Category : Philosophy

(1st Things) John Waters–Defending the Religious Sense

I do not think that, as a community, Christians have been reflecting adequately upon what is lost in the promotion of the secular-liberal anti-ethos. In light of Smith’s and Giussani’s observations, it is notable that, whereas the neo-pagan dispensation extends maximum indulgence to certain kinds of human characteristics (sexual preference, gender “choices,” race, etc.), it increasingly withholds approval for this other “layer” of human identity. This denial is justified implicitly on the basis that religion is a “software” issue, a matter of choice, whereas the others—sex, race, etc.— are “hardware issues,” outside the control of the implicated person.

To see religion as “software” is to see things from the perspective of the skeptic, the unbeliever, from a position of hostility. We know why neo-pagans might choose to see things in that way, but more mysterious is why religious people increasingly limit their pleading to petitions for tolerance, space, freedom-to-practice, etc.

By Giussani’s analysis the religious sense is concerned not just with membership in a church, or with prescribed lists of dogmas, rules, beliefs, or theologies, but with the notion that there is an element of the human person to which only transcendent concepts are capable of providing a correspondence. Recently, Pope Francis compared the hope offered by faith to “the air we breathe,” an apt metaphor. When religious rights are suppressed, so too is the capacity of the human being—including the secular human being—to breathe fully in reality.

Religion deals with those aspects of the human that concern imagining ourselves before, during, and after our earthly existence—in and on either side of the “tunnel” of the earthly trajectory. Neo-pagan culture cherishes the human in the tunnel of this existence only. When we are dying and frightened, society offers to sedate us but refuses to do any more than “tolerate” notions of a further journey beyond this dimension. In the pope’s metaphor: Our breathing becomes subject to cultural constriction.

If the idea of “live and let live” is applied only to the right of Christians to privately believe in daft ideas, there will come a time when each of us is excluded from the protection of the human community in the context of its institutions, laws, and enabling ideas.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ES) Jonathan Haidt: ‘Many people will soon find themselves mired in perpetual conflict over words’

“When the article came out we were braced for an enormous pushback. It was an explosive time, and things were beginning to get very strange politically in ways we’re only beginning to understand,” he says. “But the climate changed in early 2016, when the number of shutdowns and disinvitations grew, and everything got worse. Things were changing in ways that are really bad for what we do, so Greg and I decided we had to turn it into a book.”

Between the article and the book, which came out last year, Haidt’s research revealed a strong connection between Gen Z’s soaring rates of anxiety and depression (especially among girls), their emotional fragility and their upbringing . “Originally, we didn’t see how it all linked to childhood trends, such as fearful parenting and the decline of play. We also didn’t know, until research was published last year, that there was a sudden radicalisation among white progressives in 2014 about different types of inequality: feminism, racism, misogyny, white privilege, or any other term from the woke vocabulary.

“Another big shift came from changes in social media after 2012, through Twitter and Instagram. This new configuration has been much more effective at spreading outrage, because almost anything can be taken as an example of how awful the other side is if you strip it of context and put it out there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Young Adults

(CLJ) Adrian Vermeule–All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological

First consider a pair of puzzles from the crucial period 2014-16 in American politics, when the tempo of liberalism’s sacramental celebrations increased sharply. In both cases, the puzzle is that political incumbents in a liberal regime—executive actors in one case, litigation groups and judicial actors in another—took actions that were flagrantly ill-advised from the standpoint of the ragion di stato, revealing deeper sacramental commitments and impulses.

The first was the Obama administration’s relentless attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to either fund abortifacient contraceptives or, at least, to take action to pass the responsibility elsewhere. Commentators at the time criticized the seemingly inexplicable stupidity of the administration’s approach, which created a highly salient example of repressive regulatory secular liberalism and thus radically antagonized Christian conservatives, who proceeded to vote for Trump in large numbers. It is plausible to think that the voting pattern was partly caused bythe example, although, in the nature of the case, it is extremely difficult to establish such things one way or the other.

But this criticism, while entirely valid from a ragion di stato perspective, does not quite reach the root of the matter, at least if we understand the inner dynamics of sacramental liberalism. The very point of the administration’s conduct, on my view, was not (or not only) to force one smallish order of nuns to provide contraceptives—indeed, the very fact the administration offered a “voluntary” opt-out underscores that the real objective lay elsewhere. Rather, the objective was ceremonial—to force the nuns to acknowledge publicly the liberal state’s just authority, even in matters of religion, the authority to require either provision or the exercise of an opt-out, as the state saw fit. The main point was to stage a public, sacramental celebration of the justice of liberal power and of the overcoming of reactionary opposition.

Another example involves the puzzle of Obergefell[26]including the administration’s rather chilling representation at oral argument in the Supreme Court that institutions not supportive of same-sex marriage might have to lose their tax exemptions as contrary to “public policy,” as did racist institutions like Bob Jones University.[27] The puzzle is not only why the administration would make such an inflammatory threat, but also why such a judicial decision was necessary at all, when the tide of politics was running in favor of same-sex marriage anyway. Simple nonintervention, by means of any of the standard techniques available to the liberal Justices,[28] would have attained the same policy ends with far less political conflict. As far as instrumental political rationality went, all that was necessary was to do nothing.

But a conspicuous conflict with the settled mores of millennia was, of course, the point. It was right and just to have same-sex marriage not merely embodied in law, but declared a requirement of fundamental justice, coupled with a conspicuous defeat of the forces of reaction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(PD) Jane Robbins–Are There Cracks in the Edifice of Transgender Ideology?

yet these descriptions—cult, social contagion, ideology—fail to capture the uniqueness and enormity of what is happening with the transgender movement. Past and current cults have seduced their victims into losing all sense of reality and embracing bizarre and dangerous beliefs; social contagions and mass crazes have affected large groups of seemingly intelligent individuals; ideologies have taken hold that have altered societies and cost lives. But now we are facing something different.

