Monday, May 30, 2011

 One day, two accidents.


The one above was taken today on highway 9 near the top of Saratoga Gap.  I was driving and someone else got the picture.


This one was taken earlier on the way out to the mountains.  I snapped it with the iPhone while someone else was driving.  Life can be turned upside down in a moment.
Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753):  Introduction.

"As a philosopher, he was antagonistic to the intellectual tone of his age.  He opposed Newton's metaphysics, philosophy of science, much of his optics, and some of his mathematics, and admitted that much of Newton was 'so directly opposite' to his own doctrine. ... Such opposition to established authorities in so many fields by a man not yet turned thirty produced the expected reaction.  That of Leibniz is representative: 'I suspect that [the man in Ireland] is one of those people who seek to become famous by their paradoxes.'  Many, not so kind, said he was mad ..." - A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, edited by Colin M. Turbayne, Introduction.

With the city of Berkeley and the University of California at Berkeley being just a few miles from my house, there is a certain curiosity regarding the name Berkeley.  Seeing his name on this small work at a used bookstore, it seemed good to learn something.  According to the wiki article, the name Berkeley was chosen in 1866 when some men looking were looking out towards the Golden Gate and one of them quoted Berkeley: 'westward the course of empire takes its way'.   For those who are tempted to link the madness of George Berkeley to the city and university that carry his name, this whimsical sort of naming choice wouldn't seem too promising.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Church Advertisements ... Striving to be constructively radical.

The first is from Fremont Community Church.  It has two services.  The first is at 9am and is "contemporary".  The second is at 11am and is labeled "informal".  But what is the difference between contemporary and informal?  And what if I happen to be in the mood for an Eastern Orthodox mass?  

The second is from Crossroads Church in Fremont.  Here is the first part:

"Crossroads grew out of the belief that because people are different from one another, churches should be also."

I am not sure that this is Biblical, but it sounds cool and trendy so we will file that away in a safe place for the moment and continue on:

"We believe there is a great need for church services that address the real needs of people through a variety of contemporary methods, such as upbeat music, creative arts and relational teaching."

So the Gregorian Chant is out.  I have to wonder what "relational teaching" is.  Is that the same or different from "teaching by teaching"?  Other than this, it sounds like the same old story that we get everywhere.

"We believe church is a place to worship and not make fashion statements.  We encourage people to dress in appropriate, modest and comfortable clothing.  T-shirts, jeans, shorts and sandals are welcome!"

Given that the dress code in most churches these days has everyone looking like a beggar with worn out clothes that were purchased at a thrift store, I am still struggling to reconcile that with the first statement that churches should be different from one another.  OK, I am not really struggling with the conflicting notions.

What I am struggling with is the fact that the most important thing to advertise in a church these days is the lack of a dress code.  At the same time, I would imagine that an enthusiastic aboriginal convert to Christianity would want to wear his best necklace of shrunken heads to church to celebrate what the Lord has done for us by saving us from our sins through the work of Jesus on the cross.  But I guess that would be wrong because the aborigine would be trying to make a fashion statement.
The Goose that Saved Rome.

This is a story from Livy's (59BC to 17AD) history or Rome.  The Gauls had conquered the city.  Roman forces were slowly regrouping outside for a counter attack, while the main fortress had been held by a small contingent of Roman soldiers with few provisions.  The Gauls decide to do some dangerous cliff climbing in the middle of the night:

"While this was going on at Veii, the Citadel of Rome and the Capitol were in very great danger.  ...  So on a starlit night they first sent forward an unarmed man to try the way; then handing up their weapons when there was a steep place, and supporting themselves by their fellows or affording support in their turn, they pulled one another up, as the ground required, and reached the summit, in such silence that not only the sentries but even the dogs - creatures easily troubled by noises in the night - were not aroused.  But they could not elude the vigilance of the geese, which, being sacred to Juno, had notwithstanding the dearth of provisions, not been killed.  This was the salvation of them all; for the geese with their gabbling and clapping of their wings woke Marcus Manlius, consul of three years before and a distinguished soldier, who, catching up his weapons and at the same time calling the rest to arms, strode past his bewildered comrades to a Gaul who had already got a foothold on the crest and dislodged him with a blow from the boss of his shield. ..." - The Early History of Rome, V.47

The events are supposedly from 387BC.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

6:00AM @ Shadow Cliffs Park.


