Monday, December 19, 2005

Greetings, Earthlings!

If any of you wandered over here from Albertus Minimus's blog, I offer you a hearty welcome. I've been a bit lax of late due to the wrapping of my first semester at Holy Apostles' College and Seminary. Oh yeah, AND my full-time job, and taking care of Christmas stuff for the kids. Now that my immediate family has gone from two to six, and I have a bit more running around to do.

I plan to do a lot of reading and a bit o' blogging in my short time off. Of course, I shoud also probably act like an adult for some of that time as well...

UPDATE** Oh yeah! Make sure to add yourself to my Frappr map. And if you's be so kind as to add a false memory about me, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Mid-rank Geek

I swear I will post something more substantial this weekend, but for now I'm adding the gratuitous quiz.

My computer geek score is greater than 71% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I'll probably get NO responses, which is just fine, but since I've posted on both Rick Lugari's and Happy Catholic's sites, I felt it would only be fair to allow reciprocation.

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME.

It can be anything you want--good or bad--BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't take up Lugari if he challenges you to a runcible spoon fight.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Gobsmacking Vileness?

Does the Andrew Sullivan Freak-Out Advisory meter ever go any lower than "Filled with heart-ache at such gobsmacking vileness"?

A look here suggests not. Apparently believing in the ability of mature men to free themselves of obsessive and selfish inclinations is a bad thing.

Paglia and Madonna

No, not the Madonna, but Madonna.

Just read this little tidbit on Relapsed Catholic's site.

So this counts as one of those pet peeves of mine that the folks at Seize the Dei got to yammerin' about the other day.

- I can't stand when people who have some kind of academic pedigree (or is that pedicure?) raise tripe to the level of art.

- I can't stand to listen to people go on and on about the blues (or jazz) are when they know nothing about music. It seems like just the predilection toward these musical genres seems to score coolness points in some circles, even though many of these aficionados couldn't tell the difference between blues guitar and autoharp.

- I can't stand to read people who do nothing but drop names and allude to works that they're pretty sure none of us have ever read or heard or viewed. (Hmmmm, would that include Ms. Paglia?) Oddly, these seem to be the same people talking about how we should be more inclusive. Oh yeah, that's why deconstruction theory is so fashionable. It allows one to pose as one of the unwashed when one really has a pathological fear of the household dust.

Guess I just couldn't avoid a good rant tonight.

Now back to your regularly scheduled pablum.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Methuselah Project?

About a year ago, I started talking with a former bandmate of mine from back in the big-hair days. Back then, the two of us used to butt heads frequently. Both of us have... uh... strong personalities. (I probably don't exhibit it as much as I do in person, but, yeah, I can be a bit full o' me self.) My problem was that I thought I was somehow more musically edumicated and that he was musically unwashed. He's now a music minister at a Baptist church and has probably been more connected with music than I have since we parted ways 15 years ago.

A few months ago, we started talking about what we wanted to do musically, and we had such similar mindsets. I can only think of it as an example of God's grace that two numbskulls could come back from such extremes and decide that their calling was to play together again. Anyhoo, that's precisely what happened. I called him and said, "I've been holding out, but I thing God wants us to start a band."

Okay, that was clearly personal revelation, so I'm hoping no one will expect anything miraculous out of this project.

We've been stuck on finding a percussionist and a lead guitar, so I finally called two guys with whom I played in two different bands. Both are interested, so it looks like we might actually have a band.

We're hoping to play for youth groups, and perhaps for fund raisers. And absolujte no for TeenLife Mass. I love to rock out, but that does not belong in Mass. Give me an organ and polyphony anyday. And chant is always welcome.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ebbs and floes of the TTLB Macrocosm

Doh! Looks like I've been demoted. I've gone from being a flappy bird to a miniscule microorganism in the space of a day or two. I understand some work is being done on the ranking algorithmns. Done in by math once again.

Of course, I haven't been blogging as much since I submitted my last paper. I could be writing about "The Document,"™ but frankly it's being hashed over by far better writers than I.

I'm sort of resting before the last push of the semester—hoping to give birth to a bouncing baby A on my final exam. However, I do have a few thoughts about which I'll be blogging shortly.

- New music project: recruited a drummer and guitar player for a new Christian rock project.

- Adults today and yesterday: saw something in the store today that incensed me and realized why I don't understand boomer adults. Or those of us who follow for that matter.

More later!

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Tom Lehrer Classic

HT to the Irish Elk
for this link to the Vatican Rag.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

An Impromptu Performance

As I was taking a break from essay writing today and preparing some beans for chili this afteroon, my daughter treated me to a spontaneous dramatic recitation of "Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit."

I don't know where she gets this drama thing. No, really.

Newly discovered article from Summa Theologica

Albertus Minimus
has the latest, a newly discovered article from Summa Theologica.

What excellent timing for this satire. I'm writing a paper on the Christology of St. Thomas, so all things Aquinas are the order of the day.

**UPDATED with backlinks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Flippery Fish!

Just you wait. I'll be flopping up onto the beach of the TTLB ecosystem any day now!

Neo, the "One"

It came down to William Wallace or Neo. Zorro and Batman naturally scored toward the top. Lara Croft? Uh... I don't think so.

The tie-breakers:

- I like wearing a kilt.

- I have kung-fu skills.

While I wouldn't mind wearing a kilt, I do, in fact, have kung-fu skills. I don't think kilt wearing and kung fu are all that compatible—at least not in mixed company.

You scored as Neo, the "One". Neo is the computer hacker-turned-Messiah of the Matrix. He leads a small group of human rebels against the technology that controls them. Neo doubts his ability to lead but doesn't want to disappoint his friends. His goal is for a world where all men know the Truth and are free from the bonds of the Matrix.

William Wallace


Neo, the "One"


Lara Croft


Batman, the Dark Knight


El Zorro


The Terminator




Indiana Jones


James Bond, Agent 007


Captain Jack Sparrow


The Amazing Spider-Man


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Baaaaa! Baaaaa!

I'm baaaaaad. Baaaaad!

Just can't help but follow in everyone else's blogsteps.

You could be the FIRST (aside from yours truly) to pin himself/herself on my Frappr map.

Incarnation and Eucharist

Okay, I really should be writing my paper right now, but I came upon something as I was reading Aquainas's Shorter Summa (originally The Compendium of Theology) that helped me to grasp something I'd heard and accepted for a while: that to doubt the Real Presence in the Eucharist is to doubt the Incarnation Himself.

I always accepted this doubt to be by analogy. Doubiting that Chirst and be truly present in the Eucharist denies that all things are possible in Christ, which would result in doubt that he could truly come to be fully human. However, that's only part of the mystery. The other point has to do with the response of accident to substance. (Yeah, I know, anyone who knows Aquinas is going to say, "Well, Duh!") It was actually St. Thomas's analogy of this attraction in creatures:

Some sort of example can be found in creatures. Thus subject and accident are not united in such a way that some third thing is formed from them. In a union of this kind, the subject does not have the function of a part, but is an integral whole, which is a person, hypostatis, and suppositum. But the accident is drawn to the personality of the subject, so that the person of the man and of the color of whiteness is one and the same, and the hypostasis or suppositum is likewise the same.

Earlier he says, "Yet the soul and body are drawn to the personality of the divine person, so that He is the person of the Son of God and is also the person, hypostasis, and suppositum of the Son of man."

Amazing how such a simple analogy can make a mystery seem so clear without reducing its mystery.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A question of will

I orginally posted this question for my virtual classmates, but no one has responded. Perhaps some of you could share your thoughts.

I'm in the process of responding to the questions from Lesson 11, and I started thinking about the issue of sin and will. The question is "Is Jesus Christ a human person? If not how is he 'like us in all things but sin' as the New Testament teaches?"

I started with the idea that sin is, by definition, an act of the will. I intended to show that Jesus's will could not by contrary to the Father's will, but that has obvious problems scripturally (Matthew 26:39). So clearly Jesus had a will and it differed from the will of God the Father. If this is the case, will would have to be tied to something that Jesus does not have in common with God. He does have personhood, but His personhood would arise from His essence and existence, which are by necessity the same as God's. So His will, which would be a necessary prerequisite to commit sin, must not arise from His personhood.

