Monday, October 31, 2005

Something I'd like Arlen Specter to Say Unthinkingly:

"A woman's right to choose an abortion is as safe as the babe in her mother's womb."

He said what now?

Another admirer was Rosecrans Baldwin, who, along with Andrew Womack, founded The Morning News in Brooklyn in 1999.

"Paul and I met years ago when I wrote him an e-mail saying I liked an article he'd written," Mr. Baldwin said. "He wrote back saying he wanted to rape me. I replied with similar zest and our correspondence has continued similarly."

A Web Geek Takes off his Mask, NYTimes

Since when did rape humor become an ironic badge of hipness?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rene Descartes: Secret Jesuit Agent

According to the account given in his notebook - no copy of which exists, but which has been reconstructed using contemporary reports - Descartes formulated his philosophy of methodical doubt after a day in a stove-heated room and an ensuing night of extraordinary dreams. Grayling points out that the dreams were remarkably similar to those described in Rosicrucian texts. It is known that Descartes had many acquaintances among the Rosicrucians. Can we be sure that the intrepid rationalist was not a secret intellectual ally of these hermetic thinkers? Grayling thinks it unlikely, and makes the intriguing suggestion that Descartes may have been a spy working in the service of the Jesuits, who formed contacts with the Rosicrucians as part of an intelligence-gathering operation. In the nature of the case, there can be no proof, but it leaves the philosopher looking a surprisingly adventurous figure.

John Gray's Bookshop

Friday, October 28, 2005

An Excellent Summary of Christian Anthropology

Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God covers a vast range of subject matter in a succinct, surprisingly thorough manner. Psychology, bioethics, ecology, and evolutionary theory are all touched upon, though I particularly appreciated this passage on mind and body:

Two themes converge to shape the biblical perspective. In the first place, the whole of man is seen as created in the image of God. This perspective excludes interpretations which locate the imago Dei in one or another aspect of human nature (for example, his upright stature or his intellect) or in one of his qualities or functions (for example, his sexual nature or his domination of the earth). Avoiding both monism and dualism, the Bible presents a vision of the human being in which the spiritual is understood to be a dimension together with the physical, social and historical dimensions of man.

Contemporary academic approaches tend to either dismiss or praise Christian thought as dualistic, so it is nice to see a contrary voice, though I would much like to find some book expanding on this idea at length.

Also of note, an attention-grabbing speculation on the reconciliation of Darwinism with an Aristotelian philosophy of the forms:

In order to maintain the unity of body and soul clearly taught in revelation, the Magisterium adopted the definition of the human soul as forma substantialis (cf. Council of Vienne and the Fifth Lateran Council). Here the Magisterium relied on Thomistic anthropology which, drawing upon the philosophy of Aristotle, understands body and soul as the material and spiritual principles of a single human being. It may be noted that this account is not incompatible with present-day scientific insights. Modern physics has demonstrated that matter in its most elementary particles is purely potential and possesses no tendency toward organization. But the level of organization in the universe, which contains highly organized forms of living and non-living entities, implies the presence of some "information." This line of reasoning suggests a partial analogy between the Aristotelian concept of substantial form and the modern scientific notion of "information." Thus, for example, the DNA of the chromosomes contains the information necessary for matter to be organized according to what is typical of a certain species or individual. Analogically, the substantial form provides to prime matter the information it needs to be organized in a particular way. This analogy should be taken with due caution because metaphysical and spiritual concepts cannot be simply compared with material, biological data.

Stephen Barr recommended this paper in his essay on the Cardinal Shoenborn controversy, The Design of Evolution, as did Chancellor Fran Maier of the Archdiocese of Denver while introducing Richard Weikhart's presentation "From Darwin to Hitler."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Novus Bloggus

Just noticed that Communio and Liberation has a weblog, Cahiers Peguy. It features an excellent short essay on Romeo and Juliet, among many other reflections.

Platonic Ethics doesn't end with the Euthyphro

I've noted my interest in the concept of theosis before , and it seems to have come up yet again. Right Reason takes Simon Blackburn to task for his overly-casual dismissal of Elizabeth Anscombe's ethical writings. Blackburn seems to follow the habit of so many readers of philosophy who treat the Euthyphro dialogue as Plato's last word on the relation between ethics and the divine, while ignoring his other commentaries. Frederick Copleston dilligently summarizes Platonic ethics in his History of Philosophy, a relevant section of which being this one:

Now, happiness must be attained by the pursuit of virtue, which means becoming as like to God as it is possible for man to become. We must become "like the divine so far as we can, and that again is to become righteous with the help of wisdom"(Theatetus 176 b 1-3) "The gods have a care of anyone whose desire is to become just and to be like God, as far as man can attain to the divine likeness, by the pursuit of virtue." (Rep. 613 a 7-b) In The Laws Plato declares that "God is the measure of all things, in a sense far higher than any man, as they say, can hope to be..."