Four of us were there this morning.  The air temperature was 50F (10C) and the water temperature was in the mid 60's.  Two did a 3,000 yard swim - one loop around the lake - before heading off.  I did 2 miles (3,440 yards).  The fourth did 5,000 yards in the same time that I covered the 2 miles.  Then it was off to work.

In case anyone wonders why my blogging is a bit slow, this is a likely cause.  Getting ready for the Swim Around The Rock means a lot of time in the water.  My previous lake swims left me with an allergic reaction to the water in my nose.  This time I used something to pinch my nose, which makes the swimming very uncomfortable - a bit like being water boarded.  Thankfully the post-swim stuffy nose didn't occur this time.  The big problem for me is speed.  I have plenty of strength to go faster, but the breathing picks up and, well, you just can't breath faster than your swimming rhythm in the water.  Thus, breathing sets the limit on how fast I can go over long distances.  Hopefully spending more time in the water will sort this out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Praising the Canadian Family.

The mother is giving me an earful about getting too close to her little ones.  With so many crazies here in California, who could blame her?  She is a loving and caring mom.  


This is the loyal dad challenging me to a duel to the death.  Being the, um, underdog doesn't bother him in the least.  My sense is that he watched Nacho Libre too many times, but I declined the challenge.


In spite of the overheated rhetoric, the experience of meeting this young family was truly encouraging.  Their faithful determination to raise children together in an uncertain environment was inspiring.  There was also not the slightest trace of any sympathy for the non-traditional family.  May God bless them as they raise their children.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

SOWAT:  Shadow Cliffs Open Water Aquatics Team

This is a friendly bunch.  We met before work today for my swimming test to see if I could join their group.  The test ended up being 2,800 yards of swimming.  Other than a little soreness in the neck, it went without too much trouble.  I had been swimming in a pool recently, but need to get out in the open water to prepare for Alcatraz.  Open water swimming requires you to sight forward every so often, causing the head to be elevated and the neck to be twisted in ways that aren't necessary in the pool.  SOWAT is permitted to swim all over the lake so we can swim almost 800 meters without having to stop or turn.  The water temperature is probably mid-'60s.  This is considerably colder than the 78-80 degree temperature of the heated pool, but still a bit warmer than the Alcatraz swim.  A special thanks goes to Ron, Sue and Mark who helped me get acquainted with this new swimming hole.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Claremont School of Theology to offer degrees for Rabbis and Imams.

A couple is donating $40 million to make this happen at the United Methodist school.  Sometimes I think I am getting numb to all the insanity that afflicts Western Post-Civilization.  But then someone always manages to come along and take things to an entirely new level.  The rebuttal to this is that this school probably hasn't been doing any genuine Christian training for more than a century, so they need to branch out in order to attract more students.  On the other hand, they might want to consider teaching something that would be at least recognizable by John & Charles Wesley.  Nah, that wouldn't be any fun.

What would be fun would be to give seminary classes on how to make suicide vests and sneak unseen into a market on the one hand, and separate seminary classes on how to identify suicide terrorists and smoke out bomb factories ... all under the same roof.  That would truly have some novelty value.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Universe according to reasons.org.

This site is somewhat new to me, but I can't say that the theme is new.  It all starts with the Big Bang.  For those who are philosophically literate, the first mover of the universe was asserted to be God by Aristotle, and this notion was embraced by pagans and Christians alike for 2,000 years.  Then Edwin Hubble came along and claimed that the universe was expanding from a point, thus, the Big Bang theory was born and Aristotle was overthrown.  Or so it seemed.  Anyway, the claim is made that all scientists are compelled to believe the Big Bang theory because it is a proven fact of science.  File that last sentence away for reference.

Since this time, there have been a number of fudge factors added to make things work.  First there is "Dark Matter" which is needed to hold the galaxies together.  Something like 60% of the mass of a galaxy is supposed to consist of this unknown substance.  Then there is "Dark Energy" which is needed to insure that the Big Bang happened before the Earth supposedly was formed, rather than after.  Next there is the small detail that the Big Bang would have needed to have less mass than one black hole at its inception, so there would need to be a massive conversion of energy to mass for our current universe to have formed.  Call this Dark Physics.  Personally, I am waiting for the Dark Chocolate Fudge Factor to make the whole thing a bit more palatable.  But still we are told that the theory is mandatory based on science.

