Saturday, October 10, 2009

Douglas Knight: Resources for Christian Theology
St. Benedict Center has the Fifth Book of Controversies over the Supreme Pontiff (which deals with the pope's temporal power) by St. Robert Bellarmine, along with his De Laicis. (thanks to lovethegirls)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Confucianism a vital string in China's bow
By Jian Junbo

But some ideas in Confucianism are helpful in maintaining social order and harmony, such as respect for elders and teachers and not harming others. The CCP certainly wants a revival of such values to help it maintain social stability. Many parents, too, would like their children to learn from Confucius' teachings.

However, local governments' respect for Confucius is centered on economic interests. By holding memorial ceremonies, tourists are attracted to a region and local products are promoted. For local officials, there is less culture on their minds than local gross domestic product growth - a sure ticket to promotion. Some intellectuals also make fortunes by "popularizing" Confucian ideas with paid lectures and by publishing books.

All this is embodied in a popular propaganda slogan, "Culture provides the stage for the economy to perform". That is, culture is just a means of fueling economic growth.

In short, in the early 21st century, Confucianism is an assistant to the Chinese god of wealth (and a representative of Chinese diplomacy) but not a tutor for Chinese souls.

Thus, if Confucianism cannot be officially endorsed as a core of Chinese traditional culture but only pragmatically regarded as a pawn to help the economy, it can hardly be promoted worldwide as a pillar of Chinese soft power.

Culture is one of the basic resources of soft power, according to Joseph Nye, who was the first to introduce this concept in 1990 to analyze international affairs. According to this United States politician-scholar, soft power is the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction, as opposed to hard power, which is the use of coercion and payment. By this definition, culture is not soft power itself, but a very important potential resource of it.

Besides the government's reluctance, there are internal problems that make it hard to modernize Confucianism. Confucianism emerged 2,500 years ago and was enriched throughout the country's dynastic history to become an ideology in justifying and safeguarding the hierarchical structure of political and social systems.

As such, many of its ideas are outdated, such as being loyal to authority, non-violation of the hierarchical order of families and society and anti-individualism. These values are in conflict with modernity and cannot be converted into acceptable concepts to people today.

Modernity? Liberalism? How is loyalty to authority being defined? Obedience? What is being advocated? Anarchy? Or absolute disobedience? Or critical obedience? Confucianism is rather loosely defined here, and while there may be a contrast between Confucianism and liberalism, it is not clear what the author means by "modernity" either, except modern Western liberalism and rational autonomy.

The article links to this website: Confucius Institute Online. It doesn't strike me as a particularly Confucian website, with the prominent place taken by articles and news about mass culture.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Holy See on Priorities of UN

"Create an Organization Guided by Duty, Morality and Solidarity"

NEW YORK, OCT. 7, 2009 ( Here is the statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Tuesday on the work of the United Nations at the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

* * *

Mr President,

My delegation wishes to thank the Secretary-General for his report on the work of the organization and its clear call for the membership to restore hope and solidarity so that the 64th Session of the General Assembly becomes a point of renewal for this organization.

This past year the global community became more aware of the fragility of prosperity and growth. The world was hit by an economic crisis which has led to unprecedented numbers of people losing their jobs, security and the ability to provide even the basic necessities for their families. This crisis raised a number of questions about the causes and consequences of the economic downturn and created even more questions as to what the future will hold. Therefore, as we begin this 64th Session of the General Assembly one year after the deepening of the financial crisis, we do so with a new sense of purpose to learn from the mistakes and renew our commitment to the need for cooperation.

One area for a renewed sense of commitment to addressing the world’s problems is working to lift the burdens placed upon so many in this world due to the lack of economic resources. On numerous occasions, my delegation pointed to the need for greater global solidarity in order to tackle the moral implications which currently face the world and to give a renewed priority to the poor. We welcome the Secretary General’s recognition of the moral grounds which underlie the need to give priority to the most vulnerable in this endeavor.

In such an effort, my delegation reiterates the urgency for the United Nations and developed countries to come together to give assistance to the many countries unable to respond to the financial crisis and who continue to face security and development challenges. [Who is going to prevent the haves from continuing to exploit the have-nots, if the haves are the ones in control of the Security Council, and by extension, the U.N.?] In some countries which lag behind the rest of the world, the precarious and drifting economic situation was not created but rather was accentuated by the current financial crisis. Development aid will be effective only to the extent local governments and civil society confront the situation with an impetus of responsibility to address the chronic political, administrative and social malfunctioning.

My delegation welcomes the Secretary General’s efforts to call for an increased commitment to peacebuilding and peacekeeping, for these are the vital cornerstones upon which the United Nations was created. All this will be achieved only in the context of a renewed commitment to responsible sovereignty both at the national and international levels.

Mr. President, the upcoming Copenhagen Conference on climate change will test the ability of the international community to work together to attend to a problem which has both global causes and consequences. At the heart of the climate change debate is the moral and ethical need for individuals, companies and States to recognize their responsibility to use the world’s resources in a sustainable manner. With this responsibility comes the duty of all States and international corporations that have somehow disproportionately used and abused global resources to shoulder their fair share in solving the problem.

With the agreement to work towards a legally binding instrument on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, the Convention on Cluster munitions and the recent consensus by major nuclear powers to reduce nuclear stockpiles, there has been an increasing commitment by some States to address this fundamental issue. However, the ongoing proliferation of nuclear arms and the desire by some States to continue to spend disproportionate amounts of money on weapons suggest that further efforts are needed if we are to make serious progress in controlling and unilaterally disarming these instruments of destruction.

