Monday, August 30, 2010

Evaluating Descartes, Meditations

What's novel about Descartes is this:
1. The source of wrong belief (evil) is that my will over-extends my understanding.
2. Doubt reins in my will to what is clear and distinct, so that I only act on my understanding.
3. In this way, wrong belief (and evil) are overcome.
4. The assumption is that we should have certainty in our beliefs, God would want that for us.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I carry almost no confidence in my own ability, as evidenced by my constant fearfulness. Yet, I continue to take refuge in it hoping against hope that I can spin my way out of troubles. I need to fear God and take refuge in him.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quotable: Brian at mgoblog

I'll still be there. I don't have a choice, really, but the special kind of misery I'll experience when Michigan plays Ohio State at 8 PM in October and Special K blasts 'Lose Yourself' during a critical review will make me feel like an exploited sap, not a member of a community in which my opinions matter. They clearly don't. This will matter in the same way erosion does.

- Brian, mgoblog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Put your smartphone down

CNN Story

Putting your phone screen-up on the table is like ordering dessert -- one person does it and everyone else follows suit. Never mind that phones do not belong amidst tableware. As soon as a text pops up or a call comes through, everyone else at the table is trapped in conversational limbo while you have your own digital tete-a-tete.

If you must remain imminently reachable, simply make a big show out of it: "I'm so sorry to have to keep my phone out. Jess is supposed to get here soon, and I don't want to miss her."

The others will get the point. Either that, or they'll stick you with the bill. Don't worry, you'll likely be too distracted by Foursquare to notice.

Manners aside, here's the big danger with packing every spare moment with a cybercheck: Eventually, idle but perfectly interesting moments (sitting on a park bench, people-watching at a café) become excuses to busy yourself with your touch screen.

Remember that iconic New Yorker cover (see below) from last Halloween? Clever, sure. Terrifying, absolutely.

Soapbox, prepare to be climbed: Challenge yourself to go a week without using your data plan. Pretend you're on vacation overseas and can't afford the rate. Turn off Push and Fetch and all the other emphatic verbs that bring inane Facebook updates and new e-mails to your attention like a cat proudly dropping an especially fresh rodent at your feet. Stick to phone calls and texting and check everything else exclusively from a computer.

You'll see passersby, not pixels, when you're riding in a car; squirrels, not a screen, when you're waiting outside to meet a friend. And you'll make the liberating (albeit depressing) discovery that when you fire up your e-mail again, the world has continued to swivel without your immediate viewage of e-coupons from Suave and that cat video from Uncle Bob.

Those are best dealt with when you're at your desk and supposedly working anyway

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Quotable: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Before we move on, it may be worth saying something about “relativism”, according to which no judgments of taste are really better than others. It is common for people to say “There is no right and wrong about matters of taste.” Or people will express the same thought by saying that beauty is “relative” to individual judgment, or even that it is “socially relative.” Such relativism about value of all sorts is part of the Zeitgeist of a certain recent Western cultural tradition. It is part of the intellectual air, in certain quarters. And in particular, many intellectuals have expressed a dislike of the idea that judgments of taste really have any normative claim, as if that would be uncouth or oppressive. However, if we are describing our thought as it is, not how some thing it ought to be, then it is important that philosophers should be persistent and insist – in the face of this Zeitgeist – that normativity is a necessary condition of the judgment of taste. Two points ought to embarrass the relativist. Firstly, people who say this kind of thing are merely theorizing. In the case of judgments of beauty, relativist theory is wildly out of step with common practice. As with moral relativism, one can virtually always catch the professed relativist about judgments of beauty making and acting on non-relative judgments of beauty – for example, in their judgments about music, nature and everyday household objects. Relativists do not practice what they preach. Secondly, one thing that drives people to this implausible relativism, which is so out of line with their practice, is a perceived connection with tolerance or anti-authoritarianism. This is what they see as attractive in it. But this is upside-down. For if ‘it’s all relative’ and no judgment is better than any other, then relativists put their judgments wholly beyond criticism, and they cannot err…What looks like an ideology of tolerance is, in fact, the very opposite.

