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About Fasteriskhead

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  • Birthday 12/17/1982

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    I'm not really sure what to put here. I was born in Florida, grew up in North Carolina and Virginia. I speak very quietly.
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    professional grad student
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  1. A bit of history trivia that may provide some perspective on the discussion. So far as I can tell, the first historical figure to talk about self-esteem ([I]Acquiescentia in se ipso[/I]) was the 17th century writer Benedict Spinoza (someone I happen to be interested in). In his Definitions of the Affects Spinoza writes: [quote]Self-esteem is a joy born of the fact that a man considers himself and his own power of acting.[/quote]In other words: it's a state of being happy with who we are and what we are capable of doing. What's interesting here, aside from the historical fact, is that Spinoza thinks of self-esteem as opposed not only to humility, but also to [I]pride[/I]. He writes: [quote]Pride is thinking more highly of oneself than is just, out of love of oneself.[/quote]And elsewhere: [quote][Pride] is a species of madness, because the man dreams, with open eyes, that he can do all those things which he achieves only in his imagination, and which he therefore regards as real and triumphs in.[/quote]Now, so far as I can tell Spinoza has no problem with self-esteem. Self-esteem, if it's "just," amounts to a kind of [I]realistic[/I] understanding of oneself and what one is capable of. He has a problem with pride because at base it's something imaginary - it has no basis in clear and distinct knowledge, and basically leads to blind desires and actions. It's an interesting question: when did this term, which for Spinoza meant a joy grounded in a solid and realistic self-understanding, change to mean a kind of boundless personal optimism (as it does now) - in other words, a type of pride? We reason: such and such a child may not be able to do everything, but if we [I]convince[/I] him/her that they can - and generally encourage expectations of success and interpretations of successfulness ("I got a C, but it's better than that D I made last time!") every step of the way - then maybe they'll do better than they would otherwise. But of course, the reverse might also be the case; a student who thinks they're doing badly may work harder to catch up, and thus do even better than before. Spinoza, perhaps, would like us to consider the child who knows very well who she is and what she can do, but does not step beyond that. I don't really know how I feel about all this. When Spinoza talks about unwarranted pride and humility as "species of madness" which are likely to lead to trouble he may be right, but then maybe this isn't such a problem for the modern educational system. What this system wants is [I]results[/I] - on tests and in classrooms - and realistic self-appraisals may not be as desirable for those results as the imaginations of the unrealistic. I see no reason, after all, why madmen might not test better. Of course, another question is whether we think society ought to be populated by such people, or whether we should take a moment to reconsider despite their (supposedly) better results. The final problem we end up in, I think, is whether, why, and what it means that one lives (or ought to live) in a society where everything is completely determined by results. It thus isn't a question of whether self-esteem is useful or not, but rather why it is that usefulness (meaning: utility for a set of results) now completely determines the worth of self-esteem and, perhaps, all other kind of affections. I guess I'm leaving you many problems without solutions here, but I thought it might be nice to widen this thing out a bit.
  2. [SIZE="1"][quote name='Allamorph'][FONT=Arial]Ehh, still no. And here I'd like you to indulge me in a serious explanation as to the Why [why the conversation should go on][/FONT][/QUOTE]Because what you say in response might be [I]true[/I]. What other reason could there be? [quote name='Allamorph'][FONT=Arial]So it boils down to a lack of tact. You have already demonstrated?and again, you are not alone in this?that you have decided where you stand and are only interested if I can prove you wrong. I would rather start over from the complete beginning, take one assumption, and follow both paths to their logical conclusion. It is far easier and less prone to fallaciousness than attempting to divine outward from the center in all directions at once. So although I think a discussion between us would be rather interesting, I see it with your current attitude as ultimately useless. Make me believe you want to hear me, and I will speak.[/FONT][/QUOTE]All I can do is repeat again: [quote] [SIZE="1"]For this, it seems to me, is what I'm hearing (and please correct me if I'm misunderstanding). ... f you think I'm wrong, make arguments about why. If you think my judgment of the creationist reading has been premature, make arguments about why. ... I've given my own reasons, and I hope to get some good ones in return on why I may be wrong.[/SIZE][/quote]I don't see what I can reasonably grant that I haven't already. If by saying that you'd rather we "start over from the complete beginning" you mean that I'll have to completely drop my own opinion on the subject before you're willing to join in, I don't think I can do so. I've given some thought to the topic, and through that thought I've reached certain conclusions (or "biases," if you wish). These are conclusions which I'm perfectly willing to alter or drop if I'm given good reason to. It isn't about "proving me wrong," it's about [I]clarifying[/I] for my benefit any aspects of the subject in question which I've misunderstood or skipped over without reason, and which have pushed me in the direction of error. It's about [I]seeking the truth[/I]. And after all, if all discussion amounted to talking to people who themselves hold no biases, it would be very boring indeed (I'm thankful that I've never had a discussion that happened that way). I've clarified what I meant and apologized for my poor choice of words. And, if what you'd like the people on these boards to learn is how to be tactful and diplomatic, I think the point's been made well (after all, I've been chastened even by the folks who seem to be on my side). But I, at least, would enjoy learning other things. So I hope you will take me seriously when I say: I swear, by my honor as a thinker, that I will take seriously any points you make. [quote name='Allamorph'][FONT=Arial]In my experience (in literature in general), interpretation is the only recourse of those who miss the statement right before them. Attempting to divine hidden meanings is to me highly presumptuous, and it assumes that the author intended their literature to be interpreted in the first place?an assumption no one has the right to make. To make such an assumption at all is in [I]my[/I] opinion highly egotistical, denoting that [I]you[/I] somehow know the author's intentions where others cannot.