Friday, December 31, 2010
Keep in mind that Plato lived more than two thousand years before the invention of political correctness:
"He who lived well during his appointed time was to return and dwell in his native star, and there he would have a blessed and congenial existence. But if he failed in attaining this, at the second birth he would pass into a woman, and if, when in that state of being, he did not desist from evil, he would continually be changed into some brute who resembled him in the evil nature which he had acquired, and would not cease from his toils and transformations until he followed the revolution of the same and the like within him, and overcame by the help of reason the turbulent and irrational mob of later accretions, made up of fire and air and water and earth, and returned to the form of his first and better state." - Timaeus.
I wonder what the reincarnationists would say about that? This brought to mind another classical comment:
"Even a woman may be good, and also a slave; though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless. The second thing to aim at is propriety. There is a type of manly valor; but valor in a woman, or unscrupulous cleverness is inappropriate." - Aristotle, Poetics.
This would seem to lend some support to the modernists who argue the Apostle Paul did not permit women to teach men in order to avoid giving offense to the ongoing culture. The passage on this is 1 Timothy 2:12-15. The explanation Paul gives, however, would need to be considered duplicitous to make this explanation fly.
Going back to Timaeus, it begins with a summary of The Republic, where Plato outlines an ideal society:
"Socrates: Neither did we forget the women; of whom we declared, that their natures should be assimilated and brought into harmony with those of the men, and that common pursuits should be assigned to them both in time of war and in their ordinary life.
Socrates: And what about the procreation of children? Or rather not the proposal too singular to be forgotten? for all wives and children were to be in common, to the intent that no one should ever know his own child, but they were to imagine that they were all one family ..." - Timaeus
Who would have imagined that Plato's ideal would have been achieved in our time? Is this not what has been put into practice in America's ghettos? The children never know their fathers, and the philosophers of academia dictate the education of the next generation.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
"First, there was the moon in the orbit nearest the earth, and next the sun, in the second orbit above the earth; then came the morning star and the star sacred to Hermes, moving in orbits which have an equal swiftness with the sun, but in an opposite direction; and this is the reason why the sun and Hermes and Lucifer overtake and are overtaken by each other." - Timaeus
Obviously Hermes and Lucifer correspond to Mercury and Venus. From Isaiah 14:12-13 -
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north."
The NIV uses "O morning star" rather than Lucifer. The Septuagint would be a likely source for the origin of this Greek name. This can be checked here. 'Lucifer' doesn't come from the Hebrew per my concordance. The Latin Vulgate seems to be the first to use Lucifer as the translation in Isaiah 14:12 as can be seen here.
The Image Of God:
"When the father creator saw the creature which he had made moving and living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in his joy determined to make the copy still more like the original; and as this was eternal, he sought to make the universe eternal, so far as might be. Now the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, but to bestow this attribute in its fulness upon a creature was impossible. Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity; and this image we call time." - Timaeus
vs. Genesis 1:27 -
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
Was, Is and Will Be:
"They are all parts of time, and the past and future are created species of time, which we unconsciously but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence; for we say that he 'was,' he 'is,' he 'will be,' but the truth is that 'is' alone is properly attributed to him, and that 'was' and 'will be' only to be spoken of becoming in time ..." - Timaeus
"It was framed after the pattern of the eternal nature, that it might resemble this as far as was possible; for the pattern exists from eternity, and the created heaven has been, and is, and will be, in all time." - Timaeus
"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'"
Clearly the language of John is similar to the Pythagorean concept, yet it is at the same time quite deliberately contradicting.
On the shape of the Earth:
"Wherefore he made the world in the form of a globe, round as from a lathe, having its extremes in every direction equidistant from the centre, the most perfect and the most like itself of all figures; for he considered that the like is infinitely fairer than the unlike. This he finished off, making the surface smooth all around for many reasons; ... " - Timaeus
Here we see a clear spherical earth notion. Note that Plato is giving the theories of the Pythagoreans, and Pythagoras lived about 150 years earlier than Plato. A related Bible passage might be this:
"Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found." - Revelation 16:13
Mountains were certainly not in conformance with the perfect sphere as taught by the Pythagoreans.
Yes, the introduction continues for one more hour of listening! Jowett tries to compare modern (i.e. 19th century) science to the science of classical Greece. In this he observes that the Greeks (actually the Pythagoreans, since Timaeus is a Pythagorean in Plato's dialog) believed that words, numbers and ideas had properties that went far beyond their role as mere labels, but then sensibly Jowett notes that the 19th century wasn't immune to such follies.
Jowett deems the main difference between modern and classical science to be the abandonment of analogy and the use of experiment. The Pythagoreans looked at nature and saw numbers everywhere, which Jowett also considered a break through, since it pointed the path towards modern physics. Here I must comment to note that the foundation of human intelligence is pattern recognition and inductive reasoning (This is erroneously called Common Descent by the Darwinists, causing them massive amounts of confusion). When does inductive reasoning break down into analogy? It is not nearly as black and white as portrayed. Keplar is mentioned in passing, but what really distinguished him was not experimentation, but rather observation with vastly improved instruments. Thus, the 19th century intellectual is not distinguished by superior intellectual abilities. Instead, it is the accumulated stock of instrumentation and methods that were accumulated over centuries that was received by a blessed generation.
