Original sin as good news

From Juan Donoso Cortes’ Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism:

Reason, which revolts against the transmission of sin or of penalty, yet receives what is transmitted to us without repugnance, notwithstanding the sorrow which accompanies it, if in place of being designated as sin and penalty it is called inevitable misfortune.  It is not, however, difficult clearly to prove that this misfortune could not be changed into happiness, except with the condition of its being a penalty, from which we necessarily conclude that the rationalistic solution in its definitive results is less acceptable than the Catholic solution.

If our actual depravity is only a physical and necessary effect of the primitive corruption, and the effect must last so long as the cause remains, it is evident that since there is no means whatever of removing the cause, neither can there be any by which the effect may be prevented.

…For it is worthy of remark, and in opposition to what at first sight would appear, that it is not justice but mercy which is especially conspicuous in that solemn condemnation which immediately followed the commission of sin.  If God had refrained from intervening with this condemnation when this tremendous catastrophe occurred, if when He saw man separated from Him He had withdrawn Himself from man, and entering into the tranquility of His repose had no longer vouchsafed to think of man, or, to express all in one word, if God in place of condemning man had abandoned him to the inevitable consequences of his voluntary disunion and separation, then the fall of man would have been hopeless, and his perdition certain.  But in order that this disaster might be repaired, it became necessary for God to draw near to man in another way, uniting Himself to him anew, though imperfectly, by the ties of mercy.  Punishment was the new bond of union between the Creator and the creature, and in it mercy and justice were mysteriously joined, mercy being the connecting link, and justice vindicated in the penalty assigned.

If we cease to view suffering and sorrow in the light of a penalty, we not only deprive them of their power to reunite the Creator and the creature, but we also destroy their expiatory and purifying effect on man.  If grief is not a penalty, it is an unmitigated evil; if it is a penalty, it still remains an evil through its origin, sin; but it is also a great good, on account of its freeing from the defilement of sin.  The universality of sin renders necessary the universality of purification, in order that all mankind may be cleansed in its mysterious waters.

…Regard the Earth throughout its length and breadth, consider all that surrounds you, annihilate space and time, and you will find among the abodes of men only what you here behold–a grief without intermission, and a lamentation which never ceases.  But this grief freely accepted is the measure of all greatness; for there can be no greatness without sacrifice, and sacrifice is only grief voluntarily accepted.  The world calls those persons heroic who, transpierced with a sword of grief, freely accept their suffering.  The Church calls holy those who accept every grief, both the the spirit and of the flesh…

Mankind has unanimously recognized a sanctifying virtue in grief.  This is why, though the ages, in every zone, man has rendered homage and worship to great misfortune.  Oedipus is greater in the day of his calamity than in the days of his glory…

What is science?

The following are reflections based on my years teaching introductory astronomy for non-science majors.  Few of my students take the class out of personal interest.  It fulfills a natural sciences general education requirement and sounds less scary than geology or chemistry.  Thus, the ultimate purpose of the class is to expose students to the scientific enterprise, so I put a lot of thought into the impression of science I’m giving them.  When I speak of “science” below, I will be using the word in its modern rather than its classical sense, according to which biology and sociology are sciences while philosophy and history are not.

Survey course textbooks in the branches of science usually include some discussion of the general nature of science.  Anxious to emphasize science’s quality as a process rather than a fixed body of knowledge, they often hold up the “scientific method” as the essence of science.  This, however, has disadvantages.  For one, actual science rarely follows the model given in these books.  More importantly, the scientific method is itself given no real justification, and the limits of its usefulness are left unclear.  What makes this problem pressing is that students may believe, and textbooks may even state, that the scientific method involves assumptions about the world and excludes a priori certain kinds of explanation, as for instance when scientific explanations are contrasted with assertions of miraculous or animistic spiritual causality.  The impression is given that science is at least methodologically naturalist, that when thinking scientifically we must pretend to be atheists.  This, I emphasize, is not a problem for religion; it’s a problem for science.  To tie oneself from the beginning to very questionable metaphysical assumptions threatens the credibility of the whole enterprise.

