Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh, secular humanism, you do get on!

33 comment(s)
So I am expected to give a rational justification for my faith in God. Meanwhile, secular humanism (SH) is not expected to give a rational justification for its belief in the unique moral autonomy of humans. Paradoxically, SH takes "humanness" to be both a trivial fluke of biophysics and the one standard we can possibly have for morality, truth, goodness, etc. Further, of necessity, SH pulls this standard out of metaphysical thin air. It is a humanistic order imposed upon a mindless, mute, brute Nature, which is why there is SH in the first place. Why does faith in God need an extrinsic justification if faith in Man does not?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stupid… my secret…

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Don't hold your breath.

I've got to hold my horses.

How could I be so stupid?

Then again, how could I not be so stupid?

So it is that the well meaning are damned.


Meet Ashes.

My avatar without royalties.

Ignorance… freedom…

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Ignorance of the law is no pardon from it, therefore the rational will is free.

Am I responsible for my own beliefs?

If not, why am I culpable for them?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Given a new dignity… 

6 comment(s)
At Mass today the priest said how Jesus giving a new name to Simon indicates how God wants to "give us a new dignity." He referred to the last chapter of St. John's Gospel where Jesus calls His disciples "friends". He also noted how Confucian society is comprised of five levels, the only one of which that was not "vertical" being friendship. (Cf. these data on "The Five Bonds".) In the midst of all this, he made the point that, while we belong in the animal realm (e.g. we can get medical transplants from animals, etc.), we are more than animals, and God intends to give each of us a greater dignity.

Then I got to codgitating.

It is increasingly common nowadays to deride any suggestion of human specialness or uniqueness as "speciesist" snobbery. We are all animals, and human morality is based on minimizing undue suffering, the argument runs, so we are morally obliged to minimize the undue suffering of our fellow animals, even if they are not "human" like us.

Here was my worry, however: If granting moral immunity to non-human animals is a moral imperative, why don't non-human animals themselves grant such moral immunity to each other? More to the point, if non-human animals are "effectively" like us (which is just the way moderns say "essentially" the same, without having to say dirty words), why don't they assert their moral demands for themselves?

If non-humans need us to prop up their equally intrinsic moral worth, then we are different from non-human animals in a crucial way, namely, in that we can recognize and institute moral worth. Precisely by arguing that we must protect animals' moral dignity, anti-speciesists undermine their own core thesis, since the intrinsic moral duty of protecting non-human dignity is a special prerogative of humans.

Further reflection leads me to see that not even humans can "give themselves" intrinsic moral worth, since giving implies taking, and nothing intrinsic can be given or taken at will. Therefore, the intrinsic moral dimension in being-a-human cannot be something humans make for themselves, and therefore must come from another source. Plainly, it does not come from non-human animals, since they are precisely the creatures whose need of moral amnesty started this whole codgitation. Will a naturalist say that Nature bestows "intrinsic moral dignity" on humans? I doubt it. For according to Naturalism, humanness is no more intrinsic to the natural order than barnacleness, and so the only intrinsic traits natural entities may have are those which are common to Nature as a whole (i.e. mass, size, charge, etc.).

So it seems arguments against speciesism are arguments for a kind of theism, but theism inevitably implies a special status for humans as those in contact with God.

A lil' convo…

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I want to reproduce a discussion I recently had with a friend at That Other Place. You've read some of our interactions before, perhaps, so this might be a prized cameo for some readers.

Then again, I know how eye-meltingly vapid it can be to read online debates online, like eating reprocessed leftovers. But I think the discussion contains some interesting points and reveals some noteworthy dialectic haps and mishaps. Plus, I just want to keep it for my own reference.

I posted the following on my wall at That Other Place:

If language is utterance, what is Utterance attempting to do/convey? If language is use, what is Language using? Words, presumably. But then, why words and not something else? What do words possess--or access--that Language needs with them? What is language ABOUT?