Previous cultish or similar social phenomena have generally been limited to some degree by time, space, or eventual return of the senses. But Western civilization is now gripped by a cultural cyclone that is blowing through such limitations with totalitarian force. Transgenderism has shaken the foundations of all we know to be true. Scientific knowledge is rejected and medical practice co-opted in service of a new “reality”—that “gender” is independent of sex, that males and females of any age, even young children, are entitled to their own transgender self-identification based only on their feelings, and that literally every individual and every segment of society must bow to their chosen identity at risk of losing reputation, livelihood, and even freedom itself.

Remarkably, this revolution is happening without any credible scientific evidence to support it. The concept of changing one’s biological sex is, of course, nonsense, as sex is determined by unalterable chromosomes. An individual can change his hormone levels and undergo surgery to better imitate the opposite sex, but a male on the day of his conception will remain a male on the day of his death. And as discussed below, the idea that there is a real personal trait called “gender” that challenges or invalidates the identity significance of biological sex is equally fallacious. But the absence of genuine evidence is simply ignored, and faux “evidence” is created to validate the mania.

So far. But there are signs of cracks in the grand edifice of transgenderism. As Dr. Malcolm warned in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So does reality. At some point it will reassert itself, and we will ask how this ever could have happened.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(PS) Peter Singer–Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal”

If Rugby Australia had existed in the first century of the Christian era, and Paul had had enough talent to be a contracted player, Rugby Australia would presumably have ripped up his contract once his letter to the Corinthians became public. That makes it quite bizarre that Castle should have justified [Israel] Folau’s dismissal by saying, “People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.” Did she mean that you can feel welcomed in rugby, regardless of your religious beliefs, as long as you don’t express them in public? That looks a lot like telling homosexuals that they can do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom, but they must not show their affection in public because some people might find it offensive.

As this example shows – and as John Stuart Mill argued in his classic On Liberty – once we allow, as a ground for restricting someone’s freedom of speech or action, the claim that someone else has been offended by it, freedom is in grave danger of disappearing entirely. After all, it is very difficult to say anything significant to which no one could possibly take offense. Mill had in mind restrictions imposed by the state, but when employers dismiss employees who make controversial utterances, that is also a threat to freedom of expression – especially when the employer has a monopoly on the employment of workers with special skills, as Rugby Australia does.

Rugby Australia would have a stronger basis for its decision if Folau’s post had expressed hatred toward homosexuals and could have been interpreted as an incitement to violence against them. But the post no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers.

If that analogy seems implausible, that’s because you do not take Folau’s beliefs seriously. Granted, for anyone outside that particular faith, it’s hard to take such beliefs seriously. But try putting yourself in the position of someone with Folau’s beliefs. You see people on a path toward a terrible fate – much worse than getting lung cancer, because death will not release them from their agony – and they are blind to what awaits them. Wouldn’t you want to warn them, and give them the chance to avoid that awful fate? I assume that is what Folau believes he is doing. He even tells homosexuals that Jesus loves them, and calls on them to repent so that they can avoid burning in hell for eternity. That doesn’t sound like hate speech.

What should Rugby Australia have done about Folau’s post? It might have just said that people are entitled to express their religious beliefs, and that would have been the end of the story….

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Sports

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (V): (NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–What Are Conservatives Actually Debating? What the strange war over “David French-ism” says about the right

Still, you can see three broad demands at work in their arguments. First, they want social conservatives to exercise more explicit power within the conservative coalition.

This may sound like a strange idea, since, after all, it is social conservatism’s growing political weakness, its cultural retreat, that led the religious right to throw in with a cruel sybarite like Trump. But there’s a plausible argument that even with its broader influence reduced, religious conservatism should still wield more power than it does in Republican politics — that it outsources too much policy thinking to other factions, that it goes along with legislation written for business interests so long as the promised judicial appointments are dangled at the end, and that it generally acts like a junior partner even though it delivers far more votes.

A more assertive form of social conservatism is already visible in the state-level pushes to substantially restrict abortion, which amount to a demand that all those Republican court appointees actually deliver the latitude for pro-life legislation that generations of religious conservatives voted for. It’s visible in the forays made by Missouri’s new Republican senator, Josh Hawley, who has incited small uproars by imposing sharper abortion and religious-liberty litmus tests than usual on the Trump administration’s judicial nominees, and by taking an explicitly censorious stance toward Silicon Valley.

But a more assertive social conservatism would also pursue the second thing that the post-fusionist conservatives seem to want — namely, stronger state interventions in the economy on behalf of socially conservative ends.

These interventions might include more aggressive versions of the pro-family tax policies championed by Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee. They might take the form of a new pro-family industrial policy of the kind Trump gestures at but hasn’t really pursued, some kind of infrastructure spending or manufacturing support that tries to revive the breadwinner wage. Or they might take the form of the kind of trustbusting culture war envisioned by Hawley, in which the new formations of woke capital, especially in Silicon Valley, get regulated in the name of both economic fairness and cultural conservatism.

Then alongside these practical power plays and policy moves, the post-fusionists want something bigger: A philosophical reconsideration of where the liberal order has ended up. How radical that reconsideration ought to be varies with the thinker.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (IV): (Atlantic) Alan Jacobs–What a Clash Between Conservatives Reveals

Why did Fish’s essay need a response? In large part because it made this argument:

If you persuade liberalism that its dismissive marginalizing of religious discourse is a violation of its own chief principle, all you will gain is the right to sit down at liberalism’s table where before you were denied an invitation; but it will still be liberalism’s table that you are sitting at, and the etiquette of the conversation will still be hers. That is, someone will now turn and ask, “Well, what does religion have to say about this question?” And when, as often will be the case, religion’s answer is doctrinaire (what else could it be?), the moderator (a title deeply revealing) will nod politely and turn to someone who is presumed to be more reasonable. To put the matter baldly, a person of religious conviction should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas but to shut it down, at least insofar as it presumes to determine matters that he believes have been determined by God and faith. The religious person should not seek an accommodation with liberalism; he should seek to rout it from the field, to extirpate it, root and branch.

