Monday, November 16, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin". As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence"). Catechism of the Catholic Church, 416-418
The thought that one person, thousands of years ago, defying God resulting in the punishment of all, throws off my Internal Sense of Justice. Of course, my research (wikipedia) leads me to the Book of Dicipline of the Methodist Church, which says:
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.
At least this doesn't carry with it the insinuation that one need not do evil to be a sinner; rather, it states humans are naturally inclined towards evil due to their nature. Perhaps this is true - there has been enough evil in the world to justify this hypothesis. Surely Wesley would believe that while people may be inherently evil, by following God/Jesus they're set right. (Methodism also doesn't hold Predestination, another concept which throws off my ISJ).
I think I've stated this before, but I just don't think that people are inherently evil. Perhaps this is why I have such a problem with this.
Maybe more thoughts later.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
But not Dollhouse. I think a large part of it is the lack of characters that I'm able to care about. As the concept of 'Dollhouse' is unambiguously disgusting and evil, I have a hard time caring about any of its employees as characters - Topher and Dewitt especially. The 'actives' have ceased being people, so it's hard to really care about them. Maybe if Caroline, Echo's original self, were more compelling then I would at least be able to root for her being reinstated.
Ballard, the FBI agent, isn't very sympathetic either, and is rather obsessive; not necessarily because he sees the dollhouse as evil, but just because he seems the obsessive-type person, who is out for his ego as much as justice. I liked Mellie, but she was then revealed to be an active, as did Dr. Saunders.
Which, I guess leaves Boyd, Echo's handler. I guess what I don't find believable is his willingness to work for the Dollhouse while retaining his moral reservations about the place. He doesn't seem like the type of person who would otherwise be starving on the street, so his willing to do something he sees as immoral doesn't speak well to him.
On top of the lack of characters to care about, I don't really feel the need to know what happens. The show is unfolding rather nicely, and might have made a nice movie, but it's not the type of thing that I will devote much time thinking about the mystery of what happens, like I would have in LOST before I gave up on that.
I'll finish out the first season, but I probably won't watch any more beyond that.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Anyways, I think that was a tangent off of a tangent that distracted me from my original tangent. In one of her essays she denounces the usual words that Economists use to describe other Economists; 'smart' and 'nice,' instead preferring 'good' as in, Good Economist and Good Person. She points out that the two are not perfectly, if at all, correlated.
I can accept that it's easy for a scientist working in the 'hard sciences' to have no correlation between their success in their field and their success as a Human Being. If something is objectively provable (ie, based in mathematics), then all you need is to be smart. But in the Social Sciences, I would argue, there should be a much bigger correlation. Any Social Science, not being based on mathematics, has to be built on an underlying philosophy. And in a 'you shall know them by the fruit they bear' way, I believe that people's success as Human Beings (ie, being a Good Person), is reliant on their underlying philosophy. Which is why I don't find it absurd when Ayn Rand portrays the only happy people in her books as the people with fully constructed philosophies (and in her works, of course, they're all objectivists). If someone is a good Social Scientist, then they should also have a good underlying philosophy, and the same with their being a Good Person.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A couple of quick comments -
He seems to be convinced that the world of 1500, and those in power then, directly resulted in today's power structure. I'm not convinced - first, because I think he underestimates the Middle East and Northern Africa circa 1500; by his logic, they should be in much better shape than they are. I also think he overestimates the Japan of 1500.
"Progress," in the Modern sense of political and technological power, seems to me to be directly related to one thing (maybe more, but I'm just noting one) - Openness. Intellectual curiosity, maybe, or just maybe the willingness to look for what works best and use it. Rome rose to power by absorbing other cultures - the Etruscans, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, etc, and then stagnated. Once they became too powerful, they stopped absorbing other ideas, cultures, technologies, and just started trying to spread what they had, making copies of Roman society in Spain and in the Near East.