Comments ensued:

C The question is not what language is using but how language is used. If every human being were dead, (silence)

E So there is no world apart from human language? I think even Wittgenstein knew there was a world outside Vienna.

C Is there? I think not.

E Thanks, Descartes. Amazing how little distance analytic philosophy has come, despite its trappings. Is there being apart from language? Any attempt at a reply assumes the affirmation of being. "Is" there? etc. At bottom, why use language?

C It's a question.

E‎ "'It' 'is' 'a' question." Alterity, existence, unity--these are all contained in your reply... because they preempt all replies.

C Any statement that an attempt at a reply assumes the affirmation of being is an assumption that any attempt at a reply assumes the affirmation of being.

E‎ "is"

C‎ ""'It' 'is' 'a' question." Alterity, existence, unity--these are all contained in your reply... because they preempt all replies." Dude, c'mon, really?

C I have no idea what you are saying? What's your point?

E As I've realized for years, Wittgensteinism (the mode of living, not the tenets of his doctrines) is the cure for people beleaguered and pestered by actual philosophizing. Ha, a fan of Witt complains about inscrutability in prose! ;) My point: the tactic of subsuming all reality to language because all expression of language involves language is as fallacious as the attempt to reduce all time to the present.

C And how is that?

E Repeat the cycle. Read my opening post.

C Ironically, the beleaguering, nonsensical and the ambiguous are actually considered by earlier philosophers as philosophizing. Misleading, that's all i can say of of the post.

E Ah, nothing so sweet as some anachronistic patronizing. Point to the moon and remember your fingertip is not that satellite. Call in some of your allies …, and they can have their way with this issue. Perhaps I'm suffering Anemia Jargonensis! Let's look at "ambiguous". Do you suggest there is possibly a one-to-one formulation of a perfect correlation between words and objects? If not, then ambiguity is ineluctable. Cue Gödel.

C Do you suggest otherwise?

E Of course. Reality is not reducible to language. That's my entire point!

E But if ambiguity is all you want, have fun in the monad with Leibniz.

C Has Wittgenstein ever said that reality is reducible to language?

C Hence the stance that metaphysics makes no sense.

E‎ "Die Grenzen meiner Welt sind auch die Grenzen meiner Sprache." On some readings, this was precisely Witt's goal: to leave a space for the mystical and real world, beyond our own 'mere' worlds.

C You don't just like pick a statement from his notes of a trillion words. One really has to finish the whole thing just to get an idea of what he was actually trying to say.

E Ahhh, yes. One must be a disciple before one can utter any kind of critique. Good to know! Why do you think Witt's Investigations is one of [D.'s] most intellectually significant books?

E Now you're sounding like an inerrantist about Holy Witt, when once you might have been zealous about Holy Writ. By what rule or canon or authority or inspiration can I cull Witt's essential dogmas? After all, 1,000,000,000 notes is a lot of notes to cull.

C Ha, yeah right, maybe the answers to your "challenge" are in these notes he wrote.

E Now you have a worthy goal. Refute my Wittgensteinian maxim with a greater Wittgensteinian maxim. Naskh away!

C Inerrantist? Holy Witt? Dude, you are smoking way too much religions, man. Look at your choice of words for sarcasm. In this case, you are like a creationist who screams at the biologists for their failure to understand biological science. I'm actually hoping that there is something I could learn outa this. But seriously the irony ensues with these attempts to write Wittgenstein off.

E I'm not writing him off. I love Witt, as far as I know him. But if it comes to a standoff between me and him about language and reality, you know where my feet are. And honestly, I think I know where Witt's instincts were, despite everything else.

C I guess, at the end of the day, the goal stills remains that a philosopher must find a way to make sense of all this, yeah?

E I agree, but I still think THAT conclusion itself contains pointers to something beyond what a lot of people make of philosophy, not to mention of Witt.

C Are you that philosopher? Do you have the same goal in mind? Or are you just interested in attacking non-religious, demoralized and metaphysics-rejecting philosophers who jeopardize the path for scholastic philosophy to go on?

