Sunday, October 31, 2010

There, happy now?

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I have been persuaded to establish separate blogs for my readings of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles and my bodybuilding workout log. Click de links! I'll be cross-posting them here, but henceforth FCA will be leaner.

Carry on.

The lack of evil, the abundance of absence... (2.0)

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As I noted in the previous post of this three-part series, it was in the midst of the discussion, which eventually converged on the question of God's "moral goodness" relative to us as moral subjects, that a reader asked, "Is cancer evil or praiseworthy?"

I have engaged that commenter a number of times before--on the topic of animal cognition and human intellection, for example--and quickly replied to him that "Cancer is analogous to cellular gluttony, or greed, depending on your imaginative tastes, and is therefore a species of evil. I hope you are not being misled by visualizing privatio as a genuine divot while a tumor is a bulge." He replied: "That's a good answer - kinda process-like. But what if an equally gluttonous cellular ant[i]-cancer life form is found to eat all cancers?"

I admitted:

I'm not exactly following your line of thought here, but I take your point to be that maybe even evils like tumors can display an intrinsic goodness of their own by seeking to flourish. Hence, even some evils are goods, on a privation theory of evil, which does not seem to be very good for the coherence of that theory. If this is the line you are taking, I have two problems with the scenario.

First, I don't know how much sense it makes to think of tumors in isolation from the organism in which they appear. Even cells seem only to function properly in connection with other cells of their kind, and with the larger surrounding tissue. DNA, increasingly, is seen to be in immensely complex dynamic connection with the whole state of the organism, rather than just being some "selfish" little chemical gremlin riding bodies to propagate itself. Hence, while you could, I suppose, see some goodness in the growth of a tumor as far as the vitality of its cells is concerned, I think that's missing the forest for the trees. Remove a tumor from the body and harvest it in a culture, fine. But then it's no longer a tumor: it's just a bunch of cells with their own functional tendencies. (E.g. A severed hand isn't really a hand anymore, since a hand is a tool of the body.) Further, the tumor cells are parasitic on the host, and therefore actually fails to actualize themselves like they could if they result in the host's death.

Second, using one evil (an anti-tumor) to remedy another evil (other tumorous tissue) is precisely what Christians mean by saying God can bring good out of evil. Just as human agency can see to it, based on human nature's proper ends, that "the evil of tumors" shall not prevail in the end, so too divine agency, based on the consummative glory of God, can and will see to it that "the evil of evil" (so to speak) shall not prevail in the end. The Cross might then be the anti-tumor God used to consume and conquer all evil. Once the anti-tumor is used FOR a higher good, it is no longer an evil: it is a surprising instrument of good. This is rather the inverse of what happens when a tumor is surgically removed from obstructing higher goods (the host's life) is no longer evil: it does not become good but does cease to be evil.

My interlocutor responded: "You’re giving me too much credit. I seldom have a line of reasoning! My thinking ... was simply that cancer is so terrible, yet it is also a corpuscle of life (and God created life). ... I say [cancer] is evil, but it really seems to be built-in to God’s natural order, and thus could seen as praiseworthy by some…."

"It's a tricky question about how to parse God creating cancer," I replied.

I mean, we believe He created the elements out of which cancer is formed. Natural evil only exists because of the Fall. because of a primordial defect in human nature which ramifies to displace all other levels and components of nature. I have a friend (on Facebook, so it's official!) who thinks slugs are amazing and beautiful. And I must concede that just by existing and thriving, they reflect the Creator's goodness. But if you were in a room that was suddenly filled with slugs (yes, I just vommed in my mouth), you'd die, and slugs would be a kind of evil. Likewise, dirt is good in a lowly sense, but when it forms a landslide and kills a town of people, it's a natural evil. Hence, while prolific tissue is good in its own way, its an evil in connection with the human organism. The problem of the Fall seems to be that all things are vulnerable to each in improper ways.

A bit later the formidable James Chastek weighed in on the evil of cancer:

Cancer has a likeness to poison, and taken in this way Augustine's observation is helpful: "if poison were evil in itself, it would kill the snake first". The idea is that it is not the thing taken absolutely or in its nature that is evil (since in this case it would destroy itself first) but rather the disharmony or incompatibility of two things. In fact, the evil consists not in the cancer taken as cancer (for then it would be evil even if it were not in a man's body; and the tumor would consume itself first) but in the corruption of a man who has the tumor. But if its evil consists precisely in this corruption, then the being as such (of both the corrupter and corrupted) is good, as Augustine proves in Confessions Book VII chap. 12....

There is nothing wrong in saying "cancer is evil", but it is not a statement about the nature of the thing, but about its incompatibility. God did in fact create things that were incompatible with each other, and it was good that he did so. Here at the bottom rung of existence, to be is to move and be immersed in becoming and temporality. The universe would not have been complete without something at the bottom, and this bottom rung of existence would not be possible without some things passing away to give rise to others. Human beings are only bothered by this to the extent that we do not exist wholly on this lowest level of existence.

The cancer topic did not resurface, to my knowledge, in this combox, but it did resurface--care of the same commenter--in the combox of a subsequent post by Dr Feser about God's moral obligations (the post I shall discuss in the third installment of this series). The commenter quoted from Feser's post on God's moral obligations--

Thus, Aquinas, says, “as ‘it belongs to the best to produce the best,’ it is not fitting that the supreme goodness of God should produce things without giving them their perfection. Now a thing's ultimate perfection consists in the attainment of its end. Therefore it belongs to the Divine goodness, as it brought things into existence, so to lead them to their end.” (ST I.103.1)
and replied:

So, aggressive cancer IS praiseworthy since it perfectly achieves its end - death of its host. The quote may satisfy the philosopher's intellect as he piously kneels before God in praise, but it does not so resonate with the whole emotional psyche - it demeans one's view of such a God. To a great degree, this is the key problem better handled by other theisms. I'll bet hospice priests sound an awful lot like process theologians. ... We had discussed cancer a few comboxes back, but I saw no strong arguments either way on its being of God and so praiseworthy.

Due to a tangential discussion in the combox about animal suffering, I believe the commenter in question--the cancer-worrier, as I shall call him--was getting a bit agitated, which is why he replied so snidely to some attempts to address the problem of evil in a fallen world:

Praise God from whom all cancer, sharks, and gratuitous excruciating and pointless animal suffering flows. So, my theological challenge to the tenets of simplicity and Ferser/Aquinas's [sic] God is nothing more than whining that I am not as strong as a Stoic.

Another reader decided to intervene, replying to the cancer-worrier:

Cancerous cells are not separate beings, but parts of beings. In seeking the natural end, you must ask what the cell is naturally ordered toward. It is natural for the cell to divide; but it is also natural for it to cease dividing after a time. Cancerous cells are thus an evil, since they represent a privation of the natural good of limited cell division.

That any help?

After having read a very fine essay by David Hart on evil in the light of the Gospel, the cancer-worrier replied, with no small amount of disdain, that the only consistently voiced Christian response to evil is:

Buck up and cheer up, the more suffering you endure on earth, the more rewarded you will be after you die. (And hey, lose that stupid concern over senseless animal suffering.) The conversation of ... [evil and theology makes] it ever more clear that agnosticism is the most rational approach to theology.

He also replied to the other commenter's "That any help?" in a curt fashion: "Nope, not in the least. It might satisfy a dogmatic Essentialist, but surely you are aware that there are other metaphysical knife cuts which give very different ontological status of the actuality of cancer. The Friar ain’t the only metaphysician out there, my man."

By now my eyebrows were arched and my fingers itchy, so I reposted mine and Chastek's replies about cancer from the earlier combox. I also pointed out that, just as an evil can be transfigured into a means of higher good by God, in the larger context of all things seeking their end in Him, so, conversely, an otherwise neutral and/or good phenomenon (like cell reproduction) can be disfigured into an evil by the misalignment of natural ends by the impact of moral evil (as propagated by humans and demons).

I was also disappointed with the tone the cancer-worrier was bringing to the discussion, so I decided to go on the offensive. I claimed that the cancer-worrier's

assertion that it is ever more clear that agnosticism is the best position to take reveals two rather pedestrian things: i) an agnostic believes his agnosticism is praiseworthy, and ii) this agnostic is ethically obliged *not* to be convinced, which of course means further reasoning is a bit of a waste of time.

I would like to add two positive points in reply to the kind of problems [the cancer-worrier] is advancing.

First, it has always, always, always been at the core of the Christian Gospel that Christ really and truly suffered and died, and did so for our sakes. This means the Gospel has always been about the truth that God is radically present in "the problem of evil." Hence, to say that the Christian God doesn't care or doesn't understand, is disingenuous.

Second, if any metaphysic being disputed here gives grounds for praising or condoning cancer, it is process theology. For on that theology, all things inevitably and naturally 'emerge' from the primordial knot of, well… emergence. All things have their legitimate place at the ontological table, simply because they have managed to emerge themselves to the table. If everything must be met as an infinitely rich process that connects with everything else––free from those crusty ideas like essence and finality and absolutes––, then everything must be allowed to "work itself out." We need to respect "the way of the Godhead" as much as "the way of the tiger" as much as "the way of the panda"––and as much as "the way of the tumor". If it's speciesism to favor human flourishing to non-human flourishing, then, on process thought, it's just a more subtle form of speciesism to favor the procession of dog-webs to the tumor-webs in them.

