Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Pretentious Poem Title

"The Death of Socrates as Seen from the Perspective of the Hemlock"

Coming Soon

Working on a review of Leo Strauss' _Natural Right and History_. In this entry I claimed I didn't understand NR&H. I can understand why, seeing as I hadn't read it. I must have confused it with Voegelin's _The New Science of Politics_.

What went wrong?

Father Paul Mankowski, SJ responds to the sexual abuse crisis.

Where have all the Rhapsodes gone?

Homer Sung Aloud, in yet another variant via Banana Republican. I prefer my own untutored version, fool that I am. I have two regrets about my classical language training:
1) We rarely read aloud. "Until it is spoken, it is not heard" and hearing is essential to linguistic mastery.
2) We never had composition assignments. How were we supposed to learn the language without writing in it?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Glory be to God for Dappled Things

The Gerard Manley Hopkins Conference was held at the local Jesuit
university this weekend, and though I missed most of the papers
presented, I did catch two excellent performances of GMH's poetry by
Richard Austin. Austin, a Shakespearean actor, has made his
readings available on CD. Here is his website.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

More About Politics in Conservative Drag, How Liberal Rights are Wrong

An old FR thread on an article by Kenneth Craycraft, originally at the Intercollegiate Review

Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2004

Aquinas for the Democratic Age: A review of John Hittinger's Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace: Thomism and Democratic Political Theory. Via TSO

Commonsense Ethics, Ralph McInerny reviews a J. Budziszewski book

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Sin Makes You Stupid

The perfect intellectual operation in man consists in an abstraction from sensible phantasms, wherefore the more a man's intellect is freed from those phantasms, the more thoroughly will it be able to consider things intelligible, and to set in order all things sensible. Thus Anaxagoras stated that the intellect requires to be "detached" in order to command, and that the agent must have power over matter, in order to be able to move it. Now it is evident that pleasure fixes a man's attention on that which he takes pleasure in: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 4,5) that we all do best that which we take pleasure in doing, while as to other things, we do them either not at all, or in a faint-hearted fashion.

Now carnal vices, namely gluttony and lust, are concerned with pleasures of touch in matters of food and sex; and these are the most impetuous of all pleasures of the body. For this reason these vices cause man's attention to be very firmly fixed on corporeal things, so that in consequence man's operation in regard to intelligible things is weakened, more, however, by lust than by gluttony, forasmuch as sexual pleasures are more vehement than those of the table. Wherefore lust gives rise to blindness of mind, which excludes almost entirely the knowledge of spiritual things, while dullness of sense arises from gluttony, which makes a man weak in regard to the same intelligible things. On the other hand, the contrary virtues, viz. abstinence and chastity, dispose man very much to the perfection of intellectual operation. Hence it is written (Dan. 1:17) that "to these children" on account of their abstinence and continency, "God gave knowledge and understanding in every book, and wisdom."

-Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II ii, Q 15 Art. 3

Monday, March 22, 2004

Edmund Burke and Revolution

The Mystery of the Supernatural

The Old Oligarch posts some brief commentary on Henri Cardinal de Lubac's The Mystery of the Supernatural. Cornelis recommended this to me, and I almost picked it up on my last trip to the library.

Chris Rees has a Website

I met Chris Rees at the Denver Chesterton Society. He has several interesting pieces on his site, including one debunking the enneagram and a mock-socratic dialogue on metaphysics.

The Concept of Sin

Another excellent work of Joseph Pieper, The Concept of Sin, has been translated into English. A few excerpts:

"In other words, only pride --which is a word we use to describe an attitued that intends to turn away from God--makes sin in the first place into the definitive wrong that it is.

Consequently, the less the concrete deed contains the element of "pride" and the more cupiditas it has, the less the guiltiness of the action. But the more spiritual a human being is, that is, the more he has rendered himself immune to the seductions and charms of the sensible world by living a life of self-abnegation and disciplining his will, the more he can now commit the offense, the sin of unadulterated hybris and blatant pride. Only if all the powers of my being obey me does the question suddenly occur to me: whom do I myself now obey?

