Monday, January 30, 2012

Traditional Marriage: The nature and purpose of marriage

In the previous posts we have looked at the different aspects of marriage via the perspective of the differences between the sexes, sexual relations, and the nature of the family. From here a definition of marriage that is both coherent and consistent can be reached.

The definition of marriage is characterized as a natural institution that is formed by the pairing of a man and woman for the primary purpose of creating and raising children.  This relationship is permanent until the death of one of the spouses.  

As we have seen the nature of a paring of a man and woman is fundamentally different that of a pairing of same-sex partners.  By the nature of what a man is and what a woman is there is a distinct difference in an opposite-sex pair, both in terms of the partners themselves but also the unique nature of the relationship that exists between a man and woman vs. same-sex partners.

Adding to this is the nature of sexual relations, which their primary purpose is for the generation of children.  Without the complementary nature of the man and woman sexual relations lack their primary purpose.  Because of this any sexual relations become sterile, and hinder the actual function of the relations.

Finally the nature of the family naturally entails a male-female pairing as the natural method by which a family is created.  Left to their natural end a male-female paring with sexual relations leads to children.  This unit becomes a family. 

The facts about marriage naturally lead us to an obvious conclusion, that the nature of marriage naturally precludes a same-sex paring.  In other words, a same-sex marriage is a non-existent entity.  Thus to say that advocates are denying the "rights" of same-sex pairings is do declare that same-sex pairs have a right to something that doesn't exist.  But this is absurd.  

With the nature of marriage defined properly there is still the issue of law.  Even if it is the case that same-sex marriage doesn't actually exist, what is the harm of creating a "legal fiction" to make those who would dispute this happy?  This we will cover next...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Respect is a two way street

I typically do not try to pick on fellow Catholic bloggers.  Much less one whom I consider a friend or at least an ally.  But something has been bothering me since I read my friend Brandon Kraft's post about how respect is needed for leadership.  Mind you I consider Brandon an orthodox Catholic, and quite a knowledgeable one at that.

But I cannot help think that there is something missing from his post.  And I wouldn't mention it except that I feel that it is a vital part that is missing from the concept of authority.

To begin with consider my attitude toward authority, specifically religious authority that I have held in the past (and sadly still do at times).  I regard the bishops' authority as something that is used to bring dissident Catholics in line with the Church teaching.  Authority in this instance is for "other people, those dissidents."  Not me.  I'm fine in what I believe.

Now at times to me there are bishops that fail in this duty.  See any number of Catholic politicians who openly defy Church teaching with what appears to me to be little if any attempt on the part of their bishop to correct them (read: excommunication).  Clearly the bishops have failed to discharge their duty for these dissidents.  So why are they harping on my favorite political theory?

The previous two paragraphs are a sarcastic look at my previous view.  Just in case anyone get confused.  But an event later on began to change my view on my own relationship to authority.

A few years back I attended an end-of-year party for the Catholic young Adults hosted by the bishop.  We went to his lovely house and had a great party.  One of the things I noticed on one of the bookshelves was a framed picture with a saying on it.  I cannot remember the words precisely but it was something to the effect of: "Authority is what people call it when they listen to your opinion politely and then go off and do whatever they want."

At the time I found the saying amusing.  But awhile later it hit me.  Maybe I have the whole authority problem the American Church has backwards.  What if the lay Catholic is as much of a problem as the clergy?

I performed a thought experiment.  If I were a bishop who discharged my authority, but imagined that like many bishops, it seemed to have little to no effect.  How would I feel?  Is it even real authority if no one listens?  Would I doubt my ability to guide my flock?  Wouldn't it be tempting to simply say "it doesn't matter?"

That last question is particularly powerful to me.  If I as a layman seem to only regard authority as something only others have to obey, am I not also damaging the authority of the bishop?  Or the state?  If I say "Not my President?" how can I possibly claim to uphold the notion of the presidency?  If I do not conduct myself properly as a layman or citizen, why should I still expect the bishop or statesman to execute his office?  I have failed in my duty.  In that respect he is simply reciprocating the idea.

The authority is real, regardless of the attitude of either those in authority or their charges.  But in order for authority to "work" as God intended both sides of the coin must honor their side of the relationship.  The one in authority must respect their charges.  The one who is under authority must recognize that authority.