He replied courteously enough: "Good thinking, as always, Codge," and added that he is not a happy agnostic, but seeks "a compassionate embrace of life that legitimately addresses all suffering creatures." He went on to complain, mildly, that process theology does not get discussed much at Feser's blog. So I decided to advance my positive replies into a direct rebuttal:

I know you dislike how little air time [process theology] gets here, but I would like to note that I am at least attempting to make what I think is a fundamental critique of it in this debate.

Here we go again: if nothing has an enduring, substantial nature (i.e. essence), then nothing has ends truly proportionate to that nature (i.e. no finality). If nothing has proper ends, then nothing anything does can be a deviation from the thing's "proper form and function." Ergo, a tumor is just as 'natural' to 'human nature' as child birth (cue, e.g., the ideology of abortion, which treats pregnancy like an STD!), growth, etc. The upshot is that process metaphysics has no substance on which to hang its complaints about natural evil(s). Which means you don't either. You are appalled that cancer might be construed as a natural good "in its own right", since it is manifestly an assault on the proper finality of, say, your dog's health, or any dog's health. But by what measure (ratio, logos, forma) do you state that cancer is a deviation (privatio) from canine health? It's all "just part of the process," after all.

Finally, I think you are reifying privatio, which I and others have said is a mistake. Falsity presupposes truth and privatio boni (defect in good) presupposes bonum naturae (good of nature). To imagine that just because cancer flourishes, it has a legitimate, original teleological design by God is as confused as saying that death is so designed because it so prevalent and inevitable. Death is the quintessential privatio of the bonum vitae, but I don't possibly see how you can twist Catholic theology into saying that death has a proper share of finality in God's creation just because it occurs with regularity in creation. The same goes for cancer: it's primarily a defect relative to a substantial good and only accidentally a case of finality in se.

This is as much of the cancer problem as I think I shall discuss. I have highlighted it not only because it is an interesting topic in its own right, but also because it connects to the topic of the third part of this series: God's moral obligations. Is God morally obliged to cure cancer? Is God morally obligated (to us) at all?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Assonance is as assonance does…

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The following is "Pange Lingua" in Chinese.








I go to Eucharistic Adoration nearly every Thursday and we sing the 5th and 6th verses every time. The fifth is the famous "Tantum ergo" verse. When we finished singing last week, I perused the other verses and noticed something remarkable: all the final characters in each stanza of each verse are assonant! As I may have explained before, while I love music, I only have scant musical talent. This means I am easily wowed by most musical accomplishment, as long as it "doesn't completely suck." So, to a real musician and/or songwriter, the assonance (諧音)of the hymn (聖歌)may seem trivial. On the other hand, I consider myself an amateur poet and a compulsive wordsmith, so I am hardly indifferent to the subtleties of rhyme and assonance. Given my credentials, the composition strikes me as a brilliant success.

I will now reproduce the lyrics, but indicate the pronunciation of the final characters:

1. 信友齊來歡呼讚吟 [yin],吾主聖體無限情 [qíng],救世羔羊聖血流傾 [qín],贖世犧牲換太平 [píng],天地大君榮王天庭 [tíng],甘受苦難救我靈 [líng]。

2. 聖子降生自取人形 [xíng],至聖童貞為母親 [qin],三十三載天涯飄零 [lîng],山野海角佈福音 [yin],終身橫遭輕慢辱凌 [líng],架上七言終其行 [xíng]。

3. 耶穌受難前夜晚上 [shàng],偕諸宗徒聚華堂 [táng],遵順古教禮儀習尚 [shàng],宰殺羔羊分啖嘗 [cháng],建立聖體罪債普償 [cháng],洪恩長流澤萬邦 [bang]。

4. 真主真人萬世稱揚 [yáng],麵形聖化成神糧 [liàng],酒亦成聖血爵中藏 [cáng],全信勿疑主榮光 [guang],敬禮朝拜耶穌君王 [wáng],無限深情滿人望 [wàng]。

5. 皇皇聖體奧蘊深玄 [xuán],我眾匍匐主臺前 [qián],羔羊聖牲新祭禮獻 [xiàn],摒除古教棄舊典 [diân],虔誠全信以至永遠 [yuân],五官所缺信心堅 [jian]。

6. 聖父聖子聖神尊高 [gao],至仁至善萬民朝 [cháo],齊頌德能神恩豐饒 [ráo],敬禮讚美共歡躍 [yùe],天主聖三無限蘊奧 [ào],永生永王享榮耀 [yào]。    


(Can you guess how to say 阿們?)

Now here is an English translation of the hymn, which I have annotated for assonance and rhyme:

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory [A],
of His flesh the mystery sing [B];
of the Blood, all price exceeding [B],
shed by our immortal King [B],
destined, for the world's redemption [B?],
from a noble womb to spring [B].

Of a pure and spotless Virgin [C]
born for us on earth below [D],
He, as Man, with man conversing [C],
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow [D];
then He closed in solemn order [E]
wondrously His life of woe [D].

On the night of that Last Supper [F],
seated with His chosen band [G],
He the Pascal victim eating [G?],
first fulfills the Law's command [G];
then as Food to His Apostles [H]
gives Himself with His own hand [G].

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature [I]
by His word to Flesh He turns [J];
wine into His Blood He changes [J?];
what though sense no change discerns [J]
Only be the heart in earnest [J?],
faith her lesson quickly learns [J].

Down in adoration falling [K],
This great Sacrament we hail [L],
Over ancient forms of worship [M]
Newer rites of grace prevail [L];
Faith will tell us Christ is present [N],
When our human senses fail [L].

To the everlasting Father [O],
And the Son who made us free [P]
And the Spirit, God proceeding [Q]
From them Each eternally [P],
Be salvation, honor, blessing [Q],
Might and endless majesty [P].
Amen. Alleluia.

Not a terrible effort, but perhaps you are as struck as I am by how erratic the assonance-scheme is. (Or perhaps my philistinism prevents me from seeing how the scheme is an instance of a genuine poetic device.) With the exception of xuán, diân, and yùe, I find all the assonance in the Chinese version to be much tighter. Further, if we represent the phonetic theme (A, B, etc.) of each verse (1–6) in the Chinese version, we have 1:A, 2:A, 3:B, 4:B, 5:C, and 6:D, compared to at least a dozen different phonemes in the English version. Granted, there may be a more rigorously assonant English version I have not cited, but perhaps now you can see why the assonance of the Chinese struck me so forcefully.

Finally, here is the original Latin for the hymn, in which I shall note the assonance and rhyme.

Pange, lingua, gloriosi [A]
Corporis mysterium [B],
Sanguinisque pretiosi [A],
quem in mundi pretium [B]
fructus ventris generosi [A]
Rex effudit Gentium [B].

Nobis datus, nobis natus [C]
ex intacta Virgine [D],
et in mundo conversatus [C],
sparso verbi semine [D],
sui moras incolatus [C]
miro clausit ordine [D].

In supremae nocte coenae [D]
recumbens cum fratribus [E]
observata lege plene [D]
cibis in legalibus [E],
cibum turbae duodenae [D]
se dat suis manibus [E].

Verbum caro, panem verum [B]
verbo carnem efficit [F]:
fitque sanguis Christi merum [B],
et si sensus deficit [F],
ad firmandum cor sincerum [B]
sola fides sufficit [F].

Tantum ergo Sacramentum [B]
veneremur cernui [A*]:
et antiquum documentum [B]
novo cedat ritui [A*]:
praestet fides supplementum [B]
sensuum defectui [A*].

Genitori, Genitoque [D*]
laus et jubilatio [G],
salus, honor, virtus quoque [D*]
sit et benedictio [G]:
Procedenti ab utroque [D*]
compar sit laudatio [G].

Amen. Alleluja.

Arguably, I am being too generous with the Latin by grouping technically distinct sounds under the same phonetic-letter, but, for one thing, Latin is a famously assonant language, so I don't think I'm violating the "phonetic sense" by which "Pange Lingua" was composed, and, second, I was actually being magnanimous in my analysis of the English version by keeping very obliquely assonant phonemes under one heading. Clearly, the Chinese edition strives, and succeeds, to duplicate the assonance of the original Latin; indeed, it seems to have outdone it! I admit this is not a huge shock, considering how homophonic Chinese is, but it was a small breakthrough, or perhaps just a milestone, in my ongoing absorption of Chinese.

Since talk is cheap, I leave you with a fine rendition of the hymn with Latin subtitles (and on a Chinese website, no less!).

Friday, October 29, 2010

The lack of evil, the abundance of absence... (1.0)

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Over the last couple weeks at Dr Feser's blog, there has been an ongoing discussion of the problem of evil for theism. The key post, "Law's 'evil-god challenge'", is Dr Feser's rebuttal of an argument proposed by Stephen Law. According to Feser (I have not retained the original italics):

Law claims in his article that “even if most of the popular arguments for the existence of God do provide grounds for supposing that there is some sort of supernatural intelligence behind the universe, they fail to provide much clue as to its moral character.” In particular, Law says, even if a design argument could show that such an intelligence exists, it could no more show that the intelligence in question is supremely benevolent than that it is supremely malevolent. In fact, he suggests, the overall evidence such arguments appeal to should lead us away from belief in a supremely benevolent supernatural intelligence. Law allows that what is often labeled the “logical problem” of evil – which supposes that the existence of evil is strictly incompatible with the existence of a good God – may not pose a serious challenge to theism. But he thinks the “evidential problem” of evil – which assumes only that the existence of evil is strong evidence against the existence of a good God – does pose a serious challenge, at least given that there are no strong arguments for the existence of such a God. ...

