Monday, 4 October 2010

The state, tax-payers’ money, and religion - Chinese style

This is not a new story - the BBC reported it in August - but I just found it.

Christianity is growing in China as never before - and doing so supported by millions of dollars of government funding. . . . On the outskirts of Nanjing, a building site illustrates the scale of the communist state's commitment to supporting the development of Christianity. Local officials say that the building under construction will become China's largest state-sanctioned church - with space for 5,000 worshippers. The land - and 20% of the building costs - are being provided not by local Christians, but by the municipal government. It represents state financial support worth millions of dollars - just one example of the strategy to encourage the development of religion in China.”

Yes, you read that right. It wouldn’t happen in the UK. It certainly wouldn’t happen in the USA. But the Chinese government uses tax-payers’ money to build Christian churches.

Why? According to the director general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Wang Zuo An,

"Such growth is unprecedented in the history of Christianity in China. Christianity is enjoying its best period of growth in China. Our goal in supporting these religions in developing religious education is that we hope they can train qualified clergy members so that their religions can enjoy better development. . . . . We are making laws and regulations to better guarantee religious belief in China."

What exactly does he mean by “better guarantee religious belief”? The words “laws and regulations” make one wonder. Since when did one need laws and regulations to better guarantee religious belief ? The answer is not in the article, but you can probably guess. It means helping religious bodies which say what the government wants them to say.

Because in China, there are two kinds of Christian churches - state registered churches and unofficial churches. Leaders of unofficial churches are often harassed, and sometimes imprisoned. So why don’t they just become state registered? Quite simply because there are long list of things that preachers in state registered churches are simply not allowed to speak about. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Of course, in China, the government has been calling the tune in state registered churches for decades - so I guess it’s nice for them when the government starts giving tax-payers’ money to the piper.

There remains an interesting question. Mr Wang told the BBC "On the question of whether there is God, the Chinese Communist Party believes there is no God in the world." Isn’t it very strange that the Chinese Communist Party still takes a view on the question of the existence of God?

124 comments:

Caedmon's Cat said...

The fact that the Communist authorities in China are starting to show a degree of tolerance to Christians may appear to be encouraging, but this rings alarm bells to me. Without doubt the Church is growing at a phenomenal rate; the number of Chinese students and postgraduates who are converted while over here is remarkable, but like you, I have little cause to be ecstatically optimistic. The strictures that the state has placed on registered churches has always made it very difficult for them to publicly proselytise. And for Christians to accept any kind of assistance from the state is of questionable morality.
But - it's a better situation than the rampant atheism and climate change religions that are de rigeur over here inter alia..

indigomyth said...

//believes there is no God in the world.//

Surely the point is is that God is not "in" the world as such, but beyond it, above it?

Young Mr. Brown said...

Surely the point is is that God is not "in" the world as such, but beyond it, above it?

You didn't expect an official of the Chinese Communist Party to get his theology perfect, did you?

;-)
On a technical note, when theologians speak of God being 'beyond' and 'above' the world, they use the word 'transcendent'. Most Christians would hold that God is not only transcendent, but also 'immanent', in other words 'within the world.'

indigomyth said...

YMB,

I think I knew "transcendent", but cheers for "immanent". Another useful word to add to my vocabulary!

Albert said...

I'm with Indigomyth on this one - "God in the world" sounds much to much like "lions in the jungle" to me. Sounds like God is an extra item in the universe, rather than the cause of it. Reminds me of the words attributed to Yuri Gegarin "I don't see any God up here" - as if anyone expected to see God up there.

Though it clearly has an orthodox use. Perhaps Mr Wang is a keen student of St Paul: "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph.12.2).

Young Mr. Brown said...

Reminds me of the words attributed to Yuri Gegarin "I don't see any God up here" - as if anyone expected to see God up there.

But of course he was, like Mr. Wang, giving us the Communist Party line, and hence displayed the same theological ignorance.

Albert said...

displayed the same theological ignorance

The most supreme example of which is Richard Dawkins. It never occurs to him to ask if he has misunderstood, instead his (stupid) logic seems to be:

1. All religious people are stupid.
2. Therefore, what they believe must be stupid.
3. Anyone who believes stupid things is also stupid.
4. Religious people believe stupid things.
5. Therefore all religious people are stupid.

With such logic, the atheist (not all atheists, before Indigomyth justly complains) is spared the psychological pain of engaging with an opinion he doesn't like.

Caedmon's Cat said...

Albert -
The absurdity of Dawkins' premises is that while he's asserting that all religious people are stupid, he's upholding a bona fide religious faith himself (i.e. in the assumption that there is no God, and therefore believers are stupid). This assertion does not (and cannot) rest on empirical evidence - only faith. Before there was atheism, theism existed! (Ps14:1)
The conclusion is that Dawkins is not only stupid, but deliberately so.

Albert said...

Caedmon,

Certainly Dawkins is guilty of going beyond the empirical evidence, but I don't think that's faith as such. Faith - to me as a Catholic - is a supernatural state, being the proper response to the revelation of the Word of God (hence the Holy See tends to avoid the popular terminology of referring to all religions as "faiths").

Necessarily, true faith entails belief beyond the empirical evidence, but it does have a proper warrant. Dawkins' position is doubtfully grounded on anything, which is why it is hard to shift the feeling that it is profoundly irrational by any standards, but especially his own.

indigomyth said...

I confess, I used to be a bit of a fan of Dawkins. However, I find him quite tiresome now. I did not bother reading "The God Delusion". And he is hardly libertarian in his politics.

I think Chris Hitchens is a better writer, and more entertaining. Almost like P J O'Rourke. Though of course his politics leave a little to desire.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

It's interesting how many people say that about Dawkins - used to like him, now not so sure. Personally, I'm surprised any atheist ever liked him, for it seems to me that he is a gift to us. We don't need straw men, we have Richard Dawkins, if Richard Dawkins didn't exist we would have to him etc.

This is a good article, as it is by an atheist philosopher - Michael Ruse, indicating quite how bad Dawkins & Co. are:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/scienceandthesacred/2009/08/why-i-think-the-new-atheists-are-a-bloody-disaster.html

Hitchens is worse than Dawkins in my opinion. Hitchens apparently doesn't even know how to use Google. And calling St Maximilian Kolbe an anti-Semite, when the saint was in Auschwitz for (among other things) sheltering 2000 Jews is morally repugnant - akin to holocaust denial in many ways.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Thanks for the article link. It was an interesting read.

As I say, the atheist - theist conflict interests me much less nowadays than the libertarian - authoritarian conflict. And while it is true that many authoritarians are motivated by religion, it does not mean that absence of religion or belief in God is going to produce a truly liberal society - see the USSR and North Korea.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

it does not mean that absence of religion or belief in God is going to produce a truly liberal society - see the USSR and North Korea.

Indeed, as Richard Wurmbrand, who has been tortured for his faith in communist prisons, says,


The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no Hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.

Even if atheism is not a cause of bad behaviour, it seems hard to deny that it has lost one of the obstacles to bad behaviour that is found in religion.

It seems to me that what is needed is not less religion, but more good religion: Jesus Christ.

indigomyth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Even if atheism is not a cause of bad behaviour, it seems hard to deny that it has lost one of the obstacles to bad behaviour that is found in religion.//

Hmmm, yet belief in God is not a huge obstacle to violence. Look at Satan, for example. Indeed, direct knowledge of God would not preclude many from still acting sinfully. In fact, I would consider myself in the latter grouping - were it the case that God did exist, and I had certain knowledge of that, I doubt that my behaviour and attitudes would be different. This does not make me a "Satanist", as Satanists worship Satan. I would rather worship no-one, especially not God or the Devil. Not so much two faces of the same coin, but rather merely the opposite edges of the same face.

//It seems to me that what is needed is not less religion, but more good religion: Jesus Christ.//

I would prefer more Libertarianism. And, at a push, more Objectivism.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I think good religion is a huge block to violence. I don't say for a moment that it guarantees lack of violence, but that it provides an obstacle atheism lacks. Consequently, I don't think that the one (rather extreme) example of Satan falsifies that.

As a matter of interest, why wouldn't you worship God if you believed in him?

I don't quite know what you mean by Objectivism, but I would say you are never going to get the kind of Libertarianism that you seek, simply because (as I've said before) the anthropology on which Libertarianism is based (or at least your own moral system) is false. Human beings are social animals. Consequently, I think the reality would constantly undermine the theory.

If Libertarianism was possible, whcih would you prefer, more atheism, or more good religion?

Albert said...

Sorry that last line you should have read "impossible".

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//I think good religion is a huge block to violence. I don't say for a moment that it guarantees lack of violence//

To be fair to you, I was conflating a belief in God, with religion. A religion is a set of principles that one lives by, usually with the involvement of God. Therefore, a "good religion" is "good living principles". A belief in God does not, of itself, constitute a "religion" - it involves a particular conception of God, and relationship with him.


//As a matter of interest, why wouldn't you worship God if you believed in him?//

Because I believe that God is wrong. And I do not see how standing before a marble throne, hearing judgement being passed, would alter my view of the moral universe. Just because an entity is able to turn water to wine, to create universes, does not actually say that much about their morality, or moral position.

//If Libertarianism was impossible, whcih would you prefer, more atheism, or more good religion?//

Well, more good religion. But my definition of "good", would be YMB's or Rothbard's version of religion. For me, the idea of "good", in terms of politics, is inextricably linked with "liberty", so the best religion would be one that holds political liberty as the highest ideal.

//I don't quite know what you mean by Objectivism//

Moral philosophy devised by Ayn Rand - centres on rational egoism, and utterly rejects the altruism championed by Christianity.

//Human beings are social animals//

Yes I know, but you cannot force people to be social with people they do not want to be. That is what freedom of association is about.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Because I believe that God is wrong.

Before I respond, is there a word missing there, or do you mean that?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Before I respond, is there a word missing there, or do you mean that?//

No, I do mean it. I believe that God, if he says as he does, is wrong.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I believe that God, if he says as he does, is wrong.

Thanks, but I still don't quite follow - could you give an example?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Okay, well the issue of homosexuality is one example - I disagree with God's judgement on that.

The issue of those who do not believe in Jesus Christ not going to heaven, is another one.

The issue of those who have down terrible things, who have asked for forgiveness, being admitted to heaven (it is utterly sick to me that someone like Hitler, could have begged for forgiveness for his terrible acts, before he died, and been forgiven and admitted to heaven. Moreover, and building on my previous point, I find it sick that all the Jews that were murdered in the gas chambers, have gone to hell for not worshipping Jesus).

If Heaven is God's private property, then I respect his right to exclude the people that he wants, however, that does not mean that I have to agree with who he chooses.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Indiogmyth

Well, more good religion. But my definition of "good", would be YMB's or Rothbard's version of religion.

I'm rather surprised to have my version of religion equated with Rothbard's. Unless of course you were referring to JoAnn Rothbard?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Thank you.

The issue of those who do not believe in Jesus Christ not going to heaven, is another one...I find it sick that all the Jews that were murdered in the gas chambers, have gone to hell for not worshipping Jesus

But as so often, the picture is more complicated than that. I can do no better than to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"847 Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation."

Regarding God's infinite mercy and forgiveness, I have nothing to say, except to rejoice in it - my salvation depends on it: "If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?" (Ps.130.3)

Regarding homosexuality: it's not that God takes a subjective view of the matter and decides he dislikes it, it is that, as the maker of all things, he knows what it is he has made, and knows that homosexual activities, violate and damages the nature of the person he has made - whom he loves. His "position" is objective (how can God ever be anything other than objective?) and his teaching us that we harm ourselves in these ways, is part of his goodness and care.

indigomyth said...

YMB,

//I'm rather surprised to have my version of religion equated with Rothbard's. Unless of course you were referring to JoAnn Rothbard?//

Okay, I was not intending to make a direct comparison - rather show that religion in the same species as your's and Rothbard's would be the ideal.

Albert,

//847 Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation."//

Hmmm, can we really say that Jews do not know the Gospels of Christ? I was under the impression that loophole was devised to allow the greats, like Caesar and Aristotle to go through Purgatory, rather than having them condemned to Hell. This obviously being prior to Christ. However Jews, particularly modern Jews, very well know of the Gospel, but explicitly reject it. That "through no fault of their own" is the crucial qualifier to what follows - it is only if they know the Gospels through no fault of their own, that the rest of the Catechism applies (or at least seems to apply, to me).

//Regarding God's infinite mercy and forgiveness//

Then I am happy to take my place in Hell, and to let others have the company of a repentant Hitler.

//Regarding homosexuality: it's not that God takes a subjective view of the matter and decides he dislikes it, it is that, as the maker of all things, he knows what it is he has made, and knows that homosexual activities, violate and damages the nature of the person he has made - whom he loves. His "position" is objective (how can God ever be anything other than objective?) and his teaching us that we harm ourselves in these ways, is part of his goodness and care.//

Let us accept this. However, if I made a machine to do a particular act, so hammering in a nail, and by some action it achieved sentience, what authority am I to judge the uses it now chooses to put that hammer to? If it uses it to weigh down paper, is it legitimate for me to judge it harshly? What if it says that it does not like hammers, and chooses to have a screwdriver fitted instead? Am I to judge that? These things manifestly controvert my initial will and intention - it is objectively true that the machine was designed with a particular form, to perform a particular function. However, the addition of sentience crucially alters the relationship between me and my creation.

It also strikes me that God's objectivity runs counter to experience. Does God have an opinion on Marmite? He created all things (even those things through man). Are we to believe that God views Marmite as tasty or disgusting? If God did take a view on this matter, would it make some people enjoy Marmite any less or any more.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

can we really say that Jews do not know the Gospels of Christ?

I think it means "know" in the biblical sense - not just be aware of - but come to know its truth. So the same Vatican II document that gave the former quotation says:

"Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved."

Then I am happy to take my place in Hell, and to let others have the company of a repentant Hitler.

I think you are making assumptions. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for the whole world. But that does not compel God to give effective grace to Hitler, and therefore, Hitler may not have repented, and God would have shown his justice, rather than his mercy.

However, if I made a machine to do a particular act

But you as a maker are not remotely analogous to God and therefore this isn't real. Secondly, God does not hate any action except for the damage it does to us. The analogy fails on two grounds.

Does God have an opinion on Marmite?

That's a question of taste. Morality is not about taste, but about the nature of things. God knows how much goodness is in something, but that's not the same thing. He won't have an opinion on whether marmite is tasty or disgusting, only he will know whether it is tasty or disgusting to his creatures.

indigomyth said...

Albert,


//I think you are making assumptions. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for the whole world. But that does not compel God to give effective grace to Hitler, and therefore, Hitler may not have repented, and God would have shown his justice, rather than his mercy.//

I was being provocative. I do not believe Hitler is in Heaven, because, even were he forgiven for the slaughter of Jews, he would still be convicted of the sin of suicide, from which there is no time for repentance.

In that case, before worshipping God I would have to perform an audit of those people in heaven. I do not know if that is the kind of attitude that God is looking for in his followers.

//The analogy fails on two grounds.//

I am sorry, I do not understand the first alleged failure - how am I not analogous to God in the first instance?

//That's a question of taste.//

Ahh yes, but here is the problem! Homosexuality is not intrinsically harmful - it is not necessarily harmful to health, does not necessarily damage the body of the person engaging in it. Also, what does it mean to "violate and damage the nature of the person he has made"? How is that damage manifest in the individual? We could say that homosexuality causes separation between man and God, and that is what the damage refers to, however that merely begs the question of WHY that is the case. If God condemns homosexuality because it damages his people, but the damage itself is because of God's condemnation, then all that amounts to is God condemning homosexuality because God condemns homosexuality, and Gods condemnation is damage to the human person. Therefore the question remains is why it is the case that God initially condemns homosexuality.

Out of curiosity, I would like to ask a theological question that I have been pondering: It is my contention that everyone will ultimately end up in Hell. Here is why.

If heaven is eternal and forever, and if we have free will in heaven, then it stands to reason that, given enough time, everyone will, at some point, come to question God, even reject him. Merely being in the presence of God is clearly not enough to keep one faithful to him (see Satan). And, given Satan's previous exemplary service to God, it seems that even those who start out faithful, can fall. Therefore, people in heaven will eventually sin, or reject God, because of free will, the eternal nature of heaven, and human nature to become corrupted - even the purest over time will fall. I know of no one who can confidently say that, given the expanse of eternity, they will not reject God.

Also, if God is to forgive those who are in heaven, who reject him, then why would he not do so just after they have died, and realised the error of their ways?

What do you think?

The theology of heaven, and the relationship between Satan and God, I find very interesting.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I do not know if that is the kind of attitude that God is looking for in his followers.

Quite! You wouldn't really be a follower in that case would you! What you mean is that you want a limit on the kinds of sins God forgives - is that right?

how am I not analogous to God in the first instance?

Because you yourself are contingent and therefore on the same level as the thing you make. You do not have sufficient distance "above" the thing to see it as it really is.

Homosexuality is not intrinsically harmful

Homosexual acts (like all sexual acts which are not open to conception) are intrinsically harmful, as they prevent your nature reaching its inherent end, and, being irrational, harm your most important faculty: reason - the faculty by which alone (with grace) you can reach your final end - God.

if we have free will in heaven

I do my best, I am not quite sure what the Church says about this, so don't take what follows as gospel (so to speak):

1. Blessed John Henry Newman helps here. In The Dream of Gerontius the angel says to the dead man "You cannot now cherish a wish which ought not to be wished." After death, the will is fixed. This is because what causes the will to change is new data - which comes through the senses. But after death our senses no longer inform our souls, and so there is nothing to stimulate our wills.

2. Further, in heaven (as opposed to just being dead), we have perfect vision of God who is the supreme good. As there is no other good which can compare with that supreme good, the soul wills to love God with perfect and immutable freedom. In order to reach this state a prior movement of the will is required - it is here that Satan fell. In other words, Satan never reached the point of a human soul in heaven.

if God is to forgive those who are in heaven, who reject him

By definition, those in heaven, though they may have rejected God in this world, do not reject God once they are in heaven.

why would he not do so just after they have died, and realised the error of their ways?

I don't think the damned do realise the error of their ways. Their error is not so much to have backed the wrong horse (so to speak!), but not to have loved God.

Bl J.H. Newman catches this well in the same work by having the demons sing of their ending up in hell, while human beings are elevated to heaven:

Dispossessed,

Aside thrust,

Chucked down,

By the sheer might

Of a despot’s will,

Of a tyrant’s frown. Who after expelling Their hosts, gave,

Triumphant still,

And still unjust,



Each forfeit crown To psalm-droners,

And canting groaners,

To every slave

And pious cheat,

And crawling knave,

Who licked the dust

Under his feet.


I have a funny feeling you'll feel sympathetic to the demons!

The theology of heaven, and the relationship between Satan and God, I find very interesting.

Well, may be you should read the Dream of Gerontius, if you haven't already. You can find the text here:

http://www.ccel.org/n/newman/gerontius/gerontius.htm

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//What you mean is that you want a limit on the kinds of sins God forgives - is that right?//

I would be satisfied if the spirit of Hitler were to be utterly annihilated. I find Hell to be a little redundant, and total annihilation to be a far more efficient solution. But yes, some sort of limit would be in order.

