Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Will to Believe and the Willfulness Not To

I think that faith has a lot to do with first principles. No matter who you are -- atheist or believer -- you must have either explicit or implicit principles that cannot be justified by those principles, but are nevertheless present in your every judgment. Know a man's first principles and you pretty much know everything else, including his last end. Garbage in, garbage out. Materialism in, atheism out.

Saint Thomas discusses this in the first question of the Summa, pointing out that the science of theology is no different than any other, in the sense that it proceeds by drawing out the implications of first principles that are taken on faith, i.e., revelation. I'm not sure what this or that scientist would say are his first principles, because most scientists obviously don't bother with metaphysics, any more than your auto mechanic bothers with the physics of motion. And scientists who do dabble in metaphysics, such as Dawkins, are just incoherent.

The deeper point here is that it is impossible to think ourselves "all the way to the bottom of the cosmos," so to speak. Rather, at some point a free act of faith is required, emphasis on both words, free and act.

What this means is that the will is actually prior to the intellect, in that no one in a free society can force you to believe anything. At some point you have to choose to believe, even if it is choosing the idea that the laws of physics are an adequate explanation for everything.

Ideally one makes this choice consciously, but generally speaking, only religious people do this (at least in the west). In other words, everyone understands that an intrinsic aspect of religion is belief in the idea that the absolute principle has revealed itself to men. But as I have said on many occasions, the irreligious person usually believes the same thing, only implicitly and unconsciously, or in a garbled manner. There are very few genuine nihilists who have no faith in anything.

It should not be surprising that in our particular civilization, people who are supposedly ideological opposites are actually rooted in the same principles, for example, that the world is intelligible to human intelligence. This is not something that is believed in the Islamic world, since its first principles differ radically from ours. A major reason why the Islamic world has not "developed" is that their first principles make it impossible. To say that man may know natural things with his natural reason, independent of God, is just not kosher there.

Christian civilization has a much more expansive view of God, and with it, a much deeper appreciation of man's intrinsic dignity, nobility, and value. Here we are able to "partner up" with God and discover real truths about the cosmos.

But in Islam, God has no partners: there is no God but God. The idea that the Absolute would actually incarnate as a man is unthinkable and heretical. This is why the Koran makes allowances for Jesus, but only as a second rate prophet, certainly not as the Word made flesh.

But this distinctive idea of the enfleshment of God's Reason is again central to our civilization, whether you like it or not. The main difference between the believer and the atheist is simply in how far to take this principle. The atheist arbitrarily stops his journey into Truth midway, -- where it remains suspended in miderr, grounded in nothing -- whereas the believer remains focused on the only possible source and end of Truth, which is God.

To put it another way -- Saint Thomas's way -- "Of the practical sciences, that one is nobler which is ordained to a further purpose..." This is another way of making Wilber's point that a deeper explanation both transcends and includes a lower or more shallow one, say, the way in which relativity transcends and includes Newtonian physics.

But it also means that the value of science is determined by its end, which, in the end, is none other than ananda, or "celestial bliss," or heaven if you like. On first consideration this may sound strange, but again, it is simply a result of drawing first principles to their final deustination. All of you are aware of that tingle of delight that occurs when you grasp a deep truth. Now, just magnify that. That's ananda, baby.

To paraphrase Kreeft, things are either meaningful or they are not. This is a true either/or, for there is literally nothing in between. If things are not ultimately meaningful, then they are not meaningful, period.

Now, are things ultimately meaningful? The believer says yes, which is admittedly an act of faith. The atheist/nihilist says no, which is unadmittedly an act of faith. The difference is that our faith is rooted in Reason, whereas his is not, for the atheist has no real reason to believe anything at all.

Was that clear? This is the difficulty of "arguing" with a nihilist troll, when argument with him is impossible, precisely. It is impossible because a genuine argument can only take place if one's interlocuter has explicit principles to defend. If he has no principles, then he is just caviling, which is a very typical narcissistic defense, in that the clinical narcissist -- who is often developmentally arrested at the age of two or so -- can say "no" but not "yes."

In other words, this type of narcissist is very clear about what he doesn't like and doesn't believe. But to believe and defend requires a clear yes to things that are beloved (be-lief is related to be-loved).

Those of you who have had a two year old understand this well. In being defiant or negativisitic, the child is not trying to be difficult. Rather, he is simply trying to establish his boundaries as a separate individual. And obviously, his first attempts to do this will be clumsy and ham-handed, just like the first time he picks up a pencil.

But as Bobby Knight once said of journalists, "all of us learn to write in the second grade, but most of us go on to better things." It is the same with narcissism. All of us learn to say no by the time we're two years old, but most of us go on to saying yes to better things, e.g., truth, love, beauty, God, etc.

In contrast, the atheist spends his life saying no to God. Whether this is a result of a primitive boundary issue depends upon the individual case. It would be true of the militant atheists I have known, but I doubt if it applies to the person who is just indifferent to God. They usually have a different sort of malady.

Now, the "yes" of faith is not without its potential problems and pitfalls -- for example, "blind faith," or a bogus certitude of things about which man can never be certain. Faith is not certitude.

But nor is it doubt, opinion, or supposition, which all have their own distinct definitions. I believe that Thomas distinguishes it from knowing, but as I mentioned yesterday, I believe it is a variety of knowing, or a tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths, very much as Polanyi describes the attitude of the scientist, who can somehow distinguish between potentially fruitful and fruitless avenues of discovery.

It reminds me of this: have you ever had the experience of knowing that you don't know something vs. knowing that you do, but just can't remember it? Often I will have the instantaneous experience of knowing I don't know something, and that there is no point in trying to recall it. But other times I have the instantaneous experience that I do know it. And I don't necessarily mean that I can recall the answer if I try, but that the answer is knowable.

The closest approximation I can think of at the moment is a certain ability to know whether or not there is potential humor in a situation, or whether it's not worth the try -- for example, in coming up with a funny caption for a photo. Somehow, a part of me is able to instantaneously know whether I will be able to come up with a gag, before I've come up with it. Often I have the strong feeling that I know there's a joke here! Keep trying! I should add that this is a very different dynamic than forced humor, which is usually a result of ignoring the voice that says "no gag here. Move on."

So, just as we can smell the potential humor in a situation, or sniff the potential discovery in the data, we can sense the sacred -- the presence of God -- in certain beliefs and principles. Otherwise, no one would believe. Everyone would be exactly like the atheist who looks at Christianity and says "what a bunch of nonsense. No point in exploring that avenue." In the words of a particular two year-old of our acquaintance, "it's just a very long-lived personality cult. I should cleave to Jesus because he said so and lots of other people have too. Forgive me if I'm not the least bit interested."