This is Sohrab Ahmari’s argument, 23 years avant la lettre.

Neuhaus began his response by quoting a part of the passage I just quoted and then setting out to refute it—though not with a whole heart, because Neuhaus realized that one variety of liberalism is indeed programmatically opposed to religion. That variety contends that confidence in metaphysical claims—especially claims about what human beings are, and are for—is always dangerous because those claims are just not true. But Neuhaus saw that there was another kind of liberalism that is programmatically modest about what a whole society can claim to be true—and that kind of liberalism, he thought, was useful.

Thus, in his essay, he cites the great American Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray:

John Courtney Murray said that pluralism is written into the script of history, and I would add that it seems God did the writing. By pluralism, I mean a world in which people live by significantly different accounts of reality, including moral and religious reality, and must learn to live together.

Neuhaus thought not only that Good Liberalism is compatible with Christianity, but also that Christians, if they are properly mature, are among the best-suited to live in such an environment: “The Christian understanding of reason, faith, and how the world is created to be is the best guard against the totalitarianism, whether liberal or religious, that is invited by a monistic view of reality … This gives the Christian confidence that he can enter into conversation with the non-Christian … The Christian therefore tries in various ways to enter into the reason and language of non-Christians in order to help reorder them to truth….”

 

Ahmari thinks that “civility and decency are secondary values,” but even if that is true, they remain values, and Ahmari is not warranted in discarding them so flagrantly. Yet I am not sure that that statement is true. And here again, Neuhaus’s response to Fish is relevant: “The Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom is titled Dignitatis Humanae. Respect for the dignity of the other person created in the image of God requires that we not silence or exclude him but try to persuade him.” Even when people are wrong, he says, “we must put up with them or tolerate them or, much better, respect and love them”—not because that is a politically effective strategy, which it may or may not be, but because we are so instructed by God.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (III): (TAC) Rod Dreher–Sohrab Ahmari Vs. David French

I am not at all sure that that is a fair characterization of David French’s views, but let’s let that stand for the sake of argument. Ahmari wants a more robust, activist government, but active on the side of socially conservative goals. I can go along with that, and indeed there’s probably not much difference between how Sohrab Ahmari thinks the state should intervene, and my views. But here’s the thing: in a pluralistic democracy, if you’ve already lost the culture, how can you hope to elect a government that represents the will of the people, and that supports socially conservative policies?

I wish I saw more evidence that America is a socially conservative country. I wish I saw more evidence that we are a religiously traditional country. It’s just not true, and barring some kind of massive revival, it’s not going to be true for a long time. I am more concerned about religion and culture than politics. I believe in the Benedict Option as a practical response for traditional Christians to the crisis of our time in part because politics are so insufficient to the scope and severity of the crisis. It’s not that I am against politics; it’s that I think politics are downstream from religion and culture, and that we have to first restore a firm cultural basis for a decent politics. At this time, we are fighting (or should be fighting) with all we’ve got just to hold what ground we have.

Many conservatives I know wrongly think that the main part of the battle is political, when the truth is that the absence of moral and spiritual discipline in our own lives, and in the lives of our families and communities, is the root cause of disorder. A Christian academic friend and I were talking a while back about classical Christian education, and he lamented that most of the parents he knew from his local classical Christian school were running away from liberalism more than running towards a vision of classical virtue, Christian or otherwise. This is an important insight. Fighting political battles are necessary, but not remotely sufficient to keep the faith alive. And the faith is not just something we carry in our heads, but is a way of life. The way most of us conservative Christians live — I’m judging myself here too — can often be as much of a threat to passing on the faith to our children as attacks coming from progressives in power.

We have to fight progressivism in politics now in part to protect the institutions through which we pass on our virtues and religious beliefs to our children. But these freedoms won’t mean anything if we don’t use them.

I say all this simply to explain why I don’t have Ahmari’s faith in smashmouth right-wing politics of the Trumpian sort. David French’s fundamental decency as a man and as a Christian is not a fault, but a feature. I don’t get why his decency and honor is a liability. If we lose that for the sake of winning political battles, are we not at grave risk of having sold our souls? Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that sometimes politics may require us to do things we find distasteful (like, well, vote for Donald Trump) for the sake of the greater good. But we can’t let ourselves get to the point of despising decency as weakness — and this is where I depart most from Ahmari, who writes:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

What does this mean? The leftists that I fear most of all are those who would throw overboard any standards of decency for the sake of destroying their opponents. These are the leftists who showed themselves in the Kavanaugh hearings, and in the Covington Catholic media pogrom. I don’t believe Sohrab Ahmari is that kind of conservative, not at all, but these kinds of figures have appeared on the pro-Trump Right.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (II): (National Review) David French: What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong

“Frenchism” (is that a thing now?) contains two main components: zealous defense of the classical-liberal order (with a special emphasis on civil liberties) and zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. It’s the formulation that renders the government primarily responsible for safeguarding liberty, and the people primarily responsible for exercising that liberty for virtuous purposes. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Moreover, I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the “Lord’s servant” must be “kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.”

I’m a deeply flawed person in daily (or even hourly) need of God’s grace, so I don’t always live up to those ideals. But I see them for what they are: commands to God’s people, not tactics to try until they fail. Ahmari does not wrestle with these dictates in his essay. He should have.