//Because you yourself are contingent and therefore on the same level as the thing you make. You do not have sufficient distance "above" the thing to see it as it really is.//

But how it really is, at least in the first instance, is as I make it. I grant you that the machine and myself are of the same type of stuff - material and finite. However I do not see how that makes the moral relationship between me and the machine, and between me and God, any different. Could you explain further, please?


//Homosexual acts (like all sexual acts which are not open to conception) are intrinsically harmful, as they prevent your nature reaching its inherent end, and, being irrational, harm your most important faculty: reason - the faculty by which alone (with grace) you can reach your final end - God.//

Ahh, then they are only considered irrational acts because they separate us from God, and why do they separate us from God? Because they are irrational? And why are thy irrational? Because they separate us from God! It seems to be a case of circular reasoning. I would also argue that it is like Marmite, because what is "irrational" is a matter of taste - if you like Marmite, and there is Marmite available, it is irrational for you not to have Marmite. The rationality of the act is contingent upon your relationship with Marmite.

//I have a funny feeling you'll feel sympathetic to the demons!//

Lol, I do have some, yes. And thank you for the link and the quote. I seem to learn quite a lot on this blog.

//In other words, Satan never reached the point of a human soul in heaven.//

Now this is an interesting point. Why had Satan not reached that point? For he too must have had a "perfect vision of God who is the supreme good", yet rejected him? I would also argue that if angels and demons can have senses to provide themselves with new data, even in heaven, it would seem obvious that human souls would as well. That would mean that the will would be flexible - as Satan's was.

Also does that mean that God knew of Satan's separation from him, prior to his outright rebellion, but allowed him to remain in heaven?

//But after death our senses no longer inform our souls, and so there is nothing to stimulate our wills. //

That may be the most depressing sentence said in relation to heaven that I have ever heard! What is a man without will or intent? Without creativity or brilliance?Imagination or invention? Surely nothing more than a beast? It is the stimulation of our souls that enables us to be great - I find it a very sad vision of heaven if there is nothing there to stimulate our will.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

However I do not see how that makes the moral relationship between me and the machine, and between me and God, any different. Could you explain further, please?

All you are doing is putting bits together in a new way. You are not creating a new substance or nature. These are different bits that could and would be doing different things. But not so with God. He creates the very nature of us, he doesn't mould pre-existent material which could be something else, he makes us us.

This is where I think you an I differ. Insofar as you allow a concept of nature, you think of ends as being something additional to that nature. That being so, the ends are contingent and could very well be different. And if so, why should they be the ends God has applied post factum? Why not the ends chosen by the creature himself.

I on the other hand, think of ends as being inherent to that very nature. Ends are not added on to us, they are part of what we are. We cannot therefore act in ways contrary to our ends without violating and damaging ourselves.

Ahh, then they are only considered irrational acts because they separate us from God, and why do they separate us from God? Because they are irrational? And why are thy irrational? Because they separate us from God! It seems to be a case of circular reasoning.

Not quite, what I said had two stages. Firstly, I said they are inherently irrational. Not they are irrational because they separate us from God, but they are inherently irrational. This is reason enough not to engage in such acts. Secondly, if we submit our reason to what is irrational, we damage our reason, and the consequence of that is that it is harder for us to reach our ultimate end, which is God. So the damage is on two levels, not just - as you indicate - on one.

Why had Satan not reached that point? For he too must have had a "perfect vision of God who is the supreme good", yet rejected him?

Well this is the point where I am not quite sure if I am correct. I assume that there is some kind of epistemic distance between creature and God, in order to allow a creature the opportunity to make a genuine choice, out of love, rather than just be bowled over by God.

Also does that mean that God knew of Satan's separation from him, prior to his outright rebellion, but allowed him to remain in heaven?

No, the very act of Satan's will moving against God is his fall. It is that act that deprives him of heaven. God needn't do anything.

That may be the most depressing sentence said in relation to heaven that I have ever heard!

Sorry, I was too brief in my expression. I mean there is no new sense data to change our wills. What we have is the beatific vision, supernaturally stimulating our wills (and our intellect). This is the most beautiful and perfect stimulation. So there is nothing less than God attracting our attentions and even if there were, it would be less attractive than God and we would (freely) ignore it.

indigomyth said...

Albert,


//All you are doing is putting bits together in a new way. You are not creating a new substance or nature. These are different bits that could and would be doing different things. But not so with God. He creates the very nature of us, he doesn't mould pre-existent material which could be something else, he makes us us. //

Ahh I understand now.

//This is where I think you an I differ.//

I think you are correct.

//I said they are inherently irrational.//

I see. So they are irrational because they go against the function that God intended for us.

But I still do not understand why this ought to "damage" us? What is it about going against the design of God, that damages us? If we suffer no physical damage, and no mental damage, what is it that is damaged? It may be our soul, but then we have to ask in what sense is it damaged? Is it "damaged" merely because it differs from the intended design of God?

//So there is nothing less than God attracting our attentions and even if there were, it would be less attractive than God and we would (freely) ignore it.//

So, the common vision of meeting your loved ones in heaven, and being with them for all eternity, is not how it is at all? So, I would be with my mum and dad, and other people who are dear to me, and I would ignore them? That hardly seems like the popular conception of heaven, nor does it seem one that is entirely pleasant to the things I hold dear.

//in order to allow a creature the opportunity to make a genuine choice, out of love, rather than just be bowled over by God.//

But that choice needs to be an ongoing choice. It cannot be one made forever. As you say, we would freely ignore distractions from God. However, we still have this problem of Satan, and how his will was able to move against God, despite being in his presence. For clearly, for Satan and those that followed him from heaven, there was something more attractive than God - namely the promise of having his power. And since God can only create pure things, it stands to reason that Satan was once pure, and then his will separated from God. In that sense then, how is his initial state of purity different from the state of purity that a human soul is in when it enters heaven, and what is it that means that the human souls in heaven will not find anything other than God to be attractive, but Satan could? Or, to put it another way, what is it that intrinsically prevents a human soul in heaven from rejecting God? For the possibility must be there, (indeed, if there is to be free will, there must be the potential) for the human soul to reject God, even as it resides in heaven, for otherwise there is no such thing as "free will" in heaven. Since the promise of the power that God has was sufficient to remove Satan from God, why would it be insufficient for a human soul?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

So they are irrational because they go against the function that God intended for us.

No, that would make the end accidental to our nature, as it is, the end is inherent in our nature. Let me use analogy. It is part of the very essence of a wave to be moving, take away its movement and you corrupt the wave. Likewise time, it is part of its nature that it passes, stop it passing and it ceases to be time. I cannot reason this to you - we are back at the most basic level. I cannot provide an explanation with regard to a further referent - the whole point of saying it is part of the nature of time that it passes is to say this cannot be explained by any higher referent.

In the same way, certain actions (sexual ones in this instance) are by their very nature directed, essentially to particular ends. They are corrupted just as much as the wave and time if that end is taken away. They are not wrong because God says so, rather they are wrong because the violate nature, therefore God kindly teaches us not to do them.

But I still do not understand why this ought to "damage" us?

"A person" says Boehius, "is an individual substance of a rational nature." The nature of a rational being is to behave in rational ways - this is the end of reason, like movement to a wave. What is rational in sexuality is that it the act is not divorced from its end. In sin the person chooses not to follow his nature/reason and chooses something less that reason. This violates his fundamental nature as a rational being. The damage is then done to the person by undermining reason and will. But these are the very two things the person needs to act in accordance with his nature. Any sin therefore corrupts man's nature, damages him and makes it harder for him to act in accordance with himself.

Now, the role of God's commands is to help us to see by revelation what we might not manage to grasp by reason. You may or may not accept my explanation, I may or may not be able to answer your objections, but it is a matter of sublime indifference to me personally, because God's command helps me to see in reality what is only obscure in my reasoning. God tells me what is truly reasonable, when my own reasoning fails.

As we are celebrating the first ever Feast of Blessed John Henry Newman tomorrow, allow me to quote from his Apologia Pro Vita Sua which is appointed to be read tomorrow:

I am far of course from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer those difficulties. Many persons are very sensitive of the difficulties of Religion; I am as sensitive of them as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence; but I am speaking of difficulties intrinsic to the doctrines themselves, or to their relations with each other. A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, of which the answer is or is not given to him, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one.

If God has revealed the true answer, it matters little whether our puny reasoning can show God's revelation to be true.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

So, the common vision of meeting your loved ones in heaven, and being with them for all eternity, is not how it is at all?

Remember, I'm only doing my best on this, I may not be giving you Church teaching here.

Well, I think that we will not see our loved ones directly until the resurrection, as they are just souls without bodies by which they can be identified. However, we see their souls in God - he mediates their presence to us and we are united to them in Christ, because we are all one in him. This is more intimate than any other unity.

However, we still have this problem of Satan, and how his will was able to move against God, despite being in his presence.

No, I don't think Satan was completely in the presence of God. There was still some intellectual distance. In order to be properly united to God, Satan needed to make a choice to love God. This choice we make here on earth, and having made it, we will not choose anything else. He however rejected God, and has made his choice.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//It is part of the very essence of a wave to be moving, take away its movement and you corrupt the wave.//

I agree with this to a certain extent - it is part of what defines a wave that it is moving - if it ceases to move it ceases to be a wave. However, it is the nature of a wave to stop being a wave, hence waves stop. Indeed, it is the nature of the wave to move, but also its nature to stop moving.

//certain actions (sexual ones in this instance) are by their very nature directed, essentially to particular ends//

Well, the first problem is determining what the ends of sexual acts are. For humans it seems manifestly true that reproduction is a minor aspect of sexual acts. However, even were it the nature of sex acts to be reproductive, it could still be its nature to be corrupted - like the nature of the wave to stop moving.

//You may or may not accept my explanation, I may or may not be able to answer your objections, but it is a matter of sublime indifference to me personally, because God's command helps me to see in reality what is only obscure in my reasoning. God tells me what is truly reasonable, when my own reasoning fails.//

But I thank you for trying to explain it to me. And when I stand before God and am judged, the only thing I hope is that he will explain things.

//Remember, I'm only doing my best on this, I may not be giving you Church teaching here.//

Well, you are doing better than many others have. Besides which, the attempt itself is the important thing.

//He however rejected God, and has made his choice//

Ahh ok. That makes things clearer.

However, I must then ask, was Satan in heaven? Did he not lead the choir of angels - the seraphim? It would seem odd to have an entity that had not given themselves entirely to God, to be the one that orchestrates the songs to his highest praise. I would need to understand the precise nature of Satan's relationship with God before his expulsion in heaven, in order to draw any conclusions about how free will in heaven can operate.

By the way (and assuming he is reading), I am wondering if YMB would like to step in to give his thoughts - I am getting a very Catholic view, but would also welcome a protestant one.

(I must credit you, this is the sort of conversation that Dawkins and co never seems to get engaged in)

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

it is the nature of a wave to stop being a wave, hence waves stop. Indeed, it is the nature of the wave to move, but also its nature to stop moving.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Certainly, I think all waves will stop, but I cannot see why it is part of the essence of a wave to stop. If that were the case then, if a wave were to continue for ever, then its very continuing for ever would be what destroys the essence of the wave, which is absurd. (If so, then this also shows why your use of "nature" and "essence" only to name things as they actually occur is too limited.) This serves also to answer the following, I think:

However, even were it the nature of sex acts to be reproductive, it could still be its nature to be corrupted - like the nature of the wave to stop moving.

For humans it seems manifestly true that reproduction is a minor aspect of sexual acts.

I would say it is manifestly untrue. It may be that during sex a man is not really thinking about the 500 million sperm he ejaculates, nor the fact that the human race has been propagated and made great through this act. But that just indicates the limits of his vision, not the reality of the act. (It also indicates how far modern man has been alienated from his own nature by artificial contraception, homosexuality etc.)

was Satan in heaven

Not in the highest heaven, I think. He was at the stage of being presented with a choice - himself or God. He chose himself, and his sin was pride. Having made the choice, his will is fixed, not by God, but by the fact that there is nothing new that will change his will. Ditto man in heaven (only the opposite).

I am wondering if YMB would like to step in to give his thoughts

I'd like to hear from him. When I was an Anglican, I could never understand why people were against homosexual acts but not contraceptive acts. I still don't get that.

I must credit you, this is the sort of conversation that Dawkins and co never seems to get engaged in

The credit then is on your side - atheists may rarely discuss interesting questions as you do, but theologian do so all the time - for fun, if for no other reason!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//if a wave were to continue for ever, then its very continuing for ever would be what destroys the essence of the wave, which is absurd.//

Why absurd? It would seem to be true! Certainly, in science a wave that never stopped would be something unlike any other phenomenon that we call a "wave". By the fact of it continuing forever, we would have to reconsider its label as being a "wave". For, after all, a wave is merely energy and matter - to say "a wave the goes on forever", is to say very strange things about energy and matter.

Another example, which may show it more clearly. All humans die - in my view this is part of their nature. If we were to imagine a human that lives forever, we would be imaging a different class of being entirely. In this sense, I do not believe that a human that lives forever is actually a "human" - they have become something other than human by virtue of their immortality. It is also the nature of humans to be physically corruptible - I would imagine that you would baulk at the notion of a human that was physically incorruptible!? For such a thing contravenes a key point of understanding about what it is to be "human".

//I would say it is manifestly untrue.//

However, if you consider the total number of acts on intercourse, and how few of those result in offspring, we cannot conclude that the majority of acts of sexual union are reproductive. That something is defined by how it is least used, would seem an odd way of defining something. Also, were it God's will that sex be intrinsically reproductive, I find the idea of needing 500 million sperm to be wasteful at best.

That is something that confuses me - the wastage of 499,999 million sperm. If God fashions the soul of each individual, does he do it before or after conception? If after, does that mean that he fashions the soul in accordance with the inclinations as laid out in the genetic code? For surely someone's charitableness is an attribute of the soul, yet it would seem to also be an attribute of personality, influenced by genetics.

//Having made the choice, his will is fixed, not by God, but by the fact that there is nothing new that will change his will. Ditto man in heaven (only the opposite).//

That explains a lot of the point. But now there is another issue - why is God not apparent to humans as he is to angels (or Satan). For if free choice is possible when you stand before God (as Satan did), then surely it would be possible for humans to see God, and to still make a free choice to join him or not? It seems humans have got the sharp end of the stick in this matter - Satan, and the angels, got to see God - no faith was required. Yet from humans, faith is required to accept God.

//I could never understand why people were against homosexual acts but not contraceptive acts. I still don't get that.//

I think it because homosexuality (particularly male homosexuality) is far more distasteful to a lot of people than contraceptive acts, and therefore I do not believe that there is a good logical, divine, reason, but merely a guttural or impulsive one.

indigomyth said...

PS

If I might be permitted to make a rather cheeky request to YMB:

Would it be possible to have a "most recent comments" index at the top of your blog, like Anna Raccoon has? It makes navigating to the latest episode in discussion so much easier.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

in science a wave that never stopped would be something unlike any other phenomenon that we call a "wave".

Really? I thought light waves were supposed to go on for ever (unless something accidentally stopped them).

All humans die - in my view this is part of their nature

That's pretty paradoxical, as it means that which stops human nature corrupting, is by that very act, corrupting it.

I would imagine that you would baulk at the notion of a human that was physically incorruptible!?

On the contrary, I believe that Jesus risen from the dead is entirely incoruptible: "Christ, once raised from the dead, dies no more, death hath more dominion over him." (Rom.6.9)

But in a way, this is a side issue. The idea of pointing to a wave, is simply to say that as movement is inherently part of a wave, so ends are inherently parts of natures. Ends are not accidentally added by God to their natures, but inherent in them in their very creation and essence. Take away the movement and you corrupt the nature of the wave, take away the openness to reproduction and you violate the nature of the act.

if you consider the total number of acts on intercourse...the wastage of 499,999 million sperm

This is more a scientific question before it is a theological one. My guess is that an evolutionary biologist, would baulk at the idea that this is in anyway contraceptive. I would guess it is all a finely-tuned system for maximallly effecient reproduction.

If God fashions the soul of each individual, does he do it before or after conception?

At the moment of conception.

If after, does that mean that he fashions the soul in accordance with the inclinations as laid out in the genetic code?

No, the soul enlivens the genetic code.

For surely someone's charitableness is an attribute of the soul, yet it would seem to also be an attribute of personality, influenced by genetics.

I think it's both. We are clearly dealt certain characteristics by our upbringing, but while we rest on those resources, we are not determined by them. This is one of the benefits of believing in an immaterial soul. You are liberated from materialistic determinism, and given true liberty.

But now there is another issue - why is God not apparent to humans as he is to angels (or Satan). For if free choice is possible when you stand before God (as Satan did), then surely it would be possible for humans to see God, and to still make a free choice to join him or not?

Prior to the fall, man had a supernatural awareness of God, which - for the purposes of this question - made him analogous to an unfallen angel. Hiowever, through sin, humanity cut itself off from such a position, and we are born damaged and without all the resources God intended us to have.

I think it because homosexuality (particularly male homosexuality) is far more distasteful to a lot of people than contraceptive acts, and therefore I do not believe that there is a good logical, divine, reason, but merely a guttural or impulsive one.

That may be correct, though I'd be open to argument. I've always thought that the benefit of the Catholic viewpoint is precisely that it doesn't arbitrarily single out homosexuals, rather all sex acts which are separated from reproduction are wrong. This is as true of solitary sins (!), contraceptive marital acts, as well as homosexual ones.

Albert said...

Would it be possible to have a "most recent comments" index at the top of your blog

I'd second that - especially when we get to really long discussions!

Albert said...

Would it be possible to have a "most recent comments" index at the top of your blog

I'd second that - especially when we get to really long discussions!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Really? I thought light waves were supposed to go on for ever (unless something accidentally stopped them).//

Well, given that light is considered as both a wave and a particle, and sometimes both, I would not have thought that to be a good example to support your case regarding the essential nature of things!?

I did not think that they went on forever (i never got to the end of a brief history of time).

//That's pretty paradoxical, as it means that which stops human nature corrupting, is by that very act, corrupting it. //

Well, by physical corruption I meant physical damage and decay - that which stops or would indefinitely delay degradation would undoubtedly corrupt the nature of man. Or, alternatively, it would result in a different class of entity - maybe a "superman" type entity.

//But in a way, this is a side issue. The idea of pointing to a wave, is simply to say that as movement is inherently part of a wave, so ends are inherently parts of natures. Ends are not accidentally added by God to their natures, but inherent in them in their very creation and essence. Take away the movement and you corrupt the nature of the wave, take away the openness to reproduction and you violate the nature of the act.//

Ahh but my point was that the ending of a wave is also part of the nature of "waveness" as written by God.

I would also have to ask, does that mean that stopping a wave is an act that corrupts the nature of the wave? Or, if I kill and eat a sheep, does that corrupt the intended nature of the sheep? If it does, why is that not a sin? It is surely perverting the natures of things as dictated by God? Or did God intend for cows and sheep to be killed and eaten?

