are markedly anti-Christian both in profession and practice. …

The trend of the Socialist movement, then, and the deliberate pronouncements and habitual thought of leaders and followers alike, are almost universally found to be antagonistic to Christianity. Moreover, the other side of the question is but a confirmation of this antagonism. For all three popes who have come into contact with modern Socialism, Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius X, have formally condemned it, both as a general doctrine and with regard to specific points. The bishops and clergy, the lay experts on social and economic questions, the philosophers, the theologians, and practically the whole body of the faithful are unanimous in their acceptance of the condemnation. …

Christianity and Socialism are hopelessly incompatible, and the logic of events makes this ever clearer. It is true that, before the publication of the Encyclical "Rerum novarum", it was not unusual to apply the term "Christian Socialism" to the social reforms put forward throughout Europe by those Catholics who are earnestly endeavouring to restore the social philosophy of Catholicism to the position it occupied in the ages of Faith. But, under the guidance of Pope Leo XIII, that crusade against the social and economic iniquities of the present age is now more correctly styled "Christian Democracy", and no really instructed, loyal, and clear-thinking Catholic would now claim or accept the style of Christian Socialist.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, facts is some very troubling things.

Note Leo XIII, Quod Apostolici Muneri, 9 (28 Dec. 1878):

…Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquillity in its doctrines and teachings regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods which are necessary for life and use. For, while the socialists would destroy the "right" of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But not the less on this account does our holy Mother not neglect the care of the poor or omit to provide for their necessities; but, rather, drawing them to her with a mother's embrace, and knowing that they bear the person of Christ Himself, who regards the smallest gift to the poor as a benefit conferred on Himself, holds them in great honor. She does all she can to help them; she provides homes and hospitals where they may be received, nourished, and cared for all the world over and watches over these. She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments.

Note Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 15 (15 May 1891):

"[I]n addition to injustice [wrought by Socialism], it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found."

As I have said more than once, opposing socialism does not entail that the Church simply endorses capitalism. Cf. e.g. Quadragesimo Anno, Pope Pius XI, 1931 (clarifies opposition to pure free market capitalism):

“Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life.... No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist".

Note also the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 27:

Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.(9)

In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25:40).

The socialist shoes doesn't fit. That doesn't prevent my interlocutor from stuffing it on the Catholic foot, however.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

As my friend put it, "Boned."

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My friend passed this story my way. I'm of a conservative bent, to be sure, but let me say up front that this article made me proud to be a Catholic. There's conservative capitalism and there's conservative Catholicism and only seldom do the twain meet. My only commentary will be to add emphasis. Lectio felix!

Catholic Academics Challenge Boehner
By Michael Sean Winters
Created May 11, 2011

A group of prominent Catholic academics have signed a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, on the occasion of his forthcoming commencement address at the Catholic University of America. I will provide commentary later today, but the letter really speaks for itself, respectfully, clearly and in a way to challenge the Speaker to consider his policies. The letter will be delivered to Boehner's office personally by some of the signatories tomorrow morning. …

I will point out that the signatories do not call on Boehner to decline to give his address, nor on CUA to revoke its invitation, as many conservatives called on Notre Dame to revoke its invitation to President Obama in 2009. They understand that a university should be a place where all voices and viewpoints are heard. But, they are well within their right to ask Boehner to explain how his budgetary proposals do, or do not, conform to traditional Catholic social teaching. Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Mr. Speaker,

We congratulate you on the occasion of your commencement address to The Catholic University of America. It is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching. We write in the hope that this visit will reawaken your familiarity with the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.

Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.

The 2012 budget you shepherded to passage in the House of Representatives guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society. It is particularly cruel to pregnant women and children, gutting Maternal and Child Health grants and slashing $500 million from the highly successful Women Infants and Children nutrition program. When they graduate from WIC at age 5, these children will face a 20% cut in food stamps. The House budget radically cuts Medicaid and effectively ends Medicare. It invokes the deficit to justify visiting such hardship upon the vulnerable, while it carves out $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. In a letter speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop Howard Hubbard detailed the anti-life implications of this budget in regard to its impact on poor and vulnerable American citizens. They explained the Church’s teachings in this regard clearly, insisting that:

A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.

