February 17, 2007 § 3 Comments

I’ve always loved the 1812 Overture. And I can think of no better use for this particular beverage: it is certainly not suitable for a man to drink.

Necessary Evil?

February 17, 2007 § 17 Comments

An interesting discussion is taking place at Disputations about the concept “necessary evil”.

There are (as others have observed) different senses of “necessary”.

One interesting sense of necessity is existential necessity. Now nothing at all is existentially necessary for God’s sake: God’s existence is entirely self-sufficient. But our existence is not like God’s existence. Our existence is contingent, and therefore there are things which are existentially necessary for us.

It seems to me that, given our existence, evil is necessary; or at the very least, the proposition “all evil is unnecessary” is incoherent. Evil may not be necessary given God’s (and only God’s) existence. But my own contingent existence, as a specific person produced by a specific history, clearly depends not only upon specific natural evils but also on specific moral evils.

It is difficult to even begin to comprehend how radically contingent our own personal existences are. If the history of my parents (yes, even Zippy has parents) were changed in a very small way before I was conceived, I would not be here at all. And that includes changing that history in some way that would eliminate some particular natural and/or moral evils.

So I think it is true to say that no evil is necessary for God’s sake; but I don’t think it is coherent to say that no evil is necessary for my sake.

It follows that to say that evil is unnecessary is true: true to the same extent and in the same manner that it is true to say that we are unnecessary. Which means that evil only is, perhaps paradoxically or at the least counterintuitively, for the same reason that we are: because of God’s gratuitous love for us.


February 13, 2007 § 3 Comments

Rather than drawing sustinence from Christ modern man eats his own flesh, mind, and spirit:

Here the liberal idea finally consumes itself. Our humanity itself is now identified as a restriction on the act of self-creation.

Losing Strategy

February 9, 2007 § 10 Comments

People tend to think I am some kind of hard-core idealist: that my orientation when it comes to public life and politics is toward being pure and correct rather than toward, say, winning. (You know: winning the civilizational war against Islam, winning the war against abortion, winning the war against the decline in our own civilization, winning over souls to the true Faith: that kind of winning).

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it is so far from the truth that it isn’t even wrong. The premises of the perspective are themselves wrong. Because one premise of the perspective is that purity and correctness stand in opposition to winning. Another posits that where the philosophy meets the mind must be a completely disjoint place from where the metal meets the meat. And that just ain’t so.

Victory cannot be had if we aren’t truly and genuinely willing to accept losing: to accept actually being a loser. If we can’t accept losing then in substance, when we do lose, we will declare victory anyway. Instead of merely losing to that which we oppose we will become what we oppose.

As a strategist this is something of which you can take advantage. As long as your enemy is losing strategically, you can make sure he keeps on losing strategically by feeding him tactical victories as table scraps. Rather than facing the enormity of his situation head on, he will continue to believe that he is making progress toward victory, even as you own him. And I doubt that we will find a more naturally capable strategist than the Prince of this world.

I know a number of actual millionaires and a number of people who could easily have been millionaires but are not. The biggest single difference between the two specific groups I am thinking of is that the millionaires accepted the very real possibility – no, probability, indeed virtual certainty – of losing, while the non-millionaires (the ones I have in mind in particular) could not abide the very real probability of losing. Most people who try to become millionaires lose. But the people who actually win are (a few of) the ones who accept that virtual certainty and do it anyway.

Human beings really do not like losing, or admitting to losing, or even admitting to the possibility of losing. But even God won by being nailed to a Cross.

So when I go on and on about what is true rather than what is posited to work, it isn’t because I think there is a legitimate tradeoff to be had. There isn’t. Socially conservative objectives are a complete Hail Mary (literally) at this point. And we ain’t gonna achieve them by some incremental non-strategy of accepting the Devil’s table scraps and electing Rudy Guiliani president. If we really want to win, we have to first accept the fact that – at least barring direct Divine intervention, for which we can always pray and hope – we will almost certainly lose.

Becoming the Enemy

February 9, 2007 § 6 Comments

There is a discussion at Right Reason about Rudy Giuliani as a Republican presidential candidate.

A slightly re-worked comment of mine:

By choosing candidates like GWB (and to an even a greater extent Guiliani) conservatives win small, temporary, tactical battles at a cost of creating conditions which make losing the war inevitable. Until this fundamental mindset changes among political conservatives you won’t see anything but little tactical victories as part of an inevitable long-term decline.

The perfect can be the enemy of the good, to be sure. (Well, not really, because lack of prudence is an imperfection). But that isn’t what we are talking about with Giuliani. With Giuliani we are talking about an enemy of social and moral conservatism who is putatively “less bad” than the other guy. By annointing the “less bad” enemy as one of our own, we commit suicide. It is better to face a worse enemy as the “other” than it is to make a less-bad enemy out of ourselves.

The Last Encyclical Loses

February 7, 2007 § 2 Comments

In substance what is being argued in some quarters is that because Veritatis Splendour doesn’t perfectly align with personal interpretations of Church history and previous practices, it cannot mean what it actually says. That seems to me to be a hermeneutic of The Last Encyclical Loses. Though I suppose it may be polemically convenient for some purposes to label a hermeneutic of continuity as The Last Encyclical Wins.

Ending the Torture Rift

February 6, 2007 § 12 Comments

I think the contentiousness on the subject of torture throughout St. Blog’s could be brought to a close if all informed participants would agree to two straightforward and clearly true propositions:

1) We should never torture prisoners, given a proper understanding of what “torture” means.
2) We have in fact and under official sanction tortured prisoners in the sense meant by proposition #1

Any civilized person can agree to this without any need to dig deeply into moral theology, it seems to me. And having agreed to it, there is still plenty left to disagree about. But it seems to me that the disagreement could be civilized, because it would rest on civilized premeses.

Church of Glass

February 6, 2007 § 5 Comments

An e-mail correspondent points out that a commenter on another blog expresses a certain motivating anxiety (no doubt as part of a complex of motivating factors):

The upside of the Torq/Akin etc. approach is that it manages to find a way to preserve indefectability, truly the foundational issue here.

I suppose if one believes in a Church which totters on the brink of self-refutation, barely hanging on by the fingernails to fragile scraps of truth, then a great deal of what goes on in the Catholic blogosphere starts to become more explicable. But it strikes me as a very odd way to view the Ark of Salvation, the indefectable keeper and protector of the whole of the Deposit of the Faith, against which the gates of Hell itself will never prevail.

Torture’s Golden Rule Redux

February 2, 2007 § 8 Comments

I doubt that I have many readers in common with, but in case I do there is a minor correction in order. My understanding of the Golden Rule applied to torture is not as represented in that post. My understanding is that if it would be wrong for them to interrogate our guys in a certain way, then it is wrong for us to interrogate their guys in that way.

Everyone may now resume their therapy sessions.

Stratocaster Theology

February 1, 2007 § 1 Comment

It isn’t too often that a blog post on theology awakens that ordinarily buried longing for a fretboard, sadly gathering dust in a lonely corner of the house.

What happens when you play the blues backwards? Your wife comes back, you get a new puppy, you start a better job…

Where Am I?

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