Revelation is liturgy

Given Reformation controversies, it is easy for Catholics to see “sainthood” as an epistemological category: saints are those we are sure are in heaven. This is true, but it sounds like Catholicism played in the key of Calvin. Catholicism as such sees saints as a liturgical category: saints are those now made an explicit part of the liturgy.  The certitude we have of the blessedness of the saints is not to provide us with some super-certitude about the possibility of salvation but because, for Catholics, revelation is liturgy, and so if the saint were not in heaven he could not be part of what God revealed to the world about himself.

Similar things can be said about the inerrancy of Scripture, although its de-contextualization from liturgy leads to far greater confusions. A reading from Genesis about the creation of the world means something far different in a liturgical environment than in the private study of a skeptical biologist.

No Justice, No Peace

Many slogans are vacuous and aimed more toward the release of endorphins than conveying information. “No Justice, No Peace”is more robust than this, but it admits of interpretations that run from the noble to the demonic.

1.) The Natural Consequence Interpretation. The claim is a brief commentary on the definition of justice as the pre-condition of peace. Taken this way it’s a truncation of Martin Luther King’s claim (said previously) that peace is not merely the absence of tension but the presence of justice.

2.) The Explanation Interpretation. Systematic injustices are seen as being the cause of civil unrest, the subtext being that the injustices are severe, deliberate, and egregious while the civil unrest is understandable and sympathetic.

3.) The Right-to-Riot Interpretation. We acquire the right to riot in response to unjust treatment or an unjust jury verdict.

4.) The Thrasymachus Interpretation. Justice is simply the will of the stronger. If you don’t give us what we want in your “law enforcement” and “trials” then we’ll simply take it with riots and burning, and use the threat of this to extort your future jurymen into giving us what we want.

Constituting time

Objection: You say that nature is an instrument of freedom or spirit. Very well, so freedom or spirit has to account for some physical difference. But accounting for physical differences is exactly what energy does. So spirit must exert some sort of energy on the world. Taken in this way, your spirit is either an element in a physical system or causes no physical change.

Response: All physical theories have described nature as observer-dependent. Aristotle said that time required soul for its full logos; Newton and Einstein made motion and rest contingent on the observer’s stipulation of a background; and QM allows no natural entities except actually measured ones. What we call “nature” in any physical theory is not an absolute totality into which observers interrupt but a melange of subjective and objective factors. The activity of spirit is thus present from the beginning and physical law is realized only in what is constituted by spirit.

Said another way: to say we intervene in nature at some given time is to miss that time itself is already an objective-subjective melange. We’ve gotten so used to imagining time as a line or a division of the clockface that we forget that time requires counting (and act of the soul) from something remembered (another) to something either remembered, perceived, or anticipated. Separate places are both equally actual in a way separate times can never be. We can stretch the tape-measure across a surface and read the number at the end without having to remember where the hook-end is anchored, but time is not like this.

This why, even under the hypothesis that all of time is a single causal progression that is utterly determined, we are still free since the whole of time is must already be understood a constituted by spirit and so as able to be integrated with it. In constituting time, spirit can use any determined necessity to bring about a free action in the same way that it can use the necessity of an explosion to propel a bullet. The world at any given time has the structure it does because spirit needed it to be that way to attain its ends.


Cosmological argument from freedom

The demand for freedom meets a demand for a science that says nature is only chance and necessity.

Freedom could never be the instrument of necessity and chance, but necessity and chance are instruments of freedom all the time. The entropy must cool the fridge, or at least there is a very good chance it will. Thus, freedom can preserve the existence of necessity and chance in their proper sphere while necessity and chance cannot do so for freedom. Why go through all the awkwardness of elimitivism or emergence – which none of us can accept anyway – when we can make necessity and chance potentially instrumental to freedom and so preserve the full, substantial and autonomous reality of all three?

More broadly: intelligence can preserve the integrity and domain of nature, but nature-as-modeled cannot even preserve the existence of intelligence. Nature is not “emergent” or eliminated if instrumental to freedom

But what is the mechanism of freedom? Does the soul emanate freedumeons or soulitrons that push the body around? Nature must conquer all!  We face the same decision as Socrates: how can the good be binding without cords or straps to bind them?

Freedom is more parsimonious than Naturalism. Allowing for the transcendence of nature does a better job at preserving what nature is in tension with than any of the unbelievable attempts to account for freedom as arising from nature.

But freedom does arise in nature.

Thus there is some source of freedom beyond nature, and this is what all call a divinity.



On Bacchanalia

Whatever his other reasons are, the rockstar has occupational pressures to use heroin, drink heavily, invoke dark energy, etc. The reason is the same that gladiators have: the object of Bacchic energy must be closer to death. What else could we be faster approaching by fast living? Like the gladiator, he must be alluring as well, and occupational pressures demand him to be sexually prolific.