Nothing in, nihilism out.

88 Comments:

Blogger Lynn said...

G-Bob wrote: "..for example, in coming up with a funny caption for a photo. Somehow, a part of me is able to instantaneously know whether I will be able to come up with a gag, before I've come up with it. .."

Like this? :)

"Let me be clear: the bug stops here."

6/30/2010 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not bad. I also like Good to see that Helen Thomas' replacement is slightly more evolved.

6/30/2010 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"...No matter who you are -- atheist or believer -- you must have either explicit or implicit principles that cannot be justified by those principles, but are nevertheless present in your every judgment. Know a man's first principles and you pretty much know everything else, including his last end. Garbage in, garbage out. Materialism in, atheism out."

Wo! Hit it out of the park on the first paragraph... and there's more? Cool!

(ADD moment passes, clicks back to read post)

6/30/2010 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

First, one of my typical comments to mention that mankind is viewed as a co-creator with the Deity of the world as it has come to be in the Jewish tradition also. I believe but can't document it at the moment, that such a tradition predates the Christian era, and would therefore argue that the Christian tradition continues that line of Jewish tradition.

Second, your post gives another example of the way in which Islam does not really continue the Jewish tradition, and uses the neologism of an "Abrahamic tradition" to obscure the fact that the Islamic world view is in some respects fundamentally different than the Jewish (and Christian) world view, and in opposition.

It is not so much that Islam views Allah as having no possible partnership with mankind which has stifled the development of science in the Islamic world, but the fact that classical Islamic philosophy does not admit that the world Allah made is necessarily lawful at all.

The Jewish and Christian traditions learn that the world is created so as to function according to reliable and consistent natural laws, and that these laws may be discovered and applied independent of an explicit scriptural revelation. Jews and Christians believe that we can rely on the empirical laws of physics, chemistry, and astronomy.

The fact that the world is lawful is a great mercy and a great blessing, although it implies that certain apparently undesirable outcomes will follow certain actions with a certainty.

In Islamic philosophy, every aspect of everything at every moment depends on Allah's will at that instant. Nothing in the world can be predicted, not even tomorrow's sunsrise, because no amount of experience can refute the problem that every instant depends on Allah's instantaneous will.

This notion contributes to the fatalism and passivity that many have discovered in the Islamic world.

G

6/30/2010 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"It should not be surprising that in our particular civilization, people who are supposedly ideological opposites are actually rooted in the same principles, for example, that the world is intelligible to human intelligence. This is not something that is believed in the Islamic world, since its first principles differ radically from ours. A major reason why the Islamic world has not "developed" is that their first principles make it impossible. To say that man may know natural things with his natural reason, independent of God, is just not kosher there. "

Yes, and even the leftist fops & trolls who claim otherwise, don't really believe that reality is unknowable or doesn't matter - just try to tell a tenured wackedemic that his salary may not be paid, or that he may not be paid what had been agreed upon, after all, no one can really know anything for certain; or perhaps give the thesis of the most strident apprentice troll in the worst of post modernist classes an "F" because, after all, nothing can really be known, and you'll see some serious professions of the comprehendability of reality, identity and demands for legally explicit and enforceable JUSTICE, that you've ever seen.

And although the islambie may (most definitely will) be enraged in the same situations, only curses, inshallah and blood (of those who slighted him... or his wife's) will follow.

6/30/2010 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"mankind is viewed as a co-creator with the Deity of the world as it has come to be in the Jewish tradition also."

Entirely correct, to such an extent that man's true vocation is to bring the creation to completion so to speak.

Also, when I say "Christian civilization," I always mean "Judeo-Christian," especially as applied to America. Or perhaps "Judeo-Greco-Christian," as I'm sure Van would want to remind us. The wisest Jews of my acquaintance regard Christianity as a kind of outward universalization of principles that are otherwise interior and particular to Judaism. I would compare it to R & D vs. marketing.

6/30/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Now, are things ultimately meaningful? The believer says yes, which is admittedly an act of faith. The atheist/nihilist says no, which is unadmittedly an act of faith. The difference is that our faith is rooted in Reason, whereas his is not, for the atheist has no real reason to believe anything at all."

ELlllOL!

6/30/2010 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Gandalin:

Re Islam, perhaps you missed To say that man may know natural things with his natural reason, independent of God, is just not kosher there.

6/30/2010 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"So, just as we can smell the potential humor in a situation, or sniff the potential discovery in the data, we can sense the sacred -- the presence of God -- in certain beliefs and principles. Otherwise, no one would believe."

Yes, something in the implicit conceptual structure is... I suppose 'known' is the wrong word, but perceived, felt... you know when you see two lines inclined towards eachother, that at some point out there, they're going to meet.

Similarly with music, art, humor, philosophy, etc, something in the structure you do perceive, tells you about the ultimate shape that will be found... if you persist in exploring it.

6/30/2010 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Polanyi's whole description of this phenomenon was a major influence on me. Bion said the identical thing vis-a-vis conducting psychotherapy -- the ability to intuit fruitful avenues in the psyche.

6/30/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In fact, the very reason one suspends memory, desire and understanding is to allow a deeper kind of understanding to emerge from the void.

6/30/2010 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

>> If things are not ultimately meaningful, then they are not meaningful, period.

In every discussion/argument I've ever had with secular folks, it always boils down to that point right there. It seems to be a proposition that they are unable to accept - they regard it as ridiculous. This has always surprised me - I'm never prepared to argue in favor of this proposition, because it seems so self-evident to me. How could anyone not agree with it? But there it is - a mysterious gulf that can't be crossed.

6/30/2010 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

Well, I have to say that I was a rationalistic, highly intellectual atheist up until 40. I had all the arguments, and not the silly, ill-conceived ones proffered by the ill-educated and culturally imbecilic "professional, evangelical atheists" of today either. I would hardly call my self in those days either a nihilist or a "two year old". It is true, that in fact I was "running on the fumes of Christianity", but none the less I hardly fit your profile of an atheist. If I may say so politely, I think that you do a dis-service to the very real challenge we face by simplifying matter so.

I will say that I am a highly educated "knowledge worker", as the liberals like to say, with the sort of intense real education that is rarely obtained today.
(Bob, I would guess I an 12 to 18 years older than you).

I had a wholly non-intellectual conversion experience--later buttressed by "intellectual" and "cultural" work--but it was most certainly an "act" of grace. It most certainly did not happen because of "study" or "observation".

Faith, belief, what ver you want to call it, then became to me an inescapable fact--God became as real as the sun in the sky. There was literally no out. Not to be cute, but it was a "no-brainer" (the entendre is intentional). I was not even "searching" for it at the time.

