1.29.2011

The Day of the Ox

St. Thomas Aquinas' feast day was yesterday. 

It is remarkable how the lives of the saints are, in their totality, instruments of the will of God. Nobody in Aquinas' family wanted him to choose the path he chose, yet they wanted what they then thought was best for him. They desired that their son receive a position of power, honor, and relative conformity. All of these things, from our perspective, are reasonable and good. Wouldn't any parent want the same for his child? The human perspective, though, is sorely limited. Thomas achieved his position with the Dominicans in spite of his families' wishes, yet, through his desire to follow God, Thomas also achieved an honor and power beyond the ultimately humble plans of his parents. They could not have imagined the renown their son eventually gained. By not following his family, he became one of the most brilliant and holy men to ever walk the earth, and now he is honored as a saint, the ultimate reward and good of human life. Thomas' life is a lesson to all men. To follow God's will is to follow that which you cannot always understand, but it is also to follow that which perfects us in a way we can never imagine.

1.26.2011

A Few Notes on Final Causality

-To see the reality of final causality, one must see that certain effects follow from certain causes in a non-accidental way. Said another way, if you can look at an object or an action and determine what it is able to do in virtue of what it is, you have, at least implicitly, affirmed final causality.

-Final causality does not necessarily imply extrinsic purpose. In fact, since final causality is said mostly of nature, and nature is itself an interior power, most final causes have nothing to do with extrinsic purpose, deliberation, craft, or intention.

-Objection: Final causality does not exist in nature because nature sometimes produces defects.
Reply: Even a grammarian can misspell words. This does not eliminate either the grammatical science or the intent of the grammarian to spell correctly.

1.25.2011

Of, By, and For Ourselves

Self-government is an art, or, more precisely, it is an artifact that must be maintained by the vigilance of those who possess it. It is not a right to which all human beings, in virtue of their humanity, are entitled, nor is it able to be practiced by all people at all times. In a way, we instinctively know this. Many people are incapable of governing their own affairs with any practical wisdom, and many would be better off depending on others for the order that a good life requires. In America, this truth is denied on principle. We assume that the ability to self-govern is a default state of man rather than something that only those most capable can achieve and, even then, only for several generations at a time. Modern delusions aside, to think that self-government is an inherited right of man is akin to thinking that the ability to fish is an inherited right, which it, of course, is not. It must be practiced by those who have the knowledge, patience, discipline, and a continuity of tradition that allows stability to flourish beyond one generation of men. We are justified, then, in asking ourselves if we are indeed worthy of self-government.

1.24.2011

For Life

Throughout my life I have heard many arguments in defense of abortion. Most of them are terrible. One that is popularly given is as follows: 
Abortion should be allowed until the baby is viable outside of the womb. Until that point, it is either not a person or it is a part of the mother. Either way, we should be allowed to kill it.

This notion of viability is woefully vague and ultimately incoherent when applied in this way. First, it seems that viability outside of the womb is arbitrary. Obviously, a baby outside of the womb is still not viable of itself. It must still be cared for by another and it must depend upon another for its continued existence. Dependency remains, the only thing that changes is location. Second, viability outside of the womb is arbitrary but for a different reason. No human being is viable outside the atmosphere of the earth or underwater. Do we cease to be human beings in either of these conditions? Of course not. Viability, then, seems to be a useless standard for determining whether or not someone is a human being.

The other argument is that before viability outside of the womb, the baby is a part of the mother and not its own person. If this were true, all pregnant women would have two hearts, four legs, and women with male children would have penises. This is obviously not the case, so viability again proves to be a useless standard.

Ultimately, though, none of the arguments in favor of abortion are really attempts to justify the practice. For the most part, abortion was made widespread by feminists who want to be men, women who want to be whores, and men who want to have sex with women without committing to them. Abortion is a symptom of the disease of modern sexual relations and family structure. This is why political activism against abortion is so fruitless on a nation-wide scale. It is like thinking that a cold can be cured if you can prevent yourself from sneezing.

1.18.2011

Modern Morality

At least once a day, whether in or out of class, some professor or student laments the present condition of the world and how nobody does anything adequate enough to positively change it. The disease and violence, we are told, permeates all places and peoples, and, while our world cries out in need, we in the west are largely blind to, and partly or wholly responsible for, the majority of these ills. What lies at the heart of all these problems? Mankind, of course. And in the heart of man lies a greed and selfishness that is unparalleled by any other sentient creature on this planet. Because of this, it is man who must bear the burden of healing the world, and not merely the little world of his own neighborhood or even his own country. There is only one world, after all, and splitting it into pieces based on ethnicity, religion, or any other reality is an outmoded and irrational relic of a regressive and oppressive past. Thus, there is no demarcation of responsibility, only an infinitely expanding sphere of obligations from one person to another. In order to fulfill this universal moral obligation, we need only to realize that it exists and then simply act accordingly. Awareness, then, is the only real catalyst for improvement. Man must be drawn out of his little cave, forcefully if necessary, and see the suffering, the injustice, the lack of rights, and the unadulterated inhumanity that surrounds him.