At this point, we have two options. Jesus's will arises solely from His human nature, or Jesus has two wills, one arising from each nature.

Any thoughts?

Monday, November 14, 2005

My middle-earth race

I would've preferred the Rohirrim only because I would've loved to ride with Éowyn. But, then, who wouldn't?


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Christian Community and Organized Religion

These are the questions for the last lecture. I spent a bit more time than I expected on the last bunch of questions. I'm still a bit sketchy on the definition of person.

Why do so many people today reject "organized religion?"

This isn't an easy question to answer because there are numerous factors. However, here are some motivations:

- The current worldview is subjective and individualistic, so it naturally rebels against the idea that a person should conform his or her will to an institution.

- The current worldview is relativistic, so the idea that one religion possesses Absolute Truth is, to some people, extremely arrogant.

- Organized religions tend to have histories that frequently include unsavory elements. Some followers (and I have to include myself here) often play down or ignore these unsavory elements.

- People tend to want a spirituality that mirrors their preferences rather than one that requires discipline or restraint.

Did Jesus just initiate a "movement" or did he found an organized Church?

Christ clearly established a basic organization with a clearly defined goal. He selected 12 men and gave them the power to bind or loose. He established Simon Peter as the leader, and clearly the Gospels and Acts exemplify his leadership, albeit with a clear sense of Peter's human frailties. Christ also established a guiding principal, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To deny that Christ did anyone of these things is to undermine His Word. If we say that Peter is just a small stone and not the Rock upon which Christ built His Church, then we have to acknowledge that no one holds the keys that Christ handed on. If we claim that Christ did handover the keys to Peter but that Peter could not pass that authority down, then we have to accept that the gates of Hell prevailed over the Church. If we deny that Christ's words to Peter to strengthen the other bretheren and to feed His sheep were not an indication of Peter's role as the leader of the apostles, then we have to find His other words to be equally as unclear, and that isn't indicative of a Good Shepherd.

This is not to say that Christ needed to dictate every other detail about the Church's organization.

What principles of human political order must be respected in the life of the Church itself?

There are two principals of human political order that we must respect in the life of the Church: solidarity and subsidiarity.

- The principal of solidarity stresses that material and spiritual goods be distributed in such a way that allows each person to have his or her due. It strives to reduce or eliminate excessive inequalities.

- The principal of subsidiarity is that decisions should be made by the level of government that is closest to those who will be affected. Higher levels of givernment should not interfere or prohibit the functioning of lower levels but should support it and work to coordinate the decisions of lower-level governments for the common good.

The Church repudiates both extremes of collectivism and anarchism as governing principals.

What is the relation of the ministry of the Sacraments and the ministry of the Word and how do human sciences assist in each?

Frankly, I'm not sure what this question means.

The sacraments are most frequently the physical manifestation of Christ's and the Church's work on earth. They involve transference of grace through material means: by water, for baptism; by bread and wine, for communion; by touch for confirmation, annointing of the sick, marriage, and holy orders. Only one sacrament, reconciliation, does not require some material means. The sacraments appeal to that side of us that requires symbolism and ritual. They are the order of grace as it works through the physical world. They appeal to our imaginations and senses.

The ministry of the word is the abstract working of grace through intellectual and emotional means. The Word is a great impetus for us and provides us with the conceptual means for accepting God's grace. Sacraments, on the other hand, provide us with an experiential (that is, material) means for accepting God's grace.

Human sciences can help us to distinguish those means of grace that are material from those that are not. They can point to the existence a higher reality but cannot point directly to that higher reality.

What is the relation of secular history and Biblical eschatology?

Secular history is simply a sequence of events viewed outside of the framework of some governing purpose or end. We do have a myth of progress ins secular history, but its mythic nature is revealed once we determine that history has no true goal or end, without which the concept of progress is meaningless. Also, if we accept the "random" nature of biological and cosmological evolution, the notion of progress is absurd. Only when secular history is viewed in light of a defining purpose such as that revealed in scripture can the notion of progress be admitted. So secular history is simply the reporting of a series of events. Biblical eschatology provides meaning to history and ultimately meaning to human existence.

Yay! I had to moderate my first comment!

Okay, it wasn't my first comment. It was the first comment I had to moderate.

Sorry, sir, but profane, irrelevant commentary isn't allowed. However, feel free to read up and maybe take a look at some of the other blogs to which I've linked. Based on the posts on your blog, I suspect you really need another purpose and another guide. I'd suggest Christ. He's the only way. God bless you.

Oh, but feel free to leave relevant comments. If they aren't too crude, I might leave them. Fewer (like no) f-bombs would help.

I'm a slimy mollusc!

Whaddaya know? I'm a slimy mollusc in the TTLB ecosystem. How serendipitous! I ate some slimy molluscs last night!

Personhood and Incarnation

Questions from Lesson 11. We're drawing ever closer to the final. I'm looking forward to moving on to the theology courses, but this has been an interesting class. Maybe I'll have to pursue more education in philosophy when this course of study is over. Lessee... maybe in 2010 when I finally finish this program.

What is a Christology "from below"?

"Christology from below" is meant to describe A Christology that emphasizes the human aspect of Jesus Christ. This emphasis was meant to counter monophystism, which denied that Chirst had two natures and believed only in His Divine nature. This Christology rightly notes Jesus's human nature but puts more focus on that than on His Divinity. While monophysitism hid or denied the humanity of Christ, Christology from below threatens to lower God to our own image or our own concepts. It tends to make Jesus appear to be a human person rather than a Divine person. To see Christ properly, we must keep in mind both his human and Divine natures.

What in Christian doctrine is a "mystery"? Why isn't it logically contradictory ?

A mystery is a reality that cannot be deduced or proven by reason, that must be shown to us through Divine revelation. However, it also cannot contradict fact. By "contradict," we do not mean something that is out of the ordinary or unexplainable, as that is the very definition of mystery. However, it cannot stand in direct opposition to fact or stand against a mutually exclusive fact.

Why must all our terms that refer to God and the order of grace be analogical? What is an analogy?

God is beyond our comprehension, and His true nature cannot be fully known to us. However, we can find in our experience parallels to God's character. These parallels or analogies allow us to relate concepts to God. For example, we claim to be able to understand an artist by knowing the creations of the artist. Given that God also creates, we can parallel the create acts of the artist to the creative acts of God can see the goodness and widsom of God in the created world. We can find an analogy in the human family for the Divine family, the Trinity.

Analogies do not get at the true essence of God, but they can suggest a smilitude by which we can come to better understand or approach that essence.

Is Jesus Christ a human person? If not how is he "like us in all things but sin" as the New Testament teaches?

Jesus is not a human person, but he is a human being and has a human nature. He also has a Divine nature. While His Divine essence and its existence are one and the same, his human essence and existence are distinct. Having a human nature, Jesus was subject to pain, sorrow, joy, temptation, hunger, and all other feelings and sensations that humans experience. However, sin is not a feeling or sensation but
an act of the will, a choice to favor our human will over God's.

If we take Christ's words in the Garden of Gethsemane to be accurate, we have to accept that will is tied to essence. Jesus clearly distinguishes His will from the Father's. If His will is different, it must in some way arise from that which makes Him different from the father, and that would have to be His human essence. Otherwise, Jesus's Divine person would want something different from the Father's Divine person. The will He speaks of, then, must arise from His human essence. It is in His choice in the garden that He best exemplifies the way. He denies the will that arises from his human essence and chooses the will of the Father, which ultimately must be the will of His Divine person as well. His choices, in all things, conform to God's will, not to his human will.

So He is like us in all things but sin, not because His will arises from something different than our but because He consistently chooses God's will over the will arising from His human essence. We, on the other hand, may sometimes choose God's will, but due to our imperfections, we frequently choose our own will.

Why are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not three Gods?

