PULL THE FUNDING FROM THE SYRIAN REBELS NOW!

Hi guys, as you very much probably know, I am not one for breaking news, or to be involved in politics unless it comes to a head with ethics, but I must make an exception here.

As the title may suggest, I’m rather upset. In the past two years, we have seen a wave of insurgency across North Africa and now in the Middle East that was, at first, hailed with much joy here in the West, believing that the old autocratic regimes were falling, in the interest of new, democratic, free, [insert buzzword here] regimes. Well, we were wrong. Egypt has been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to put it under Sharia law. Not an advantage toward a free and democratic society in my humble opinion, but I digress. Of course, Christians in Egypt cannot build or repair their Churches, so it just so happens that the attacks on Churches have increased of late. Anyway, the many woes of Egyptians are not my topic of conversation, not now.

I want to talk about Syria. Yes, one of the many conflicts that the US has gotten itself involved even though it does not involve the US. In an attempt for us to become the policeman of the world (a position which has gained the US nothing but hatred in foreign countries), we have decided to give aid and weapons to the Syrian rebels, in hope that they will like us when they come to power. Of course, we did this very same thing in Afghanistan, when the USSR attacked them and we got the Taliban as a direct consequence, but that’s not the point, we all know that if you fail the first time, try try again, right? This is the poisonous mentality that the US has maintained toward Syria, a mentality which has brought nothing but trouble in the past and which will bring nothing but trouble in the future.

But I don’t even want to talk about what will probably happen in the future. I want to see the immediate fruits of US taxpayers’ dollars at the hands of the Syrian labors. The first, doubtlessly, of many “thank you” notes that the US and the West at large is to receive for their support, in the name of human rights and freedom, from the temperate and just people  to whom we are giving money.

Video here.

I should warn you, it is quite graphic.

Why graphic you say? It is a “fan video” of three men are decapitated with a knife (to those of you who do not have good imaginative powers, using a knife means that the executioner has to make several cuts in order to sever the head from the body, which makes it infinitely more painful for the victim), one of whom is the abbot of a Catholic monastery in the area. They said that the charge was supporting the regime, but they were not chanting “free Syria” or some other variant as these men were being murdered, but “Allahu akbar!” so I am a little suspicious about their presumed charge.

That said, if the rebels were fighting for freedom of the people, you’d assume that these men had the right to a trial (nevermind a fair trial), where it’d be apparent to most that a Catholic friar (Father François was a Franciscan) was, at most, perhaps caring for some wounded people, but he surely was not aiding Assad, who wasn’t very nice to Christians to begin with, because he had nothing to offer him. Christian monks are unarmed and not particularly rich.

Of course, some of you may say that this is only an isolated incident, a singular lapse in judgement on the part of these, rather backwards, but otherwise well-meaning and good rebels. In that case, I’d ask you to explain to me why two Orthodox bishops were kidnapped some time ago and are still unaccounted for, which may simply mean that we have not found their body yet. In the meantime, the city of Aleppo’s main Christian neighborhood was shelled on April 24th (Source) and on June 27th a suicide bomber detonated himself near one of the Syrian capital’s Christian Churches (source).

Of course, you may argue that sometimes, in order to make an omelet, a few eggs must be broken. Of course, such utilitarian ideology is easily disproven otherwise, but I’ll ask you this question, are you consistent with that view? Do you believe that all the innocent people killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, too, were justifiable because our interests were being protected? Probably not.

That aside, the question still remains about what actual good this is gaining for Syria. If today, when the (Muslim) rebels have yet to gain control over the whole country, they have already started oppressing other religions, what will they do when they do get the whole country? Will they oppress women? Very likely, probably even scourge them for driving, like they do in Saudi Arabia. Will they destroy historical monuments in the forms of Synagogues and Churches, the heritage of Damascus and the world and the proof that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can coexist peacefully? Very likely. Again I ask, what has Syria gained from having such-minded people trying to “free” it and why is it that the US is giving money to these people?

On Whether the Body and Soul are One or Two Things

So, I thought about writing this post because I heard an anecdote recently about an Oxford professor that was, so the story goes, a model Platonist, so much so that his students would say, “Professor So-and-so does not go for a walk, he takes his body for a walk.” I get the joke and I find it very funny, but I also see a need to underline exactly what Plato meant concerning the primacy of the spiritual and the separation between body and soul.

