Monday, July 30, 2012

Why we need Aristotle and Aquinas

In my last post I am rather critical of the so-called "free thinkers" who seem to pledge unswerving loyalty to the scientific method, so much so that to question the method is to question the concept of reality.  Unfortunately, it lacks context necessary to understand why this is a problem for modern thinking.  I touched upon what I feel is modern man's inability to engage in disciplined thought through my exasperation with one commenter's inability to follow his own train of logic.

All of these are symptoms of a larger issue however.  One that affects how moderns think in general.  Most moderns, particularly in secular Western civilization, are "shallow thinkers."

Before I say what I mean by that let's be clear what I don't mean.  This does not mean that moderns are stupid.  This does not mean that moderns are evil, unintelligent, or inferior.  Our culture seems to confuse errors in thinking with some sort of insult.  But this is yet another symptom.

What I do mean is that for any given conceptual level, be it thinking about universals (objective truth) or particular truths (natural sciences), people no longer see the connections between these different levels and thus fail to examine their own beliefs in light of these connections.

Now one who has followed my posting might consider this as based purely in modern society's rejection (actually just ignorance) of metaphysics and philosophy.  But I will argue that this inability affects a variety of disciplines, extending into the physical sciences themselves.

In this series I hope to accomplish three things:

  1. Demonstrations that this disconnect holds for a variety of modern issues, such as education.
  2. How our current assumptions of certain metaphysical principles (largely unexamined by moderns) leads to these problems
  3. How Aristotelian and Thomistic (AT) philosophy are answers to these problems
Obviously, such musings do not have a lot of bearing on the Catholic Faith in general.  While the Church uses a lot of AT principles in a lot of its teachings, strictly speaking the Catholic Faith does not require AT, nor is it the only philosophy that Catholics use to describe the faith.  So these postings must be taken as my own opinion regarding society and philosophy.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Out today

Did not get enough sleep so thinking is suspect at best (though some have doubts about my thinking when I'm on my me).  So no post today.  Will resume Monday.

The Management

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The coming persecution

should things continue the way they are.  Post-comfortable Christianity.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When your view is one giant assumption

One of the difficulties I've encountered when arguing with materialists (or scientism disciples, as I like to call them) is how they treat science and reality as if they are the same thing.  Or to put it in another way, to doubt the scientific method is to doubt reality.

A big disclaimer before we continue, I do not doubt the scientific method.  As I type on this computer about to publish this post (not to mention that I am a software developer by trade) I am all too aware of modern science's contributions to the health and well being of society.  Even though it was actually PEOPLE who did these things, and not science itself.

I have detailed before the issue with scientism, specifically the position that science is the only reliable method of inquiry.  But the intent of the discussion is not to dispute science, only to recognize two important observations:

  1. That science, properly speaking, assumes a boatload of metaphysical assumptions.  
  2. That those assumptions, taken to their logical conclusion, provide a pretty good framework for the existence of God.
But the problem with a lot of encounters I've had with materialists is that one of two things happens:
  1. The scientific method is essentially dogma and a half.  No question will be permitted, period.
  2. The attitude that if we examine the scientific method with any critical thinking, we have to throw reality out the window.
The inability to turn a critical eye to science itself undermines a great many claims that materialists are "free-thinkers".  Far from questioning everything, the materialist swears unyielding fealty to the scientific method.  To analyze the method is to doubt, and to doubt is verboten.

The main problem is that the scientific method is ultimately a reasoning process.  Scientific claims are highly specific, and requires experimental verification given the number of assumptions in play, the specific claims being stated, and that claims about nature herself are involved.  

Ultimately the scientific method is only as strong as the claims used to support it.  Since scientism folks do not have any methodology for testing such claims, the whole thing is balled up under "science" and assumed outright.  Far from engaging in critical thinking, the modern scientism-ist is one of the worst practitioners of fideism.  

From the "How does gay marriage affect you!" file

comes this bit of fascism.  Live and let live, unless you hold opinions that counter the dominant narrative.