Of course, in my youth I was educated by Jesuits, so I have read all of the major christian writers of the canon, from the early fathers, Ambrose, Aquinas, etc and through to modern writers, and had spent years "discussing the matter". So you might say that I had already done the brain work but that I did just not know it.

Nonetheless, my lack of faith prior to my experiences had little to do with intellectual laziness.
The issue with secular humanists is not merely one of nihilism. I realize that you are taking matters to their logical conclusion here and that this is after all a blog, but still, given that this is one of the great problems with the age, I think that you paint with too broad a brush here.

I still contend that the intellect cannot lead you to faith or belief. It takes an act of grace. Fee will is involved in so much as you respond to that grace.

My experience with people is different that yours, evidently; in my experience, when offered this moment of grace, most people do in fact respond positively to it.

The modern world works, i think, against either getting to this moment or seeing it when it happens.

I do not feel that God hides himself from man. Rather I feel that man hides himself from God.

6/30/2010 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Mongoose:

What you say is generally entirely true, but does not necessarily apply to the born gnostic, whose path and spiritual vocation is divine knowledge.

Having said that, just as faith is a kind of foreknowledge, gnosis is a kind of infused faith, and both certainly hinge on love, surrender, and humility. Unfortunately, in many Christian circles there is a prejudice against gnosis, but for no good reason.

I mean, often there is a sound reason, based upon the person or the situation (i.e., many people are better off not thinking it through and reinventing theology and instead relying on the experts, which is true of every human endeavor), but it is not a principial reason, otherwise we would never have the brilliance of an "intellectual saint" such as Thomas. My understanding is that he was the first person canonized for his intellectual works only, which have a purity, light, and profundity that surely mark The Way. But not necessarily for everyone.

6/30/2010 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, the link to narcissism is only with a specific subtype of narcissism and a certain type of militant atheist. As I mentioned, it is not a general rule. Clinical psychologists are well acquainted with the type. Surely you have someone in your life who expresses the Omnipotent No to everything, which is a kind of radical cynicism that can tear anything down but build nothing. You know, like my father-in-law. It is the easiest thing in the world to prove oneself superior through the NO!

6/30/2010 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Musical note:

Just found out I've been invited to spend a weekend with some friends in 2 weeks. One of their friends, also invited, was one of the senior roadies for Led Zeppelin for almost 10 years. Apparently this guy has more rock 'n' roll stories to tell than your average Joe. Should be interesting.

6/30/2010 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"...at some point a free act of faith is required, emphasis on both words, free and act. At some point you have to choose to believe..."

This idea, that the relationship to Divinity turns on a free act, i.e. "choice," has been an organizing factor in my life for a long time. Its breadth and depth seem to have grown over time.

Not sure I can adequately defend it in words, but it has acted as a defense for me, when facing the Forces of Denial that Christopher mentioned yesterday. Which are rife in these times, in my opinion. In my own simple mind, I have just gravitated toward "the most elegant description," and so often it has turned out right for me. In that regard, nay-sayer's arguments slide off without sticking.

Sometimes I don't quite relate to the de-tails around here, but the elegance of the principled formulations is a great inspiration.

Thanks, Bob!

6/30/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Also, the link to narcissism is only with a specific subtype of narcissism and a certain type of militant atheist.

Those militant atheists are often repugnant, although it is also the case that many of them eventually undergo conversions (protest too much, etc).

I understand where Mongoose is coming from, however I don't believe Bob has ever belittled people who are thoughtful and humble yet lack belief for whatever reason. For example, Ron Rosenbaum has a piece on agnosticism in the (often repellent) Slate.com today about agnosticism. The things about which I disagree with Rosenbaum is a fairly lengthy list, however I've always respected him as a fellow seeker of truth and a man of integrity. Though he dabbles on the Left, one senses he is earnestly working his way toward the light rather than seeking to blot it out as with (apparently) anon et al.

wv: ackschu
Gesundheit!

6/30/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I often say that atheism is perfectly legitimate. My objection is to the militants and their unholy crusade to change the very nature of our beautiful civilization into something very dark and different.

6/30/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, garden variety atheists have their function in the spiritual economy, in that they serve as the rockheads upon which we sharpen our swords. I'm sure I was once someone's rockhead back in the day.

6/30/2010 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

I have a cousin who is one of those atheists through indifference (his brother is a fire-breathing fundamentalist missionary). I'd be interested to hear more from Bob or other raccoons on what makes such people tick. Even when I was an atheist/agnostic I was never indifferent about it -- I can hardly conceive of such a state, yet there it is.

6/30/2010 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm sure there's no general rule for atheists, but I imagine a big part involves just swimming along with the currents of secular culture. It's never surprising when people adapt to culture. Rather, the surprise is when people break out.

6/30/2010 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Gandalin said "It is not so much that Islam views Allah as having no possible partnership with mankind which has stifled the development of science in the Islamic world, but the fact that classical Islamic philosophy does not admit that the world Allah made is necessarily lawful at all."

Yep... and we, the West, came face to face with that same choice as well.

Most of the intellectual treasures of the West, Greek and Latin literature and philosophy, were lost with the fall of Rome and its shift to Byzantium. Some of those treasures continued on in the hands of the Persians; Science, Mathematics, Medicine, with which they created such things as the Telescope and an impressive (and bathing) civilization. But they still had to choose between the past and the future, and had they chosen otherwise, and followed through with it, today it might be the West that was striving to keep up with the Middle East. But they didn't.

In Europe, there was a period where a philosophical duel was waged for the intellectual soul of the West, fueled through the reintroduction of the Greek and Latin learning (via Persians such as Averroes & Avicenna) which was perceived as being in opposition to unleavened Christian dogma, rather than potentially complementary to it. For a century Aristotle was essentially banned by various concerns of the Church, but champions such as Peter Abelard, Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, succeeded in teaching the Truth that there were no separate 'truths', and the Church opened itself and grew the West, choosing to begin integrating Greek and Latin philosophy into Christianity (which should always be understood as Judeo-Christian) into Western Culture (which should always be understood as Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian). The fruits of that union were that over the next five centuries, and with not a little turbulence, The Renaissance and the Enlightenment and Britain and America were born (over simplified? Nyahhh).

Persia had a similar philosophical duel, and with some of the same players, such as Aristotle, Averroes, Avicenna, and the Islamic Dark Side version of Aquinas, Al-Ghazzali; between Greek and Latin thought, and Islamic dogma. Sadly for Persia and the world, Al-(Ghastly)Ghazali won. They chose not to further integrate Greek and Latin thought, or any type of secular learning into their islamic dogma, they banished the idea that the world had any connection to Truth, they never allowed Humanism (properly meant, not today's trash) of any significant form after that period.