The pure Platonist argues that it is the job of all those seeking wisdom to separate their soul from their body, because the soul is pure and uniform, whereas the body is complex and confuses the soul. He argues this from empirical fact, because there are not that many people who have not experienced a situation where they have had a really good idea, but instead of developing it have gone to sleep and then have forgotten it (or other such scenarios), or have been in a situation where they were fully willing to do something good, but they were too tired, or too hungry, etc. and their body has limited their ability to perform that good deed. He argues that that is because all matter is an imperfect instantiation of the Forms and, as so, corruptible. On the other hand, the soul is simple, incorruptible, and a receptacle of the Forms, which means that, with a lot of hard work, it can become perfect.

The Christian Platonist, however, (if you have not noticed that I belong to this grouping of Platonism, this is a formal admit ion) can delve even deeper into the question of the matter being imperfect and fallen. The Chrisitan believes that through the fall of man, which knocked the relationship between God and the world out of synch, all nature fell and, therefore, all nature is imperfect and corruptible. Especially for humans, the reason why the body confuses the soul is because the soul is distorted through the fall of man and, because the soul is the formal cause of the body (borrowing that out of Aristotle, but I do no think Plato would disagree), the human starts of at a disadvantage, with his body and soul out of tune. Of course, through the Way, the Christian begins to repair his soul, so to speak, but the body remains caused by the initial fallen nature. For this reason, the body becomes out of tune with the soul and, henceforth, confuses the soul.

All that being said, we return to the issue of whether the body and soul are two things, as Descartes would argue, or whether they are one thing as Aristotle, Christianity, and everyone under the sun until Descartes would argue. Granted, Plato does not clearly choose either side over the other, but the way Aristotle states that the body and soul are one think in De Anima leads one to believe that this was the consensus during that time and, therefore, assume that Plato would also have agreed with such a concept. Dualism does not shoot out of the woodwork until Descartes tries to reverse the whole point of Classical and Medieval philosophy, whose guiding principle is to bring the soul (subjective, internal) in tune with ultimate reality (objective, external). Descartes, instead, opts to bring ultimate reality under the test of subjective experience (this, by the way, is the culprit to accuse for the rise of subjectivism in modern times).

That said, an explanation is needed about how to interpret the many points in the Platonic corpus, especially in the Phaedo about the separation between soul and body. When Plato tells his students that they must work always to separate the soul and body, it seems much more straightforward, and therefore much more counter-cultural to today, than many established experts would have us believe. It is, very clearly, a call to abandon carnal pleasures in an attempt to rightly order desires. If one reads Middle Platonism (Plutarch for example), this point is so hammered that it starts turning into beating a dead horse if you keep reading for prolonged amounts of time. Of course, many of the current Plato experts (not to be confused with Platonists) believe that they just need to read some Platonic dialogues and absolutely nothing from all the Platonists from Plato (including Aristotle) to today  in order to understand what Plato is saying, they believe in “Platonic inspiration” (similar to the kind that Ion experienced), so to speak. This, however, does not seem to indicate that the body and soul are distinct things.

Consider this example; many people today may rightly tell most of the Western population to separate their heads from their anal cavity. However, it does not follow that, since good and wise people are calling for a separation of the head from the colon, the head and the colon must be distinct entities. Surely, they are distinct parts, that’s why they belong separate from one another, but they are both parts of the body.

Same with body and soul in relation to the person. Though Plato hammers time and time again that it is the soul that is the most important thing about the person, that if you have to choose between saving your body and saving your soul, that saving your soul should always be the priority, it does not mean that they are separate things. If I have to choose between losing a hand and losing my liver, I’ll choose my hand any day of the week, even though a very silly person would think they need to hand (because they see themselves using it more) more than the liver (which they cannot see).

I think that the rise of materialism as the philosophical orthodoxy in philosophy of the mind and the rise of this misunderstanding about Plato’s psychology, as well as the rise of Cartesian dualism (to which people retroactively relate Plato), I think comes from one and the same source. They are, in fact, related. Augustine says (I forget the book, I can find out if someone asks) that the reason why some people believe that the soul is material or that an immaterial soul cannot exist is because they are so accustomed to thinking in terms of material things that they cannot expand their thoughts to immaterial things, they cannot quite conceptualize something that, by definition, cannot be visualized. This is at the root of questions which, in the minds of materialists, seem to disprove the existence of souls (or immaterial entities to begin with), such as, “What does a soul look like?” or “Where is the soul?” This is also at the heart of Descartes’ theory of mind, in my humble opinion. He makes a cut between matter and mind that is far too distinct for my liking. Of course, he further complicates the matter because he brings objective existence to judgment before his subjective experience, which is, in my opinion, the beginning of subjectivity and relativism, because the new standard is subjective experience. However, for the Discourse on Method to work, there needs to be a sharp distinction between body and mind, because otherwise cogito ergo sum also proves that his body exist (soul and body are one thing) and, therefore, that the whole world exists, because his sense perception (or matter in general) has no intentionality to lie. In other words, it comes down to Aristotle’s brief disproval of Descartes’ theory (I forget the book again), where Aristotle says that we can know nature exists because there is no reason to doubt sense-perception (rather, there is reason to doubt anywhere were interpretation comes into play).

