Every contingency is brought into being from a state of affairs in which it does not actually exist; from a condition of things in which it is nowhere to be found. And as this is true of each contingency, so therefore is it true of all contingencies, and of the whole lot of them taken together. Contingent being as such comes into being from a prior state of its own non-being.
In a state of affairs in which there are no contingent beings, there is nothing but necessary being. If contingent beings are to be brought into existence from this state of affairs, there are only two possibilities: either they are made from God, and he furnishes from his own actuality the matter of their becoming; or he creates them from nothing. If the former, then, as departments of God, contingencies are in fact necessities. They aren’t contingent in the first place. This is monism. It radically contradicts experience as such, which it has no alternative but to declare our lives illusory and radically unintelligible. So it can’t be true: we can’t really even think it might be true.
Creatio ex nihilo must therefore be true. Having come into existence from nothing turns out to be an inherent aspect of contingent being.
When my kids were taking high school biology, their (brilliant) teacher’s jocular mantra was, “Nature never sucks.” It meant, first, that Nature is wonderful, beautiful, and so forth – worthy of admiration, study, awe. Second, it was a nod and a prod in the direction of Ockham’s Razor, urging his pupils to adduce no more factors of natural phenomena than are absolutely necessary. But third, and more salient to his honest reductive Ockhamist pedagogical purposes, and most of all, it meant that Nature is not teleological: it neither seeks nor is pulled toward goal states, but rather pushes itself toward certain equilibria, not intentionally, but on the contrary chaotically. The idea is that these equilibria are not themselves somehow attractive, but rather are simply the most stable way that things can be arranged, so that when things happen to blunder into those stable configurations completely by accident, they then tend to stay there until something disturbs them. Things are never falling into place, but are rather only, always, merely falling.
The notion is not new. It goes back to the first Greek atomists, Lucretius and Democritus.
It is Dawkins’ notion that what perdures is only what has not yet failed to perdure: “there are lots more ways to fall apart than to hang together.” It’s true, but as tautological is uninformative.
Despite their many differences, Traditional Christians of diverse sects seem doomed to each other as shield mates for the foreseeable future, willy nilly. But someday their common dire enemies – modernism and Mohammedanism – will have been vanquished, if only in virtue of their enmity to Truth and disagreement with reality. The spectrum of doctrines found on the orthogonal Right will then constitute the full diapason of political discourse. Assuming they have not by then been forced by exigencies of war into a single catholic confession of brothers in arms – a not unlikely eventuality, in my opinion – will the Christian sects be able to live thenceforth together in peace?
Cults are incompatible when their doctrines contradict and entail taboos that conflict irreconcilably, in such a way that they cannot be practically and honestly and harmoniously honored by and in a man, or therefore in any society of men. E.g., one can’t live and render each his due unto Caesar and YHWH if Caesar insists that what belongs properly to YHWH should be given instead to him. No man can serve two masters, nor can any people.
When incompatible cults continuously interact, war between them is inevitable. The choice for Christians before the Edict of Milan was between apostasy and persecution. Rome was at war with Christianity.
Likewise today, it is more and more difficult to live as a Christian in the West. More and more, our choice is between apostasy and persecution: either we agree to live by the taboos of liberalism, implicitly rejecting those of Christianity, or we shall be persecuted. Islam and Christianity are likewise incompatible, as are Islam and liberalism. All of these cults but one will eventually be deleted.
My first post on disutilitarianism began with the realization that simply rubbing together the different utility functions of individuals is by itself completely impotent to reconcile them. You can’t build a society out of disagreeable men unless they have some prior common basis for reaching a mutual agreement about how to proceed, despite their differences, in a coordinate way. And their different preference schedules cannot themselves furnish any such basis.
I want this, you want that: unless we have some idea that an agreement between us would be better than disagreement, we have no way even to get started talking together, and all we may then do is war.
Take a group of people and plop them down together in any given set of material circumstances. Given the resources and stressors present in those circumstances – not, i.e., introduced by the people themselves – each of them will develop a different schedule of preferences about what should happen next, so as to maximize each his own net hedonic utility. Only when the constraints of the circumstances on what is practically possible are extremely tight – only, that is, when there are only very few options that are tolerable for any of them (as when, e.g., the flood waters are approaching) – will the utility functions of the whole group approximate to unanimity.
Only rarely, then, will all the members of a group completely agree about what should best be done. Almost always, they shall find that they must negotiate with each other in order to reach a joint decision about the fitting uses of the resources at hand. The greater the number of options furnished by their material circumstances, the more likely are they to disagree with each other incompatibly.
When this happens, the question between them is which of them will have to suffer some disappointments or other in order for the group as a whole to achieve an acceptable mix of disappointment and satisfaction – of, that is to say, costs and benefits. It is here that market and gift exchanges begin – and with them negotiations, crimes, laws, politics, and so forth – the whole panoply of common life. Because resolution cannot happen except in virtue of some degree of disappointment, it cannot but produce resentment, which of course threatens always to end in violence.
The problem of society as such, then, is to find ways of increasing the likely degree of compatibility among utility functions, so as to salve resentment, reduce intramural violence and improve coordination.
How does homosexuality – so obviously lethal to reproductive success – keep propagating? It’s really quite simple.
When I read Moira Greyland’s horrifying account of her repeated sexual molestation as a child at the hands of her homosexual parents, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen, everything suddenly clicked into place. It’s not so much that there’s a gay gene (although there might be); or a gay virus (ditto); or a preconscious nisus among gays to spread their perversion through predation upon the young, “waking up the natural homosexual feelings that all people have,” so that they themselves can feel that they are somewhat more normal and unobjectionable (seems not unlikely); or that homosexuality is a search for the approval of an absent or distant or mad parent (a reasonable theory, prima facie). All these factors might be at work. But they are not needed to secure the propagation of homosexual behavior down through the generations.
There is a pathology responsible for many seemingly unrelated problems besetting higher education: liberalism. Once we understand the liberal mindset, we can identify the cause of the problems and what can be done about it.
One problem involves standards. Less and less is expected of students. So many different things contribute to this that it may be regarded as ‘over-determined;’ i.e., any one of these things might be enough to have the same result. The liberal mind, however, doesn’t even have the necessary tools to address the problem. For many liberals the idea of a canon itof great works is anathema. It is seen as elitist. The canon typically gets replaced with books regarded as politically, not literarily, worthy – designed to highlight issues of gender, class and race. Thus, students are not primarily being asked to understand difficult, challenging books that provide a source of cultural literacy, but mostly to parrot back the liberal political views of their teachers.
The orthosphere – or as Bruce Charlton first proposed we call it, the kalbosphere – continues its penetration of the Christian Right. The lead article in the most recent edition of First Things is by Orthospherean Jim Kalb, his second appearance in that journal this year.
Technocracy Now is another of Jim’s incisive analyses of liberalism. An excerpt: