Verbs of willing, proper and not

Socrates thinks the verbs in these sentences

John wants1 to do good

John wants2 to do evil

Are the same as the ones in these:

The falcon flew1 95 feet.

The stone flew2 95 feet.

A flying2 stone shares significant features of flight1 but can’t fly1, and wanting2 evil shares significant features of wanting1 but can’t be wanted1.

The significant feature of (2)- type predicates is that they can include uses of the term that lack something essential to the term properly speaking. What flies properly speaking creates lift and drag or has aerodynamic buoyancy, and stones don’t do that. More simply, flight taken properly has to divide things that fly from things that can’t, and
flight2 doesn’t do so. Flight2 belongs to an ostrich as well as a falcon, or a dead falcon as well as a live one, as any of these objects might be shot from a catapult as easily as the other.

But wanting2 belongs just as much to those ignorant of what they are doing as those who understand, and knowledge is not inessential to desire.

The division between (1) and (2) type predicates includes all verbs of will and the states that arise from them: there is a desire (1) and (2), a wish, a love, a friend, etc.

The Cities in Speech as response to their objection

Book II of Republic begins with Glaucon and Adeimantus arguing that, while justice is objective and advantageous, it is not what anyone wants for himself. Glaucon argues that anyone would be unjust if he could get away with it, and Adeimantus argues that if anyone had to choose between (a) being good but not being treated well and (b) being treated well even without being good, the choice for (b) is all but obvious. So sure, justice gives us the good of stable regimes where others don’t steal or wreck our stuff, but real human happiness is abandoning oneself to desire and appetite.

Socrates’s response requires proving that those who want to abandon themselves to appetite don’t know what they want. To do this, he starts setting up cities in speech, which is such a strange opening move that we lose sight of what exactly he wants to prove with it. But the argument seems to be this:

1.) Cities arise because no one is self-sufficient. It’s all but impossible for us to make one thing we need entirely from scratch (i.e. to make not just the product but all its ingredients and the tools necessary to work it) but it’s impossible to make all that we need. Human needs demand others. We aren’t spiders that can just spin a web and live off whatever flies into it.

2.) Our dependence is mutual. This is just a variant of (1).

3.) Unrestrained appetite is incompatible with mutual interdependence. Interdependence is essentially a matter of give and take.

So unrestrained appetite is a failure to understand human individuals in their reciprocal interdependence. To allow for unrestrained appetite would be like having a part of a machine that didn’t interact with the rest of the mechanism. There is literally no reason for such a part to exist, and therefore anyone claiming to want such an existence would not know what he wanted.

Abstract and concrete

Aristotle’s complaint against Plato’s forms is that they are not alive and are therefore not fully divine, which opens the possibility of a critique of some views of God that do not make him sufficiently abstract, formal, universal.

Any discussion of divine action will probably risk losing sight of God as formal and therefore also as simple. This is not to say we have to deny divine action, but to see the divinity that acts as something we have to approach both concretely as existing and abstractly as perfect and simple.

Didache III. 6

Be not a complainer, for complaint leads to blasphemy. 

Didache III. 6

Bitter dissatisfaction with life is somehow dissatisfaction with divinity.


Historical Jesus and the Didache

If the consensus is that The Didache dates to AD 50-70, why not take it as our best account of the the life of the early Church as founded on the belief in the historical Jesus?

Obviously, I’m all for this since my Christianity is moral-liturgical with eschatological and apocalyptic elements in the background, like the Didache.

The White Knight Abortionist

In the midst of a story about an abortion doctor that hoarded fetal body parts, we get this testimonial:

When anti-abortion physician Geoffrey Cly met [abortion doctor Ulrich] Klopfer in 2008 to discuss concerns that Klopfer’s procedures were endangering patients’ health, Klopfer immediately brought up the 1945 raids on Dresden [which Klopfer experienced], in which some 25,000 people died.

“How is the suffering from the bombing by the Americans in Dresden any different than the suffering of women by unwanted babies?” Said Klopfer.


Because the suffering of Dresdeners was caused by the lives that were terminated while abortion terminates lives to avoid the suffering that would be caused by their existence. Abortion is analogous to Dresden more in its being like the British and American bombers than to their victims on the ground.

Sure, it’s not exactly fair to attack the moral arguments of non-experts, but the doctor who made the analogy between Dresdeners and women seeking abortions had lived through the attack on Dresden, was responsible for 50,000 abortions, and had a demonstrative interest in the results of the procedure. One supposes he was in a peculiar position to know what he was talking about, so why does he get the analogy so exactly wrong?

Rape and Incest command the high ground on the landscape of abortion justifications, which suggests the hypothesis that, considered morally, abortion is a way of coming to the aid of a victim. Given an academic gloss, this becomes Thomsons’s violinist, which explicitly extends the rape/incest justification to all abortions. And so our body-hoarding abortion doctor was simply following out the logic of his position: if abortion is justified, it is a care for a victim, and abortion is justified, therefore etc. The doctor was simply a Good Samaritan, rushing in to save those judged and abandoned by the priest and the Levite (The priest and religious intellectual! Get it?)