This to me is at the heart of the crisis of authority as it exists today in America.  The citizens, in how they protest, demonstrate that they have no respect for the office when they attack the person behind it.  Likewise, the ones in authority do not respect their charges, and so do what they want regardless of their duties.

As laity and as citizens we must rediscover this notion of respect for authority.  Without it the trust and respect necessary for authority to work will only continue to erode.  When we look at how the citizens are viewed by the state and the state is viewed by the citizens, is it any wonder why we are where we are now?        

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In context

One of the problems with internet communications is that by virtue of the medium we do not get the full context of the people participating.  What I mean by this is that unlike conversations we have in public with flesh and blood human humans the internet forums lack a dimension that adds much to the context of a discussion.

Take for example if you heard from this person:

Peace be with you.

Now let us assume that some person such as the following made another comment:

The Vatican is an organization of perverts and criminals!

Now imagine these comments on an internet thread

PapaJP2 says:  Peace be with you.

MadSciGuy says: The Vatican is an organization of perverts and criminals!

In the first example we see that when we have the full context of the person as a whole we can with better assurance that the ideas put forth are worth listening to.  In the case of the crazy looking person, I regard my revulsion of the face as nature's way of saying "Danger."  

The heart of the problem is that we simply have no notion of who is actually making a comment in a forum.  It could be the Pope, a crazy drunk, a five year old or a mass murderer.  We don't know.  And without that we are forced to assume that any idea, no matter how crazy, is asserted in all seriousness and requires the same level of address.

It's an unfortunate limitation of the technology that is supposed to make us more connected.  And it is something to keep in mind when participating in any online discussion.  We are not dealing with the whole person on the internet, and because of this we cannot see the whole discussion.

Second picture provided by J.J. at the Englisch language Wikipedia

Monday, January 23, 2012

Metaphysical Jokers

My recent experience with debating what I consider New Atheists has led me to conclude that there is a prevailing notion in debates and discussions today.  The concept is that as long as I can defeat my opponent's arguments I demonstrate that I am right.

The model of argument for the New atheist is the following.  Attack, attack, attack, attack.  During my entire discussion the focus was on my arguments for God.  The mode of argumentation was clearly to put the theist on the defensive.  When I started conversations about their own assumptions, this led to complaints about "changing the subject."  Given that the forum was a atheist Facebook fan page one would think that the participants would be open to critique of their philosophical viewpoints.

But this principle is not limited to New Atheists.  Open any political, social, religious, or philosophical commentary these days.  The prevailing mode of discussion is "why my opponent is wrong."  Much time is spent dissecting the various  ways those who hold views in opposition are incorrect.  Very little if any consideration is given to how the arguer is right.

While this is the main mode of argument there is an even more insidious form of this kind of argumentation.  The type who argues that nothing can be known.  No greater truths, nothing beyond the basic sense can be known with any certainty.

I call these "metaphysical jokers."  Like the iconic villain from the move "The Dark Knight," these individuals simply destroy in an attempt to prove everyone wrong.  They propose nothing, advance nothing.  They only detract, destroy, obliterate.  Oftentimes they will employ arguments that contradict each other when attacking different positions.

They do not believe anything, and only leech off of those who do.  They do not seek truth.  They do not attempt to hold any ideas.  Oftentimes they are the worst of advocates, but retreat in the face of any counterargument.  They have no beliefs they will defend, but only act upon.

This is the modern sophistry.  The natural end of unrestricted critical doubt.  The emptiness of undisciplined thought.   It is anti-thought.  A betrayal of reason.  And a perversion of the our ability to think.

Is this what reason ultimately brings us to?  By no means.  But first we must examine the root error in this line of "anti-thinking."  This we will examine later.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Missing post

Due to circumstances entirely within my control I do not have a post today.  Yesterday was Confederate Heroes day, which to my knowledge is to provide a "contrast" to MLK day.  But since it is a state holiday I (the management) decided to use the day to attend to personal errands and the rest of the time to video game binge. Our regularly scheduled writing resumes Monday (hopefully).