Jowett continued his compare and contrast mentioning Heraclitus, Democritus, Aristotle, Cicero and numerous other individuals and schools of thought from the classical era. What stands out to me again is what is left out of this long list: Lucretius gets a mention, but as a poet and not for the theories of the Epicureans, which go unmentioned. The neo-Platonists of the Christian era are mentioned, but not criticized as Gibbons does for their lack of contributions. The Academics who inherited the Academy are also notably missing from Jowett's introduction with their 'skeptic' arguments against all knowledge. The modernist intellectual likes to refer to himself as a 'skeptic', but in fact they oscillate between the opposite extreme methods of the Epicureans and those of the Academics, depending on whether they want to affirm or discredit some proposition.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Timaeus is a collection of Greek philosophers notions about God, soul, origins and physics. As such it is extremely valuable for understanding the views of the Greeks, yet at the same time it touches so briefly on a large number of topics that we need to be careful about drawing too many conclusions.
The audio version I am listening to begins with an introduction by the scholar and translator, Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893). Not knowing anything about Jowett, it was immediately clear that he was a typical atheist. In passing he mentions the church fathers who he deems to be incapable of processing classical philosophy because they don't recognize the differences between the various philosophical schools of thought. This is simply nonsense since the church fathers weren't writing commentaries on individual schools of thought, with the exception of Augustine who is undoubtedly far greater an expert in these matters than Jowett or any other modern scholar could ever hope to be.
Then there is the problem of how to categorize Plato. On the one hand, he is a considered a genius when compared to the Christians. On the other hand, much of what passes for physics and origins in Timaeus is rubbish. Then there is the fact that Timaeus has a strong intelligent design flavor with a firm belief in the Creator.
In passing Jowett mentions Lucretius (skipping the title of Lucretius's work, On The Nature Of The Universe), but only to compare the style of writing to Plato. Did Jowett completely miss the fact that Lucretius is just as ambitious as Plato in covering origins, physics and the nature of man and soul? This is the comparison that begs to be made but Jowett completely ignores. Plato believed that truth about the gods and origins was passed on from earlier generations who had seen the events and passed down an accurate version from the gods. Thus, his ignorance proceeds confidently from this supposed revelation. Lucretius (and the Epicureans) had a completely different set of nonsensical notions of physics, the soul and origins, while rejecting the notion of revelation as being for idiots. Instead, they believed that the human mind had essentially unlimited powers which could be unleashed by rejecting superstition and embracing reason. The result was both totally ignorant and spectacularly boastful, founded on atheism and a pretense of reason that was utterly laughable. My suspicion is that Jowett didn't call attention to Lucretius because of the identical mindset of the 19th century atheists.
Another thing that stands out in my mind as I listen to this is the degree to which the Bible refrains from nonsensical classical notions. What is discussed tends to be more consistent with modern science compared to these other classical works. Setting aside miracles, when something is considered non-miraculous, it is generally sensible. Plato and Aristotle are frequently mentioning the four elements, while Lucretius has his quasi-matter. The Bible has none of these and the Christian Fathers almost none, although being brought up in this environment. The glaring exception that is always brought up is the Flat Earth Theory that was supposedly believed by the ancients - especially the Christians - yet in fact was a 19th century hoax. The fact that atheists needed to come up with a hoax of this sort tells us plenty.
I always wondered what they were thinking when this rule was put into place. The last chapter of On The Duties Of The Clergy goes into a bit of detail. First, the clergy were expected to be older people who had largely been through life and were more experienced and - hopefully - wise. Like Rehoboam's older wise men. In this context, most clergy were expected to be widowers who had only married once, but were not going to marry again. There was no hint of the system that was to come later and be preserved to this day where people go into the ministry from when they are young, but still expect to be spiritual leaders, only to be retired from training the younger generation by the time they are 40. Using Rehoboam as the example, it seems that American Christianity has formalized the notion that only the younger friends are the best suited to impart wisdom to the next generation.
Ambrose says many things that I admire, but there was one bothersome point. To the issue of celibate clergy, he appeals to Exodus 19:15 and the command to "Abstain from sexual relations" which was for a very specific purpose. Based on this it is argued that clergy must abstain all the time, hence the need to be celibate. So the original command that was given as a one time event to all the people becomes a continuing command to a minority as it is mapped to the church. Appeals are made to the Levitical rules to impose celibacy, yet the Levites were married.
Monday, December 27, 2010
This comes from On the Duties Of The Clergy, but I can't find the online text that matches the audio I am listening to. Ambrose talks of Just War as being a war fought for reasons of necessity. There are only about two or three sentences here, so the definition and scope of 'necessity' are clearly not very well pinned down. For example, do we consider Just War at the strategic level as nations struggle for preeminence? Or the individual battle level? Or the individual combatant within a battle - that is do we only shoot when shot at? Do we each get to make a determination of Just War for ourselves? Or is it the commanders only? Or perhaps only the generals? Or the senate? Maybe we need to call a special election before we defend ourselves? There is no guidance here.
A few pages later Ambrose spills a considerable amount of ink praising valor along with the wars of the Maccabees. Ambrose also uses the analogies of military discipline and preparation to discuss how we should behave as Christians in the context of the spiritual domain. In our modernist, theistic-atheist viewpoint, the war of the Maccabees would be considered entirely unjust. The Maccabees were fighting as a minority against the cultural changes being brought about by multiculturalism, progress and paganism. Could they not have peacefully worshiped in their own homes, while accepting paganism as the rule of society? Who gave them the right to impose a theocracy by force? Were they not crazed with intolerance? These are the ones who Ambrose praises.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The place was nice, but with some problems. One bath for 6 people was workable with a bit of planning, but the place could sleep 8 or more. The hotel's breakfast was totally crazy as too many people tried to squeeze into a very small room for something that was not particularly edible. Then there was the annoying internet charge. My wife was thankful for that.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
"For if he who fights for the emperor is forbidden by human laws to enter upon lawsuits, to do any legal business, or to sell merchandise; how much more ought he who enters upon the warfare of faith to keep from every kind of business, being satisfied with the produce of his own little bit of land, if he has it?"
