Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"It takes all kinds to make a heaven."

In honor of the feast of St. Jerome, I give you "The Thunderer," by Phyllis McGinley.
God’s angry man, His crotchety scholar
Was Saint Jerome,
The great name-caller
Who cared not a dime
For the laws of Libel
And in his spare time
Translated the Bible.
Quick to disparage
All joys but learning
Jerome thought marriage
Better than burning;
But didn’t like woman’s
Painted cheeks;
Didn’t like Romans,
Didn’t like Greeks,
Hated Pagans
For their Pagan ways,
Yet doted on Cicero all of his days.

A born reformer, cross and gifted,
He scolded mankind
Sterner than Swift did;
Worked to save
The world from the heathen;
Fled to a cave
For peace to breathe in,
Promptly wherewith
For miles around
He filled the air with
Fury and sound.
In a mighty prose
For Almighty ends,
He thrust at his foes,
Quarreled with his friends,
And served his Master,
Though with complaint.
He wasn’t a plaster sort of a saint.

But he swelled men’s minds
With a Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds
to make a heaven.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A response given to an atheist of my acquaintance upon his demanding, point blank, that someone prove to him the existence of God.

This is analogously equivalent to a beginning student of algebra asking for someone to prove Gödel's incompleteness theorems to them. Without the necessary background the proofs aren't meaningful to the one being taught, so they must either believe the teacher based upon his own credentials and authority or else doubt the teacher because they did not understand him and thus weren't convinced.

Proof of the existence of God is the end of metaphysics. It takes as given all previous metaphysical principles, as well as the principles of the philosophy of nature that metaphysics takes as its foundations. A thorough account would take at least a book. A complete understanding could take a lifetime. That might not be very satisfying. Reality can be a harsh mistress.

I would also note that if by "proof" you mean "scientific proof," then you are asking for the impossible. I will note, however, that I am not saying this simply to say that the existence of God is not a question open to the empirical-mathematical method of modern science, which is interested only in the accidents of sensible quantity and measurable quality. I am saying this because the scientific method, as a method, is not capable of providing proof of anything in a strict sense.

The scientific method is an inductive and dialectic method which relies on continually observing things under particular circumstances, forming hypotheses based upon these observations and then testing the hypotheses against further observations. When one hypothesis is demonstrated to be false because reality does not follow the predicted outcome, the data is then reconsidered and a new hypothesis is formed and tested. When a hypothesis continually predicts reality correctly, it is then considered to be true.

This is not, however, equivalent to proving that the hypothesis is true. The hypothesis is probably true because particular circumstances have continually conformed to the hypothesis' predictions. But all it takes is a single, repeatable example in which the hypothesis fails to render said hypothesis false, at least in scope if not completely. Sometimes such observations take decades, or even centuries, to be realized because they require new tools to enhance our senses, allowing us to observe phenomena that we previously could not observe. For example, classical mechanics was long believed to be the whole of mechanics until we were able to observe phenomena on a much smaller scale, a scale in which classical mechanics breaks down and fails to make accurate predictions. Thus quantum mechanics was born.

Thus, the scientific method, being an inductive method, does not prove anything in the strict sense. Its results are probably true, but they are not definitely true. In the most accurate sense, the information about reality given by science would be called justified belief, which is traditionally the name given to propositions held due to induction (moving from the particular to the universal) and dialectics (the back and forth of hypotheses until one is arrived upon that cannot be disproved given the current circumstances).

However, in the interest of providing some help, I will offer the following link. It provides an audio lecture on some proofs for the existence of God by the philosopher Peter Kreeft, as well as links to some more of his writings on the question. I offer this link with two caveats:

1. These lectures and writings are simplifications for the purpose of speaking to a non-academic audience with little or no higher level training in philosophy. As such, it is possible that there are weaknesses in the arguments as presented that would not be present in more rigorous and academic presentations of them.

2. Simplifications such as these are sometimes targeted at audiences more inclined to agree with the arguments than not. As such, the tone of the presentation might be contrary to your sensibilities. This is simply what one must deal with when one is dealing with this kind of work. I feel the same way reading Dawkins or Dennett.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Blog

I've created another blog. This one has always been about philosophy and theology. Occasionally I want to write something that is only tenuously linked, at best, to those topics. Previously I've either not written it, or I've posted it here and felt that it was out of place. Now I'll post it at the other blog.

Popery et Potpourri. Check it out if you so desire.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I think it fitting, given the events of seven years ago that we commemorate today and the events of three hundred and twenty-five years ago we will commemorate tomorrow, to offer up a prayer to Blessed Marco D'Aviano and the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Most Holy Name is a symbol of victory over sin and death, for the conversion of all Muslims and an end to the preaching and practice of Jihad.

Just in case

Just in case its removed for being "offensive," I thought I would share my comment (EDIT: posted on the Washington Post's site) on this opinion piece :

"All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others"

I hope the good Professor Doninger will join my continuing campaign to overturn any laws that make it illegal for me to kill those who annoy me. After all, what right does anyone have to force a belief about the immorality of "murder" on me? And besides, "Though shalt not kill," is one of those "Ten Commandments." Thus, not allowing me to kill those who annoy me is equivalent to imposing religion upon me.

Such laws also violate my constitutional rights. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States of America states, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that I have, "the right to define [my] own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." I do not believe that those who annoy me are human. Nor do they, it follows, possess human life. To keep me from killing them is to impose upon me a view of "the mystery of human life" that is contrary to my own, which is a grievous violation of my constitutional liberties.

I hope all who read this article are convinced by the sound argument presented and join me in my campaign for my moral and Constitutional right to kill all those who annoy me.