[/FONT][/QUOTE]Wonderful! Now I have something to talk about. If I read you fairly, you hold to something like the following understanding of how people read: 1. Someone reads a text. 2A. They get the meaning of the text (what it's saying), OR 2B. If they don't understand the meaning of the text (or, perhaps, if they think it might say "more"), they have to "interpret" it. 3. The meaning of the text found in situations like 2A is always correct, while "interpreted" meaning always risks being false. In other words, interpretation is something that happens if we're not satisfied with the meaning we already have. The thing is, I don't think interpretation works this way. It doesn't seem to me to be true that we first naively get the meaning of the text, and [I]then[/I] decide (presumptuously or otherwise) whether or not to begin an act of interpretation. Rather, reading [I]just is[/I] interpreting - or, to put it better, how we read is [I]by[/I] interpreting. I'll try to justify this by one of my favorite examples, from Genesis 3:15 (where God is speaking to the serpent). In the King James translation, this passage reads: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise [or crush] thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." This verse is usually cited as the first reference to Christ in the bible - the "it" (here clearly meant to indicate the "seed" of the woman) in the passage is taken to indicate the one who will crush the serpent, that is, Satan or sin. The problem is that the Hebrew isn't so clear. Basically, the key pronoun "it" could refer to [I]several[/I] things since the Hebrew is ambiguous and ungendered. The Greek Septuagent translates the key phrase as "he shall strike thy head? - a translation which makes it even more clear that the figure being referenced is to be Christ. But the Vulgate, in contrast, translates it "she will crush your head" - the "she" here being the [I]woman[/I] from the previous clause. In this translation (and it's not alone), it isn't the woman's seed which crushes the serpent's head, but the woman [I]herself[/I]. Taken theologically, this means: the one who destroys sin isn't Christ, but [I]Mary[/I]. Taking either reading as [I]the[/I] reading will thus have have severe theological consequences. But, there's no way to validate or invalidate [I]either[/I] reading by the text itself: the pronoun just isn't clear. To this day there are divisions on how to read the passage. And this sort of thing is by no means uncommon. Why bring this up? Well, first off, don't trust the translations (but you should already know that). But my deeper point is that if two people read this passage in Hebrew, they could both pass over it quite quickly without ever stopping to "interpret" it in a conscious, reasoned kind of way, and yet they could both take the [I]meaning[/I] very differently ("the woman's seed will crush your head" versus "the woman will crush your head"). In other words, we would have two "naive" readings that contradict. This leads me to conclude that such readings can't be trusted without further ado. The implication (this is my main thrust) is that [I]any[/I] reading, even one which doesn't involve the deliberate act of considering what something means, has to make certain assumptions about what words mean, how they relate, and indeed "the author's intentions" for the text. And if a naive reading makes these kinds of choices, then there can be no [I]strict[/I] division between it and deliberate "interpretation" of a text. So all readings are basically interpretive. They are all, therefore, equally at risk of being not only wrong but also "presumptuous" and "egotistical" (as you put it). Now, please don't take me to be saying that any way of reading something is equal to every other way (relativism! head for the hills!). Please don't take me to be saying that there's never any reading which is the one and only correct one. My point is that there's no way to get to [I]the[/I] meaning "for free" (so to speak) just by reading without "presuming" anything deliberately. There is no way out of the work of interpreting. And that means, with scripture above all else, that you have to [I]justify[/I] your reading (or, as math teachers like to say, "show your work"). This means providing good reasons for your reading or reasons why other possible readings are unacceptable. You could object here: "It's fine to say that some passages, like Genesis 3:15, require more thought than others. But Genesis 1 and 2 seem pretty straightforward in what they say. Why would should anyone depart from the most obvious meaning to something else?" Well, I grant that if a reading seems very obvious, that says a lot in its favor. Nevertheless, I think Erasmus' warning should be taken seriously here. We are told that the Earth was created in seven days. But we are also told elsewhere (2 Peter 3:8) that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (this is why I exaggerated the idea of taking these days as [I]exactly[/I] 24 hours in the modern sense). If Peter's to be taken literally (and we could, of course, also take him figuratively), then this means a 7,000 year long creation is quite biblically justifiable. I think I could find other things to look at, but this is enough to show my point. Mind you, I'm not trying to absolutely invalidate the creationist reading here. My point is just that if it's going to assert itself as [I]the[/I] reading, it has to be able to provide reasons why it should be believed or why all others shouldn't. To Sabrina: I think this should also answer your own questions (but please tell me if I've not done so). I'm not clear one one part, though: [quote name='Sabrina'][FONT="Tahoma"]So what would you do [/FONT][if trying to explain the internet to someone from the past][FONT="Tahoma"]? If you were someone like God, isn't it possible you'd explain it in simple terms or use an analogy that they could grasp? Yes it would be highly inaccurate but at the same time, there isn't an explanation that they would have understood. The idea would be to at least let them have a means to understand it to the best of their current ability. I mean look at us today, we don't get it either since the only thing we seem to be capable of doing is attempting to force our understand of someone like God into our own limited understanding. And realistically, that just won't work, we lack the knowledge to do so (in my opinion).