God is the necessary being, the One in whom existence and essence are the same.
God is by necessity One because He is all perfect, all knowing, all powerful, and actualize all that is possible (all potentiality). If the three Divine Persons were separate in essence, then each would be lacking something that the others have. That would mean three gods that are not all perfect. Such gods could not be the necessary beings we believe them to be. If they were separate in existence, at least two would be redundant. I could say unnecessary, but I think that would be sophistry. Redundancy, however, isn't indicative of perfection, and it's contradictory to say that there are three supreme beings. So the three cannot have separate existence.

So, next question, given this sharing of existence and essence, what is personhood?

Describe the human person from the viewpoint of reason and of Christian faith. Apply this doctrine to the Incarnation. Be sure to include the definition of the person found in the Catechism.

I'm not able to find a clear definition of person in the Catechism. From our lectures and reading, we can assert that a person has essence and existence.

Here's the Catechism's description of the Divine persons:

Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance."89 Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship."90 "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son."91

By analogy, we would then say that a person has essence and existence and lives in relationship with others. The Incarnation has essence and existence, but His essence and existence are one, which is the definition of necessary Being. So the personhood of the Incarnation is different than our personhood. His personhood is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit but is in relationship with them. The human person lives in community with others and only becomes fully human in relation to living in a human community.

I'll have to think about this one some more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yes, I'm lame.

I gave up on the Blogger Word of the Day. I just don't have the time to do justice to it. Anyhoo, when I do come across an interesting term, I'll post it here—maybe something like the clotheslines at Fiddleback Fever.

I had another one of those spontaneous typological revelations today, but I wasn't close to a keyboard at the time. I miss my Sprint PDA/cellphone. It was archaic compared to most, but it sure was handy.

Monistic and Creational World Views

Lesson 10 - two more left before the last paper and the test.

How does Thomist thought complete the foundations of natural science according to Aristotle and his metaphysics by establishing God as Creator of the universe out of nothing?

Aristotle established in his natural science that the material universe and the immaterial both exist, but that all change in the material universe had to have an immaterial First Cause. He also established that the human soul goes beyond experience of the material to discover truth and so must be, itself, immaterial. However, he could not go beyond his pagan acceptance of an eternal material universe to see the First Cause as a Creator of that material universe, to see that material was created by God ex nihilo (from nothing), nor did he go beyond the existence of the immaterial human soul to suggest immortality of the soul.

Why is process philosophy an inadequate instrument of a Christian theology?

Process philosophy reduces God to merely the highest order of being, one which exemplifies the supreme concept of creativity. God's "antecedent nature" consists of a number of eternal objects, which in themselves have no order. God provides the ordering, creative principal that puts these eternal objects into the material form of the universe and sets in motion the events of history. God is the only person in this scenario, and humans are only "streams of consciousness," a sort of accident of historical events. This point alone is problematic because it eliminates any matter of choice or Divine Plan in the Incarnation, meaning Jesus is not really a person but a stream of consciousness. Hence, no Trinity, no need for a Christ, and no Christianity. No theology either, in that there is no one to really know God. There are only material accidents (pun somewhat intended) that are more or less conscious of creation and of God.

Why is the evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin also an inadequate instrument of a Christian theology?

De Chardin tries to bring evolution into theology, but he does so using a flawed concept of evolution as a set of laws. Laws would make such operations ordered toward an end. However, evolution has no such laws, operates by chance, and aims at no particular end or goal. Like Whitehead, de Chardin tries to suggest differing levels of consciousness in all material existence (from atoms, to plants, animals, and so on) to suggest the rise of spiritual existence apart from God's direct creative action. Both process philosophy and evoltionism propose a watchmaker God who sets the material world in motion and allows it to wind down without intervention. Evolutionism, too, leaves us with a world in which the Incarnation has no place and violates the order of spiritual evolution.

Interestingly enough, in my early agnostic days, I began to conceive of consciousness in panpsychic terms. I don't recall if I read it somewhere first or if it just came to me. It was about the time I was delving into Heidegger, existentialism, theatre of the absurd, and surreal continental literature. The Ionesco play Rhinoceros seemed to me to exemplify a backward trend in modern society toward a less-than-human consciousness. I referred to it in one paper as "pachydermatitis." I still like that line.

How can the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who knew nothing of the modern scientific theories of biological or cosmological evolution, be shown not to contradict them but to enable theologians to make use of them?

St. Thomas demonstrated that the natural science points to an initial cause, just as all effects point to some initiating cause. In the material world, a material cause can have material effects, but all material causes have at some point another cause behind them. So at some point there must have been a first cause that was not material. On this much, Aquinas and Aristotle agreed. St. Thomas identified the First Cause, the immaterial cause of the material universe, as God.

Being apart from the material world, natural sciences can tell us nothing more of God except His existence. From there, metaphysics allows us to posit other qualities that God, to be God, would have to posses. Here the theologian can find a wealth of support.

Because natural science (which includes the study of both biological and evolutionary evolutionary processes) points to a First Cause that is outside of its own system of reference (the material universe), it cannot contradict its existence. It can only claim agnosticism with any intellectual integrity.

What is "panpsychism" and what are the objections to it?

Panpsychism is the hypothesis than consciousness is present in all material in varying degrees. Aquinas' objections to this concept have to do with the evidence of it in inorganic material. We can equate panpsychism to hylozoism, which is the belief that all material is alive (and, as such, has consciousness). Living things have certain characteristics: they change under their own power (grow), they move spontaneously (even if imperceptibly), and at some point, they cease growing or moving and degenerate. Inorganic matter cannot do the first two, and if they do the latter, they do so only under external impetus (physical forces acting upon them in an unusual way). Living things can also heal. Inorganic things cannot. At very least, then, inorganic things are different than living things. The assumption, then, is that consciousness is one of those ways in which the organic differ from the inorganic.

I see a few problems with this idea, outside of what has been covered in the lesson. If consciousness is merely something that matter has in varying degrees, the only thing giving us a unique identity that can be the "image of God" is our physical body, which we share with the Incarnation of Christ. This, then, reduces Christ to another historical accident. Otherwise, what makes us to be "in the image of God" would have to be shared by other material beings and results in paganism.

Monday, November 07, 2005

NAB = American Intellectual Decline?

As a former 1980s-glam-rock nightclub musician, I'm always ready to exploit an audience when I can. (Sorry if I conjured up any bad images. You can't gouge out your mind's eye.)

Just had a thought here after struggling with some rather flat passages from the NAB (still waiting for my Ignatius Bible to arrive). So why have we been saddled with this rather colorless interpretation as the standard for our liturgy? Is it because it's the clearest, most culturally objective presentation of scripture as Catholic theologians and translators understand it? Or is it because our American Bishops have accepted the judgement of the rest of the modern world that Americans are shallow, intellectually inferior, and unable to appreciate the subtleties of a more poetic or more linguistically faithful interpretation?* If it's the latter, are they correct?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

*Yes, I'm fully aware that I'm setting up a false dichotomy. Please see my initial comment.

A Lowly Insect! Woo hoo!

Whoa! I've apparently jumped from being an insignificant microbe to a lowly insect, no doubt due to Rick Lugari's post on his blog. (HT, Rick!)

Anyway, mind the antennae as you check out my little niche in the blogospeher. ("You call this a niche?")

Typology: Finding Jesus in the Temple

I usually start the morning in contemplative prayer for a few minutes. (I didn't start off this practice with the intention of doing contemplative prayer, but I'm really not capable of much more until I wake up.) Anyhoo, this morning I was struck (ouch) by a thought about the fifth of the Joyful Mysteries. I don't even recall how I got there, but I gues I didn't really get myself there at all.

I'd never really thought much of the story of the 12-year-old Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem. This morning, though, I noticed a few parallels that suggest that this episode is typologically the death and resurrection of Christ from the perspective of the Blessed Mother:

The points of similarity:

- The event takes place in Jerusalem.

This needs no explanation.

- It's the feast of Passover.

Nor does this.

- Jesus "is lost" by His own choice.

Just as Christ chose His death, He chose to remain behind.

- His parents search for and find Him on the third day.

This represents their separation from Jesus and the anxiety and fear they undoubtedly had for Him. They find Him on the third day and are relieved of their fear and anxiety.