It is mystifying to me that my critics seem to believe that I don’t understand the nature and intentions of the enemies of American liberalism. They think me naïve, as if I wasn’t shouted down at Harvard, as if I don’t know what it’s like to be the only social-conservative faculty member at Cornell Law School, as if I don’t speak at events from coast to coast about the immense threat to Christian liberties and livelihoods. Still, they say, I just don’t understand.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (I)–(1st Things) Sohrab Ahmari: Against David–Frenchism

The more that conservative liberals like French insist on autonomy, the more they strengthen the bullies’ position. This far with autonomy, they insist, but no farther. But why should the other side stop? Why shouldn’t this new, aggressive vision of maximal autonomy not overtake the old?

Here French and others fall back on religious liberty. French has done yeoman’s work in defense of Christians and other people of faith persecuted in America. But in the long term, religious-liberty absolutism will put Christians and other traditional believers in a bind. If the moral law is merely a matter of ancient, if sincere, conviction, then of course it must give way to the demands for autonomy of people in the here and now.

Archbishop Charles Chaput made this point in his 2017 book, Strangers in a Strange Land. If traditional moral precepts are “purely religious beliefs,” he wrote, then “they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. Thus two thousand years of moral truth and religious principle become, by sleight of hand, a species of bias.”

Again and again, French insists on the sincerity of the believers whose causes he takes up, as if asserting sincerity of belief can move the heart of an enemy who finds you and your beliefs repulsive: “The biblical sexual ethic is based on a sincere conviction. . . .” “Evidence of devout faith is frequently evidence of a sincere commitment to fairness, compassion, and the faithful discharge of one’s constitutional duties. . . .”

But they won’t listen. Tub-thump long enough about your sincere but irrational (in the eyes of the reigning ideology) views, and soon opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, polyamory, kids in drag, and much else of the same kind will come to resemble the wrongheaded and indeed irrational opposition to vaccination mounted by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York. Sorry, Pastor French, but your superstition will have to give way to public health and the smooth functioning of the autonomy-maximizing society.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Saturday food for Thought from Roger Scruton–What is the strange superstition that has arisen in the Western world?

Posted in Anthropology, Books, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy

(CHE) Research Universities Need to Improve Their Teaching. But More Money Won’t Help, a Philosopher Says

Q. So what’s wrong with the teaching happening in universities like the one where you work?

A. I have a hunch, which is that professors are considerably less good at teaching than they think they are. And the hunch is based on the fact that we don’t train teaching assistants to teach, that we select and hire professors without any regard to their ability or potential as teachers, and that we don’t then give them further training or professional development.

And the incentives in the system are all focused on research, and not improvement of one’s teaching.

The final part of it is, I think teaching is really difficult. It’s a very difficult, complex skill that needs to be learned.

Q. What would fix it?

A. There are three huge interventions that would help. First is careful, ongoing training of TAs. Ongoing training during their first two years of teaching, in which they are systematically observed by faculty who have been trained in observation protocols. Also that they observe each other, and they regularly are prompted to convene and discuss problems of practice.

The second thing is to work with very early assistant professors. What we typically do is someone goes into your classroom once a semester, maybe. Much better would be, again, for them to be given training, for them to be convened and given incentives to participate in other kinds of professional development.

The third thing would be to simply — this is quite hard to do, so I’m not saying it’s not difficult, I just don’t think it’s very expensive — incentivize departments to regularly and systematically meet as groups discussing problems of practice. My department does that now. We have a monthly brown-bag, bringing in experts or discussing, for instance, how do you make a productive discussion happen in a lecture class? What type of feedback do you give students on their papers? Problems of that kind.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Philosophy, Young Adults

(The Point) Agnes Callard–Against Advice

We live in a glorious era of podcasting, public conversation and boundary-crossing interest in niche academic areas. It’s a great time to be a public intellectual, except for one thing: the part of the interview known as the “advice segment.” When someone is found to have specialized knowledge that provokes public engagement and interest, you can bet she will be asked to offer suggestions as to how others might follow in her footsteps. And you can bet those suggestions will be useless….

As I’m using the word “advice,” it aims to combine the impersonal and the transformative. You could think of it as “instructions for self-transformation.” The young person is not approaching Atwood for instructionson how to operate Microsoft Word, nor is she making the unreasonable demand that Atwood become her writing coach. She wants the kind of value she would get from the second, but she wants it given to her in the manner of the first. But there is no there there. Hence the advice-giver is reduced to repeating reasonable-sounding things she has heard others say—thoughts that are watered down so far that there’s really no thought left, just water.

The problem here is a mismatch between form and content. Instrumental knowledge is knowledge of universals: whenever you have an X, it will get you a Y. I can give you such knowledge without our having any robust connection to one another. Knowledge of becoming, by contrast, always involves a particularized grasp of where the aspirant currently stands on the path between total cluelessness and near-perfection. What are her characteristic weaknesses; where does she already excel; what nudges could she use? Only someone who knows her knows this. An aspirational history is full of minute corrections, dead ends, backtracking, re-orientation and random noise. It is as idiosyncratic, odd and particular as the human being herself.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature, Psychology, Theology

(TLC Covenant) George Sumner–Anglicanism Defined: Three Crises

The place to begin is with ancient Christianity in Great Britain. There is evidence it goes as far back at the second century. It contained Celtic and Roman strains. It was an integral part of Western Christendom. It is of course also a history of conflict and fractiousness — no less a figure than Wycliffe reminds us of this. But it is a continuous history nonetheless. Part of Anglican identity is looking back and remembering this fact, for example among the early Anglo-Catholics of the 19th century. Let us relate this fact, now offered as a claim, to the mark of the Church of oneness in the Creeds.

At this point I want to introduce the epistemological crisis, a concept from the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. It depends on the prior notion of a tradition, a stream of thought and practice that coheres around a shared narrative, pointed toward a shared telos and enacted by shared virtues. The idea is not necessarily religious, but works for a religious community too. Within the boundaries formed by these features a tradition is a continuing argument. Occasionally, however, a tradition runs into a major challenge to its very coherence, indeed to its existence, from without. Its truths are called into question in a basic way, and the tradition summons its collective resources to offer an answer. Christianity was such a challenge for ancient imperial pagan culture, and the latter was not up to the task.