I for one will make every effort to eat at Chik-Fil-A this week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Following an argument

I am beginning to seriously wonder if the Internet Age is rendering the modern brain incapable of the disciplined thought necessary to hold a principled position.  I have a lot of trouble believing that something like the Federalist Papers could be written by anyone in this current generation  much less expected to be read by any literate person in this modern age.  And comprehension being even less likely.

The most depressing aspect of this came to me last week when I should have been paying attention in my training class.  I was in an argument of sorts with a pro-abortion advocate who was attempting to justify abortion via an appeal to bodily integrity of the mother.  In short, the mother has the right to murder the child because in all other cases we do not force the mother to say, donate a kidney, if capable.  So why should she be held to risking her bodily integrity if she becomes pregnant?

Aside from the obvious point of when the mother engages in sex she is basically inviting the child into her body (regardless of steps taken to prevent conception) I pointed out that nowhere in law or custom do we accept the murder of the innocent as a means to any end.  He countered:
Him: A baby can be cared for by another, if the mother chooses to give it up, which she can. The fetus can only survive with the mother.
Me: Those two situations are not analogous, as the mother doesn't have to murder the child.
Him: No, but that is only because she doesn't have to.

Facepalm.  The whole point of the analogy was to show that the murder can be justified by reference to the idea that the mother can give up her maternal responsibilities by putting the child up for adoption.  The analogy fails because in abortion the child is murdered, which is clearly not the case in adoption.

The point of the contention was not that under certain circumstances the mother can give up her maternal responsibilities.  The contention was that this ability extends into murdering the child as a means to relieve those responsibilities.  But my opponent became confused and started to argue the wrong principle.

Which leads me to my main problem.  It is one thing for people to disagree.  It is another that the disagreement stems from a misunderstanding.  But when people can't seem to follow their own reasoning, how can reason be used to argue for truth one way or another?  When a person can't seem to focus and loses sight of what they are defending, how can reason be used to argue against it?

Sigh.  It makes we wonder why I bother sometimes.  I'm all for argumentation.  I'm all for reasoned discussion.  I would like to be corrected (and have been in other places).  But when the person I'm talking to cannot seem to follow their point, much less mine, what use is reason?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Out this week

I will be attending an "intensive" training class for work, so I will not be at my desk for most of the week.  I do have an Ignitum Today post due, but I will save my sanity by not attempting to hold myself to my posting schedule.  Watch this space Thursday.

The Management

Friday, July 13, 2012


Yay!  Today I passed the 10,000 all time views mark.  I'd like to thank the spider bots and other trolling applications that made this possible.

You are not entitled to your own opinion

At least not in the way you think.  Modern discourse, thanks to the rejection of objective truth, has devolved into something like the Jerry Springer show with much shouting but very little communication.  Like two people arguing over what brand of soda is the best, most political commentary is about who can shout the loudest and condemn the other side in the most glaring of terms.

It makes sense if one thinks about it.  If objective truth doesn't exist, then how can anyone be "right?"  Your position is just like that of the other, a preference and nothing more.  No intellectual reason or insight can back the position, because that position doesn't really have anything to distinguish it from another position objectively.

But let's assume that there is objective truth (a reality that is obvious to anyone who thinks for a few seconds).   How does that change our perspective of opinions?

Opinions are the view of a particular individual in relation to an objective truth.  Truth is objective, but opinion changes as we attempt to navigate between truth and error.  And because no one person can at any time have complete truth (only God possesses this quality) we are left with having to navigate life with but a small part of the whole.  This in turn leads to our understanding of the right to one's opinion.

The right to one's opinion can be phrased as two responsibilities.   One responsibility belongs to others, and one belongs to the holder of the opinion.  Without both the notion of a "right to an opinion" falls apart.

The first is one we are quite familiar with.  The notion that society as a whole should respect opinions to a reasonable extent.  As fellow humans with the same limitations in understanding truth, we have a responsibility to give room to those we disagree with.  And to presume that the opinion, especially one we disagree with, has been arrived at through reasonable means.