However, this sort of distracts from what was the initial point of the discussion. Let me agree that God has given us those ends of reproduction my question still remains as to why it is morally wrong to go against the nature that God intends for us? I understand the aspect of perverting our rationality, because in your view it is only rational to try to fulfil the nature that God has created for us. However, why is that so? Or, rather, why is it irrational to pursue our own course, and one that God has not decided? My problem is trying to see the actual moral problem - if at the end of life, someone has happily engaged in homosexual activity, been physically and mentally healthy etc, where is the harm, the damage? What is the consequence of ignoring the fundamental nature as dictated by God?

//No, the soul enlivens the genetic code.//

Sorry, what does that mean?

//This is one of the benefits of believing in an immaterial soul. You are liberated from materialistic determinism, and given true liberty.//

Well, from my understanding you are using "liberty" as I would use the word "power". My liberty is not curtailed by me not being able to jump over Everest - it is merely outside my power.

Another thing - what is a "soul"? What part of me does it constitute? It is my memories? And if so, how do the neuron connections in my brain which (I believe) are where memories are stored, relate to the memories of the soul? What is "me" that is the soul, and, more to the point, why should I care about my soul?

I have also been thinking about what you said about "no new data" after you die and go to heaven. Surely, the realisation that Hitler was in heaven, would be new data, and that may, in fact, alter the will of the soul of the deceased? It may make them not want to enter heaven? (it would certainly give me second thoughts).

//Hiowever, through sin, humanity cut itself off from such a position, and we are born damaged and without all the resources God intended us to have.//

But, why did the sins of Satan not mean that he was also unable to perceive God in the same way we are unable to? Further, in the old testament, loads of people have chats with God - Abraham for one, Job for another?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Another question, if you would permit. Why do you need the Pope? What is it that the Pope brings to Catholicism? You have very ably answered my questions with mere resort of natural law and theology - what is it that the Pope actually does? It is not as if they must be the most accomplished of philosophers or even the best Public Relations people? It is not even as if he has the power of a President or a Monarch - he is constrained by the weight of tradition and dogma. Other than the minor aspect of Papal Infallibility via divine revelation, what purpose does he serve?

Albert said...

Indigomyth

but my point was that the ending of a wave is also part of the nature of "waveness" as written by God.

I still don't see that this does the work you need it to. All that shows is that a wave will come to an end, it still follows the the fundamental nature of a wave is violated by taking away its movement. Analogously, it would be that sexual acts come to an end, but that does not mean that you could choose a different end for it. If reproduction is removed, its fundamental nature is violated.

if I kill and eat a sheep, does that corrupt the intended nature of the sheep? If it does, why is that not a sin? It is surely perverting the natures of things as dictated by God? Or did God intend for cows and sheep to be killed and eaten?

The fundamental difference is that such animals are not ends in themselves, their nature can thereofore be violated in order to bring them into line with overall end - in this case man's needs to eat. That is not the case with man, since he is not a means to an end. His funamental structure needs to be defended in a way that these animals do not.

why it is morally wrong to go against the nature that God intends for us? I understand the aspect of perverting our rationality, because in your view it is only rational to try to fulfil the nature that God has created for us.

I think in a way, you need to leave God out of this a bit. You give me the impression that you still think of this as a divine command theory of morality, which it isn't. The key thing is this, in order to florish we need to act in accordance with our highest faculty - reason. When we engage in non-reporudctive acts, we violate that faculty, and therefore violate our capacity to flourish. The damage is to our reason. In a sense, you can leave God and morality out of it.

//No, the soul enlivens the genetic code.//

Sorry, what does that mean?


I mean that body and soul are one. They are not two distinct substances, as people generally assume we mean. A human person is one single substance, albeit one of varied parts, material and spiritual. The soul I suppose is that which makes that matter a new human life. Take away the soul and the genetic code remains, but it is non longer alive. The point at which your human soul becomes distinguishable is in your power to reason, which cannot be a material power, even though it relies on brain events. Memory, I think is largely and perhaps completely physical.

"no new data" after you die and go to heaven. Surely, the realisation that Hitler was in heaven, would be new data

What I meant was no new sense data. But you obejction still stands. What one chooses in choosing God/heaven is God a principle good. If Hitler going to heaven is determined by this principle good, then there is no standard of goodness by which you could judge that wrong - indeed, to imagine the possibility of judging God would be to mean one hasn't ultimately recognised God as the ultimate good, instead one would still have one's own view of decency as the ultimatey good. As such you would not be in heaven anyway.

why did the sins of Satan not mean that he was also unable to perceive God in the same way we are unable to?

He isn't able to perceive God in the way he was able to. What kind of perception of God he now has, I do not know. I can't immediately see any reason to suppose he has a better perception of God than we have, except by virtue of the fact that his power of reason is greater than ours.

Further, in the old testament, loads of people have chats with God - Abraham for one, Job for another?

Yes, but that was by some kind of miraculous intermediary - seeing in a glass darkly. In heaven we shall see face to face.

Albert said...

Why do you need the Pope?...It is not even as if he has the power of a President or a Monarch - he is constrained by the weight of tradition and dogma.

Full marks for noticing how limited his power is - this isn't usually realised. I would say the Pope has two powers, one of jurisdiction and one of teaching. Jurisdictionally, he has enormous power, he has full immediate authority over the Church. In other words, if he wishes to move a priest in a diocese he can do so without waiting to have the power given to him. He shouldn't do so, because that is what local bishops are for. But if there is a dispute, he can resolve it by fiat.

To understand his teaching role, we need to see that the Church is in the service of the Word of God. The trouble is that often Christians disagree over the interpretation of that Word. The Church will always have the true doctrine, but where is the Church? The Holy Father shows you: the Church will be those bishops and their people, in communion with the Holy See.

So on a day to day basis, the Pope needn't do a great deal (in practice he does a great deal). The minimum he is, is the final authority in the world, to whom we can appeal. As such, he maintains unity, good order and right faith - and these things are fundamental to our relationship with Christ. To put it more accurately, he does not do these things, but we believe Christ works through him - he is the final seat where this work of Christ is made known.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//their nature can thereofore be violated in order to bring them into line with overall end - in this case man's needs to eat. //

Hmmm, but I would need to accept that men (people) are an end to themselves, and I do not believe that they are.

//All that shows is that a wave will come to an end, it still follows the the fundamental nature of a wave is violated by taking away its movement.//

If a clock is wound to tick, it does not violate its fundamental nature when it stops, even though, technically speaking, an object that does not tell time is not a clock. In the same way, when a wave is stopped, it does not mean that its fundamental nature is violated.

//The key thing is this, in order to florish we need to act in accordance with our highest faculty - reason. //

But that seems to conflict with experience. There are homosexuals that have flourished despite this apparent betrayal of reason.

Let us take this to a different example, as the homosexuality one is a little confusing, because we have different opinions on its morality. Let us take, instead, murder. I would argue that it is perfectly possible for a murderer to "flourish", to be successful, happy, and comfortable. Stalin, for example, was reasonably well off.

I would also point out that I do not see why it is a betrayal of reason to act against our nature, and instead pursue our desires?

//Memory, I think is largely and perhaps completely physical.//

What does that mean for the after life, and judgement? Does that mean that I will be in hell, but won't know why?

//which cannot be a material power, even though it relies on brain events.//

Granted.

//indeed, to imagine the possibility of judging God would be to mean one hasn't ultimately recognised God as the ultimate good, instead one would still have one's own view of decency as the ultimatey good. As such you would not be in heaven anyway.//

I guess I just can't get away from the idea of judging God.

I am also curious - what makes this determination any more or less convincing than an atheist who asserts that "Murder is wrong"? I understand the Euthyphro dilemma - and I understand that God is goodness. What is more interesting is why cannot Good merely be good, without God. I do not see the complications of a deity free belief in mere Goodness (an almost Form of the Good type understanding of Good). That is what confounds me when certain theists assert that atheists have no ground for absolute moral standards - it just moves the assertion one stage closer - instead of Good being Good because it is God, Good becomes Good, merely because it Is So.

//except by virtue of the fact that his power of reason is greater than ours//

Hmmm, I would quibble with that. I find Satan to be a moron, to be honest. He has had 2000 years to overthrow Christianity, and he has largely failed. His conceit, his rage, his frustration, make him to be a rather pathetic vision. He is obsessed with overthrowing God - such a childish desire. Why would he not be merely satisfied in other pursuits? Chess, for example? Nah, I'm not impressed with the Devil - heck, I could probably do better.

//Yes, but that was by some kind of miraculous intermediary - seeing in a glass darkly.//

It is a pity that he does not do that much any more. Would be a far easier way of resolving these sorts of issues.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//As such, he maintains unity, good order and right faith - and these things are fundamental to our relationship with Christ.//

But, putting your faith in any mere man is dicing with trouble - as past popes have shown. That he ought to do those things you list above, is a given, however what if he does not? Where is the Church then?

I also find the idea of putting so much authority in the hands of one man (in terms of resolving interpretations of the Word of God), to be quite scary.

(I would also question whether order and unity are necessary for a good relationship with Christ, but I ought to leave that for a protestant and Catholic to quibble over)

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

when a wave is stopped, it does not mean that its fundamental nature is violated.

No, I think a wave without movement is nonsensical.

There are homosexuals that have flourished despite this apparent betrayal of reason....Stalin.

I think we need to be careful to confuse apparent flourishing and actual flourishing. To my mind, Stalin is the very embodiment of a humanity destroyed - just because he doesn't end up topping himself in a bunker like Hitler, doesn't mean he hasn't already destroyed himself. His whole nature has been corrupted. But we're not likely to come to an agreement here, because we disagree fundamentally on what it is to flourish.

What is more interesting is why cannot Good merely be good, without God.

Well, what is good?

I would quibble with that. I find Satan to be a moron, to be honest

The devil is a jackass certainly. But he retains his power of reason albeit in a corrupt way. But isn't that the case, that clever people do stupid things, because they submit their reason to other desires? That's why behaving contrary to reason is a very bad thing.

He has had 2000 years to overthrow Christianity, and he has largely failed.

If Christianity is true then it is not surprising that he has failed. It means that Christ has already overcome the power of the devil with the power of self-giving love.

Why would he not be merely satisfied in other pursuits? Chess, for example?

LOL! Because he is consumed by hatred, and feeding that is better than behaving reasonably - he has already shown he doesn't want to do that, but that doesn't mean he can't be clever when it suits his hate.

It is a pity that he does not do that much any more.

Well, at one level, it is not surprising. The revelation is complete in Jesus Christ. On another level, visions and prophecies never really resolved disputes as 1 Kings 22 shows. It just means no-one knows which prophet to listen to - at least not if their hearts are impure.

putting your faith in any mere man is dicing with trouble - as past popes have shown.

Certainly, but, at least as far as magisterial issues, I am not putting my faith in the man. Faith can only be in the word of God. I am putting my trust in Jesus Christ, that he will ensure that the faith of the Church, gathered around Peter will not fail. I have nothing to learn about the sinfulness of individual popes!

I also find the idea of putting so much authority in the hands of one man (in terms of resolving interpretations of the Word of God), to be quite scary.

Except that a pope can only define what the Church already believes. No pope could just off his own bat add to the faith or decide to add a definition. If he defines something this will either be because all the bishops are already agreed on the matter - i.e. he is their mouth-piece, or because they are divided - i.e. he is not making up a new position, but merely having a casting vote.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//No, I think a wave without movement is nonsensical. //

Ok, yes a wave without movement is not a wave, however it part of the fundamental nature of a wave to cease to be a wave - to end. It is a fundamental part of what it is to be a wave, to be finite. The same as it is a fundamental part of humans that they die.

//But we're not likely to come to an agreement here, because we disagree fundamentally on what it is to flourish.//

I think you are correct. I am using "flourish" to mean satisfying ones own desires and objectives, not God's. You mean the opposite. I believe Stalin was evil, but he did satisfy his desires.

//Well, what is good?//

What is good is what is Good.

I think you would answer by saying that what is good is God, because God IS goodness. I merely say that good is Goodness, cutting out the middle man of God.

One may ask how we know what is good, without God. But that hardly is a question that affects this point uniquely. I may ask you how you know that God is Good, and good.

//But isn't that the case, that clever people do stupid things, because they submit their reason to other desires? That's why behaving contrary to reason is a very bad thing.//

Ahh, but the ultimate aim of reason is a matter of opinion.

//It means that Christ has already overcome the power of the devil with the power of self-giving love.//

Well quite. However, that makes the devil even more of an idiot, given that he has already lost.

//Because he is consumed by hatred, and feeding that is better than behaving reasonably//

But, I do not understand that desire. I have said that I could not worship God (at least if he thinks the things that are reported of him), but that does not mean that I would waste my time waging a war against him. It is not just hatred of God but a desire for power that motivates Satan. I think this Satan's ultimate failure - his hatred may be understandable, but his desire for power makes him as bad as that which he would replace.

//It just means no-one knows which prophet to listen to - at least not if their hearts are impure.//

That is true.

//he is not making up a new position, but merely having a casting vote.//

Ahhh, that is how it works! That helps my understanding somewhat.

//I have nothing to learn about the sinfulness of individual popes!//

But does not the sinfulness of individual popes indicate a failure of the Holy Spirit to support the Church (or, since the Holy Spirit cannot fail, that the Church does not actually have the support of the HS).

Young Mr. Brown said...

“By the way (and assuming he is reading), I am wondering if YMB would like to step in to give his thoughts - I am getting a very Catholic view, but would also welcome a protestant one.”

Yes, I am reading - at least now - but I’ve had other things to do, and have been away from the blog for a couple of days. Indigomyth, I have tended not to interupt your conversations with Albert, partly because my Aunt Lucy always took a very dim view of young bears interupting other people’s conversations - and partly because there are so many difficult questions being asked, it makes my head spin. I’m happy to give my opinions on questions if I am asked - though obviously many of your questions are directed specifically to Albert in response to his comments, and these are things I can’t really respond to.

“When I was an Anglican, I could never understand why people were against homosexual acts but not contraceptive acts. I still don't get that.”

The simple answer is that the Bible, it seems to me, explicitly says that homosexual acts are wrong per se, but makes no specific statement that contraceptive acts are wrong per se. Some people draw inferences from Genesis 1:28 or Genesis 38:10, but using either, or even both of those verses, to show that contraceptive acts are wrong in the sight of God seems, to me, to be unconvincing.

Are there any other specific questions that either of you would like my thoughts on?

“Would it be possible to have a "most recent comments" index at the top of your blog, like Anna Raccoon has?”

I’ll see what I can do!

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

yes a wave without movement is not a wave, however it part of the fundamental nature of a wave to cease to be a wave - to end.

And while it is a wave it must have movement, and while a sex act is a sex act, it must be open to procreation. The fact that both will come to an end does not alter this.

I am using "flourish" to mean satisfying ones own desires and objectives, not God's. You mean the opposite.

Not quite, I think flourishing is in the nature of things. Certainly, these natures come from God, but they are still inherent in the natures, not added accidentally.

I believe Stalin was evil, but he did satisfy his desires.

I agree, but that merely shows that to flourish means more than to satisfy desire.

I think you would answer by saying that what is good is God, because God IS goodness. I merely say that good is Goodness, cutting out the middle man of God.

No, I equate goodness with being.

It is not just hatred of God but a desire for power that motivates Satan. I think this Satan's ultimate failure - his hatred may be understandable, but his desire for power makes him as bad as that which he would replace.

The devil, having lost what his pride desires is now consumed by jealousy and hatred of mankind, which he sees being elevated to the position he has lost. This is not so futile, because he can work to prevent human beings from receiving the end for which Christ died.

But does not the sinfulness of individual popes indicate a failure of the Holy Spirit to support the Church

How so?

Albert said...

YMB

the Bible, it seems to me, explicitly says that homosexual acts are wrong per se, but makes no specific statement that contraceptive acts are wrong per se.

How do you deal with passages which indicate it is wrong for a woman to enter a church without a head-covering or to teach men?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//And while it is a wave it must have movement, and while a sex act is a sex act, it must be open to procreation. The fact that both will come to an end does not alter this. //

But that would just mean that non-reproductive sex acts are not actually "sex" acts, as you define them, because they are not reproductive. In that sense then, there can be no prohibition against sex acts that are not reproductive, because all sex acts, by definition MUST be reproductive. If a wave ceases to have movement, it ceases to be a wave - if a sex act ceases to be reproductive, it ceases to be a sex act. In which case, homosexual relations are not "sex" in the sense that this means.

And, the point I was making was that if a wave stops, it may violate a particular aspect of its nature - but fulfils another. In the same way, a sex act that is non-reproductive may violate one aspect of the nature of sex, but fulfils another (pleasure and satisfaction, or mutual gain).

//No, I equate goodness with being.//

I apologise for putting words in your mouth.

//How so?//

You said earlier

//I am putting my trust in Jesus Christ, that he will ensure that the faith of the Church, gathered around Peter will not fail.//

I am led to believe that the Pope is an important aspect of the Church - if a Pope fails, then the Church fails, at least partly. This is rather more than an individual Catholic sinning, because the Pope is the first among equals, with the power to declare on issues of doctrinal uncertainty. A failure of a Pope in the exercising of this judgement would certainly affect the Church, but even other sins must surely affect the body of the Church.

You also said

//the Church will be those bishops and their people, in communion with the Holy See.//

Is the Holy See a greater thing than the Pope? Surely the Holy See is merely a physical place - a set of buildings. It cannot have a moral status - that must reside with the Pope. If the Pope is corrupted, then is not the Holy See corrupted. And if the Holy See is corrupted, how can one tell where the truth is?

//This is not so futile, because he can work to prevent human beings from receiving the end for which Christ died.//

But trying to topple God is a fool's game. Indeed, to desire it is absurd.

Young Mr. Brown said...

"How do you deal with passages which indicate it is wrong for a woman to enter a church without a head-covering or to teach men?"

Well, I suppose I did say . . . "Are there any other specific questions that either of you would like my thoughts on?" - but this thread is going all over the place!

If I'm being asked as a representative of protestantism, the answer is "protestants seem to be all over the place with regard to those questions."

If I'm being asked as one particular protestant young bear gentleman . . .

In answer to the first, it's one of those puzzling passages in the Bible that I've never had to deal with, and have never thought too hard about. There are plenty of things in the Bible that I don't understand.

In answer to the second, while it is obviously difficult to define what constitutes "teaching" - it seems to me that it generally means that women shouldn't preach in church services.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

But that would just mean that non-reproductive sex acts are not actually "sex" acts, as you define them

That's probably to reflect a failure in my expression, but the basic problem I acknowledge - how can a sex act which has been divorced from its rational structure be anything other than defective - especially if one thinks reason is the highest faculty?

I am led to believe that the Pope is an important aspect of the Church - if a Pope fails, then the Church fails, at least partly

Popes fail all the time. I am sure that the Holy Father ends each day on his knees reviewing the day and examining his conscience. The previous Pope seemed to believe a priest should go to confession at least once a fortnight - presumably reflecting his own practice.

Popes can fail in a number of ways. He could fail to act when he should - this could be a serious problem, but the Holy Spirit could raise up others to either act or coerce the Holy Father to act. Or the Church would just go through a bad time.