Have I "reducio"-ed enough to make the "absurdum" obvious?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Velocity matters

In a discussion following one of his posts over at the Chronicles website, Scott Richert notes that politicians, like particles in physics, do not simply have positions. They also have directional velocity. We ignore the latter at our peril.

Continually voting for the politicians who will move us leftward more slowly does not have the consequence of stopping our move leftward. But it does have the consequence of causing us to become more inclined to accept leftward movements as long as they don't happen at too great a velocity. This may leave us with better short-term consequences, but its long-term result is the voluntary corruption of our own moral sense.

That's the whole point of the Hegelian mambo. So forgive me if I sit this dance out.

The Hegelian mambo

(Thanks to Zippy of Zippy Catholic and What’s Wrong with the World for first directing me to this idea.)

Some preliminaries:

1. "Liberal" is hereby being used to mean those who accept as true liberal autonomy theory. "Liberal autonomy theory" is, in turn, generally defined as follows: a political, ethical and anthropological position that holds the individual will to be the foundational attribute of the human person, freedom of choice to be the greatest good, and views the individual as completely autonomous, all interpersonal relations being a matter of personal choice. By this definition, most American "conservatives" are simply right-liberals.

2. An unprincipled exception is a non-liberal value or assertion that is not identified as, or realized to be, non-liberal.

The definition of the Hegelian mambo can be found in, or at least figured out from, the comments here. I am, for the most part, going to first use the steps to the dance laid out by Matt in the second to last comment, then I am going to define what I understand the steps to mean.

The steps to the Hegelian mambo, our nations hottest new political dance:

1. Thesis step to the left, Thesis step to the left,
2. Grab Antithesis on your right and step to the left,
3. Twirl around
4. Synthesize
5. cha cha cha
6. And step to the Left...

The Hegelian mambo, broken down and explained:

1. Move further in a leftward and liberal direction.

2. Make the few unprincipled exceptions you are going to make, even while still moving in a more leftward and liberal direction on other issues.

3. Display your unprincipled exceptions for all to see, fooling conservatives to accept you as a conservative yourself, especially those conservative whose positions are a matter of tradition, piety and religious faith, but who themselves do not have a strong intellectual defense against liberalism.

4. Eventually your positions are accepted as the new "conservatism" by most people.

5. Hold to these positions for a time, either because you are not yet bothered by some of your illiberal positions or because you need to shore up support.

6. Start the dance all over again.

On rights

Take a man. Remove him from all historic and social context. Take him as a lone, autonomous individual. What rights does he have?

A liberal--either a left-liberal or one of those right-liberals we erroneously call "conservatives"--would probably be able to produce a short, or even a long, list. Certainly the left-liberal list and the right-liberal list would differ somewhat in content and emphasis, but either kind of liberal would be able to produce a list. Both lists would be wrong.

The correct answer is "none." A man possesses no rights when he is removed from all historic and social context. If such a thing as a lone, autonomous individual existed, he would exist without any rights whatsoever.

It is a good thing, then, that there is no such thing as a lone, autonomous individual. Man, as a bodily and incarnate being, always exists within a historic and social context. And it is only within this historic and social context that the concept of "rights" has any meaning at all.

A "right" is not a quality. Rights exist as complements to duties. Both only exist as relations within the context of relationships. A relation is a reference to another. To say one has a right means that one is owed something by another. One cannot speak of this right without referencing, at least implicitly, said other. To say one has a duty means that one owes something to another. One cannot speak of this duty without referencing, at least implicitly, said other.

This, then, is why it is absurd to speak of rights as existing when removed from historic and social context. A man exists within a particular time and place. This particular time and place governs the context of a man's relationships. And it is only within said relationships that the idea of rights has any actual content.

Monday, September 08, 2008

An aside

I think I am going to print up a bumper sticker that reads, "Don't blame me, I support a benevolent Hapsburg monarchy."

Other ideas:

"Don't blame me, I voted for Jefferson Davis."

"Don't blame me, I supported the Anti-Federalists."

"Don't blame me, I supported the Cavaliers."

"Don't blame me, I supported the Vendée."

"Don't blame me, I can comprehend Amendment X."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In the midst of moral dilemmas and electoral sniping: wisdom and humor

thebyronicman: In the heart of every orthodox Catholic man there exists a secret yearning for an evangelical girl who rides motorcycles. Let it go. It's a divine madness.

Kevin: You're right. There's something wrong about hoping to get the evangelical babe in short-shorts to pray the rosary with you. Alone.

Aphorism X

Being anti-Scylla does not make one pro-Charybdis.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Q: Why do you oppose abortion?

A: I can think of neither a legal nor a moral reason to allow the direct and intentional taking of an innocent human life.

Q: Do you oppose abortion even in cases of rape?

A: Yes. I oppose the direct and intentional taking of an innocent human life.

Q: Do you oppose abortion even in cases of incest?

A: Yes. I oppose the direct and intentional taking of an innocent human life.

Q: Do you oppose abortion even in cases where the life of the mother is or may be in danger?

A: Yes. I oppose the direct and intentional taking of an innocent human life.

Q: What would you say to those who argue that a fetus is not innocent?

A: Guilt and culpability require freedom of choice. No child has any choice whether or not to be conceived. Thus it is fallacious to impute any kind of moral culpability to an unborn child.

Q: What would you say to those who argue that the life of a fetus is not a human life?

A: What else would one call a unique and individual living being that possesses a complete human genetic code? Can anyone give me a name that is more accurate rather than an attempt at obfuscation?

Q: What would you say to those who argue that a fetus is not a unique and individual living being that possesses a complete human genetic code, and thus that a fetus is not a human life?

A: Perhaps they should purchase a simple introduction to embryology. (See here and here for some pertinent quotes from assorted text books.)