E Yeah. That's me all over. Have a look at my blog. I sure hope I make the cut, sir.

C P[hilosophical] I[investigations] is good even without Witt. He himself realized that. That's why he considered philosophy "dead".

E Which is why you are really more a historian than a philosopher.

C I understand why you say such a thing, and again, ironically that historically philosophers who stick to that age-old tradition have always enjoyed emasculating Russell and Witt.

E As if they were one and the same!!?? For shame.

C They have often done a good job at discrediting them as non-philosophers but never really good at solving any problems.

E I mean: AS IF Russell and Wittgenstein were one package to "discredit", and that the facile implication of their unity is for shame.

C You think there are no challenges to the kinda philosophy you cling onto? You ever thought about why back in the US there are more analytic schools than scholastic ones or whatever?

C Do you believe it is possible for non-believers to universally accept that kinda philosophy?

E Tell me more about this /fallacia ad populum/.

C Do you honestly and genuinely believe that people can just all stop questioning things and start to accept eveything once they have entered the realm of scholastic philosophy?

E The Faith is not a philosophy. No one is asked to accept a philosophy. There are oodles of non-Thomist, non-Scotistic, non-Etc., Catholics.

E If you think scholastic philosophy is about dogma, I owe you a hot poker up the bum.

C No, I don't think it's just about dogma. However, you and I both know clearly that it is derived from it.

E Caricature after caricature. But that stands to reason, since Medieval though, and St Thomas, if no one else, is enormous, and can only be painted over by innumerable such caricatures.

C Without it, it cannot survive.

E I'll leave you to your artistry.

C How come in other parts of the world there were no other Aquinas?

C Look into Indian philosophy, perhaps you should be surprised by it.

C I'm not doubting your ability to understand Witt as much as the hidden purpose behind all this challenging. As I've noticed over the years, it has always been driven by an absolutist's attempt to show that nothing else is right except for his own version of philosophical absolutism.

E Thus Spake Wisdom Absolute.

C School me more on this when we meet again, yeah? Let me know if you are free tomorrow.

E I'm a professional educator, so I never intend to "school" people unless I'm being paid. ;)

C Exactly, conveying ideas, namely, communication. And again ironically [you are] the person who has do all the pointing to this "God" and how logic, language, science and ethics can only make sense with the God reasoning while attempting to remind others that it is the fingertip which does the all pointing. Let's see how metaphysics is going to survive after all with all this "you-can't-understand-my-nonsense-because-this-is-genuine-philosophizing". :)

E Make yourself more egregious, please. I thought you were all done.

C I thought you were all done with attacking Witt until last night...

E Thin skin, dude. So now engaging equals attacking? Hmmm... maybe I hould throw in lots of curse words and sexual innuendoes to make it more intellectual in your eyes?

C And that is how you see me? It's a shame. What? 'Cause I don't cling onto tradition like you do?

E I don't "see" you any how.

C And perhaps to you philosophy is all about the tenebrous, the mysterious and problematic linguistic confusion. In this case, I'm not that "philosopher" at whom most scientists laugh at resulting from the stereotype that philosophy is nothing but a bunch of horsecrap.

C Same problems for almost a thousand year. Tell me that Thomas Aquinas has the solution.

E Dude, I don't want this to be about "you" and "me". That's why I joked about the word "schooling" you. That's a completely improper way of loading the discussion. Why does everything have to be adversarial? I posted a thought about what I think is a fundamentally weak argument for linguistic determinism (and Quinean constructivism altogether): Now the Middle Ages is being smeared. Stick to the topic or just drop, please?

C I am not smearing but probing all possibilities to find solutions.

E‎ 'Kay.


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Is important itself an important concept?

I suppose the title of this post triggered a reflex that that to which the word "important" refers, is important, demanding attention.

But this post is not about mere psychology. That would be insufficiently codgitative.

Again: is importance itself important?