The only way in which the Church would fail if the Pope failed, would be if the pope taught as dogma what was in fact heresy. But we believe that Christ will preserve the Church from that.

Is the Holy See a greater thing than the Pope?

Yes and no, it just refers to his office or throne. However, a such it means more than the person who is the Pope, it means all the divine assistance etc. that the Pope has. We do not listen to Pope Benedict as Joseph, but as Vicar of Christ. His writings from before he was made pope are not of the same authority as those he produces now, and these are of varying authority.

But trying to topple God is a fool's game. Indeed, to desire it is absurd.

I don't think Satan is trying to do that, he just wants to frustrate God's plans by leading people to hell.

Isn't Catholicism fascinating?!

Albert said...

YMB,

In answer to the first, it's one of those puzzling passages in the Bible that I've never had to deal with, and have never thought too hard about. There are plenty of things in the Bible that I don't understand.

It wasn't quite such a random question. Do you believe that women should cover their heads when praying or prophecying?

In answer to the second, while it is obviously difficult to define what constitutes "teaching" - it seems to me that it generally means that women shouldn't preach in church services.

So you oppose women's ordination then?

Young Mr. Brown said...

Do you believe that women should cover their heads when praying or prophecying?

I have no opinion on the subject at the present time. Sorry.

So you oppose women's ordination then?

Yes.

Albert said...

YMB,

I have no opinion on the subject at the present time. Sorry.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Paul is quite clear on women covering their heads (even if his rationale is unclear), so why are you unconvinced by the need for women to cover their heads, but you are convinced by the need for homosexuals to refrain from sexual activity?

So you oppose women's ordination then? Yes.

Good for you YMB!

Young Mr. Brown said...

so why are you unconvinced by the need for women to cover their heads, but you are convinced by the need for homosexuals to refrain from sexual activity?

Hmmm. How about this for a stab at an answer? In the former case, there is only one passage of scripture that addresses the issue, and it is somewhat puzzling (to me anyway - and I think not just to me) - but in the latter case, there are at least four passages of scripture that seem to directly address the issue.

And if I was being pedantic, I'd say that I am not convinced of the need for homosexuals to refrain from sexual activity. I'm convinced of the need for people to refrain from homosexual activity.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Oh, and by the way, it's been announced at number 32 that we are to go away for a few days. I'd better start packing my suitcase!

Albert said...

YMB,

In the former case, there is only one passage of scripture that addresses the issue, and it is somewhat puzzling (to me anyway - and I think not just to me) - but in the latter case, there are at least four passages of scripture that seem to directly address the issue

But 1 Cor.11 isn't puzzling as to what it commands, only as to its rationale. When it comes to homosexual acts the Bible might be thought to be less clear (at least there are those say it doesn't speak of homsoexual acts between persons who nature is per impossibile homosexual) and doesn't give us a rationale.

A further problem is why the Bible says homosexual are sinful. That surely is part of what it is to engage scripture with our minds and it's here that the link to contraception is made.

Have a great time away!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//how can a sex act which has been divorced from its rational structure be anything other than defective - especially if one thinks reason is the highest faculty?//

Hmm, that is not quite the point I was making. A sex act that is non-reproductive does not become a defective sex act - rather it actually ceases to be a sexual act. In the same way as a wave that ceases to move does not become a defective wave, but rather ceases to be a wave at all. In that sense then, homosexual relations are not sex, and therefore have to be judged against a different moral standard to "sex" acts, which are only those acts which are sexually reproductive.

If the nature of homosexual intercourse is to serve some other, non-reproductive, function, then it must be judged against the standard of its own nature, not the nature of sex, which is only reproductive (if we accept the view that if one removes the central nature of something, it ceases to be that thing i.e. removing movement from a wave stops it being a wave).

//Isn't Catholicism fascinating?!//

Oh yes, undeniably so. I went to Catholic schools, and they were all of high quality. And Catholic philosophy / theology is some of the most interesting and engaging around. The fact I disagree with most of it makes it ever the more stimulating.

//But we believe that Christ will preserve the Church from that.//

Here is a question then; do you think that has ever happened? Over the many many popes that the Church has had?

//Yes and no, it just refers to his office or throne. However, a such it means more than the person who is the Pope, it means all the divine assistance etc. that the Pope has. We do not listen to Pope Benedict as Joseph, but as Vicar of Christ//

Yes, however, the physical manifestation of the Holy See, is the Pope, isn't it?

//I don't think Satan is trying to do that, he just wants to frustrate God's plans by leading people to hell. //

I thought that was why he was kicked out of heaven - because his will turned against God, and he wanted to become as powerful as the Lord?

PS

YMB, cheers for the Recent Comments index

indigomyth said...

and have a good hol. Don't eat too many Marmalade Sandwiches.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Hmm, that is not quite the point I was making...

Yes, I do see the point you are making, however, I think you are really picking at the limitations of the analogy (which is by definition limited) rather than attacking the substantive issue. A sex act divorced from its rational structure, and denied its end, is irrational.

do you think that has ever happened?

A heretical pope is possible - indeed, Honorius was a heretic - but he did not teach as dogma what was heretical. That has never happened, nor will happen.

however, the physical manifestation of the Holy See, is the Pope, isn't it?

Yes.

I thought that was why he was kicked out of heaven - because his will turned against God, and he wanted to become as powerful as the Lord?

I'd surprised if the Church was as confident as to say she knows what went wrong. I don't have time to read St Thomas on this, but the link is here:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1063.htm#article3

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//A sex act divorced from its rational structure, and denied its end, is irrational.//

But I disagree that reproduction is the only rational aim or end of sexual acts. I would also point out that I was not nit picking - it is a major point. Homosexual relations are intrinsically non-reproductive - it is not in their nature to be reproductive. How then can they be criticised on the basis of violating their nature? It is only the nature of heterosexual sex that it is reproductive - therefore, it does violate its nature to use contraceptives.

However, there is also the question that an irrational act is necessarily an immoral (or evil) act.

//That has never happened, nor will happen.//

Ah, okay. It is axiomatically true that it will never happen.

//but the link is here://

Cheers for that.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I would also point out that I was not nit picking - it is a major point

I didn't think you were nit picking, I just thought you were faulting the analogy, rather than the argument.

I would argue that reason shows sexual acts are directed toward reproduction, and that this direction is no more extrensic or accidental than movement is to the nature of a wave. The analogy fails because the wave is movement by its very nature, whereas sexual acts are directed towards reproduction by their very nature. Any act which deliberately obstructs that end is necessarily irrational, and forces the higher faculty to submit to lower desires, rather than (as reason demands) ordering them to their proper ends.

An unnatural act is necessarily immoral in the sense that it corrupts the nature of the agent - sin is always about diminishing oneself.

Cheers for that

But did you read it?!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//whereas sexual acts are directed towards reproduction by their very nature. Any act which deliberately obstructs that end is necessarily irrational, and forces the higher faculty to submit to lower desires, rather than (as reason demands) ordering them to their proper ends.//

But the lower desires are the 'director" of sex. How can sex be aimed at something other than the "lower" desires?

//I would argue that reason shows sexual acts are directed toward reproduction, and that this direction is no more extrensic or accidental than movement is to the nature of a wave. //

I would argue the opposite. Evidence shows that sex is not directed towards reproduction - not in higher mammals, and not in humans. This is another area I think that we cannot agree, because I see sex as merely a construction of nature - and I see in nature the fact that sex is used for many things other than reproduction. The "use" or directed aim of sex is that to which it is turned by reality. Since I do not believe that God created sex for the function of reproduction, I would request that you show me how reproduction is part of the nature of sex.

//The analogy fails because the wave is movement by its very nature, whereas sexual acts are directed towards reproduction by their very nature.//

But that would mean that we are talking about two very different things when we talk of waves and sex. It is not a mere limitation of the analogy, but cuts to the core of what we are talking about. A wave MUST have movement, in order to be a wave. Sex does not have to be reproductive to be sex. Therefore there is sex without reproduction, in which case, how can reproduction be integral to sex? Indeed, it cannot be in the nature of sex to be reproductive, because sex that is not reproductive exists. Also, if this was such an important point, why did God not make reproduction an intrinsic part of sex?

//But did you read it?!//

Not yet. I have a lot on. And I am trying to read Atlas Shrugged!

indigomyth said...

Sorry, I ought to clarify.

//how reproduction is part of the nature of sex.//

That ought to read "how reproduction is integral and inseparable from the nature of sex?".

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Sorry, I wonder if you are still checking this. I've had a very busy week and am even less likely to be able to post in the coming days.

I suspect however that we are reaching a stalemate. The stalemate is best illustrated here:

Evidence shows that sex is not directed towards reproduction... I would request that you show me how reproduction is part of the nature of sex.

At one level, I find that so astonishing, I don't really know how to reply. It's almost as if you had said to me "I would request that you show me how three-sidedness is part of the nature of a triangle."

The underlying issue is metaphysical. For me, directedness is part of the very nature of things. Were that not so, the universe would be entirely chaotic - there would be no intelligible or predictable effecient causality without directedness. As I see directedness as inherently part of things (just as movement is inherently part of a wave - albeit in a different way), so I find it hard to explain the point with reference to something else.

A wave MUST have movement, in order to be a wave. Sex does not have to be reproductive to be sex.

Certainly, but I think there is more going on here. Let us take the definition of person in Boethius: a substance of rational nature. That is the essence of a person. So what am I to say of irrational people (I can be irrational too sometimes, so I need to be careful here!)? Are irrational people not persons? No, they are persons, because they have that nature, but for some reason they are not exercising their rational nature. They are defective. Again, an eye is by nature an organ that sees, but an eye that is blinded is still an eye, just one that is defective. Sex is directed towards reproduction as surely as eyes are directed to sight, and as surely as persons are directed to reason. The fact that these things can still exist with such defects, does not take away the fact that these things are defects.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Indeed I am still checking! Was getting worried some mishap had befallen you. Was even considering email YMB to see if he has heard anything. People come and go so strangely here.

//The underlying issue is metaphysical. For me, directedness is part of the very nature of things. Were that not so, the universe would be entirely chaotic - there would be no intelligible or predictable effecient causality without directedness. As I see directedness as inherently part of things (just as movement is inherently part of a wave - albeit in a different way), so I find it hard to explain the point with reference to something else.//

Ahh, you see for me it is entirely empirical, not metaphysical. I do not deny the ordered nature of the universe, such things as the law of gravitation - but I see these as represented in empirical observation and subject to experimentation. Lol, you find it astonishing that I would ask that question because you see directedness as part of nature, I find it astonishing that you could say the opposite because I observe the empirical reality of nature. The "directedness" for me, is that which actually is - much as we discussed previously it being the nature of things that a sheep is eaten by a lion. That is intrinsic to the "directedness" of the natural world, and of nature itself.

indigomyth said...

//So what am I to say of irrational people (I can be irrational too sometimes, so I need to be careful here!)? Are irrational people not persons? No, they are persons, because they have that nature, but for some reason they are not exercising their rational nature. They are defective. //

Hmmm, I would query this. If a "person" is a person because they are rational, then what of those that are genetically non-rational. For example, psychopaths are irrational - it is part of their intrinsic make-up, their "design". How are we to conclude that they ought to be rational? It would be like trying to conclude that a sheep or a cow ought to be rational - it is absurd because it is not part of what they are, not part of their make-up.

Also, I would disagree, and would argue that what makes a person a person is their sentience and self-awareness, not their rationality. Biologically they would remain human, but not a person. Emotions are not rational, yet I would not call them "inhuman". Would you? Wrath, greed, envy etc, are all human emotions, but they are rarely rational. Are we to dismiss them then as not being a legitimate part of a person?

//Again, an eye is by nature an organ that sees, but an eye that is blinded is still an eye, just one that is defective.//

Yes, but my contention is that your use of the word "defective" is inaccurate, because it superimposes on the structure of nature a layer of "directedness" that does not exist. As I raised before, there are cave fish which are congenitally blind, natural selection means that they are the best suited to the environment in which they live, such that if you were to correct this "defect" as you see it, they would be actually worse off compared to their non-sighted neighbours!! This is why the example of the eye fails, for me at least. An eye is an organ, its "correct" usage is that to which it is put by nature. Or pandas, for example, have the sharp teeth of carnivores, and their digestive systems are entirely "intended" (evolved) to consume flesh - yet they only eat vegetation. Now, if I was to accept what you say, their instinct to eat vegetation is a "defect", which must be bought into line with their physiological build.

In the same way, I observe, clearly, in nature the fact that animals freely engage in non-reproductive sex - sex that is not intended to be reproductive. Now, how can I conclude, as with the blind fish, and the panda, that reproduction is the intrinsic end of sex? To do so I would have to conclude against the whole of the physical universe!!

Further, how do you determine the "defect"? I am short-sighted - this means that I wear glasses. Now, you would undoubtedly call this a "defect" of my eyes. Yet, rats have far poorer vision - yet you would not call that a "defect" would you? If an eagle had vision that was only equal to man's best sight, surely the eagle would have a "defect" of vision? So the eagle that sees like a man would be defective, but why should that man that does not see like an eagle also not be defective? If an eye is an instrument of sight, then surely the most perfect sight can be considered "non-defective"? In which case, all eyes that exist are defective, since none are perfect? In which case, I would submit that the idea of "defect" ceases to have moral validity.

I would also ask, if we accept that a man's eyes are inherently poorer than an eagles, and that this is part of the directedness that you see in nature, than how would it be if the man was able to make his eyes as perfect as the eagles? Would that not be violating the nature of his eyes to see only as well as a man sees? It is the nature of man to have eyes that see less well than an eagle, any detraction from that is perceived as "defect", yet surely it must also be "defect" if they are made better, for that violates the nature of what a man's eyes are meant to be.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Thank you for your concern for my welfare - am still here, though somewhat bogged down!

for me it is entirely empirical, not metaphysical. I do not deny the ordered nature of the universe, such things as the law of gravitation - but I see these as represented in empirical observation and subject to experimentation


Well, I am not completely clear how this helps you. It is precisely the empirical that points to the metaphysical - unless you're a total Humean (in which case, perhaps we should examine that).

If a "person" is a person because they are rational, then what of those that are genetically non-rational. For example, psychopaths are irrational - it is part of their intrinsic make-up, their "design". How are we to conclude that they ought to be rational?

Well here again we are at the metaphysical. The issue is whether there is some kind of general nature: humanity. If that nature is rational, then the persons who have that nature have a rational nature, even if they sometimes behave in unnatural ways.

Emotions are not rational, yet I would not call them "inhuman".

I am not reducing humanity to rationality (as if thereby to exclude the non-rational). Were I to do that, I would make angels and God human, as well as excluding features like emotions, bodiliness etc. I don't see how such a move is entailed by my reference to Boethius.

An eye is an organ, its "correct" usage is that to which it is put by nature.

Hang on! that's my point! Again we need a metaphysical take here: what is meant by goodness? We use the word "good" in different ways according to different things. So a good glue-gun is a thing that puts glue on things. If we meant that when we speak of a good washing machine, we would mean a machine that puts glue on things, whereas a good washing machine is good at getting glue out of things. So goodness cannot be examined in abstraction from the thing it applies to.

This last observation helps explain your comments about eagle's eyesight (versus our own).

As I raised before, there are cave fish which are congenitally blind, natural selection means that they are the best suited to the environment in which they live, such that if you were to correct this "defect" as you see it, they would be actually worse off compared to their non-sighted neighbours!!

But the analogy would only work if (for example) men didn't ejaculate millions of sperm, or if the female genitals were not all linked up with the womb, ovaries etc. While these links exist, your analogy fails. In fact, as expressed it defends my point: "if you were to correct this "defect" as you see it, they would be actually worse off compared to their non-sighted neighbours!!" - you are assuming that there is a natural function, without which they will not flourish.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Hang on! that's my point! Again we need a metaphysical take here: what is meant by goodness? We use the word "good" in different ways according to different things. So a good glue-gun is a thing that puts glue on things. If we meant that when we speak of a good washing machine, we would mean a machine that puts glue on things, whereas a good washing machine is good at getting glue out of things. So goodness cannot be examined in abstraction from the thing it applies to.//

Yes, but the eye in nature is NOT always out to the usage of sight, and therefore to conclude that an eye is for seeing is to conclude opposite to nature. So, it is good that a cave fish is blind, and it is good for their eyes to not see, for it is what their eyes are for - for not seeing. They evolved that way, and it is as they are - how can I conclude that an eye is for seeing, when the evidence is that it is not. Once again, I fear there is a massive difference in how we are using the word "nature" - the eye of a cave-fish is not used for sight. That is natural. Is in the nature of that eye not to see. Therefore, it must be good, because it is natural - nature has determined, through the process of natural selection, that the eye of a cave fish is not to see.

//But the analogy would only work if (for example) men didn't ejaculate millions of sperm, or if the female genitals were not all linked up with the womb, ovaries etc//

Yes, but you are reading your own interpretations into the purpose of these things, and not observing nature. Would you agree that sex, in the animal kingdom, is not entirely used for reproduction? If you agree, then I cannot see how you can declare it is the function of sex to reproduce - your own eyes and observations of nature testify to the fact that sex is not for reproduction!! It is a strange thought to me that someone can prefer their own conclusions about the purpose of something, when the observations of the world indicate the complete reverse. Do you believe that things like Bonoboes are acting contrary to nature when they engage in sexual activity that is inherently non-reproductive? If so, then once again, we have reached a barrier to my understanding, for you are then saying that the nature of a thing is independent of how it is used in nature.

//you are assuming that there is a natural function, without which they will not flourish.//

I am not assuming anything - I am merely stating the observations of nature. I am saying that the natural function of something is what IS, and the only reason a blind fish would exist would be if natural selection "Preferred" it to its sighted cousins. Therefore to make its eyes see would be counter to its nature, as determined by natural selection. In that way, I suppose, I am saying that there is a natural function - it is that function that exists in nature, not, as you believe, that the natural function is whatever human imagination concludes is the function, contrary to how it is actually used.

indigomyth said...

//But the analogy would only work if (for example) men didn't ejaculate millions of sperm, or if the female genitals were not all linked up with the womb, ovaries etc. //

Ok, I may grant that the sperm cell is meant to fertilise the human egg - but that does not mean that non-reproductive sex is unnatural. In much the same way that killing a sheep (and thereby, in your philosophy, thwarting its nature of life) and eating it for your own pleasure, is an entirely natural act, so ejaculating millions of sperm to their deaths (thwarting their nature, as you see it) is entirely natural - once again, because it is observed in nature. I see no difference between killing a sheep, and killing a few hundred million sperm. If the former is natural, than the latter must be so. If sheep are made by God to live, than to kill and eat them is to thwart their nature, and it must be evil. Are human sperm any less a product of God's design than sheep? The only reason for the difference in treatment of sperm and sheep is that God makes a choice to say that one is bad, and the other is good. And then we would be back at the fact I would disagree with his choice.

The relationship of my will, my desire, to that of my sperms cells, is, let us face it, a far greater gap than between my will and the sheep. Why ought I to value the nature of a sperm cell, over the nature of a sheep? Neither are "me" - indeed, the sheep far more so, structurally at least.