If there is any point in history that you can point to and see the light of learning being extinguished from the Middle East, and theocratic totalitarianism embedding itself beyond recall, that was it. From there on out, it became the "Inshallah", "if God wills it", endemic fatalism, and the Mullah's who decree what it is that Allah wills, which has drawn out all the worst of religious belief tied in with statism, and the absolute control of True Believers intent on imposing perfection upon their lands and subjects.

It is what it is, and btw, for those who are choosing the islambies over Israel today, they are making that same fateful choice, and darkness will be their reward as well.

6/30/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

I didn't miss "Re Islam, perhaps you missed To say that man may know natural things with his natural reason, independent of God, is just not kosher there. " - I just thought that your pellucid pearl deserved further elaboration.

G

6/30/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Van:

The short version:

Prince Feisal: Gasim's time has come, Lawrence. It is written.

T.E. Lawrence: Nothing is written.

6/30/2010 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Van,

Your comments on the how the West developed while Persia regressed are of great interest and import.

Henri Pirenne was interested mainly in economic life, rather than intellectual life, but showed, if I am not mistaken, that the collapse of the Roman Empire and its replacement by German tribal kings who desired to emulate what they perceived as the best Rome had to offer, was not associated with a decline in material life in Western Europe, until after the Jihad had overmastered the Mediterranean (a few centuries later). Similarly, I wonder if we don't sometimes over-emphasize the "loss" of the Classical thread in the "dark" ages.

As you may recall, I would prefer to think of our culture as Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian/Germano-British. But otherwise, I am in general agreement with what you say.

G

6/30/2010 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...but does not necessarily apply to the born gnostic, whose path and spiritual vocation is divine knowledge

I'm much more like Mongoose in that once it hit me, I almost had no choice. Much of Christianity is geared toward people like me, or to the folks who can be swayed with fairly shallow rationalistic apologetics.

I would say that I used the revelation -- which I accepted on faith -- to find the Reality of a "personal" God with Whom I could commune directly.

6/30/2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is probably in the top 20 of 20th Century books.

6/30/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

One reason I don't recommend my path to others is that it seems slightly.... idiosyncratic, and based on a... peculiar personality style. It works for me, and I'm pleased that people seem to enjoy reading about my adventures, but I want people to take what is useful to them and apply it to their own practice, as opposed to emulating mine.

6/30/2010 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

or what Sal said about being the spice on your Oritos... like a flavor enhancer...

6/30/2010 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

co-creator with the Deity

It's easy to look at the people around us and greatly undervalue the awesomeness of man. My Holman CSV translates Matthew 5:22 like this -- "But whoever says: 'You moron!' will be subject to hellfire."

God really understands and appreciates us, even if we sell ourselves and others short at times. A great part of the revelation of Who God is is who we are.

Of course you can get stupid about it. Without revelation and the Spirit, we become trapped in the very materialism we claim to reject.

We got a lot of little teenage, blue-eyed groupies that'll do anything we say.
We got a genuine Indian guru who's teachin' us a better way.
We got all the friend that money can buy, so we never have to be alone.
We keep gettin' richer, but we can't get our picher on the cover of the Rollin' Stone.

6/30/2010 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Absolutely. Man is a miracle compared to animals, but a nothing compared to God. One must maintain the proper perspective. Humility never means devaluing oneself -- or man -- but rather, viewing oneself objectively.

6/30/2010 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

Bob, you are aware that Aquinas, when prodded to finish the Summa,
said
"all that I have written seems like straw to me"?

He appears to have finally had the beatific vision he had sought for all his adult life. After this his worked tapered off.

I think that Aquinas would be the first to say that for all of us salvation is the first and foremost "vocation", and that the difference between the scholar, the "Saint" and the average sinner is but one of small degrees. Salvation must be open to all or else the whole notion of "made in the image of God" makes no sense. Better for each of us to understand what God intends for each of us to understand and act on rather than to imagine that we can "understand" God in some larger sense. This is our proper work--even for the so called "gnostic".

Still, Aquinas' work is an amazing accomplishment. In my mind, it pretty much still stands as it was written. None have yet dismantled it, though some much less feeble-minded than the Dawkins crowd have tried. Much of modern philosophy is a reaction to it, and we all know how that went. Certainly, it is a curative to the German idealists and the political monsters they spawned.

It is comic to hear modern intellectual atheists, many of whom have little understanding of the actual intellectual history of the "ideas" they spout, decry the "vagueness" and "contradictions" and "lack of curiosity" of the modern Christian. Compare a page of Aquinas with a page of Hegel or Kant and see what you think.


When the modern "evangelical atheists" level the charges of "provincial superstition", "anti-intellectualism" and "ignorance" on the Christian, is it difficult to imagine whatever they are talking about. One concludes that people like Dawkins are, comically, ignorant of even the most basic understanding of their inherited civlization.


In fact, Christianity has the richest and most profound intellectual tradition on the planet.

(the music aint bad either)

This inability to understand what the cultivated Christian is talking about is as much due to the decadence of our culture as it is due to the shortcomings of particular individuals or groups. The truth is that the Catholic Church and its sister institutions in the main stream Protestant denominations fought the wrong battles in the 19th and 20th century.

This may be what you sense when you bemoan what you sense as an "insensitivity to gnosis" in the Christan mainstream. I would say that it is there, you just have to poke around for it a bit. The Church had, unfortunately, got into its head these last 250 years that it has other fish to fry. This is one of the reasons we are in the pickle we are in today.

It is a as tragic as WW1.

6/30/2010 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

I was not saying the Bob was somehow belittling "valid atheists". I was saying that if we are to address the crisis upon us then we should understand that "militant atheists" are not the primary problem--they are just one of the louder and more obnoxious ones. Some imagine that if we merely address this sort of error then we can yet turn out civilization around.

This is not true. It is not merely a matter of discourse and debate. It is a matter of restoring our civilization such that this entry of grace into our lives is a common place untroubled by controversy, denouncement and abuse.

The Dawkins of the world are to be address only to show them up for what they are: Brute and garrulous bullies who wish nothing to wring power and dehumanizing degradation out of language rather than the truth.

6/30/2010 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Mongoose:

I wasn't referring to the devaluation of gnosis in orthodoxy, since it's there in spades. I was mostly referring to more modern forms of Christianity, which seem to be rooted in a counter-reaction to modernity, from the radical demythologization of the secular world toward a literalism that excludes gnosis.

And I don't know that Thomas would have had the beatific vision absent all of the preparatory work.

6/30/2010 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"I contend that we are [all]atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

6/30/2010 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Was that a parody of atheists or an actual comment? Can't tell with the scare quotes.