So far all of that is just standard atheist argumentation, and Law’s overall position takes it for granted. ... Law’s innovation is to suggest, first, that the hypothesis of an “evil god” – an omnipotent, omniscient, but supremely malevolent intelligence – is at least as well supported as the hypothesis of a supremely good God. And if a skeptic were to pose against such a hypothesis the challenge of an evidential “problem of good” – that is, if a skeptic were to ask why a supremely malevolent intelligence would allow the good that exists in the world – the defender of an “evil god” hypothesis could offer “reverse theodicies” which parallel the theodicies put forward by theists. He could say, for example, that free will makes possible certain evils that an evil god couldn’t realize without it; that certain evils presuppose the existence of good; that the evil god intends the world to be a vale of soul-destruction, which requires that there be some good in it so that we can be tormented by its loss; and so forth.

Now, Law is happy to acknowledge that such defenses of the evil god hypothesis would not be very strong. But he thinks they are no weaker than the parallel attempts to defend the existence of a good God. There is, he says, a conceptual and evidential “symmetry” between the two views. But everyone, including theists, acknowledges that there is no good reason to believe in the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and supremely malevolent intelligence. So, shouldn’t they also acknowledge that there is no good reason to believe in a supremely good God? Isn’t the one view as unreasonable as the other? That is Law’s “evil-god challenge.”

In the first prong of his rebuttal, Feser says that

central to classical philosophy and to the classical theist tradition that it informed is the thesis that evil is a privation, the absence of a good that would otherwise obtain rather than a positive reality in its own right. Accordingly, for classical theism, there simply is no symmetry between good and evil of the sort that Law’s argument requires. Astonishingly, though, Law’s article does not even consider, much less respond to, this core element of the classical theist position, despite the fact that he evidently regards his argument as a challenge to all forms of theism, and not just to non-classical forms.

In an earlier exchange, Law had responded to Feser's initial reaction to the argument, thus:

Fesser’s [sic] “refutation” of my evil god argument is awful:

(i) it depends on the privation view of evil, which is wrong. (Why not flip this and say good is a privation of evil?!) Actually, *some* evils, like blindness, are best seen as privations of goods. But many appear not merely to be merely privations. And in fact in some cases it is more natural to see the good as a privation of evil (look up “peace” in the dictionary). That evil is in every case nothing more than a privation of some good is a myth that even many theists reject (philosopher Tim Mawson, for example).

He then adds two further objections to Feser's rebuttal concerning the privation view of evil, which Feser addresses in turn. I do not wish to reproduce the entire post here, so I will focus only on the first point: Law's dismissal of the privation view of evil. In the combox I said, "I would like to point out that the problem of evil for advancing atheism (PEA) rests on a privation theory of evil. This is because the PEA recognizes gross deficits in what *should be* the good work of an All-Good God." Here is how the PEA might run formally:

1. An all-good God acts in accord with goodness.

2. Creation is the act of an all-good God.

3. Creation contains evils.

4. Therefore the act of divine creation fails to concord with goodness.

5. Hence, either creation is not the work of an all-good God or no such God exists.

The problem is that the atheist has no way of establishing just *how good* God's creation should be. In this way, it's basically a Spinozan or Plotinian plea against theism. For if any of God's acts must wholly express his omnibenevolence, then creation qua divine act must express unbounded goodness. For the atheist, creation can't be evil and be the act of an all-good God. As God's act, it should display goods we don't see in it: a privation objection.

If the actual world had fewer evils in it than we witness, would it be a satisfactorily good world to refute the PEA? Unlikely. For then that world would still have deficits relative to some imaginably less-evil (i.e. better world) which cannot be accounted for without recourse either to the standard theistic response that an all-good God can and shall bring even greater good out of evil or to atheism. At bottom, the atheist wants to know why God hasn't created the best of all possible worlds. Unfortunately, that is an incoherent concept and God is not obliged to create such a fiction in the first place. Creation adds nothing to the goodness of Being as it subsists wholly in God and hence creation cannot detract from it.

Later in the combox, the esteemed Brandon wrote:

...privations and negations are not the same. You have negation whenever you have things that are different from each other. You only have privation when you have a lack or deficiency of something, i.e., when something is missing or has failed. (Hence Codgitator's point that the problem of evil, taken as an atheistic argument, requires taking evils as privations, because in the face of any evil that the problem considers, it always requires saying that there should be goods in the world that aren't there, i.e., that the evil is a lack or deficiency.)

On the post itself: More and more I have begun to think that the convertibility of good and being is one of the most important philosophical theses to insist upon; a truly immense number of problematic claims can be traced back to the denial of it.

Eventually, the discourse came to center on the question of God's goodness--is God a "good moral agent" like we are supposed to be? And if not, does He have any obligations to us? I encourage you to peruse the combox yourself, but, as I say, I will limit myself here to my own responses to the topic.

On the goodness of God, I would like to mention that the classical conception of goodness is that of an entity actualizing itself in accord with ('towards') its proper goals. A good beer is one that actualizes what beer drinking aims to achieve: satiety and pleasure. A good brewer is one that achieves good beer. This is why "a good beer" is just as often called "a real beer" and "a good man" is also referred to as "a real man" (or "a man in full")––parallels that once again point to the convertibility of ens and bonum, a convertibility I heartily second (following Brandon) must be reinstated as a key axiom in philosophy of religion and metaphysics. One related musing:

Again: A good bow and arrow is one that actually tends to result in accurate shots. A good doctor is one who actually achieves the goal of a doctor: a patient's health. A good lion is one that actually achieves the goals of its kind: maintaining its life by obtaining food and besting enemies, propagating its species by procreation, defending its offspring, etc. And so on.

So how is God good? Well, in so far as His entire act of existence––his so to speak natural self-actualization––entirely coincides with His essence, He wholly achieves what His nature seeks, namely, His own existence. (Hence, even a rock can be called "a good rock" in so far as it persists as a rock: it 'strives' for the perfection of its rockiness, even though it constantly suffers erosion and eventual dissolution.) He is unique in this respect, since all other things not only fail to perfectly actualize their natural ends but also because all other things tend to God as their ultimate end.

Hence, I would not say that-which-is-created is inherently 'evil', only that it is not substantially good, as God is. This is a point Boethius deals with in the Hebdomads and Thomas deals with in his commentary on the same Hebdomads. A thing that is not God is only evil if it fails to "live up to" or "actualize" the goals proper to its nature. As such, evil per se is pure nihil, pure privatio of the one good proper to created entities, namely, an enduring participation in God's one act of being. In so far as no (other) thing is or could possibly be unified in essence and existence, no thing can be good like God. Even so, things are not "evil", as long as they perfectly actualize the ends proper to their nature. (Presumably, things can have their ends altered, miraculously, which may go towards explaining how predators in the Eschaton can be transformed into peaceful beasts without losing their properly bestial majesty.) In any case, I would say that regarding the created as such as evil because it is not God is a Calvinist notion––at least, it was a key irritant in Calvinist logic which drove me away from being a Calvinist.

Not long afterwards, a reader asked, "Is cancer praiseworthy or evil?"

This topic led to a rather lengthy discussion of finality and natural goodness, to which I will devote a subsequent post.

Gym regimen - October 2010

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A3 workout: Back and hamstrings: 50 mins
92kg, BMI 26.5

Warmup: ski machine, stretching, pullups

Leg curl: 15, 10, 8 @ 40kg, 50kg, 50kg

Stiff-leg deadlift: 12, 9, 6 @ 65kg, 80kg, 90kg

Deadlift: 12, 9, 6, 4 @ 85kg, 95kg, 105kg, 115kg

Cable pulldown: 15, 12, 9 @ 80kg, 85kg, 90kg

Lever bench row: 10/4, 8/4, 6/4 @ 80kg, 90kg, 100kg
[4 reps of hammer-grip rows after the underhand-grip rows.]

One-arm dumbbell bench row: 10, 8, 8 @ 22kg, 32kg, 36kg

+ + +

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

People I is wants to smack…

2 comment(s)
Some time ago I wrote about a guy I wanted to "smack upside the head" while I was eating dinner. Well, I guess it's "that time again," because I would now officially like to "vent" about two zipperheads––or, at least, two people who exhibited ricoculously zipperheaderish behavior––I recently had to deal with.

First, two nights ago, when I got to the gym, I found the changing room door was locked. I rattled the knob and knocked on the door, but no one responded. So I asked the owner, who came over to open it. Noticing a bag hanging on the other side of the opaque window, he knocked a few times, but still no one replied. So he used a NT$10 coin to unlock the knob and there stood, or rather hunched, a man in a white T-shirt and black shirts, attempting to don one running shoe. He looked up at us as if we had just, well, walked in on him in his own shower. The owner knew him, waved pleasantries and walked away. I verged on the door but the huncher stood to sniff, "I'm changing!" I replied, with an intentionally dumb look on my face and an intentionally thick husk in my Chinese, "Wuhl, I figgered you'd be a-changin' back in the other rooms ther––", but the huncher cut me off to say, "Just give me one minute. I'm changing. One minute. Thank you!" It didn't help that his voice seemed to be coming through a narrow rubber tube, or maybe was just coming out of a helium-huffing session. And so I deconverged, closed the door, stepped away and waited, sadly like a guy holding his lady's purse at the changing-stall area. A trainer at the pullup/cable rack said I could go in the women's changing room, but this was like telling me I could also get a complimentary pink sports bra to wear for the next month if I did use it. Just as I darkened the frame of that already dark room, the huncher emerged, erect now, and strode to the ski machine.