- He's in His Father's house (the temple) speaking to the teachers.

The teachers could represent the righteous in Limbo. Jesus listens and asks questions, but clearly his questions are not of the usual cut.

Of course, like any analogy, this story doesn't perfectly reflect the antitype of Christ's death and resurrection:

- Being lost isn't the same as being dead.

- There's no sufferring on Jesus's part as far as we can tell.

- Jesus is in His Father's House, which differs from Limbo symbolically, and the teachers are not necessarily as righteous as the Old Testament fathers.

Nonetheless, the similarities are striking.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Where have I been?

Yes, I've been lame. Working more than I'd like. Struggling to keep up with my coursework, but enjoying what I'm able to do.

So, what have I been missing?

Kathy Shaidle notes that Reformed Congregationalists have apparently risen up against their overlords in France and Denmark now. Oh, I'm sorry, they're not Reformed Congregationalists. My mistake.

Anne Rice has published a novel on Christ as a child. I'm happy for her conversion, and I look forward to reading her novel. I think Amy Wellborn was right to assess it on what she considered to be its literary merits rather than whether her fictional account used noncanonical sources.

I've been following the story about Katelyn Sills. If the expulsion was as groundless as it appears, I hope there will be an appropriate response from the archbishop. I'm tired of the institutions of the Catholic Church being co-opted for the agenda of feminists, pagans, and the pro-death camp.

Yes, I'm happy that Alito was nominated for the SCOTUS, notwitsthanding my concerns about Scotus... but that would be Duns Scotus. And I'm not really a Bush fan either.

I doubt I'll be generating as much traffic as these other sites. After all, I'm still an "Insignificant Microbe in the TTLB Ecosystem." However, I do want anyone who visits to know that I have no control over the code that concatenates the TTLB ranking. Apparently, it doesn't understand English morphology.

The Historical and Ontological Unification of Modern Knowledge

Lesson 9 is bringing a lot more theology into the mix. Bonsor's approach perplexes me a little, but I'm not always clear where his views stop and the views of the theologian or philosopher in question begin.

What is "historicism"? Illustrate the unification of knowledge by history.

Historicism is the use of history or the sequence of events as the means of unifying human experience and knowledge. Prior to the modern era, history was used solely as an object lesson. Thucydides wrote his history of the Greek states in an effort to teach Roman politicians about political problems. In the Pagan world, history was simply the cycles of change over time. However, the modern mind took the cyclical aspect and stretched it out to "reveal" an evolutionary aspect of history. Each stage of history demonstrated incremental advances in human knowledge determined solely by the conditions of those periods.

As evolution posits a series of random changes that lead to progression of forms, historicism is a series of random events that lead to a progression in societal/cultural terms.

Frankly, it's odd to speak of of evolution or history as progressions if taken in their modern usage. Progress imples a goal. In the case of both evolution and history, there is no goal. There is only change. One can suggest that survival is the goal, but that's inaccurate. Survival is a means toward something. It is not a state but a process, and a process can never be an end.

What is the difference between an Aristotelian metaphysics and a Scotistic metaphysics?

Scot's metaphysics are the starting point for all disciplines. It is the starting point from which other disciplines derive. In this sense, it's similar to Plato's metaphysics, which reduce all knowledge to a single source, the One.

For Aristotle, metaphysics is what follows the other disciplines and unifies them. Essentially, the goal of Aristotelian metaphysics is to unify human knowledge. To unify existing disciplines, it must follow those disciplines. However, as the unifying "science," it is the first science (or the supreme science).

Another distinguishing characteristic is that Scot's metaphyiscs wind up with God as the One or highest order of being. In Aristotle's metaphysics, the first mover is immaterial and not of the order of Being.

Why do many modern philosophers rejected the validity of metaphysics and claim that metaphysical concepts are meaningless?

For idealists working from the Kantian perspective, metaphysics are impossible because they would only reflect the catagories that our minds project onto our experience. At best, for Kant, we might have some commonality of our projections due to the similarity of those mental categories. For modern-day idealists, I assume that metaphysiscs is impossible solely because every subjective experience has been ratified as valid and legitimate, leaving no hope for a single, unified truth.

For empiricists, there's no need for metaphysics. Natural science is supposed to explain all based on the four foundational forces (gravitation, electromagnetism, string nuclear bonds, and weak nuclear bonds). Essentially, empiricists who hold this view see no means of critiquing natural science except through the lense of natural science, which leaves us in a question-begging death spiral.

The problem is that these forces may very well not be the only four forces. They're simply the only four forces of which we currently have empirical data. Empiricism traps itself in a fishbowl from which it can only look out and from which it can never escape.

What is "onto-theology"?

This term was coined by Heidegger to describe metaphysics that reduced God to the highest order of being. For Plato and Scotus, the concept of Being includes God (hence, is onto-theological), for Aristotle and Aquinas, God is the cause of or principle of Being, thus placing Him outside of Being.

How does an Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics unify knowledge without a reduction of the autonomy of the special sciences and without falling into onto-theology?

An Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics follows the disciplines, so it doesn't impose its own methods on them. Because it follows them, it can only presume the knowledge that derives from them, which means it can point to some first cause, but it cannot identify a Being within the horizon of the sciences that can be that first cause. Therefore, any first cause is apart from Being in the sense that can be confirmed with certainty by natural or any other human sciences.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Critique of Contemporary Technology and Economy

Lecture 8 questions. And after this, paper time! I have an odd process for paper writing, which mostly occurs unconsciously. I read and take in as much relevant material as I can. I then occasionally think of the subject of the paper and consider some approaches. However, most of the processing isn't conscious until I actually start writing the paper. When I actually start typing, the thing comes out in almost a single stream, with perhaps a few short stops to regain my bearings.

As a former composition instructor, I know this is not the way the writing process is supposed to work, and I've certainly revised some essays given adequate time. A single paper assignment in a semester doesn't really provide adequate time. So I'll just stick with my own stewing method, thank-you-very-much.

What are the two reasons for preserving and cultivating our material environment?

One is practical. We need biodiversity because our ability to transform and use what is available in creation is directly connected to the availability of diverse species. We can't use what is no longer present in our environment (fossil fuels being the exception... sort of).

The other is aesthetic or contemplative. Through the beauty and wonder of biodiversity (that is, through creation), we come to understand the Creator. We can look at creation and ponder why the Creator saw fit to do what he has done. Contemplation of the beauty of creation gives us access to God's wonder, and through that wonder we can come to a greater understanding of God's nature.

Why is economics the architectonic technology?

I had to look at the definition of architectonic before responding to this.

Philosophy. Of or relating to the scientific systematization of knowledge.

And that tells me in relation to technology, so I thought that the other part (technology) of the compound might be key to understanding. Indeed it is.

The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective.

(ASIDE: I think I'm beginning to reveal the unfortunate influence of analytical philosophy on my methods. I really like to understand the definitions of terms before I begin a proposition.

And by that I mean a philosophical proposition.

Shame on you.)

So, economics is the "scientific systematization" of "method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective."

Essentially, technology is tactical. It deals with the interrelationship of resources toward a specific and often short-term end. Economics is strategic. It deals with the use of tactics toward a greater end. While tactics (technology) are geared toward solving specific problems, strategy (economics) are geared toward meeting a long-term end. Technology provides tools. Economics provides intelligence to use tools toward a long-term end.

What is the role of the fine arts in life?

Fine arts address the contemplative needs of people. While we have many practical means to address basic human needs, we have fewer means to address higher needs—the need to find a greater meaning to life than mere day-to-day existence, the need to understand our own being and the nature of the being who gives us existence. Fine arts help to take us out of our everyday existence and allow us to dwell in a realm outside of the practical, to transcend the basic needs and attend the higher intellectual needs.

Why are both socialism and capitalism inadequate economies to achieve the common good?