[/FONT][/QUOTE]If I understand you correctly, then we aren't disagreeing here (at least not on the question of whether interpretation is needed). If you're saying that these sections of the scripture are to be read as a kind of analogy, and were written that way so that we could get a decent idea of something which we couldn't otherwise conceive, it reasonably follows that the way we're supposed to read the text is to try to figure out what was [I]really[/I] meant in it (the "mystery," as Erasmus puts it). In other words, it requires very careful [I]interpretive[/I] work, in the same way that my past person would have to rack his imagination in order to understand the internet. And this is, so far as I have understood it, [I]exactly[/I] what the creationists wish to deny. They claim that the most obvious reading is the [I]only[/I] one we should ever consider. It's as if I were to describe the internet as "like a kind of unembodied writing or drawing which can be called to appear on any sheet of papyrus in the world, and be instantly erased to call up more whenever the owner wishes," and the person who heard this then denied any possibility of monitors or keyboards because I had specifically said "papyrus." So, to be clear: I'm not denying that we should read Genesis 1 and 2 as a creation of some kind. I'm saying that the particular group of readers called "creationists" are limiting how we should understand these passages without good justification. [quote name='AzureWolf']@Fasteriskhead ...I did not follow your back-and-forth...[/QUOTE]Well, thank you for your support I suppose, but I honestly prefer when people read what I say and disagree with it far more than when they pick a position without having read. I don't care about being right so much as I care about producing a better understanding of the problem. tl;dr - thanx but plz read.[/SIZE]
  3. [SIZE="1"][quote name='Drix D'Zanth']However, examine the argument from first cause where Thomas seems to assume that there must be an end to an infinite regression; and so he assumes that God is an ?uncaused cause?, which essentially contradicts the preceding argument that every effect must have a cause (this is also re-interpreted as something called the Kalaam Cosmological Argument). I realize that I?m only quickly addressing Aquinas, but I think that given the basic understanding of the universe modern science has given us we are able to see that none of Aquina?s proof would hold up in such a court.[/quote]Okay, I'm going to nitpick here (sorry). Dawkins is missing the extremely important distinction made in medieval theology between being "self-caused" and being "uncaused." Every such theologian I am aware of, including Thomas, thinks that a self-caused being - something which causes its own existence - is incoherent (Descartes was the first one to take the idea seriously). Self-causation is a possibility Thomas denies right at the beginning of the "second way" (Summa Theologiae 1a Q.2 Art.3) - but he doesn't deny the idea that a being could have [I]no[/I] cause, i.e. that something could have always existed up to a certain moment. In fact, the existence of such a being is what he's trying to infer. The argument proceeds, so far as I understand it, like so: 1. No being can cause itself. 2. If there were no cause for a certain effect, the effect could not exist. (equiv. to: "all effects have causes") 3. Given at least one being which is an effect, we can infer that it had a cause. And if that cause is itself an effect, then we can infer that it too had a cause, and so on back. 4. No chain of causes and effects (like the one in 3) can be an infinite regression. 5. We are given at least one being which is an effect. 6. Therefore there must be some being which is a cause for others, but is itself uncaused (i.e. there must be some first cause for the causal chain). As I read it, the argument in this form is perfectly valid and non-contradictory. One can, of course, deny any of the premises (4 is a popular target) or deny that the notion of an uncaused being is acceptable. It can also be pointed out that Thomas' proof can't successfully establish that this uncaused being (or beings - there could still presumably be more than one) is, in fact, God. As I said earlier, though, I don't think that's Thomas' goal (something Dawkins completely misses, albeit without being alone in doing so). This and some of the other "ways" are, even with all objections included, extraordinarily elegant little arguments - and despite what the "court of modern science" holds, I think even some scientists would find them convincing (even if they thought, for example, that the "uncaused being" was only the cosmos as a whole, this would in no way contradict Aquinas' proof in its basic form). Heidegger once wrote: "It is a prejudice of philosophers of religion" (or in this case, of biologists writing as such philosophers) "to think that they are able to settle the problem of theology with a quick sweep of the hand." No matter how many times crusty old theologians like Thomas are given such sweeps, they keep coming back. I can only wonder if they're somewhat more clever than we've been led to believe. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']?My God is beyond understanding.? Well, how can the statement even come close to being true if you are able to make that statement?[/quote]The traditional answer is that you don't run into the same sorts of language problems that I've been pointing out if the [I]only[/I] things you say about god are negative: "God is unknowable," "God is not finite," "God is not evil," etc. This is the thesis of so-called "negative theology." Your objection, which is a very good one, is to say: well, isn't it self-defeating to say that God can't be known? isn't that kind of statement itself knowledge of God? The traditional answer is that it isn't - that we only really have knowledge when it's a [I]positive[/I] predication of facts upon things. All a statement like "God is unknowable" does is deny God a certain "creaturely" predicate - that is, one which wouldn't be divinely appropriate. Ultimately I myself am not happy with this. It seems to me that ~Px ("x is not P") can't be just a denial, and has to be just as much a positive statement as Px ("x is P"). Granted that, even statements like "God is unknowable" would be self-defeating. The sensible thing to say is: the only things that can ever [I]be[/I], are those things which can be [I]thought[/I]. This was the thesis of the great Karl Popper. And to this we can easily add: anything which can be thought can also be said, and said clearly. Thus, anything which cannot be thought or said, cannot [I]be[/I]. Nevertheless, something about this idea seems to me entirely baseless. Or, better: it seems like something of which we could never possibly [I]say[/I] whether it's true or not (from where, exactly, could we ever make such a decision?). If the whole of human thought were a house, the question of whether Popper's thesis is true or not would be a front door which always remains locked - so that we can never know whether it terminates in a brick wall (and isn't a real door at all) or leads to an outside. I believe, rather boldly, that we cannot assume the brick wall so quickly (humans are still finite, after all). Even so, we would have no way of reaching the God who (by the classical definitions I'm following) would lie outside of all possible thought - only faith, hope, or charity would remain. As I've said, this "door" is just as much the starting point of theology as it is the final conclusion of atheism; the two should really be considered old friends (and no one will squabble more than old friends). [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']Second, no one worships a transcendent (unknowable) God. I made this point before, but through prophet, revelation, and personal experience?people claim to have physical, knowable interactions with the divine.