The ancient church in the British Isles encountered three epistemological, spiritual, political, and social crises, and in response to each it had to give a continuous answer. The first was of course the Reformation, and the major artifact of the era for us as Anglicans is the Book of Common Prayer. In fact the most concise and compelling answer to the question What is an Anglican? is a prayer book Christian. Through it, British Christians heard and absorbed Reformation doctrine in a devotional mode.

In other words, using the prayer book in an ancient church is a factual, pragmatic way to say that we work out our identity between Protestant and Catholic. And of course the ensuing centuries, after the bloodletting of Henry, Mary, and Elizabeth in the 16th and Charles and the Puritans in the 17th, would reach back to retrieve or reject, to reconstrue and redefine: the great Anglo-Catholic and evangelical revivals of the 19th century are great examples. But one can still see the inheritance of this conflict amid agreement in Western Christianity in the styles of various parishes, however they recall the implications of their liturgical choices.

High and old may be the more venerable designators for Anglican churches, but the more prominent, and more conflictual, is what they make over the spiritual-epistemological crisis, since the 17th and 18th centuries, that is modernism.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Identity, Church History, Ecclesiology, Philosophy

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–The Disappearance of Desire: The transgender movement’s missing element

The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

But first: What do the activists claim? If there is one unshakeable tenet, it is that gender identity and expression—a person’s self-concept as a gendered being and how that person outwardly manifests it—are different from the sex organs that have distinguished male from female since the emergence of the species. They argue that while a physician might “assign” a sex to a newborn, that label may well be at odds with the baby’s true gender. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts it in a guide for journalists, a transgender person is one “whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside.” The term applies to those who are assigned the male sex at birth but whose innate sense tells them they are women, and vice versa. It also includes those “who do not fit in the distinct and opposite binary of male and female.”

The possession of sex organs has thus been deemed factually irrelevant. Instead, gender identity is based in the innate sense of the person himself or herself. A transgender woman is a woman, and a transgender man is a man—period, the activists say. Here is the HRC: “Contrasting transgender people with ‘real’ or ‘biological’ men and women is a false comparison. They are real men and women, and doing so contributes to the inaccurate perception that transgender people are being deceptive when, in fact, they are being authentic and courageous.”1 Thus, according to the activists, transitioning—whether by medical or social means or both—isn’t a process of becoming but of living out who transgender people really are.

This view of subjective gender identity as the unimpeachable guide to whether someone is male or female (or both or neither) has gained currency among some clinicians. In his book When Harry Became Sally, the Heritage Foundation scholar Ryan T. Anderson quotes the Duke University pediatrician Deanna Adkins to the effect that “it is counter to medical science to use chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics to override gender identity for the purposes of classifying someone as male or female.” I will return to these assertions shortly. For now, it suffices to note that the activists aren’t entirely wrong when they boast that their claims enjoy broad support among psychiatrists and psychologists.

At the same time, the activists hold—and this is their second major tenet—that gender itself is largely a social construct, since it is society that labels various traits or characteristics “masculine” or “feminine.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality

Samuel James–The Besetting Sin of Christian Worldview Education: Why do many evangelicals fail to recognize the genetic fallacy?

The besetting sin of Christian worldview education is the genetic fallacy, defined as an irrational error made by appealing to something’s origin (or “temporal order”) to explain away its truth-claims (or “logical order”). Here’s an example of how someone using the genetic fallacy (GF) might respond to various arguments:

A: “Politics is downstream from culture.”

GF: “Andrew Breitbart said that, and he was a right-wing troll, so you’re obviously wrong.”

B: “The unanimous testimony of Scripture is that homosexual acts are sinful.”

GF: “That’s exactly what Westboro Baptist Church says. Do we really want to be like them?”

C: “How well or poorly policies and systems treat minorities matters to God.”

GF: “Progressive Democrats talk about systemic injustice all the time. This is just code for abortion/socialism.”

Notice that in each example of the genetic fallacy, the retort is factually true. Andrew Breitbart DID say that politics was downstream from culture, and he DID popularize a belligerent style of journalism. Westboro Baptist Church DOES preach against homosexuality, and they ARE a horribly cruel cult. Progressives DO talk a lot about systemic injustice, and they often DO mean abortion and socialism as part of the solution. The retorts are true, or at least believable.

So if the retorts are true, why are these answers fallacious? Because they do not answer the actual question. Statements A, B, C make independent claims that stand alone. By invoking a suspect source and then critiquing it, the responses are actually responding to a claim—about the worthiness of the source—that’s not being made. In other words, the retorts don’t actually tell us anything about the validity of the claim, only the validity of people who make similar claims.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Evangelicals, Philosophy, Theology

(Quillette) Clay Routledge–Meaning Matters

First, meaning is important. Perceptions of meaning in life influence a wide range of life outcomes. People who have a strong sense of meaning in life, compared to those who lack meaning, are less vulnerable to mental health problems, more responsive to treatment when they do face mental health problems, better able to cope with trauma and loss, less inclined to abuse drugs and alcohol, less likely to desire, attempt, or die by suicide, less hostile and aggressive towards others, physically healthier, and live longer.

Meaning likely contributes to many of these outcomes because of its motivational power. When people feel meaningful, they are inspired, energized, and optimistic. In addition, life is full of temptations and distractions. It is easy to privilege immediate preference and pleasure over the longer term pursuits that promote physical, mental, and social health, particularly if these pursuits are difficult or unpleasant. In such situations, meaning is a vital psychological resource. It helps people regulate their behavior in constructive ways. For instance, a recent study…of physically inactive adults who had the intention to increase physical activity found that they were more likely to visit fitness centers and exercise for longer periods of time if they had meaning on their minds.