Obviously, we all have work to do on this responsibility.

But to me it seems we have even more work to do on what is the responsibility of the opinion holder.  The responsibility of the holder is that an opinion presented is "well founded."  That is, sufficient time has been taken to make sure that the opinion is the representation of the truth to the best of the knowledge of the holder.

Far too often in modern discourse an opinion is not the reasoned view of a well thought out set of premises arriving at a conclusion.  It is instead a projection of the holder's pride on the world as what the holder wants the truth to be.  This is why most arguments are shouting matches, because it is not the search for truth that motivates the holder of the opinion, but the opinion is a reflection of the holder's desire.

Another thing to note is that because there is such a thing as objective truth, opinions vary in quality by their relation to their correspondence to the truth.  An opinion that abortion should be legal because the fetus is not human is worth less than the view that a fetus is human.  Opinions only have value in their relation to the truth, and not because someone holds them.

This is why, while it is true we all have a right to an opinion, it is also a grave responsibility.  We have a duty to attempt to conform our opinions to the truth, and to recognize that our opinions only hold weight in relation to actual truth.  But in order to bring this about, we must start by setting aside our pride, and working to make sure that what we offer is in fact the truth and not what we wish it would be.  The difference between the two ideas could not be starker.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Random Thoughts II

So I can't seem to concentrate long enough to post about one topic in a coherent and sufficiently intelligent fashion.  And while the reader may be thinking "When has he ever?" I will ignore your witty dig and shower you with randomness that is flitting through my mind.  So here goes:

While it would have been nice if the Supreme Court struck down the laughably named "Affordable Care Act" aka Obamacare, as a Catholic the issue is not the individual mandate but the HHS mandate.  Striking down the bill itself would have essentially made the lawsuits against the HHS mandate automatic winners.  Still as a conservative politically I find that Judge Roberts reasoning interesting and at the same time baffling.  It will be interesting to see how this ruling affects the lawsuits and future attempts to expand the Commerce Clause to cover just about regulation.

There is reason to hope that the HHS mandate lawsuits will still fly as the recent 9-0 smackdown the administration received for the Hosanna Tabor case.  Yet the fact that the ACA was ruled constitutional is quite troubling on that front.


My friend Brandon Kraft talks about summer and change.  Personally, I am such a creature of routine that any small deviation fries my obsessive/compulsive brain.  I'm kinda like this only worse:

I hope to handle change as well as Sheldon in the future.


My friend Derek Najera writes about El Paso with the love that we should all have for our home.  I wish I could write like him, but alas I am a compulsive complainer.  Something else I would work except I hate change.  

Speaking of complaining, a human toothache complains that someone's restaurant is offering discounts for church bulletins.  Managing to demonstrate ignorance of both "tolerance" and "discrimination."  

Finally Ms. Fulwiler talks about her conversation with her gay friend.  I think she does a marvelous job of keeping truth and charity in balance against someone who is somewhat hostile.

So that is it for now.  Hopefully Friday my brain will cooperate and we will see something more focused Friday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Quick update

So you may have noticed that I've changed the layout of the site.  I am playing around with various styles, and I've settled on this one for the time being.  In particular, I have now created a page for linking post series, the first about the major departure points in thought regarding the traditional marriage debate.

Let me know what you think.  I'm still tinkering.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Traditional Marriage: Addendum

Perhaps one of the most biting criticisms wielded by the pro-gay "marriage" folks toward the traditional marriage institution (or as I like to call it, "reality") is the damage that "straights" have done to traditional marriage.  Serial divorce, contraception, IVF, etc have warped society's view of marriage.  Thus it is hypocritical of advocates of traditional marriage to exclude gays when the rest of the definition has been violated.

I wholehearted agree with this criticism.  I feel that the advocates of marriage have already compromised the core of marriage by accepting things like contraception and no-fault divorce.  The surrender of these aspects of marriage make the exclusion of gay partnerships look like an arbitrary ban.  Had our society been living marriage as it had been intended gay "marriage" would look a lot more ridiculous.  