It seems not, since every indication or assignment of importance in the world--to money, to blood, to water, to fire--is itself contingent, and therefore not intrinsically important, but merely important.

If, then, important is not an important category of being--if, that is, importance is a fable stitched upon the austerity of natural existence--, then we must suppose the absence, or perhaps opposite, of importance is itself important.

So, then, let us consider if non-important is important. Manifestly, it is not, since every actus indicationis is as anthropomorphic and statutory as the importance we stitch upon nature. Even when the actus indicationis points at "non-importance".

What, then, can we say? Neither importance nor non-importance is fundamental (or, fundamentally significant) to nature.

Yet, even this bifurcation is one which we impose. Moreover, it is one that is inescapably important, since the dialectic between important and non-important keeps the mind in its only viable tension, and thus keeps the mind in an important, and imported, way. Perhaps someone will suggest we deactivate our minds, in a Zen way, but that itself is an injunction based on the importance of mental tranquility, or on the non-importance of dialectic, etc.

Nevertheless, the above conclusion is still too merely psychological. We must seek a point of metaphysical resolution. Or at least a momentary denouement.

We cannot go without assigning either (state of) value to the world. That is the psychological dialectic.

But, more importantly, we cannot even speak of a world of diversity apart from our perspective in it, and the world itself has produced "us" (qua valuators). There is no us (qua generative rational dimension) without the world, yet there is no "world" *qua discrete object) without "us" (qua delimited field of reference).

And so it seems inescapable to assert that the world not only bears within it the generative power of reason, but also bears within it the mark of a bifurcation between important and non-important. There is, by an ineluctable dialectic necessity, a field of being which transcends our linguistic ascriptions (e.g. important/non-important) to it. Thus, the world is both a field of rational order and a field of scaled valuation. If that is what physicalism wants, it may have it. But then were are speaking something so close to theism that the victory against theism is surely Pyrrhic.


It may be your reflex to say that, like all my writing, the conclusion was "pre-laoded" or casuistically inevitable, but in point of fact, I began this codgitation with a simple question in mind."Is the word 'important' itself important?" If not, then there is an important reason for denying it an important status, and anything with the ability to confer importance on action, apart from the linguistic marker for importance, is something much more than naturalism affords.

But I must accept that Marcel is out, and Maddox is in. So woe unto me.

A dream wi'vin a dream...

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"A dream is a redistribution of the signifying elements of everyday existence under the impact of desire. " (V. Burgin, as archived by E. Bougis)

"Desire is the redistribution of the signifying elements of nocturnal existence under the impact of dreams." (S. Freud, as confabulated by E. Bougis)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The non-linguistic...

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"Tell me about the linguistic without using language. Show me something outside language without staying inside language."

Tell me about the past without incurring or implicating any element of the present. Indeed, explain to me the former without the latter. Show me something outside the present without being in the present.

If language is utterance, what is Utterance attempting to do/convey? If language is use, what is Language using? Words, presumably. But then, why words and not something else? What do words possess--or access--that Language needs with them? What is language ABOUT?

Punishment! It's faw de boids!

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Well! To read the review is to see why Honderich wants t' do away wiv pun'shment alltogever now.

Philosopher A Kind Of Life

+ + +

Quintessential secular morality. If the world is closed, Miller is right. But Miller is just barely wrong.

Dennis Miller on Bin Laden Death on O'Reilly Show.

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‎"I am a failure. My best years are behind me. My worst habits are my strongest habits. That's why I will never succeed."

Precisely THEN you must go to your desk and continue writing, continue revising, continue praying on paper.

A desire to succeed is anathema to success; fulfilling one goal after another, despite success or anonymity, is the path to success.

Philosophy gads on...

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If the world is so awful, why are you still living it?

Walk. You will save time and money.

Do you see better around blind people? Hear better around the deaf? Live better among corpses? If not, it's your loss.

Don't be Hazel Motes. Or do, and then be what Haze had wanted to be.

Adult life is so much less shocking than I always thought it would be.