6/30/2010 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, I'm sure it's a parody, but I can't tell if it's intentional.

6/30/2010 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The alleged originator is Stephen Roberts, whoever he is. The real humor is completely unintentional.

6/30/2010 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, in that case, at least he affirms exactly what I said in today's post, in that he believes in "one fewer than one God," which requires an act of will.

6/30/2010 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Walt said "This idea, that the relationship to Divinity turns on a free act, i.e. "choice," has been an organizing factor in my life for a long time. Its breadth and depth seem to have grown over time."

Yep, here too... and sometimes in considering it too deeply it comes close to a mystical experience - which - for a one time Objectivist, that's a hard thing to admit. And along with the 'Faith' issue, these points,

"Now, the "yes" of faith is not without its potential problems and pitfalls -- for example, "blind faith," or a bogus certitude of things about which man can never be certain. Faith is not certitude."

and,

"In fact, the very reason one suspends memory, desire and understanding is to allow a deeper kind of understanding to emerge from the void."

Are big parts of what I understand as faith, and have helped me to deal with the flat out rejection I always had for the notion. But the legitimate and bogus aspects are so easily muddled up with even more hopey-changy, liberaton-theoawfuly, wish fulfillment clap trap, that someone who wasn't raised in it looks on, sees that, and tosses out the baby with little log filled bathwater.

But when you get past the late night uber-literalist TV preacher's (why are they also the biggest peddlers of abra-cadabra ‘faith’?), and read what was written before the modern destruction of knowledge began, Faith was used (when it was used as I consider properly - which alone might peg the arrogant meter, sorry) not for wish fulfillment, but as an affirmation, a reminder, a tool for recalling to mind that there are understood to be deeper principles at work, and though many of the details may not work out as we'd prefer, those principles are there, they are not disruptible by evil, they are securely in force and you are one with it and Truth will out.

Eventually.

6/30/2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

A couple years ago I was reading a compilation of 17th & 18th century sermons, and I remember being struck with the sweep with which the imagery of faith was used to draw up, I called it here once Scaffolding, something like conceptual scaffolding that is drawn up into the minds of the congregation, where upon which they could embed the message of their coming sermon, into the larger unalterable Truth and reality, known and experienced, by each and everyone there.

It really whipped my head around. Those routine phrases usually given in the invocations, that I'd always termed gutter dogma and rolled my eyes and cringed at, like,

"almighty and true God, eternal Father and maker of heaven and earth, and of all creatures, to Thee, the wise, good, true, righteous, compassionate, pure, gracious... "

, and so forth, they suddenly changed from what I had considered a reason killing brainwashing, to something that made profound sense. The Good is exalted, the torment and botched are swept from the mind and you are prepared to focus on Virtue and aided to further root it into your mind.

And naturally when you habitually do that, just like practicing scales and chords or identifying constellations, you become better suited and accustomed to mentally completing the form and completion of as yet fully unseen shapes and patterns all around you. You can see their outlines in the shape and manner of people and events around you, and although you don't know the details, and aren't abra-cadabraing your wishes into fulfillment, you have faith that what you know and believe... just as knowing two lines inclined towards each other will eventually meet in a point, you know they will come to be - and even when it takes an unexpected shape in events, when it comes to pass you recognize it as corresponding to what you had faith would in fact occur.

There is an intellectual barrier, past which, I know reasoning cannot go. Three basic axioms which cannot be derived from anything else, and which you cannot think or declare a single thing without invoking all three:

* Reality exists.
* Everything that exists, exists as something - Identity
* Consciousness is how we become aware of reality, via those things which exist within it.

I can't pass below (or above) their boundary... but through the shape of everything else, I've... faith (boy, that's still hard to get out) that those three meet in a point or shape which makes sense of all else.

Simple and inescapable, but only by choice.

6/30/2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gandalin said “Similarly, I wonder if we don't sometimes over-emphasize the "loss" of the Classical thread in the "dark" ages.”

Oh we do, definitely, and I do too, a lot of times almost as a habit of short hand.

“As you may recall, I would prefer to think of our culture as Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian/Germano-British. But otherwise, I am in general agreement with what you say.”

Heh... Yes, and which I’d kind of like to turn into “Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian/Celtic-Germano-British”... but I try to force myself to settle for just saying “The West”.

Even longwindedness has its limits.

;- )

6/30/2010 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, he failed to explain why he dismissed all those other possible gods, which is beside the point anyway, since it doesn't go to the existence of God in himself.

People have all sorts of false beliefs about things, but dismissing the false beliefs hardly allows one to dismiss the reality of things.

6/30/2010 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

Bib, yes i agree with you about "modern forms" of Christianity.
This is why when I had my experience I returned to the Catholic Church.

It was as if I had returned to my civilization.

I am not, however, all that sure on just how "modern" some of these forms really are.

One of your ideas I rather like is the notion that there is such a thing as "historical spiritual evolution" spanning ages and that this is "embedded" in a civlization.

6/30/2010 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

er, ash, Bob, I mean...

6/30/2010 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

All of you are aware of that tingle of delight that occurs when you grasp a deep truth. Now, just magnify that. That's ananda, baby.

Until sometime last year, I did not know whether others also had this joy. That was the first time I saw someone describe it so clearly that I recognized myself in it. He said that this happened regularly to those who love knowledge for itself rather than as a tool, and who read many books, especially such books as are written from a great height of perspective, such as holy scriptures and wisdom and true philosophy. These people will feel a deep and incomparable bliss, and they will no longer be confused.

If that is so, you must be a very joyful man, Bob, for much of what you read is still too high for me even when I crane my neck. But yes, the tingle is definitely there, and then some.

6/30/2010 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mongoose said "Compare a page of Aquinas with a page of Hegel or Kant and see what you think."

LOL! Like comparing Charles Schultz to Shakespeare, except that Schultz meant well.

"When the modern "evangelical atheists" level the charges of "provincial superstition", "anti-intellectualism" and "ignorance" on the Christian, is it difficult to imagine whatever they are talking about. One concludes that people like Dawkins are, comically, ignorant of even the most basic understanding of their inherited civlization."

They are, and the funny thing is that their notions rely on the most blatantly mystical (in the worst sense) positions of all. One of my looong posts on it here: Dehumanism: The mystical world of the New Atheists.

How do those little gene machines come together? Create life? Create intelligence? Create the illusion of your consciousness? "Uhm... complexity, that's it, LOTS of complexity. Yeah."

Complexity, vast amounts of time and a veiled acceptance of the arbitrary, are the incantations they use to conjure their materialistic world into 'respectable conversation'. And it is the self imposed ignorance of our cultural wealth (aka:'education'), which makes it possible.