But the logic of the position smells suspiciously like a red herring, if not a reductio ad absurdum. Abortion is a homicide in which the pregnant woman is not the victim. Abortion might be justified or even merely tolerated, but whether the woman is a victim or not doesn’t enter into the formal structure of the justification, even if it is contingently present in the circumstances.

For all that, it would take a heroic devotion to logic for a pregnant woman seeking an abortion to turn down the temptation to appeal to pity and compassion. Sure, abortion is a bloody and unfortunate business, but men have done nastier and bloodier things in response to the biological imperative to save the damsel in distress. Don’t forget the sexual component to the bombing of Dresden: men flew the bombers while the women stayed at home, and many of the men flying the planes were no doubt doing it while filled with warm thoughts of dear Betty back home who needed to be saved from those brutal Krauts who were no doubt fixin’ to rape her. Or maybe even kill her children.






The divine duration

We incorrigibly visualize God in time. Accept it and try to hit on the best set of metaphors.

We can visualize time dilation – the idea that ten minutes in one place would be a year in another (even kids don’t puzzle or balk at this in the Narnia books). Pushed to its limit, a single moment would correspond to all possible times, past, present, and future. Make that single moment the first moment of the divine life.

In that single moment, God sees himself for the first time, giving rise to the procession of the Son, and shares the ecstasy of the thought along with the Holy Spirit. In knowing himself he knows every way things participate in him, and so sees the totality of all times. We grow old and get lost in endless stretches of time in what is, for God, the first look he ever gets of himself.



Notes on Barr’s speech

We need religion as a foundation of public morality. 

1.) So the good of the nation blesses the morals of religion. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better (Heb. 7:7)

2.) Humans form moralities necessarily, i.e. absolutes defended by taboos and judgments about which fundamental beliefs are better than others. So why is religious morality preferable to whatever morality we have without it?

3.) The First Amendment gives freedom of religion while forbidding the state from defining what counts as one in the moral sphere (one wonders if this was the contradiction that Gödel noticed in the constitution). This gets exacerbated after Lemon commands excluding the religious.

4.) The relation between religion and morality is as complicated as the one between religion and sex or between science and the environment. Ask the Duke of Saxony, who enjoyed Luther’s defense of his realm against Müntzer’s insurrection against it, whether religious conviction is the foundation of public morality.

5.) First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives (1 Tim 2 : 1-2) In spite of its millenarian and apocalyptic core, Christianity is tempered by the desire to be left alone to worship the Lord in peace.




The Trinitarian processions

The procession of the Son from the Father is of the intellectual order and so is the best possible thought. As with all knowledge, thinker and thought, subject and object are one in substance distinguished only by the relations a quo and ad quod. 

But imagine having the best possible thought – the most bloggable post, the most hilarious joke, the perfect turn of phrase, the best and most decisive argument all rolled into one – but having no one to share it with. Under such a condition divinity becomes the ultimate cruel joke. Our need to express our thoughts to others arises precisely from the perfection of the thought as a common good, not from our limitation and dependance.

So  the consubstantiality of the Father and Son as ultimate thinker and ultimate thought presupposes the volitional procession as one with whom this thought and life can be shared.  Love or will or desire at its height certainly can’t be for what is consumed, or even for what is created or sacrificed for another but only for what is lived in common, in keeping with its nature as a common and therefore superabundant good. This is impossible except between equals, and so is had only with a divine person.

The Son and Spirit are thus different dimensions of the fullness of life. On one axis this fullness is in self-possession and autonomy, which can occur only through intellection. On another axis this very principle of self-possession and autonomy is, without shared life between equals, pointless and even infernal.

Five faces of evil in the Sorrowful Mysteries

1.) Agony in the garden. This is violence against Christ that goes unseen, even by his disciples. This is the universe of evils hidden in the angelic realm or the heart, or otherwise done in secret.

2.) Scourging at the pillar. Pilate scourged Christ believing him innocent, in an attempt to appease the mob. This is evil done half-heartedly, almost in the belief that we should be considered prudent or clever or better than others for doing it.

3.) Crowning with thorns: The whole company of soldiers gathered together to mock Christ. This is evil committed in the desire to be seen by our peers.

4.) Carrying of the cross: This is evil entering into public to put itself on display. It parades through streets, claims the city for itself, announces its authority in news stories, etc. It is the evil that convinces all, and especially the faithful, that it is inevitable and here to stay, able to crush any other value.

5.) The Crucifixion. This is the consummation of evil in an explicit public liturgy rejecting God and exalting man. The liturgy is performed on top of the skull, i.e. the negation of life, speech, the face and the brain, and presided over by the highest tier of secular and religious power. At the liturgy, the mother of the Church looks on the naked body of her defeated and rejected children while the heavens remain silent.

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