Tuesday, 11/14/17

 

  1. Cartestian Christianity
  2. Whole souls
  3. Darwinian myths: not like other myths
  4. It’s been a great run
  5. Coriolanus as the republic drains away
  6. Especially grotesque vanity about virtue
  7. Hold, wait, do nothing
  8. Death rites

1

Descartes is a great Christian philosopher and I am a guy who reads him yearly and hopes to understand. Being critical of Descartes should only be done with care, but I do have a complaint. This world-class scientist and thinker failed, I think, and the failure keeps coming up in conversations with friends and readers. If I am reading him correctly, he wanted to build his system of thought on certainty and this quest for certainty has led to three very bad results in this particular culture.

Few people accept his conclusions, a secure Christian theism based on his arguments, but plenty are infected with his desire for certainty. This is a snare and a delusion that would rob us of a chance to find maturity: wondering brings us to maturity.

We cannot wonder about certainty ….

(John Mark Reynolds, Descartes: A Complaint) Reynolds goes on to outline those three bad results, and I agree with him about the first in particular, of both of which variants I’ve seen too many examples.

The sweet spot has both reason and faith; I don’t think God intends us to be more certain than, for example, Abram was when God said “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee,” which is enough certainty if God is faithful.

2

Being smart is a good thing, but smart students should not aspire to be Intellectuals. We are choking on Intellectuals just now, elites whose education is not matched by performance in life, but who remain verbal. If it were possible, they might talk our culture to death! God grant us thoughtful, warmhearted, doers . . . People who are whole souls. 

(John Mark Reynolds, Being “Intellectual” Is Not the Answer) This little blog post was too good not to pass along, but all I’ve given you is the introduction. Do read the whole thing—maybe two minutes is all it will take.

3

Darwinism is not a predictive theory.  It does not proceed by saying, “According to our models, we should expect human males to be more interested in sexual variety than human females; let’s find out if this is true.”  Rather, it proceeds by saying, “Human males seem to be more interested in sexual variety than human females; let’s cook up some scenarios about how this might have come to pass.”  In other words, the theory discovers nothing.  It depends entirely on what we know (or think we know) already, and proceeds from there to a purely conjectural evolutionary history.

These conjectures are made to order.  You can “explain” fidelity, and you can “explain” infidelity.  You can “explain” monogamy, and you can “explain” polygamy.  Best of all (for those who devise them), none of your explanations can be disconfirmed — because all of the data about what actually happened are lost in the mists of prehistory.

In the truest sense of the word, they are myths — but with one difference, which is this: the dominant myths of most cultures encourage adherence to cultural norms.  By contrast, the myths of evolutionary ethicists encourage cynicism about them.

(J. Budziszewski) I, a most unreliable guide on matters scientific (much as I love tech gadgets), have lost my taste for debunking evolution and all its pomp, works and pride. But it’s still worth remembering that a lot of pop Darwin is Just So Stories gobbled up by people no more reliable than I.

4

When people feature maps like this, it’s click-bait for old Tipsy, and this click paid off.

img_2594

The set-up from this Springfield, Massachusetts “rational urbanist” could stand to be much tighter, I think, but the conclusion seems to capture something real going on in the country:

My loathing for the South aside, we need to end the charade of a “United” States of America: They [people in Alabama in particular] don’t want the country I want, and I don’t want the country they want. Let the Confederacy reconstitute itself and arrange its affairs as it sees fit: No public transit, loose environmental laws, theocracy, mandatory gun possession for all adults at all times, mandatory minimum carbon emissions. It would still be among the world’s larger nation states.

New England could go off on its own with our little 6 state alliance, not even twice the size of Alabama all by itself, or we could join with New York, New Jersey, and maybe even Pennsylvania for a Spain sized North American nation; renewable energy, public transit, universal health care, legalized pot. Let the Mid Atlantic states be the buffer between us and The Confederacy, with the Midwest, Mountain West, and Far West left to their own devices.

We want different things, we see ourselves differently, and the constant lurching in different directions is getting all of us nowhere. It’s time, in this course of human events to dissolve the political bands which have connected us to another. Peacefully. Without malice. It’s been a great run, I guess, but it’s time to call it quits.

If this isn’t what we want (or what the world needs from us, assuming that something about the “indispensable nation” is true), then we’d better figure out how to prevent it.

5

In Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, the wheels are coming off the republic. Effective leaders can’t explain their actions to the people convincingly. Simultaneously, populists flatter the masses without taking responsibility for their promises. And, at the edge of the horizon, foreign powers that care nothing for the rule of law threaten military catastrophe.

No, I’m not making this up.

The title character, the proud war hero Coriolanus, cannot stoop to the people. He must win their approval to become consul, but he won’t flatter, cajole, bribe, or lie to the people for their vote. It may initially seem refreshing to imagine the polar opposite of what we encounter in candidates today. But recall the effect of pointing out the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax and dividing us into “makers and takers.” Spin up the rhetorical dial 300 percent, put your character in a uniform, and you have Coriolanus.

Many productions depict Coriolanus as a ranter who continually screams at the people. But in this version, Sope Dirisu is entirely self-possessed, and he generally criticizes the fickle Romans more in sorrow than in anger. Until, that is, the tribunes persuade the people to banish him. At this, Coriolanus delivers his most bitter lines: “You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate / As reek o’th’rotten fens . . . I banish you!” With that, he proudly throws away his chance to offer much-needed leadership to the republic. Instead, he joins his erstwhile enemy and sets in motion the tragic conclusion.