6/30/2010 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mongoose said "This is not true. It is not merely a matter of discourse and debate. It is a matter of restoring our civilization such that this entry of grace into our lives is a common place untroubled by controversy, denouncement and abuse."

Yep. I sometimes get frustrated with fellow Tea Partiers who somehow think voting someone out or into office, or passing or repealing this or that law will somehow save us. Ridiculous.

Will that be helpful? Sure, but only as temporary defenses and beachheads, but such things alone cannot hold back the landslide. It took well over a century to diseducate us of the mental, physical and spiritual knowledge which made the era of our Founding Fathers possible, and it isn't going to be undone in a single election... or 20.

There's a long road of hard work ahead of us. Deal with it. Start diggin'.

Alright... back to C++.

Ugh.

6/30/2010 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Bob/Van/Mongoose,

As I've mentioned I'm back in corporate startup mode (didn't you know a deep recession is the best time to do this?) and have limited reading time. However Bob has so intrigued me over Aquinas (haven't read anything on him for over 20 years) that I'd love to learn more. The Summa itself at 4,000 pages is at least for now not possible.

What do you guys think of something like A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica? Worth reading, or would it be too mangled to be of use in understanding Thomas?

6/30/2010 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

The author is Peter Kreeft, who seems to have a lot of positive reviews... Anyone familiar with him in general?

6/30/2010 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

At this very moment I'm reading Kreeft's Summa of the Summa (in the sidebar) and enjoying it very much. He clears away a lot of stuff that no longer has relevance, plus his footnotes are outstanding, alerting you to important points that you might otherwise miss. Plus, he has an indispensable glossary, so you can understand what Thomas means by certain words. It's not that he used technical jargon. Rather, he mostly used every day words, but for that reason, you may not understand the specific sense in which he is using them.

Anyway, I'm going to proceed very slowly, as it's not exactly difficult, but extremely rich. Not to mention a joy in the way referred to above.

6/30/2010 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Great -- From the blurb the "shorter" one is an even more condensed version which is good for me. As long as you recommend Kreeft I'm off to Amazon.

6/30/2010 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Magnus commented (on what Gagdad said "All of you are aware of that tingle of delight that occurs when you grasp a deep truth. Now, just magnify that. That's ananda, baby.)", that "...that this happened regularly to those who love knowledge for itself rather than as a tool..."

But... (blink) But... at the risk of sounding like someone with synesthesia who asks "Doesn't everyone see the number 3 as being blue?", surely everyone feels the tingle? When they discover an answer or make a new 'connection'? Uhm... don't they?

It isn't that far removed from what is felt when you see the humor, or feel the "Aha!" of a problem solved... I'd venture to say (and have), that it is the same thing, in the same way that a C chord is the same, whether played on a piano, guitar or harp.

From the littlest child, you can see it on their faces when they make the integration that letting loose of the spoon leads to it falling down, and it is delightful!

(It sometimes even seems to be something like the 'toc' which answers the 'tic' of our concious synaptic moment of choice.)

Someone please tell me I'm not whacked in the head (someone other than anunce & co, that is).

6/30/2010 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Finally, some good news: All of collectivism’s dreams are crumbling to dust before the eyes of people who spent their whole lives clinging to them out of desperation, or arrogance.

So we got that going for us.

6/30/2010 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said “What do you guys think of something like A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica? The author is Peter Kreeft, who seems to have a lot of positive reviews... Anyone familiar with him in general?”

I’ve come to like him a lot. I first read his (I think it was) “Socrates meets Jesus”, and wasn’t too impressed, but then I heard a lecture of his on Western Civilization, and got a lot out of it. I just finished two sets of lectures of his, one on “Ethics” and, coincidentally the other was “The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas”, and was very impressed, I’d grab it and dig in.

6/30/2010 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

"Of the practical sciences, that one is nobler which is ordained to a further purpose..."

and

If things are not ultimately meaningful, then they are not meaningful, period.

The dark side of that is on display today, as well. I was basically indifferent to the whole Kagan nomination, but this just turns my stomach.

This follows with the logical ends of materialism. There is no meaning, no further or higher purpose besides "winning" to her; by her actions, there cannot be. Truth is only valued so long as it serves the winner, but if it gets in the way it is easily discarded.

6/30/2010 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Wo. Hitchens has esophageal cancer. Hope they caught it early, because that's a bad one.

6/30/2010 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I suggest really pissing him off and praying for him.

6/30/2010 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Van - yes, I believe nearly all children has this joy. Unfortunately, education can go far in killing it off, and a career can pretty much finish it.

When we learn that knowledge and understanding are tools to earn money and get food, sex and rank in the pack, there is a risk that something may be lost that can never be regained.

wv:mines. More like whole minefields, I'd say.

6/30/2010 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB, BTW, I haven't read it, but Kreeft highly recommended "The Dumb Ox" by G.K. Chesterton.

6/30/2010 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

But other times I have the instantaneous experience that I do know it. And I don't necessarily mean that I can recall the answer if I try, but that the answer is knowable.

Not exactly the same, but similar: from quite early childhood, all things explicitly Catholic caught my attention. It was the same sort of resonance you experience when you hear 'your' music for the first time or first encounter the art that speaks to your heart.
I have been a life-long Christian, so it wasn't the appeal of the exotic, but it was like a compass pointing to true north. Breadcrumbs on the path, way before any intellectual arguments would have been understandable.
In the end, it was inevitable- just as others have described being 'chosen' by Christianity.
I couldn't not do it.

6/30/2010 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"But to believe and defend requires a clear yes to things that are beloved (be-lief is related to be-loved)."

It's hard to imagine living life without anything to hold dear, in which nothing is sacred. Maybe anon could tell us what it's like.

"Those of you who have had a two year old understand this well. In being defiant or negativisitic, the child is not trying to be difficult. Rather, he is simply trying to establish his boundaries as a separate individual. And obviously, his first attempts to do this will be clumsy and ham-handed, just like the first time he picks up a pencil."

Right there, right now. Mine is expressing this in what I call "contrary games" and gets very upset when his bluff is called, poor little ego. He wants ice in his drink, is given ice, and now doesn't want ice...you know the drill. :) Fortunately, he's a "touch" kind of person. I pick him up and it resets whatever button has malfunctioned and I can usually get a "yes, mama" out of him after that.

"I believe it is a variety of knowing, or a tacit foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered truths..."

Yes, I believe expectancy is the key aspect of faith--you may not know *how* God will move, or what's down the line, but you know he will. It's up to *him* how he does it. And again, patient expectancy, as Julie said, goes hand in hand with hope in God.