Then there is Reasons.org.  They insist that the Big Bang is a proven fact of science.  However, noting the problems (there are more than I have listed), they insist that only a miraculous act of God could make things actually work.  Duh!  Certainly it is satisfying to hear that a scientific notion is hopeless without a miraculous intervention, but they are contradicting themselves by insisting that science compels faith in the Big Bang.  On the other hand, the Big Bang's apparent overthrow of Aristotle was something too good to be true:  The scientific equivalent of a Dot Com Boom or a extraterrestrial bailout of the US Treasury.  Even if Hubble had faked all the data, an atheist intellectual would have sold his mother and first born child to prove something that could overthrow Aristotle's principle that the first cause could only be God.  That is the only reason I can imagine that the Big Bang was embraced in spite of the problems.  The more sensible thing to do is simply admit that desperate intellectuals do desperate and senseless things, and the Big Bang theory was one of them.  Back to Aristotle.
Canadian Anchor Babies.


The scandal continues.  They fly south over the border, and then eat, poop and produce babies.  How much is contributed to the economy or the tax revenues?  Being born in the US, they are immediately given US citizenship, but then head back to Canada when it suits them.  I propose we shoot a few of them as an example. Pluck their feathers, stuff them and roast them in the oven.  Yum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

David Hume:  More on Intelligent Design.

In Part V David has finally mentioned the Epicureans.  More on this later.  The Intelligent Design argument basically states that the cumulative force of human intellect can create simple machines.  The earth and life represent a unfathomably more complex interwoven fabric of machines.  Thus, the intellect that created this machine must be vastly greater than that of man.  I would characterize the anti-Intelligent Design arguments as basically being of this form.  1) A is greater than 0.  2) B is much greater than A.  3) Therefore, B is no equal to A.  4) Given that B is not equal to A, and A is not equal to 0, then  B can be equal to zero.  5) B greater than 0 is ruled out because that would be theological and not scientific.  6) Therefore, B must be equal to 0.

It is through this basic pattern that Hume proposes to overthrow intelligent design through the character Philo.  The various arguments proposed all fall into the usual syllogisms that we are familiar with today:

"If we survey a ship, what an exalted idea must we form of the ingenuity of the carpenter, who framed so complicated useful and beautiful a machine?  And what surprise must we entertain, when we find him a stupid mechanic, who imitated others, and copied an art, which, through a long succession of ages, after multiplied trials, mistakes, corrections, deliberations, and controversies, had been gradually improving?" - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part V.

A key part of the atheist/Darwinist mentality is the contempt for which the profession of engineering is held.  You think you are an intelligent designer??? Ha!  You don't know anything!

"But how is it conceivable, said Demea, that the world can arise from anything similar to vegetation or generation?


Very easily, replied Philo.  In like manner as a tree sheds its seed into the neighbouring fields, and produces other trees; so the great vegetable, the world, or this planetary system, produces within itself certain seeds, which, being scattered into the surrounding chaos, vegetate into new worlds.  A comet, for instance, is the seed of a world; and after it has been fully ripened, by passing from sun to sun, and start to star, it is at last tossed into the unformed elements, which everywhere surround this universe, and immediately sprouts up into a new system." - Part VII

This seems logical to Philo because he has already despised the intelligent design argument as being a mere analogy, rather than a sound combination of inductive and deductive reasoning.  Hence, any mindless analogy that he can dream up he considers a worthy competitor to the idiotic belief that technology might have been the product of a technologist.  What is notable here is that a modern Darwinist can explain anything with the same level of ease that Hume has demonstrated in the above quote.

In the next section, Hume launches into a true Epicureanism:

"For instance; what if I should receive the old Epicurean hypothesis?  This is commonly, and I believe, justly, esteemed the most absurd system, that has yet been proposed; yet, I know not, whether, with a few alterations, it might not be brought to bear a faint appearance of probability.  Instead of supposing matter infinite, as Epicurus did; let us suppose if finite.  A finite number of particles is only susceptible of finite transpositions:  And it must happen, in an eternal duration, that every possible order or position must be tried an infinite number of times ..."  - Part VIII

Anything might happen!  The problem with this is well known:  The laws of physics preclude necessary intermediate conditions for the production of life, unless that life had already existed.  Infinity isn't enough.  Besides that, we don't have infinity.  The intellectualoids tell us the universe is 10's of billions of years old with a huge number of particles.  Multiply out all the possible test configurations - assuming all those particles were little devices doing permutations on amino acids at a 1 GHz rate - and it will still come in at a vastly smaller number than the number of permutations needed to get a small protein sequence correct.