As another way to examine the potential motivational power of meaning, my colleagues and I have been conducting studies on how mentally revisiting meaningful past experiences (nostalgic reflection) influences motivation and goal pursuit using diverse empirical methods involving self-report, behavioral, observational, and neuroscientific measures. We find that when people mentally revisit cherished life experiences—meaningful memories—they subsequently feel more motivated to actively pursue life goals, especially if those goals are focused on friendship, family, and community. They also generally feel more inspired and display patterns of neuro-electrical activity consistent with a motivational model of meaning.

This brings us to the idea that we are facing or approaching a crisis of meaning in the modern Western world.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology

(Crux) Life and death with a Jesuit: Father James Schall on the important things

Lopez: What is best about life?

Schall: What is best about life? The first thing is having it, actually being in existence and knowing that we exist as this human being, that we do not cause ourselves to exist. We are given life. What is best about life is to know that it is a gift rather than some blind development with no internal meaning to itself as this, and not that, being.

Following on this realization of our own existence, what is best is knowing that we are not alone. We live among others and seek and rejoice in our friends. We discover in revelation that we are also to become friends of God. Our lives are often filled with sin and suffering, when we need others most, for forgiveness, for help, for understanding.

What is best about life is also the fact that we can walk this green earth, see things, and especially know what not ourselves is. We exist also that what is not ourselves in all its variety and complexity can be known to us. We are not deprived of the world or others because we are not they. Instead in knowledge, the world and our friends return to us. We know a world that is not ourselves; we are blessed.

What is most challenging about life?

Finding its order. My book, The Order of Things, goes into this issue. At first sight, the world seems a chaos, a disorder. But the earth and all in it reveal an order that is not there because we put it there. We find it already there. This is what we discover when we discover anything.

Modern (and Muslim) voluntarism will claim that nothing is stable (an old Greek view also). Everything can be its opposite. Therefore, there are no evils. But there are evils, due precisely to a lack of order. Moral evil is a lack of order that we put in our own thoughts and deeds because we reject that order that is given to us that constitutes our own real good. The challenge of life is to deal with the reasons for evil without despair or without affirming that evil is good.

Even in the worst circumstances, we strive to see what is in order. But when it is our responsibility to affirm or allow that order, we can prefer our own ideas. In doing so, we implicitly reject the being that is. Thanks to the redemption, this rejection can be repented and reordered, but even here, we are required to act in a way that confronts what is really wrong. We are responsible for our own lives. In the end, the story of our personal existence will be told in terms of how we lived and understood the gift of life that we have been freely given.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Philosophy, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Aleteia) Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., noted political philosopher, dead at 91

He was a member of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace at the Vatican, 1977-82; and of the National Council on the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1984-90.

“The most remarkable feature of Fr. Schall as a thinker is the way he has internalized the Catholic intellectual tradition,” said V. Bradley Lewis, Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy and Fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. “He has often seemed to me to be that tradition incarnate. His erudition is enormous, and his powers of synthesis are extraordinary. He has always been one of the first persons you wanted to hear discuss any significant development because you knew he would be able to think about it in the context of his command of the tradition.”

That was true especially of political matters and issues of political theory, Lewis said. Fr. Schall was “one of the very few really deep explicitly Catholic political thinkers around because he has such a deep knowledge of the history of political philosophy itself, but also of the specifically Catholic political thinkers.”

“Even in retirement, books, columns, and articles have continued to come at a dizzying pace,” said Bradley Lewis.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Philosophy, Roman Catholic

(CT) Bible scholars, theologians, and philosophers used to work together. N.T. Wright believes they need to do so again.

Stop thinking like children.” Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is even more urgent for us today. Though they should be like little children when it came to evil, he insisted they should be grown-ups when it came to thinking. To that end, Paul constantly tried to teach people not only what to think but how to think. This remains vital. The various disciplines grouped together as “theology” or “divinity” are uniquely positioned to continue this project.

People today often comment about the decline of civil, reasoned conversation in all walks of life. Theology has an opportunity to model a genuinely interdisciplinary conversation of the sort we urgently need, not least because in its very nature it ought to bridge the gap between the academy and the larger world.

The great theologians of the past—such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin—all tried to bring the Bible, philosophy, and theology into a shared conversation. As each of these fields advances, they need one another all the more….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Parish Ministry, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology: Scripture

(Oxford Student) Petition Launched To Remove Law Professor John Finnis For what are Alleged to be “Discriminatory” Comments

A petition to remove Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy John Finnis from teaching has attracted three hundred and fifty signatures in five days. Finnis has been accused of having “a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people”, including the LGBTQ community. Finnis co-teaches a series of seminars for postgraduate students who choose to take the jurisprudence and political theory course in the BCL or M.Jur degree.

Remarks highlighted by the authors of the petition as particularly discriminatory include a comment from his Collected Essays in which he suggests that homosexual conduct is “never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life” and is “destructive of human character and relationships” because “it treats human sexual capacities in a way which is deeply hostile to the self-understanding of those members who are willing to commit themselves to real marriage”. This essay was published in 2011 but refers to arguments he made in a previous essay from 1994….

