freedom to speak literally

For a while, when I saw another article claiming that such-and-such famous artist, writer, or scientist was actually a horrible reactionary, I would post a link at Throne and Altar with almost no commentary, and a title like “one more for the deplorables”.  The ongoing joke was, of course, that eventually it would occur to these censorious Leftists that they were raising the status of their enemies.  At the New York Times, Professor Agnes Callard points out that Aristotle is really very deeply inegalitarian.  Another for my series?  Thankfully, it turns out not.  Professor Callard makes some very good points about the current climate, in which (as we have had occasion to point out) speech acts are more often intended as demonstrations of virtue than expressions of truth.

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Once We Had Faces

“Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces.”

C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (1956)

William Wildblood has an interesting post about the sanitary masks, which are now mandatory for English shoppers. They are also mandatory here, with compliance close to universal. Wildblood is rankled by the English mandate and has interesting things to say about the spiritual cost of truckling to authority, effacing personal identity, and melting into the anonymous herd of false faces.  But I have learned to love my mask and believe we will never give them up or put them away. Continue reading

Do not surrender your body carelessly.

They found Lucretia sitting in her chamber, melancholy and dejected: on the arrival of her friends, she burst into tears, and on her husband’s asking, “Is all well?” “Far from it,” said she, “for how can it be well with a woman who has lost her chastity? Collatinus, the impression of another man is in your bed; yet my person only has been violated, my mind is guiltless, as my death will testify. But give me your right hands and pledge your honour, that the adulterer shall not escape unpunished. He is Sextus Tarquinius, who, under the appearance of a guest, disguising an enemy, obtained here, last night, by armed violence, a triumph deadly to me, and to himself also, if ye be men.” They all pledged their honour, one after another, and endeavoured to comfort her distracted mind, acquitting her of blame, as under the compulsion of force, and charging it on the violent perpetrator of the crime, told her, that “the mind alone was capable of sinning, not the body, and that where there was no such intention, there could be no guilt.” “It is your concern,” said she, “to consider what is due to him; as to me, though I acquit myself of the guilt, I cannot dispense with the penalty, nor shall any woman ever plead the example of Lucretia, for surviving her chastity.” Thus saying, she plunged into her heart a knife, which she had concealed under her garment, and falling forward on the wound, dropped lifeless. The husband and father shrieked aloud.

What Lucretia knew is that there is no self hovering aloof from the body; we are our bodies, and to violate the body is to violate the person, mental guilt or not.  Such is the unique horror of rape. Continue reading

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good

The line from Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” is quite a challenge to faith. How easy it is to believe will depend on circumstance; a victim of the Holocaust, someone dying from cancer, a brilliant man being made to teach nothing but English composition. It is tempting to quibble that it is not God saying it was very good – just the Biblical writer – but probably the proper response is “if You say so!”

1Eric Voegelin writes that the role of philosophy is to save us from evil; to develop pairs of concepts that cast light on good and evil and that “philosophy springs from the love of being; it is man’s loving endeavor to perceive the order of being and to attune himself to it.”[1] Voegelin adopts the classical Greek cosmocentric fixation on being. A Logos permeates existence and we should align ourselves with that Logos. If, however, God is not a being, but beyond being, then to concentrate on being is to ignore God and transcendence, the very thing Voegelin opposes and attributes to modern Gnosticism. To simply love “being” seems to include loving all the horrors inherent in being. Continue reading

Quantum Mechanics Again

Philosophy is concerned with the most important questions and the most important questions are debatable. Science restricts itself to questions that can be settled through experiment and empirical evidence, while ideally regarding scientific results as tentative and open to revision upon new evidence

q2

Some theists imagine that quantum mechanics can lend support to spiritual realities. They point to the Copenhagen interpretation, which incidentally has no fixed meaning. But one meaning is an agreement to shut up and calculate. The equations of quantum mechanics work therefore there is no necessity to figure out what the implications for physical reality are concerning these equations. Continue reading

Book review: The Idea of a University

The Idea of a University in Nine Discourses
by John Henry Newman (1858)
available online

At a time when the proper mission of a university has been obscured by commercial and ideological interests, we can with profit consult the classic lectures on this topic delivered by Cardinal Newman to commemorate the establishment of a Catholic university in Dublin.

It is unfortunate, as Newman points out, that English lacks a convenient word for what he means as the distinctive excellence of the intellect, the equivalent of what “health” is for the body, because this is what a university education is meant to cultivate.  Intellectual cultivation might aid professional success and moral refinement, but it is a separate good worthy of pursuit in itself.  Newman refers most often to two particular facets of the properly formed mind.  First there is what one might call a philosophical enlargement, an appreciation for the validity and proper limits of each discipline.  Second, there is what he sometimes calls discipline of the mind, the habit of precision and systemization.

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Manly and Maudlin Love

Commenters have from time to time chided me for what they perceive as a want of love in my posts, and by inference in my heart. I will confess that there are certain spectacles and sentiments, widely said to be heartwarming, that cause my breast to burn with a sensation that more closely resembles acid reflux after eating a large and spicy garlic pizza, but the people I live with do not regard me as a particularly mean old man. I am perfectly capable of complimenting a young mother on her ugly baby, of patting the head of a smelly and disobedient dog, of smacking my lips over a plate of unsavory slop, and of scrawling a spurious A on a paper that makes no sense at all. Continue reading