What is satisfying is the near admission that Philo is really espousing a gnostic Epicureanism, while he feigns an agnostic Acadmic/Skeptic posture.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

David Hume:  Intelligent Design

Chapter two gets into intelligent design arguments which has always been a straight forward product of inductive reasoning.  The only way to overcome it is to produce a direct assault on inductive reasoning.  Since Hume has already indicated a preference to the Academic's mode of argument, his character Philo proceeds in this fashion:

"That a stone will fall, that fire will burn, that the earth has solidity, we have observed a thousand and a thousand time; and when any new instance of this nature is presented, we draw without hesitation the accustomed inference.  The exact similarity of the cases gives us a perfect assurance of a similar event; and a stronger evidence is never desired nor sought after.  But wherever you depart, in the least, from the similarity of the cases, you diminish proportionably the evidence; and may at last bring it to a very weak analogy, which is confessedly liable to error and uncertainty." - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

At this point we must note that the vast majority of human intelligence is of the inductive sort: accumulating data and doing pattern recognition.  An important minority of reasoning is associated with deductive reasoning, but no human could function relying on deductive reasoning alone.  The argument is that inductive reasoning cannot be applied outside of the immediate realm of human experience, and creation is by definition something outside of human experience.  So what does that leave?

"Thought, design, intelligence, such as we discover in men and other animals, is no more than one of the springs and principles of the universe, as well as heat or cold, attraction or repulsion, and a hundred others, which fall under daily observation.  It is an active cause, by which some particular parts of nature, we find, produce alterations on other parts."

Philo has dumped the pretense of the classical Academic for another mask.  He is insisting that we know the super natural intelligence that was needed to create the technological wonders of life reside in nature alone.  We are now back to a non-personal intelligence that resides directly in nature after the fashion of stone age shamanism.  This is more or less the beliefs of the Epicureans, who played a most important role in the classical era, but Hume has conveniently not mentioned them by name.  Hume uses the disputes between the Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the universe to support his idea that even though intelligent design had seemed plausible for eons, something else could take its place.  Again, the Epicureans cry out for attention:  They believed that the sun and moon were about the size that they appeared to us, which was treated with derision by all the other sects of philosophy.  A modern mechanics specialist really doesn't care whether the sun is the center of the solar system or Obama's dog is the center:  We put our inertial coordinate systems where ever we want.  The Epicureans, however, were in a league all their own based on the degree of their ignorance and the conceit with which they boasted of the scientific certainty that compelled their long winded explanations.  Deductive logic was something that the Epicureans were proud of, yet their deductive logic was all founded on erroneous presuppositions.

That Hume would use an Academic to lead us to an Epicurean mode of thinking should be highlighted, given that his book is patterned after Cicero's work, On The Nature of the Gods.  Cicero's Academic character is far more contemptuous of the Epicurean than the Stoic.

Monday, May 09, 2011

David Hume:  Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

This book was published in 1779, a few years after Hume's death.  He studied philosophy and became a key figure in the development of English atheism.  As usual, I picked this up at random at a used book store, trusting God to guide me to the right materials!  Some comments on the prologue and first chapter:

"It has been remarked, my Hermippus, that, though the ancient philosophers conveyed most of their instruction in the form of dialogue, this method of composition has been little practised in later ages, and has seldom succeeded in the hands of those, who have attempted it."

Having read a lot more philosophy now, I can say this is a silly statement.  Socrates via Plato and Xenophon seems to be the only example of this that I see from all the classical Greek philosophers.  Half the time Plato is simply giving a monologue with only a minimal pretense to a dialogue.  Our next candidate is Cicero, whose "On The Nature Of The Gods" is being obviously mimicked in this work by Hume.  Cicero has a debate of sorts, but it is not in any way dependent on the conversation as Plato achieved.  Moving further along, Augustine does this in On Free Choice of the Will which I just read, and Anselm does this later.  Both of these examples are at least to Plato's standards, albeit not at the level of the few really good ones of Plato.  In practice, you can't anticipate how people will answer, so the Socratic method is a bit limited in its utility and overrated.  Continuing in the first chapter from a lecture given by the fictitious skeptic, Philo:

"After the union of philosophy with the popular religion, upon the first establishment of Christianity, nothing was more usual, among all religious teachers, than declamations against reason, against the senses, against every principle derived merely from human research and inquiry.  All topics of the ancient Academics were adopted by the Fathers; and thence propagated for several ages in every school and pulpit throughout Christendom."