Professor Finnis told The Oxford Student that “The petition travesties my position, and my testimony in American constitutional litigation. Anyone who consults the Law Faculty website and follows the links in the petition can see the petition’s many errors. I stand by all these writings. There is not a ‘phobic’ sentence in them. The 1994 essay promotes a classical and strictly philosophical moral critique of all non-marital sex acts and has been republished many times, most recently by Oxford University Press in the third volume of my Collected Essays.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(City Journal) Gerald Russello–Our New Religion: Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects

Paradoxically, now that humanitarianism has fully cut itself loose from Christianity, its categories and language have inserted themselves back into Christian thought. This infiltration prevents Christians at times from noticing that they’re arguing not in Christian categories but humanitarian ones. Almost every national bishops’ conference in the West, for example, speaks the language of humanitarianism. Mahoney sees this as the problem with much of Pope Francis’s language as well— too often, the language of mercy is emptied of theological content, and condemnations of “rigidity” seem to echo a rights-based view of the person. This trend is problematic because humanitarian language is antithetical to the Christian message, and also because it elides the sharp criticism of humanitarian thinking offered by, among others, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Benedict clearly distinguished between authentic Christian teaching and the “humanitarian moral message” in his Introduction to Christianity and his Regensberg lecture, both of which Mahoney discusses. Mahoney calls for the return of an older way of reasoning about our moral selves, which involves a transcendent dimension through which we can know our obligations to ourselves and one another.

Mahoney acknowledges that many of his co-religionists already accept his message—but why should atheists care that humanitarianism seeks to replace Christianity, when they reject the significance of the West’s moral collapse? Mahoney explains, using the powerful witness of Solzhenitsyn, that without a divine warrant, humanitarianism points to tyranny and the negation of true politics. We may already be seeing what a post-Christian politics might look like. The humanitarian religion of the twenty-first century will not be the same one as that of the twentieth; rather than Soviet Man, it will elevate the “woke” protester or Twitter provocateur. Both the authoritarian and racialist Right and the identity-obsessed Left offer glimpses of a post-Christian politics, and neither is a model for a healthy democracy.

Indeed, as Christianity fades, we don’t see a decline in religious fervor or doctrinal vigilance. Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(The Mod) Sex, Art and God: Carl Trueman Talks With Camille Paglia

Why do you as an atheist think that the God of the Bible offers a more realistic approach to reality than post-structuralism? 

Camille Paglia:Post-structuralism is a cynical, reductive, and monotonously simplistic methodology that arose from the devastated landscape of twentieth-century Europe, torn by two colossal world wars.  It has nothing whatever to do with American culture, American imagination, or American achievement in literature, art, music, and film.  The trendy professors who imported post-structuralist jargon into U.S. academe were fools and frauds, and they deserve to be unmasked and condemned for their destruction of the humanities.

The worship of Michel Foucault (called “Saint Foucault” in the title of one sycophantish book) has been the worst kind of idolatry, elevating a derivative writer of limited historical knowledge to godlike status.  Foucault borrowed from a host of prior writers, from Emile Durkheim and Max Weber to the great Canadian-American sociologist, Erving Goffman (a major influence on my work).  For three decades, young professors have been forced to nervously pay homage to Foucault’s name, as if he were the Messiah.  Elite academe likes to insult religion and religious belief—except when it comes to the sacred names of post-structuralism, before whom all are expected to kneel.

I am an atheist who takes religion very seriously and who believes (as I argue in Provocations) that the study of world religions should become the core curriculum of global education.  I call comparative religion the true multiculturalism.  Who is better prepared for life and its inevitable shocks and losses:  the faddish Foucault acolyte or the devout Jew or Christian?  The Bible is a masterpiece of world literature, an archive of Hebrew poetry of the very highest level.  Its hero sagas have saturated Western literature and flowered in epic Hollywood movies still broadcast at every holiday.  The parables of Jesus (with their vivid metaphors drawn from everyday life) strike to the core of human experience.

As I have repeatedly insisted, Marxism, of which post-structuralism is a derivative, has no metaphysics.  It sees nothing bigger than society, which constitutes only a tiny portion of the universe.  Marxism does not perceive nature, nor can it grasp the profound and enduring themes of major literature, including time and fate.  Marxist social analysis is a useful modern tool that all scholars should certainly know (Arnold Hauser’s 1951 Marxist epic, The Social History of Art, had a huge impact on me in graduate school).  However, in its indifference to the spiritual, Marxism is hopelessly inadequate as a description of human life and its possibilities.  By externalizing and projecting evil into unjust social structures and prophesying a paradise-like utopia via apocalyptic revolution, Marxism evades the central issue that both religion and great art boldly confront:  evil is rooted in the human heart.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Philosophy, Theology

(Economist) Francis Fukuyama and Kwame Anthony Appiah take on identity politics

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. By Francis Fukuyama. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 240 pages; $26. To be published in Britain by Profile Books in October; £16.99.

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity. By Kwame Anthony Appiah. Liveright; 256 pages; $27.95. Profile Books; £14.99.

One of the most remarkable recent developments in Anglo-American politics is the reification of the white working class. Google Trends, a website that tracks how often particular words or phrases are typed into the search engine, shows a huge spike in interest in that group when Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016. Interest has never quite subsided since. What is more, the white working class has gone from being mostly ignored to being assumed to have a consistent set of views, even a political agenda.

Many of the books published after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Mr Trump’s election tried to explain why this group in particular had turned on the political establishment. For example, “Us vs Them” by Ian Bremmer and “WTF” by Robert Peston found the answer in the travails of former industrial towns and the arrogance and selfishness of elites. Now come two more reflective takes. “Identity” and “The Lies That Bind” suggest that Western countries not only have deep economic and social problems, but philosophical ones too. People are looking at themselves and others in the wrong ways.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

Vital Food for Thought from Alisdair MacIntyre on Saint Benedict’s Feast Day

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead–often not recognising fully what they were doing–was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another–doubtless very different–St. Benedict.”

–Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Terre Haute, Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 3rd. ed., 2007), p. 263 (my emphasis)

Update: Peter Leithardt’s comments on this are also worth pondering:

“The turning point, he says, occurred with a renunciation of the “task of shoring up the Roman imperium,” which required “men and women of good will” to begin to distinguish between sustaining moral community and maintaining the empire. Roman civilization was no longer seen as synonymous with civilization itself. Mutatis muntandis, this is the intellectual and practical transformation that has to take place before we can begin to construct “local forms of community” for the flourishing of civility and intellectual life. We need to acknowledge that our task isn’t to shore up America, or the West, or whatever. If we promote local communities of virtue as a tactic for shoring up the imperium, we haven’t really grasped MacIntyre’s point, or the depth of the crisis he described.