Socialism, depending on its form, either gravitates twoard totalitarianism (communisim) or toward utopianism (anarchism). I've sometimes thought (mostly in my prerervsion days) that some kind of anarchosynidcalism might work. However, anarchism is predicated upon the overly optimistic notion that people will be able to consent disinterestedly or at very least make bargains to ameliorate any unbeneficial arrangements. Frankly, people tend to be too selfish to act in a just fashion unless compeeled to do so by some kind of authority (the Spanish anarchism of the civil war notwithstanding. Tell the martyrs of the faithful that their interests were being respected). Such a system makes human dignity a matter of common consensus. When times become difficult, the value of human dignity degrades because there is no objective standard upon which it is based.

Communism claims the interests of "the people" but does so by degrading the value of the individual. It gives "the people" some kind of groundless being, an operative term with no substantial definition, and turns it to the benefit of the governing beauracracy. Such a government makes human dignity a nonvalue.

Capitalism gives primary dignity to humans as beings who interact with a market. Outside of their market interactions, they have little our no value. In such a system, humans have value only as entrepreneurs or as consumers. Such a system commoditizes all human skills, reducing human work to a relative value, hence, human existence to one of mere quantifiable worth.

Why is private property a human right but one subordinated to the common good?

Private property is legitimate when it is geared toward the sustenance of an individual and his or her family. People have an obligation to work, hence, an implied right to work. Given this obligation, they must have the means to work. Property is one of the means (along with human potentiality) for work. So people have a right to property so long as that property is used in a productive fashion. Physical property is finite, which means that one person's holding of property limits the property available to others. If the person holding a property does not use it to produce goods for others and does not need it for personal sustenance, he deprives others of the ability to either use the land for sustenance or to use it toward the common good. Such a right, if it were absolute, would eventually come into conflict with the basic right and obligation of man to work. Given the primacy of the latter, the former must be subordinate.

Critique of Contemporary Ethics and Politics

Lecture 7 questions. I have to say that I like where we're going, but I sure had to hoof a bit this weekend to catch up. I'll pay more attention for the next series of lessons. However, it also got me back into the swing of grad school. I'm hoping I can get back to my prior reading speed of 45 pages per hour. I'm at around 25 pages now.

Is an action morally good because authority commands it, or should authority command something because it is morally good?

The answer depends upon the nature of the authority. If the authority is temporal, then the only way to provide a stable system of morality is upon a foundation that is stable, and that requires some higher authority to which the temporal authority can refer. Otherwise, any ethical system asserted by that authority will be arbitrary. So in this case, authority would need to command something because it is morally good. However, if the authority is ultimate, perfect, all knowing, and all powerful, its very nature is the greatest good, so anything commanded would be morally good in its source. The question then becomes whether this authority is truly the highest and most perfect.

That said, our assessment of the moral good must be based upon our understanding. For us to make good moral decisions, we must have a clear and adequate understanding of the factors, including the nature of authorities dictating a behavior. We must base our decisions upon our rightly informed understanding of what is morally good, not merely upon the dictates of a self-proclaimed authority.

Why do we need not only a "decision-making ethics" but a "virtue ethics?"

"Decision-making" ethics tend to do what is most expedient or what is of benefit to the most parties involved (or at least those parties that have a vested and accepted interest). However, virtue ethics brings in the concepts of justice, temperance, and courage, which ensures that even means that are not popular are considered and given fair hearing. What is just and temperate is frequently not what is popular. Without a virtue-based ethic, justice and temperance would rarely get a hearing. Recognition for the need for these virtues in making ethical choices arises from another virtue, wisdom or prudence.

Why did John Paul II condemn "teleologism" or proportionalism in the encyclical "The Splendor of Truth" (Veritatis Splendor) ?

Proportionalism denies that objects can be intrinsically evil. They posit that objects have premoral good and bad values apart from circumstances and the intentions of the agent. So an object whose premoral values come out to be mostly good depend upon the circumstance and agent intent for their moral acceptability. The problem is that we can easily posit objects that have no premoral good values by all reasonable standards (rape, murder of innocents). Anything good in such acts would have to be as the end result rather than in the means themselves, so there could be no premoral good in them to justify the means. An object that has no premoral good is intrinsically evil. One instance of an object that has no premoral good undermines the entire premise.

Why must there be authority and obedience to just decisions by authority in any human community if it is to function well and survive?

Human society is based upon an implicit agreement that activities will be undertaken to benefit all parties involved. The sinful nature of man being a factor, there must be an authority to whom grievances can be addressed. If that authority undermines the implicit social agreement, it threatens both its own authority and the stability of society. If individuals refuse to acknowledge decisions simply because they do not find them of benefit personally, they too undermine the very assumption upon which society is based.

What is the argument for a "republic" as ordinarily the best practical form of government?

A republic is more likley to be able to represent the widest number of relevant perspectives in the determination of just law. It has a single ruler, but it also has a body of elected officials who are responsible for determining which laws will be enacted. Depending on the form of republic, the body of officials can counterbalance the power to the ruler by refusing what it sees as unjust legislation. Likewise, the ruler can often halt the enacting of laws passed by the representative group that it sees as counter to its interests. This division and balance of power tends to create dialogue and cooperation.

Republican forms of government, when properly employed, ensure that the populace has some means of altering the balance of power. Such forms guarantee that a single individual cannot wantonly impose his or her will without, at least, the consent of a representative body.

If I were a Cyborg...

Technician Hardwired for Efficient Observation, Ceaseless Obliteration and Immediate Destruction

UPDATE: Hmmm. "Ceaseless obliteration" and "immediate destruction" sound like premorally bad values to me.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Critique of Contemporary Understanding of the Human Person

Eeek! I just discovered that we were supposed to cover 5 lessons in the last month, not just 4 through 6. So I have two more to cover before I start my paper. Bad Theocoid!

Here are the questions for lecture 6.

What distinguishes human persons from animals?

While animals have consciousness (the ability to be awar of particulars), they are not able to gain abstract knowledge or insight from that of which they are conscious. While animals are aware and can act upon sense data, they cannot think about their knowledge and come to new knowledge.

What distinguishes human intelligence from the human senses, interior and exterior?

Human senses give us data. We gather this data from the outside world or from our own interior senses. Our intelligence helps us to filter out that data that is irrelevant, combine and process the data that is relevant, and come to new conclusions that would otherwise not be self-evident. While the brain can process and store sense data, it does not account for intelligence, which is self-conscious.

What is the relation between the soul and the body in the human person?

The body is our material presence, but our soul cannot be separate from it in the manner that the Platonists believed. We know ourselves as physical beings, and as self-conscious beings. However, the soul cannot itself be material, or it would have a location apart from the entire self. You could identify a location in the body as the seat of the soul (which is what Descartes attemnpted to do). The soul and the body are together the human being. To be human is to have body and soul together.

Is the human intelligence identical with the operations of the brain?

Operations of the brain are electrochemical functions. They are process by which the brain transfers data from one place to another. That is not human intelligence. Animal brains do the same. Human intelligence must be able to filter data, process it, and come to new insights. The ability to abstract from particulars is what makes human intelligence different from mere brain function. Granted, we can't demonstrate much of the former without the latter, but in animals we can see the latter without the former.

What is the distinction between cognition and affectivity in the human person?

Cognition is the ability to recognize and interpret sense data. Affectivity is the means by which we evaluate the sense data to make free choices. Affectivity (or feeling or emotions) is that which helps us to determine advantages, disadvantages, desirable or undesirable outcomes, and hence allows us to use our intelligence toward free choice. However, we must use both together. Affectivity with no use of intelligence makes us subject solely to our drives. If we can gather data but cannot act on our abstract knowledge to out advantage, we likely do not have free choice.

Friday, October 14, 2005

New Catholic?

Actually, I'm a cradle Catholic who grew up completely outside of the culture in a Catholic military family. As I used to say, all of the guilt, and none of the culture!


You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions. But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith, probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II. You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional, and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society that you see among your peers. You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature in your faith.

New Catholic


Traditional Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Radical Catholic


Liberal Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with

UPDATED: This thing's been messing up my side navigation bar, dad burn it!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blogger Word of the Day for Oct. 9, 2005.

BORE from The Devil's Dictionary.

A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

Critique of the Foundations of Contemporary Natural Science

These are the questions for week 5. Fortunately the Dulles text actually arrived, albeit after three weeks of stalling by the original bookseller. I had to cancel my original order and reorder from Powell's, who had the book to me in five days.