Specifically, addressing your budget, the letter expressed grave concern about changes to Medicaid and Medicare that could leave the elderly and poor without adequate health care. The bishops warned further:

We also fear the human and social costs of substantial cuts to programs that serve families working to escape poverty, especially food and nutrition, child development and education, and affordable housing.

Representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishops Hubbard and Blaire have now endorsed with other American Christian leaders a call to legislators for a “Circle of Protection” around programs for the poor that you, Mr. Speaker, have imperiled. The statement of these Christian leaders recognizes the need for fiscal responsibility, “but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.” Indeed, it continues, “These choices are economic, political—and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25:45).”

Mr. Speaker, we urge you to use the occasion of this year’s commencement at The Catholic University of America to give fullest consideration to the teachings of your Church. We call upon you to join with your bishops and sign on to the “Circle of Protection.” It is your moral duty as a legislator to put the needs of the poor and most vulnerable foremost in your considerations. To assist you in this regard, we enclose a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Published by the Vatican, this is the “catechism” for the Church’s ancient and growing teaching on a just society and Catholic obligations in public life.

Catholic social doctrine is not merely a set of goals to be achieved by whatever means one chooses. It is also a way of proceeding, a set of principles that are derived from the truth of the human person. In Pope Benedict’s words: “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way... the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.”

We commend to you the Compendium’s discussion of the principles of the common good, the preferential option for the poor, and the interrelationship of subsidiarity and solidarity. Paragraph 355 on tax revenues, solidarity, and support for the vulnerable is particularly relevant to the moment.

Be assured of our prayers for you on this occasion and for your faithful living out of your vocation in public life.

There follows a list of signatories.

Still hitting the weights, still hitting the books…

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You can peruse my BBEDU training log for my struggles against entropy and various other tidbits in my life. I hope to get a few more chapters of SCG up tonight and more again tomorrow. Alas, though, I have not been diligent about my Latin studies. I have let to many days pass without doing exercises. There are just so many books to distract me, though! To wit, I've been reading, with pleasure, A. C. Grayling's An Introduction to Philosophical Logic (1st ed.) and began Harwood Fisher's Self, Logic, and Figurative Thinking last night as I couldn't fall asleep. I find Fisher's style distracting. He's already used an unseemly number of exclamation in just the first two or three chapters and he keeps announcing his intentions, whereas I would rather he just into the meat of his theory. I might be disappointed since it is more about the logic of social theory and cognition than about "pure" logic. Call me a logic junkie, I guess. To wit, I also began Kneale and Kneale's The Development of Logic, and can't wait to plow through it, but I will wait until other minor readings are cleared away before I set in.

One other reason I'm not on the Internet much these days…

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Aristotle, Topics VIII, 14 infra:

"Do not argue with every one, nor practise upon the man in the street: for there are some people with whom any argument is bound to degenerate. For against any one who is ready to try all means in order to seem not to be beaten, it is indeed fair to try all means of bringing about one's conclusion: but it is not good form. Wherefore the best rule is, not lightly to engage with casual acquaintances, or bad argument is sure to result. For you see how in practising together people cannot refrain from contentious argument."

In a related vein, I was reading the Gorgias last night and laughed out loud. The Gorgias begins with an inquiry by Socrates into the nature of the art practiced by Gorgias, a well known and then aged rhetorician. "[N]obody asked what was the quality, but what was the nature, of the art," Socrates explains, "and … I would still beg you [Polus] briefly and clearly … to say what this art is, and what we ought to call Gorgias: Or rather, Gorgias, let me turn to you, and ask the same question what are we to call you, and what is the art which you profess?" Whereupon Gorgias replies (my emphasis):

Gor. Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art.