Another out-of-the-ballpark post, Bob! Now to the comments...

P.S. I've always enjoyed reading Kreeft.

6/30/2010 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Faith, belief, whatever you want to call it, then became to me an inescapable fact--God became as real as the sun in the sky. There was literally no out."

Hubby described this experience as being "placed under arrest" by the Spirit. There *was* literally no out. I guess he could have refused it, but how do refuse something that has become so real, and so urgent?

6/30/2010 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Oh, I am sorry to hear this about Hitchens. Praying...

6/30/2010 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

One has to only look at Kagan to know that she is evil.
(this is true of most of Obama's people, BTW)

We have fallen deeply that she would even be around young minds. That she was a teacher at Harvard and is even being considered for the SCOTUS shows that we have fallen to an extremely low point. Even just in terms of raw experience it is a scandal: She has never been a judge.

The Left is so warped and lost in their evil that they have lost even a semblance of being civilized. What contempt they have for this nation and this civilization. All before them is to be cut down for no other reason than to satisfy their depraved self-hatred. I think it is beyond ideology now, it has come to a point of a sort of mad "self-possession" bent on annihilation. It goes beyond nihilism.

Modern neo-communism is an avatar of the darkest and most primitive and ancient form of paganism, but they have really gone far beyond this.

No good for anyone at all is served by this. She will no doubt get in. At some point she will have to be impeached. Who ever is guiding Obama seems hell bent on long term destruction, chaos and degradation.

This country is being ripped apart at its very core.

As for Aquinus, I would say stick Kreeft for now, and then when you are through it, see where your nose leads you after that.

(BTW, the Peiper that Bib keeps bringing up is quite good. I was tickled to see it here, but I do realize you want something more in depth on the text. I would try both were I you).

6/30/2010 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'm also praying for awakened consciences in every Congress member, Julie. How those naming themselves Christians can align themselves with this party of death, I will never understand.

6/30/2010 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Van:

I was just reading the info on Chesterton's book on Amazon. I've never read him, and it looks like a pretty big hole in my library.

Re: Hitchens -- sorry to hear about the cancer. I have to admit I've always had a soft spot for him despite the over-the-top atheist shtick, etc.

6/30/2010 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Man, cancer of the esophagus is tough indeed. For quite a few years I drank scotch not unlike Hitchens has for his entire life. One of the major reasons I ended that habit were repeated warnings from some very good docs in Boston that alcohol is a far more potent carcinogen than most people realize. (Obviously not talking about a couple brewskis here).

6/30/2010 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Regarding that joy of truth, here is an example of how Thomas uses everyday words that one might misunderstand without the footnotes. He calls the highest form of knowledge speculative, by which he does not mean "uncertain" or "hypothetical," but "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" and "seeking truth for its own sake." I'm guessing that "speculative" is related to "speculum," so that it is to be a mirror of truth.

As Magnus implies, it only works with complete sincerity and no ulterior motives. You may fool yourself about it, but you cannot fool God. There is a reason that wisdom does not come to a Deepak or the rest of those hucksters for whom it is all about merchandising it. But if it's real, you know that it cannot be merchandised, for the very reasons mentioned above: sincerity and and a childlike purity and trust. Since happiness is "satisfaction of desire in really possessing its true and proper good," the highest joy for the intellect is acquisition of its proper good, which is truth.

6/30/2010 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, I am shocked that books by Schuon that are a pure joy for me are not even in the top million on amazon! But that's the point. The kind of pure speculative truth he wrote about is just not going to be popular. Which is sad, because it means that so many people just waste the divine gift of their intellect. Oh well.

6/30/2010 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

It is sad re Schuon. Let's not forget though that Bible is still number one with a bullet, so plenty of folks are at least exposed to pure Truth.

6/30/2010 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

The one criticism I disagree with of kagan, less of her than as criticism of any judge, is that they've never been a judge... but neither was the greatest Supreme Court Justice, John Marshall.

Having experience as a judge is certainly a beneficial trait, but not a deal breaker - or maker.

Being able to comprehend the Constitution, and having a thorough understanding of the concepts and purposes, as well as the history, that were critical to the writing of the Constitution, are and should be deal breakers in their absence.

However that does nothing to improve the qualifications of kagan, she is foul through and through.

6/30/2010 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

Van, the need for experience as a judge today is rather different than then in Marshall's day. Beyond that, one can hardly say that Kagan's judgment, intelligence, vision or experience are comparable to Marshall's.

I think that it is fairly clear that we need someone on the SCOTUS with broad experience in the system.

Perhaps if our liberties were not just hanging on by a thread we could have the luxury of one such judge on the Supreme court, but now is not the time for this "experiment".

6/30/2010 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

And here I have thought that Van acquired his knowledge by reading, and studying the ways of ancient philosophers.

But now we find that -- lo! -- years ago, he fell prey to the subliminal messages in Plato's Secret Code.

Who knew?

(wv suggests we all persist.)

6/30/2010 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mongoose said "I think that it is fairly clear that we need someone on the SCOTUS with broad experience in the system."

I've got to respectfully disagree with you on that.

First, kagan is an anti-constitutional wackademic progressive hack, and is and will be nothing but poison to our Constitution and to our system of Justice - no judicial experience would improve her suitability to the court in the least.

However, 'experience in the system' is something she, and too many others, have no lack of. I do not think we need people with experience in the system, we have people as judges in all levels of the courts with entirely too much experience in and with the system, and nearly zero understanding of the Constitution, it's meaning and it's purpose.

For instance, we desperately need people on the court who have some grasp of how the passages linked to here, below the Preamble, relate to and explain it. And even more than that, we need people on the courts, and people in We The People who understand why any of these issues were and are important to our liberty and freedom.

"now is not the time for this "experiment""

Experiment?! In what way is understanding the Constitution capable of being considered experimental or irrelevant? Justice Breyer, has friggin' oodles of experience in the system and as a judge - I'd be goddamned thrilled to replace him with one of the brighter people from my '5,000 Year Leap" class last week. He, and most of the sitting judges on the SCOTUS and lesser courts have been using their experience in the system to gut our Constitution of every shred of meaning and integrity it has for the last century.

(breathes. again.)

Sorry... sore topic. See my site, particularly under these posts on Justice for hints about why.

6/30/2010 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Walt said "And here I have thought that Van acquired his knowledge by reading, and studying the ways of ancient philosophers."

Yeh... what a quaint notion.

;-)

Sorry, this is a bit OT, but I gotta... from Walt's Plato link,

"Dr Kennedy spent five years studying Plato’s writing..."

Wow... that's like... almost as much as was required for admittance as a freshmen to college... a hundred years ago. Hmmm.