This seems to be taking conflict of interest to an extreme that I had never considered before.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Ambrose begins this with a few chapters regarding keeping the mouth shut:
"Why, Pythagoras himself, who lived before the time of Socrates, followed the prophet David's steps and gave his disciples a law of silence. He went so far as to restrain his disciples from the use of speech for five years. David, on the other hand, gave his law, not with a view to impair the gift of nature, but to teach us to take heed to the words we utter."
It is hard for me to imagine that the first duty of a preacher is to not talk. Another point in this is that the early church fathers seem to all be conversant in classical philosophy.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I forgot my camera card reader, so you will just need to imagine the beautiful lake surrounded by snow covered mountains and trees sagging under the weight of snow.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
"Even in war moral power is to physical as three parts out of four." - attributed to Napoleon III.
I know of no one who has disputed the above, except to adjust the ratio. The DADT change is just one more small increment on a trajectory, so the effect is incremental rather than drastic. At the same time, DADT repeal does make a significant change in the moral equation as the West struggles with Al Qaeda and other groups.
First, we must consider the term 'moral'. To the Western traditionalist, this means our traditional moral values. To the modernist, 'moral' means the negation of those traditional morals. The sense of 'moral' in the quote is neither of these - it is the degree to which the combatants believe and are committed to their particular cause. Thus, it is neither Western traditional nor Modernist intellectualoid when we are talking about enemies of the west. As such, the moral of Al Qaeda is the degree to which they believe in their cause, and this belief derives from their religion, not the opinions of Ivory Tower intellectuals. Clearly the Taliban isn't going to ease up because we got rid of DADT, although the addition of one more grievance to their long list probably won't make that much of a difference either.
How will it effect our side? Certainly we now have less opposition to the US military from the Ivory Tower intellectuals. The fact that the Ivory Tower intellectuals are purely amoral is beside the point. Pirates are amoral too, but they have been known to fight with ruthless dedication to their cause. The issue is the degree to which America as a whole - and the military in particular - are committed to defending themselves against those who want to end our civilization. The presumption of the amoral Ivory Tower elites is that their values are the only ones that count for America as a whole. I will leave my thoughts at this point, but the entire episode reminds me of Genesis 14.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The article laments the strong correlation between failed marriages and all kinds of social problems for the children starting from poverty, but moving on to failed educations and careers that never get off the ground. Even I will agree that there is a strong injustice in all this when some children are born into an environment of misery, while others to comfort. What to do about it?
The author - who herself is divorced - seems to think that the solution is in families:
"..we should help couples, too, achieve the stability for which they long.
This means, among other things, reconnecting marriage and parenthood in the public imagination, encouraging both religious and secular civic organizations to reach out to Americans from less-privileged backgrounds, and also urging state lawmakers to reconsider how existing divorce laws are helping -- or hurting -- our families."
Unfortunately there are others looking at the same problem and prescribing solutions that relate to the same things. First, however, let's consider the Zimbabwe Solution. What do you do to fix a situation where most of the population is starving? Simply redefine what was formally called a "starvation diet" to be a "nutritious meal" and incite a mob to go after the wealthy farmers. Problem solved! The people most capable of providing a solution end up becoming the focus of public anger.
What isn't completely clear from the commentary is a recognition of the war over the competing solutions to the failed marriage/family problem. The most successful in this arena are the conservative Christians, although there are some other sects doing quite well. The group doing the worst is the intellectualoids who, in spite of their failure, are determined to be recognized as the sole authorities in the matter. Along side this we have "separation of church and state", which pretty much guarantees that any successful religious group is going to be banned by the courts from any government sponsored forum. At the same time, it is a moral imperative that the government be involved in such a clear case of injustice. The end result is that we are pretty much doomed to have the intellectualoids imposing their Zimbabwe Solution to the marriage/family problem onto society.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
"Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. ..." - The Apology Of Socrates.
Here it is a death with no afterlife, but the same passage considers death with an afterlife as well.
The parallel passage in the Bible is again from Paul:
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21
I find Paul's statement much more appealing. Socrates life is to be a gadfly, as he says during his defense. Paul is to give the good news of salvation. Then the afterlife is what Paul clearly remarks as "gain", which Socrates can't persuasively argue.
"...and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living ..." - The Apology Of Socrates.
This is a raw dump of similar patterns. The last post was about the delusions of men. The cure for the delusions is a clear headed self examination, but how can those of deluded mind engage in a sensible self examination? The parallel passages from the Bible with regard to the Communion ceremony:
"Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves." - 1 Corinthians 11:28-29
Self-examination is a major theme of the New Testament. Reason is clearly needed, but then we need others who are both honest and caring for us, and we need the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
"Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him - his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination - and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is - for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him." - The Apology of Socrates
There is much more on this theme in The Apology Of Socrates. Of course Socrates was operating on a false humility, since asking good and provocative questions requires a certain amount of knowledge, but Socrates claimed to know nothing. The school of Athens was eventually taken over by the Academics, who tried to formalize what was merely a pretension with Socrates and claimed that it was impossible to know anything. This belief they held to be something they knew with certainty! Perhaps it is possible to be delusional about intellectual powers while denying them at the same time. Socrates was famously put to death for daring to tweak others over their delusions. Today's intellectuals quite famously consider themselves to be entirely free of this disease which has afflicted mankind throughout history.