Continue reading

Academic Freedom Means . . .

For those not following the case, Marquette University has decided to attempt to fire one of its tenured professors, John McAdams, for, well, something.  The letter by which the university informed McAdams of its plan is here. McAdams’ response to the letter is here. In summary, an undergraduate student was enrolled in a philosophy class which class was being taught by a graduate student, Cheryl Abbate.  The graduate student instructor asserted, one day in class, with little or no discussion, that gay marriage is an example of something that John Rawls’ Justice Principle protects.  After class, a student objected to her claim, counterclaiming that gay marriage is potentially harmful and thus not necessarily protected.  As their discussion unfolded, Abbate unburdened herself thus:

Ok, there are some opinions that are not appropriate that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions, and quite honestly, do you know if anyone in the class is homosexual?  . . . Ok, well, actually you don’t have a right in this class, as –especially as an ethics professor to make homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments . . . This is about restricting rights and liberties of individuals. Um and just as I would take offense if women can’t serve in XYZ positions because that is a sexist comment . . . You can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated. If you don’t like that you are more than free to drop this class.

There is no debate about what Abbate said since the student recorded the conversation.

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A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part Two

[Part One]

The importance of books

 To gain the knowledge you need to be a good man you must train yourself to be a good reader. Even in today’s internet / media age, most of the world’s knowledge and wisdom, the wisdom you need to live a good life, is in the written word.

There’s a reason for that:  Wisdom cannot be learned through music or video. Music and video, although they have their value, are non-intellectual. They cannot communicate ideas correctly. They can suggest ideas. They can reinforce them. But music and video cannot communicate ideas accurately. Ideas can only be communicated correctly by words.

True, a video can include words that communicate ideas. But the communication of ideas in a video is done in a non-visual way. The words are a non-visual addition to a medium that is primarily visual.

Music and video, in fact, are often used to manipulate you, that is, to trick you into thinking or acting in the way that the author wants. Dishonest or evil people often use video and music to manipulate your emotions instead of trying to teach you truth. Instead of using words to teach you, they use music and pictures to get you to feel that something is true, or that something is good, when it really isn’t. Continue reading

Article of Interest

My friend and colleague Richard Cocks has an article, “Are Friends Electric,” at The People of Shambhala that will, I believe, be of interest to Orthosphereans.

I offer an excerpt:

To some people being an emotionless machine is enormously attractive. Any view that seems to offer support for the mechanistic notion will seem appealing. It’s actually going to be an enormously counter-productive attitude to adopt in living one’s actual life. But it remains an ideal for many. It would indeed make things simpler. When the Earl of Shaftesbury said that pleasure was the one and only source of human motivation, one seems to be encountering a person of such emotional stupidity with so little insight into the multi-faceted nature of human existence that it beggars belief. That whole generations of English philosophers followed suit indicates to me that Anglo-American philosophy has become a self-selecting discipline filled with emotional imbeciles, just as psychopaths were once described as moral imbeciles. Sociopaths tend to be skeptical about morality because they lack empathy and a conscience of their own. They extrapolate from their own experience, as we all do. Interestingly, many Anglo-American philosophers have expressed skepticism about moral matters too, such as the logical positivists. To be frank, being a normally mentally functioning person in such a context can be a very bizarre experience.

A Father’s Advice to His Son on Becoming a Man, Part I

Introduction for the Orthosphere

 I have a young son. I plan one day to talk to him about becoming a man. Of course, I currently mention the topic from time to time. But my son will need more systematic instruction, at least to lay the groundwork for thinking correctly about the realities of being a man. Thus the present work, which is a provisional script for what I plan to teach.

 Introduction: One day, you’ll be an adult

 Today you’re a boy. A child. But one day you’ll be a man. An adult.