The hypothesis of that the rockstar is engaged in mere hedonism or the gladiator was only in it for the girls misses the crucial element of death. If hedonism sufficed, Sardanapolus or Hugh Hefner could be objects in a Bacchanalia. But while we can envy or pity them their actions cannot energize the crowd.

The Ring of Gyges is the crowd. Whatever we do within it is not our responsibility: kill persons in a soccer crush, pillage whatever we want from a store, urge the victim-priest of the Bacchanalia to conquer, wound, kill, etc.

To place sex and death together in a single priest-victim, or to go all the way to the door of non-being and yet be fertile there. It is a desire to conquer death with our most creative of powers.

Christ had to be stripped naked, not in allure or fecundity but in degradation and physical conquest. We raised him up to have a better view of the crowd and our power over death.

On reference to the non-existent

Everyone recognizes some predicates simply need to be said of certain subjects. These necessary predicates are easier to see when they become more general: we might not see the reason why all lions are placental mammals, but most of us are pretty certain that lions need to be mammals and we see no way that they couldn’t be animals. To clarify the precise elements in play it helps to consider the same sort of predications when said of a dead individual or extinct species. To say that Caesar is a man or the triceratops is a dinosaur is true in one sense but seems false in another, since it seems that subjects must exist to have properties. But we accept Wittgenstein’s claim, repeated and clarified by Geach, that a statement can be true if it has a referent, i.e. something that either exists or has existed. This is not an arbitrary stipulation but follows from the fact that causal powers sometimes exist separately from the subject in which they first existed, in the way that the texts of authors can continue to instruct, amuse, or infuriate us long after the authors themselves have died. So likewise, a referent in the Wittgenstein-Geach sense can continue to tell us what was true of some subject even after the subject ceases existing. We can use this teaching on referents to extend and clarify our sense that a thing must exist to have properties: just as Caesar is a referent that allows for true or false things to be said of him, so too we can only say true or false things about Pegasus or Don Quixote for the same reason. Fictional characters allow for true or false predicates so far as they are instruments devised by some principal agent, that is, the historical author or group of authors who are principal causes allowing for the fictional character to be an instrumental one.

Core belief

Philosophy is well-named and is therefore a sort of friendship. Any way of seeing the whole of things that makes friendship with it impossible, whether we see it as ugly or unintelligible or reducible to the dead, or whether we see our own goodness as persons as irrelevant to how we stand to the whole, is not philosophy.

The metaphor-dilemma of Hellfire

The dilemma: Hellfire is either a metaphor or not. If not, it seems like an arbitrary punishment and so something chosen from a list of possible options. God stoked the fire as opposed to doing something else. Ridding your idea of God as a torturing tyrant becomes very difficult. If not, it is taken as being a metaphor for some sort of spiritual pain, but this conjures up a sort of vagueness that seems contrary to the whole point of having the graphic metaphor in the first place.

Hypothesis: Hellfire has always been a metaphor: Gehenna is the intersection of the fire that the Moabites threw their sacrifices on and the fire that the Jews used to burn trash after they converted the place to a dump. Hellfire is a way of speaking of the liturgy of human garbage. This is in one sense spiritualized, but only in the way any liturgy is. The full horror of the liturgy culminates in a sensible pain for which all the ritual cutting, child burning, filth-wallowing and Aztec temple offering was only a shadow.

But why no ultimate vindication? Why doesn’t “love win in the end” by conquering all this? Because this is not what one does for garbage. It’s not an object of concern or even attention. It is out of sight and out of mind. The most one can think of it is by negation – in the end we are in the clean, well kept place.


The absence of Christ’s human person

As rough-going as Christology can be, the hardest element of it is explaining how Christ can have a complete, individual human nature and yet not be a human person. The logical responses are relatively easy to come by, here I’ll give two reasons for wanting it to be the case, and one response to a common objection.

1.) The lex orandi. To make Christ two persons will change how we pray to him, and what we would expect to find of him in the Scriptures, which would perhaps work their way up to Christ referring to himself as “we” and the disciples falling down before him as y’all. Prayers to Christ would be addressed both to a saint (pray for us) and to a divinity (have mercy on us).

2.) The eschatological. Christ, being “born of the Father before all ages”, was the first to be “born again” into temporal and corruptible life. This allows our own corruptibility to be the mirror image of his own, so that we might be born again so to “become participants in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world”. Just as we will not be a different person who puts on the divine nature, so too Christ cannot be a different person for putting on human nature.

3.) The “like us in all ways”. To say that Christ is “like us in all ways” could never have meant that he is the same person as us. Neither can we speak about “having” a human person, since a person is only something someone can be.

The contraries argument in Phaedo

Thesis: there is place of the soul in separation, an afterlife.

1.) Nature makes material things by cycles. Rain, rocks, seasons, animal-tree respiration, trees-fruit.

2a.) Living things are material things that nature makes.

2b.) There must be a bio-cycle.

3a.) But life is the union of body and soul and death their separation.

3b.) So the union and separation of soul and body must form a cycle: separation from union and union from separation.

4.) There must be some place of the soul in separation.

« Older entries