Saturday, April 09, 2011

James Chastek, From truth to ideology:

We can see this dialectic between truth and ideology quite clearly in the progression of thought after Parmenides. It’s almost impossible for us to exaggerate the exhilaration of hearing Parmenides in his own day. Think of how excited we get when we do nothing but make a machine runs faster than the one that came before it, then think of what a thrill it would have been to discover for the first time all of the following: being as the subject of discourse, the force of logical argumentation, the principle of contradiction, the identity of being and thought, the unity of being and truth and the one, etc. Inseparable from this, however, is the conclusion that motion and change must be considered mere opinions – that is, they are not features that the world has of itself. To put this in modern terms, motion and change are merely “subjective”. The disciple of Parmenides is thus torn between wanting to hold the premises and deny their conclusion. This situation can last for centuries and reach no adequate resolution despite the best efforts of many very brilliant persons.

Enter Aristotle. With a single distinction that everyone knew but no one ever managed to notice, get a hold of, or name (the division between the per se and the per accidens) he manages to resolve the whole Parmenidean problem in a single stroke, and in such a way that preserves and even illuminates more fully logical argumentation, being as a subject of discourse, the various ways in which being and thought are one and many, etc. The solution is so simple and elegant we wonder how no one could have noticed it before. Once someone points it out and we get a clear view of the solution, we feel like fools for not having noticed it before. Over time, it becomes harder and harder for us to see why Parmenides could have even thought what he did.

Ideology and dogmatism have already begun to creep in. We flatter ourselves with the thought that Parmenides was simply a stage of thought that we have moved beyond. And isn’t this true? The difficulty is that Aristotle’s distinction is essentially a solution to a Parmenidean problem, and so in the measure that we no longer see Parmenides as a problem, Aristotelianism becomes the answer to a question that no one is asking. At this moment, the basis of the system is in some measure irrelevant and even arbitrary. Our great truth and great synthesis becomes words that we ask the students to memorize. “The truth” quickly becomes a principle of ignorance and arbitrary will.

A delayed addendum

To this post on abortion -- if those who believe that abortion should be legal make use of the claims that I have laid forth (namely that it can not be demonstrated by reason alone that ensoulment happens at conception), they cannot claim that abortion is therefore permissible because the life that is being ended is not that of a human being. They cannot, on the basis of the "no harm principle," justify abortion because it cannot be demonstrated either that ensoulment has not taken place. From my argument it is the case that one can only be a committed agnostic, and if one cannot know for sure whether the life of a human being is at stake or not, one cannot end that life since one is potentially committing murder (e.g. the hunter in the woods who does not take due precaution that his target is actually a deer and not another hunter).

Besides, even if it could be shown that the conceptum is not human, this would not completely take away from the gravity of the sin of abortion. Abortion would still be a mortal sin, for the reasons given by theologians who accepted that ensoulment took place much later after conception.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer

High Up, Let Down by Pope Benedict
They are some of the leading traditionalist thinkers. They had wagered on him, and now they feel betrayed. The latest disappointments: the Courtyard of the gentiles and the encounter in Assisi. The accusation that they make against Ratzinger is the same that they make against the Council: having replaced condemnation with dialogue

by Sandro Magister
Death amidst Life: Lenten Gregorian Chant

Death amidst Life: Lenten Gregorian Chant from Province of Saint Joseph on Vimeo.

David Hart on the proper Christian attitude towards capital punishment

The Power of the Sword by David Bentley Hart

Edward Feser, Catholicism, conservatism, and capital punishment

Thursday, April 07, 2011

You claim that definitions can only be relative and subjective

But how could this be the case unless you knew you were talking about the same thing?

Sunday, April 03, 2011