Platonic divinization bears a not insignificant similarity to that concept of theosis especially prominent in Eastern Christianity, not to mention the Christian devotional practices encouraging the imitation of Christ. Indeed, the Catholic Catechism itself quotes St. Gregory of Nyssa: "the goal of the virtuous life is to become like God."(CCC para. 1803, orig. from De Virtutibus)

Most undergraduates never seem to get past the Euthyphro, which is terribly tragic. I do hope Simon Blackburn, an eminent philosopher himself, hasn't set a poor example for them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Some of the impurest books, that are extant in any language, are those written by the popish clergy on the subjects matrimony and divorces."
-William Blackstone, Commentaries

I don't doubt that this refers to ethical manuals instructing husbands and wives on their sexual responsibilities towards their spouse.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Beg for Health Information

If anybody has information about Eosinophilic Esophagitis, its relation to chronic vomiting, chronic fatigue, and prednisone's effects thereon, and this information is not easily found in a lazy googling, please drop me a line.

And please throw me a pity party in the comments. Pity is my drug.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Comfort Amid Tribulations

Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro. Arundell
-St. Philip Howard, inscribed on the walls of the Tower of London, June 22, 1587

"The more suffering for Christ in this world, the greater the glory with Christ in the world to come."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Managerial Class in the Catholic Parish

Yet as the professional middle class’s own self-understanding and self-representation has shifted over the last three decades from staid conformist to breezy rebel-part of the broader corporate cooptation of cultural rebellion that Thomas Frank has dubbed “the conquest of cool”-so the matrices of the laity have shifted from IBM, the Great Society, and the underground church to the Starbucks chain, the consumer dreamland of infinite choice and abundant lifestyles. Most of the sea changes that have transpired in American Catholicism since the midsixties-in liturgy, gender conventions, sexual mores, and priest-laity relations-have been variously initiated, scuttled, or corrupted among the college-trained, technoburban, consumerist enclaves of the flock, and it seems likely that these zones of professional and managerial culture will become only more powerful in the twenty-first century.

-Eugene McCarraher, "Smile When You Say Laity"

Monday, October 17, 2005

Love of the people is an aristocratic calling. The democrat only loves the people at election time.

So says Nicolás Gómez Dávila, apparently a philosopher of an anti-modern, or simply ultra-traditionalist bent. The linked site has many of his aphorisms. Many are very good, but a few are quite bad.

Against the Dictatorship of Polyannas

Amy Welborn declares herself a "Not-Nice Girl":

So most of the time, I am highly rational, understanding and compassionate. But the problem is that there are other times, when that whole shtick just runs out of steam, and more likely, runs right into the wall of people who don’t respond to rationality because they’re blinded by their egos, deafened by their obsession with power and incapable of engaging in rational discussions because they’re either too dumb or too imprisoned by mindless adherence to platitudes disguised as ideology.

Pride Goeth Before, And Cometh After, The Fall

This view [from the web] is spookily godlike. You can switch your gaze of a spot in the world from map to satellite to 3-D just by clicking. Recall the past? It's there. Or listen to the daily complaints and travails of almost anyone who blogs (and doesn't everyone?). I doubt angels have a better view of humanity. Kevin Kelly, We Are the Web

Via Nicholas Carr's brief essay, reminiscent of technoskeptic Cliff Stoll.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Modern State: Blind to the Good Life

What characterizes modern political thought is the rejection of the bona vita as a guide to political action. Men either lack such a thing as a natural vocation or at least they disagree about what such a vocation consists in. This makes it necessary to rethink politics, to begin with men as they are and to arrange things in order that those who are divided about the issue of what constitutes the good life will nevertheless live together in peace.

Philippe Beneton, The Languages of the Rights of Man

The essay doesn't present anything terribly new, but it is a quite concise political analysis of the modern predicament.

Also of interest:

True and False Tolerance, also by Beneton

Catholic Social Thought and the American Regime from Gary D. Glenn of the excellent Society of Catholic Social Scientists. Glenn attempts to revive the old interpretation that Locke's thought had some basis in Jesuit political philosophy--albeit only in part. He also notes that Richard Filmer, of Patriarcha fame, was an enemy of the early Jesuits' political philosophy.

Funniest Skull Ever

Monday, October 10, 2005

Aunt Margaret, RIP

She was a great woman, tough as nails and as fun as anyone on earth. The last of my family from the World War II generation.

Dona ei requiem, O domine.