"Aesthetic Judgment," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Great Ad: Fedex

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

DBH: On Suffering and the Problem of Evil / Strange Vision

I don't share his views on the reformed answer (at least not straightforwardly), but I certainly wouldn't wish to embrace everything reformed people tend to say about how God's sovereignty manifests itself today. At any rate, I enjoy David Bentley Hart and you'll probably see why:

Suffering and the problem of evil from CPX on Vimeo.

Nostalgia for a pagan past from CPX on Vimeo.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Mountains, Mark Lopez

SODT :: MOUNTAINS from Mark Lopez on Vimeo.

Mark Lopez from my small group put this together with some footage from the Smokey Mountains. See his website here. I love to see Christians who are expressing their theology in the arts.

This is a first of many (hopefully) in the series 'Shadows of Divine Things'. They are based on the writings of Jonathan Edwards. He viewed almost everything in the physical world as a 'type' or a representation of something in the spiritual world.

As mountains are not ascended without difficulty and labor, and many rocks and steep places are in the way, so men don't attain to anything eminent or of particular excellence without difficulty. It is against our natural tendency to ascend, but when we get above the clouds and winds, we will enjoy a perpetual serenity and calm. The perfect and uninterrupted calm on a high mountain is a type of the heavenly state.

- Mark

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Quotable: Hart

There is an unsettling prodigality about the beautiful, something wanton about the way it lavishes itself upon even the most atrocious of settings, its anodyne sweetness often seeming to make the most intolerable of circumstances bearable: a village ravaged by pestilence may lie in the shadow of a magnificent mountain's ridge; the marmorean repose of a child lately dead of meningitis might present a strikingly piquant tableau; Cambodian killing fields were often lushly flowered; Nazi commandants occasionally fell asleep to the strains of Bach, performed by ensembles of Jewish inmates; and no doubt the death camps were routinely suffused by the delicate hues of a twilit sky. Beauty seems to promise a reconciliation beyond the contradictions of the moment, one that perhaps places time's tragedies within a broader perspective of harmony and meaning, a balance between light and darkness; beauty appears to absolve being of its violences.

David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 16

The Socratic Curse

But now, Socrates, what do you think all this amounts to? It is mere scrapings and shavings of discourse, as I said a while ago,1 divided into bits; but that other ability is beautiful and of great worth, the ability to produce a discourse well and beautifully in a court of law or a council-house or before any other public body before which the discourse may be delivered, [304b] to convince the audience and to carry off, not the smallest, but the greatest of prizes, the salvation of oneself, one's property, and one's friends. For these things, therefore, one must strive, renouncing these petty arguments, that one may not, by busying oneself, as at present, with mere talk and nonsense, appear to be a fool.

My dear Hippias, you are blessed because you know the things a man ought to practise, and have, as you say, practised them satisfactorily. But I, as it seems, am possessed by some accursed fortune, [304c] so that I am always wandering and perplexed, and, exhibiting my perplexity to you wise men, am in turn reviled by you in speech whenever I exhibit it. For you say of me, what you are now saying, that I busy myself with silly little matters of no account; but when in turn I am convinced by you and say what you say, that it is by far the best thing to be able to produce a discourse well and beautifully and gain one's end in a court of law or in any other assemblage, [304d] I am called everything that is bad by some other men here and especially by that man who is continually refuting me; for he is a very near relative of mine and lives in the same house. So whenever I go home to my own house, and he hears me saying these things, he asks me if I am not ashamed that I have the face to talk about beautiful practices, when it is so plainly shown, to my confusion, that I do not even know what the beautiful itself is. “And yet how are you to know,” he will say, “either who produced a discourse, [304e] or anything else whatsoever, beautifully, or not, when you are ignorant of the beautiful? And when you are in such a condition, do you think it is better for you to be alive than dead?” So it has come about, as I say, that I am abused and reviled by you and by him. But perhaps it is necessary to endure all this, for it is quite reasonable that I might be benefited by it. So I think, Hippias, that I have been benefited by conversation with both of you; for I think I know the meaning of the proverb “beautiful things are difficult.”

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why Epistemology needs Metaphysics: "What is" needs "What should be"

CNN, Link

When "what is" is all that matters what should be ends up looking very strange. I say strange because Holly Hill's tears remind us that she must overcome the common grace of the conscience to follow her own advice. Perhaps we should take the idea of real moral truth seriously? Perhaps there may be more consequences (some not so fun, some to others, some before God) to this arrangement she and her boyfriend have? But hey, she's happy. Who am I to judge, right?