This ethic of global responsibility, though, has moral implications that many know, perhaps only implicitly, but few are ready to admit. A law-abiding father who raises his children well and is a good husband to his wife would be considered, in ages past, either the most essential or at least a vitally necessary component to a good society, if there is such a thing. The ethic of global awareness, though, has no use for particular relationships. It assumes, like the modern nation-state, that all societies are made up of only two essential elements: individuals and the legal structures (read governments) that give meaning and shape to their lives. This is why activists of every sort are constantly attempting to alter the laws of the land while taking for granted the idea that ethics and law are coterminous and therefore the laws that governments enforce must be changed in order for the world to truly progress. This is also why political activists have become our modern day saints and martyrs. Just as Christianity has its saints, so too does our modern ethical system allow for certain figures to be deified and immortalized because of their dedication to the cause of global awareness and global social change. There is an important distinction, though, between the saints of old and the men and women who are lauded today.

Many, if not most, of the saints of Christianity were not known as saints during their lives or even in the centuries after their deaths. Alternatively, modern men like Martin Luther King or Gandhi already achieved a type of pseudo-celebrity status during their lives. What they were doing was known to the world, and the world looked on in admiration of their extreme moral courage. The reason for this difference is that Christianity, along with the rest of the world before the Age of Enlightenment, judged a man based on how he lived his personal life. The word ‘personal,’ in this sense, does not mean simply private; it represents an implicit acceptance of man’s inability to treat the whole world with the same moral goodness that he treats his wife, his friends, and his children. This is in direct contradiction to a modern ethic that treats a man who fulfills all of his personal obligations as either a complicit agent in an immoral global structure or as both an oblivious and irrelevant moral actor. We are all within the Matrix, and it is only those of us who are dedicated to the general welfare of humanity in the abstract that have swallowed the red pill.

At this point we should ask ourselves a question: By what ethic should a man live? It may not seem, at first, that the ethic of global responsibility and the older, more conventional morality of fulfilling particular obligations are in conflict, but if we look at the types of people who exemplify the modern ethic we will undoubtedly see a discrepancy. Celebrities of every stripe, for instance, are mostly known for their talents. They are also known for the myriad of causes that they all champion. Everything from disease curing to government overthrowing has at least one celebrity that is the face of the campaign. They give exorbitant amounts of their money and time to whatever particular ethical problem needs remedying in the hope of “making the world a better place.” Nobody, though, in his right mind would seriously consider looking to a celebrity for his moral formation. We all know the reality of their lives: drugs, adultery, greed, tragic deaths (sometimes at a very young age), and an arrogance of a caliber not seen anywhere else in society, except for maybe politics. Coincidentally, politicians also happen to be high on the list of adherents to the ethic of global responsibility. These people never tire of telling us plebeians about how we never give enough, that is, when they aren’t busy lying, cheating, or spending their riches on lawyers to defend themselves against charges of almost every nature.

I am not disputing that the world is filled with evil, it is. It is also filled with good people who do not attempt to “make the world a better place” but instead try very hard to behave justly and charitably toward the people who are close to them. The ills of the world are too complex for one man or group of men (governments) to fix, and very often the attempt to do so has left many people worse off. Most people implicitly understand this. It is time for the moral philosophers to understand this as well.

1.13.2011

Modern Prisons

Only in the modern world can a man confidently make generalizations about millions of people without ever actually interacting with any of them. From the comfort of your living room, you can wax sociologically using metaphor laden language that obviates the need to statistically support your assertions. A man sits in front of a computer or television screen, listens to what someone else says about what someone else has said, and the result is an ignorant yet arrogant and isolated individual who thinks he has a scientifically accurate assessment of what people living thousands of miles away from him think and feel about a given subject. 

Do not call it a conspiracy theory when someone says that we are under the control of a network which creates illusions and fabricates and filters information in order to dictate the thoughts of people who cannot help but mind the business of others, call it what it is: America.

Do we even realize how much of what we think comes from people speaking into our ears through the internet, television, radio, newspapers etc.? Modern American political discourse is nothing other than a contest between uneducated pseudo-celebrities who have vast armies of followers seeking to saturate normal people with images and slogans designed to convince you that your interests are their interests. Digital media have made this process unprecedentedly easy and powerful. We now live in a world where a man can attempt to murder a politician, something that is both historically unremarkable and which will undoubtedly be forgotten a year from now, and media will transform it into a symbol of whatever ideological ax they have to grind. Most of the things we see and hear in the news are intentionally shaped by people living in either Washington D.C. or some other urban fortress purposefully isolated from the real world. 

Digital technology has allowed these media to create an illusion of ubiquity that simply is not real. Be a true revolutionary: Turn off the television, go outside, and be sure to watch over your loved ones when this monstrous apparatus inevitably collapses.

1.09.2011

Against Many Gods

As pure act, God can have no admixture of act and potency within Himself. As such He is absolutely simple. As simple, God has no distinctions within Him of that which is per se or per accidens. There is therefore no distinction between his essence and existence.

From this, we see that God cannot be a species contained within a genus. A species is a composite of specific difference added to some genus, which, more generally, is a relation of act to potency. All genera are in potency to some species, which is act, for genera potentially contain specific differences.

Furthermore, God cannot be a species predicated of many individuals. Individuals of a species are differentiated by their existence but have a common essence. Men are all human beings but are differentiated by their individual existence and accidental qualities. But God, who is Existence Itself and thus has no distinction within Him of essence or existence, He just is His own existence, cannot be differentiated in any way.

Therefore, there is and can only be One God.

“I contend that we are both 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."

Once we come to a proper philosophical understanding of God, we cannot make such silly statements like the one above. Polytheism and monotheism are not similar beliefs differentiated by an arbitrary number. There cannot be more than one God because God is not the kind of thing that admits of multiplicity. Of course, none of this matters. This phrase will be repeated until a newer and more catchy one becomes popular. And this new phrase will be just as philosophically  vacuous as the last.