Soc. Then I am to call you a rhetorician?

Gor. Yes, Socrates, and a good one too, if you would call me that which, in Homeric language, "I boast myself to be."

Soc. I should wish to do so.

Gor. Then pray do.

Soc. And are we to say that you are able to make other men rhetoricians?

Gor. Yes, that is exactly what I profess to make them, not only at Athens, but in all places.

Soc. And will you continue to ask and answer questions, Gorgias, as we are at present doing and reserve for another occasion the longer mode of speech which Polus was attempting? Will you keep your promise, and answer shortly the questions which are asked of you?

Gor. Some answers, Socrates, are of necessity longer; but I will do my best to make them as short as possible; for a part of my profession is that I can be as short as any one.

Soc. That is what is wanted, Gorgias; exhibit the shorter method now, and the longer one at some other time.

Gor. Well, I will; and you will certainly say, that you never heard a man use fewer words.

Soc. Very good then; as you profess to be a rhetorician, and a maker of rhetoricians, let me ask you, with what is rhetoric concerned: I might ask with what is weaving concerned, and you would reply (would you not?), with the making of garments?

Gor. Yes.

Soc. And music is concerned with the composition of melodies?

Gor. It is.

Soc. By Hera, Gorgias, I admire the surpassing brevity of your answers.

Gor. Yes, Socrates, I do think myself good at that.

Whereupon I had a philosopher's guffaw.

I also just noticed how (in more than one way) the paragraph preceding the one I cited in Topics relates to the Gorgias. "You should display your training in inductive reasoning against
a young man," Aristotle argues, "in deductive against an expert." Continuing, he says (my emphasis):

You should try, moreover, to secure from those skilled in deduction their premisses, from inductive reasoners their parallel cases; for this is the thing in which they are respectively trained. In general, too, from your exercises in argumentation you should try to carry away either a syllogism on some subject or a refutation or a proposition or an objection, or whether some one put his question properly or improperly (whether it was yourself or some one else) and the point which made it the one or the other. … For it is the skilled propounder and objector who is, speaking generally, a dialectician. To formulate a proposition is to form a number of things into one––for the conclusion to which the argument leads must be taken generally, as a single thing––whereas to formulate an objection is to make one thing into many; for the objector either distinguishes or demolishes, partly granting, partly denying the statements proposed.

We also saw how Socrates insisted on phrasing the question correctly. A friend of mine, one of my philosophical mentors in fact, once said something, in passing, during a discussion with someone on Facebook, which perfectly captured this point. "I see now that we were arguing about different questions, and, for a philosopher, arguing about the wrong question is worse than arguing for the wrong conclusion." That virtually cinched my desire to be a philosopher. It is a habit of mine, in academic and personal discussions, to disentangle what and how many issues are actually being discussed. I see that is a spiritual but also a vocational gift.

Even more tangential, though of interest to my unsleeping hordes of fans, is how much I have been enjoying Michael Sandel's "Justice" lectures, available here. Always interesting to see liberally conditioned younguns crash against their own moral intuitions and the logic of indifferentism. Worth the time to view the series.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hooray for Einstein!

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New "epic" test adds to confirmation of the theory of general relativity.

May 4, 2011: Einstein was right again. There is a space-time vortex around Earth, and its shape precisely matches the predictions of Einstein's theory of gravity. … An expert in Einstein's theories, [Clifford] Will chairs an independent panel of the National Research Council set up by NASA in 1998 to monitor and review the results of Gravity Probe B. "One day," he predicts, "this will be written up in textbooks as one of the classic experiments in the history of physics."