Indeed, on reflection, it is not merely the nature of the sheep that is thwarted in the event of killing and eating it - it must also be the nature of man. For if God made the nature of a sheep to live, then he either made the nature of man to eat sheep, in which case there is a contradiction, or eating sheep is against the nature of man. As far as I am aware, man did not eat sheep in the Garden, in his state of purity, therefore, eating meat is part of his Fall nature, isn't it, in which case, is it not sinful?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

The more I look at this, the more you seem to be teleological in your thinking.

So, it is good that a cave fish is blind, and it is good for their eyes to not see, for it is what their eyes are for - for not seeing.

First of all, you seem to accept the universal here (otherwise you would not be able to group eyes together), then secondly, you distinguish according to function. That's not so very different from my view: there is such a thing as nature, though part of what that nature is relates to function. As so often, you seem surprisingly close to the Catholic view.

Would you agree that sex, in the animal kingdom, is not entirely used for reproduction?

Why only in the animal kingdom - I never said, and neither does the Church teach, that sex is purely for reproduction amongst human beings. The difference is that in their case, their reason can show them that an integral part of the act is directed towards reproduction.

Do you believe that things like Bonoboes are acting contrary to nature when they engage in sexual activity that is inherently non-reproductive?

Of course not! But that is because it is not part of the Bonobo nature to be rational. As I said last time, what is good and natural depends according to nature. You therefore cannot validly abstract from the animal kingdom to the behaviour of man.

you are then saying that the nature of a thing is independent of how it is used in nature.

The whole point about being rational is being able to choose. You sound surprisingly deterministic for a libertarian!!

I see no difference between killing a sheep, and killing a few hundred million sperm.

The issue is not about killing sheep or sperm. We're not worried about the sperm dying, we are worried about whether the act is in accord with our nature. Part of our nature is to be superior to animals. It is perfectly natural therefore to kill sheep - to eat for instance. That is one way in which we damage the nature of a sheep. But with sex what is at issue is damaging our own nature, by committing acts which violate natural order.

The only reason for the difference in treatment of sperm and sheep is that God makes a choice to say that one is bad, and the other is good.

You're determined to pin some kind of divine command theory on me - but I don't see that you have succeeded!

As far as I am aware, man did not eat sheep in the Garden, in his state of purity, therefore, eating meat is part of his Fall nature, isn't it, in which case, is it not sinful?

The contingencies arising from the Fall are not all evil. Man did not repent in the Garden either, but that does not make repentance sinful!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//The difference is that in their case, their reason can show them that an integral part of the act is directed towards reproduction.//

But my reason tells me it is not integral - by observation of nature. How am I to extrapolate that something is unnatural from observations of nature? What reason is it?

//As I said last time, what is good and natural depends according to nature. You therefore cannot validly abstract from the animal kingdom to the behaviour of man.//

I agree - it would be absurd to apply the same standards as exist in nature as to mankind. Otherwise we would eat children. However, the problem is then, how do we determine what is natural for human sexual activity. And my reason tells me that non-reproductive sex is rational because it fulfils individual desire. Though I can see what you are saying - if God exists, and it is only rational to do what he designs, and he designed sex for reproduction (as an integral part), than non-reproductive sex would be non-rational. However, I do not see how that works either should I deny that God exists, or that he exists, but designed sex in such a way as to permit non-reproductive sex, with reproduction being an optional extra.

//The whole point about being rational is being able to choose. You sound surprisingly deterministic for a libertarian!!//

Lol, there is nothing contradictory about being libertarian and being deterministic. You can believe that the universe now functions like clockwork, every action determined, yet also hold that it is wrong to initiate violence - that such violence may be "determined" is not relevant to whether it ought to happen - is / ought (we are back to Hume).

// But with sex what is at issue is damaging our own nature, by committing acts which violate natural order.//

Ahh, but I see the very fact that we use recreational (as opposed to reproductive) sex in our lives, is a facet of our superiority, not a degradation.

Though it should also be noted that I view the Fall as a positive act in the Christian view of human history. It was the discovery of knowledge, the loss of ignorance (innocence is a weasel word used to raise ignorance to the status of a virtue), the capturing of sexual desire, the discovery of work and labour - the drive to create, independent of God. For all of the idiocy that Satan promotes, humanity is indebted to him for engineering our distance from God. But this goes back to views of heaven - I do not find the vision of Heaven you describe to be ideal.

//But with sex what is at issue is damaging our own nature, by committing acts which violate natural order. //

But, it only damages our nature of being rational if it is determined that what is rational is to obey the design of God (as traditional devised). I would argue, firstly, that it is not irrational to pursue sex for recreational purposes, and secondly, would question whether reproduction is an integral part of human sex.

indigomyth said...

So, how can we determine that the design of human sex (its nature) to be reproductive or not? That is the base issue here, for it is in determining the design (the intent) of human sex, that we may acknowledge the rationality of recreational sex.

How do we determine what something is designed for? I would submit that the only way we can know the purpose of something, is to know what the designer intended it for. In the case of sex, that would mean that one would have to accept that God made sex to be integrally reproductive, prior to assessing the form of sex.

I do not see how we can conclude that reproduction is an integral part of sex, and therefore I do not see how we can conclude that non-reproductive sex is irrational for those that do not believe in God, or believe that God made sex to not be integrally reproductive.

Indeed, could I not imagine a God that designed sex with the aim of allowing it to be non-reproductive? How would that counter rationality?

If I am God, I could have designed sex in such a way as to leave it up to the choice of humans as to whether they wanted to engage in reproductive or recreational sex. And we see that is the case in the real world - it is a matter of choice to engage in reproductive or non-reproductive sex.

If I am God, I could have designed sex in such a way that non-reproductive sex (and masturbation) are not harmful to the person or persons. And we see in the world, that that is true - non-reproductive sex is inherently less dangerous to woman than recreational sex. More so before modern medicine, when many woman died in childbirth. Indeed, in the case I, as God, have actually favoured non-reproductive sex.

If I am God, I could have designed sex to be as physically pleasurable without reproduction, as with. And we see in the world that this is true - sex without reproduction is as physically pleasurable without reproduction, as with.

If I am God, I could have designed even reproductive sex to, most of the time, not bear child, thus belying the idea that reproduction is an integral part of sex. And we see in the world that this is true - reproductive sex frequently does not result in children.

If I am God, I could have designed older woman to be infertile, yet still permit them sexual pleasure, even though they are closed to reproduction. And we see in the world that this is the case. (interestingly, would you consider it a sin for a man to deliberately seek our congenitally infertile woman, purely for purpose of sex?).

If I am God, I could have made the sexual appetites of men and women such that they desire sex without reproduction. And we see in the world that this is the case (more so with men than woman).

If I am God, I could have cared so little for the reproductive element of sex, and been so wasteful, that I make it the case that hundreds of millions of sperm are certain to die, for the conception of a child to occur. And we see, in the world, that this is the case (I am either a very sloppy designer, or have little concern for wastage).

If I am God, I could have made it that, as well as being physically pleasurable, the act of recreational sex between long term partners was also emotional fulfilling. And we see in the world that it is.

Now, am I not the God of this world? I have designed sex to be both non-reproductive and reproductive, each as they choose. How do you declare one to be better than the other? What schema of rationality and reason makes you believe that God intended for reproduction to be integral for sex? These points are based on observation of the world – working backwards to the intent of the designer, how could a human reason that reproduction was integral to sex?

indigomyth said...

Soz for the long posts. It is good to have you back, if only briefly (the being back only being brief, not the goodness of you being back)

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Many thanks. Don't apologise for the long posts - I find your world-view bewilderingly,unimaginably fascinating - just as you perhaps find mine! I'm not sure when I will have the time to do justice to your reply. One thing sticks out however, and it is perhaps in this that we differ most:

there is nothing contradictory about being libertarian and being deterministic

Do you believe in determinism then?

Alright then, two things:

I do not see how that works either should I deny that God exists

I have some sympathy, because although I don't subscribe to divine command theory, certainly I find morality difficult without creation (and therefore there being a creator). I think if all there is is mindless matter, then morality probably doesn't make much sense. Trouble is, I find the idea of mindless matter pretty nonsensical.

Okay, one more thing, and then I must go to bed!
It was the discovery of knowledge, the loss of ignorance (innocence is a weasel word used to raise ignorance to the status of a virtue)

Actually, again, not so far from the Catholic view - the objection with the Fall is not that they discover knowledge of good and evil, but that they do so prematurely, as if they can find that knowledge without God. It is that that means they do not really find that knowledge - as the story shows, they are in the very event victims of a lie, and ignorance is the result.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Do you believe in determinism then?//

Well, it is not so much a belief as an observation about the structure of the universe. Mindless particles act according to physical laws - this is causal determinism. It is what Newton realised about the motions of the heavens being determined by physical laws.

However, the relationship between determinism and free will is not an area that I have explored in detail.

//I think if all there is is mindless matter, then morality probably doesn't make much sense. Trouble is, I find the idea of mindless matter pretty nonsensical.//

Hmm, but it just because there could be no God (in our hypothetical scenario), does not mean there could not be universal and incorruptible moral standards. The impersonal and utterly non-sentient Forms of Plato is an idea I quite like in terms of describing the nature of moral laws. Or, you could have a sort of "Karmic" type morality - where moral laws merely act in a mechanistic fashion, requiring no law giver, or judge. Do something bad, and bad things will happen to you, in the same way as if you drop a stone into a puddle and it produces ripples, by entirely mechanical, determined, means.

//I find your world-view bewilderingly,unimaginably fascinating - just as you perhaps find mine!//

Well I have quite a unique viewpoint I think - I have heard more about yours though. I have to say, it is only talking with you that the argument about homosexuality being immoral actually makes coherent sense. For the RC, homosexuality is unnatural because it violates the nature of humans to be rational beings, who, as rational beings, can determine the nature and purpose of things, like sexual intercourse. So non-reproductive sex is primarily immoral because it alienates man's rationality. I am afraid the argument has been clouded by far less clear individuals talking about animals and such like - I have been talking to a lot of Protestants, and to RCs who have a weaker grasp of theology than you. I find it much harder to understand the Protestant opposition to homosexuality, but not to non-reproductive sex. It is hard to imagine married couples in Africa being threatened with execution for using condoms, whereas that does happen to homosexuals, but according to the RCC they are guilty of, essentially, the same type of moral transgression.

//but that they do so prematurely, as if they can find that knowledge without God. //

I did not know that God has such intentions Adam and Eve. I find it hard to believe him encouraging them to use telescopes to explore the heavens, microscopes to explore the minute details of the universe, build foundries and factories to extract iron ore to make steel. Perhaps that is because the traditional conception of the Garden has been of a pastoral ideal, with no human achievement or labour?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

it is not so much a belief as an observation about the structure of the universe. Mindless particles act according to physical laws - this is causal determinism.

Assuming of course that we are entirely physical - which I don't grant. Indeed, our experience of freedom might well be (in the light of the evidence you've presented) grounds for denying we are entirely physical.

does not mean there could not be universal and incorruptible moral standards.

The interesting thing here is that you immediately offer two non-material solutions to the problem. I would grant that material solutions to morality cannot work, but deny that your non-material solutions really work.

where moral laws merely act in a mechanistic fashion, requiring no law giver, or judge

I am not sure that I see how moral laws can act in a mechanistic fashion without some kind of agency. I can understand that there might be consequences if I try to violate the law of gravity, but I cannot see how there are consequences if I violate the law of karma.

The impersonal and utterly non-sentient Forms of Plato is an idea I quite like in terms of describing the nature of moral laws

Well, there are huge (and famous) problems with the Forms. What does it mean for them to just exist? ideas exist in minds surely. What makes them good? Can moral goodness be distinguished from human nature? How can we know them? and if it comes to all that why couldn't there just be a Form on sexuality that means homosexual acts are wrong? After all, Plato himself ultimately "came out" against homosexual acts and even wondered how to make them illegal!

So non-reproductive sex is primarily immoral because it alienates man's rationality. I am afraid the argument has been clouded by far less clear individuals talking about animals and such like - I have been talking to a lot of Protestants

A good description of the issues btw. Yes, it is the bane of a Catholic's life to have to undo a lot of the damage done by the firey type of Protestant before he can attempt to put his message across. I think the Catholic position is pretty reasonable and not directed against homosexuals, but as you say against all non-reproductive sex acts.

I find it hard to believe him encouraging them to use telescopes to explore the heavens, microscopes to explore the minute details of the universe, build foundries and factories to extract iron ore to make steel.

I've never thought of it like that, but I really can't see why not. Jesus says we must love God with all our mind and early scientists tended to regard science as a way of engaging with the mind of God.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Assuming of course that we are entirely physical - which I don't grant. Indeed, our experience of freedom might well be (in the light of the evidence you've presented) grounds for denying we are entirely physical. //

Indeed, I would be quite happy to grant that we are not entirely physical. Just because I am an atheist, does not mean I reject the non-physical.

//I can understand that there might be consequences if I try to violate the law of gravity, but I cannot see how there are consequences if I violate the law of karma.//

Well, I suppose someone who believes in Karma (which I don't), would argue that even if you apparently do not reap what you sow in this life, it will come to you in subsequent resurrections. The idea would be that karmic laws would be on a plane of being different than our own, but non-sentient. Our actions being connected to them by some unknown method. Much as God is said to be able to intervene in the physical world as the Holy Spirit, even though God is not physical.

//After all, Plato himself ultimately "came out" against homosexual acts and even wondered how to make them illegal!//

Indeed he did. However, the problems you cite I sort of answered in a previous post - these things are wrong merely because they are wrong. In the same way to violate a law of God is wrong on that basis.

I think moral goodness can be distinguished from human nature, because I hold to the understanding the human nature is flawed - it has aggressive and violent streaks, which are not morally good.

In terms of how we know what is right and wrong, I would say reason and rationality can work to establish some kind of framework, however, reason and rationality can only work so far. If I want to go on a killing spree, then it is reasonable and rational to become armed. The object of my action may not be rational, but my methods may be.

//Jesus says we must love God with all our mind and early scientists tended to regard science as a way of engaging with the mind of God.//

True enough. However, such engagement would only be necessary in a state of Fall - in Eden there would be no need for man to use his mind, as everything is provided for him. It is to combat the hardships of the world that humanity does great things, like buildings to protect us from the environment, cars and trains to traverse distances that are feet are incapable of, planes to cross oceans. I am afraid I find Adam and Eve to be childlike - they lacked human achievement or even the drive to achieve.

//I think the Catholic position is pretty reasonable and not directed against homosexuals, but as you say against all non-reproductive sex acts.//

Well, I would say it is egalitarian, but I would not say that it is reasonable, but that is to be expected, given my position on these issues.

It would also seem that the less sophisticated type of Catholic is as bad as the fiery Protestant. Let us not pretend that all Catholics are as articulate, measured and well-informed as yourself - most are not.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Just because I am an atheist, does not mean I reject the non-physical.

I was more infering the materialism from your previous comments than your atheism.

Our actions being connected to them by some unknown method. Much as God is said to be able to intervene in the physical world

Yes, but I am familiar with mind working on matter, as I do it all the time, so there is a strong analogy between God and man here. But you need there to be an anaology between physical law (like gravity) and moral law (like karma). I think there is a significant difference there, at precisely the point you need similarity.

However, the problems you cite I sort of answered in a previous post - these things are wrong merely because they are wrong. In the same way to violate a law of God is wrong on that basis.

Sorry, I don't follow - how have you sort of answered these objections? I still don't think you have shown that my position entails that something is wrong just because it violates one of God's laws, btw.

think moral goodness can be distinguished from human nature, because I hold to the understanding the human nature is flawed

Which brings us back to whether reason can enable us to transcend and restore disordered human nature (by grace of course!).

It would also seem that the less sophisticated type of Catholic is as bad as the fiery Protestant.

Certainly, but the difference is that every Protestant is his own Pope. A Catholic should speak the mind of the Church, and if he departs from that, he can corrected.

indigomyth said...

//I was more infering the materialism from your previous comments than your atheism.//

Hmm, true. I think materialism is very important, but I do recognise that it does not help explain things like conciousness and sentience.

//But you need there to be an anaology between physical law (like gravity) and moral law (like karma). //

I don't understand. Karmic laws would act like physical laws, relating moral actions to circumstances. I don't see the difference in the analogy. The reason why an act would be result in a particular karma is no more baffling or incomprehensible than the reason why a stone falls - not why a stone falls, but the reason for it falling.

//I still don't think you have shown that my position entails that something is wrong just because it violates one of God's laws, btw.//

No, I am not saying that your position does, I am just saying that argument based upon God's laws is on the same shaky ground as one saying that particular Forms are right or wrong. Asking why a Form is right or wrong, is like asking why God's laws are right or wrong, or why violating your nature is right or wrong. They are axiomatic, basic assumptions. They cannot be founded on anything other, because they are basic. For example, for you it is axiomatic that humans are rational, there can be no proof of that, since proof requires rationality, in which case you assume the thing you are trying to prove. And, although this argument itself assumes rationality and reason, it could not be.

Or, for example, for you it is axiomatic that reproduction is integral to sex - so much so that you compared trying to imagine otherwise as being like trying to imagine a triangle without three sides (to paraphrase)!! If that is not an example of an axiomatic expression, I do not know what is. It is these basic assumptions that we ourselves are unable to tell are right or wrong, because to do so would be to call upon some even more foundational ideology, in which case the thing we first considered was not axiomatic.

//Which brings us back to whether reason can enable us to transcend and restore disordered human nature (by grace of course!).//

I do not believe it can. I am pessimistic - I believe that the violence of most of humanity is too strong and powerful to be overcome with reason and rationality. I think reason and rationality can never conquer the violent aspects of human nature, and perhaps the best alternative is a stalemate. For certain individuals, reason and rationality can win - however, as all people vary in their intelligence, their imagination, their charity, I see every evidence that some people are inherently less reasonable, less rational, than others. I am an elitist, so fundamentally reject the idea that all people are equal - it goes against every observation of the world I make.

//A Catholic should speak the mind of the Church, and if he departs from that, he can corrected.//

True.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I think materialism is very important, but I do recognise that it does not help explain things like conciousness and sentience.

Why do you think it is important if a. you resist signing up to it and b. you worry that it leaves some pretty obvious features of reality outside the field of explanation?

Karmic laws would act like physical laws, relating moral actions to circumstances.

Firstly, I have a worry of question-begging here, because of course I do not believe that any law operates without a mind. Wittgenstein opens up my worry here:

6.371 The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws
of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.
27/28
6.372 Thus people today stop at the laws of nature, treating them as something inviolable...the modern system tries to make it look as if everything were explained.


The unshakable, unquestioning, faith-like stance that atheists often have that mindless things act mindfully is a colossally crippling and undermining intellectual enormity, inmho. Second:

The reason why an act would be result in a particular karma is no more baffling or incomprehensible than the reason why a stone falls

The whole thing about laws of nature is that they are impersonal, in the sense that they do not make value-judgments and they are instantaneous. Karma requires something to regard an action as good or bad, remember this and arrange some exactly fair consequence at some point in the future. Sounds like it needs a mind even more than other laws. This is different in kind from gravity (as it relates to value-judgments) and far more complex than gravity.

is like asking why God's laws are right or wrong, or why violating your nature is right or wrong. They are axiomatic, basic assumptions.