[/quote]Sure, but lots of people also believe that the moon landing was staged and that Elvis is still alive - that doesn't make it [I]true[/I]. The truth doesn't need an army to be what it is, nor can an untruth ever recruit one large enough to force the issue. To make my point to that "army", I would say this: you can [I]always[/I] find other explanations for unlikely and seemingly divine occurrences, "religious experiences," and so on. Bring in the scientists and they will swiftly find other ways to explain them. [I]Faith[/I], on the other hand, is something that can never be taken away. If I write poetry in praise of the divine, I will never know whether it means anything - but no one can take away my [I]desire[/I] that, at some level, it will (absurd as it might be). This is also true for [I]hope[/I]. I may be told that things will continue exactly as they are, but I can still [I]wish[/I] for a change lying somewhere in the unforeseeable future. And it's true perhaps most of all in [I]charity[/I]: a single act done out of kindness, regardless of how it might be explained after the fact, can never be negated, removed, or taken back. It seems to me that these things are really the most solid foundation of Christianity. So I am admittedly confused when so many get so excited over things like potatoes with the Virgin Mary on them. Heidegger once said of the so-called "god of philosophy": "Man can neither pray nor sacrifice to this god." I would say, in response: what other God could [I]really[/I] be prayed to? Of course, normally when we pray, we pray for things like the health of our children or (in our lesser moments) for a raise at work. But occasionally we pray for very strange sorts of things. We might pray for "world peace," for example - even though we can't say [I]what that would look like[/I]. Is it enough for there to be "no war"? But what constitutes a war? Would gang fighting be enough to be a war? What about "no violence"? But what's violence? Couldn't things as simple as eating or walking around be taken as a kind of violence? And so on. The point is, in those kinds of cases we don't know what we're praying for. It's as if we're appealing to God not just to listen to us, but also to make sense of prayers we ourselves cannot understand. And that, so far as I can tell, means praying to a God who completely exceeds us - exactly the so-called "god of philosophy." In cases where we want to win a lottery, we can make do with more civilized gods. But to pray for something we ourselves can't understand (which isn't so uncommon!), we need something entirely different. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']I look at it this way. We?re all atheists to a degree. There are thousands of Gods, Godesses, and Idols which we could be worshiping. Thousands of revelations that suggest they are the ?truth?. But you don?t believe in other Gods. You don?t believe in Thor or Mercury. Why is this? Think about the reasons you don?t. If you?ve given it honest thought, you might empathize with me when I say I?ve just gone one ?god? further than you have.[/quote]Someone more a believer than I might say in response: "Well, perhaps what you've really done is just eliminate one more [I]idol[/I]. And if so, good on you. You should consider, though, whether the 'One God' is really to be identified with some deity who literally created the Earth 4,000 years ago, literally appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and literally made a bet with the devil to see how obediant Job was. But couldn't the real God be something else completely? Isn't it possible that the real God hasn't yet appeared to face your judgment?" I will leave it up to you to decide whether to take this hypothetical person seriously. Either way, given this as well as your first post in the thread, I suggest a motto for you to take up (which I borrow from Goethe): "There is nothing to which one is more severe than the errors that one has just abandoned."[/SIZE]
  4. [quote name='Rachmaninoff']So really is it that hard to say... [I]sorry, let me be more clear on that... I'm referring to the theory/concept not you directly.[/I] Honestly, that's not that hard to do at all.[/QUOTE]You're right, I should do that. Okay, then: I apologize for not being sufficiently clear. In the passage you quote I meant the creationist reading, not the readers themselves. I'm sorry if I caused offense with my vague formulation, as none was meant. Hopefully folks have a better idea of what was behind that statement (imprecise though it was) from my previous two posts. So, shall we continue the conversation? I've given my own reasons, and I hope to get some good ones in return on why I may be wrong.
  5. [quote name='Sabrina'][FONT="Tahoma"]So considering what you said in this next part here, and I'm going to paraphrase you on this since I think it's apt:Then, please forgive me if I remain [I]deeply skeptical[/I] of [I]anyone[/I] who claims upfront that someone's belief in one avenue or potential truth on the matter makes them a fool and a brute because, they themselves think it must be so. [/FONT][/QUOTE]I see little I could say here that I didn't already mention in my previous post. A clarification: I intended to insult nothing but a reading of the scripture which I thought, and still think, approaches the bible irresponsibly and without due consideration (and please do not correct me on what I myself intended to say). I have said, in my last post, why I think so. Many otherwise unfoolish and unbrutish people have held to this reading, although I think wrongly. Of course, I can't change your mind if you insist on believing I have insulted [I]you[/I] specifically, but please notice that so far your [I]only[/I] response to my attempts to point out problems with such an interpretation has been to play up your (supposed) victimization. You are, as far as I read, basically saying that you won't take me seriously because I've said such nasty things (the idea being that hateful people have no good arguments to make). I only respond to this by noting that even if I'd said things a million times worse, even if I'd really intended a personal insult (when I did not), it wouldn't matter a bit to whether I was right or even whether or not I've said things worth considering. We are not children; we shouldn't need to have our hands held and reassuring words passed around every time something potentially hurtful is said. If you think I'm wrong, make arguments about why. If you think my judgment of the creationist reading has been premature, make arguments about why. But I see no point in participating in this if a serious question about how to read scripture is turned into a referendum on whether I've been adequately respectful or not.