This leaves us with an unsettling conclusion: only a purely spiritual being could become guilty in this extreme sense. Of course the philosopher, qua philosopher, has no competence to speak of angels and their sin. Nonetheless, we can learn something of philosophical import about the essence of human guilt when theology tells us that the first sin of the angels could only have been the sin of pride."

-p. 62

"At first hearing, Nicholai Hartmann's own answer [to the question of original sin] sounds quite plausible: "There is no freedom for the good that would not be at the same time freedom for evil." But on further reflection we see how this statement introduces an impermissible simplification into the argument. Were this thesis true, then God would not be free(nor, for that matter, would the person who has attained final fulfillment, the saint in heaven--a category that only the believer can be convinced of).

In any case, in its long history the Western tradition has conceived of the problem differently from Mr. Hartmann. Thomas Aquinas speaks only as one of its witnesses when he says that to be able to sin is indeed a consequence(De Veritate 24,3 ad 2), or even a sign of freedom, quoddam libertatis signum(De Veritate 22,6), but "it does not belong to the essence of the free will to be able to decide for evil."(De Veritate 24,3 ad 2; Commentary on the Sentences 2d; 44,1,1 ad 1) "To will evil is neither freedom nor a part of freedom."(De Veritate 22,6) In other words, the inability to sin should be looked on as the very signature of a higher freedom--contrary to the usual way of conceiving the issue."

-P. 79

And here's a review from elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Name Change

The title "Velleity of Velleities" has become too insouciant for my tastes. "Philokalia" means love of beauty and, in my opinion, is the basis for all philosophy. I add "republic" to its name to denote my taste for political thought.

"Shameless Acts" Revisited

Robert P. George on Martha Nussbaum's perjury in a Colorado Supreme Court case which overturned an amendment to the Colorado constitution prohibiting special rights for homosexuals. This is a followup to John Finnis' Shameless Acts in Colorado

Spring 1971 Intercollegiate Review

"One does not have to be an anarchist or a cynic to hold that society is meaningless; no less a personage than a US Ambassador to a South American country--Mr. John Cabot Lodge--said in a recent ceremonial public speech that "society is an abstraction, only individuals are real." This latter-day nominalism is destructive and silly: society is "man writ large," and the proof is that no two communities are interchangeable--precisely because they embody experiences which make increasing sense within a given framework, which translates the reality of the world into the language of specific shared relationships."

Thomas Molnar, Tradition and Social Change

The manner in which society exists has always intrigued me. Does a given society have its own "essence," its own way of life that forms its members by its very nature? Or is it simply the sum total of its relations? Time to revisit the nominalist controversy.

The authors[of The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition] undertake to illuminate the problem that has been generated by liberal domination since the Great Depression. That interpretation has attempted to show that the only American tradition has been "liberal" and that the liberal view has been the basis for the utopianism of contemporary reform. For the liberals, the interpretation of the American tradition has created a unified myth that America stands primarily for liberty, equality, and the rights of man, making the Declaration of Independence the foundation stone of the new edifice.

[...]Our authors attack the overemphasis on the idea that the Declaration is talking individual rights, and more particularly the illegitimate use of the Declaration by Abraham Lincoln. Such a use was a derailment of our tradtion, not its proper interpretation. And this leads to the problem of definitions of equality. The authors affirm that there is no foundation for saying on the basis of the Declaration that individuals have rights that stand above the government of their community by a virtuous people.

[...]It is our constitutional morality not to have a showdown between the three branches of the government. Our system, say Kendall and Carey, cannot survive such confrontations. But the new morality of the judges does not want us to go through the laborious process of gathering the deliberate sense of the community: We march instead toward an "open society" of equality.

Francis G. Wilson, Reclaiming the American Political Tradition

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Foresight, or Paranoia?