Powell's Books rocks! Abebooks also rocks.

So, on to the questions!

What did the founders of modern science think about the relation of science and religion?

The founders of modern science—Galileo, Newton, Harvey, Descartes—were all devout men who believed that the study of natural science could lead us closer to God. It would make sense that studying God's creation would tell us something about the creator. In this sense, science is at the service of faith, not vice versa. We study the creation in order to come to greater knowledge of God.

What caused the break between modern science and religion?
Galileo's observations using his telescope confirmed the Copernican heliocentric theory of the universe. This theory contradicted the geocentric conception of the universe to which Aristotle subscribed. Galileo's observation of sunspots also contradicted Aristotle's belief that the sun was composed of something different than the matter which made up the Earth and our physical world.

Galileo's findings of error in the details of Aristotle's theories caused many to discard all of his thought and to search elsewhere for foundational thought for science. They turned to the earlier materialist, Democritus, who provided a mechanistic view of the universe. This mechanistic view posited that there really was no need for anything outside of the physical universe to explain its existence. It was always here in one form or another. As Democritus claimed, "Nothing comes from nothing" (Catholic Encyclopedia, "Materialism).

What is meant by the "foundational principles and concepts" of natural science?

Foundational principles and concepts are those assumptions upon which all further thoughts must be based. With Aristotle, the "foundational principles and concepts" are those that we derive from our sense experience. We know the world through our senses, and we can trust our senses to tell us about the world. With the empiricists, we only know our sense impressions, which somehow reflect sense objects in the real world. The problem is that if we only know reflections of real objects, we cannot know the properties of the object itself. A reflection distorts that which it presents (just as we see a reverse image of an object in a reflection and not the object as it really stands). For this reason, our sense impressions are not trustworthy. The problem with this view is that all means we have for scientific observation and measurement ultimately require us to interpret the raw data with the same senses, hence the same sense impressions. Eventually, this belief of the separation of object from impression leaves us eternally separated from knowledge of reality.

If we know only our sense impressions, we can know nothing outside of our minds. However, we do know things exist outside of our minds. Otherwise, our coming to knowledge of things outside of our immediate experience would be impossible. Therefore, we must be able to know things in the real world and not only our sense impressions.

Are natural science and religion on such different planes that there is no contact between them?

Natural science and religion complement each other. The former provides knowledge of things in our experience. The latter abuts the former and extends beyond our sense experience to things we cannot affirm through the senses. Natural science can provide a rational basis for faith. Our knowledge of change, of cause and effect, and of of potential versus actual reality all point to something in existence prior to our current material universe. In this way, natural science can support faith, by showing the necessity of something in existence outside of the material universe.

How is the Biblical view of creation related to modern science and the theory of the Big Bang?

The Biblical view of creation is a narrative explanation in poetic language that describes the rational thought of a prescientific people into the origins of the universe. It doesn't attempt to describe what is but provide a framework by which prescientific people could explain origin. Being narrative in poetic language, it uses the tools of narrative: metaphor, idiom, and other figures of speech. It also uses such idiom that was appropriate to the people of the time. It describes creation without the benefit of objective observation of other heavenly bodies and prior to the existence of matter.

The Big Bang theory is a view of creation from a scientific perspective using technical, precise language. It attempts to describe the "creation" of the universe in terms of observable cause and effect, based on observations that are inaccessible by the naked eye. It uses language that attempts to minimize figurative speech. It does not attempt to provide a framework outside of immediate observation and known physical laws to describe a process that took place billions of years ago. It does not attempt to describe origins prior to the existence of matter.

The Biblical account of creation and the Big Bang theory are two attempts from different perspectives that attempt to describe origins. However, once restricts itself to things that can be described in terms of matter alone, while the other does not. They represent two different perspectives for two different purposes for two different cultures.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Free Piglet!

Hat tip to With Issue for the image.

Blogger Word of the Day for Oct. 7, 2005

In light of recent controversies, today's word is

hog (from The New hacker's Dictionary)

1. Favored term to describe programs or hardware that seem to eat far more than their share of a system's resources, esp. those which noticeably degrade interactive response. Not used of programs that are simply extremely large or complex or that are merely painfully slow themselves (see pig, run like a). More often than not encountered in qualified forms, e.g., `memory hog', `core hog', `hog the processor', `hog the disk'. "A controller that never gives up the I/O bus gets killed after the bus-hog timer expires." 2. Also said of people who use more than their fair share of resources (particularly disk, where it seems that 10% of the people use 90% of the disk, no matter how big the disk is or how many people use it). Of course, once disk hogs fill up one filesystem, they typically find some other new one to infect, claiming to the sysadmin that they have an important new project to complete.

UPDATE: More details on the controversy here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blogger word of the day for Oct. 5, 2005

crapulence (from

Sickness caused by excessive eating or drinking.

Excessive indulgence; intemperance.

The definition has less to do with my choice than the word stem. I guess this choice says more about my adolescent sense of humor than anything else.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Blogger Word of the Day for Oct. 4, 2005.

chomp (from the New Hacker's Dictionary)

To lose; specifically, to chew on something of which more was bitten off than one can. Probably related to gnashing of teeth. See bagbiter.

A hand gesture commonly accompanies this. To perform it, hold the four fingers together and place the thumb against their tips. Now open and close your hand rapidly to suggest a biting action (much like what Pac-Man does in the classic video game, though this pantomime seems to predate that). The gesture alone means `chomp chomp' (see " Verb Doubling" in the " How Jargon Works" section of the Prependices). The hand may be pointed at the object of complaint, and for real emphasis you can use both hands at once. Doing this to a person is equivalent to saying "You chomper!" If you point the gesture at yourself, it is a humble but humorous admission of some failure. You might do this if someone told you that a program you had written had failed in some surprising way and you felt dumb for not having anticipated it.

Okay, I acknowledge that this one is a stretch. I've been rilly rilly busy. I'll try to post something substantial (relatively, not Christologically speaking) tomorrow.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blogger Word of the Day for Sept. 29, 2005.

nakhur a Persian term (from The Meaning of Tingo):

a camel that won’t give milk until her nostrils are tickled

I don't know if I picked this one out of desperation or because I just find it funny.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Greetings from the Microsoft MVP Summit

Just registered today and ran into probably the only other Microsoft MVP from my neck o' the woods. The good stuff hasn't started yet, and I skipped the regional party to have dinner with my blushing bride.

She just said that she's not blushing yet. (That will learn her to read over my shoulder.)

Anyhoo, the first speaker tomorrow is none other than Steve Ballmer. I know MS has its detractors, but Steve is just downright entertaining. He's big and boisterous, and is not afraid to say, "I don't know." Frankly, as much as people diss MS, I have to say that my interactions at these summits has been positive, particularly Jim Allchin.

Enough business stuff. This is supposed to be a place for my theology musings (although I'd really love to find a way to mix my love of theology with my interest in markup languages--anyone for tXML?)

Blogger Word for the Day for Sept. 28, 2005

abstainer (from the The Devil's Dictionary).

"A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others."

I know, I know. It's not really something one would find in the blogosphere, but I had to include it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blogger's Word of the Day for Sept. 27, 2005

bletcherous (from the New Hacker's Dictonary):

Disgusting in design or function; esthetically unappealing. This word is seldom used of people. "This keyboard is bletcherous!" (Perhaps the keys don't work very well, or are misplaced.) See losing, cretinous, bagbiting, bogus, and random. The term bletcherous applies to the esthetics of the thing so described; similarly for cretinous. By contrast, something that is `losing' or `bagbiting' may be failing to meet objective criteria. See also bogus and random, which have richer and wider shades of meaning than any of the above.

I'm heading off to Seattle for 3 days of wining and dining by Microsoft. Okay, actually, it's more like a chance for me to satiate my inner geek. I get to see the latest with Windows Vista, chat with the product team for my area, and essentially do my best to coerce them into seeing my way about XML-related things.

I'll try to keep on with these entries while I'm away (not that anyone has noticed them).