Europe was consistently invaded - 'opened,' especially from the East. The Golden Horde left its mark on Europe, and prevented it from being a single contained entity.
China was the most powerful civilization, probably, at 1500. It was around this time (it may have been even earlier) that they decided they wanted no part of the West, scuttled their merchant and exploratory fleets, and did their best to remain Pure. Japan did the same thing. Like Rome, they looked only to within for progress, and slowed. Instead of trying to expand themselves and make other peoples copies of themselves, they wanted just to make sure they remained fully them. They stagnated.
Later, once Japan opened, Japan quickly grew to match Western powers in Guns and Steel, and technology. The societies that flourished continued to be more open - Europe, and later to a greater extent, America. Now, I'm not delusional, and I know that these places weren't necessarily happy about having other people join them, but they still integrated other things into them.
So, it seems that the worst thing a society can do it think that it has reached its potential, and adopt a closed mind to other ideas and technologies.
Late night rant brought to you by Benedryl
Friday, May 29, 2009
Part I, Introduction
Ayn Rand is one of the most polarizing figures in the 20th century, in any discipline. Many hated her for a particular aspect of her or her philosophy; her unwavering belief in Capitalism, her atheism, her individualism, her feminism (or lack thereof), or her uncompromising and combative personality. Ayn Rand, who was strongly and fundamentally a moral absolutist, was painted by Whittaker Chambers in a National Review article as a moral relativist: “From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber — go!’” He also denounced her for her strict materialism; but her condemnation of materialism was loud and clear in Atlas Shrugged. While Whittaker Chambers was a Quaker and had legitimate reasons to dislike the book, he clearly had not read it. Accusations such as these plague Rand and prevent her acceptance into academic canon; the literary establishment considers her a philosopher, and the philosophy establishment considers her a novelist. While Rand cared little about academia’s evasion of her, her work merits inclusion within today’s discourse.
Ayn Rand was born Alyssa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Czarist Russia, in 1905. Her parents were relatively successful small business-entrepreneurs, who lost everything when the Soviets took over. Even before this event, Rand was fiercely individualist and anti-collectivist. She escaped to the United States in 1926 and never returned to the USSR. Though her philosophy is unique, she did not formulate it in a vacuum; she is part of a greater reclamation of premodern ethical and philosophical foundations, and while she admires the material gains which society has made, she loathes modern philosophers. A truly complete analysis of her work requires that the context of her philosophy be examined, her relation to the modern, the postmodern, and the critics of both. The modernism-postmodernism divide shows that a philosophical critique like Ayn Rand’s was inevitable and necessary.
 Whittaker Chambers, “Big Sister is Watching You,” National Review, December 28, 1957.
Whittaker Chambers's article is linked here. Just to note again, there are a lot of things not to like about Ayn Rand's philosophy, and a lot of things not to like about Atlas Shrugged, but in the article Chambers sounds like he heard about the book second-hand and didn't bother to read it himself. He is correct in that Atlas Shrugged reads like a "War between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness" but that's really the point of the book, and of her entire view on how fiction should read. She's a Romantic - she wants to create the best of all possible people who embody all of her virtues. The characters do struggle with real life issues, it's not like her protagonists are all supermen (of course, their struggles generally come from their interaction with the antagonists, or from them not embracing completely what Rand views as virtue). But not a small amount of fiction is based on a good vs an evil, so it's silly to criticize her for that. He also criticizes her for being 'eugenic,' since all of her characters are good-looking. Not only that, he later goes on to call her both Nieztchien and Marxist.
I'm not sure how much I like this as an introduction; it does start off introducing Rand, which is good, but I'm not sure that this was the right point to include Chambers's dissent, before expounding her philosophy more. On the other hand, it kind of transitions into my next section, which is all about defining the Modern and Postmodern.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The argument from design can be likened to a watch. A watch is obviously made by a watchmaker. The world, which is much more complex than a watch, must also have been designed by a great Designer or Divine Watchmaker (God).