New York (CNN) -- Could letting your man sleep with another woman help your relationship?

Author and former mistress Holly Hill thinks so.

"One of the main things that I have learned is that a woman that negotiates infidelity with her partner is far more powerful than a woman who is sitting home wondering why he's late from the office Christmas party," she says.

"It's better to walk the dog on a leash than let it escape through an unseen hole in the back fence."

"I thought it was men that would like the book," she says, "But in fact it's women, because what it says to women is that if your man cheats on you, he still loves you, and he's probably running about average."

Allowing their men to stray is a concept that's difficult for most women to contemplate.

But Hill says that if a woman takes the time to truly examine her relationship and considers Mother Nature's unerring spell on men's libidos, she might realize that letting her boyfriend or spouse know she's OK with him having sex elsewhere is a logical way to prevent him from doing it in secret.

"I think that cheating men are normal," says Hill. "Monogamous men are heroes. Monogamy does have a place in relationships, but not on the long-term. Men are hard-wired to betray women on the long-term."

"But psychology professor Lawrence Josephs believes it is more personality type than gender that indicates whether a person might cheat.

People who are higher in narcissim -- whether they are male or female -- are more likely to cheat. People who feel entitled to it, people who have what's called avoidant attachment style where they tend to have more impersonal sex," are more prone to straying, he said.

The professor also said people who experience lower levels of empathy or guilt tend to engage in more infidelity.

Central to the idea of negotiated infidelity, Hill says, is each couple figuring out what their boundaries are. While she admits she shed a few tears at the start of her relationship as she and Dean tested their comfort levels with different arrangements (Dean also says it has definitely been a learning process), they're now very clear about what they will and won't allow.

While Dean has the green light to have sex with other women, he's not permitted to stay overnight. He also can't take his lovers away for romantic weekends. And Hill says she'll have an all-out hissy fit if he spoons another woman.

Diotima's Account of the Birth of Love

Fascinating account of the birth of ερως. I wonder if there is a reason Christian love was always spoken of in terms of αγαπη.
“‘From what father and mother sprung?’ I asked. [203b] “‘That is rather a long story,’ she replied; ‘but still, I will tell it you. When Aphrodite was born, the gods made a great feast, and among the company was Resource the son of Cunning. And when they had banqueted there came Poverty abegging, as well she might in an hour of good cheer, and hung about the door. Now Resource, grown tipsy with nectar—for wine as yet there was none—went into the garden of Zeus, and there, overcome with heaviness, slept. Then Poverty, being of herself so resourceless, devised the scheme of having a child by Resource, [203c] and lying down by his side she conceived Love. Hence it is that Love from the beginning has been attendant and minister to Aphrodite, since he was begotten on the day of her birth, and is, moreover, by nature a lover bent on beauty since Aphrodite is beautiful. Now, as the son of Resource and Poverty, Love is in a peculiar case. First, he is ever poor, and far from tender or beautiful as most suppose him: [203d] rather is he hard and parched, shoeless and homeless; on the bare ground always he lies with no bedding, and takes his rest on doorsteps and waysides in the open air; true to his mother's nature, he ever dwells with want. But he takes after his father in scheming for all that is beautiful and good; for he is brave, strenuous and high-strung, a famous hunter, always weaving some stratagem; desirous and competent of wisdom, throughout life ensuing the truth; a master of jugglery, witchcraft, [203e] and artful speech. By birth neither immortal nor mortal, in the selfsame day he is flourishing and alive at the hour when he is abounding in resource; at another he is dying, and then reviving again by force of his father's nature: yet the resources that he gets will ever be ebbing away; so that Love is at no time either resourceless or wealthy, and furthermore, he stands midway betwixt wisdom and ignorance. The position is this: no gods ensue wisdom or desire to be made wise; [204a] such they are already; nor does anyone else that is wise ensue it. Neither do the ignorant ensue wisdom, nor desire to be made wise: in this very point is ignorance distressing, when a person who is not comely or worthy or intelligent is satisfied with himself. The man who does not feel himself defective has no desire for that whereof he feels no defect.’

Plat. Sym. 203