  6. If an opinion is, in fact, foolish and brutish, I see no shame in pointing it out. I would also see no shame in asking someone who believes such horrible things of an opinion [I]why[/I] they do so (after all, there could be serious reasons behind it). But I will leave it up to others to decide whether there is shame, for example, in completely disengaging from the conversation, refusing to offer any points that would speak in one's own favor, and instead accusing one's foe of being "unobjective," "insulting," "careless," "dismissive," and so on. I only say this: I will never ask anyone to justify their [I]faith[/I] to me. However, I will certainly ask them to justify their [I]readings[/I] of scripture - for it isn't so obvious what the bible says, after all. It's written in three languages. It's been translated countless times, some of those translations having vast differences (Retri's question about whether to translate agape by "love" or "charity" is an example). In the past, long debates were even waged over exactly which books would [I]constitute[/I] the scripture. Hundreds of commentaries have been written, thousands of interpretations have been made. Wars have been fought over the correct way to read the thing. It [I]still[/i] remains a live question. Thus, please forgive me if I remain deeply skeptical of anyone who claims to have [I]the[/I] reading of the first part of Genesis (which, I think, is one of the most difficult sections the entire bible). Please forgive me if I am even [I]more[/I] skeptical of someone claiming not only to have [I]the[/I] reading, but also that no other interpretations are even [I]possible[/I]. For this, it seems to me, is what I'm hearing (and please correct me if I'm misunderstanding). Forget about the question of whether it agrees with science; forget even about whether it's [I]true[/I]. To hold that the scripture "just says" that the Earth was created by God in exactly seven days (meaning: exactly 168 hours, or 10080 minutes, or 604800 seconds, etc.) some 4,000 years ago, and that that's the only possible way to read the section, seems to me to [I]willfully ignore[/I] all problems of biblical interpretation. If still none of this seems like good reason to be suspicious, I can (at last resort) appeal to authority. Martin Luther, some 500 years ago, cautioned his audience to be very careful in reading the Old Testament, and "not to stumble at the simplicity of the language and stories they will often meet there" - for, he said, "it makes fools of all the wise and prudent." Erasmus, at about the same time, considered scripture and especially the book of Genesis something which required special care, since it offered at the same time a mere outward appearance (the story) as well as a hidden, deeper divine truth. He wrote: [quote][SIZE="1"][Care] must be observed and kept in all manner of learning which include in themselves a plain sense and a mystery, even as they were made of a body and a soul, that the literal sense little regarded thou shouldest look chiefly to the mystery. Of which manner are the letters of all poets and philosophers, chiefly the followers of Plato. But most of all, holy scripture, which being in a manner like to Silenus of Alcibiades, under a rude and foolish covering include pure divine and godly things: for else if thou shalt read without the allegory the image of Adam formed of moist clay and the soul breathed into him, and Eve plucked out of the rib, how they were forbid the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the serpent enticing to eat, God walking at the air: when they knew they had sinned, how they hid themselves, the angel set at the doors with a turning sword lest after they were ejected, the way to them should be open to come again shortly: if thou shouldest read the whole history of the making of the world, if thou read (I say) superficially these things, seeking no further than appeareth outwardly, I cannot perceive what other great thing thou shalt do than if thou shouldest sing of the image of clay made by Prometheus, or of fire stolen from heaven by subtlety and put into the image to give life to the clay. [/SIZE][/quote]Well, not exactly the clearest passage the English language has ever seen, but you get the idea. My point (and much of the tradition agrees with me) is that interpreting scripture requires taking great care, keeping one's eyes open, and always remaining humble about one's take. We ought not confuse faith in our ability to read correctly (i.e. pride) with faith in God. And that's about all I have to say about this topic; I'm sure you're not interested in hearing yet again why "young earth" theories and creationism aren't scientifically valuable, so I'll spare everyone that discussion. [quote name='Retribution'][font=Arial]Well, some translations don't say charity, but rather [i]love[/i]. I find it more poetic, but this aside...[/font][/QUOTE]Well, the Greek terms in those passages ("agape", "agapate") can be translated either by love or charity (charity, of course, not being taken only in the modern sense of giving to the needy). The Vulgate translation, so far as I know, always goes with "caritas" (charity) to avoid using "amor." The problem is that "love" is usually thought of in terms of an inner emotion or passion, while agape is (so far as I read) supposed to indicate a kind of [I]character[/I], a way of [I]bearing[/I] oneself and acting from day to day. I think we mean something like this when we talk, for example, of someone being "full of charity," so I try to use that word instead of love. [quote name='Retribution'][font=Arial]Out of curiosity, do you propose a God that is essentially the sum of (or borne out of) action? You say that God is "charity," or whatever we want to insert here, so it leads me to assume you mean God is a sort of strange gestalt composite entity. I personally have no qualms with this, but it would not be God in the strict/traditional sense, but more an all-pervading philosophy.[/font][/QUOTE]Err, that wasn't my point, no. That kind of theory exists, of course, but it's not the one I would go for. The thought I was tentatively floating in that paragraph had more to do with understanding God's acts (creation, revelation, and so on) in terms of God's identification with charity. This would have the consequence that our [I]own[/I] acts - or even more broadly, our own bearing and our own temperament - would more closely approach those of God the more they stem from charity. The classical theologians may have denied that we can ever [I]know[/I] god, but all the same they kept to the doctrine of "imago dei" - meaning that we can, in a sense, [I]emulate[/I] God. And moreover, that would mean that human beings are also at their most [I]human[/I] where they are charitable. But I ask that you take this reading with a grain of salt; I'm no theologian, and I can't pretend to be one for very long.