Here Hume's character, Philo, is launching off into total imbecility.   Hume also wrote a History of England, so he should be well aware of how education in Europe crashed due to the onslaught of illiterate barbarians, and the church brought them back to education.  Before this, however, philosophy and education were for the wealthy.  In the 18th century, however, it was already popular to claim that the church was the enemy of both education and all reason.  More importantly, among the various branches of philosophy, the Academics and Epicureans were the least preferred by the Christian Fathers, while the Stoics were honored for their morals and much esteem was given to Plato and Aristotle.  But if we are going to start off on the wrong foot, might as well keep tripping:

"But at present, when the influence of education is much diminished, and men, from a more open commerce of the world, have learned to compare the popular principles of different nations and ages, our sagacious divines have changed their whole system of philosophy, and talk the language of Stoics, Platonists, and Peripatetics, not that of Pyrrhonians and Academics."

It is quite an accusation, given that the imagery and morals of the Stoics, Platonists and Peripatetics is often used in the Bible.  And what happened to the Epicureans?  Surely Hume didn't miss the fact that the first character to give an extended speech in Cicero's On The Nature Of The Gods was the Epicurean?  Let's read on and see if any of Hume's other fictitious characters manage to correct the nonsense that has been spilled so far.
Augustine:  What happens to infants when they die?

This will be the last post on this book.  I have now read in translation about 10% of the 5,000,000 words that Augustine wrote, which makes me an Augustine novice.  Still more to go.  The question above is one that I tend to avoid.  Without Christ, no one can be saved, but infants have no chance to accept Christ, therefore ...  Here is Augustine's response:

"As an objection against this way of thinking, ignorant people often bring up the death of children, and the physical pain that we often see children suffer. 'Why should someone even be born,' they ask, 'who leaves this life before doing anything to deserve punishment or reward?  How will he be treated in the future judgment?  He doesn't belong with the just, since he never acted rightly; but he doesn't belong with the wicked either, since he never sinned.'


The answer is this ...   If there can be a life that is intermediate between sin and right action, have no fear that our Judge can pronounce a sentence that is intermediate between punishment and reward." - On Free Choice of the Will, Book III

It is always good to have an authority who fudges the answer.
Augustine:  Orthodox?

"There are four views about souls:  (1) they come into being by propagation; (2) they are created individually for each person who is born; (3) they already exist elsewhere and are sent by God into the bodies of those who are born; (4) they sink into bodies by their own choice.  It would be rash to affirm any of these.  For the Catholic commentators on Scripture have not solved or shed light on this obscure and perplexing question; or if they have, I have not yet come across any such writing." - On Free Choice of the Will, book III.

Note that this still is a long way from allowing reincarnation into Augustine's theology, but vastly more flexible than I would have imagined.  The issue for Augustine is one of priority:

"What matters is that we have the faith to believe nothing false or unworthy about the nature of the Creator, for in our journey of piety we are aiming at him."

And to make this a bit more specific:

"But if any error arrogates to itself the role of divine authority, it is most forcefully refuted if it requires one to believe or affirm that there is any changeable form other than God's creation, or that there is any changeable form inn the nature of God, or that the divine nature is anything more or less than the Trinity.  Indeed, the pious and sober understanding of the Trinity is the focus of all Christian attention and the goal of all Christian progress."

The work of Jesus on the cross being the means by which we have the hope of attaining the presence and knowledge of God.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Augustine:  Criticism.

"If we condemn something, it is only because of some flaw that it has.  But we cannot condemn a flaw in something without thereby praising the nature in which the flaw is present. ..." - On Free Choice of the Will, Book III.

Some of this book echoes Aristotle's discussion of substance, form and accident.  What Augustine is claiming is that a flaw is only a flaw in that it causes an object to deviate from a perfect form.  To the degree we protest the flaw, we are likewise affirming the value of the form.  And as for those who complain that they will soon pass out of existence:

"Anyone who grieves that these things cease to be should pay attention to his own complaint, to see if it is just and proceeds from prudence.  For his very speech is woven together out of many syllables; one ceases to be, and the next takes its place.  If he were so fond of one syllable of his speech that he did not want it to cease to be and give place to the rest, we would think he was completely out of his mind.  So when it comes to things that pass out of existence because they were not granted existence for any longer, so that all things might be fulfilled in their own times, no one can rightly condemn this shortcoming."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Augustine:  Mathematicians vs. Wisdom

"I wouldn't dream of saying that wisdom is derived from number or is contained in number.  I don't know how that could be, for I have certainly known my share of mathematicians (or whatever you call those who are highly skilled at computation), but I have known very few who are wise - perhaps none at all - and wisdom strikes me as being far nobler than number." - On Free Choice of the Will, Book II

Sigh.  My current position is entitled "computational engineer".  Guess that says it all.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Augustine:  God's justice.