‎"John Coltrane's music is one of the reasons that suicide seems so boring." -- LeRoi Jones, aka, Amiri Baraka, liner notes to Coltrane: Live at Birdland

I think the saddest stage in any philosopher's life is to be no longer engaged or startled by arguments. "Ah, yes, that old line. Well, as we know...." And even sadder state is for a theologian no longer to marvel at the divine goodness.

Materialist atheism?

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Atheism is a condemnation of bad beliefs, which is itself an injunction to epistemic normativity. Therefore, atheism is an injunction to absolute freedom of will. Such freedom of will, however, is a trademark of theism. Therefore, atheism is false.

If, however, there is a stripe of atheism that makes the will free, not merely indeterminate, I wonder if it's a Pyrrhic victory.

Reasons ≠ causes ∴ rational will is free

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Reasons are not causes. Inhalation of propane beyond inhalation of oxygen was the cause of John's death. The reason for John's death was his desire to commit suicide. The "desire (reason) to commit suicide" results in innumerably diverse states of affairs, but an innumerable diversity of results is not a sign of a true cause-effect relationship. Nor does it follow from "wanting to kill oneself" that one will 1) walk over, 2) touch the oven, 3) turn on the gas, etc. But inhalation of propane beyond intake of oxygen is a cause of human death. Reasons are not causes, therefore the will is free.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Integrity is not a given, but gives freedom...

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"Does one's integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that it usually does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply. It is a mystery and one which a novel, even a comic novel, can only be asked to deepen."

-- Flannery O'Connor, author's note to *Wise Blood* 2nd ed.

Integrity is the making-whole of many. Freedom is the "quantum collapse" of many possibilities--sheer potency--into a unified new whole. That humans are determined at every moment in their physiology and sensation is a given. That the power of free will does not derive from physiology and sensation is the thesis of libertarianism. For it is not without the integrating power of will--as an ordered appetition--that there is a human subject to be determined.

Facebook is, Facebook isn't...

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Facebook is an engine for false memory. "I was there." "That's my friend." "We did this together."

It's ON like TRON...

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1. TRON is alluring because there are no straight lines in our world. It shows us the world we must believe in to know, and must know to understand our own world. Geometry as idealism, mathematics as utopia.

1. Google Translate: TRON是誘人的,因為沒有直線,在我們的世界。它向我們展示了世界,我們必須相信知道,必須知道,了解我們自己的世界。

2. TRON is alluring because in our world there are no straight lines. It shows us the world in which we must believe in order to know, and the world which we must know in order to understand our own world.

2. Google Translate: TRON是誘人的,因為在我們的世界裡,沒有直線。它表明我們的世界中,我們必須相信,以了解,世界,我們必須知道,以了解我們自己的世界。

I borned...

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I reach for a jar of marmelade.

On a compatibilist reading, I am unfree but not unnaturally coerced to perform this action. It springs from my every impulse, which springs from my ever-conditioning environment. I would not choose to eat the marmelade without my determined background, but, crucially for compatibilists, my marmelade would not be chosen to be eaten without me being the transeunt agent.

I emerge from my mother's womb and then enter a grave.

On a compatibilist reading, I am unfree but not unnaturally coerced to perform these actions. I would not undergo these changes apart from the determining factors behind them, but, as well, they would not occur except by me (qua transeunt agent).

Yet birth and death are not actions we perform, therefore compatibilism is false.

if the conditions for a "free and rational" action, on compatibilism, are equally satisfied by my birth and death and by any choice (e.g. my choice of condiments),
but birth and death are not properly actions,
then compatibilism's account of actions is fatally flawed,
and compatibilism (qua theory of action) is defeated.


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‎"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks."

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Predation is as predation does...

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I was notified of this website, Stop Baptist Predators, the mission of which is "to break the silence of Baptist clergy sex abuse."