Not quite, I'd go back a step further: goodness rests on being, it's not a quality in itself, as it were. Being is more axiomatic - it's better to live than to die, better to have all my limbs than lose a few. That is axiomatic, but it's not arbitrary. If someone asks me why these things are good, then I'm not likely to construct an argument to defend my position as wonder whether they need some therapy!

for you it is axiomatic that reproduction is integral to sex

Not axiomatic, I think, as it rests on prior observations and assumptions, about the nature of the act and how acts relate to reason, which in turn goes back to being.

I believe that the violence of most of humanity is too strong and powerful to be overcome with reason and rationality. I think reason and rationality can never conquer the violent aspects of human nature

Yes, and I agree, by itself reason cannot help us to transcend nature. But in itself it is such a power (it's just that post fall, we are disordered), so long as it is empowered, by the grace of Jesus Christ, it is capable of restoring reason to its rightful (and logical) place of directing the lower appetites and powers.

Albert said...

What's all this censorship YMB?!

Young Mr. Brown said...

Oh, dear. Sorry about that, Albert.

I've got comment moderation on for posts over 30 days old - basically because I discovered that I was getting a lot of spam comments on older posts.

After we got back to number 32, there were a number of things that attracted my attention, and the blog got neglected.

Humble apologies.

Albert said...

No problem YMB - I thought it would be something like that (but rather enjoyed the irony or censorship!). No need to apologise - I'm always grateful for your hosting our conversations!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Why do you think it is important if a. you resist signing up to it and b. you worry that it leaves some pretty obvious features of reality outside the field of explanation?//

Because I think materialism can explain a vast amount of the universe, and it enables a person to spot fakes and frauds more easily (like astrologers and the like). It also emphasises material
conditions here on Earth, rather than focusing on rewards in some afterlife - a materialist is concerned with the matter, the body, the here and now of existence. The spiritualist is far more concerned about demonstrating the health of the soul, rather than the health of the body.

It is rather like Newtonian physics versus quantum physics. Quantum physics is the more accurate description of the universe as a whole, yet for the scale that humans typically work at, Newtonian physics is sufficient. In the same way, materialism may not be the most accurate description of the universe, but it usually does good enough for what concerns people.

//Sounds like it needs a mind even more than other laws. This is different in kind from gravity (as it relates to value-judgments) and far more complex than gravity.//

I grant it would be far more complex. However, I query about the way you use "right" and "wrong". A "right" Karmic action would be one that produced results that the individual viewed as beneficial to themselves (or at least non-negative), a "wrong" Karmic action that produced the opposite. In that sense, no concious moral judgement need be given. All that is required is self-interest, which is ultimately all that the idea of heaven and hell are centred around. The idea of eternal damnation requires someone to value their ultimate fate (+ belief). If they do not, then the threat of hell is removed. In that sense, it acts no more or less on the self-interest of the person than the idea of Karmic laws having repercussions.

//The unshakable, unquestioning, faith-like stance that atheists often have that mindless things act mindfully is a colossally crippling and undermining intellectual enormity, inmho. //

Ahh, but that depends on your understanding of the mind. I have yet to meet a mind that unerringly obeys all rules - the laws of nature are far more rigid than any mind I know of. In fact, it is the very routine and inflexibility of the laws of nature that make them unlike a mind, or a State. What mind has not been changed, or what law altered in the sphere of mankind? But how many laws of nature have changed? None.

indigomyth said...

//Being is more axiomatic - it's better to live than to die, better to have all my limbs than lose a few. That is axiomatic, but it's not arbitrary. If someone asks me why these things are good, then I'm not likely to construct an argument to defend my position as wonder whether they need some therapy!//

Then you had better get for me the men in the white coats! I happen to believe it is better to fight and die, rather than live as a slave or serf, so I do not accept the idea that it is, in all circumstances, better to live than die, and thousands of other people agree with me - they fought for their freedom, and sacrificed their lives for that aim.

If I was offered the choice of death, or lobotomy, I would gladly choose the former. What would you choose?

//Not axiomatic, I think, as it rests on prior observations and assumptions, about the nature of the act and how acts relate to reason, which in turn goes back to being.//

Curiously, I agree with you, in a way. However, my observations of sex, and the nature of human sexuality, leads me to a totally different conclusion!

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Because I think materialism can explain a vast amount of the universe, and it enables a person to spot fakes and frauds more easily

So you work within a kind of methodological materialism? But what's the good of helping to spot fakes and frauds if it isn't true itself!

but it usually does good enough for what concerns people

Marxist! (Actually, I have sympathy with you concern for the here and now - God did not create this life in vain.) However, clearly what concerns most (or at least many) people is not just the material, but the spiritual. So materialism doesn't help with the whole picture (e.g. consciousness) neither does it help with everything people are concerned with. If it spots frauds that's only because it is sometimes not able to spot the truth.

In fact, it is the very routine and inflexibility of the laws of nature that make them unlike a mind, or a State.

The perfection of laws simply implies a perfect mind - surely more plausible than mindlessness.

What mind has not been changed, or what law altered in the sphere of mankind?

Well all that would show is that God doesn't change his mind - guess what the Catholic Church teaches?!

Then you had better get for me the men in the white coats!

I agree with you on every point - but I meant more abstractly. Is life better than non-life? Having all my limbs better than not? Of course there may be circumstances in which death may be better, but in principle...

What would you choose?

Labotomy I think - certainly as suicide is wrong per se.

Curiously, I agree with you, in a way.

You want to be careful about agreeing with me...the Holy Father will get you!

indigomyth said...

//So you work within a kind of methodological materialism? But what's the good of helping to spot fakes and frauds if it isn't true itself!//

Well, in much the same way that Newtonian physics adequately explains most Earth bound issues, so methodological materialism (naturalism?) will help spot most fakes and frauds.

//So materialism doesn't help with the whole picture (e.g. consciousness) neither does it help with everything people are concerned with. If it spots frauds that's only because it is sometimes not able to spot the truth.//

A lot of people now would disagree - issues of money, heating, food, healthcare, are all material matters, aren't they? And I did only say 'usually'.

//The perfection of laws simply implies a perfect mind - surely more plausible than mindlessness.//

Why more plausible? I do not believe a perfect mind can be a mind as I know it. Not to get all Humean again, but I have never seen a mind that is perfect, therefore how can I know that perfection is a state that a mind can be, or even if they are compatible. For to have a mind is to have doubts, uncertainties, considerations - God has none of these, therefore I doubt that he could have a mind, as I know of what as a mind.

//Labotomy I think - certainly as suicide is wrong per se.//

Then we have obviously a drastically different set of priorities! Though, I have been thinking about this in connection with the euthanasia of people in PVS. If someone is in PVS, and is still a person, than to kill them without their consent is murder, but if they are not a person, then there can be no argument to kill them on humanitarian grounds, as they are no longer a person - merely flesh and blood, therefore to kill them is merely for the benefit of the living.

Out of curiosity, if it did not involve suicide, would you choose lobotomy or death. Say it was a nutter pointing a gun at you, and was making you choose? So, you do not have to worry about going to hell because of being a suicide.

//You want to be careful about agreeing with me...the Holy Father will get you!//

Well, I was considering getting a T-Shirt with a phrase of his on, so it is not that bad.

Albert said...

Well, in much the same way that Newtonian physics adequately explains most Earth bound issues, so methodological materialism (naturalism?) will help spot most fakes and frauds.

I don't think the comparison works. We are able to measure when and where Newtonian physics is and is not sufficiently accurate. But materialism is a metaphysical stance that excludes certain positions by definition whether or not they are true, and whether or not there is good reason to believe them.

Not to get all Humean again, but I have never seen a mind that is perfect

This is an example of what I mean: you cannot say that you have experienced undirected mindless things acting mindfully without begging the question. All you have is experience of apparently mindless things acting in regular ways. Whether or not they are directed is beyond your experience. Therefore the matter has to be resolved metaphysically.

I resolve that in favour of mind for two reasons: we do have experience of minds directing things, but no experience of regular things not being directed by a mind, secondly it seems more plausible - mindless things acting in a mindful way seems only a whisker away from contradiction.

For to have a mind is to have doubts, uncertainties, considerations

I can't for the life of me think of a reason to think that a mind that lacks those things is contradictory or impossible. Yes a perfect mind is beyond my own experience, but then, so are evolution and the Big Bang and Australia (and mindless things acting mindfully without being directed).

God has none of these, therefore I doubt that he could have a mind, as I know of what as a mind.

God doesn't have a mind, God is a mind.

issues of money, heating, food, healthcare, are all material matters, aren't they? And I did only say 'usually'.

I don't think you can put it simply in terms of time. Yes I spend a lot of my time dealing with purely material considerations, but I would be a bit unhappy if someone then inferred that a materialistic world-view was best for me. Most people after all spend more of their time working than on holiday. But doesn't mean that a world-view that excluded holidays would be right for most people. Although people must worry about practical things, the big questions of meaning and purpose, religion, still seem really important to them, it's just that, unless they have learnt to break out of the secular dogma, answers to these question have been excluded, by definition, by the imposition of a materialistic world-view.

If someone is in PVS, and is still a person, than to kill them without their consent is murder, but if they are not a person, then there can be no argument to kill them on humanitarian grounds, as they are no longer a person

I think you have put your finger on a serious contradiction (the liberal world-view is so thoughtlessly contradictory, I find - on the one hand we must save the planet for the sake of children yet unborn, on the other hand we can abort children yet unborn - culpably stupid in my view).

I think the paradox goes further however into all positive euthanasia: if a person is of such value that I should take any notice of their opinion then they are of too much value for me to kill them. If therefore I can kill them, I can dismiss their wishes and kill or not kill, whether they like it or not. This is why euthanasia is such a dangerously unstable practice, and why presumably, when I've gone on protests against euthanasia, a very large proportion of people there are in wheelchairs or are terminally ill. They experience claims for euthanasia as discriminatory assualts on their dignity.

Say it was a nutter pointing a gun at you, and was making you choose?

Still life really.

indigomyth said...

Indeed, relying on sense experience begs the question that your sense experiences are accurate, but, more to the point, that your seemingly concious will acts on your sense experience, or whether your actions, concious mind is merely the final product of a series of steps.

//Yes a perfect mind is beyond my own experience, but then, so are evolution and the Big Bang and Australia (and mindless things acting mindfully without being directed). //

But in what sense would it be a "mind".

And evolution is merely natural selection + reproduction. We have witnessed it, in so called "Micro-evolution" - micro-evolution IS macro-evolution.

And, none of the things you listed involve process that you have not witnessed. All physical events in science are predicated on laws that are testable (other than string theory, which I would suggest is not actually science), therefore to talk of the Big Bang supposes nothing additional to my existing experience. A mind without the elements I mentioned (as well as a mind without a body) supposes something that contradicts everything I have observed.

//Yes a perfect mind is beyond my own experience//

Yes, but would such a thing be a mind, much less a perfect one? To have a mind is to ask questions - God asks no question. To have a mind is to have doubt - God has no doubt. To have a mind is to have limited knowledge - God is omniscient. To have a mind is to exist in time, to have thoughts that occur - God exists out of time, therefore his thoughts would have no time to occur in. To have a mind is to have a choice - God has no choice, if he is good and bound by the laws of goodness, his action is always fixed.

To me, God resembles not the mind of a human, but of some computer or calculator.

//Although people must worry about practical things, the big questions of meaning and purpose, religion, still seem really important to them, it's just that, unless they have learnt to break out of the secular dogma, answers to these question have been excluded, by definition, by the imposition of a materialistic world-view.//

Your own example supports my point - I have not made a case for pure and only materialism. Just for the majority of the time, it works. As people mostly work, but sometimes have a holiday, so most people work along materialistic principles most of the time, other than when they are considering such matters as you raise.

So would you agree with me that materialism (or practical considerations, if you prefer) are more important that the other kind. Let us not forget, it is purely and only by the grace of the materialistic that you can consider the non-materialistic. Food, drink, warmth, are all materialistic concerns - without them you either have no life, or no time to spend considering other things. How long does someone spending 16 or 18 hours a day pulling a manual plough through a field, get to spend considering "non-materialistic" things, rather than their aching back, the hardness of the soil etc.

Again, your example helps me. It is only because of the work that people can afford the holiday. The materialistic concern must precede the non-materialistic.

//the liberal world-view is so thoughtlessly contradictory, I find - on the one hand we must save the planet for the sake of children yet unborn, on the other hand we can abort children yet unborn - culpably stupid in my view//

Hmm, I had not even though of that one!

(Though I do hope your use of "Liberal" was not of the kind that me and YMB are).

indigomyth said...

//Still life really.//

Fraid not. For me it would be death.

And I am a bit confused why you would choose life. Do you not think that you will go to heaven? Would heaven not be better than to live as a lobotomised halfwit?

//if a person is of such value that I should take any notice of their opinion then they are of too much value for me to kill them.//

Though, if you were only paid if you carried out their wishes, it would be their will that would be most important to you, not their lives, therefore you would have a positive interest in killing them.

//If therefore I can kill them, I can dismiss their wishes and kill or not kill, whether they like it or not//

I do really see the problem here, provided that they want to die. If they want to die, then they have the right to ask me to kill them. However, I have the right to refuse, ignoring their wishes and going with my.

However, if they do not want to die, and I want to kill them, then I cannot, because to do so would be to perform an action violating their liberty.

For example - if you have a woman who wants to have sex with a man, the man is not obligated to have sex with her. He can decline, as is his right, or he can accept, also as is his right.

However, if she does not want to have sex, then he cannot have sex with her, because that would be to violate her liberty.

It is about where the action lies - neither party (the woman or the man, or the killer or the sick), has the right to demand an action from the other. The woman cannot force sex, and neither can the man, the killer cannot kill without the permission of the sick, and the sick cannot force the killer to kill.

//They experience claims for euthanasia as discriminatory assualts on their dignity.//

Yes, well you know what I think of "dignity". I think it is far more dignified to be dead rather than lobotomised, but you would disagree?

Besides, I do not think the option of euthanasia should be limited to the sick. Indeed, to do so would be to infringe on the sovereign rights of the healthy, to have control over their own bodies!

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Do you not think that you will go to heaven? Would heaven not be better than to live as a lobotomised halfwit?

Certainly, I hope to go to heaven and heaven would be better, as St Paul says: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Phil.1.23. But this life is still a gift, and I have no entitlement to heaven - only that I am confident in the promises of Christ. So my default position is to accept whatever God graciously sends me, and, while I am in this world, I am presuming being here is his will. I realise I am not quite addressing the question you are asking, but I find it a bit too counter-factual. Not only am I in neither position, but I am somehow to imagine either position occurring without it falling within God's providence. I can't get that.

Though, if you were only paid if you carried out their wishes

So if I didn't believe in their dignity then yes, I could kill them. But this would mean there would be no argument in favour of euthanasia from human dignity, and it would be a very slippery slope for other individuals in similar positions.

Now certainly, someone might just choose to kill such a patient wanting volunatry euthanasia - but they cannot do so on the basis of valuing the person.

I think it is far more dignified to be dead rather than lobotomised, but you would disagree?

Sure, the person has more dignity if they are alive - if they are dead, how can they have any dignity?

I do not think the option of euthanasia should be limited to the sick.

I have some sympathy here, euthanasia only for the sick is totally inconsistent and discriminatory. Either people should be protected from being murdered or they shouldn't. To say the sick and vulnerable are less entitled to such protection is wicked.

Albert said...

Indeed, relying on sense experience begs the question that your sense experiences are accurate

It's not the accuracy of the sense experience I worry about, as the framework within which such experiences are interpreted. So when atheists (Flew in his atheist period) say the burden of proof rests on the theist, he is ignoring that not believing in the non-existence of God entails huge truth claims, about the capacity of the physical universe to exist and function, uncaused.

evolution is merely natural selection + reproduction. We have witnessed it

I have not witnessed it, and no one has actually witnessed the real natural history here. But we reasonably infer it from what we have experienced. Similarly a perfect mind.

therefore to talk of the Big Bang supposes nothing additional to my existing experience

Ditto, Big Bang and the whole evolution are well beyond anyone's experience - but reasonably inferred.

To have a mind is to ask questions - God asks no question. To have a mind is to have doubt - God has no doubt. To have a mind is to have limited knowledge - God is omniscient

I'm just wondering if you are going to give me grounds to accept these assertions! It seems to me that it is the nature of a mind to know. We only ask questions because our minds are limited, but they are striving after a knowledge which is proper to their nature. There is (again) a teleology here, minds have a directedness, aiming at a perfection. The asking of questions is not essential, but contingent on being imperfect. Accordingly, the asking of questions cannot be used to exclude the possibility of perfect mind - questions aim at perfect mind.

God has no choice, if he is good and bound by the laws of goodness, his action is always fixed.

God is absolutely free because he is infinite and prior to everything. There are no laws of goodness he must obey. He has no duties. That is what makes his choice to become human die for us so astonishing.

God resembles not the mind of a human, but of some computer or calculator.

But computers and calculators do not know and understand things, nor do they will.

Albert said...

I have not made a case for pure and only materialism. Just for the majority of the time

Well then we have a large degree of agreement. I follow an everyday methodological naturalism. But I don't follow this because it prevents me believing in hobgoblins, but because I think it is true - miracles are rare, God prefers to work through secondary causes most of the time and the devil is much more successful when he doesn't make things go bump in the night. People often look for miracles because they want to feel God is involved - as if God isn't involved in natural events! But if the existence of everything and the operation of each law of nature is contingent on the immediate will of God, then God is already involved in everything - "Closer to you than you are to yourself" as Augustine contemplatively put it.

So would you agree with me that materialism (or practical considerations, if you prefer) are more important that the other kind.

Ultimately, God is more important. Hiowever, he has kindly made me as I am - a material being, my job is to be a good material being, not a good angel. And that means perfecting myself materially (eating, drinking, resting, enjoying the material things he has made - always with thanksgiving etc.) There's no conflict in principle because he is the cause of all these things.

How long does someone spending 16 or 18 hours a day pulling a manual plough through a field, get to spend considering "non-materialistic" things, rather than their aching back, the hardness of the soil etc.

With more ease than one does sitting in an office all day at a computer. His mind is free from the immediate changes, and can focus on the world God has made, and his goodness. If his back hurts he thinks of how Christ suffered for him on the cross, and then offers the love back to Christ that this thought inspires in him. People in the past were much more religious because while they worked hard, they had more space in their minds.

I had not even though of that one!

I thought you'd enjoy firing that at environmentalists who wish to tell you what to do. They do tend to be abortionists (cf the Green Party) and it shows them to be fraudulent IMO.

I do hope your use of "Liberal" was not of the kind that me and YMB are

Not at all, you are libertarians. "Liberals" is a misnomer, it refers to people who decide they don't like a traditional belief, label the traditional belief as discrimination or a phobia and force people to behave differently so as to be more inclusive (a word that almost univerally indicates a desire to exclude a religious person - which may even be the real motivation with some secularists). I gained my dislike of liberalism from my years in the CofE - it always meant a restriction on my freedom! Whereas subscribing to the alledged tyranny of Rome has been pure freedom: "Know the truth and the truth will set you free" Jn.8.32. You and YMB are not liberals in the sense I object to.

indigomyth said...