How I wanted to palm-strike him in the forehead.

Then, last night, a friend of mine told me not to write Chinese comments on a friend's blog, since "it's really unfair to those of us who can't read Chinese without Google translate." I had one word for him: "Uhhh." Let's follow the logic here: I've been in Taiwan about 7 years now; he's been here nearly 6. I can speak, read, and write Mandarin at a high-intermediate or low-advanced level; he cannot produce or comprehend Chinese at any higher a level than ordering breakfast or muttering dirty words. The friend on whose blog we were writing is Taiwanese and Chinese, the author's mother tongue. My comments were directed to the blogger, not to my friend. Further, he can use Google translate or some other software. He can even install Dr. Eye and read right along with his cursor!

And so, just as Cupid's bow is notched to send love flying forth into the hearts of the lucky, the Codgitator's elbow was notched with the hope of sending a palm-smack through our computer screens onto the guy's forehead.

And then there's my cat, Cheetoh. Enough with the "meow-meowing" already, don't you have anything else to say! (Oh, who am I kidding? Come here, Cheetoh, and give me a clawful little slash in the face for old times' sake.)

Fear not. The Codge abides.


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Darwinism is biological Kantianism. Darwinkantism? Kantarwinism?

The synthetic unity of species.

The historically transcendental features of lived experience. Noumenal selectionism?

The phenomenal manifestations of the noumenal limits of absolute biological constraints.

The ethical imperative not to act in a way that would have led to the extinction of your ancestors. The adaptive imperative?

If there is a way around Kantianism, then there is a way around Darwinism qua metaphysical "universal acid".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gym regimen - October 2010

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A2: Chest and Calves (TUESDAY): 50 mins
92kg, BMI 26.5

Warmup: calisthenics, stretching, ski machine, pushups, pec deck

Bench press: 10, 6/2, 8* @ 75kg, 85kg/80kg, 85kg
[Last 8 reps I had a spotter, but forget about tabulating what fraction of the reps/weight he helped with.]

Incline bench press: 6/4, 6/2, 10* @ 65kg/50g, 65kg/60kg, 70kg
[Last 10 reps were with a spotter and he pushed me from my planned 6 to 10 reps. Hoorah!]

Incline/Prone cable flye: 12, 10, 8 @ 18kg, 27kg, 32kg
[Kind of awkward since this is the first time I tried this exercise and I had to jerry-rig my own bench. I eventually discovered it's best just to lie prone on a couple stacked small benches and do the flyes. Good burn!]

Pullover: 12, 12, 12 @ 18kg, 22kg, 26kg
[These are way more effective and grueling at the end of a chest workout!]

Seated calf raise (alternating angles): 40, 40, 40 @ 45kg

Ski machine: 3 min, 3 min, 2 min
[Must train my left foot back to pain-free motility. Plus, more cardio is good.]

Pec deck: 15 @ 45kg

+ + +

This was a very experimental workout, but I was pleased with the results. I have been doing some research on how to train the chest, which I have said over and over again is my weak spot. This article cued me into the importance of the order of the exercises. Hence, not only did I flip everything around and do flat bench and incline bench before flyes and pullovers, but also did a straight-set routine, rather than a circuit workout. The drops I had to make in my weight attest to how much more intense the straight sets can be than the circuits (at least for how I've been doing my circuits). Seeing as my chest is my weak spot, I decided to go for broke and "take it to the base." If I'm not sore in the pecs the next few days, I demand a refund from Galileo and Newton! Better to drop some weight from my ego and see results. Need to work my abs tomorrow. Patience, Humility, Confidence.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gym regimen - October 2010

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[Someone was confused about my routine and asked, so I thought I should point out that I do these exercises in circuits. Meaning: I do one exercise and then another, rather than three sets of one exercise, followed by the other exercises. Warmup and Cooldown are, of course, shown in "chronological order."]

A1: Quads and Biceps (MONDAY): 50 mins
92kg, BMI 26.5

Warmup: Ski machine, stretching, curls, squats

Leg extension: 15, 12, 9 @ 40kg, 45kg, 55kg

Decline leg press: 12, 8, 6 @ 150kg, 190kg, 200kg
[A funny case of "strength by accident": I miscalculated the weights on the pegs my 2nd set, so I did 20kg more than I intended. And then I just had to go heavier on my last set!]

Squat: 12, 9, 6, 6 @ 75kg, 90kg, 110kg, 100kg
[I decided to challenge myself--if not on the squat, then when!--so I went for 110kg on my 3rd set--after an already fairly demanding regimen of leg extensions and leg presses--and ended up using my back too much a few reps. But I took the set fairly slowly and finished it without undue pain or risk of falling.]

EZ Barbell curl: 10, 8, 6 @ 35kg, 45kg, 50kg
[I was feeling distinct pain in my forearm on the 2nd and 3rd sets, a pain that developed a couple months ago from barbell curls. This thread, among many others, shows how common a problem it is. I haven't pinned down the anatomical source of pain, but it's where some muscle attaches to my ulna midway between wrist and elbow. I might swap the EZ bar curl out for chinups (which are not pullups!) {If chinups and pullups really were equivalent, why aren't over- and underhand cable pulldowns equivalent?}.]

Incline dumbbell curl: 10, 8, 6 @ 14kg, 18kg, 20kg
[Kept tight form on these, better than last week.]

Hammer barbell curl: 10, 8, 6 @ 35kg, 40kg, 45kg
[A little lighter than last week, but also tighter form, though still cheated a bit with the backward lean.]

Plate curl: 18, 18 @ 15kg
[I sort of made this up on the spot, or rather, while loading plates for my last squat set. Hold the plate in front of you with hands at 9 and 3 o'clock for X reps, then shift hands to 10 and 2 o'clock for X reps, and finally grip with both hands at 12 o'clock for X reps.]



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A: Have some fish.

B: Okay.

[B tries to fork one piece of fish but it is stuck to a second piece, which is apparently more than B wants to eat.]

A: Oh, come on, eat it all.

B: No, just one piece.

[A helps B sever the pieces, though with difficulty.]

A: 啊,有緣!

B: 有圓?

A: No, 緣份的緣。

B: Ohh. How do you say 緣份 in English?

A: [grunts] A bunch of B.S.

B: What?

A: No, I'm just being cynical. [sighs] 緣份,you could say, "destiny," "karma," "kith," "synchronicity"––

C: Fate.

A: 命運,yes, I suppose.

D: What's 緣份?

A: It has to do with the people you meet, your family, your coworkers––basically, your social destiny, who you will know and love and lose.

B: So, English doesn't have one word for 緣份?

A: [sighs] Well, we do have a word: "serendipity." How it's chance that I meet someone, and maybe it turns out to be my… long lost son… from, say, my last trip to the moon.

B: Oh, I see.

[C chews food, looks at plate, then breaks into laughter.]

C: Wow! Your mind really works in a different way.

A: Well… yes… but only the important parts. The rest I donated to charity. I said I wasn't using it. Who needs color vision anyway?

B: I don't get it.

A: It's all right. Just remember: Facebook is how you say 緣份 in English.


D: He could be on TV.

B: Yeah!

A: What?

D: I said you could be on TV. The way you act and make jokes.

A: No, no, that wouldn't work: I'm wanted.

[E breaks into laughter.]

C: What? I didn't catch that, what?

D: You're just a very happy, funny person.

A: Well, yes, but only on Sunday, after… 12 PM. The rest of the time, I'm a very angry, sad person. Have to stick to my schedule.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where do I begin?

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[At my Facebook account, I recently posted a link from the Phantom Blogger:
Is Obama trying to omit God from American History? Again. The closing lines of Lifson's editorial, as cited by the Phantom Blogger, are: "Once could be a mistake, but twice is a pattern. Acknowledging that our rights come from a power higher than government or himself seems to rankle this man who claims the power to halt the rise of the seas."

It generated the following responses (so far!)…]

A: One nation under Obama. In Obama we trust. They are endowed by their Obama. I don't see any word missing.

B: I'd like to see a quote from Obama in which he declares he can halt the rise of the seas, yadda yadda.

Me: I believe the text on which Lifson was riffing is this:

"I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…."

A writer, Lifson is ending his piece with a rhetorical flourish. If the complaint is that Lifson is misstating what Obama actually said, well, that's a sweet irony, since the entire point of Lifson's article (rather than the tiny rhetorical coda) is that Obama has publicly misstated on at least two occasions what the US Constitution says about the created endowment of our equality. Forest, trees. Like I say, I find this an interesting specimen of political behavior.

B: Obama did not directly quote the Declaration but was rather, paraphrasing. He said "each of us," as well which is not part of the original text. Politicians paraphrase that and the preamble all the time. I get frustrated by Christians consistently implying that Obama is anti-Christian. He is our brother in Christ. He says he's a Christian. He walks a Christian path. Who are we to consistently call that into question?