It’s not enough, then, to maintain that his version is about the class divide (as Jackson has also said); nor is it enough to note that the characters of the play become unsympathetic. The people also become unsympathetic; the patricians become unsympathetic; the Senate becomes unsympathetic. And tragically, Sope Dirisu’s Coriolanus, ever true to himself, becomes unsympathetic too, for he conflates listening to the people with flattering them. In short, this production, like Shakespeare’s text, presents a republic at a historical moment when our sympathy for its institutional foundations drains away drop by drop.

And no, I’m really not making this up.

(Daniel Ritchie, The Fault Lies in Ourselves: Coriolanus at the Royal Shakespeare Company)

6

[Roy] Moore campaigns almost entirely about social issues — National Football League protests, the transgender menace — and the wild liberalism of [Doug] Jones, a law-and-order prosecutor and deer and turkey hunter who says he has “a safe full of guns.” Jones’s grandfathers were members of the mineworkers’ and steelworkers’ unions: Birmingham, surrounded by coal and iron ore, was Pittsburgh — a steel city — almost before Pittsburgh was. Jones hopes economic and health-care issues matter more.

Evangelical Christians who embrace Moore are serving the public good by making ridiculous their pose as uniquely moral Americans, and by revealing their leaders to be especially grotesque specimens of the vanity — vanity about virtue — that is curdling politics … Even after Donald Trump conceded that Barack Obama was born in United States, Moore continued rejecting such squishiness.

… Jones’s hopes rest with traditional white Democrats (scarce), Republicans capable of chagrin (scarcer), and African Americans. They are 27 percent of this state in which “civil rights tourism” (the 16th Street church, Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery church, and more) is economically important.

(George Will, Roy Moore is an embarrassment. Doug Jones deserves to win)

7

Johnny at Granola Shotgun surveys the economically insurmountable regulatory barriers to reclaiming commercial properties, closing on a subversive note:

Each element of the design is based on an accumulation of amendments to the code over many decades. Individually it’s impossible to argue against each of the particulars. Do you really want to deprive people in wheelchairs of the basic civil right of public accommodation? Do you really want the place to catch fire and burn? Do you want a barren landscape that’s bereft of vegetation?

… All our collective legislation to make individual establishments achieve specific goals are in direct conflict with the larger development pattern which is also institutionally mandated. There is zero chance that any of these laws and procedures will be changed in my lifetime. However, it’s highly likely that before I die this gas station will close and the property will work its way down to a series of lesser uses until it remains vacant. After fifteen years the building will be fully amortized for tax purposes and the corporation that operates it will probably move on. That’s just good business. And before I shuffle off this mortal coil the cost of maintaining the road and associated sewer and water infrastructure will outstrip this town’s tax revenue – especially after the disposable chain businesses close down.

On a walking tour of town officials and development consultants pointed to empty buildings and described all the things that could be done to bring them back to productive activity: open up the blank walls and re-install windows, incubate all kinds of new businesses, paint, outdoor seating… I rolled my eyes. None of those things make any economic sense given the regulatory hurdles involved and the likely negative return on the up front investment. I’ve seen this scenario play out many times before.

The buildings that most appeal to me are the anonymous blank inscrutable structures that could quietly contain storage facilities or a non retail live/work space under-the-radar without attracting the attention of officialdom. If the inhabitants were really discrete they might be able to carry on unmolested for a number of years. Meanwhile the usual big money developers might buy enough of the neighboring buildings and vacant land – with the accompanying subsidies and tax breaks – to rapidly transform Main Street at a much higher economic level. There’s no in-between. You either get permanent stagnation or massive redevelopment. Baby steps are essentially illegal. “Hold, wait, and do nothing” works for the little guy.

(Emphasis added)

8

I used to feel a little skeptical of funerals; I understood they provided closure and an opportunity for community support for the bereaved, but the ones I had been to always seemed to deepen the family’s sense of grief, to reopen fresh wounds. I imagined that, when the choice was mine to make, I would elect for something extremely small and private. Over time, though, as I have read through the past, I have changed my mind.

[E]arly Christians took their deaths—and those of their ordinary coreligionists—very seriously …

When I intuited that funerals seemed only to aggrieve the families of lost loved ones more, I had left something important out of my calculation: the dead. It’s one thing to say (and to believe) that our dead live on in another realm; it’s another to imagine them as yet still human, still social creatures, still partial to their communities and places of origin. It’s easy to think of them as shades, all alike, preferenceless and undifferentiated, but the earliest Christians imagined them as still themselves, yet perfected.

I think … that the dead wouldn’t just want to be ‘remembered,’ as it were, by a gravestone or marker. They would want to be remembered — held in the mind, as once in the arms—most especially by those who love and loved them, those whom they love or loved or would’ve loved, if heaven had delayed their hour.

(Elizabeth Bruenig, A Funeral for a Child) Elizabeth Bruenig should see an Orthodox Christian funeral. I can’t say there’s nothing remotely like it in the world, because my funeral exposure is almost 100% Christian, from “vaguely” through “sentimental Evangelicalish” to “full-throated Orthodox.”

I suspect from television that many other parts of the world, regardless of the decedent’s religion, still take the death of a loved one quite seriously when time and circumstance allow grieving before returning to lives that are pretty tough in their own right. But the Orthodox service would be unique in the sober hope of the resurrection of the body.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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