The Management

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Orleans trip a success

So I mentioned in my last post that my wife and I flew to New Orleans last weekend.  Being a long weekend thanks to MLK day (and my first paid holiday) we had ample time to take in the local flavor.  The motivation for the trip was that one of our mutual friends had graduated with a Phd and was flying back to Taiwan after her tour of the U.S.  So we decided to meet with her in New Orleans for one last play date.

We arrived on an early flight at about 9:30am and promptly went to the zoo.  We did this for two reasons.
1. If there is a zoo and/or aquarium, my wife will visit it.
2. We were killing time until we could check into the hotel.
The zoo was a lot of fun and we were there for a few hours.  Next we went to the aquarium (see reason 1).  The aquarium itself was fine but we were so tired at this point that we couldn't enjoy it as much as we wanted to.  So off we went to dinner.

We went to a local Po-Boy's shop in which the food was very good.  Unfortunately the locals were a bit too local (one of the folks there didn't seem to understand how an Asian person would up at their local shop).  Fortunately the Saints-49ers game was playing to distract them.  After dinner we picked up a few things and went to the hotel.

We checked in and the hotel was perfect.  The view was less than impressive but the room itself was nice and large with the perfect trifecta of microwave, fridge, and coffee maker.  We were too tired at this point to use any of them.  We turned on the game (my wife is a Saints fan) and watched the second half.

Sunday we left and took the streetcar down to the French Quarter.  We went to Mass at the St. Louie Cathedral and had brunch at the famous Cafe Du Monde.  It must be nice to only have to serve beignets and coffee.  But they can pull it off because the beignets are fantastic.

Finally we rendezvous with our friend and head to an oyster bar (sadly I cannot remember the name). Afterwards the girls went shopping and I carried bags.  But my servitude was rewarded later when we went for dinner (you will notice that most of my observations revolve around food, this is how I enjoy vacations).

Finally we went out to the local Jazz scene.  We only found one bar playing since it was before 9, but that was sufficient for our friend, so we parted ways at her hotel and we went back to ours.

All in all it was a fun trip and hopefully this didn't bore you too much.  We will resume our regularly scheduled programming on Friday.

The mangement

Monday, January 16, 2012

Traditional Marriage: The nature of the family

In our previous post on marriage we discussed the nature of the sexual relations and how this relates to the question of traditional marriage.  In this post we will discuss the nature of the family and how this affects the human condition, including marriage.

Modern notions of the family treat it as a very abstract concept.  So much so that seemingly any configuration of partners and children constitutes a "family" if the participants label it as such.  It has gotten to the point where the "family" is such an amorphous concept that it is almost devoid of any real meaning.  I basically assume that it means a generic collection of individuals (children and adults) who share affection for each other and mutual dependence.

A definition of family that actually has some meaning is the one provided by Natural Law.  In this case, family is defined as the biological relationships between parents and children, siblings, and extended relatives.  The biological aspect of family is a real one, and it directly impacts the nature of relations between people.

This is most obvious in how nature brings a new human into the world.  The child is provided with a mother and a father.  Because of this, the natural tendency for a new human to be born with a mother and a father is a "natural right."  If the child is deprived of this natural right through circumstance (the accidental death of the parents) or through unnatural means (such as homosexual adoption/IVF) is to create a sub-optimal situation.

This is illustrated by an obvious fact.  Medical history.  Regardless of configuration of the "family" as defined by moderns, biological reality intrudes when dealing with medical issues.  The medical history of the child is not imparted by the non-biological parents.  Genetics is a constant reminder of the actual origins of the child.

But this goes beyond genetics.  The child often enough has a desire to know where they are from biologically.  This is true for adopted children, IVF children (those who are conceived via IVF but the father remains unknown), etc.

This is not in any way to denigrate the heroic parents of adopted children.  Such kindness and generosity is welcome and needed in a fallen world. That they do the best they can regardless of biological ties should be praised.

But this does not change the biological reality of the family.  The biological ties are real.  They are natural.  And barring some unintended consequences, the ideal for the child is to be raised by the biological parents.  Anything less is, no matter how well intended, is "less than" the natural reality.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A day in the life

So New Year's has come and gone.  One nice thing is we have a friend visiting from France (where she is doing her post-doctorate) to attend a conference where we live.  She has stayed with us for a few days and it was quite nice to catch up.