[I ran this by the Phantom Blogger and he said:

"Yeah, I believe that Obama is a Christian, but at the same time he is a liberal. And because of this he feels the need to show his alliance to liberal ideals over any religious ones, in some way he must see religion as being divisive, as so many on the left do. His Christianity is of the detached sort, not so much based on the teachings or truth of the religion, but more to do with the real world effects of said relgion [sic], he says the thing that lead him to want to become a Christian was seeing its importance within the black community when working as a community organizer, so in some way its seems that this brand of Christianity just happened to fit in with his politics and compliment his already existing liberal beliefs, if it hadn't he more than likely would not be a Christian. In the end I feel he is a liberal first and a Christian second.

"This can be quite a common thing on the left, especially in Europe, take Christian Socialists as an example, they adapt there Christianity around there socialism, rather than letting the Bible or Christian teachings inform there economic views. They only believe in Christianity as long as it fits in with there [sic] politics. …

"In this case he changes it slightly, he doesn't leave out an important part of the text, but it still comes down to the the same point. Why did he leave out this specific part? My guess, because as a liberal he see's religion as being divisive and to mention God in this context, to him is to enforce your beliefs upon others. So he's willing to re-write the Founding texts and American history, through the lens of modern liberalism.]

Me: I get your point. I just like to keep an eye on rhetorical patterns and apparently there are maybe half a dozen occasions (in speech or in print) in which Obama omits "by their/our Creator," so that caught my eye. Cf. and

A: If Obama is "walking a Christian path", then it's probably not the narrow one. And if it is, he is walking in the wrong direction.

B: What makes you say that, A?

A: What makes me say that? Obama's record on abortion and sexual morality, his egregious lying and his worship of the Leviathan state in total opposition to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, for one. As for his allegedly "Christian" beliefs, they are totally vague and generic. He may claim to be a Christian, but in one interview, he also spoke of his "Muslim faith." He is just a radical leftist relativist and pusher of the sexual revolution. His latest word of wisdom is that "Each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own versions of happiness". If that's not enough for you, I don't know what to say.

C: It's pretty easy to quote people out of context; I'm not sure about the context of the "Muslim faith" quote you attribute to President Obama. Of course, his father WAS a Muslim (gasp!), and he did grow up in the Muslim faith insofar as he attended a Muslim elementary school (gasp!) but he has apparently converted to the Christian faith enough to attend a Christian church for all these years, AND publicly confess his Christianity. Isn't that what Jesus asks us to do for him: to confess our faith in him, especially when we have the world's biggest microphone? Plus, aren't Catholics always happy when someone is converted and their soul saved? And speaking of conversions, wasn't the Catholic pope a member of the Hitler Youth? Either the Nazis were a Catholic organization, or he must have converted... or maybe not. Maybe he is still a racist Nazi bent on subverting anyone with brown skin. After all, more than 2/3 of your church resides south of the equator, but how many of your cardinals are from the southern hemisphere? (Answer: 7) When was the last African pope? (Answer: 1,600 years ago, and he was probably a white guy) And before your hackles rise at me calling the pope a racist Nazi, it's just as ridiculous as you calling the duly elected president of the US, who is committed to the traditional American values of freedom, equality, justice, and the pursuit of happiness, a "radical leftist relativist."

Also, @Mee [sic], when we're talking about inalienable rights endowed by our creator, that's in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. A small difference perhaps, but the fact is that God appears nowhere in the Constitution, and the Declaration while inspiring is not binding.

Me: I will let A reply as he sees fit.

1. C, you get a yellow card for an instance of Godwin's Law. ;) Your canard about the Pope is actually not logically exhaustive, since either i) the Nazi party was a Catholic organization (this is an absurd premise), or ii) the young Ratzinger disavowed his Nazism to become a "real Catholic," or iii) he never had more than a formal attachment to the party and thus underwent no 'conversion' from Nazism. You only mention premises i) and ii), but the evidence strongly supports the third premise: Ratzinger joined the Hitlerjugend by force of law (ca. 1941), avoided meetings whenever he could, and was raised by a father strongly opposed to the Nazis. Your points about the racial “qualifications” of the Pope are merely emotive and ad hominem. When was the last time we had a black Messiah? Or a female Christ? Christianity is a fundamentally historical reality and so admitting the historical exigencies of the election of the Bishop of Rome (!) is hardly a grounds for scandal. The fact is, the Catholic Church is the most culturally and ethnically diverse institution in the world. It's reverse racism to say a black person would be a better Pope and bad theology to say the Church's authority rests on genetic phenotype.

2. If you can't see that Obama is a leftist relativist, then… well, you just can't see it. First of all, his leftism was a major selling point in the campaign and his presidential “drift to the center” is a source of consternation for his leftist supporters. (You support him: would you call yourself a rightist?) Further, as you may know, when asked what sin is, Obama answered that it is “being out of alignment with [his] values.” (Check your Shorter Catechism for a different, and less relativist, answer.) In addition, Obama has at least inadvertently referred to his “Muslim faith,” has spoken of Islam being “revealed” in Persia, has quoted numerous times (with finger didactically raised like an imam) from what he calls “the Holy Qur'an,” and has admitted that his faith draws as much from Judaism as from Islam as from Eastern influences. I'm sure more could be said, but the point is that A is not pulling a quotation out of thin air; A is far from being such a shallow thinker. Nor is the point that the POTUS must be Christian. Rather, the point is that, in many eyes, and for many reasons, Obama seems very disingenuous about being a Christian––or at least deeply confused about what being a Christian means. This is a great irony, since I am willing to grant that Obama is as much a Christian as Hitler was. Which is to say….

3. Give me the Constitution without the Declaration and I will give you (after a little amendment-tweaking and political extemporizing) the British Colonies 2.0. If the Declaration is not binding, better get on the horn with Her Majesty and make amends. What's more, to speak frankly, I am shocked that you are apparently willing so blithely to jettison the “inalienable rights” of humans and Americans. Why, it's as American as apple pie and life, liberty, and happiness! Further, have you read the Articles of Confederation, especially the closing parapgraphs? They were the charter of the USA (ca. 1781–1788) and clearly harmonize with the theistic bearing of the Declaration. Hence, an argument from silence à la “'God' is not 'in' the Constitution” is just that––an argument from silence, and thus hardly a demonstration that the Constitution reneges on the openly religious bearing of the Declaration and the Articles of Confederation. By analogy, I assume you know that “homoousios,” “sola Scriptura,” and “sola fide” are not verbally 'in' the Bible––yet your own confession binds you to those same tenets.

A: I didn't say Obama *was* a Muslim, nor, a fortiori, did I say he was one because he was raised a Muslim. But he did speak about his "Muslim faith", and does refer to the Qur'an as holy. There's a nice compilation of his statements on the subject on YouTube:

@B: I didn't know you were a Protestant, though I had guessed you were either that or a nominal Catholic. Catholics are not "always happy when someone is converted and their soul saved" because unlike some Protestant denominations, we do not believe that when someone converts, his or her soul is saved, even if it helps. In fact, it might be argued that conversion makes salvation harder, since you are held to a higher standard than the invincibly ignorant atheist or pagan. We believe, for instance, that a single unconfessed, unrepented mortal sin will damn you forever. And if I had done half of what Obama has done, I would consider living the rest of my life in a monastery, fasting and whipping my back. "Confessing Jesus", or saying "God bless you", even publicly, is not enough. "Not everyone who keeps saying to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will get into the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven." (Mt 7:21) And we all know what not getting into the kingdom of heaven means.

Journalists have documented Obama's radical leftism and he has consistently been the most leftist president since FDR. As for his relativism, isn't his latest statement ("Each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own versions of happiness") sufficient to establish that? (Does he mean "each of us" including us satanists, drug addicts and child rapists?)

My support for Obama's faith being completely bland and generic can be found here, in his own words:

B: Consider this. Obama was not elected to be our religious leader. America, as much as you deny it, remains a secular nation (a fact that has allowed American Catholics and others to withstand the rolling tides of populist religious fervor). As a devout Christian, I would not change this about my country. Obama is our President. He is a pragmatic leader charged with navigating our state's foreign relations, domestic economy and affairs. There is no scripture to guide him directly through trade policy or market leverage. We want him to be smart, just, and guided by principles that are (whether or not in practice, at least in doctrine) central to Christianity and Islam (5 pillars) alike. You can throw arrows at the man and hold him to the same standards you would hold a fellow Catholic, but that is not his faith. We Protestant believe in grace. We believe, or are called to believe (listen up, Pat Robertson) in non-violence, charity, love, and service to the least among us. It is in this spirit, the spirit of Christ's own words, that I say Obama walks a Christian path. If you want to call him a radical Leftist Relativist, go ahead. But if his predecessors walked a narrower Christian path, it is not a path I am familiar with.

A: America was not founded as "a secular nation", though this is the first time I am saying that and it was unfair of you to say I had denied it "remained" one. At the time of its founding, every single state had some sort of establishment of religion, which the Constitution forbad the National Government to disestablish (this was the whole point of the establishment clause, which freemasons and secularists have completely distorted.) This, by the way, enabled most of them to disenfranchise Catholics, who were not treated as well as you imply for much of your history.

I don't know of many principles that are "central to Christianity and Islam alike", because Islam and Christianity don't have the same center. Christianity has Christ at its center, and Islam doesn't.

As for Obama being "non-violent" and serving "the least among us", that obviously does not include the unborn. But your hippy Christ probably doesn't care about them, and that's just me being Catholic.