In sum, the teleological argument asserts that the universe evidences too much complexity to be the product of random chance. We know that the celestial bodies move with perfect accuracy in their orbits. Our bodies, too, are incredibly complex. According to the teleological argument, there’s just no way all this complexity could “just happen.” God must have created it all."
The ontological argument can be stated in this way: “God is the greatest being imaginable. One of the aspects of perfection or greatness is existence. Thus, God exists.” Or put another way—“The fact that God can be conceived means that he must exist.”
This argument for God’s existence was developed by the twelfth century theologian and philosopher, Anselm. It is based on Anselm’s declaration that God is “that which nothing greater can be conceived.”"
This is the weakest argument of the four, by far, because it just begs the question: If something can be conceived, it must not necessarily exist. If you imagine perfection, and one of the aspects of perfection is existence, the leap between imagining perfection and stating that perfection exists is very unreasonable.
4: Moral Law Argument
"Another argument for the existence of God is the moral law argument. It goes like this: Without God morality would be impossible. There must be a Lawgiver (God) who originates and stands by moral law. A universal moral law cannot exist accidentally. There must be a basis behind it—God.
According to this view, every person is born with an inherent understanding of right and wrong. Everyone, for instance, understands that killing an innocent person is wrong. Everyone understands that helping a drowning person is right. Where did this internal understanding of right and wrong come from? According to adherents of the moral law argument, this understanding comes from God. He put it into the hearts of every person."
Vlach goes on to mention that there are two reactions to this - relatavism, or that objective good/evil does not exist, and that if God is all good, then why would there be evil in the world?
Of course, then, there is Rand's argument, that there does exist an objective good/evil inherent in human nature, but it is not from any external means. She claims that good is that which enables humans to flourish, and it is not relative from culture to culture or person to person. As Drew mentioned to me once, it seems that there must have been a "fall" at some point, for if everyone, acting in their own rational self interest was creating the best possible society, why would anyone act against this?
Still, to me, this argument seems to carry the most water, but the argument "Objective good/evil therefore God" hasn't won me over yet.
Vlach ends, most helpfully, with:
"It should be noted that most Christian theologians and philosophers believe that God never intended for his existence to be something that could be proven with 100% certainty. They point out that faith is an important component in understanding God and his existence."
Sunday, May 3, 2009
|1.||Secular Humanism (100%)|
|2.||Unitarian Universalism (95%)|
|3.||Liberal Quakers (80%)|
|5.||Theravada Buddhism (74%)|
|6.||Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (70%)|
|8.||Reform Judaism (57%)|
|9.||New Age (52%)|
|10.||Orthodox Quaker (44%)|
|11.||Mahayana Buddhism (44%)|
|15.||New Thought (40%)|
|16.||Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (38%)|
|17.||Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (35%)|
|18.||Seventh Day Adventist (33%)|
|19.||Baha'i Faith (32%)|
|21.||Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (32%)|
|24.||Orthodox Judaism (29%)|
|25.||Jehovah's Witness (25%)|
|26.||Eastern Orthodox (23%)|
|27.||Roman Catholic (23%)|
And of course, The Political Compass. I've been taking it since high school. I've moved from about 0, -2 to 8, -5.5.
Actually, from my livejournal:
11 July 2003
Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: 4.25
19 April 2003
Economic Left/Right: -2.38
Apparently sometime between April-July 2003 I took a hard right.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
The Republicans need to become the party of the West again; now is the perfect time for them to reposition themselves as such. Westerners are naturally inclined to distrust Washington, in part because of their geological distance, and in part because of the natural cultural differences between the West coast and the East coast; even in California, which is as East-coastey as you can get in the West, there is a lack of the elitism that is on the East coast (though there is a different sort of elitism… but that is another story). Obama is the perfect president to become a contrast to – educated in the elite Eastern schools. Pelosi is a supplanted easterner – her dad was a congressman from Maryland and mayor of Baltimore, and Reid… well, Reid has his own problems.