Sexual abuse is its own phenomenon, a truly non-sectarian problem and while I think it's crucial to keep the "Catholic sex abuse" scandals in perspective, I think it's even more important to attack the offenses on their own grounds. Using sex abuse to bludgeon the Church is like using incest to undermine the family as an institution, or like saying that, since the majority of accidents and death happen at home, people should not live in homes.

I have heard people argue that "the Church" or "religion itself" is the perfect breeding ground for sexual abuse, because it has a strong authority structure, deals in moral pressure, relies on internal governance despite outsider hearsay, etc. This argumentation is flawed, because those woeful traits are endmemic to prolonged social human existence. The very measures devised to protect children are themselves a strong authority structure, are based on moral outrage, demand a large degree of investigative autonomy despite external lobbying, etc., so it's just a matter of time before those measures, once codified and universalized, will generate the same woes. The problem is the human heart, which sounds like a cliche, but only because it's so simple as to be scandalous. You can't argue you are trying to improve society by undermining the core features of its maintenance.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stood firmly...

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December 23, 1940 TIME magazine, page 38, Albert Einstein:

Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks...

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

The New York Times editorial, December 25, 1942 (Late Day edition, p. 16):

This Christmas more than ever he is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent... Pope Pius expresses as passionately as any leader on our side the war aims of the struggle for freedom when he says that those who aim at building a new world must fight for free choice of government and religious order. They must refuse that the state should make of individuals a herd of whom the state disposes as if they were lifeless things.

The Economist, Dec 9th 2004, "The Papacy: For God's Sake":

Devil's advocates were supposed to be fair-minded, and in the past Mr Cornwell, a prolific writer on Catholic matters, has at times been anything but. As he admits, “Hitler's Pope” (1999), his biography of Pope Pius XII, lacked balance. “I would now argue,” he says, “in the light of the debates and evidence following ‘Hitler's Pope', that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by the Germans.”

Chastened by this experience, Mr Cornwell is now a better biographer. In this life of John Paul II, he celebrates his subject's achievements as well as deploring the mistakes. The pope's heroism is affirmed. As a young would-be priest in occupied Poland, Karol Wojtyla was not intimidated by Nazi efforts to liquidate the Catholic clergy. A priest under Communism, he was again courageous. When the Soviet system imploded, “few would dispute that the inexorable and bloodless process had been initiated by the Polish pope.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Approval rating…

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"Be happy, move ahead, take risks, have faith, don't let fear rule you, live your life--but do it on my time-line with my approval. That is all. Carry on."

"I don't expect unconditional and unflagging support, I expect it now!"

Act now!

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Hurry! Spend more money! You'll live longer and feel better! Stave off the darkness inside with shadows of opulence! Bigger, better, faster!

For instance: 3D no better than 2D and gives filmgoers headaches, claims study –– www.guardian.co.uk

Spectacles on a spectacle…

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Ah, the spectacle of Darwinists on the one hand undermining various human conventions on the grounds that said conventions exist merely because they promote health and longevity, yet on the other hand defending The Theory on the grounds that it's true even beyond its survival benefits.

+ + +

Nature is, allegedly, a human construct, but naturalism holds that humans are natural creations.

Friday, August 12, 2011


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Have been busy. Got married. Have peace. Not as much money as I'd like, but peace. Have been reading and writing more than my moribund pace of the past year or two. I've read so many books recently, in fact, that I haven't even kept proper notes of them in my reading log. Here are some I recall.

Boston Teran, God Is a Bullet
T. Jefferson Parker, The Blue Hour

Stephen King, Under the Dome

King, Duma Key

King, The Dead Zone

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Dan Simmons, The Terror

Stephen King & Peter Straub, The Talisman

Don DeLillo, Point Omega

Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood

I've left some out, and I'm not even going to try recalling which movies I've seen (aside from Captain America--twice, no less!). It has felt great to read such large books again, and especially with such intensity: it reminded me of my younger summers. I believe in Story. I believe in the Borgesian craft. I will be getting back into more "academic" reading, and work will be keeping me quite busy, but I still have an exciting roster of novels to read from the library.