Margaret E. Dwyer, 91, Kansas City, MO, passed away October 7, 2005. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, October 10, 2005 at St. Peters Church, 6415 Holmes, Kansas City, MO 64131. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery. Friends may call from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, October 9 at Muehlebach Funeral Home, 6800 Troost, Kansas City, MO where the rosary will be prayed at 4:30 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to the St. Peters Church Legacy Fund or Catholic Charities, 1112 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64105. Margaret was born July 1, 1914 in Kansas City, MO to William W. and Esther C. (Birmingham) Hale. She was a member of St. Peters Church and retired from the Kansas City Missouri School District after many years of service. Margaret was preceded in death by her brother, William J. Hale and her sister, Mary Bernice Jones. Survivors include her daughters, Margaret Ann Sears, Cincinnati, OH and Patricia Lee Scaglia, Kansas City, MO; grandchildren, John T. Benson, Jr., James P. Benson, Ann B. Shah, Phillip P. Scaglia, and Patricia M. Scaglia; great-grandchildren, Amanda Benson, Meghan Benson, Blake Benson, Amelia Shah, and Aidan Shah; sister-in-law, Mary Catherine Hale and nephews, Montgomery Bruce Jones, William J. Hale, Jr. and Bill Jones. (Arr; Muehlebach Funeral Home, 816-444-2060).

Saturday, October 08, 2005

“Two years ago, if somebody had said our soldiers would do these things to detainees and take pictures of it, I would have said that’s a lie,” sighed recently retired General Michael Marchand, who as assistant judge advocate general for the Army was responsible for reforming military training policy in the wake of Abu Ghraib. “What soldiers do, I’m not sure I can guess anymore.”

A sad commentary, evidence that there's many from Generation: Porn in Generation: Kill. From War Pornography, in an article not for the sensitive.

via Kevin Michael Grace

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Somewhat Anti-Catholic and Very Flaky Urban Legend is Loose

An email has been circulating recently referring to a newsletter we supposedly sent out this week titled "If Your Child is a Gothic, Reform Through the Lord". There has been no such letter either sent out by St. Mary's Cathedral or posted on our website. It appears that this is just another fictional email circulating on the web. For verification of the legitimacy of any email, visit Thank you for visiting our site!

Saint Mary's Cathedral, Colorado Springs

Here's the actual rumor:

If Your Child is a Gothic, Reform Through the Lord!

Listed below are some warning signs to indicate if your child may have gone astray from the Lord. Gothic (or goth) is a very obscure and often dangerous culture that young teenagers are prone to participating in.
The gothic culture leads young, susceptible minds into an imagined world of evil, darkness, and violence. Please seek immediate attention through counselling, prayer, and parental guidance to rid your child of Satan's temptations if five or more of the following are applicable to your child:

-Frequently wears black clothing.
-Wears band and/or rock t-shirts.
-Wears excessive black eye makeup, lipstick or nailpolish.
-Wears any odd, silver jewelry or symbols. Some of these include: reversed crosses, pentagrams, pentacles, ankhs or various other Satanic worshipping symbols.
-Shows an interest in piercings or tattoos.
-Listens to gothic or any other anti-social genres of music. (Marilyn Manson claims to be the anti-Christ, and publicly speaks against the Lord. Please discard any such albums IMMEDIATELY.)
-Associates with other people that dress, act or speak eccentrically.
-Shows a declining interest in wholesome activities, such as: the Bible, prayer, church or sports.
-Shows an increasing interest in death, vampires, magic, the occult, witchcraft or anything else that involves Satan.
-Takes drugs.
-Drinks alcohol.
-Is suicidal and/or depressed.
-Cuts, burns or partakes in any other method of self-mutilation. (This is a Satanic ritual that uses pain to detract from the light of God and His love. Please seek immediate attention for this at your local mental health center.)
-Complains of boredom.
-Sleeps too excessively or too little.
-Is excessively awake during the night.
-Dislikes sunlight or any other form of light. (This pertains to vampires promoting the idea that His light is of no use.)
-Demands an unusual amount of privacy.
-Spends large amounts of time alone.
-Requests time alone and quietness. (This is so that your child may speak to evil sprits through
-Insists on spending time with friends while unaccompanied by an adult.
-Disregards authority figures; teachers, priests, nuns and elders are but a few examples of this.
-Misbehaves at school.
-Misbehaves at home.
-Eats goth-related foods. Count Dracula cereal is an example of this.
-Drinks blood or expresses an interest in drinking blood. (Vampires believe this is how to attain Satan. This act is very
dangerous and should be stopped immediately.)
-Watches cable television or any other corrupted media sources. (Ask your local church for proper programs that your
child may watch.)
-Plays videos games that contains violence or are of a role-playing nature.
-Uses the internet excessively and frequently makes time for the computer.
-Makes Satanic symbols and/or violently shakes head to music.
-Dances to music in a provocative or sexual manner.
-Expresses an interest in sex.
-Is homosexual and/or bisexual.
-Pursues dangerous cult religions. Such include: Satanism, Scientology, Philosophy, Paganism, Wicca, Hinduism and Buddhism.
-Wears pins, stickers or anything else that contains these various phrases: "I'm so gothic, I'm dead", "woe is me", "I'm a goth".
-Claims to be a goth.