This is yet another reason why the fight for marriage is considered "the bad war."  Whatever the intellectual reasons for the traditional view of marriage (and they are sound) are compromised by the day to day life of your average American Christian.  Our lives have undermined the actual meaning of marriage, and as a result we have lost the fortitude to make the argument.

In order to reestablish the legal foundation of marriage we need to live out the truth of marriage in our daily lives.  We need to reclaim the permanence of the union and the life giving potential that makes marriage the foundation unit of a society.  How can we expect the proponents of gay "marriage" to believe our view of marriage if we do not live it out ourselves?  

This does not mean however that the gay advocates have the upper hand in this.  The fact that marriage is damaged in our society does not justify making things worse.  As C. S. Lewis states:
We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
 But for Christians we have to take a hard long look at our own lives.  The sanctity of marriage is something that cannot be taken for granted.  And the gay "marriage" debate is but one of the many ills that plagues our society as a result of our infidelity toward nature and the fundamental concepts of the human person.  We cannot blame the gay "marriage" advocates for taking our errors to their logical conclusion.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The coming battle for freedom

It has been a long time in coming.  One could be tempted to say that the blame lays at the feet of the Baby Boomer generation, but like with all things human, such is too simple an answer.  For the last century or two at least the concept of Man, as made in the divine image of God, has been under assault from a variety of vectors.  But they all center around one simple but wrong principle.  The notion that Man is not made in the divine image of God.

As Catholics we know about the Divine origins of Man and because of this we have a responsibility to testify to that truth.  That Man, by his nature, has been given the freedom to do what is right and holy in the sight of God.  A right that no one can take from us, nor can we even revoke it.

The media attempts to paint this as a "War on Women."  In particular,  the media attempts to shape the discussion around the Church's opposition to contraceptives.  While it is true that the American bishops are simply asking to not have to participate in evil by paying for it, in some respects, the media is on the right track.
It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.—Boromir
The contraceptive pill is the symbol of everything our modern culture stands for.  It promises power and submission of nature to the will.  It promises control over one's very nature.  It is the One Ring of the modern world, a shortcut to dominion and control, with the promises that life will be easier and free from responsibility. 

The pill represents the stance of the modern man toward nature.  Nature, especially human nature, is not something to be respected, but enslaved.  Not to be respected and cared for, but tortured for her secrets and ultimately to bend it to submission.  All the more so for the human body, summed up perfectly in the mantra, "My body, my choice."  The body is to submit to the control of the mind, not the spirit.

But we as Catholics have another small thing.  It is a symbol that stands as a shining light against the false promises of the Pill.  That thing is the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.  The Body that was offered up for the salvation of mankind.  The Blood that was shed for the sins of all.  The symbol and reality of sacrifice, humility, and the reception of grace.

The Eucharist stands as a symbol of everything the Pill is not.  The Eucharist leads to true life, the Pill to death.  The Eucharist promises our true destiny and shows what it means to be human, uniting us with God, ultimately sharing in the divinity of the One Who Died for us.  The Pill promises power, and the attempt to become gods by demanding our nature bend to a warped will.  The Eucharist tells us who we truly are, the Pill promises that we can change that.

The Obama administration now demands that we put the Pill where the Eucharist belongs.  It demands that we put our fidelity to the Pill before our fidelity to the Eucharist.  It demands that we participate in the consecration of the Pill, even if we do partake of it ourselves.  Like Caesar of old, the Obama administration would have us add the Pill to the altar, in the public sphere if not the one in Church.  It would have us revere the Pill as the source of life, and push the Eucharist to the closet space of life under the guise of "freedom of worship."

I honestly do not know what the outcome of this fight will be.  History gives us differing opinions of how the Church in various countries respond to persecution.  The bishops in England caved to a man.  The Church in Rome rose up and ousted the old empire.  The Church as a whole will survive.  The Church in America is a fate to be determined.  But God also uses such times to raise up saints, and we could use them now.