  7. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']Fasteriskhead, excellent post. I appreciate the depth of thought you?re contributing to the topic.[/quote]Thank you, I very much enjoyed working through your response. First, though, a procedural point. You write in response to Raiha: "Which of [Thomas Aquinas'] ?proofs? are still valid today?" I assume you're referring to the "five ways" in Summa Theologiae 1a question 2, which have since been called "cosmological arguments." My objection is that if you read Thomas carefully, he doesn't seems to understand these arguments as [I]positive proofs[/I] in the sense that we would take them today. What Thomas attempts to show with his proofs is that there is, e.g., some being which conditions others but is itself is unconditioned, without [I]specifying[/I] in a positive way what such a being might be (in fact, by his own "via negativa" this would be impossible). The only knowledge learned in such demonstrations is negative; it only says what a certain being [I]cannot[/I] be (see [URL=""][U]this text[/U][/URL] from the earlier Summa). And the proofs in this stripped-down form are still fairly widely accepted in terms of soundness (although I have my own objections which are a bit too technical to voice here). The most well-known criticisms (Hume and Kant) aren't against the proofs' [I]validity[/I], but simply point out the fact that they can't go far enough on their own to prove the existence of God. But I don't think that was what Aquinas intended. The point, as I read him, wasn't to rationally prove the truth of the Christian gospel, but to show that it could be [I]defended[/I] in the court of natural philosophy. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']I?m not sure your analogy works here. Because the [i]existence[/i] of something is different than the qualitative nature of something. Your belief that Haruhi won?t be as great as the first still assumes, [i]a priori[/i], that Haruhi exists.[/quote]You're correct to point this out; I should have been more clear in my examples. However, I don't think the difference is quite as crucial as you assume. Now, it's true that a statement like ∃x ("at least one being x exists") is logically quite different from Px ("x is P"). The latter predicates a certain fact of a thing, while the former simply posits it existentially (Kant famously pointed out that the ontological proof of God by Anselm and Descartes rests on a confusion of these two kinds of statement). Nevertheless, both kinds of proposition are quite sensible: they are alike in this respect. The question is whether it's still sensible to talk of [I]God[/I] in this way, and (by way of how God was previously defined) I don't think it is. The problem doesn't even occur when we talk about God (or, indeed, Haruhi) as being "invisible" or somesuch. We can very easily say ∃x(Hx & Ix). The basic difficulty is not that God is spoken about in a way which makes it very difficult to verify whether God exists or not. The real problem, which was also the great medieval question of "divine names," is that [I]anything[/I] which can be properly predicated of God will have to escape and surpass all creaturely understanding (if it doesn't, then what was named wasn't really God). And at that point our language breaks down. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']Interesting, but St. Anselm?s ontological proof [i]didn?t[/i] assume a God transcending interaction with the natural world, did he? That?s the difference.[/quote]I'm not quite sure what you mean; I only brought up Anselm to introduce the issue of "divine names." Could you clarify this a bit? [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']Kierkegaard followed this to the conclusion that God must be ?above? reason.[/quote]Well, fair enough, but there is still a danger here that God's being "above" reason can just be taken to mean: one "believes" in the existence of a being called God regardless of a lack of proof. This (which is the way of taking "belief" I've been pressing against) is not Kierkegaard's opinion. So far as I can tell, faith, for him, just means the free decision to [I]obey[/I] in a pure and unequivocal manner. Which is, as you rightly note, something absurd. Also, which Heidegger are you referring to? I can't recall where he might have said that, and I'd like to look at the text before I respond specifically. More broadly, though, I think the point you make is the same that was made against Thomas Aquinas by Duns Scotus: namely, that at the very least [I]being[/I] should be spoken in the same way for everything that is, including God. There is much that could be said about this (especially just what Scotus understood by "being"...), but for right now I think it's probably better to just note the point and skip over it. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']A transcendental notion of God opens up a bigger gap to stick God into, but that?s not the sort of God people believe in.[/quote]Or, if I'm right, not even the sort of God people [I]could[/I] "believe" in! (in the normal sense of holding for true) [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']They believe in a God that exists (even if outside space and time) and seems to interact with us (via revelation, holy text, and sometimes prophets or incarnations of God).[/quote]I know it may seem a bit cheap, but I'm going to skip most of this one too. There's just too much to talk about. Suffice it to say, God's interaction doesn't need to be taken in terms of producing certain [I]effects[/I] (in a miraculous manner or otherwise). Perhaps - I'm just throwing this out as a thought - we might understand the "interaction" of God (creation, revelation, incarnation etc.) in the way proposed by 1 John 4:16 ("God is charity"), that is, as [I]charity[/I]. And this, in turn, would shed some light on John 13:34 - humans, perhaps, can never be closer to God than when they are charitable. Even if one's knowledge and predictions fail (1 Cor. 13), in this case it matters not a bit so long as one keeps to one's charity. [quote name='Drix D'Zanth']However, what about where God supposedly interacts with the natural world in the form of miracles? Aren?t these scientific questions. What about when Elijah has God ?stop the Sun? in the sky for three days so that he may finish a battle?[/quote]Well, the Jews have been doing highly interpretive, "esoteric" readings of such biblical events for several thousand years now. I see no reason why this option should be denied to everyone else. I tend to think that only someone very egotistical (or very naive) could believe that there's just a single way one could read such a bafflingly complex book.