I believe that knowledge is real, but we are granted just enough intellectual power so that we can do what God has appointed us to do. 2 Peter chapter 2 describes the same syndrome from a different angle:
"For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity..." - 1 Peter 2:18-19
The last group that Socrates tweaked was the craftsmen:
"But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom ..." - The Apology of Socrates
The artisans of this era were heavily into pagan religious artifacts. Today's artists also famously have opinions that extend far beyond mimicry. This passage reminded me of two other Biblical ones:
"Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message." - 2 Timothy 4:14-15
Apparently Paul had been dragged into court and prosecuted. The other episode was from Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) where the silversmith, Demetrius, started a riot. My overall impression, however, is that the class most prone to delusions is the intellectual class, of which I am a member.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
We attended a funeral today. The chapel was packed and the service was almost entirely in Taiwanese, making it easy for my wife, but unintelligible to me. I only met Dr. Chen a few times. He was born in Taiwan in 1925. At age 17, he left home for Tokyo to complete his high school education. The result was a few years of hardship as he lived as a foreigner in a war torn city enduring the bombings of World War II. Afterward he returned to Taiwan and went to National Taiwan University, followed by studying to be a medical doctor. In spite of the practical needs of dealing professionally with the sick and dying, Dr. Chen also spent a lot of time studying philosophy, while also having time for plenty of exercise.
At age 55 he decided to abandon his atheism and became a Christian. His children likewise became Christians and married into other Christian families. My friendship was with several of them, and Dr. Chen's grandchildren had been my Sunday School students. It is certainly an amazing family that Dr. Chen left. His children said that Dr. Chen's favorite hymn was "I Know Not Why God's Why God's Wondrous Grace". This is a hymn I remember from when I was young, but haven't heard for many decades. Attached is a the song with lyrics. It was surprising hearing so many people singing this together in Taiwanese.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
"Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy..." - Apology of Socrates, by Plato
"Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." - Acts 5:29 (KJV)
In both cases the scene is a trial in which they are being accused regarding their teachings. There is much more to the similarity here, but also the differences. On poking through this, I noticed that the original NIV version also reads "rather than men", but the 2010 NIV reads "rather than human beings". Obviously the new translators didn't take this verse to heart, since the reason for the variant translation is the need to bow to the men ... errrr ... human beans in charge of political correctness. If they are that desperate for gender neutrality, they should just learn the Chinese version rather than butchering the English language:
"彼 得 和 眾 使 徒 回 答 說 ： 順 從 神 ， 不 順 從 人 ， 是 應 當 的 。"
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
"Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness."
The "happy gift" here refers to an ability to credibly describe emotions of various characters. The problem here is that I don't have emotions, so it would be completely implausible for me to write about them. The other item, "madness", is one that I have been accused of having many times, however, this is clearly in error: I may be a loon, but I am a happy loon, not a mad loon. To tell the truth, I have never met an angry loon. We are quite gentle and even tempered.
The linked version of the text leaves out the last speech by Alcibiades. In this Alcibiades talks of trying but failing to seduce Socrates, in spite of his youthful body. Any student of classical literature will have to get used to talk about homosexuality, thus, I have become a bit numb to it after all my reading. Even Augustine has extended passages on the gay pride parades surrounding the pagan worship.
This post really isn't about The Symposium, but rather the modern teachings of the LGBT theologians, who often are neither L, G, B or T, but preach a new gospel where Jesus died not to redeem people from sin, but to redeem them to sin. What if one of these theologians, like Paul, were to take his gospel to Athens? Paul preached well, and many laughed but some wanted to hear him again and eventually believed. Would the new, enlightened ones have fared better?
The LGBT gospel goes a bit like this: Some people naturally form heterosexual relationships, and some are born to form homosexual relationships, but in all other aspects, there is no difference. Furthermore, there is no correlation whatsoever between homosexual relationships and pedophilia. Besides this, LGBT theology teaches that pedophilia is a horrible evil for which they would be first and most severe in their condemnations. Of course these geniuses would be laughed out of the Areopagus by everyone, perhaps to be invited back simply for the amusement. In the classical ages, homosexual love was all about pederasty. Homosexuality involving adults also happened, but it was considered a degenerate form of pederasty. The younger partner was to stop being involved with the older from the time he grew a beard. Anyway, that is the classical world. My understanding is that LGBT theology says that the classical world had no concept of Love, which is something that modern LGBT researchers see routinely in these generalized relationships. Further research indicates that the concept of Love was first discovered at the University of Uppsala in the year 1763 ... (to be continued)
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Why I am listening to this is beyond my comprehension. What I have learned so far is that 'tragedy' is about characters who are better than me and 'comedy' is about characters who are worse than me:
"Since the objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions, goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences), it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are. ...
The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy; for Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life. "
"Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type- not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly."
Or maybe I should say, 'worse than most other people'. This all reminds me of another famous quote attributed to Karl Marx:
"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."
This seems to come from another Marx work that refers to history and Germany, but uses an analogy:
"The modern ancien régime is rather only the comedian of a world order whose true heroes are dead. History is thorough and goes through many phases when carrying an old form to the grave. The last phases of a world-historical form is its comedy. The gods of Greece, already tragically wounded to death in Aeschylus’s tragedy Prometheus Bound, had to re-die a comic death in Lucian’s Dialogues. Why this course of history? So that humanity should part with its past cheerfully. This cheerful historical destiny is what we vindicate for the political authorities of Germany." - A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, by Karl Marx (1818-1883).