Becoming an adult is a big change. As an adult, you’ll need to take responsibility for your own life. Now, what does that mean?

When you’re a child, your parents protect you. They protect you from the dangers that come from outside forces, and they also try to protect you from the harm you bring on yourself when you do the wrong thing. When you’re a child you get used to this protection.  You learn to rely on your parents to protect you.

Of course, they don’t protect you perfectly. And even as a child, you learn to protect yourself in certain situations. But when you’re a child you know that an adult will rescue you (or at least try) if you get in major trouble.

But when you’re an adult people no longer protect you. When you’re an adult people expect you to protect yourself. Therefore as you grow up you must change your ways. You must learn to do things for yourself. Sure, even an adult must sometimes ask for help. Nobody can do everything for themselves. But most of the time, as an adult, you must take responsibility for your own well-being. To be an adult you need to understanding what must be done, and then do it, without someone else telling you what to do. If can’t do these things well, you won’t succeed in life.

So you need to begin understanding what it takes to be a man. Continue reading

Reductio ad Absurdum

Can it really get much crazier than this? A “pillar” of the Saint Louis trans community has died. It was a man who amputated parts of himself so that he resembled a woman in a few superficial respects. In the linked article, he is mourned by his “wife,” who is itself a woman who amputated parts of herself so that she resembled a man in a few superficial respects.

So they changed their “sexes” and then “married” persons of the “opposite” “sex.”

They are bikers. Not dykes on bikes, exactly; Heaven knows what they are.

npr_storycorps_fairchild1-9127d0b274b1ab298dce92f1d9f689ef5196b9e2-s400-c85

The deceased is on the left, its survivor on the right.

The poor things. Ach, what a trainwreck. God help and forgive them, and bring them to everlasting light; RIP.

And may God help us.

_____________________

PS: I hope I got the syntax right in the foregoing. It’s amazingly hard to keep track of “categories” when you have dispensed with categories.

Muslims in the Obama coalition: an anecdote

Half of the families in my apartment building are Muslims.  I don’t interact with them much, but occasionally we run into each other.  I remember the night in 2012 when President Obama accepted his nomination as the Democratic candidate for president.  Ordinarily, I try to stay clear of all that political partisan stuff, but I was out for a walk, and one of the Muslim men decided to play Obama’s acceptance speech on his car radio loud enough for the rest of us to hear.  Obama was going on about a sinister cabal of rich men who are scheming to decide “whether you can have birth control” and “who you can marry”, etc, with Obama assuring us that he’s going to fight these miscreants.  And there’s this Muslim guy with his long beard and funny non-Western clothes grinning and nodding along.  Our eyes met, and he smiled, and went on listening.

Here’s the funny thing.  I haven’t talked to them, but the other American family in the apartment building has, and they’ve learned some things about our Muslim neighbors.  These guys are from Saudi Arabia.  The guy’s wife goes around completely covered except for her eyes, and she’s actually not supposed to be out at all if men might be present.  And there they are, seemingly as happy as can be with the Democrats’ feminist jihad, as if there’s no tension there.  I know this would make a better story if I would have gone up and asked him if it didn’t make him a little bit uncomfortable that the President was advocating contraception and sodomy, but I don’t know him, and I didn’t want to start an argument.  I suppose it’s possible that he was laughing to himself about what a bunch of degenerates Americans are, but I can’t help suspecting that he was just nodding with approval at the thought that his candidate was going to stick it to those white Christians.  Consistently applied principles are for suckers.  What one thinks of Muslims in America depends a lot on how one reads those grins.

Let me tell you how I think about Muslims in the West.  They’re liberals, married for life to the Left, just like Jews and American blacks.  Individuals among these groups might make common cause with us, and such are welcome, but their identities are too tied with the sense of opposition to Christian Europe for us to expect more than that.  Terrorism is a nuisance, much less dangerous to our civilization than blasphemy.  In the end, Muslims will only matter as communist voters.