  8. [SIZE="1"]Okay, here we go. Please forgive me for answering this in a very long and roundabout way; ideally, I'd like this post to be a [I]clarification[/I] of the questions involved rather than just a personal opinion. The problem starts with the word "belief": when someone says they believe in God, how should we understand this? Usually when we say "believe" we mean that a certain person holds something to be true. So for instance, if I say, "I believe the new season of Haruhi won't be as great as the first one," I mean that I have considered a certain [I]fact[/I] (the quality of the new Haruhi season) that looks like it could go one way or another, and for various reasons (patterns I may have spotted from past shows, or whatever) I have decided that one of those options is the case to the exclusion of the others. But belief in God might be something different. Of course, depending on how the word "God" is used it might not be - I might really believe that God exists in the same way that I might believe something about Haruhi's quality (and I think when people argue that it's more likely or less likely, or more reasonable or less reasonable, that God exists, that they are using the word in this way). The usual understanding of God, though, is of something all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing, and all-loving - what St. Anselm called "that than which nothing greater can be imagined." These kinds of terms stretch our language and our ideas to the breaking point (maybe beyond). And [I]properly[/I] speaking, I don't think we (us humans) can make [I]sense[/I] of such a thing. That, presumably, is why the same St. Anselm also says that God is not only that than which nothing greater can be thought, but also "something greater than can be thought." And with that, we hit upon the very strange fact that atheists and the (more thoughtful) believers actually have a lot in common. Atheists will look upon the concept of God - something all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. - and say that this idea can't be understood, that we could never possibly perceive or experience such a being. The believers (if they have given it some thought) will [I]also[/I] say that God can neither be understood nor really experienced (at least, within natural means). The atheists infer from this that God could never possibly exist, while the believers find that this is the only being that could ever [I]deserve[/I] the name God - precisely because it's beyond such comprehension. The atheist thesis that if God existed then God would have to be completely unlike every other being is the [I]basic starting point[/I] of theology. Justifiably so: what would a God be, if it were an easily digestible object of knowledge like any other? if I can be forgiven for quoting Kierkegaard: "If I can grasp God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do so I must believe." When I believe something about Haruhi, I do so because I can [I]conceive[/I] the show in various ways (as related to certain states of affairs). God, by our definition, is inconceivable. Belief in God, when it happens, thus has to work in a way completely alien to every other kind of belief. This is nicely summed up by Luther's famous line that "faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see." This confusion about what "believing in God" means continues into the meaning of faith. Usually when we use the word "faith" we mean it in the sense of taking something to be true without a reason. Hearing "faith in God" in this sense, we imagine that it means to hold a certain opinion - that "a being which is God exists" - in an "irrational" way, as opposed to rationally justified beliefs (such as those of science). The usual way that dogmatic believers now like to deal with this is by saying that at some point science, too, is "irrational" in the sense that it takes some things (the orderliness of the universe, for example) for granted. That may be true as far as things go, but it really just confuses the issue more. The heart of the problem, I think, is that "faith in God" - understanding God to be what was meant above - [I]can't[/I] be taken as holding something to be true, with [I]or[/I] without reason. It can't even fall onto the map of rationality and irrationality. If God is really incomprehensible - that is, if God's really God - we can't even know [I]what it would mean[/I] to hold that something about God is true or not. Broadly speaking, having faith in God means [I]not knowing[/I] what it is you have faith in. This is clear even in Christian literature, sometimes agonizingly so: Augustine, the best example, constantly doubts whether his conversion was "real" or just some momentary sense of pleasure, or even a trick by the devil. That he nevertheless pressed on (despite apparently recognizing that his "conversion" may have been the result of something he had eaten earlier that day) indicates not an "irrational belief" - what, exactly, would he be holding as true? - but rather a sort of [I]practical[/I] absurdity. That, it seems to me, is more typical of faith than "belief" of the usual sort: faith is a sort of state wherein one acts in a way which even to oneself makes no real sense and has no real justification, while one nevertheless [I]wishes [/I](or even expects) that at some place, at some time, at some level, those actions will come to mean something. So although there might be many kinds of faith (in this sense), [I]religious [/I]faith - that the sense of one's actions will only be clear to a being who is (to us) unthinkable - could be thought of as the most extreme. tl;dr - the difference between atheists and believers is [I]not[/I] that one holds a certain proposition to be true while the other denies it (which is what it looks like when framed as a question about "belief" as holding something to be true). It's not a question of "rationality" versus "irrationality." To put the answer boardly, the issue is really about [I]at what level actions make (or might make) sense[/I]. And with all of these distinctions in place, maybe I can start on your questions. 1. I would say that I [I]hold out hope[/I] for God. That's about the best answer I can give. And I don't (or can't) hope [I]much[/I], mind you (I'm not very good as far as believers go). 2. I think they come to it in their own ways. And since this is as good a place to say it as anywhere: I don't mean to imply that there aren't also idolators out there. There are tons: again, I'm not much of a believer myself, but I tend to think that idol worship has now reached something of a Golden Age. Imagine that someone believes in God (i.e. holds God to exist) because they think God stands against certain enemies they have, or certain things they dislike; imagine that someone believes in God because they think it will save them from the oblivion of death or an eternity in Hell; imagine that someone believes in God because without such a being their life or their actions would have no meaning, or because there would be no difference between right and wrong, or because human beings would cease to be special. What is any of this but the [I]worst[/i] kind of idolatry? What does it amount to, except making an [I]object[/I] which can fulfill our own desires and giving it the name "God"? Thus we use "God" as a merchant who's pleased to accept the right coin, and who gives back rewards in exchange; thus we use "God" as a guarantor of value and morality, a watchdog who makes sure we remain comfortable in our lives. Really, anyone who's read a little should be able to recognize this for what it is. And Job in particular (my favorite book in the OT) is expressly devoted to destroying this idea. 3. Creationism (by which I understand the idea that God created the earth several thousand years ago, along with human beings and many if not all of the other animals) is bad science and worse theology. Only a fool could think such an idea is still scientifically acceptable, and only a brute could think that there are no other ways of reading Genesis 1 and 2. ID theory has been a bit smarter, in that it really amounts to an attack on evolution with the buried assumption that if "darwinism" falls then the only remaining explanation is divine (or alien) intervention. ID's objections have long since been answered fairly conclusively, but the existence of the dispute still makes it politically acceptable to push gussied-up creationism into classrooms under the cover of "teaching the controversy." If I didn't know any better, I'd suspect that was the goal all along. Concerning the broader question of "science's compatibility with belief," I would say that the two basically aren't in competition. Scientific method, especially since the early 20th century, is grounded in the idea that its theses should be [I]testable[/I], or at the very least conceivable. In other words, in science we should at least be able to know what it would [I]mean[/I] for a thesis to be true or false. As I tried to say above, this is not the case with God, since a scientifically knowable God wouldn't be God. Science can, as Laplace once said, do without the assumption of God, but that also means it can speak neither for nor against such a being. 4. Oddly, theodicy (the problem you mention here) doesn't seem to me to be a great difficulty - and this, again, because we don't know what it [I]means[/I] for something to be an all-good, all-powerful being. Once again, Job is good to read on this. Second, if you take the tradition seriously, I think the more basic challenge to faith is the idolatry mentioned above - the distraction where one makes a sort of fetish out of God and clings to it for comfort. If this is true, then the strange consequence is that the "atheists" are, in a sense, closer to being genuine believers than the idolaters (and this, too, has biblical justification in some of the parables). 5. I think I basically already answered this in my long exposition above. On my understanding, to consider faith "reasonable" or "unreasonable" is to make a sort of category mistake. 6. Well, if you take me seriously, then my having evidence for God would invalidate the thing's being God. All right, that's all. If you've read this all the way through, thank you for the effort. I hope I've been reasonably clear, at least; in any case, I don't think I could do very much better.[/SIZE]
  9. I check Anime Central and the Lounge. I see two or three topics I would enjoy offering long replies to, and then I don't because I realize I should be reading for class or working on papers. And then I spend the entire night watching Youtube videos anyways.