I don't think we need discuss these issues much further. We neither have the same premises nor the same standards of reasoning, so this exchange is proving to be absolutely futile, as you probably recognise yourself. I have supported my claim that Obama is a radical leftist relativist, but you say I "want" to call him that. I really don't want to. But words have meanings and one must use them accordingly.

Gym regimen - October 2010

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A4: Tris, Shoulders, Traps: 50–60 mins
92kg, BMI 26.5

Warmup: Ski machine, stretching, extensions, presses, etc.

Military press (barbell, standing): 10, 8, 4/3 @ 40kg, 45kg, 55kg/50kg

Upright row (barbell): 10, 8, 6 @ 40kg, 45kg, 50kg

Kowtow rear delt flye: 10/4, 8/4, 6/4 @ 16kg, 18kg, 18kg
[4 reps of standing median delt flyes after each set. Too heavy, should have gone for stricter form.]

Elbows-out extension (dumbbells): 10, 8, 6 @ 18kg, 22kg, 26kg

Dips: 15, 14, 13**
[The last 2 reps of the 3rd set were partial cheats.]

Cable pulldown: 10, 8, 6 @ 25kg, 30kg, 35kg

Shrugs (barbell): 10, 10 @ 90kg, 100kg
[I did some behind-the-back shrugs on the Smith machine, which was very awkward and frustrating. Then another guy was using the little power rack in the freeweight section, so I only squeezed in a final, rushed set as the gym was closing.]

+ + +

I felt tired: it was the end of another week. But I worked the marzipan out of my triceps. Went too heavy on the military press and delt flyes, but I will keep at it with… Patience, Humility, Confidence.

The weather has cleared up enough in my friend's opinion that he is willing again to drive, so, lo and behold, I'm off for another weekend in Yilan. :diffident emoticon:

Friday, October 22, 2010

That analogue thing again…

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"Your attitude toward symbols is an analogue for your attitude toward reality."

–– Elliam Fakespeare

The Catholic thing...

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A friend of mine asked me for my opinion on the following editorial, so I gave it.

Religious tolerance: 'Patriots' unite against Catholics in 1920
Published: Saturday, October 16, 2010, 8:52 AM
Guest Columnist SHARON DAVIES

As Mark Twain once quipped, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

In the early 1900s, many Americans were genuinely frightened by the perceived religious threat of the Roman Catholic Church and the suspected imperialistic intentions of its leader, the pope. He was plotting the overthrow of the United States, warned the fearful, to "make America Catholic." ...

Religious fear on this scale had fatal consequences. ...

At the time, these men did not consider themselves religious bigots. They believed themselves patriots, upright fathers and sons, husbands and brothers protecting their families, and the nation, against a foreign threat they feared was intent on their destruction.

The anti-Catholic fever of the 1920s was not a regional story; it was an American story, extending north, east and west, casting Catholics as second-class citizens for decades. It didn't truly end for another 40 years, when presidential candidate John F. Kennedy felt compelled to say directly that his allegiance was to the United States, not the pope. Today, the worst of the anti-Catholic fervor might simply be an embarrassment, were the consequences less dire and were there not so many signs that we haven't learned from our mistakes.

The mistake being that we should not oppose Muslim activism as anti-American.

1. I agree that rank suspicion-mongering and stereotyping is bad. I hope that's uncontroversial.

2. When I first got interested in Catholicism my senior year of college, I was doing a writing assignment for a correspondence course I was taking. A nonfiction piece. I had some Catholic friends who expressed being ostracized sometimes in our Christian fellowship, which piqued my interest. I did some research, which entailed interviewing the pastor at the main campus Catholic Church and he told me how a priest two generations before had been very popular and active on campus but, long story short, eventually got kidnapped, castrated, and dumped on the lawn in front a church in Palatka. He went to Canada and decades later the story got pieced together by an MA history student at UF: (I may be botching the exact details, sorry) of the three KKK attackers that night, one was a cop in Gainesville, another was the sheriff of Ocala, and the third was most likely the mayor or someone very high up. I was stunned. So I am very sensitive to the history of anti-Catholic bigotry in the USA.

3. Where my analytical/critical radar starts beeping is in certain disanalogous points the editorial tries to make.

a. What is the Catholic equivalent of 9/11 in history and/or in people's minds?

b. What are the equivalent cases of widespread brutality against Muslims in our day (to liken to those against Catholics in the editorial)?

c. Islam has no Magisterium and no Pope, so there is no "figure" to which they can be accused of swearing allegiance. Rather, Muslims are typically understood to have an often visceral allegiance to their native countries, and perhaps some mullahs therein, and to the larger Muslim World. No Catholic was or ever is taught to withhold allegiance to his own country in favor of Italy or even the Vatican State. Rather, all a Catholic must do is support his country and, where policies conflict with his faith, mount a protest and, if needed, simply abstain from voting for equally unacceptable candidates/policies. The point is that, e.g., a Pakistani-American Muslim might very well have a strong conflict of interests based on a fundamental cleft in his 'civilizational'/cultural allegiances. Look at the NY Times bomber. It's the same objection people have always had to strongly non-accommodationist immigrant sectors and I think it's a legitimate complaint. If you are actively supporting another country's polity against the USA's, that won't wash. What happened with Catholics is that eventually people learned, unconsciously at least, that Catholic theology does allow for public service and patriotism (though it may not allow politicians to advance certain positions and remain consistent with their faith). Otherwise, there would not be the number of committed Catholics in politics which there are. That's where we are: the people need to be convinced Muslims, and Muslim thinking, does allow for committed Muslims to be committed patriots. So far, many are still unconvinced.

d. Can we really imagine a Muslim saying his allegiance is not to Allah but to the United States if he were running for the Presidency? Perhaps, but then I wonder how much of a Muslim constituency he would retain. That was the concession JFK, Jr had to make (or rather, chose to make for rhetorical purposes, since, as I say, there is no principled reason he had to make that concession other than to soothe people's fears). People are uncomfortable with the idea that Muslims want to enshrine sharia law in the USA (and in Europe). But they've always been, and still are, just as hostile to "Catholic meddling" (e.g., keep the Pope out of my bedroom, keep your laws off my body, etc.). So, yes, I have no problem with Muslims pushing for their own agenda. After all, the Knights of Columbus once successfully reshaped American mores, so all's fair in love and war... and politics. By the same token, though, I think it's a bit disingenuous for people to get so worked up about the opposition Muslims are facing in their own campaigns. Why not pity Catholic activism in the same way? If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. It's up to the American people whether they want to swallow Muslim reforms or not-- the Ground Zero thing seems like a pretty straightforward private vendor freedom, so like I say, fair's fair-- but the question is whether Americans really are willing to swallow Muslim activism. If Europe is any indication, Westerners are increasingly unwilling to compromise their own cultural autonomy to Islamic insurgency, and we can probably expect the usual "Euro-American" lag after which the same resistance will spread in the States.

Gym regimen - October 2010

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A3 workout: Back and hamstrings: 50 mins
92kg, BMI 26.5

Warmup: ski machine, stretching, leg curls, deadlifts, lat pulldowns, lever rows

Leg curl: 12, 10, 8 @ 40kg, 45kg, 50kg

Stiff-leg deadlift: 12, 9, 6 @ 65kg, 80kg, 90kg

Deadlift: 12, 9, 6 @ 80kg, 90kg, 100kg

Lever pulldown: 12, 9, 7 @ 80kg, 100kg, 120kg

Lever bench row: 10/4, 8/4, 6/4 @ 80kg, 90kg, 110kg
[I did 4 reps of hammer-grip rows after the underhand-grip rows. Set the seat lower, which seemed to work the lats better.]

One-arm dumbbell bench row: 12, 8, 6/6 @ 18kg, 26kg, 32kg
[I did 2 quick sets of 6 reps on my last set, since, as I say, I love working my back, and I wanted to push myself.]

30 alternating incline crunches
50, 40 Russian twists

+ + +

I went significantly heavier on some exercises this time compared to last week. I feel more confident about the deadlift and my back feels stronger too. I could feel my lats during the deadlift, which is awesome. I probably need to go a good deal heavier on my one-arm bench rows, but I can feel I should stick with 110kg and 120kg on the lever row and lever pulldown, respectively, for another week or two. I'm already at the "event horizon" of losing good form at those weights. Patience, Humility, Confidence.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Missing the mensching for the trees…

3 comment(s)

I don't think he's read the posts I have here about our conversation, but after I wrote a conciliatory email to him apologizing if my words had stung him and asking to please just drop the issue, my friend wrote to me in Gmail chat: "i still feel compulsive to have myself explained".

Forks, truer wards have never bespoken.

I must report, however, that my days as a blogger and Christian are surely numbered, since his parting words have called me out from darkness to light: "i don't know with whom or what i should be frustrated with… [one-minute pause] you or the years of brainwashing at church".

And there was much sighing in the land. Something about "with friends like these…."]


I recently posted commentary about an online conversation I had with a friend.

My friend has replied. Sigh.

You are not getting what I said. I guess I am gonna have to explain it to you when we meet.

I decided to have a little fun:

Yassuh, please do set me on yourn knee so's to he'p me unnnastand yaw highfalutin' logic right here. ;) I'll listen to what you have to say, but "there's no there there," at least based on how you've mounted your position so far.

Let me make this as simple as a Playdoh kit:

The best defense (x:B) is a good offense (A:y) = It is best for A to do y in order to do x against B.

