July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
Several folks have asked me to put up an archive from my old blog. I deleted the Blogger account because of a change in the terms of service along with the requirement that I either “upgrade” or lose control of the blog. I didn’t have time to do a lot of due diligence, so I just deleted the blog at the time. All of the old posts and comments are here, although unfortunately some of the links inside the posts are broken. I’ll try to fix some of the obvious ones.
July 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
My time in blogland has been enriching, including my temporary return to make a small contribution to systematizing the waterboarding debate; and I’m thankful for it and for all of you. Farewell, wherever you fare.
July 25, 2010 § 17 Comments
Homophobia is real. Let me explain.
Fear is not, in itself, irrational. It may be a-rational, but it isn’t irrational. Fear is a natural, human, emotional response to a threat; and the world is filled with threats. In fact that one of those threats will take each of us out of this world at some point is a virtual certainty.
A phobia is a radically disproportionate, overwhelming fear of something. It is perfectly rational to be afraid of, say, heights. I am sure there are even acrophobes who have died or been injured by falling from a height. What is irrational about the acrophobe is not that he fears heights, but that his fear of heights is disproportionate, overwhelming, debilitating. His emotional response to a real danger is vastly disproportionate to the objective nature of the danger.
I have no doubt that somewhere in the world there is a homophobe: a person who sees homosexual acts as a unique transcendent threat to such an extent that it causes an emotional reaction leading to psychological debilitation. I don’t know any such person, but I am sure he exists. I expect that should we encounter such a person, we ought to be able to agree that he suffers from homophobia; that he has… issues.
The reason leftist/libertine polemicists use the term homophobia is, of course, to paint adherents to traditional sexual morality as, not merely wrong, but as having… issues. Often as not this seems to be, shall we say, a projection on the part of folks who themselves seem to have… issues.
July 23, 2010 § 10 Comments
Our country does have a ruling class. All countries always have a ruling class. There isn’t anything outrageous or objectionable about this. There are doubtless objectionable things about the content of our ruling class: who they are and what they do. But there isn’t anything objectionable about having a ruling class. Every community of any significant size throughout all of history has had and will have a ruling class.
July 15, 2010 § 8 Comments
In the presence of a proportionate reason, it can – if additional double-effect conditions are met – be morally licit to engage in remote material cooperation with evil.
July 15, 2010 § 23 Comments
A nice herbal infusion of “only three terrorists waterboarded”, redux.
Or, in this case, just a few trivial “non-elective” abortions funded.
This is all a “major storm in a tiny teacup”, of course, part of a Calvinist-Republican conspiracy on the part of people (like the USCCB) who hate health care reform for other reasons. It isn’t consequentialism when leftist Catholics support state-funded murder as a regrettable “necessary evil” in the pursuit of their good ends. Really. And anyway, leftist Catholics aren’t “supporting” state-funded “non-elective” abortions. They are just refraining from criticizing it, and launching attacks on anyone who does criticize it. Not the same thing at all.
What it is, though, is participation in a propaganda campaign in favor of not just legal abortion but funding of abortion. Which, as we know, is – participation in such a propaganda campaign is – never licit.
Leftist Catholics have it all wrong in my view (not that any seem interested in my opinion). I think there is a lot of truth to the notion that right-wing criticism of abortion funding and other wickedness tends to be partisan: that funding of abortions through private insurance plans is a vile wickedness which has been largely ignored, for example. That makes this a “teaching moment”: a good leftist Catholic could in theory be first in line to vocally oppose the wickedness perpetrated by the Obama administration, and could tie in criticism of private funding.
But that is just a theory. The “good leftist Catholic” seems to be a mythological creature.
A cup of sewage plus one drop of tea: sewage. A cup of tea plus one drop of sewage: sewage.
I’ve said this before in so many words, and I’ll say it again. It seems to me that when you elect a guy and engage in years-long public advocacy of his policies, you bring upon yourself certain very grave obligations. One of those grave obligations is to be first in line to criticize the wicked and despicable elements of his policies. Spending every public word attacking criticisms of those wicked elements is just knock-knock-knocking on Hell’s door.
I hear the tea there is pretty tempting.