  10. Anime

    I already posted most of my thoughts on my world [URL=][U]here[/U][/URL]. To this list I would also add Golgo 13, because... well, do I even need to say why? It's [I]Golgo 13[/I] people, Lawful Neutral personified. He's practically an institution. Duke Togo is like a freelance James Bond with no moral qualms, an even more overclocked sex drive, no witticisms (or much other speech for that matter), and the ability to snipe God if someone paid him enough for it. Screw ninjas and vampires, give me cigar-chomping international super-assassins any day. So far my highest expectations lay with Kurenai (which should be good), Kanokon (which should be enjoyable, trashy fun), and Code Geass part the second (which should be ridiculous beyond words). And depending on when they hit the streets, I also hold a lot of hope for Junjo Romantica (DON'T YOU JUDGE ME) and the new Macross. Let the season commence!
  11. Anime

    A few years ago I bought a wallscroll on impulse with the idea of displaying it in my room somewhere. By the time I had returned home, it had occurred to me: "Dear God, I can't possibly put this thing up. I'm a male college student in my twenties with facial hair and a paunch. I don't want to see this thing when I wake up every day, because it will constantly be telling me that I am That Guy." Since then, I haven't grabbed a single article of anime merch. I don't know if this makes me a wimp or what, but there it is (in any case: it's not about "peer pressure" or whatever so much as self-awareness). Think of the 40-something who buys himself a convertible Corvette and then realizes, three miles away from the lot and putting the top down for the first time: "Oh, no. I'm a middle-aged man, I'm out of shape, I have two kids, I write business contracts for a bank as a career, and I've just bought myself the ridiculous drop-top sports car that I wanted to own as a 19-year-old. What does this say about me? Haven't I grown up? Am I really so shallow of a person?" I'm more or less in the same boat. I won't try to besmirch others' love of swag (some people can own the stuff and pull it off quite wonderfully). But for myself, while I may find various kinds of merchandise completely awesome, I'm never going to [i]buy[/i] it: it's just not something I could live with on a daily basis.
  12. I will probably be at home, reading Thomas Aquinas. If I am feeling particularly jaunty I will listen to Outkast's "Happy Valentine's Day" (which is, I admit it, my favorite song on the album).
  13. [quote name='Dagger']Plus, he's a pretty chill guy, which is more than you can say of most people who talk philosophy online.[/QUOTE]Well, thanks - it's nice to know that I'm not [I]completely[/I] lumped in with that gang of thugs and charlatans. I guess being drenched in that kind of stuff on a daily basis eye are ell encourages me to be more casual about it when I talk shop here (although I don't get much of a chance anymore). [B]What is it?[/B] [URL=""]What are You Watching/Reading Now?[/URL] [B]Why is it nifty?[/B] Sometimes you really want to talk about something (say, a show), but [i]not quite enough[/i] to warrant starting a new thread about it. Starting a thread on a show is arduous. Sure, you could just write "such and such is good, what does everyone else think?", but you know and I know that that's exactly the kind of first post that a thread about a decent show/manga should not have. Yes indeed, to really do it justice you need a plot synopsis, character analyses, background of the creators' previous work, and so on - basically, you need to do the kind of work [year here]DigitalBoy puts in on a regular basis. That is just way, way too much damn work when you only want to say, for instance, that show x is pretty good and that you're going to keep watching it. All of this being the case, then, the What Are You Watching/Reading thread is a godsend. It's a catch-all for throwaway comments and isolated discussions - and, maybe even better, it lets you keep up with what the rest of the community's got its eye on. True, it's probably made us all a bit lazier overall, but I still love love love this thread. It's the PDA of Otakuboards - the timesaving organizational device that, a few years ago, we never knew we needed.
  14. Anime

    From what I've seen so far, Shigofumi's probably the show to beat this season. It's perhaps a bit too j-horror for my liking (I enjoyed Jigoku Shoujo et al as much as the next otaku, but it's nice to occasionally watch a show and have it not be a psychological assault), but god damn is it pretty to look at. And I don't just mean that the production values are excellent: that's been the case for shows that look nowhere near as good as this. There's an attention to detail and an overall, comprehensive [i]feel[/i] to Shigofumi that I can't recall having seen in a TV anime for a long time (Gunbuster 2 is the most recent comparison I can think of, but that's a direct-to-video). And then there's the story, which I will not discuss. It's smart - leave it at that. Excepting a couple of other series that I have high hopes for (Spice and Wolf and True Tears are towards the top), Shigofumi looks like it's going to wipe the floor with everyone this season. I guess we'll see, eh?
  15. Anime

    [CENTER][url=][IMG][/IMG] (note: see especially Guideline #4)[/url][/CENTER]