The best way to start talking (A:x) is to shut up (A:y) = It is best for A to do y in order to do x.

There are two agents in the football slogan; there's only one in yours. Your disanalogy simply does not map.

The second mock slogan of yours is just as incoherent.

"The best way to stop your opponents from scoring is to stop them from scoring." =/= "The best way to prevent your points from being lesser than your opponent's is to score more points than your opponent."

Bark up a different tree, dude. You're bewitching yourself with your own quixotic crusade against the bewitchment of language.

While I was typing my reply, he added a further rebuttal:

[Quoting me:] ‎"Coaches call certain "offensive" plays in order to score points, points which *function as* a defensive means against the opponent's offensive plays."

Pure bulls[...]t... it's almost like saying I am shooting someone dead "in advance" as a "preemptive strike", therefore that person whom I shot dead won't be a potential harm to me in the future. And then I testify in court that it was merely self-defense.

Offensive plays are offensive plays. Defense is defense. You accuse me of posting a heap of pretensious, sophistical prose?! What the f is that supposed to mean, dude? I am illustrating points. And it looks like you didn't grasp any of it.

I was feeling masochistic, so I replied:

It depends on how close in time the shot and my victim's action occur. Ten years apart, no. Ten seconds apart, yes. The football slogan swings both ways: it's a question of strategy within the span of a game. In chess, by analogy, each move can be made as an offensive move, until the opponent's offenses require a defensive sidestep. Or the player can mount a primarily defensive game and then strike offensively when the opponent is weakened. In football, what is technically an offensive move can be called with the coach's consciousness that it functions in a larger defensive strategy. Your confusion is to think I am saying that the best offensive *play* is identical to a good defensive *play*. I am talking about strategy, not tactics.

The reason I called your reply a) pretentious and b) sophistical is because a) reading it was like breathing from a large jar of rice vinegar: the density of thesaurus-derived verbiage made me squint and cough; and b) you used a couple hundred words to make the same incoherent point you had expressed in a couple dozen.

By now, it seems, my friend was so swollen with neo-Wittgensteinian angst that he couldn't resist confronting me in Gmail chat and the following is some of the gut-wrenching results:

FRIEND: i don't know what u don't get about it
when there are five around me who do

ME: cool, argument from consensus

F: no
i am asking u

M: having 5 friends confused in the same way doesn't help the failure of your disanalogy in this instance

F: u gotta cut the classical nonsense when we talk about these issues
i am not saying just because people agree with me, it's true
unlike religion ;)
i just don't know what u don't get about it

M: no, you're saying your point is true because you can't see beyond the lexical level to the semantic

F: ahh
now, i see

I: i've already pointed how the logical form doesn't map

F: u see what i have always set out to do was never for the purpose of setting the standard for expression
u see the expression "the best defense is good offense" is not "wrong"
it's "silly"
u r the one who is somewhat stuck back in the old days of Wittgenstein ONLY WHEN it comes to issues like this

[His point here to say I am still taking a "Tractarian" approach to Wittgenstein, whereas he is drawing more on the "later Wittgenstein" of the Philosophical Investigations. In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein argued that all language has a logical form, corresponding to the logical form of the reality to which it refers, and that this basic formality can be shown but not said. Over the course of the next decades, Wittgenstein retracted this extreme position in favor of treating language less like a logical apparatus and more like a "game." This point will be significant later.]

M: dude, just because you can't understand how coaches and players use an expression in their own world doesn't mean you need to go on and on trying to justify your incomprehension
- Zitierten Text anzeigen -

F: that's no the problem
i do understand
it's stupid

M: but is it meaningless?

F: u talk about ends

M: is the expression meaningless?

F: one can get the same ends by instructing the players play by play with clear def
it's not meaningless
kinda like how bad English and bad Chinese can somehow still be understood

M: what is silly about a soldier saying the best way to stop his enemy is by shooting him?

F: the question is the "intelligence" of the languages we use
what is silly about a guy who does the same to another guy can call it "self defense"?

M: or a general to say the best way to protect his troops so they can advance the front is by blasting away at the enemy's frontline?
we're talking about two teams expressly out to defeat each other
not some random pack of people standing on a field who get bum rushed by NFL players
playing aggressively is just how some coaches like to protect their own team's interests
nothing silly about that

F: if that's the case
it should follow that there is no such thing is murder
everyone is killing to prevent oneself from being killed
offense is offense
defense is defense

M: a is a
b is b
just start using e-prime

[LINK, heheh] Since it may seem I am the pot calling the kettle black by posting the minutiae of what is already a very lilliputian debate, I want to explain why this issue is as important to me as it apparently is. I feel my friend is engaging in the worst kind of sophistry, the kind of verbal contortions that give dialectical reasoning a very bad name. I also think it is a pristine example of how "linguistic philosophy" can stumble into rabbit holes by its own desire to outsmart others; and, as I noted above, that's E-Prime all over.

This escapade also provides an opportunity to look at how dishonest "logical" people––self-styled rationalists, perhaps––can sometimes be about what their emphasis on logic means for them. Recall my friend's objection that I am "stuck back in the old days of Wittgenstein … [when] it comes to issues like this". Presumably, he is objecting that I am laying too much emphasis on the logical form of the expressions under debate, rather than paying enough attention to the silliness of the football slogan in the language game called sports. Yet it was he who opened the issue by rhetorically objecting that, "If the best defense is really just good offense…, does the logic follow that the best way to shut up is to start talking? … [T]his is exactly as meaningful as saying, "the best way to stop your opponents from scoring is to stop them from scoring!" Initially he objected to the illogicality of the football slogan, but when I demonstrated that his disanalogy fails––by failing to match the slogan in logical form––, he rebutted that I was paying too much attention to logical form. Quite a convenient play on his part. This is logicalism with soiled underwear.

It may be one of the worst consequences of Wittgenstein's impact––an impact which I feel has been misrepresented in surprising ways, and which I greatly respect as far as I can swallow it––is that many thinkers seem so willing nowadays to ignore logic. Presumably, in the wake of "the later Wittgenstein," saying something meaningful––or, being "authentic"––frees one from having to say something logical, and accusing something or someone of silliness exempts one from having to make logical criticisms. My friend is a case in point. He first insinuates that the slogan is meaningless, but, when pressed on the issue, admits it is meaningful and he understands it, adverting now to a gripe about how "silly" the slogan is. Not that his disanalogies have shown the logical flaw or flaws in the slogan; presumably, it suffices merely to register his personal distaste for the slogan as a case of being "slick."

Let us, then, examine the charge of silliness. My friend objects that the slogan is silly because it identifies two opposite notions, offense and defense. For him, saying, " [i] The best defense is a good offense," is as silly as saying, " [ii] The best way to stay home is by going outside," or, " [iii] The best way to go up is by going down." If we were obliged to stay at the purely abstract, lexical level of meaning, this would true and the slogan would be utter nonsense. Fortunately, however, since we have the ability to "mensch" our words into meaningful contexts of association and analogy, we can make sense of all of these expressions, if there is a possible context in which they might be used. First consider [ii]: Suppose my landlord told me the secret police were coming to raid the building, and were going to arrest me if they found me in my apartment. If I want to keep my apartment and domestic life, I need to leave and hide out somewhere. Hence, "The best way to stay [here in the long run] is by going outside [for now]." Next consider [iii]: Suppose I got arrested but eventually become friends with an old-timer in the prison who has been digging an escape tunnel for decades. Past escapees have tried to climb the fence or work their way out through the overhead air ducts. But his tunnel goes beneath all the prison's infrastructure and alarms, like a parabolic tube running from his cell down into the soil and then up again into the forest hundreds of yards beyond the prison. He tells me to break out with him while I still have a chance, but I am afraid of a tunnel collapse, or a flood, etc. He reassures me, "The best way to go [back] up [to freedom on the outside] is by going down [the tunnel]." These accounts may seem contrived, but they make the point that meaning is use in context, not in a dictionary, and thus show how the football slogan can and does make sense given a sensible account of its proper usage-context.

(Besides, if Wikipedia says it's a useful adage, it must be true!)

Having come this far along the path of alleged silliness, let us see how my friend's position fares. For him, "Offense is offense and defense is defense," and the slogan is as trivially (tautologically) true as saying, "The best way to stop an opponent from scoring is by stopping him from scoring." A reconstructed form of the slogan would, therefore, be, "The best offense is a very good offense" (and, of course, "The best defense is a very good defense"). It would further be true that "The best team has the best offense," or "The best team has the best defense," or, ideally, "The best team has the best offense and the best defense." This however amounts to saying that "The best team is the best team," which, while it may not be silly, in a ticklish way, it certainly lacks the musical persuasiveness and counterintuitive effectiveness of the original slogan. I wouldn't enjoy paying a doctor who told me, "The best way to improve your health is by improving your health." That would be silly. A doctor, on the other hand, who told me, "The best way to be healthy is by keeping away from toxic substances in small amounts and acceptable nutrients in excessive amounts," and then gave me particular tactics for applying his strategy, he'd get my money.