//Sure, the person has more dignity if they are alive - if they are dead, how can they have any dignity?//

But if they are dead, they are beyond the dignity / no dignity spectrum - to ask the question of a dead person is like to ask if a rock or a tree has dignity. Therefore they do not have no dignity, since "they" do not exist. And, since I would view the condition of being lobotomised as being undignified, or, if you will, to have negative dignity, than to be dead would actual increase "my" level of dignity, by removing me from that spectrum entirely.

//Either people should be protected from being murdered or they shouldn't. To say the sick and vulnerable are less entitled to such protection is wicked.//

Ahh, but it is not murder, because it is consenting. It is no more murder than one soldier killing another soldier in war - killing another human being is not, intrinsically, murder. It is the context in which that killing takes place that renders it morally permissible. Or do you believe that soldiers that kill in war are also guilty of murder, because they have killed another innocent person (the other person, of course, being innocent of any direct crime, and may even having been conscripted against their will).

As it is, I totally oppose murder, but completely support the right to die.

indigomyth said...

//Ditto, Big Bang and the whole evolution are well beyond anyone's experience - but reasonably inferred.//

No, because we have witnessed evolution. We have witnessed resistance to antibiotics arising in populations of bacteria. How is this not evolution?

Likewise, we do not infer the physical laws of the Big Bang, they are here to be observed. However, the mind of God bears no relation to any mind I have experience of. I would also point out that I have no direct experience of any other mind, other than my own. Therefore, how can I reasonably infer the possibility of a mind that bears so few resemblances to my own?

//The asking of questions is not essential, but contingent on being imperfect. Accordingly, the asking of questions cannot be used to exclude the possibility of perfect mind - questions aim at perfect mind.//

But the perfect mind would not be a mind as I know it.

//God is absolutely free because he is infinite and prior to everything. There are no laws of goodness he must obey. //

But then, what of the Euthyphro Dilemma?

//But computers and calculators do not know and understand things, nor do they will.//

But surely then, in comparison to God, humans have as much capacity to understand and know things, as computers do when compared to humans? Perhaps there is even more of a gulf between God (the perfect) and man (the imperfect) than there is between humans and computers. In that sense, then, does God not have a mind that is completely alien to humans? In what sense then is it a "Mind" as I understand it? For I only have experience of one mind - mine. Therefore, how can I accept it when you say that something totally alien (God's mind) to that which is the only thing I have direct experience of (my mind), is actually the same sort of thing? It would be like trying to argue that Superman's invulnerable body, is actually the identical sort of thing to my body - only differing in fundamental design, strength, usage, longevity etc etc etc.

indigomyth said...

//With more ease than one does sitting in an office all day at a computer. His mind is free from the immediate changes, and can focus on the world God has made, and his goodness. If his back hurts he thinks of how Christ suffered for him on the cross, and then offers the love back to Christ that this thought inspires in him. People in the past were much more religious because while they worked hard, they had more space in their minds.//

I am afraid you sound dangerously close there to revering the painful and exhausting pastoral past.

That is another reason why I reject spiritualism (non-materialism) most of the time. It teaches that hardship is virtuous, that the material rewards of comfort and sensual pleasure are unworthy things to pursue, and that the alternative - back breaking labour, considering spiritual matters, is far more becoming.

Indeed, spiritualism is almost a kind of slavery. It teaches that spiritual rewards are better than material rewards.

I would have to say that your reply epitomises why I reject spiritualism as the main thrust of my world view, precisely because it thrives when people are in pain - therefore in order to get people to reconsider spiritual matters, it becomes necessary to wage war against their material bodies. This is why, I think, that religiosity and spiritual adherence tends to decline in affluent countries and areas (the US being an exception), precisely because the spiritual thrives on pain and slavery.

indigomyth said...

//I thought you'd enjoy firing that at environmentalists who wish to tell you what to do. They do tend to be abortionists (cf the Green Party) and it shows them to be fraudulent IMO.//

Perhaps not fraudulent. Idiotic more like.

// I gained my dislike of liberalism from my years in the CofE - it always meant a restriction on my freedom! .//

Well quite. Whenever someone comes along and says they are going to be "inclusive", it is always a sign that either a) your freedom is going to reduced directly, or b) that your work / worship is going to less enjoyable.

To be honest, I do not find the RCC positions on things like women priests or homosexuality in its member, all that unpalatable. And it does make one rather wonder, what it is that people think they are worshipping when they claim to be "Liberal" Catholics. What is it that they are getting from such an enterprise?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

the condition of being lobotomised as being undignified, or, if you will, to have negative dignity

Certainly, but it is not that the negative dignity is greater (so to speak) than the positive dignity. A person who is still alive still has positive dignity, whereas a dead person does not.

do you believe that soldiers that kill in war are also guilty of murder

No, the moral principle is (among other things) that murder requires the person killed to be innocent. This is the case with euthanasia and therefore it is murder. It is also the case with a soldier if he has ben captured. But while he still remains a threat in a just war, he is not innocent and can justly be killed.

we have witnessed evolution

I don't deny evolution obviously. The point is what we witness and what we infer. I have not witnessed evolution, not even of bacteria. But the point would be that it is an inference from witnessing that to believing in evolution of (say) a human being. My point of course, is that that inference is perfectly rational. We go from the smaller to the greater, and it is the same with minds.

we do not infer the physical laws of the Big Bang, they are here to be observed

We do not know about the Big Bang just because we know laws. Rather we have evidence which, interpreted in the light of known laws, point to events which are entirely beyond our experience, and which are entirely unique. It is similar with God's mind.

But the perfect mind would not be a mind as I know it.

And the Big Bang is not an event as any event that you know, nor macro evolution anything like the evolution that you know.

But then, what of the Euthyphro Dilemma?

Thomistic philosophy glides gracefully between the horns of that dilemma.

But surely then, in comparison to God, humans have as much capacity to understand and know things, as computers do when compared to humans?

No, because computers do not understand at all, whereas there is a genuine likeness between our understanding and God's - just as there is a geuine likeness between Superman's body and yours - you would not be able to recognise Superman's body as a body and class it as such, were it not the case.

Albert said...

I am afraid you sound dangerously close there to revering the painful and exhausting pastoral past.

That might be how it sounds. But it's not what I said. My position was premissed on the assumption that pain is bad.

It teaches that hardship is virtuous, that the material rewards of comfort and sensual pleasure are unworthy things to pursue, and that the alternative - back breaking labour, considering spiritual matters, is far more becoming.

I don't think so. I don't teach that, and I hope I'm something of a spiritual person.

Indeed, spiritualism is almost a kind of slavery. It teaches that spiritual rewards are better than material rewards.

Spiritual rewards are better than material rewards. How does that make it slavery?

it becomes necessary to wage war against their material bodies.

Did not Jesus say he had come eating and drinking? And did he not heal people's sick bodies and feed their hungry stomachs and turn rather a lot of water into rather a lot of wine?!

To be honest, I do not find the RCC positions on things like women priests or homosexuality in its member, all that unpalatable.

That's nice to know! It encourages me to think that provided people are prepared to listen (as you are) it is possible to explain her teachings in ways that are comprehensible - even when they are rejected.

And it does make one rather wonder, what it is that people think they are worshipping when they claim to be "Liberal" Catholics. What is it that they are getting from such an enterprise?

Beats me! It always looks like worshipping two masters to me, and you know what Our Lord said about that!

Albert said...

Congratulations YMB on having more than 100 comments!

indigomyth said...

//A person who is still alive still has positive dignity, whereas a dead person does not.//

Yes, but a dead "person" is not a person, therefore does not exist on the dignity spectrum. They are not undignified or dignified, because dignity is no longer a relevant category to apply to them. It would be like saying that a person is more dignified than a rock - superficially true, in that the rock has no dignity, but the person does. However, the fact that the rock has no dignity is not relevant. In the same way, a dead "person" is neither dignified or undignified, it is merely non-dignified. And, given that only a person can be undignified, as opposed to non-dignified, a person who is undignified must be in an inferior state to that which is non-dignified. So, if to be undignified is inferior to being non-dignified, then it must be better to be dead rather than lobotomised.

//No, the moral principle is (among other things) that murder requires the person killed to be innocent. This is the case with euthanasia and therefore it is murder//

I disagree, I find the moral principle to be that to murder must be unconsenting killing. So, in the same way that rape is unconsenting sex, theft is unconsenting transfer of property, so murder is the unconsenting taking of human life.

//But while he still remains a threat in a just war, he is not innocent and can justly be killed.//

Of what moral crime is he guilty?

//And the Big Bang is not an event as any event that you know, nor macro evolution anything like the evolution that you know.//

But they both are! They are events that I can understand. However, you yourself have said that the mind of God is not understandable according to man.

I have a greater understanding of the Big Bang, then of God's mind, because the Big Bang obeys laws I am familiar with. However, God's mind exhibits phenomenon that I have no understanding or experience of.

//you would not be able to recognise Superman's body as a body and class it as such, were it not the case.//

Would I be able to distinguish a sufficiently advanced computer, that understood nothing yet gave the responses I was expecting? How can I determine whether something is a mind, given that I cannot experience that mind directly?

Indeed, going back to this point, how do I know my thoughts are not merely the result of subconscious activity? My choices determined by events beyond my control?

//you would not be able to recognise Superman's body as a body and class it as such, were it not the case//

However, that is only because it bears the same shape (superficially). However, were I to look at Michaelangelo's David, and declare that he had a body, would that mean that David has a body like mine? That it is similar enough to mine to be considered in the same class? Does shaped stone fit into the same class of items as my body of flesh? The composition of the body is critical to determining its class of being - and just as the class of being that belongs to David's "body" is distinct from my body, so God's "mind" is a distinct type of thing to my mind. The general "shape" of God's mind may be similar to mine (perhaps), however, that does not mean they are the same class of thing. Therefore, when I speak of a "Mind", I mean a mind as I know of a mind, just as when I speak of a "body" I mean that particular class of thing which is flesh and blood, not marble.

indigomyth said...

//Did not Jesus say he had come eating and drinking? And did he not heal people's sick bodies and feed their hungry stomachs and turn rather a lot of water into rather a lot of wine?! //

True. However, the materialistic elements of Jesus's work have not been the most accepted aspects of his philosophy.

//Spiritual rewards are better than material rewards. How does that make it slavery?//

I disagree. I do not work for spiritual rewards - I work for material rewards. I work to improve my life and my home, both material things. I work to pay for food that gives me pleasure. I do work to buy books to stimulate my mind, which could be classed as spiritual, yet could also be regarded as material, in that they too give me pleasure.

//How does that make it slavery?//

Because it means that people are less concerned with their material circumstances, and will more readily accept harsh treatment and uncomfortable circumstances.

Okay, I could have been more precise in my statement. Peoples reaction to spiritualism results in slavery.

It is also evident in things like accepting taxation. Spiritualism, as in the belief of the collective human good, results in a belief that to work, and have the products of your work taken from you, to go to some other person, in the name of the "common good", is slavery.

//That's nice to know! It encourages me to think that provided people are prepared to listen (as you are) it is possible to explain her teachings in ways that are comprehensible - even when they are rejected.//

Well quite. It is only the RCCs political ideology that I expressly despise. I do not see the problem with only allowing men to be bishops, or of not allowing homosexuals to join the priesthood. However, as you can imagine, I utterly reject certain political notions that the RCC has. But that is because they contravene my overarching political stance, not for any reason specific to the RCC - the reasons I oppose and distrust the RCC are the same reasons that I oppose and hate the Labour Party.

//Beats me! It always looks like worshipping two masters to me, and you know what Our Lord said about that!//

Indeed, or what about those so-called "gay" congregations? What level of absurdity do these people stoop to. Do you think it is a lack of education regarding Catholic philosophy and theology, or is it just a desire to conform to the current culture?

(Though, I have to say, the only thing more absurd than a gay Catholic congregation, is a "Catholic" that does not condemn abortion as morally wrong.)

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

So, in the same way that rape is unconsenting sex, theft is unconsenting transfer of property, so murder is the unconsenting taking of human life.

I don't think the analogy works because those are things which are not inherently destructive of the person.

Of what moral crime is he guilty?

I don't know that he needs to be, but in any case, if one side has a just cause then the soldiers on the other side are guilty of participating in an unjust war - which is immoral.

However, God's mind exhibits phenomenon that I have no understanding or experience of.

It seems to me that there are two things going on here. On the one hand, I am arguing that the inference to God analogous to other inferences we frequently make. I am not convinced by your response, but since I hold that the nearest we can get here is analogy and analogies are a matter of judgement, I will not pursue this one further.

But my further point would be that there is no analogy no experience and no line of reasoning that gives you undirected mindful behaviour of mindless things. Therefore, I think on your own principles, the burden of proof rests on you - for however week my analogies and logical trajectories - I do at least have such things.

So everything turns on you saying that a perfect mind is impossible. Your main reason for objecting to this is I think:

However, God's mind exhibits phenomenon that I have no understanding or experience of.

To which I can reply that undirected mindless things acting in a mindful way is a phenomenon you have no experience of either. So I think the only move left to you is to say that a perfect mind is a priori impossible. In other words, no evidence could convince you of the existence of God - the possibility is excluded at the outset. Is that where you are going? and if so could you defend that please?

Would I be able to distinguish a sufficiently advanced computer, that understood nothing yet gave the responses I was expecting?

Not necessarily, but that is an epistemic problem, the issue is metaphysics (again!).

Indeed, going back to this point, how do I know my thoughts are not merely the result of subconscious activity? My choices determined by events beyond my control?

You have to make a decision on that one! But it's obviously harder to resist that conclusion on a materialistic view.

The composition of the body is critical to determining its class of being

Not in the most general sense. A body is simply a body be it a vast planet, a flee, a rock or your own.

Albert said...

the materialistic elements of Jesus's work have not been the most accepted aspects of his philosophy.

I'm not so sure, from hospitals to Christian art, to Christian interest in politics, to sacramental worship (especially the Mass) Christians seem pretty rooted in the importance of matter to me!

Because it means that people are less concerned with their material circumstances, and will more readily accept harsh treatment and uncomfortable circumstances.

Certainly, but then again hope can encourage them to fight those circumstances, whereas despair makes people more submissive. Perhaps it's no surprise that the famous Haitian revolt against slavery in 1791 was led by a Catholic!

a belief that to work, and have the products of your work taken from you, to go to some other person, in the name of the "common good", is slavery.

If the good is genuinely common, it can hardly be slavery can it?

It is only the RCCs political ideology that I expressly despise.

You are the exact opposite of most people!

Do you think it is a lack of education regarding Catholic philosophy and theology, or is it just a desire to conform to the current culture?

Depends on what is meant by congregation. If they mean simply gay Catholics worshipping together for spiritual support and encouragement in following a Catholic way of life, that makes sense. But anything more than that is downright odd. I think the main problem is that people are arrogant and refuse to be taught even by the authority they have subscribed to.

I have to say, the only thing more absurd than a gay Catholic congregation, is a "Catholic" that does not condemn abortion as morally wrong

Absolutely. You'd make a good Catholic you know!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//I don't think the analogy works because those are things which are not inherently destructive of the person.//

But I find nothing inherently objectionable, about the destruction of a person. My objection stems from the violation of property, which can only be done by a) (and more commonly) violence or threat of violence, or b) fraud.

//But my further point would be that there is no analogy no experience and no line of reasoning that gives you undirected mindful behaviour of mindless things//

Ahh, but my dispute was that these things were not acting mindfully - in not just that they were not directed by a mind, but also their actions do not suggest to me intelligent action.

//and if so could you defend that please?//

I can only defend with greater specification about what we mean by a "mind". If I so constructed my definition to deliberately exclude your description of God's "mind", then it would obviously be true that it is impossible for God to have a mind as I understand it. That is what I was trying to establish - what it is to have (or be) a "mind". My contention was that all minds I know are flawed, and exhibit flaws as parts of their nature of being "a mind", and therefore, I do not see how God could have a flawless mind, since minds are flawed.

//Not in the most general sense. A body is simply a body be it a vast planet, a flee, a rock or your own.//

But then it just means a mass of an particular substance. However, when we talk of David's body, we are asserting a direct relationship between my human body, and a lump of carved stone. We are not using the term "body" in the general sense of "a body of text", but in the very specific sense of a human body.

indigomyth said...

//I'm not so sure, from hospitals to Christian art, to Christian interest in politics, to sacramental worship (especially the Mass) Christians seem pretty rooted in the importance of matter to me!//

Hmm, that is true. However, a lot of those activities are actions aimed at glorifying the spiritual. For example, there is very little Christian art that glorifies human achievement, and human greatness, but rather portrays man as humble and small. And, from what I have seen of Christian politics, it is mostly centred around the spiritual idea of the "common Good" - which seems to me a decidedly Utilitarian position to take.

//Certainly, but then again hope can encourage them to fight those circumstances, whereas despair makes people more submissive//

Indeed, despair does have that affect. However, many ideologies, including Christianity, have been used to justify the structure of society, and to keep people in their place. I mean, think of the evil that was the Statute of Labourers, which occurred in a principally Christian country. Or the alleged "divine right of Kings" - another Christian feudal concept.

//If the good is genuinely common, it can hardly be slavery can it?//

Well, a Southern US landowner in the 1860s would disagree. If you consider the majority to be "the common", and the majority are slave owners, who get their living from slavery produced products, than to abolish slavery is to the detriment of the common good. And we should also not forget the "common good" argument in favour of prohibition, or, indeed, against homosexuality. And the common good is also used to justify taxation to support marriage - I would take it as slavery when you have the products of your labour taken from you, under threat of violence, to be given to someone else merely because they choose to engage in a type of relationship believed to be conducive to the "common good". I would rather take my chances with thieves and vagabonds - at least they only get the amount of money in your wallet, not a large % or your income over the course of a number of years.

//You are the exact opposite of most people!//

Yes, well to be libertarian is to be the exact opposite of most people, on some issue or the other.

//Absolutely. You'd make a good Catholic you know!//

Indeed. Although I do not believe abortion should be illegal, and am not Catholic, I am suspicious of people who claim to be Catholic (particularly politicians (yes I am looking at you Blair and Biden)) yet do not condemn abortion as wrong. They are either demonstrating a type of mental inconsistency that I would consider unhealthy, or they are simply ignorant, or they are claiming to be Catholic for personal gain. In any case, they are not people to be trusted with my neck on a guillotine (which is, after all, all that government amounts to).

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I don't know about you, I am losing the thread of some of this clarification, so I'll limit my remarks to the points that I can still see where they have come from.

their actions do not suggest to me intelligent action

By which you mean the actions are too perfect? Is that right? And this is a problem because you think minds are imperfect.

My contention was that all minds I know are flawed, and exhibit flaws as parts of their nature of being "a mind", and therefore, I do not see how God could have a flawless mind, since minds are flawed.