So how is it that the same characters can be the subject of both Comedy and Tragedy if we use Aristotle's definition? I suppose that they can't. However, if we choose to view ourselves as superior to those around us who are going through troubles, we can enjoy Comedy, whereas if we choose to do the opposite, then we can have Tragedy - and either is possible with the same character. This somehow makes me a bit sad since, as a Christian, I should view others as better than myself, which would cause me to see more tragedy. Yet isn't it the case that I see plenty of Comedy also?
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
This post is going to highlight the notion of "mediator":
'"What then is Love?" I asked; "Is he mortal?" "No." "What then?" "As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean between the two." "What is he, Diotima?" "He is a great spirit (daimon), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal." "And what," I said, "is his power?" "He interprets," she replied, "between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all, prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love.' - The Symposium
Any Bible student who hears the above quote should immediately have 1 Timothy 2:5 recalled to mind:
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,..."
This should hopefully raise some eyebrows. The usage of the concept of mediator is nearly identical, but we should also highlight the differences. Christianity emphasizes that there is only one God whereas the Greeks believed in many. Jesus as mediator is fully God and fully man, which is somewhat different from their notion of not quite god and not quite man, but somewhere in between. The Greeks also seem to have multiple candidates for their mediator god, leaving things in quite a muddle.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
This is a series of speeches about Love given among friends. One thing that jumps out right away is the deification of love:
"What a strange thing it is, Eryximachus, that, whereas other gods have poems and hymns made in their honour, the great and glorious god, Love, has no encomiast among all the poets who are so many." - The Symposium.
Then there is the Hindus with Krishna being the "Lord of love", and Christians with "God is Love" (1 John 4:8). Same pattern?
The first thing to note is that our English word 'Love' corresponds to multiple Greek words. The subject in The Symposium is Eros, of Love as passion. The Love in 1 John 4:8 is Agape, which is a Love that is perfect, unselfish and caring for others. Thus, Agape love is quite distinct from our animal instincts in their good and bad forms which are much discussed in The Symposium. Then there is the distinction that the Greeks view the gods as having control over the subject matter, whereas Christians view Love (Agape) as emanating from God's character.
With Socrates there, we are going to get to the core of what the Greeks view loving as being about:
"Remember further what you said in your speech, or if you do not remember I will remind you: you said that the love of the beautiful set in order the empire of the gods, for that of deformed things there is no love-did you not say something of that kind?
Yes, said Agathon.
Yes, my friend, and the remark was a just one. And if this is true, Love is the love of beauty and not of deformity?
And the admission has been already made that Love is of something which a man wants and has not?
True, he said.
Then Love wants and has not beauty?" - The Symposium
The degeneracy of this love should now start to become clear. The beauty of the loved entices us and brings us desire so that the love seems to be quite selfish at root. Compare that to the following:
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8.
Because we were sinners, there was nothing beautiful or desirable in us, yet God's love was still operational to the point of His son going to die. Certainly our beauty is not what this is all about, but rather our deformity.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Or to put it another way, I listened to 30 hours of his sermons in which Hell featured strongly as something to be avoided. For example:
"If you die unconverted, you will have the worse place in hell for having had a seat or place in God's house in this world." - Many Mansions
Thus, those who unrepentently attend church are warned so that even a sermon about Heaven features Hell. He goes on to tell the story of a dying man and his admonition:
"The first of them was much in expressing his sense of the vast importance of an interest in Christ, as I was a witness, and was earnest in calling on others to improve their time, to be thorough, to get an interest in Christ, and seemed very desirous that young people might receive council and warning from him, as the words of a dying man, to do their utmost to make sure of conversion; ..."
Yes, the Gospel message is for young people. This was clearly a different era. Today, we are taught that young people need to get a re-written, Disneyized version of the Gospel. Then they graduate to a faux scholarly version, or maybe a psycho-therapist type, or one that quotes trendy authors and metaphors in an effort to acquire respectability. Edwards has none of this. Just the straight stuff on the good, the bad and the spiritually ugly. It makes me feel like even today's fundamentalist Christians are getting soft and squishy. A library of works was left by Edwards, but Librivox only has this one set of sermons recorded. Wondering what all I missed ...
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
It's a bit old fashioned in the era of the SUV, but it just doesn't seem right to have a winter trip without installing tire chains.
Chains chatter as we drive the way up towards Donner Pass.
The BBC article claims that from the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs, the remaining small rodent-like mammals were able to "go nuts" and develop into a vast array of large mammals, and all this within a period of "25 millions years".
Since I am in an optimization theory mood again, let's give this a look: The assertion is that mammals, with a 3-billion base-pair DNA encoding, optimized themselves for a biological niche within 25 million years. If we assume one generation per year, the result is absolutely fabulous: Evolutionary optimization methods are order-0: That is they do not consider any derivatives. In optimization theory, we bring in calculus and compute convergence rates based on Taylor Series expansions. The more derivatives, the higher the expansion, and the faster the convergence rate. A simple 1st order method (i.e. 1st order derivatives only) can require 1000's of iterations for decent convergence when only dealing with 2 variables. A second order method can have nice convergence, but computing all the 1st and 2nd order derivatives by non-analytical means can be at least of order n*n cost (n is the number of parameters). For 0-order methods, we expect the number of iterations to be vastly more than the number of parameters, not vastly less as is required by Darwinism.