That renunciation is as emotionally difficult as the project of forming local communities is practically difficult.”

Posted in America/U.S.A., Canada, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Philosophy, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–Anthony Kennedy and the Privatization of Meaning

Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t invent the shift from community to autonomy, but in 1992 he articulated it more crisply than anyone else: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

In this sentence, which became famous as the “mystery of life” passage, there is no sense that individuals are embedded in a social order. There is no acknowledgment of the parts of ourselves that we don’t choose but inherit — family, race, social roles, historical legacies of oppression, our bodies, the habits that are handed down to us by our common culture.

There’s no we. We are all monads who walk around with our own individual opinions about existence, meaning and the universe. Each person is a self-created choosing individual, pursuing individual desires. There is no sense that we are part of a common flow connecting the past, present and future; instead, each of us creates our own worldview anew.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Philosophy, Supreme Court, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Fourth Great Awakening

The competitive virtues of Athens are usually narrated in myth while the compassionate virtues of Jerusalem often get narrated in parable.

Myth is a specific kind of story. Myths are generally set in a timeless Perilous Realm. The Perilous Realm usually has different rules than the normal world. Creatures have different superpowers, like the ability to fly or throw shafts of lightning. And those rules are taken very seriously. Within the Perilous Realm everything that happens in myth is “true,” in the sense that everything obeys the rules of that other world.

Myths respond to our hunger to do something heroic. Whether it is Zeus, Thor, Luke Skywalker or Wonder Woman, myths trace the archetypal chapters of the heroic quest or combat: refusing the call, the meeting of the mentor, the ordeal, seizing the sword and so on.

The core drama is external: fighting the forces of evil, enduring the harsh journey, developing the skills that make you the best.

Parable is a different kind of story. Parables are usually set in normal time and reality. Parables have ordinary human characters, never superheroes. The word parable comes from the Greek word meaning comparison. Parables are meant to be relatable and didactic.

Parables respond to our deep hunger to be in close relationship. Parables — think of the good Samaritan, the emperor’s new clothes, the prodigal son or the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz — are mostly about inner states, not external combat. Characters are presented with a moral dilemma or a moral occasion, and the key question is whether they express charity, faithfulness, forgiveness, commitment and love.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture

More Food for Thought from GK Chesterton–Everything will be denied until even the obvious will need to be defended

From there:

Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

–Gilbert K. Chesterton, Heretics (London and New York:John Lane[The Bodley Head], 1905), pp. 304-305, my emphasis

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Theology

(New Atlantis) Doug Sikkema–Taking a Careful look at the Modern disenchantment myth

That magic, religion, and superstition have all persisted up to the modern day does not quite demonstrate his claim that “we have never been disenchanted” — or, put another way, that “modernity signals a societal fissure” between religion and reason “that never occurred.” In his keenness to show that the idea of disenchantment is undermined by the persistence of both sides of the binary, he fails to examine a more interesting and arguably much more important line of inquiry: how this myth has altered the conditions in which both religion and science are now practiced. When we consider this, we see that despite the continued prevalence of enchanting beliefs and practices, we are indeed disenchanted in a more fundamental and pervasive way than Josephson-Storm recognizes.

Just recall his origin story for a moment and his blind spot becomes apparent. He deems pre-Revolutionary Europe to be merely a “historical moment” the Romantics were reacting against in their writings. In doing so “they were making grand themes out of the specifics of their local history.” But this reading fails to take seriously the broader cultural conditions in which such a political and philosophical climate even became possible. Might it have something to do with a broader notion of disenchantment, or “dis-God-ing” (to translate from Schiller’s “entgötterte Natur”), that transcended this particular place and time? If so, the German Romantics may have had real reason for concern, as may have the thinkers who built on their insights. Perhaps their understanding of history’s pattern as a linear alienation from God and nature was questionable, but the idea of a dis-godded condition becoming solidified in a theory of progress and in revolutionary politics, and of it manifesting in physical form in the new industrial world, was so terrifying to them precisely because they knew these things were greater than their particular historical moment.

The only way for the book’s argument to work, then, is to accept at face value the idea of disenchantment as the simple absence of religion and magic. But we are actually disenchanted in a much more profound way. Yes, religion and magic remain ubiquitous; but they are now performed against a backdrop in which disenchantment is regarded, in ways conscious and unconscious, as true. Disenchantment is the default position in the social imaginary, encoded in our language and in all manner of habits and practices that carry as if we inhabit a mechanistic world. It has become one of the myths we live by, even as we resist it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

(TGC) Joe Carter–The Incel Movement and the Repugnant Logic of the Sexual Revolution

[The US Supreme Court 1965] Griswold [decision] was based on a negative right to privacy. But since then it has broadened to include new positive rights—such as the requirement of businesses to pay for abortifacients in their health-insurance plans and to use artistic talents to serve the “weddings” of same-sex couples.

Some sexual-rights advocates, such as bioethicist Jacob Appel, are now claiming a right even more expansive than the right to privacy: that “sexual pleasure is a fundamental right.” Based on this view, they argue for the inclusion of numerous new negative sexual rights, such as that women and girls have a right to sell their bodies for money.

Yet if sexual pleasure is fundamental, what happens to those who are unable to acquire it because of a lack of money or mate? We don’t deny people food or water because they can’t afford it, so why would deny them the “fundamental right” of sex?

The logic of sexual rights will compel, as Hanson noted, that sex may need to be redistributed using the power of the state. Hanson may be the “creepiest economist in America,” but he’s also able to follow the presuppositions of the sexual-rights advocates to their logical conclusion.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Philosophy, Sexuality, Theology