"...in his best-known work the Republic he placed clusters of words related to music after each twelfth of the text – at one-twelfth, two-twelfths, etc. "

Wow... who woulda thunk such a thing of a pythagorean poet dramatist philosopher. Simply amazing.

"Plato plays his readers like musical instruments.”

Blink. Did anyone of these guys ever actually read Plato? For meaning and understanding I mean, rather than for codes? I mean... something deep and involved, such as,

"I went down to the Piraeus yesterday."

('plays his readers like musical instruments')

Duh! The simple fact of his being a poet and dramatist alone helped him to pack plenty of 'hidden' meaning into this alone... nearly every line of his dialogs are weighted in ways that would make a modern pomofo blush.

"Secrecy was normal in ancient times, especially for esoteric and religious knowledge, but for Plato it was a matter of life and death."

Oh my. Yeah... hiding was big on his agenda. You betcha. The powerful families and friends of those like Anytus, who Plato had Socrates reducing to block headedly stupid statements and evasions (sorry anunce), and in some cases the very people he mocked themselves, were swarming around and through Athens (population at the time, what, 30 - 50,000?)... while Plato was publishing his dialogs! And he had to resort to codes to hide... what he had Socrates openly stating in ... the Symposium alone?

"He shifted humanity from a warrior society to a wisdom society. Today our heroes are Einstein and Shakespeare – and not knights in shining armour – because of him.”

Yeah. Aristotle had nothing to do with any of that. And just ignore Alexander... Scipio, Cicero, or Caesar and Napoleon for that matter... just wow.

I'm sorry, it'd be cool and all to actually discover something new meanings and messages in Plato, but if that's any fair representation of what this guy's peddling... sounds more like a hacks bid for a new Da Vinci Code.

6/30/2010 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ok, sorry, but it's the end of the night... and besides, Walt started it.

ahem.

The Plato guy's site gives a better explanation of himself and his 'amazing' discoveries... but still, with stuff like,

"Plato is sometimes thought of as a cold fish who banished poets and pushed the West toward logic, mathematics, and science. Now we know he was a hidden romantic... "

Who that has read Plato, thinks of him as a cold fish? Who didn't realize that he was a 'hidden' romantic? I disagree with most of Plato's answers, but his questioning and examining of issues, of discovering what questions had not before but needed to be asked... in that he was awesome.

"The philosophy contained beneath his stories mixes science and mysticism, mathematics and God."

This is news?

But about halfway down he gets to some 'details', that look interesting. I'd like to hear the finished product (but I wonder how well it'd work with the translations), but I could see the musical accompaniment setting off some statements and ironies. I'd really love to see/hear what happens at the point in the Republic where Socrates leads Glaucon to say that in order to property found their ideal Republic, children will have to be separated from their parents, 'And the parents should be sent away? No problems with that? Ok, right, well then, on we go'... I'm betting if this things legit, there'll be some discord thrumming on that one.

6/30/2010 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

You have again outlined the arguement for faith to all two of your readers who are not already.

It is again a brilliant essay. Yet:

I hunger for something higher, more mysterious. Give me something of what you you hear from Petey as he contacts you in the rarefied ether of your spiritual sky. Tell me things I don't already know.

Por Favor, inspire me. I have faith that you have what I want.

6/30/2010 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"In the end, it was inevitable- just as others have described being 'chosen' by Christianity.
I couldn't not do it."

Well said, Sal.
To ignore His grace after coming to that Realization would only lead to an embrace of death; soul murder.
Or the searing of one's own soul.

One would have to sear away their concience to become as evil as Kagan, Pelosi, Gore, Obama, Clinton, Reid, etc..

It's humbling to me (and scary) to see how easy it is to accept those thirty pieces of silver and willfully turn away from all that is True, Beautiful and Good.

How does someone not only turn away from but actively attack and seek the destruction of Truth and Love incarnate?

Sadly, I know how, but I don't see the appeal, thank God.
Or at least it doesn't appeal to me more than the Reality of God.

It's people (monsters really) like I mentioned that keep me praying for a guilty concience anytime I even think about putting my soul on the barbie.
It always starts with the "little" stuff.

And yes, I pray that it's not too late for them to repent.

7/01/2010 05:44:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"But it also means that the value of science is determined by its end, which, in the end, is none other than ananda, or "celestial bliss," or heaven if you like. On first consideration this may sound strange, but again, it is simply a result of drawing first principles to their final deustination."

Aye! :^)

7/01/2010 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"There are very few genuine nihilists who have no faith in anything."

Would sociopaths fall in this category, Bob?

Come to think of it, sociopaths have faith in themselves, or most do, so maybe strictly a sociopath.

7/01/2010 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, here's another excellent resource at James' blog for Saint Thomas Aquinas fans:

Just Thomism

7/01/2010 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Er, I meant to type maybe NOT strictly a sociopath (but a sociopath plus something else)?

7/01/2010 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Grant:

Petey says that if you're not already inspired by Obama, you can't be inspired.

Ben:

Sociopath is just a DSM diagnosis that describes someone who acts without regard to people or societal norms. It used to be called a psychopath, but that word was too politically incorrect for some reason.

I don't know if all sociopaths are nihilists. Probably not, because many people use their beliefs to justify their sociopathic behavior. For example, HItler obviously had very strong beliefs. A nihilist he wasn't. Nihilists usually cause only small-scale damage. It's the passionate believers who cause all of the trouble -- believers in falsehoods, such as the Iranians, Palestinians, the KKK, the international left, etc.

7/01/2010 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In fact, the beauty of leftism is that one can conceal one's malevolent impulses behind a veneer of concern for others. It very much reminds me of something Homer said about becoming a police officer: "Now I can combine my desire to help people with my desire to hurt them."

Could be the motto for the left.

7/01/2010 06:38:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Ignatius Press has the Chesterton St. Thomas in a two-fer with his St. Francis biography. Good stuff, and very interesting to compare the two works, which were written about ten years apart. He discusses this in the foreward to the Aquinas book.

7/01/2010 07:00:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks for explaining the difference Bob.
I always wondered why psychopath was replaced by sociopath. Shoulda known PC was involved.

"In fact, the beauty of leftism is that one can conceal one's malevolent impulses behind a veneer of concern for others. It very much reminds me of something Homer said about becoming a police officer: "Now I can combine my desire to help people with my desire to hurt them."

Could be the motto for the left."

That's brilliant! Definitely the end result (and the means) of the left's "first principles."

OT: It goes without sayin' that honoring a former klansman (and klan leader) is reprehensable, but to see the NAACP also honor Byrd (as they have honoered the not-so-reverend Wright) brings new depths to the madness of the left.
Egads!

7/01/2010 07:14:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home