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Liberal, Hermeneutic Arts of Learning and Communication

These are the questions for Lecture 4. This segment focuses on the liberal arts as defined by Aristotle and the beneficial role they play in the task of the theologian.

Explain why "fundamentalist" interpretations of the Bible or any other text run the danger of misunderstanding the author's real thought?

Fundamentalist interpretations tend to view the text in their own contemporaneous culture as opposed to the culture from which the text comes. They also often ignore aspects such as idiomatic usage, authorial intent, and literary genre. Such readings assume that the received translation rectifies no such ambiguities or has no compromises to the original imagery or meaning of the scriptural text. Hence, such interpretations say more about the subject than they say about the author's intent.

That said, many postmodernist schools of thought would argue that a dead author's intent is irrelevant or at least unknowable (Whimsatt & Beardsley's intentional fallacy). I don't recall their argument for why this rises (or falls) to the level of a fallacy. I'll need to dig out my lit. crit. books before I can make a satisfactory answer. Prior to that investigation, I'll poison the well and say that I find the idea that the author's intent is unknowable without the author's explicit proclamation to be simply a ludicrous attempt to wrest the hermeneutic process away from legitimate scholars. I wonder if proponents of sola scriptura recognize their strange bedfellows.

Why does rhetorical moralizing ruin a novel or drama?

The question itself betrays a bias that the rhetorical and the poetic do not belong in the same sphere (or at least in a single work). This belief assumes that devices used for rhetorical purposes cannot also be used to evoke beauty, or that contemplation of beauty cannot move one to action. I think the problem here is not with the definitions of rhetoric and poetic (which can use various methods for different ends) but with the assumption that an abstraction such as "rhetorical moralizing" has a locus of meaning that excludes the evocation of beauty or enjoyment. In small, subtle doses, it can be quite evocative. In larger quantities (in the form of satire), it can evoke laughter.

So I think the real question is "when does 'rhetorical moralizing ruin a novel or drama'?"

It does so when the passive intention of persuasion supersedes the active intention of entertainment.

What is the difference between a "discussion" and a "demonstration"?

Discussion or dialogue requires a back and forth passing of information, which shouls allow the parties involved to way facts and reformulate ideas to come to a common agreement. Demonstration is used to resolved impasses, to show that an utterance contradicts fact or that a series of statements does or does ot lead one to an inevitable conclusion.

Illustrate how a theologian uses dialectical and demonstrative modes of discourse in systematic theology?

In discourse, a theologian uses dialectic to gauge the understanding of the other party and to restate the doctrine of faith in a way that takes into account the perspective of the external or dissenting party. The discourse on faith begins with a statement of our belief, followed by either a dispute of that belief or a question that seeks additional information. Both dispute and question can act as a springboard for the theologian, who can then use those ideas to redirect their explanations to address the pertinent issues.

Demonstrative modes are most useful to present a series of premises and show that they lead necessarily to a conclusion. Prior to showing syllogistically that premises lead necessarily to a conclusion, demonstrative modes can reveal assumptions in premises that are false or definitions that are inadequately defined.

Do you think theologians need to know mathematics?



Nothing like a boolean to kill a conversation.

I can't speak to how knowledge of mathematics could assist a theologian because my own knowledge of math is defective. What I can say is that all discussion about physical sciences dwells in reductions unless you understand mathematics. Without the formulas, a nonmathemetician must rely on the distilled understanding of another.

I remember in my senior year of high school when I dropped analytical geometry and calculus to take a creative writing class. My junior English teacher, Mrs. Mims, actually pulled me aside and castigated me for taking a creative writing course. I think Rutha understood the need for liberal arts education far better than the humanities teachers of my senior year (who taught me all about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle). I love them all, but Rutha Mims was looking far beyond the feel-good moment of my literary awakening.

I would love to understand chemistry or physics at the level of formulae. I might get there someday, but I short-circuited that process on my own. What knowledge of mathematics provides to a theologian is the ability for him or her to understand and discuss science in the language of science.

Blogger word of the day for Sept 26, 2005.

Blinkenlichten: also blinkenlights from the New Hacker's Dictionary.

Front-panel diagnostic lights on a computer, esp. a dinosaur. Derives from the last word of the famous blackletter-Gothic sign in mangled pseudo-German that once graced about half the computer rooms in the English-speaking world. One version ran in its entirety as follows:


Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Ist icht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das rubbernecken sichtseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.

Me on the Political Spectrum

In the people view, my spot was right over JP II's face.

You are a

Social Conservative
(38% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(50% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's settled. Big surprise.


You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves. What people hate:
You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?

Paper Done and Graded

Yay! Paper's done. I turned it in Tuesday morning and got it back a few hours later. I want to follow up on a few questions, but I can't complain about the grade.

The next lecture covers the liberal arts. Having two liberal-arts degrees, I have to agree wholeheartedly with the value of broad LA education, although I do wish I'd spent a bit more time in math. Mrs. Mims was right!

I know many people with business degrees who can do nothing else but what they do. I know people with English and Philosophy degrees who work in the tech fields during the day and write or perform music in the evenings. No doubt, our world wouldn't be the same without the engineers, but I do get a little irritated when I hear technical writers derided for being English majors.

My own musical endeavors haven't gone anywhere recently. I'm supposed to start a Christian rock band with a friend from back in my professional-musician days. I don't think I'll be doing anything of the sort this semester.

Back to work, me!

The Intellectual Ambiguities of Contemporary Culture

These are the study questions for Lecture 3. This is much more familiar territory for me, or I should say more recent territory. Most of the classical philosophy I learned was in high school. Everything from my junior year through graduate school was modern or postmodern. It's interesting for me now to think how wrongheaded subjective modern philosophy is. Maybe wrongheaded isn't the right term, but it does seem to start from a position of skepticism.

What is "the turn to the subject" in modern thought?

The shift of focus from the object to the subject, the external world to the interior world of thoughts. Descartes was attempting to address the increasing skepticism concerning the capacities of reason and our ability to reconcile experience and faith. He turned his attention away from the world of objects an inward to the thinker, the subject. This turn is immortalized in the words cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). One could doubt their own understanding, but he or she could not dubt that they were doubting or thing.

An aside: Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary proposes a different formulation od Descartes' words: cogito cogito, ergo cogito sum. I'm pretty sure his Latin is really poor, although I find his sense of humor wickedly amusing.

What are the differences and similarities between Cartesianism and Kantianism?

Cartesianism assumes that God would not provide us the capabilities to sense our world and be fooled by our senses. He assumes that what we sense is real and trustworthy. Kant assumes that we project certain preconceived notions on to sense data. His position is more like the Sophists, that we can't truly know the world of the senses. We can only know what we project onto it. Whereas Descartes accepts that we can, through reason, come to have certitude, Kant holds that our scientific construction of the world is limited by the data we have. It never tells us about the world itself, and it cannot arrive at the truth about reality. At best, what we get is a picture that is consistent and compatible with the sense data we have.

How is British Empiricism grounded in Cartesianism?

Like Cartesianism, empiricism starts from the perspective of the subject. However, while Descartes continues to put his trust in reason and in the inner subjective experience as the source of truth, the empiricists trust in fact and observation. We analyze thought and find sense impressions, from which we can know more about our world.

Why have the modern popes favored Thomism as a model for Christian philosophers and

Thomist thought reconciles materialist and idealist thought. In that sense, it brings together and affirms both faith and reason. Most of modern thought approaches from the self. The danger of this approach is that every self becomes a new and different vantage point, one colored by its own development and context. Such a standpoint cannot point to absolute truth, only to a subjective understanding of the self and the world.

Why must Thomism incorporate modern historical and scientific knowledge while preserving its middle-of-the-road epistemology?

Faith and reason cannot be at odds with each other. Only by reconciling the two can we attain the truth. Because of the need to reconcile faith and science, we need an epistemology that treats sense data and the findings of science with due respect. St. Thomas built a strong case for Catholic doctrine starting from the Aristotelian stand point that we learn about our world through sense data. St. Thomas took this point further by demonstrating that we can reasonable conclude the existence of God and the truth of many Catholic beliefs based on on analysis of sense data and the world in which we live.