My novel is at a stand still for the past few weeks as we try to get back into the daily rhythm post holidays.  It's not that I have not had time.  It is that like all things if something breaks the nice daily routine we have it is very difficult to get back into those productive habits.  But I am almost done so I hope to finish it within the next few weeks (the rough draft anyway, post production may take a few more).

The other main contributor to my lack of productivity?  Skyrim.  Ah, Skyrim.  Is there any citizen in your fair yet snowy lands that doesn't need my help?  Seriously, it seems like everyone is a helpless whelp who are far too trusting of random strangers looking for work.  What's that you say?  You have a stolen ring and you want me to break into the owner's house to put it back?  You don't think that I just might turn you in, given that we just met?  No?

I prefer a more directed role-playing/adventure experience.  The degree of freedom is quite interesting, but I like my video game actions to have some stronger context (not to mention impetus).  So the reasons why I should do anything in this universe I find a bit weak, and find myself not as motivated as I normally do in other RPG/Adv games.

Anyway, one final note is that the wife and I will be flying to New Orleans to meet up with a mutual friend before she heads back to Taiwan.  Given that this was quite sudden those productive habits I mentioned earlier will most likely suffer further set back.  At least we are back exercising.  But it should be fun nonetheless.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The second of Aquinas five ways

My presentation of Aquinas' first way goes over the starting point of this proof.  Citations can be found here.  Here is the second way:

The second way is very similar to the first. It argues that," In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible." By this he means that any thing, circumstance or event cannot change itself, but can only change something else (concept of efficient cause). Since there is a string of causes in which the string cannot be infinite (see premise #1), then all causes must attribute themselves to a first cause: God.

The second is similar to the first but focuses on causality.  In the world by which our senses can perceive we find that one thing causes another.  This chain of causes cannot extend to infinity.  Hence all things must tie back to a first cause: that which we call God.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Aquinas and the five ways (well one of them)

In anticipation of a possible discussion on a Facebook atheist group (to which I was invited, unimpressed, and subsequently in the process of being re-invited) I offer the following presentation of Aquinas five ways to prove the existence of God.  This blog post will discuss the first way.

As having established that science (more specifically scientism) is insufficient to discern truths about the scientific method and thus cannot provide all truths that can be discerned, we now turn to Aquinas and the first of the five ways of demonstration for the existence of God. (this is excerpted from here):

St. Aquinas argues that there are things in the world in motion (this simply means that things are changing) and that whatever is in motion must have been put in motion by another thing in motion. Aquinas holds that, "whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another," and that, "this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover." Hence St. Thomas argues that in order to eliminate the infinite chain of motions, there must be a first mover and source of all motion, God.
It is important to understand that "motion"  in this case means "change."  Any entity that exists in the physical world is in change, and that change is created by an external cause.  This is true for the universe as well (justified inference) as each and every component shares this property.  So we have the case where some change in an entity is caused by another entity, and so on.  This chain of causality however cannot go on for infinity, otherwise we would not have arrived at whatever current cause we start with when walking back.  Thus there must be a starting point, a cause that was not caused by another.  This we call God.

First the bad arguments that object to this:

Who created God?  - this is nonsensical with regard to the definition of God in this case as the question means: "Who caused the un-caused cause?"  The question cannot be answered because it is a self contradiction.

Uniform motion and rest are the same - This is a misunderstanding of the term "motion" as used by Aquinas.  What he means by "motion" we mean by "change."

Rehash of the ontological argument - this error is caused by misunderstanding the concept of "necessary being."  In the cosmological argument, necessary being only pertains to the necessity of God's existence to stop the infinite chain of causation.

Finally a good argument:

Composition fallacy - This is countered by noting that the universe is a composition of contingent parts.  By virtue of the contingency of the parts, the universe is contingent.  This follows from the notion that an individual part that, if it did not exist, would change the composition of the universe.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On the Pride of one's opinion

Stacy posts about the pride of being right and how that pride can be just as damaging as being wrong.  We as human beings seem to take far greater pride in our opinions than we should.

I like to think that the truths that matter will actually come from the source of All Things.  It is possible for us to figure out things about life and the universe around us.  But by and large it seems that when we try to reach above ourselves without help and attempt to define what it means to be human we only succeed in defining humanity as our self.