As an aside––though it relates to a line of research I would like to develop into a long essay or possibly even a book––, am I the only one who feels I am debating someone with autism? Many autistic people have great difficulty (by their own admission) understanding jokes, puns, poetry, metaphors, and riddles, because their grasp of language is unfailingly literal. An autistic person, for example, upon hearing, "The best way to a man's heart is through his stomach," might in all likelihood object, "Actually, it's through his ribcage," only he wouldn't see how his objection is a punchline. The point is that some hyper-logical thinkers––or, at least, some people who claim they strive to be logical above all else––suffer from the same cognitive deficits as autistic people do. The fundamental problem is an inability or unwillingness to invoke analogy as a key not only to language but also to reality. This is why I consider atheists and materialists to be "philosophically autistic" (e.g. as dramatized in this post). For them, it is illegitmate to see nature as a sign, icon, or analogy for God's existence, power, and glory, since "nature is nature" and "God is God," and ne'er the twain shall meet. Just as autists "simply can't see" how an abstract painting is a crowded street, or how a leitmotif is a duck, and how, in turn, a duck is a lush, so atheists "simply can't see" how a strong complex of rational arguments, transcendental longings and clues vouched for by the majority of humanity, a dead man on a Cross, an offering of Bread and Wine, or anything else is God (albeit 'is' God in varyingly analogical ways).

As I noted before in my initial lament, E-Prime is a defective attempt at discourse in so far as it rejects or minimizes analogy in language and reality. Korzybski said something along the following lines, "Say whatever you will about a pencil, but don't say it is a 'pencil'!" Korzybski objected to the copulative "is" as a root of many logical evils. For example, why say, "The heart is a lonely hunter" when you could instead say something more precise? Or why try saying that at all, and not simply admit the idea is incoherent? Korzybski's problem, or at least the position of his more extreme disciple, is (!) that his position ignores how the analogy of being shapes the analogical dimensions of language. A thing is both itself and an analogy for something else, indeed, an analogy for many things, depending how we refract it through the prism of analogia entis. My friend's objection is just as defective, and is but an oblique paraphrase of Korzybski: "Say whatever you will about offense, but don't say it is 'defense'!" If reality is not analogical, then offense is, and can only be, offense. Since, however, reality is analogical, we can understand how offense can both be offense, in itself, and be defense, on a higher analogical plane. We can see this, I mean, if we don't suffer from metaphysical autism.

The final reason I have spent this much time on this logical whitewash, is because I have a strong hunch that my friend is so passionate about this point because he feels it will secure a larger (liberal) victory in the debate about, say, the death penalty, or abortion, perhaps. If "offense is offense and defense is defense," then the death penalty is equivalent to cold-blooded murder: it's an act of offense, not defense. Conversely, if defense is defense is defense, then abortion is not murder, since it is merely a defensive act on the part of a female body. To say that I find this kind of argumentation grotesque is but a compact and oblique way of saying that I value the things the argumentation denigrates, namely, the good of the larger human social order and the inherent rights of the fetal body.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mensching the trees for the forest…

2 comment(s)
A friend of mine recently complained that it's just "slick" logical confusion on the part of people who say, "The best defense is a good offense." I took this to be a mere Wittgensteinian complaint of his made in passing––he's taken to styling himself a Wittgensteinian, you see––but a couple days later he posted his 'argument' on Facebook, which indicated to me he really thinks it's an important and cogent point. He wrote:

If the best defense is really just good offense like they said, does the logic follow that the best way to shut up is to start talking? And of course I understand perfectly when they say this in football or any competitive man-on-man/men-on-men sports. But saying this is exactly as meaningful as saying, "the best way to stop your opponents from scoring is to stop them from scoring!". :)

Unfortunately, I was no more impressed by this 'official' attempt at a disanalogy than I was by his offhand mention of it days prior. And I told him so:

I think your analogy fails. A good offense acting as a good defense in a conversation is indeed to start talking, since this method STOPS the other person from "advancing" in the conversation. 講不聽的樣子。 If the maxim were that the best defense is to do nothing at all, then your analogy would hold. To make sense, your analogy needs to be rephrased to say, "The best way to shut OTHERS up is by starting to talk."

Meaning is usage, as you love to note, so I think you can make perfect sense of the maxim if you don't apply such an anal-retentive lens to it. The reason a good offense is a good defense is that the points scored by "team A" ACT AS a defensive buffer against any points scored by "team B". The point of the maxim is not that the best way to stop your opponents from scoring is by stopping them from scoring, but rather that the best way to stop their scores leading to their victory is to score in a way that nullifies their scores, relative to your own, by the end of the game. This axiom works just as well in reverse: "The best offense is a good defense" (which I've heard more often than the other maxim you cite).

A few days thereafter he replied in breathtakingly byzantine prose:

Meaning IS use, thus it varies in different contexts when utilized to refer to specified actions. What I am discussing here are specifically sports terms, though just like any other words in the English language as they are, they are indeed... "technical". Furthermore, these terms are most certainly defined by ACTIONS. And it is exactly the reference to and the logic of which we need to examine.

On the gridiron, when the coaches call on the team to play offense, it means the players are gonna get in a certain designated formation of an offensive line-up. Before any formal game, the coaches have to systematically arrange certain lineups and call 'em plays of offense. Now, since offensive lineups and defensive ones need to be clearly distinguished. Different call would result in the team forming a different lineup. Question is, does it mean anything much to say the best D-lineup is good O-lineup? If that's the case, what's need of calling the defensive formation, just play offense all the way.

Now, let's look at basketball. In basketball, either one team is in control of the ball or the other tries to intercept it. Now, let's call the offensive play "shot making" and the defensive play "shot intercepting". Since it is physically required for the "shot making" player to be in possession of the ball to even begin the play with, the rival team due to the dispossession is forced in the situation to put on a "shot intercepting" play up until they actually GET the ball. Here, the coaches are probably gonna call on their team members to steal the shot instead of just blocking and destroying rivals' attempted shots. Right then, the coaches are gonna say the same thing about how the best D play is good O play. Whilst reality remains that the team is still in dispossession of the ball, which is required for the "shot making" play, namely, offensive play. There has to be many ways for the team to get the ball, but until then they are still defense. It doesn't matter how they get it, they haven't got it yet.

I don't know if that's clear enough for you. Still, allow me to bring up one more example of an individual one-on-one combat sport such as boxing. In a boxing match, two fighters are presented as rivals going against each other with attempts to either win by scores by decision, TKOs or knockouts. The bell rings, two men hustled to the center stage to start the fight. Now, generally in boxing people talk of punches/attack moves like jabbing, crossing, hooking, uppercutting and defense/guard moves like slipping, bobbing, blocking, covering-up or clinching to stop the fight for a while. So can one say that "the best blocking is good crossing'? It might be what they are actually saying is "instead of just standing there waiting for the opponent to strike, you should do a crossing punch.". Ok, that's fine. But if that's the case, why don't people just say, "sometimes, it's best to launch an attack instead of thinking about what you should fend you rival off with while he is coming at you."?

It will make much more sense than that. People try to be "slick" in language these days without realizing how silly they sound. The analogy, the best way to shut up is start talking, aims to show just that.

I apologize for making you sort through that. (And if by some off-chance you're reading this, dude, no offense, I just think you're making an ugly mountain out of an unsightly molehill.) I replied:

No, your disanalogy still fails, since you are confusing means with ends. Coaches call certain "offensive" plays in order to score points, points which *function as* a defensive means against the opponent's offensive plays. The end is victory; the means vary according to that end. Posting a heap of pretentious, sophistical prose doesn't help your case. You're missing the forest for the trees. What sense do you make of 無為而無不為 without saying it's Daoists just trying to be "slick"?

I also think you seriously misunderstand what "use" means in a Wittgensteinian sense, since the last thing a Wittgensteinian would do is be a prescriptivist about diction (i.e. refer someone to "the dictionary" to really grasp how terms like "peace" are used). Consider how much richer "shalom" is than the mere "absence of conflict".

The latter paragraph, about peace, comes in response to a subsequent post my friend made at Facebook:

Ronald Reagan once said that peace is really not the absence of conflict, it is actually the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. Bill [Maher?] and I would say virginity isn't really the inexperience of any sexual conducts, it is actually the ability to say you've never had any of 'em. ;) Dear former presidents, BUY YOURSELVES A F[…]G DICTIONARY.

To say that a rejection of Reagen's articulation of peace is wooden in the extreme would be understatement in the extreme. I have lived in conditions in which, while there was no ostensible conflict, there was no peace––no conditions for flourishing––to be had. Getting someone to understand this truth is not a matter of linguistic bickering: it is a matter of living some years.

I bring all this up because it reminds me why the Sophists eventually did get such a bad reputation. Allegedly being masters of language for human interests, they increasingly came to be seen as masters of their own personal interests mounted on linguistic acrobatics that drove a wedge between why people spoke and how they spoke. People speak to accomplish various goals––self-expression, lament, grocery shopping, seduction, etc.––but when their own use of language is turned against them because it fails for being lexically ambiguous, the study of language becomes as inimical to language as the study of anatomy is to living bodies. Like all natural entities, language works hylomorphically. It takes discrete material elements and unifies them into a formal whole ordered towards some end or ends. Hence, human language, when not hamstrung by the affected necessities of lexical materialism, "mensches" (or humanizes) the trees of diction into the forest of communication.

My friend's complaint about football lingo reminds me of the scientific objection (probably a piece of urban legend, but the heuristic point remains) that "bees can't fly." He seems to be urging a species of E-Prime, and I've written before how inane such linguistic purists are. His complaint also reminds me that anyone who can't grasp how a good offense is a superb defense has probably never watched a whole season of football in his life. And so I give his sophistry the punt.