June 3, 2010 § 10 Comments
Every now and then, someone suggests that my understanding of what is morally permissible is that it – what is morally permissible – is more narrow than what the Church explicitly requires.
April 28, 2010 § 11 Comments
So, I don’t intend to live blog my reading of David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism. But it does seem that right out of the gate, on page 11, where Oderberg is arguing against modal “possible worlds” versions of essentialism, there is some confirmation of a view I already expressed: that an ID account of historical biological origins is, from an A-T perspective, an argument for miraculous special creation – an argument that nature on its own could not make the first prokaryote out of nothing (ID contra abiogenesis), nor could it “breed” a gorilla from a paramecium (ID contra evolution by purely natural causes). Oderberg distinguishes between two types of “metaphysical impossibility”: the sort which means “X can occur, but requires a miracle” and the sort which means “X cannot occur in principle”:
Does this mean an animal couldn’t just spring into existence without natural parents (maybe from a rock?) or be zapped into existence, Adam-and-Eve-like, without parents? Or that it couldn’t, say, be synthesized in a lab? I will discuss such scenarios in Chapters 7 and 8 [Looking forward to it -Z], but the first two cases do not invalidate the point: for them to obtain would require some sort of miracle. To say that Socrates’s nature requires that he have parents must be taken to mean that in the natural order of things he must have parents. (For more about the laws of nature and the natural order of things, see Chapter 6 [Ditto]). This should be distinguished from a metaphysical impossibility in the absolute sense: for instance, that nothing can come into existence wholly uncaused is metaphysically impossible in the absolute sense – not even by a ‘miracle’ could it happen. Socrates nature is of a kind of thing that comes into existence via a biological generative process, whether or not the process involves some degree of human artifice beyond or instead of normal sexual procreation. Moreover, since Socrates might spring into existence without parents – or so I claim – it is not the case that he has parents in every world in which he exists.
So far, it seems to me that by jimmying a little terminology we can make A-T as compatible with a ‘compatibilized’ ID as it presumably is with the investigation of miracles for causes of sainthood (ignoring the “make life in a lab” thing, for now). The ID conclusion (whether warranted or not is a different subject) that nature on its own is incapable of producing a gorilla starting from a world where nothing lives but prokaryotes is a probabilistic inference to either the intervention of some intelligent cultivation (like a dog breeder breeding a new kind of dog) or a miracle.
April 28, 2010 § 38 Comments
Aristotlean criticisms of an “intelligent design” approach to biology are all the rage now, and the main criticism seems to be that an “intelligent design” approach to biology is reductionistic in a way that an Aristotlean approach wouldn’t be. I’ve started reading Real Essentialism by David Oderberg, a text my Aristotlean friends assure me actually addresses modern science from an Aristotlean perspective. I hope so, because if in that text an Aristotlean metaphysician actually addresses the facts of modern science it will be the first time I’ve personally seen it. Certainly none of the blogospheric commentary I’ve seen bothers to take into consideration, you know, the facts and stuff.
One of the things I was alluding to in a previous post is that there is another possibility: it is possible that those ID characters are the real holists, and the Aristotlean understanding articulated by some folks is reductionist when it comes to objects put together or cultivated by human beings. To a certain kind of A-T philosopher, apparently, the Mona Lisa, because it is an artifact produced by a human being, is “nothing but” some greasy residue on a piece of canvas. Francis Beckwith quotes Ed Feser:
Take a few bits of metal, work them into various shapes, and attach them to a piece of wood. Voila! A mousetrap. Or so we call it. But objectively, apart from human interests, the object is “nothing but” a collection of wood and metal parts. Its “mousetrappish” character is observer-relative; it is in the minds of the designer and users of the object, and not strictly in the object itself. “Reductionism” with respect to such human artifacts is just common sense. We know that cars, computers, and cakes are objectively “nothing but” the parts that make them up – that their “carlike,” “computerlike,” or “cakelike” qualities are not really there inherently in the parts, but are observer-relative – precisely because we took the parts and rearranged them to perform a function we want them to perform but which they have no tendency to perform on their own.
As I said to the commenter who pointed out the article, someone needs to tell the mouse that the mousetrap has no objectively mousetrappish character.