Everyone who agrees with me is a right thinker.  Anyone who does not is simply crazy or evil.  When we are the source of our own ideas we project ourselves onto the world.  And when it does not conform to our desires, we identify that as evil.  This is where ideologies come from.

But our own perceptions are limited by time, culture, senses, and a host of other factors.  Our experience is but a tiny fraction of the tiny fraction of humanity that constitutes the whole of reality.  To pretend that we can know all that is important without help is simply foolishness.  That we will accept no truth that we cannot reason our way toward is simply pride.

Contrast this with those who adhere to revealed religious truths.  Those who believe those truths believe in something outside of themselves.  It did not originate with them.  They are not the source.  Regardless of if it comes from other people or truly has divine origins the point is the religious minded believe in truths that did not come from them.  It is an implicit recognition of man's limitations of his own reason and experience.

Now it is true that the religious minded can be wrong about the beliefs they hold.  The belief in truths that are not true can leave the person in a position of disadvantage.  But this is true of any false idea, and does not make the religious person off any more than the non-religious.

The non-religious is at an even greater disadvantage however.  The non-religious will only accept things that he can reason to.  And if they are beyond the ken of human reason, then they are not worthy of consideration.  This is an even more crippling thought process because it cannot open itself to even the possibility of being corrected by truths above the reason of Man.

This to me seems to indicate then that trusting too much in one's opinion is deadly to the reasoning process.  We close ourselves off to the most important truths for no reason other than we don't like the idea that we cannot reason our way to them.

The religious though is at risk of being prideful because they possess the truth. It did not come from them though.  It is not to their credit that they possess the truth but receive it as a gift.  It makes even less sense that the religious should boast about how right they are when that truth did not come from them in the first place.  We received such a gift and we are obligated to share.  But it is not our truth but the truth.  And that should be an invitation for great humility.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ignitum Today posting...

is coming on Thursday.  So no post today but watch this space tomorrow.

The Management

Monday, January 2, 2012

Modern misconceptions of hypocrisy

In my post on the scandal of wisdom I use the term hypocrisy in an incorrect manner.  It is a common misconception and even being aware of it I yet fall into the hole (giving evidence once again that we are products of our culture to some degree despite our best efforts).

An attitude of superiority among those considered "educated" within the top tier universities.  That they are somehow "better" than the "average Joe."
This attitude has always had the whiff of hypocrisy to it.  The posturing of intellectuals telling us that all men are equal and reminding us that they are superior for telling us so.

   The problem with this is that there are actually three different levels of inconsistencies.  Only one of these can properly be called hypocrisy.  But all three have in common the basic notion of human frailty.

The first is the unknowing person whose actions do not meet with espoused principles.  This is a position of ignorance.  A person might espouse a principle but does not realize that some actions they perform are inconsistent with said principle.  This oftentimes is simply a matter of lack of thought on the matter (an affliction we all suffer from).

The second is the knowing inconsistency of actions with espoused principles.  A person who espouses a principle yet fails to uphold it is not a hypocrite.  The person is simply weak.  The person may believe in the principle sincerely yet fail to live out the principle in his life.

The third is the true sense of hypocrisy, the espousal of a principle by a person that the person espousing the principle does not believe in.  It is a form of deception.  Strictly speaking a person can be a hypocrite even if they live out the principle they don't believe in (although that would be a feat).  The important thing is the intent to deceive.  True hypocrisy requires the intent to deceive others.

So why is the second form often mislabeled as hypocrisy?  Simple.  It is a cheap debate tactic.  It allows us to dismiss the proposed principle because the proposer is a "bad person" who doesn't live out their own principles.  It is a form of slander.

I point this out because I committed the same slander in the post I linked at the top.  I accused the "they" of the intellectual culture of hypocrisy, yet really without having a specific example I am simply slandering the "they."  The inconsistency is there to be sure, but one must see person to person which of the three types of such inconsistency is present.  For that I offer a mea culpa for my part in creating confusion.

Hypocrisy is a strong charge.  It requires a great deal of proof that hypocrisy is taking place. Absent that the accusation is little more than slander.