I don't think David Hume would like that argument. Isn't this just the same as saying "All swans I know are white, therefore all swans are white." You haven't demonstrated that all minds are flawed only that some are, and the set that you know coincides with the flawed set. I don't think that is strong enough to prevent a perfect mind in principle, and if you argue that the behaviour of things is too perfect for a mind, because minds are flawed you will be arguing in a circle.

there is very little Christian art that glorifies human achievement.

All art is human achievement, and Christian art often celebrates the benefactor (e.g. a Pope!).

centred around the spiritual idea of the "common Good" - which seems to me a decidedly Utilitarian position to take.

No, it's natural law and your disagreement is surely anthropological in tone.

many ideologies, including Christianity, have been used to justify the structure of society, and to keep people in their place. I mean, think of the evil that was the Statute of Labourers, which occurred in a principally Christian country. Or the alleged "divine right of Kings" - another Christian feudal concept.

It's easy to find fault with Christian history, as there is so much of it and human beings are always flawed. But that does not disqualify Christianity, it just indicates there has been a lot of it about.

If you consider the majority to be "the common",

I don't concede that.

indigomyth said...

//I don't know about you, I am losing the thread of some of this clarification//

I agree. I am starting to lose the thread somewhat. We had better knock this on the head in a bit.

//By which you mean the actions are too perfect? Is that right? And this is a problem because you think minds are imperfect.//

To a certain extent, yes. A mind that was perfectly decided, would be not a mind at all, as far as I know it.

//I don't think that is strong enough to prevent a perfect mind in principle, and if you argue that the behaviour of things is too perfect for a mind, because minds are flawed you will be arguing in a circle.//

But as you say, I have only experience of one mind - mine. I would have to assume the existence of other minds to conclude otherwise. But, granted, I have not experienced all minds, therefore I cannot draw conclusions about the nature of mind itself.

I am not basing my judgement purely on my observation of minds, but what I consider minds to be, like a triangle having three sides does not need to be demonstrated empirically. For me, the flawed mind is of that kind of thing, just as it is fundamentally true to me that my body is different categorically from the "body" of the David, so it is fundamentally true to me that my mind (and hence, all minds I have direct experience of) is different categorically from God's "mind".

//All art is human achievement, and Christian art often celebrates the benefactor (e.g. a Pope!)//

Which merely amounts to celebrating someone who profits directly from God. I do not consider that an achievement - I do not see how he has discovered anything new about the universe, made any discoveries etc. Where is the Christian art dedicated to science or industry?

//No, it's natural law and your disagreement is surely anthropological in tone.//

Well, as I reject natural law as either a moral entity or a realistic one, that does not really convince me much. And being natural law would still not prevent it from being Utilitarian in character.

And I do not understand what you mean by "anthropological in tone"?

//But that does not disqualify Christianity, it just indicates there has been a lot of it about.//

Yes, but these ideas seem integral to Christianity, which would disqualify it.

//I don't concede that.//

Then what is the "common Good"? Because whenever I hear that expression, it inevitably means that someone is going to prison, or being executed, for doing something that is no direct harm or threat to anyone else. Stoning woman to death for adultery (for example). Or executing / imprisoning homosexuals. All because the "common Good" requires it. Who is this "common"? Why is acting for their good, Good?

I confess, whenever I hear that expression "common Good", I shudder. Forms of it were used by the Nazis, by Fascists, by Islamists, by the Labour Party, by Communists etc etc. To me, I am afraid, "common Good" has become synonymous with "aggressive violence".

Albert said...

am not basing my judgement purely on my observation of minds, but what I consider minds to be, like a triangle having three sides does not need to be demonstrated empirically

But in that case, why should I accept that what you consider minds to be is correct, and why shouldn't your definition be reformable in the light of evidence?

I do not consider that an achievement - I do not see how he has discovered anything new about the universe, made any discoveries etc. Where is the Christian art dedicated to science or industry?

This is tautological isn't it? After all there is art by Christians which celebrates human achievements, and if you don't call it Christian art because it is about human achievements then Christian art by definition excludes human achievements. I think the history of art shows Christians are perfectly good at cele brating human achievments.

And being natural law would still not prevent it from being Utilitarian in character.

Consequentialist types of morality are normally thought opposed to natural law.

And I do not understand what you mean by "anthropological in tone"?

I mean that the common good implies human beings are social animals. Your complaint is with that assumption isn't it? on past experience of our discussions it looks like that to me.

Stoning woman to death for adultery (for example). Or executing / imprisoning homosexuals.

These are not examples of the common good that I would recognise.

The common good has to be common in the sense of universal, not in the sense of commonplace.

indigomyth said...

//But in that case, why should I accept that what you consider minds to be is correct, and why shouldn't your definition be reformable in the light of evidence?//

I can only say that, given my list of characteristics that would compose a "mind", the vision of God's mind that you describe would not be one I recognise. Much as with David's body - even were the statue to start to move as a human did, it would not make the body of the statue any less different from what my body is. As such, I find omnipotence, omnipresence, omnibenevolence, omniscience, to be inherently incompatible with having a mind, much as being composed of marble is incompatible with being a human body. I cannot begin to imagine how a thought (the product of a mind), could be formed in a mind that existed out of time, that had all information at hand, that existed everywhere simultaneously.

Where I to accept a notion of a God, it would have to be a God limited as the Ancient Greek Gods were.

//This is tautological isn't it? //

Yes that is true. Ok, I concede, since I know relatively little of art, that you may be correct. Since are a learned chap, do any examples of Christian art that celebrate human achievement spring to mind?

//Consequentialist types of morality are normally thought opposed to natural law.//

However, if the natural law has been conceived with the thought that what is rational for humans to do is what is best for the majority, or what reaps the best consequences for the majority, then natural law would support consequentialist ideology, then natural law would not be opposed to utilitarianism.

//Your complaint is with that assumption isn't it? on past experience of our discussions it looks like that to me.//

I do not dispute that humans are social animals - the fact I am here talking to you would be one evidence of that fact!

However, what I do reject is the idea that "society" should be supported or constructed by coercion or threat of violence against those innocent of aggressive violence against individuals. For example, the idea that "society" needs marriage to be recognised by the State in the tax system in order to survive. Or, even were "society" to crumble, the idea that it is acceptable to extort money from single people who do not want to pay, and channel it to married couples. Any society that can only subsist by such a method of structured violence, is a society that exists immorally.

I am very happy that humans are social beings. What I resent is the idea that violence is needed to make society - societies exist by mutual consent, and free exchange. Not by oppression and censorship. It is rather like the BNP complaining about the fact that a curry house is in their town, and what about the traditional British meal being made extinct. Well, sorry mate, but if people do not want to eat the traditional British meal, and would rather have a curry, then how can it have a right to exist. If your traditions can only survive through violence, then your traditions are not worth saving.

//The common good has to be common in the sense of universal, not in the sense of commonplace.//

How is it to my good, therefore, that I be forced to pay for married couples? Indeed, to be thrown in prison for not doing so? That is then saying that it is to my good that I be in jail for not giving my money to married couples.

(I am using the married couple example as it is a hot button topic, and it is something we have mentioned before. There are other examples. I am also not campaigning against marriage, per se, but rather the recognition of that in the tax system).

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I cannot begin to imagine how a thought (the product of a mind), could be formed in a mind that existed out of time, that had all information at hand, that existed everywhere simultaneously.

There's no sense of the idea coming to be in God's mind, it would always be there - I can't see any objection to that which isn't circular.

In contrast, I cannot make sense of why someone allows for laws to operate in very precise ways without saying they are directed by a mind. It obviously isn't chance, and it isn't nature (because that is the very thing under examination). Therefore it must be mind.

do any examples of Christian art that celebrate human achievement spring to mind?

I don't know much about art, but any art by Christians is Christian art - the fracturing of culture in the modern does not help here, as it leads us to think something is only Christian if it is in Church - an idea our Christian forebears would have thought absurd. So if one can think of art by Christian artists it would be Christian art, whether or not God is the immediate theme. But in any case, there is plenty of celebration of human achievement in religious art. So for example, Crivelli's Annunciation, while celebrating the Annuncation, also celebrates the town of Ascoli being granted self-government and both themes are in the picture.

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/carlo-crivelli-the-annunciation-with-saint-emidius

if the natural law has been conceived with the thought that what is rational for humans to do is what is best for the majority

But it hasn't. If that were the case we wouldn't have human rights arising from natural law.

I do not dispute that humans are social animals - the fact I am here talking to you would be one evidence of that fact!

But your whole notion of "social" seems accidental to human nature. The key claim is that "social" is part of our nature - part of our very being. It is not something we enter into by contract, but whcih we are part of by nature. This is why it is part of the common good (i.e. our good) that we support society as a whole.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//There's no sense of the idea coming to be in God's mind, it would always be there - I can't see any objection to that which isn't circular.//

But then, what is a "thought"? or an idea?

Perhaps my major issue is not so much with the existence of a mind outside of time and space, but rather of existence itself apart from those things. Therefore, a mind outside space and time would be as incomprehensible to me as a flower outside of space and time.

//and it isn't nature //

But that supposes that there has to be an explanation for why nature is at is it. Why the laws work as they do. I see nothing illogical about assuming that the laws work without exterior help, without an exterior, sentient, guiding force. I see no reason why gravity cannot operate without an operator, if you will. I see no reason to invoke the immaterial when dealing with the dumb material, because I do not see intelligence in the action of gravity, merely a blind act of particles and energy.

//Crivelli's Annunciation, while celebrating the Annuncation, also celebrates the town of Ascoli being granted self-government and both themes are in the picture.//

Yes, I grant you. I can see that Christian art does celebrate the material as well as the spiritual.

indigomyth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
indigomyth said...

//But your whole notion of "social" seems accidental to human nature. The key claim is that "social" is part of our nature - part of our very being. It is not something we enter into by contract, but whcih we are part of by nature. This is why it is part of the common good (i.e. our good) that we support society as a whole.//

Well, it seems clear to me that we do enter into social interactions by contract - we agree to join clubs, groups, churches, that share our values and interests. If this contract is not entered into voluntarily, then it is not a true contract.

//This is why it is part of the common good (i.e. our good) that we support society as a whole.//

Perhaps so, but the key point is that that is MY decision to make. It may very well be to my benefit to help society, but that is my choice to make, and it is profoundly immoral to use violence to coerce me into doing so. Otherwise, that is the equivalent of arguing that it is better for me to be attacked, brutalised, imprisoned, for not supporting society, rather than to not be a part of society. That is saying that it is permissible to use violence (via law) to compel people to support society - that it is better to subject individuals to violence, then to let them be apart from society.

I see no reason why law must be used to force people to support "society", for that relies on the notion that people do not have the right to exist separately from society, and it frames the idea of human relationships purely in terms of violence.

It is the primary reason why I reject all religions, and all other political positions. I will make the choice to support that which I want at my leisure, not at the behest or threat of another entity. If society requires me to support it, then it will be at my mercy, not I at its. If I am to be destroyed by my decisions, then so be it.

If someone raises a fist to me, I am not the kind of person to guess whether they are striking me "for my own good", or for theirs, before I strike back. Or, to quote directly from Atlas Shrugged:

"If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of the creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own - I would refuse, I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every power I possess, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I was murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle...Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!"

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

But then, what is a "thought"? or an idea?

Well I would have thought it was a conception that is a product of a mind. One thing I was wondering about is why you are worried about an eternal mind, but you indicated some attraction to the eternal thoughts or ideas such as found in Plato. Surely an idea needs a mind, and therefore an eternal idea, needs an eternal mind. And this serves to challenge this comment:

Perhaps my major issue is not so much with the existence of a mind outside of time and space, but rather of existence itself apart from those things.

You continue:

a mind outside space and time would be as incomprehensible to me as a flower outside of space and time.

But there is a difference here. A flower is a kind of body, and therefore it would be contradictory to posit a flower outside of space and time. A mind however is not a body, and therefore the problem is rather to see how it fits in with space. If you can do that, then I can't see why you can't see it outside of space and time.

But that supposes that there has to be an explanation for why nature is at is it.

Certainly, as Copleston said of Russell "If one refuses to even sit down at the chess board and make a move, one cannot, of course, be checkmated." But neither can one win, and more urgently, there is a question of whether it is reasonable. A practically infinite number of events occur, everyone of them hitting a very precise target and you don't want an explanation?! Why bother asking for an explanation of anything? This is why I tend to think atheism can be deeply irrational, and why it leads to such an irrational culture: it's willingness to ask only for those explanations it wants and then stop arbitrarily.

not see intelligence in the action of gravity, merely a blind act of particles and energy.

Gravity operates according to very precise rules - mathematically predicable in all sorts of wonderful ways. How does it know what it's supposed to be doing? Why should I accept that its happening mindless is more plausible than its being directed by a mind?

Well, it seems clear to me that we do enter into social interactions by contract - we agree to join clubs, groups, churches, that share our values and interests. If this contract is not entered into voluntarily, then it is not a true contract.

Certainly, but just because we enter into some contracts, it does not follow that therefore all relationships are contractual.

but the key point is that that is MY decision to make.

No, if we are social by nature, then it is prior to us and therefore prior to our decisions.

it frames the idea of human relationships purely in terms of violence.

Again I disagree. If we are social by nature, then violence is done in some circumstances when we withdraw ourselves from certain relationships. Hence while you are worrying about violence, you are content with mother's having their children being scraped from their wombs, indeed, you regard someone attempting to protect the child as guilty of immoral violence. Similarly, someone who protects a starving child from a parent who seeks to kill the child for stealing a solitary pea, is, on your account, guilty of violence.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

// A mind however is not a body, and therefore the problem is rather to see how it fits in with space. If you can do that, then I can't see why you can't see it outside of space and time.//

Well time and space are connected, hence space-time. Thoughts occur within a given time - they need time to occur in. They have duration. If you remove the quality of time, and therefore duration, from a thought than how can it exist?

//Surely an idea needs a mind, and therefore an eternal idea, needs an eternal mind.//

But the Form is not the same sort of thing as an idea. Rather it is something that requires nothing else. It is more basic than that.

//A practically infinite number of events occur, everyone of them hitting a very precise target and you don't want an explanation?! //

I don't suppose that an explanation for the universe is necessary, or, at least, morally necessary. There maybe explanations for the reason of how the universe is as it is, physical ones that involve a meta-universe etc.

//Why bother asking for an explanation of anything? //

Simple curiosity, or a desire to improve ones lot in life. Explaining how plants grow improves our ability to grow them, which is important in improving our own lives. I know that the same sort of argument could be used for God, that by exploring the cause of the universe, the how and the why, we improve our own lot, however, I doubt it has the same tangible and measurable result that science does

//Why should I accept that its happening mindless is more plausible than its being directed by a mind?//

I can only answer in the fact that those actions, to me, do not signal a mind as I know it, and, in order to theorise such a mind, I have to alter what I have experience of being "mind" to such an extent that it becomes unrecognisable to me. However, I cannot say that would be a reasoning convincing enough for you - it requires a personal decision.

Though, I confess, you have given me a lot to think about in terms of "The Great Architect". Is it more reasonable to suppose that the universe is unguided, rather than guided?

I would have to say, something grates about the idea of laws of nature being the actions of an entity. It seems to fundamentally alter what is meant by "law of nature" to suppose that such acts occur with the direct intervention of God. It would mean that every bullet flies with direct interference - whether that bullet flies Justly or un-Justly, regardless of target.

I could also see it as potentially dangerous to scientific endeavour - for example, the Muslim opposition to science based on the notion that drawing up laws and rules for God to follow is to presume something of God that is inappropriate for his creatures. Is there not a danger of it becoming a case that in order to describe any particular action, one merely says "God did it" - to which, I suppose you could respond, our mission is to find out by what rational and comprehensible method God did it. Hmmmm, tricky one.

indigomyth said...

//Certainly, but just because we enter into some contracts, it does not follow that therefore all relationships are contractual. //

I do not see how a relationship can be not contractual. Can you give me an example?

//No, if we are social by nature, then it is prior to us and therefore prior to our decisions.//

We are individual by nature - we have one mind and we have it alone and unshared. We have a yearning for interaction with other humans by nature, that is what I mean by "social". Therefore, to support any particular society must be an act of my decision.

//indeed, you regard someone attempting to protect the child as guilty of immoral violence.//

True enough. Since for the mother to be forced to bear the child is an act of enslavement of the woman, and since the only mechanism that the law has is violence, then you are advocating violence against the mother for wishing to withdraw from a relationship. I do see that as a species of slavery.


//If we are social by nature, then violence is done in some circumstances when we withdraw ourselves from certain relationships//

I do not agree. Violence is aggressive and physical. To say that voluntarily withdrawing is violence is to say that it is violence to throw off the shackles of oppression.

So forcing me to live for the benefit of others, is not violent?

//someone who protects a starving child from a parent who seeks to kill the child for stealing a solitary pea, is, on your account, guilty of violence//

I think the analogy to abortion is somewhat faulty. In the analogy, the child is not a current and real trespasser on the land of the parent, nor is it in the act of continuous theft from the parent. It would rather be a case of the child taking a large proportion of the food from the parent, making them experience great discomfort, and then making them risk their lives to expel them from their body.

The response of the parent in the analogy is not required to halt the theft of the pea- that is achieved by merely not allowing the child access to their food.

However, I broadly agree with what you say.

Let us say there are a million children, and each of them steals one pea from my field. Each is only guilty of the "small" crime of stealing one pea - yet, cumulatively, they have caused a massive amount of damage to me. I would argue that killing at least one child in such a circumstance is a reasonable act. The guilt of the individual child is no greater in my example or you analogy.

Or, if the child in your example steals one pea a day, then after many days, I have lost an entire meal. Am I to kill them then?

It is rather like saying that it is okay to steal a penny, but not okay to steal 1,000,000,000 pennies.

indigomyth said...

Or, another example comes to mind - instead of a pea, make it a drop of my blood. Am I expected to agree with the idea that the person (man, woman, child) who would take a drop of my blood, does not deserve death? If they were to ambush me, and try to take it by force, would I not be justified in fighting until they were dead in order to protect that which is indisputably mine?

In that regard, it is far easier for me to agree that it would be absolute evil to violently prevent a woman from having an abortion, for to agree otherwise is to say that another person has a right to my blood.

Albert said...

I do not see how a relationship can be not contractual. Can you give me an example?

An unborn child is in relationship with his mother, but there is no contract.

We are individual by nature

Yes but we are mutually dependent. We do not beget ourselves for example.

I think the issue in relation to the child stealing the pea, is that if the child is starving and the parent is not, the child has a right to the pea.

indigomyth said...

//An unborn child is in relationship with his mother, but there is no contract.//

Of course, then we could drill down into what it means to be "in a relationship", however I think we have taken enough of YMB's blog space as it is!

//I think the issue in relation to the child stealing the pea, is that if the child is starving and the parent is not, the child has a right to the pea.//

I disagree, but we have already been over this in another thread, with no conclusion, and I cannot see it being resolved here either, therefore I think it is best to put the issue to bed.

I shall end by thanking you for a pleasant and impassioned conversation, one which has caused me to question my assumptions about materialism and the nature of reality (and people say blogs are just mindless empty wastes of time). I shall leave the final word to your good self.