Our efforts to renew the work of the United Nations will remain unfulfilled unless the international organizations and individual States are able to incorporate the voices of civil society into all aspects of the work of the Organization. Civil society partners are critical players in delivering humanitarian relief, promoting the rule of law and bringing to light gross violations of human rights. In this regard, faith-based organizations play a vital role in providing insight into the local needs of the community, delivering care and fostering solidarity both locally and internationally for the needs of people around the world. My delegation welcomes the Secretary-General’s recognition of the critical role of civil society actors and we hope to work with delegations to further include civil society organizations in providing life saving care to those in need.

Mr. President, widespread corruption, health pandemics, persistent maternal mortality in some regions of the world, economic crisis, terrorism, food security, climate change and migration, all illustrate that in an increasingly globalized world, national solutions are only one part of the formula for contributing towards peace and justice. These global problems call for an international response and it is, therefore, imperative that the United Nations and other international organizations look inward and outward in order to make the necessary reforms to respond to the challenges of this interconnected world. In commending the Secretary General’s leadership, my delegation looks forward to working with you and the membership in the next year to help create an Organization guided by duty, morality and solidarity with those in need.

Thank you Mr. President.
James Chastek: Aristotle and Darwin on Species: A Note

Plus he comment over at Edward Feser's blog.

Mayer's phrasing is ambiguous, and the ambiguity is fatal, since it overlooks the whole point of Aristotle's account of a species and the whole problem of species in the Greeks. Consider when he attributes to Aristotle the idea that "each species possessed and unchanging nature or form"

1.) If he is assuming that "nature" and "form" are the same thing, he is fatally wrong. Nature is matter and form. One can only speak of "nature or form" interchangeably if he is speaking about an angel, or God, which means he is no longer speaking of natural things. Form is unchangeable, to be sure, but a nature is not identified with its form, and therefore not identified with its unchangeable aspect. On the most probable reading of this quotation, Mayer is destroying Aristotle's idea of nature.

2.) Nothing defined with matter can be "rigidly distinct" from anything else defined with matter, for several reasons:

a.) Matter is unintelligible to us in itself, and gives a margin of unintelligibly and fuzziness to any natural thing. Again, this is not particularly controversial stuff in Aristotelian interpretation, just as point on is not.

b.) Aristotle's account of the unchageability of form is inseparable from his understanding of the intelligibility of things. In the measure that we admit species are intelligible, we admit they have an unchageable form as Aristotle understood it. Again, since natural things are not just forms, they are not just intelligible, which Mayer seems to get, but he bungles the idea. Does Darwin doubt that species can be studied? If not, he admits some notion of form is Aristotle's sense to creep in.

c.) Mayer misses everything essential about the ancient debate about forms, change, motion, intelligibility, etc, all of which are all tied together. as far as I can tell, no one in the ancient or Medieval world held the opinion that Meyer attributes to Aristotle, except as a doctrine about the angels.

Throw the book away and read Books 1+ 2 of Aristotle's Physics.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

On Restoring the Primacy of Politics to Ethics
David Schaefer

As James Stoner of Louisiana State University has demonstrated, the considerable powers originally assigned to the American judiciary by the Founders presuppose the broad principles of liberal political philosophy set forth by Locke and Montesquieu and the common-law tradition inherited from England. Only on the basis of common-law assumptions about the role of the judiciary in articulating the community’s standard of justice, he argues, does Hamilton’s case for judicial review in Federalist No. 78 (refuting the Anti-Federalist Brutus’s case that it would amount to judicial supremacy) hold water.16 What particularly distinguishes the common-law method of reasoning is its empirical character: reasoning gradually from particular cases to broader principles, rather than the other way around. Not only does this approach respect the people’s right to self-government, which the conception of judicial review espoused by Parker and more prominent theorists of an activist judiciary does not; it recognizes the need to leave room for the exercise of prudence by the more overtly political branches of government (a need acknowledged by Chief Justice Marshall in his holding in Marbury v. Madisonthat “political questions” lie beyond the judiciary’s proper authority to resolve).

Neither common-law judges nor the great liberal political philosophers thought that the political realm could be subsumed under particular theoretical doctrines about morality. Hence, Locke’s teaching, reflected in the Declaration of Independence, lays out only a certain broad statement of the purpose of legitimate government— to secure men’s rights to life, liberty, and property—and an account of the sort of political institutions necessary to achieve that purpose (a separation of powers between legislature and executive, combined with regular elections of at least the former).

To think that considerations of political prudence—determining the particular policies most appropriate to securing the legitimate ends of Constitutional government— can or should be subordinated to “theories” of morality is one of the great academic and jurisprudential delusions of our time. It enables individuals whose schooling is limited to analyses of “moral” argumentation to claim a comprehensive authority that flies in the face of the original, consciously political, tradition. And it encourages judges not only to rewrite our Constitution but to announce, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy in Planned Parenthood v. Casey,that the American people’s very right to call themselves a self-governing people requires them to defer to the Supreme Court’s authority to “speak before all others for their constitutional ideals.” Criticism of judicial activism on behalf of a supposedly “living” constitution is necessary but not sufficient to remedy these tendencies. We must also challenge the authority of the “moral theorists” in philosophy departments and law faculties who equip our judges with their sense of supreme righteousness.

David Schaefer
First Principles Journal: The Timeliness and Timelessness of Magna Carta
James R. Stoner, Jr.
Google Books: In Sanctified Vision: An introduction to early Christian interpretation of the Bible by John J. O'Keefe and R. R. Reno