If five or more of these apply to your child, please intervene immediately. The gothic culture is dangerous and Satan thrives within it. If any of these problems persist, enlist your child into your local mental health center.

~St. Mary's Catholic Church

I'd like to know who started this thing. Bishop Sheridan and Bishop Emeritus Hanifen were in the news around election time last year, but I don't think it's likely to be related to this silly thing.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"I am Legion"

“I think God’s sense of economy is very different from our own - so different it’s scary. To him the plight of one vagrant is more important than all the money in the world. And He’ll plunder our treasure to save him.”
WaiterRant reflects on the Gethsemane exorcism and his own demons quite excellently.

via fellow Colorado blogger Christ-Haunted

A Vulgar Authorship Debate

"Who is Bacon?"

"Some chap who's supposed to have written Shakespeare's plays."

"Awfully decent of him."

"I think so."

"Of course, he may have owed Shakespeare some money."

"Well, there is that."

Via Tom's comments at Zadok the Roman, supposedly originally from Wodehouse.

I'll Never Grow Up! Not Me!

Robert McHenry at Tech Central Station has a piquant essay Yes, I'm Definitely Saying Something About Your Mother comparing the oft-demanded Public Sensitivity Tribute to old schoolyard fight rituals:

How many of you have ever been confronted with some variation of the challenge to which the title of this essay is the answer you never dared offer? It's a schoolyard kind of thing, a rite of passage of sorts, perhaps, but certainly a ritualistic performance involving several people. There's the challengee, of course -- you, if you're male and a little, shall we say, averse to rough play. You might be alone, but the odds are you have a couple of like-minded friends with you. Then there's the challenger. You know what he's like without my making you recall the details. Invariably he has some pals with him. This is invariable because what we have is a piece of street theater, and the star needs a sympathetic audience.

So Tough Guy poses to you the question that has no correct answer: "You sayin' something about my mother?" You've probably said nothing at all up to now, hoping to avoid trouble, and so you stammer out "No, no, of course not." [Cue the adrenalin: heartbeat up? Check. Breaths short and shallow? Check. That clammy feeling? Check.] To which the scripted reply is "You calling me a liar?" He advances, you retreat; he perhaps prods you with a forefinger. Despite the physical menace, though, he doesn't want to fight so much as simply to intimidate, and to elicit the moronic leers of his chums; you want only to wake from a nightmare.

via The Japery

Another Miniver Cheevy on the 'Net?

I'm pretty tired of rants against relativism, but this guy is rather endearing:

...There was so much I could say, but she would never hear it, so I saved my breath. And then it hit me--the ultimate fashion would be a t-shirt with "Truth's Beauty" written on it. And there was that girl back in NC. It would look good on her. And we would never sell the shirt, but only ever encourage people to make their own. It would be an open-source fashion project!!

Dante reserved a special place for buzz marketers in hell--they never stood up for the right nor the wrong, good nor bad, but only ever ran with the latest fad. And so it is that Dante had them running after a blank banner in a cirlce, while hornets bit them and worms sucked their blood, as when they were living, they stung others by blogging little cutesy-ttotsey falsehoods, all to suck their cash away, into the beltway.

But just as one cannot deconstruct the Great Books, but only oneself, reality cannot be hacked, but only one's private perception of it. For the truth shall prevail, and thus the buzzters and pomo-elite reality hackers slowly hack their very own souls with each lie they tell, hype, and promote, with each dollar they lust after, with each falsehood they broadcast, until they no longer no right from wrong, good from bad--until they no longer know Truth's Beauty.

I think I came across him before, when he was canvassing for volunteers to put together a Dante's Inferno video game. Quixotic, aesthetically wacky, but sincere.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Let's All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues)

By Waylon Jennings

Cowboys they are ladies men all right
They'll love 'em up and talk 'em up all night
But they're lonely when there's nothing else to do
And that's what makes the cowboys sing the blues
He does a little Shakespeare and he sings
He plays the mandolin and other things
He looks for love beauty and IQ
And that's what makes the cowboy sing the blues

Cowboys have to fall in love get hurt and all that bit
Let their hearts hang out so they can write you all a hit
So ladies if they ask you don't refuse
Let's all help the cowboys sing the blues

Cowboys they don't ever understand
This thing between a woman and a man
Until they find the one they always lose
That's what makes the cowboys sing the blues
A cowboy takes his lonely pen in hand
And tries to make somebody understand
But she has ears to hear a different tune
And that's what makes the cowboy sing the blues