What is missing from the BBC article is that the "25 million years" didn't only result in new species optimized for various niches, but almost certainly produced a system of global symbiotic ecological balance. In other words, the various species of mammals, along with species of plants and non-mammal animals, were also part of this grand symbiotic optimization. Essentially we have a tightly coupled optimization problem with all the biodiversity of life being optimized in one swoop, and it only took less than 25 million iterations, using a 0-order method. Amazing!
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The voters of Oklahoma put a bill through declaring that judges could not consider Sharia law. A few moments later, a Muslim filed suit claiming that this violated his right to practice his religion, and a judge ruled the law unconstitutional. Duh!
Anyway, this requires a little reflection. Does the inability to impose Sharia Law constitute a restriction on religion? The all-religions-are-alike mentality of modernism says 'of course not'. Religion is strictly an internal thing and a sensible person does not let his internal spirituality effect his externals in any noticeable way. People who do otherwise are crazed fundamentalist extremists. In the case of Islam, however, the rules change and we suddenly start acknowledging that there is more to religion than the internal state. So yes, anyone can choose to follow Sharia Law, but does that really constitute the religion? What if the religion isn't the voluntary adherence to Sharia Law, but rather the involuntary imposition of Sharia Law on others? If this is the case, then the judge is certainly correct - that America's courts must have the option of involuntarily imposing Sharia Law onto US citizens in order to uphold freedom of religion for a Sharia Law adherent who might reside in the community! It will be fun to see how all this works out.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
This topic should begin by reading about security in Israel, where the situation is much more threatening than here in the US, but effective security is accomplished without groping and/or making nude photos of all the passengers. The problem, of course, is that it involves what we call "profiling": the notion that an elderly nun behaving normally is less likely to be a threat than a skittish young man who shows up in the records as having been traveling to places like Yemen. Political Correctness says that it is better for a major city to be blotted out than to return to "profiling". Of course profiling is simply another word for discrimination. The end result sends costs through the roof and forces all Americans to equally suffer the indignities of being groped. Call this a 'win' for terrorism.
This does remind me of the banking crisis: Through the Community Reinvestment Act, congress reached out and groped the banking industry, forcing them to abandon 'profiling' in giving loans - that is they were banned from determining if someone could repay the loans. This had the predictable unhappy ending with America's collective wallet being groped to make things right. Following this, we now have a health insurance system where profiling is banned, which is going to put the unlimited health care costs from an unreformed, government organized health cartel swarming with malpractice lawyers onto the productive parts of the economy. Again, the economy is being groped, but now from a different angle than was done regarding banking and housing. The common denominator to all this is political correctness and its banning of profiling.
Going back to profiling as discrimination, this topic needs some more of a look. In the earlier history of America, we ranked people based on their skin color, which was certainly a form of discrimination that we thankfully consider bad. On the other hand, we must admit that the human brain is a discrimination machine. We make judgments about all kinds of things from the bits of data we gather. If someone is dirty and smells of alcohol, we judge one thing. If another is neat, clean and polite, we judge something else. There are a thousand other cues that cause us to classify people in our subconsciences according to inductive reasoning. Is this wrong? The evolutionary view must be that these tendencies evolved in a human due to considerations of survival of the fittest, thus I can't see how discrimination could be viewed as wrong under any circumstances for Darwinistas. As a Christian, I view the human's tendency to discriminate as something that God created in us and gave us for a purpose. As with all human abilities, however, it can be used for good or bad. Christians consider the nature of man to be corrupt causing are discrimination habits to be corrupt. Thus, it is that we need to learn to judge and discriminate in ways that are more wise and sensible, not simply dispense with judgment. There is a better way for the Christian:
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heard.'" - 1 Samuel 16:7
Thus, the Christian believes there is a better way, although it is hard since we can't look at people's hearts. The airport screeners in Israel, however, are trained to look at other indicators and discriminate accordingly.
The irony of our current situation should now be clear: We are governed by atheists and theistic-atheists who believe in evolution, which considers discrimination to be an unconditional good imparted to mankind by their god, Mother Nature. In practice, however, they consider discrimination to be an unconditional evil so that it must be universally banned with no exceptions. Probably something between those extremes would be a better position.
Friday, November 19, 2010
This was credited to Mussolini (1883-1945). Today a Fascist is anyone who holds a political view you don't like. I thought it might be good to hear what they had to say for themselves. In this essay a number of political systems are compared in order to clarify what Fascism is or isn't. The first to be debunked is 19th century liberalism: The belief in individual liberty, free markets, and a minimalist government to maintain order. This he pronounces to be dead, which is indeed true for Europe. In the US, this corresponds to the modern Tea Party movement and president Reagan, who was the only president who believed this since the 19th century. In practice, however, the 19th century liberalism is dead in the US also because it can never muster enough votes to make its beliefs last for more than a short while.
One doesn't need to go far in this work to find out that Fascism is idolatry of The State:
"Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity."