Time and space, according to Einstein's theories of relativity, are woven together, forming a four-dimensional fabric called "space-time." The mass of Earth dimples this fabric, much like a heavy person sitting in the middle of a trampoline. Gravity, says Einstein, is simply the motion of objects following the curvaceous lines of the dimple. … Our planet spins, and the spin should twist the dimple, slightly, pulling it around into a 4-dimensional swirl. This is what GP-B went to space in 2004 to check. …

Put a spinning gyroscope into orbit around the Earth, with the spin axis pointed toward some distant star as a fixed reference point. Free from external forces, the gyroscope's axis should continue pointing at the star--forever. But if space is twisted, the direction of the gyroscope's axis should drift over time. By noting this change in direction relative to the star, the twists of space-time could be measured.

The four gyroscopes in GP-B are the most perfect spheres ever made by humans. These ping pong-sized balls of fused quartz and silicon are 1.5 inches across and never vary from a perfect sphere by more than 40 atomic layers. If the gyroscopes weren't so spherical, their spin axes would wobble even without the effects of relativity.…
"We measured a geodetic precession of 6.600 plus or minus 0.017 arcseconds and a frame dragging effect of 0.039 plus or minus 0.007 arcseconds," says Everitt.

For readers who are not experts in relativity: Geodetic precession is the amount of wobble caused by the static mass of the Earth (the dimple in spacetime) and the frame dragging effect is the amount of wobble caused by the spin of the Earth (the twist in spacetime). Both values are in precise accord with Einstein's predictions.

"In the opinion of the committee that I chair, this effort was truly heroic. We were just blown away," says Will. …
"Because it was based at a university many students were able to work on the project," says Everitt. "More than 86 PhD theses at Stanford plus 14 more at other Universities were granted to students working on GP-B. Several hundred undergraduates and 55 high-school students also participated, including astronaut Sally Ride and eventual Nobel Laureate Eric Cornell."

NASA funding for Gravity Probe B began in the fall of 1963. That means Everitt and some colleagues have been planning, promoting, building, operating, and analyzing data from the experiment for more than 47 years—truly, an epic effort. …

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I have an opinion about this too…

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A very good Catholic man, whom I've had the privilege of knowing all my life, recently told me he's disappointed Catholics these days are less militant, considering the only Catholics most of us will ever meet are members of the "Church Militant." Anyway, last week I was watching some of the following videos and thought they could find a place here, so as to fortify the moral fiber I hope I and my reader(s) have.

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

"Pornography is the commercial documentation of assault played out on real women bodies" - Gail Dines

It's funny cuz it's true…

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Even on the planet G'nunu 12, even under the glare of the triple suns.

(HT to Crude.)

Summa contra gentiles Sancti Thomae Aquinatis - Glosses from Jazzland: Chapter 54: HOW THE DIVINE ESSENCE, BEING ONE AND ...

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Again, how can the Divine Essence have a proper knowledge of things beside itself and yet remain one?

Summa contra gentiles Sancti Thomae Aquinatis - Glosses from Jazzland: Chapter 54: HOW THE DIVINE ESSENCE, BEING ONE AND ...: "Chapter 54: HOW THE DIVINE ESSENCE, BEING ONE AND SIMPLE, IS THE PROPER LIKENESS OF ALL INTELLIGIBLE OBJECTS [] [1] But, again, it can seem..."

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Bodybuilding of an Educator: Gym regimen - May 2011

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The Bodybuilding of an Educator: Gym regimen - May 2011: "Even Keel Workout 2 50 mins, 97kg WARMUP CIRCUIT: SQ: 8, 6, 4 @ 100kg, 112.5kg, 122.5kg [When I asked the owner for a spot, he declined, ..."

Happy Mother's Day!

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詩名: 遊 子 吟
作者: 孟 郊    詩體: 樂 府
慈 母 手 中 線 ,  遊 子 身 上 衣 。
臨 行 密 密 縫 ,  意 恐 遲 遲 歸 。
誰 言 寸 草 心 ,  報 得 三 春 暉 ?