Freeper NWU Army ROTC attended a fireside chat with Cardinal George, and gave a short description on Free Republic. He declares:

His[George's] most sobering comment concerned the status of the Church in twenty years. His foresees the Catholic Church being forced underground as in China (with less physical persecution). He argued that for example, a woman sues the Church to be a priest saying it is her right. She gets five justices to agree that it is a right. The Church cannot argue legally from a sacramental standpoint, because Roe v. Wade changed the argument from institutional and community to individual rights, as such the Church must argue on the basis of rights, and here has no argument. The Five justices decree women's ordination, the result is two churches. One a state sponsored Catholic Church and the other an underground Catholic Church. His actual timeframe was ten years.

Cardinal George isn't a fringe character. He's a man of deep reasoning and analysis. I hope he's wrong.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Newspaper Editing at its Finest

A Los Angeles Times music critic who wrote that a Richard Strauss opera was "pro-life" -- meaning a celebration of life -- was stunned to pick up the paper and find his review changed by a literal-minded copy editor to read "anti-abortion."

Intercollegiate Review Winter 1968-69

Some articles:

Cicero and the Politics of the Public Orthodoxy by Frederick D. Wilhelmsen & Willmoore Kendell

The Science and Demonology of Politics by Ellis Sandoz, a review of Eric Voegelin's excellent Science, Politics, and Gnosticism

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Darwinian Platonism?

Because Darwinism gave a new explanation for how and why each organism is so well adapted to its environment, this enormous record of convergence surely must say something as well about the environment. In other words, the fact that so many biological forms developed photosensitive cells and then eyes (or their equivalents) also testifies to the ubiquity of light, just as the fact that wings developed independently on insects, birds, bats, some dinosaurs, and so forth, testifies to the density and viscosity of the atmosphere of the earth. So too with complex brains: to be adaptive, brains have to evolve in response to the environment. In other words, if wings evolve over against and in response to air and eyes over against and in response to light, then brains must evolve over against and in response to something like “mental air.” By that admittedly metaphorical term I mean those a priori ideal structures already part of the universe that make a mathematics-capable brain possible in the first place. In other words, Darwinism is not only compatible with Platonism, it presupposes it.

It cannot be the burden of this chapter to establish the argument and grounds for advocating such a “Darwinian Platonism,” except perhaps to say that a denial of this thesis would run into the difficulty of suddenly finding that the human brain, alone of all organs and organism, is not adapted to its environment and did not evolve over against any selecting force in nature, the way air and light work for wings and eyes respectively. I should also perhaps add that arguments for Platonism , when reinforced by Darwinian perspectives, can help heal the neuralgia currently afflicting atheist Darwinians like Richard Dawkins whenever they hear the word religion. For that reason, the Platonic implications of Darwinian theory will often be resisted for just this reason by atheists, but that is to argue against the conclusion on prior grounds, not against the evidence or the logic of Darwinism.
-Edward T. Oakes, SJ, "Complexity in Context"

Father Oakes has commented on this elsewhere. Quoting Daniel Dennett:
It has often been pointed out that Plato's curious theory of reincarnation and reminiscence, which he offers as an explanation of the source of our a priori knowledge, bears a striking resemblance to Darwin's theory, and this resemblance is particularly striking from our current vantage point. Darwin himself famously noted the resemblance in a remark in one of his notebooks. Commenting on the claim that Plato thought our "necessary ideas" arise from the pre-existence of the soul, Darwin wrote: "read monkeys for preexistence."

George Orwell's Despair by Russell Kirk

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Hitler's Accomplice

Fran Buber-Neumann, wife of a leading German Communist, who was thrown into a Stalinist concentration camp after her husband was purged, then (in 1940) handed over to Hitler's institution. Wife of a Jew, she happened to be a non-Jewish Prussian woman; she and dozens of Jews were delivered by Stalin to Hitler, no doubt as a friendly seal on their alliance.

-Thomas Molnar, The Robot Mentality, Intercollegiate Review March-April 1967

Catholic Theologian belittles Biblical Text

No, it's not about sodomy. Here's Michael Novak:

"In the ancient and medieval world, commerce was much despised. The desire for money was described as "the root of all evils.""

It's only St. Paul, after all. And isn't Fidelio's Rocco superior?