It goes on like this sounding as totalitarian as Communism. A difference is that Fascism affirms the traditions of religion - making them an extension of the state - whereas Communism is explicitly atheist and anti-religion. In practice, however, this distinction shrinks considerably as Communists have frequently tolerated religion, but insisted on appointing the priests. An additional sense of the divergence is here:
"Fascism is therefore opposed to Socialism to which unity within the State (which amalgamates classes into a single economic and ethical reality) is unknown, and which sees in history nothing but the class struggle. Fascism is likewise opposed to trade unionism as a class weapon. But when brought within the orbit of the State, Fascism recognizes the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonized in the unity of the State"
Fascism deals with classes by making them serve the state in their own appropriate way. Communism simply makes a single slave class of everyone. The modern leftist exploits class and culture warfare to keep society in a constant state of tension and upheaval. Regarding morality and virtue, we have this:
"Let no one think of denying the moral character of Fascism. For I should be ashamed to speak from this tribune if I did not feel that I represent the moral and spiritual powers of the state. What would the state be if it did not possess a spirit of its own, and a morality of its own, which lend power to the laws in virtue of which the state is obeyed by its citizens?"
And so we see that the Fascist views the state as an upholder of morality. This isn't too different from Communism either. It should be noted that the source of that morality and virtue isn't explicitly referred to, but I have a sense that it is mixed with a bit of nostalgia for former Roman glory.
Considering the modernist leftist, they too seem to idolize the state, but in a more limited sense as the notions of individualism haven't been entirely dispensed with. A common notion to all the major leftist movements is total control over education:
"Thus many of the practical expressions of Fascism such as party organization, system of education, and discipline can only be understood when considered in relation to its general attitude toward life. A spiritual attitude."
There are several more statements. Fascists, Communists and modern Leftists all consider the brain to be property of The State. Where things split, however, is that Fascists and Communists believe in upholding virtue and restraining vice, whereas modern Leftists believe in upholding vice and restraining virtue.
Going back to 19th century liberalism, it is clear that this system cannot work without a citizenry that is virtuous. Since virtue is not the natural state that humans are born into, it must be passed on by education and coercion. This, however, would seem to contradict the premise of liberty. The Libertarian correction considers the passing on of virtue to the next generation as anti-Liberty and so introduces a ban on virtue, at least in any way that would elevate it above vice. It would seem that this system can work, but only for one generation. It is good to see that the world of ideas is much more complex than simply left and right. And nothing is workable in the long run.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
An hour of rhetoric was dedicated to expounding the above. This mainly has me thinking on the word Hypocrite and the various uses. The original word was used for an actor in a play, who is trying to play as someone he isn't. Humans, however, learn by mimicking others, so there is nothing extraordinary in this. In our modern, popular discourse it is more along the lines of someone whose actions deviate from their intentions or ideals. Again, besides distinguishing us from the other animals, this isn't too helpful. There is also a variant where a hypocrite is someone who sets out to do something, but then abandons the effort as soon as it becomes the least bit difficult.
The modern usage, however, is for someone whose moral standards exceed their behavior. This is greatly condemned. Given that humans are famously deficient of whatever standard is set, there would seem to be only one possible way to correct this failing: Dispense with the moral code altogether. Unfortunately that isn't possible either, since even the worst human beings have some moral code, althoiugh it might be quite brief.
What bothers me about Jonathan Edwards sermon is that it uses Hypocrite to refer to common people who engage in public prayer as situations arise, yet do not pray in private. Certainly it is a form of hypocrisy or pretentiousness, but going along with the culture is something we all do. Yes, we should pray to God always and keep our thoughts on Him. The Bible, however, uses things differently:
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." - Matthew 6:5
The hypocrite isn't merely passively following the culture, but rather exploiting it, extending it, and pushing the envelope in order to gain attention for his spirituality. God, however, is completely outside of his field of view. The other thing I note is that most of the references to hypocrites in the Bible are to educated teachers. The modern words that seem to fit this version of hypocrite more closely are duplicity and mendacity. It isn't just the false pretenses, but the wicked intentions that are behind the dishonesty, and frequently the intention of doing tremendous harm.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
We have a crossing to the Fremont Central Park that has a bit of tension. Formally it is supposed to be closed, but signs are put up periodically indicating we aren't supposed to do this. As long as the signs are put up politely, and everyone ignores them politely, the rules are sufficiently acknowledged and bureaucracy is appeased. But then some hooligans (are hooligans only English?) took offense, tore the sign out of the ground, and threw it into the creek. I wish people could be a bit more civilized. On the other hand, things are much worse in some nearby areas.
As California's tuition hikes keep coming one after another, this is a bit of news that will be unwelcome to those who have to pay their way. According to the article, there are 25,000 illegal college students in the state, which works out to a subsidy of perhaps $250 million per year. The University of California has been infamously seeking more (legal) foreign and out-of-state students to make up funding shortfalls, which means reducing the number of in-state students. Add to this that the state is already bankrupt...
Sunday, November 14, 2010
So far I have found little to take exception to in Edwards sermon, but there is a portion of this one that grabbed my ears - besides the title:
"So if man obtain his subordinate ends ever so fully; yet if he altogether fail of his ultimate end, he is wholly an useless creature. Thus if men be very useful in temporal things to their families, or greatly promote the temporal interest of the neighborhood, or of the public; yet if no glory be brought to God by it, they are altogether useless. If men actively bring no glory to God, they are, as to their own activity, altogether useless, how much soever they may promote the benefit of one another. How much soever one part of mankind may subserve another; yet if the end of the whole be not answered, every part is useless." - Wicked Men Useful In Their Destruction Only.
My sense is that Edwards has considered the Purpose Driven Life far more thoroughly than Rick Warren did. Setting that aside, my primary thought on this is that Christians should join in and be active on community efforts, even if the stated purpose isn't the glorification of Christ. Our role as useful citizens will serve as a testimony, even in societies that are wholly given over to evil. In some sense I believe that this is due to a greater purpose that God has, but typically an activity can be subordinate to multiple ultimate ends. The readily visible ultimate end might be trivial, but the true ultimate end of everything can still be served.