At the same time, we cannot abandon that which cannot be measured or seen. Much of the truth we accept is revealed truth rather than human thought. We cannot deduce morality without reducing it to a bunch of contingent rules. We have to accept that some truths speak to us from beyond the material (the value of human life, love, honesty). Science cannot prove these ideas to be true or false. We know them only through revelation. Maintaining these spiritual values, however, has a tremendous impact on the quality of material existence.

In a world where the truth of scientific thought can be demonstrated, we must have tools that can reconcile the world of science and the world of spiritual. Thomism provides such tools.

Blogger word of the day for Sept. 22, 2005

Bloviate: To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

I'm going to post a word of the day, with a mind especially toward blog usage. Blogs seem to be an excellent source for evolving slang. When I have time, I'll provide etymologies, particularly when they're funny.

Some of my favorite sources are Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary and the New Hacker's Dictionary. And, of course, I'll use samples from the wild as well.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

First Paper Due Next Week!

I tell you, along with all the happenings at work, my father's illness, and the continuing saga of the great missing book challenge of 2005, I'm a bit anxious. I'm still awaiting the arrival of the Dulles text (which I ordered on 9/1 and for some reason wasn't shipped until this week). The Bonsor text arrived yesterday, along with the alternative text meant to replace it, Elements of Philosophy. So I have some reading to do this weekend. Fortunately, my daughter is with her mother this weekend, so I only have to negelect my blushing bride.

Ok, I don't really plan to neglect her. But I do have to try to resist her. At least for a little while.

Back to work, me!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Philosophers' Song

My readings this week covered modern philosophy, staring with Descartes. This is more familiar territory for me, but it's interesting to recover it now that I've gone from being an agnostic deconstructive idealist to a very theistic realist.

All this rereading of Descartes, Hume, and Locke rang my bell a bit and got me thinking of those times as an adolescent when I would listen to my copy of Matching Tie and Handkerchief. On the second side, there were two separate tracks, so you essentially had a three-sided LP.

Anyhoo, the Philosophers' Song is a classic, although undoubtedly untrue.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under
the table.

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as

There's nothing Nietzche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the
raising of the wrist.

Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was
particularly ill.

Plato, they say, could stick it away--
Half a
crate of whisky every day.

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the
Hobbes was fond of his dram,

And René Descartes was a
drunken fart.
'I drink, therefore I am.'

Yes, Socrates, himself, is
particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker, But a bugger when he's pissed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Choosing an Epistemological Approach to Human Experience

Here are the study questions for lesson 2. Unfortunately, much of the material I need to study is in Athens and Jerusalem, which is currently en route from the bookseller.

What is meant by the "epistemologies of the special sciences" and "metaphysical epistemology?"

These phrases strike me as specific to Bonsor's book. I did not hear them in the lecture, so I'll have to assume that is the case. I'll try to answer them after I've had a chance to read that book.

Based on the lesson text, I could induce that "epistemologies of the special sciences" refers to the methods each discipline uses to verify the truth or falsity of its own findings. On the other hand, "metaphysical epistemology" would refer to a critique of specific epistemologies to consider their validity in general. While a special epistemology might concern itself with only a small range of criteria, metaphysical epistemology evaluates all of the possible criteria.

What are the extremes of materialist and Platonic epistemologies?

Materialism posits that truth is only that which can be observed by the senses or inferred based on our observations (sense data). Even the individual soul (if one exists at all) is material and impermanent. Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the Carvaka (Lokayata) school are materialist.

Spiritualism (idealism) posits that ultimate reality is spiritual. Some schools deny that the material world exists at all but is an illusion (Hinduism's maya or Buddhism's Samsara). Others (such as Platonism) reduce the world to shadows of the real, spiritual world. The material world to the Platonist is a mere reflection or reminder of the real spiritual existence. In Platonism, we have phenomena (appearances) and noumena (realities) (CE, "Plato and Platonism"). These realities have been forgotten by our souls but are innate and can be recovered through introspection.

What was Aristotle's "middle ground" between these extremes?

Aristotle rejected the innate ideas of the Platonists and neo-Platonists and believed that we come into the world with a blank intellect (the tabula rasa of Locke?). He affirmed what the materialists asserted—that we learn about the world in which we live through sense data (what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell). However, he agreed with the spiritualists/idealists that some higher faculty allowed us to analyze this sense data and come to understand reality. We come to differentiate between the world of sense data as we experience it when conscious and the world that we experience in dreams and thought that, although derived from sense data, does not accord with reality.

Aristotle recognized that our human responses, our concepts, and our language go far beyond the explanations of the materialists. Something more drives human thought than a mere material existence.

Why was Christian theology Platonic until the rise of the medieval universities?

Aristotle's thought was largely lost to the west for many years (until the 1200s). Given the choice between the materialism of the Epicureans and Stoics and the spiritualism of the Platonists (and neo-Platonists to a lesser degree), it only makes sense that the early Church Fathers and the monastic theologians would veer toward an epistemology that accorded with exiting Church doctrine. Because materialists denied a transcendent reality, materialist thought could not be accepted. Spiritualist thought, with some modification, could align and become a useful tool for theologians. Some beliefs of the Platonists and neo-Platonists hd to be purged to accord with revealed truth, but the basic approach was still spiritualist or Platonist.

How has Platonism serve Christian theology? How has it distorted it?

Platonism has preserved the idea of the transcendant reality and the acceptance of realities outside of the realm of material experience. Without this accommodation, there could be no acceptance of revealed truth apart from material experience. Much of the language of the Platonists helped the early Church Fathers to translate the experience of a small Jewish sect to a larger, more cosmopolitan world. The world of 1st century Greece was a world of pagan sceptics. Only by aligning Christian thought with the wisdom of someone like Plato would Christian doctrine ever get a hearing outside of the diaspora.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Theology needs reasoned reflection on human experience

These are the study questions for lesson 1.

1) What does the study of "philosophy" in its original, broad sense include?

In its original sense, the scope of philosophy is all human knowledge, specifically all knowledge pertaining to the natural world. It included the physical sciences, mathematics, rhetoric—essentially all of the liberal arts and fine arts. No doubt Aristotle understood it in this sense, and his corpus of works includes subjects such as tragedy, biology, and physics.

2) What is the difference of philosophy in this broad sense from theology?

While philosophy's focus is on human knowledge—that is, knowledge gained through the powers of reason—theology focuses on revealed knowledge. Philosophy dwells in the natural realm. Theology dwells in the supernatural realm.

3) Is philosophy only "the clarification of the language of other disciplines?"

If philosophy is only "the clarification of the language of other disciplines," it is only such in the minds of modern philosophers. Clearly specialization of disciplines has taken the focus away from philosophy as a multifaceted discipline, but this fracturing does not truly divide the philosophical subject into separate disciplines. Logic is certainly part of philosophy, but its use must extend to other realms of study. Metaphysics exist even if modern philosophers find the fact uncomfortable or daunting.

4) Are "metaphysics" and "philosophy" the same study?

In the sense that it's dealt with here, metaphysics is a branch of philosophy but not all of philosophy focused on the study of being as being. However, Wikipedia defines metaphysics as 'a branch of philosophy concerned with the study of "first principles" and "being" (ontology).' It notes the meaning if the roots meta (after or beyond) and physics (nature). If we take this meaning, then you could see it as a study that overlaps philosophy and theology. So metaphysics is not the same study. It's a specific application for philosophical and possibly even theological thought to first principles and ontology.

5) Why is it a waste of time to study theology without adequate preparation in philosophy in this broad sense?

Theologians often use philosophical methods in their work. However, the methodologies are sometimes flawed. For example, those theologians who tend to view doctrine as fungible have a more relativistic view of truth. Without preparation in philosophy, one might not recognize the ramifications of such a stance (reletavism, indifferentism). For those theologians who claim a more postmodern approach, the tendency to redefine terms can lead to fallacious argumentation (sophistry). In order to recognize the traps that some theologians fall into, we must be prepared to distinguish among rational and nonrational modes of thought.