"And as for the goodness that we so admired in God's justice - his punishing sins and rewarding good deeds - how could it even exist if human beings lacked the free choice of the will?  No action would be either a sin or a good deed if it were not performed by the will, and so both punishment and reward would be unjust if human beings had no free will.  But it was right for there to be justice in both reward and punishment, since this is one of the goods that come from God.  Therefore, it was right for God to give free will to human beings." - On Free Choice of the Will, Book II.

I was struck by the symmetry between reward and punishment in Augustine's argument.  The modern discussion is only centered around one half of the question:  Why does God allow and punish evil?  What about God's blessings and rewards for doing good?  How many of us human beings would willingly accept all opportunity and credit for doing good being taken away?  How many of us enjoyed something good and believed we deserved it?  The atheist and the religious zealot seem quite the same in this.  The atheist is forever demanding praise, credit and honor for the intellectual elites.  But what is this other than an insistence that they have done good and deserve reward?  The religious zealot also either expects praise for himself or confers it to someone else.  All humans insist that there should be a reward for doing good and we demand credit for ourselves or others for having done good in our own power and of our own free will.  How is it that when we go on to choose evil through the same power and will that we suddenly want to give the credit to God rather than ourselves?  That wasn't Augustine's continuation of the argument.  Just my pontificating that the refusal of the modernist pseudo-philosopher to consider the entire problem suggests a bit of hypocrisy.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Grant Ranch Park.  On 4/23

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Swim Around the Rock. July 9th, 2011.

If at first you don't succeed ... try, try again.  Except that last year I didn't even try.  The training started too late and then I got sick just before the event.  There was also something nasty in the water at my swim area, Quarry Lakes.  All the other Alcatraz swims were full, on Sundays, or conflicted with travel.  This year I have been swimming regularly in a pool, which means that I can adjust to the 3.25 miles easier, but need to get out and swim in the cold water with waves and critters.  Santa Cruz is a good place.


Augustine:  Regarding Democracy.

"Augustine: Therefore, if a people is well-ordered and serious-minded, and carefully watches over the common good, and everyone in it values private affairs less than the public interest, is it not right to enact a law that allows this people to choose their own magistrates to look after their interest - that is, the public interest?
Evodius:  It is quite right.
Augustine:  But suppose that the same people becomes gradually depraved.  They come to prefer private interest to the public good.  Votes are bought and sold.  Corrupted by those who covet honors, they hand over power to wicked and profligate men.  In such a case would it not be right for a good and powerful man (if one could be found) to take from this people the power of conferring honors and to limit it to the discretion of a few good people, or even to one?
Evodius:  Yes, it would." - On Free Choice of the Will, Book I.

This bit is especially interesting after having read Plato's Republic recently.  The pattern of Democracy having an honorable start and finishing badly is repeated.  Augustine's purpose is different in that he is making a point that laws which are just at one time could be completely negated to achieve justice at a different time, based on the virtues or vices of the citizenry.  Thus, he distinguishes temporal law from eternal law.

A bit later in the same work we see this:

"Now the only genuine freedom is that possessed by those who are happy and cleave to the eternal law; but I am talking about the sort of freedom that people have in mind when they think they are free because they have no human masters ..."

This is a reoccurring theme for classical philosophy and theology.  The popular view both then and now is that freedom is the freedom to pursue any desire.  Sadly, such freedom always degenerates into the freedom to pursue vice.  But what is vice other than slavery to depravity?  Thus, the puzzle that freedom only comes to those who have self-control and aren't ruled by their vices, yet we always see freedom as not being subject to controls and rules.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Doctor shortage ...

It has been awhile since I mentioned this, but the problem goes on unabated.  The US government rations medical school slots, and there simply aren't enough doctors.  Free market theory says that the prices for medical services should go through the roof, and indeed they are.  For those who think the communist model is better, keep in mind that communism requires twice as many workers to get the same job done.  Expect things to get much worse.

Sunday, May 01, 2011