Since I am immersed temporarily in Jonathan Edwards sermons, I was tempted to adapt his style, but will hold off on that. Not enough time to prepare a one hour sermon!
"'Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.'" - Matthew 25:46
This is from the parable of the sheep and the goats that Jesus told, but it is quite explicit that the punishment is eternal, not merely final followed by non-existence.
"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." - Hebrews 6:1-2
It is thus an elementary teaching that the judgment leads us off onto an eternal destination. At the same time, Christianity has no concept of the termination of souls. Besides this, we must consider that the fires are eternal, but why have them to be eternal if the destruction is immediate?
Does any of this matter?
There is the story of Jesus dining with a Pharisee where he is anointed by a sinful woman. As it says:
"'Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.'" - Luke 7:47
The Pharisee was able in some sense to have fellowship with Jesus, yet because he did not recognize the severity of his sins, he was unable to truly love. The woman, on the other hand, was quite clear on the magnitude of her sins, thus, her love was all the greater. Those who recognize how great the magnitude of the disaster that waits upon them will tend to be all the more appreciative at the salvation. The annihilationist viewpoint vastly diminishes the punishment to the point where many will simply say, "Oh well, I didn't win the eternal lottery". I see the whole exercise of arguing against eternal punishment as something which inevitably leads to a lukewarm Christianity and empty church pews.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Having listened to a few hours of Jonathan Edwards, I am certainly warming up to him. He is more fundamentalist than a fundamentalist, yet at the same time he lived and preached before the modernist era got going. Modernist believe that they were the first humans to discover the brain and reason, so let's see what Edwards has to say in contrast:
"2. Without knowledge in divinity, none would differ from the most ignorant and barbarous heathens. ...
3. If a man have no knowledge of these things, the faculty of reason in him will be wholly in vain. The faculty of reason and understanding was given for actual understanding and knowledge. If a man have no actual knowledge, the faculty or capacity of knowing is of no use to him. And if he have actual knowledge, yet if he be destitute of the knowledge of those things which are the last end of his being, and for the sake of the knowledge of which he had more understanding given him than the beasts; then still his faculty of reason is in vain; he might as well have been a beast, as a man with this knowledge." - The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth.
Comparing Edwards to modern fundamentalist, I find him to be more ordered in his thoughts, less likely to use football metaphors, and fairly solid in terms of what he says about Biblical studies background items.
Friday, November 12, 2010
This topic should start by noting that we are in the latter stages of Democracy as described by Polybius where there is no honor for anything or anyone. Do we not compete among our friends to see who can make the most contemptuous remarks regarding politicians? Is there anyone - other than Lady Gaga - for whom we all have respect? Even the queen of England is mocked. Parents are despised by their children, if they can find them. School teachers lock themselves in their offices to protect themselves from the children. Restricting ourselves to Christians, do we honor our pastors and elders? So we go into this topic recognizing that we are living in an age that despises honor. But what does the Bible teach:
"Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor." - 2 Peter 1:17
Ooops. My attitude needs an adjustment.
Shortly after reading Anselm's works I had read that Anselm was the author of the notion that man's salvation was tied up in the requirement of God's honor. This surprised me. It wasn't because I had missed this, but rather that Anselm presented God's honor in an incidental way as if it were a presupposition that everyone agreed upon. Here is an example:
"Someone who does not render to God this honour due to him is taking away from God what is his, and dishonouring God, and this is what it is to sin." - Why God Became Man.11
"But God rightly punishes sinners, not for nothing but for something: for, as I have said in my book mentioned above, he demands the honour due to him from unwilling sinners which they did not wish to render freely, and he places them apart from the just in due order so that nothing should be out of place in his kingdom." - Virgin Conception and Original Sin.6
The latter is in response to another point that Anselm discussed - that sin was actually nothing.
I thought it would be good to ponder this a little further from our modernist perspective. If someone is expecting honor, our instinct is to take him out back and beat him up. But what if we are on life support and the person happens to be the only one who can operate the life support system? Do we beat him up then? What if he actually is the one and only life support system? Going further, what if that person had the sole power to make our life either pleasant or unpleasant?
Taking this further, it seems to me that many conceptualize God as a god - a spiritual being that exists off in some unreachable dimension - yet they do not have a notion of God as God. That is they do not accept that the universe owes its existence and continued functioning due to God's governance, nor do they acknowledge any good having come their way due to God's providence. He is simply some bloke who is seeking honor and maybe tossed them a pence once or twice.
Moving back to the real world, the honor that is given - or demanded - is done so that anarchy can by avoided. If the bosses are ignored, the plant will shut down. If the judge is despised, criminals will go unhindered. Honor is required for a reason. Moving forward from Anselm, this is what Jonathan Edwards has to say:
"It was utterly inconsistent with the honour of the divine attributes to save any one of the fallen children of men, as they were in themselves. It could not have been done had not God contrived a way consistent with the honour of his holiness, majesty, justice, and truth. But since God in the gospel has revealed that nothing is too hard for him to do, nothing beyond the reach of his power, and wisdom, and sufficiency; and since Christ has wrought out the work of redemption, and fulfilled the law by obeying, there is none of mankind whom he may not save without any prejudice to any of his attributes, excepting those who have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost." - God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men.
As the title indicates, God is sovereign when it comes to salvation. The notion that we can dishonor him as we please and then put Him under obligation to save us anyway is, well .... nuts.