So what the Republicans need to do is drop the social conservatism from their national platform, and return to federalist principals of states’ rights and local self determination. A fiscal moderate or conservative who might otherwise be inclined to vote Republican can easily be scared away by the Republicans in Washington trying to ban gay marriage, or abortion. The Republicans need to assert, as McCain has (though unconvincingly), that social issues need to be left up to the states. Local Republican parties can do whatever they want – if South Dakota wants to ban abortion, the South Dakotan GOP should feel free to back them, but the National party should take no stance. This plays to the median voter theory well, as social conservatives will vote for states’ rights as better than what the Democrats offer, and moderate voters who are fiscally conservative would also be able to support this platform. Also note that the country is shifting to be more socially liberal - and if social liberals can only vote for fiscal liberals, they will; sticking to the social right ensures a diminishing voting base.
The Republicans need to stick to the same message on fiscal issues as well; get away from the NCLB, etc, with the message “who knows how to fix the problems in our schools better; Washington politicians who are 2000 miles away, or us, who know the teachers and the children involved in the schools…” Replace schools with seniors, etc, and it seems to me like you have a winning message.
This party would be strong in the West, but also the South, which (for some reason) distrusts Washington. Obama will run stronger in the South and Midwest than the average Democrat would, but if the Republican Party reforms itself it could be very competitive South of DC and West of Illinois. The Northeast and Eastern-Midwest would remain Democrat, as they seem quite fond of free money from the Taxpayers.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The conventional wisdom is not the property of any political group. On a great many modern social issues, as we shall see in the course of this essay, the consensus is exceedingly broad. Nothing much divides those who are liberals by common political designation from those who are conservatives. The test of what is acceptable is much the same for both. On some questions, however, ideas must be accommodated to the political preferences of the particular audience. The tendency to make this adjustment, either deliberately or more often unconsciously, is not greatly different for different political groups. The conservative is led by disposition, not unmixed with pecuniary self interest, two adhere too the familiar and the established. These underlie his test of acceptability. But the liberal brings moral fervor and passion, even a sense of righteousness, to the ideas with which he is most familiar. While the ideas he cherishes are different from those of the conservative, he will be no less emphatic in making familiarity a test of acceptability. Deviation in the form of originality is condemned as the faithlessness or backsliding. A “good” liberal or a “tried and true” liberal or a “true blue” liberal is one who is adequately predictable. This means that he forswears any serious striving towards originality. In both the United States and Britain, in recent times, American liberals and their British counterparts on the left have proclaimed themselves in search of new ideas. To proclaim the need for new ideas has served, in some measure, as a substitute for them. The politician who unwisely takes this proclaimed need seriously encourages something new will often find himself in serious trouble.
-John Kenneth Galbraith, The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom
I have taken to reading some Galbraith now. For me, he's very hit and miss, he makes some really astounding points, and I vehemently disagree with him on others. But I really like this point he makes, and it really echoes what I have been feeling in recent times. Liberals will often trumpet the need for an open mind and condemn their opponents as closed minded, while in reality they are just prescribing to a different sort of doctrine, and are just as closed minded as their opponents. Both of them carry with them an air of moral superiority, which is really what pisses me off; though at least the religious fundies on the right are open about it. The sense of "if you disagree with me, you're closed minded" is probably one of the most innane thoughts ever thought.
For years I carried with me the belief that liberals were generally, truely open minded, questioning individuals, whereas conservatives refused to critically think over their ideas and ideals. College broke me of that, not only by exposing me to many terribly unthinking liberals, but also introducing me to some intellegent, questioning conservatives. Honest people with different premises can indeed have legitimate differences, it would seem. Before college, I don't know if I would have admitted that.
Of course, the hope is that I am actually striving for new ideas; hopefully I have not become myself indoctrinated within a separate ideology.