Cross-post: the real battle lines in Renaissance philosophy

Historians of Renaissance and early modern philosophy often try to give a unity to their subjects by framing the creative elements of these periods as engaging in a revolt against “scholasticism”.  However, this only gives as much intelligibility to the Renaissance as is granted to its foil, and historians usually assign scholasticism any negative quality needed to keep the narrative going;  it can be mindlessly dogmatic or aridly intellectual or both at once, despising all nature or assigning fanciful hierarchies within it, servile or unfaithful to Aristotle, holding an opinion of man that is irrationally low (when the opponent is humanism) or high (when the opponent is science).  Ernst Cassirer in his 1963 book The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy tries to fit his material into this standard narrative, but he provides a great deal of interesting material, so that a more interesting story begins to emerge.

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The pride of the homosexuals

Pride is, of course, the distinguishing quality of the homosexual.  Indeed, the very word “pride” has become synonymous with homosexuality.  When I was young, “school pride” meant pride in one’s school.  Now “pride events” at any institution exist to celebrate its homosexuals.  It is a remarkable thing to take pride in one’s sexual appetites.  I find it difficult to imagine, even though I’ve never been as ashamed of some of my sexual appetites as I probably ought to be.  And yet pride is what gays say they feel toward their inclination and what friends and relatives say of one who “comes out”.  Nor is the self-exaltation of the homosexual a new thing, as one can see from homosexuality through the ages.  From ancient Greek and modern Afghan pederasts to the Bloomsbury Group, homosexuals have seen their relations as more sublime and spiritual than those of the breeding masses.  Given how openly heterosexuality is ordered to biological continuation, how could they not despise it as such with gnostic scorn?

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Forsaking the comforts of resignation

As commonly used, the word “hope” has two components:  to desire a thing, and to believe its attainment possible.  Emphasis is usually placed on the second condition–when a man is said to have “lost hope” we assume that he has lost belief, not that he has lost desire.  Thus it is said that the opposite of hope is despair.  I believe, however, that the first component is the more crucial one.  The opposite of hope is resignation.

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A menace not of heresy but of apostasy and its attraction

Bruce Charlton writes

I see this A Lot in discussions online, and sometimes in real life. Secular liberal apostasy (i.e. the stepwise process of losing faith and leaving Christianity) presents itself as heresy (i.e. an unorthodox type of Christianity).

Traditionalists fall into the trap because they are unwilling to judge the true motivations of the liberalisers. Instead they try to resist apostasy legalistically – by more tightly defining and enforcing theological doctrines and rules of church order. They do this because it seems more ‘objective’.

But the more tightly they define and enforce the ‘objective’ rules and practices of their denomination or church; the more they separate themselves from other Traditionalist Christians.

and

But the real problem is not heresy but apostasy – the Fake Christians may be orthodox in narrowly defined legalistic terms, they are usually prepared to stand up and make strict oaths and promises in which they do not believe and have zero intention of living-by; but they are Obviously Not Christian in terms of not being followers of Jesus and/ or not believing in the divinity of Jesus.

He’s absolutely right.  The point is central to the mission of the Orthosphere, and it connects to what I see as several weaknesses of traditionalist Christians.

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Scholastic investigations

At Throne and Altar, I have been writing about some of the tricky issues of scholastic philosophy.

  • Natural law:  Suppose there were vampires so constituted that they could only feed on human blood.  Would it be acceptable for them to prey on us?  To answer this question, I outline general principles of natural law reasoning.  (Natural law arguments often skip important steps)
  • Divine simplicity:  If God is identical with His attributes, how can he have contingent properties such as knowing about His creation?  I clarify the doctrine using the idea of state spaces.
  • Prime matter:  Do we really need it?  Could it be rather that everything is information?  Possibly, but this would have some surprising consequences.  I make this point while reviewing William Dembski’s Being as Communion.
  • Analogy of Being:  No original analysis by me, but I review Kris McDaniel’s The Fragmentation of Being, in which he makes a case for rehabilitating this doctrine for contemporary analytic philosophy.
  • Predestination:  I have a look at Garrigou-Lagrange’s explanation of why God doesn’t give efficacious grace to everyone.

The Puritan question: prophets vs. priests

There is a debate on Orthosphere blogs about the Puritan Hypothesis, the claim that today’s social justice Left (as well as all earlier iterations of Leftism) is just a secularized version of Puritanism.  JMSmith has given some support to this hypothesis, while Bruce Charlton has dissented.  On the one hand, that the Puritan Roundheads during the English Civil War were the precursors of later Leftism seems to me a plain historical fact.  And yet, one may still dispute the larger claim of an intrinsic spiritual affinity between the two.  I myself have agreed with Bruce that it is wrong to call Leftism an outgrowth of Christianity, even a heretical one.  There is simply nothing distinctively Christian about liberalism or Leftism.

The accusation that Protestants, and Puritans in particular, are precursors of later godless rebellions is an old Catholic polemic, long predating Moldbug.  “Puritans” in this context does not mean overly zealous Christians.  Naturally, no Catholic would grant low-church Protestants a monopoly on that!  Zeal vs. lukewarmness is one dichotomy of religious styles, one that transcends Christianity.  (Muslims, Buddhists, etc may also have or lack zeal.)  But there is another more relevant to us.

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