Thread in the hand of a loving mother
Is worked into the jacket
of her wayward boy.
Firm and close she sets the stitches now
For she fears he will slow, slow
to return.
Who can say that the heart
of an inch-long grass [i.e., a son]
Will repay the sunlight
of full Spring [i.e., a mother's love]?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Willing the conditions of the beloved's existence…

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Summa Theologica I, 22, 2 ad 2:

"…a particular provider excludes all defects from what is subject to his care as far as he can; whereas, one [like God] who provides universally allows some little defect to remain, lest the good of the whole should be hindered. Hence, corruption and defects in natural things are said to be contrary to some particular nature; yet they are in keeping with the plan of universal nature; inasmuch as the defect in one thing yields to the good of another, or even to the universal good: for the corruption of one is the generation of another, and through this it is that a species is kept in existence. Since God, then, provides universally for all being, it belongs to His providence to permit certain defects in particular effects, that the perfect good of the universe may not be hindered, for if all evil were prevented, much good would be absent from the universe."

«Quia provisor particularis excludit defectum ab eo quod eius curae subditur, quantum potest, sed provisor universalis permittit aliquem defectum in aliquo particulari accidere, ne impediatur bonum totius. Unde corruptiones et defectus in rebus naturalibus, dicuntur esse contra naturam particularem; sed tamen sunt de intentione naturae universalis, inquantum defectus unius cedit in bonum alterius, vel etiam totius universi; nam corruptio unius est generatio alterius, per quam species conservatur. Cum igitur Deus sit universalis provisor totius entis, ad ipsius providentiam pertinet ut permittat quosdam defectus esse in aliquibus particularibus rebus, ne impediatur bonum universi perfectum.»

Read Michael Liccione's essays on "The Problems of Evil" and "Mystery and Explanation in Aquinas' Account of Creation".

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The gift that keeps on hurting…

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A point that struck me from my reading of SCG (cf. I, 50, 3): "…the knowledge of the maker determines the form for the thing made."

God, as Maker of the world, knows from all eternity that He wills to be united with Creation in the closest possible likeness to Himself. It is an open debate whether he foreknew the fall and thus willed the Incarnation or willed the Incarnation and thus willed it to have enough "theandric redundancy" to achieve redemption (the old Thomist vs. Scotist-Salesian debate on the order of the Word's mediation).

Anyway, the point is that, in so far as God's knowledge of what it would take to achieve beings capable of the desired participation in His likeness, God thus willed a creation that had every (and obviously displays) every weakness i.e. pain. The potentiality of human nature may thus be both the means of infinite perfectibility in man and, alas, the means of tortured fallenness without that perfected telos.

Pain is a contraction of the Latin patiens, which basically means a metaphysically contingent being. So perhaps "pain", whether the pain of endless glorification or the pain of endless redemption, may indeed be built into the world, like it or not. Christ's suffering is the triune validation of that point: God's love is only known in the tortured flesh of humanity, vouched for by intercession in the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Bodybuilding of an Educator: Gym regimen - May 2011

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The Bodybuilding of an Educator: Gym regimen - May 2011: "Even-Keel Workout 1 50 mins, 97kg WARMUP CIRCUIT: Pullup: 15, 14, 13 [I kept my form tighter, with less quasi-kipping. I think I should t..."

Summa contra gentiles Sancti Thomae Aquinatis - Glosses from Jazzland: SCG, Book I, Chapter 49–50

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Some meaty musings: if God only knows Himself, how does He know anything else, such as you and me and the family cat?

Summa contra gentiles Sancti Thomae Aquinatis - Glosses from Jazzland: SCG, Book I, Chapter 49–50: "It has been some time since my last posting, so I want to make a quick note of context for the following. In the previous chapters, Thomas h..."


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Important news via The Duhem Society blog about some of Fr. Jaki's posthumous works and the statutes of a new Society. Ad multos annos!

Comments? What? Who?

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Since there's no guarantee readers (all two or three of them) will check old combox threads, I am making a notice of replies I recently made for this thread, so they aren't missed by the one or two interested parties.