I was pleased to find Orthosphere friend Bruce Charlton among the commenters at the Z Blog, and to see that he had donned the armor of God and was laying about with some deft strokes of the sword of the spirit.
The question of the moment was the nature of conservatism and the superabundance of spurious answers to the same. In the United States, for instance, and as we all know, a “conservative” is actually a liberal, a “liberal” is actually a socialist, and anyone who cannot be so classified is a deplorable. Continue reading →
“I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young student, are wide gates to Hell,” Martin Luther (1).
I can recall two or three occasions when a university committee on which I was sitting felt a need to align itself with the “Core Values” of the institution, and how on each of these occasions committee members were reduced to consulting their smart phones. You know how St. Paul praised the Greeks for being so very religious as to worship an “unknown god” (Acts 17: 23). This university is so very ethical as to uphold unknown values. Continue reading →
A benefit of publication can be informed criticism which in this case has entailed a revision. I had confused Gödelian propositions with axioms. The revision makes extensive use of Roger Penrose – a major mathematical physicist and philosopher, and to a lesser extent, Stanley Jaki, also a physicist and philosopher – so there is a certain amount of a legitimate appeal to authority. If it is a subject that seems particularly interesting, perhaps you wanted to know why Gödel’s Theorem is regarded as such a landmark, I hope the reader might read this version too. My apologies for leading anyone astray. I can only hope that this revision is evidence of intellectual integrity and not just boneheadedness on my part.
I have just been reading an account of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, a celebrated food critic who had, I must admit, never before penetrated the fastness of my consciousness. It appears that Bourdain made a name for himself by going to exotic places and pestering the locals with questions about their food. In announcing his death, his corporate employer said,
“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller.”
Bourdain was 61, a year older than I, and so part of my generation. Indeed, he was to all outward appearance one of its blessed elect, for he embodied many of the virtues my generation esteems as cardinal. I see that Smithsonian once called him “the original rock star” of the culinary world, and believe they intended a compliment. Continue reading →
Most cultural commentary comes down to worrying about “where we are as a society.” Let there be some ghastly shooting rampage, some hideous imposture of art, or some political skullduggery more rancid than usual, and our salaried scribes are sure to tell us what it means about “where we are as a society.”
A concerned reader has written to say that my last post left him with the worrying impression that I might be a boomer cuck who is incapable of repaying the conjugal debt, and, what is worse, a pompous peddler of “frog quotes.” As Émile Zola might have written,
Needless to say, this sort of searching critique forces a man to undertake an unsparing examination of his conscience, his birth certificate, his voting record, and his children, all the while keeping an open mind to the possibility that he is guilty as charged. Continue reading →
“Let a fellow sing o’ the little things he cares about, If a fellow fights for the little things he cares about With the weight of a single blow!”
Rudyard Kipling, “The Native Born” (1894)
Last night an old friend expressed a wish that is, I daresay, familiar to many who have staggered into the oasis of the Orthosphere, parched by the desert and panting for refreshment. He said that he wished there was someone on his side. My friend is, like me, a white, Christian, cishet male, without fortune, connections, or compromising tapes of powerful individuals. In other words, he is a man marked by the stigma of that dwindling class of Americans who are not, today, a protected species. Anyone is at perfect liberty to mock him and “the little things he cares about,” and if their mockery is sufficiently witty, they may well find themselves employed by the New York Times. Continue reading →
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.
These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.
The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded. Continue reading →
Bruce Charlton comments on the “brittleness” of the Catholic Church.
I feel that with the RCC it is all or nothing – to be viable it needs to be authoritarian, heavy-handed, and anti-individual; and any attempt to reform the undesirable aspects will just smash it.
I agree, although I used the word “fragility” instead.
I do think we should be careful in deciding what is and is not “desirable”. Vulnerability is per se bad, of course. Then again, falsifiability is a virtue in a belief system; we don’t want our theories to be “flexible”. That the Catholic Church can hypothetically lose or sabotage its credibility is a testament to its current clarity.
A Catholic apologist could say that Christ wants the Church to have one particular teaching and to operate in one particular way and that He arranged things so that the Church will fall apart if either is modified. An institution with more social capital, more sociological attractiveness, could presumably turn that capital to other purposes and still function. I’ve said before that it is a credit to Christianity that it dies so quickly when it is liberalized. That the universities have–at least on the surface–prospered so well under political correctness says something uncomplimentary about academia’s real driving force, or that of we its denizens.
Lastly, we could entertain the possibility that the truth is not what we humans would prefer it to be, that popular belief systems have been “optimized” to human wishes to such a point that the truth, whose attractiveness is constrained in ways falsehoods’ are not, is quite unpalatable to modern men given the alternatives, and can only be imposed as dogma during our impressionable years. Not that an authoritarian religion is particularly likely to be true, but rather that only an authoritarian religion might be true. After all, Catholicism is predestination without assurance of salvation, moral rigor without the compensating pleasures of self-righteousness, being “deep in history” but always on the losing side, and who wants that?
Kurt Gödel was a Platonist, logician and mathematician who developed the intention of making a profound and lasting impact on philosophical mathematics. His next task was to think of something! Amazingly, at the age of twenty five, he achieved his goal, publishing his incompleteness theorem.
Kurt Gödel and Einstein
A good friend of Albert Einstein’s, Einstein once said that late in life when his own work was not amounting to much, the only reason he bothered going to his office at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton was for the pleasure of walking home with Gödel.
John von Neumann wrote: “Kurt Gödel’s achievement in modern logic is singular and monumental – indeed it is more than a monument, it is a landmark which will remain visible far in space and time. … The subject of logic has certainly completely changed its nature and possibilities with Gödel’s achievement.”
While at university, Gödel attended a seminar run by David Hilbert who posed the problem of completeness: Are the axioms of a formal system sufficient to derive every statement that is true in all models of the system? Continue reading →