 

In short, there is a link between the misunderstanding that the body and the soul are two things instead of one thing which has given rise to modern relativism and subjectivism. If you need someone to thank for that, look at Renee Descartes.

 

Why did I make you read all those words when I could just have put up the last two lines?

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33 Reasons Why 33 anledningar Is Not Really a Feminist: A Response to 33 Reasons to be a Feminist

So, a blog post titled “33 Reasons to Be a Feminist” has been going around the internet and it is about time for us to look at those reasons and see if they are not only valid, but whether they make a case for feminism, or something else.

#1: Because this type of violence-glorifying and misogynistic commercials is not unusual and get to exist in our society without many reactions.

Dolce&Gabbana

I’d argue that, though this as is a disgrace, it is not misogynistic. The only thing going on is that the man is holding the girl’s arm down, but it does not seem as if she is disliking it or is being discomforted in any way. It is dangerous to read our ideologies into everything we see. What is disgusting about this ad is the amount of sexualization going on. By the way, if I may venture a guess about why someone would assume this ad was misogynistic, it is also very dangerous to turn sex into power.

In those who believe in love (admittedly in modern philosophy those people are few, but it does not mean they are not right), sex is (or should be) participation in the other as other, willful self-giving to the other. If we start interpreting a touch, a look, etc. as establishing dominance, then we should be falling into the same absurdity of those medievals who said God wanted you to only use the missionary position, except that we would fall on the opposite extreme. Let sex be sex, let us not stick our ideologies into the deed itself and leave positions to the discretion of the partners themselves.

#2: Because women don’t get to decide over their own bodies. (Picture says, “77% of anti-abortion women are men. 100% of them will never be pregnant.”)

I think it rather intriguing that abortion has been, recently, laid out as a women’s issue exclusively. It is quite clear to anyone with half a brain that abortion, whether it is permissible or not, is a human rights issue, because it affects both the sexes. If it is not permissible, i.e. if what is aborted is living human beings, then it is quite obvious why it is a human rights issue, because babies of both sexes are aborted. However, even if it is  permissible, because the fetus (or whatever else you may want to call it) has as its cause the sexual union between a man and a woman and, therefore, a man is just as responsible as a woman for it.

I do not know a statistic of how many pro-abortion leaders are male (let’s see, Harry Reid and our Vice-President come to mind), but I cannot say that I am surprised that there are so many male anti-abortion leaders. It is worthwhile to say that, given how they believe that male and female babies are being killed in abortion, they have a perfectly legally consistent position. Imagine if a group of Christians was protesting against the Holocaust, would it make any sense to say that, since they would not run the risk to go to a concentration camp because they were not Jewish they did not have the right to protest the existence of concentration camps? Of course not and the same logic stands for this case also.

That said, feminists need to understand that abortion has done a great service to cowardly men throughout the world. There are many women who walk into the halls of Planned Parenthood that are being sent there from their abusive boyfriends or husbands because they do not want to take responsibility for the baby they had just as much responsibility as their partner for bringing into the world. In other words, abortion is doing a great service to people antithetical to the feminist movement.

Another thing that bothers me is the fact that there are many sex-selective abortions in the US. There are cases where an abortion is sought for the sex of the baby, most usually because it is female. Now, I might be wrong, but there are two possibilities here as to why it could happen. One, the mother herself does not feel happy about having a daughter, which is highly unlikely. Two, she is being pressured by whoever to kill the girl inside her womb in favor of a male child. You could see how feminists might have a problem with this. Heck, you could see how any  person would have a problem with this, seeing how an imbalance between men and women brings societal problems for the next generation. Of course, this is one of the many reasons why groups like Feminists for Life exist, whom I would argue are true feminists today (incidentally, they are usually more kind and friendly and level-headed than radical pro-abortion feminists today).  Anyway, you think I don’t have any evidence that this is happening? Well, see for yourself, here.

Lastly, it is unfair to phrase this issue as “women deciding over their own bodies” and to say that people who are against abortions (I find that keeping is simply “pro-abortion” and “against abortion” avoids all the pit-falls of using names that stir up emotion) are denying their right to decide over their bodies, because the people who are against abortions have as their basic premise the idea that the thing aborted is not, in fact, part of the woman’s body, but a distinct person with a distinct DNA. If the contrary is proven, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with abortion or with women making decisions for their own bodies.