The funny thing is we are not fighting for our own "freedom to choose."  The true freedom to worship and live our lives in the public square in accordance with the will of God.  America has been an exceptional country to this point.  It remains to be seen if it will remain so, or simply continue down the path toward the bondage of sin.

There is always hope.  God, in His infinite mercy, can turn the tide.  America was founded on the notion of inalienable rights.  There have always been those who have attempted to subvert that ideal.  We have also not lived up to that ideal at times.  But even if the very government turns against such a fundamental freedom as religious liberty, that right still exists.  It cannot be taken by any decree, any force of arms, nor by any tyranny of either the mob, the majority, or the individual possessing that right.

This is why we celebrate the fourth of July.  That a nation was founded on these rights.  That the founding fathers did their best to preserve and develop a country of ordered liberty that not only respected but enshrined such rights into law.  The freedom to choose the Eucharist over the Pill.

We may have a government hostile to such a choice now.  Perhaps even a majority of the people as well.  It matters not.  They have no say in the matter.  These rights, these truths, these freedoms come from a God that builds them into our very nature.  No tyrant, no mob, no intellectual elite, no experts, can take such rights.

As Catholics we now stand for those rights that America was founded upon.  As Americans it is our heritage, and we have no right to throw them away or forget those rights and those who died to protect them.  As human beings, it is our very nature that the Obama administration is now at war with.

Though the fortnight for freedom is over we must still deploy our weapons to protect this freedom.  Those weapons, prayer and grace, have leveled empires and crushed evils that have attempted to destroy the Church in the past.  We only have to deploy them.

There will come a time when America is no more.  Being a human institution it has a lifespan of its own.  It is simply our fallen nature that causes what we build to crumble over time.

But the dream of America, that noble experiment of freedom birthed in 1776, will continue on beyond the physical and even spiritual death of the current society.  Like the Magna Carta of old, the ideas and image of Man in such outlive the structures that they were supposed to influence, but the dreams that form the foundation of those milestones live on, because they are found in the nature of Man himself.  And whenever these foundations are discovered, recognized, and in our fallen way respected, it is worthy of celebration.  And that I believe is what we celebrate today.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Traditional Marriage: The relationship between morality and law

After a long absence we return to the subject of traditional marriage and in particular, the nature of the relationship between law and morality.

Up to this point we have covered the distinction between being and action, the male/female distinction, the purpose of sexual relations, the nature of marriage, and the nature of the family.  But now we have a question.  If we were to grant all of the premises found in the links above, why is it the case that the law cannot allow for same-sex "marriages?"

We have discussed to some degree the relationship between morality and law.  In short, the law is the encoding of a moral viewpoint such that is enforced on the population as a whole.  Because of this, the laws of a society need to correspond to the reality of nature and morality.  Thus if the state were to recognize gay "marriage", this creates a number of issues.

The first is one of principle.  By recognizing gay "marriage", the state is attempting to redefine reality to suit political preferences.  Granting the principles laid out, gay "marriage" simply doesn't exist.  It is akin to putting unicorns on the endangered species list or legislating the value of pi to 3.  Thus for the state to recognize gay "marriage" is essentially the attempt of the state to redefine reality.  And when a state attempts to redefine reality, you have a tyranny.

The second is that by taking a stance in favor of gay marriage we are already trying to coerce the view that gay "marriage" is in fact good.  The trend has been that when gay "marriage" is recognized, opposing views are met with an attempt to be forced out of the public square.  Thus there is a legitimate fear that such a radical departure from reason by legislating a view that does not conform to the truth will have a devastating effect on society as a whole.

Finally (and most importantly) there are the children of such a "marriage."  Given how the gay relationship is fundamentally at odds with the nature of marriage and the family, children are ultimately harmed by the deprivation of their natural parents and the presentation of a marriage that is fundamentally at odds with reality.  This is a form of abuse, and should be discouraged by society, not enshrined in law.

There is also the issue of the erosion of marriage as a legal institution.  But this is a discussion for another post as the attempt to legalize gay "marriage" is but one step in a long process that has been occurring for the past 40+ years.