#3: Because women are constantly sexualized and objectified, while men get credit for their skills and professions.

Let’s be honest for a second, though the sexualization of culture we see today is morally and aesthetically repugnant, the knife cuts both ways. Men and women are both sexualized, though I have no problem saying that women are, perhaps, sexualized more. Consider, for example, the movie 300 and the decision to have the Greeks fight basically naked with perfectly sculpted bodies. G. K. Chesterton says that it is quite clear that our culture is over-sexualized from the very fact that there are strippers (of both genders) that, basically, make a living out of sexual objectification. Consider if you went to a place where they rolled out a big dish that was covered and slowly pulled back the thing covering it to the crowd’s wild jubilation and the raining down of sweaty $1 bills, would you not consider that crowd to be in need of therapy?

I am sorry, but I have to hold my ground here, there is sexual objectification both ways and it is despicable.

#4 and #5: The recent Facebook scandal about women breastfeeding/charts of the female anatomy being not allowed to be posted, whereas groups advocating and romanticizing rape being protected.

Is what those young boys are doing on Facebook wrong? By God, it is. Should they be banned and prosecuted? By all means, Facebook is protecting them as a choice, they don’t have to guarantee First Amendment rights to their users (I am pretty sure, but not certain of this). That said, to say that Facebook controversies are a reason to be a feminist is downplaying feminism as such.

#6: Because 97% of rapists never have to spend a single day in jail.

I’d love to have had some kind of a source for this statistic, so that I could look into the intricacies of what it said (statistics can be hard to analyze), but if it is true, I think this is a very sad occurrence. However, rape, much like abortion, is not a women’s issue, but a human issue. Men as well as women need to have a very clear stance against sexual assault of any kind and to say that women should be the only ones being outraged by this statistic is, in fact, male chauvinism, though I understand that the author did not intend it as such. Nonetheless, ideas have consequences.

#7: Because model agencies are scouting models outside of anorexia clinics.

This one seems viable and I am all for women and men alike taking a stance against the media-sanction standard for beauty these days, but to reduce feminism to simply protecting the outer image of the woman seems, to me at least, a reduction that does not reflect correctly on the work of feminists to this day.

#8: Because women are being discriminated against in the workplace because they have children or may have children in the future.

I perfectly agree with this one. This is perfectly consistent with the job that feminists have been doing throughout the last century and it is the duty of both men and women today to keep up that work. I have no problem standing up for the rights of women, but especially for the rights of mothers, since I see that their reputation is disrespected far and wide in today’s culture. Sadly, many radical feminists are somehow uncomfortable when it comes to speaking about the esteemed place of mothers in our society.

#9: Because women still make less money for doing the same job as men.

I know that this has always been a hot-button issue. I think that we’d have to investigate on a case-by-case basis on this one. I will not deny that this happens in many places, however, many places have amended their ways.

#10: Because there are parts of the world where women get punished after being sexually assaulted.

I have to disagree here. Classifying yourself as a Feminist so as to believe that you have actually done something for these poor women does not help anyone other than your own ego. If someone feels passionate about these women, then let them help them and, I should mention here, all the great women who have done much to help women from other countries and other cultures be treated with basic human dignity. However, believing that calling yourself a Feminist so as to stand in fake solidarity with this women is nothing that alleviating one’s own discomfort and feeding one’s own ego without doing anything to help these women who need help so desperately.

#11: Because there are actually people who think it’s not rape if the person is sleeping.

That is true and that is sad. However, rape does not only affect women, so this is also not a women’s only issue.

#12: Because 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

I believe (and hope) that this statistic is conflating rape and sexual assault together. Sexual assault can be defined as any kind of unwanted sexual contact, whereas rape is defined as  forceful penetration. As I said, I hope that it is not true that 1 out of 6 American women has had to deal with either attempted rape or rape in her lifetime. That said, I think that expecting only women to be outraged at such a statistic is to say that only women need be concerned with such statistic, which I don’t think is true. This should make men and women alike cringe.

#13: Because we live in a society that teaches women to be careful not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.

I think that both approaches are very important. Of course, it is very important that men understand that no means no and that doing otherwise carries grave consequences, on top of rape being one of the few things which is intrinsically evil no matter what the circumstances or motives may be. That said, we teach that whenever a car collides with a pedestrian, it is always the car’s fault, but nonetheless, we teach pedestrians to exercise caution when crossing the street. To tell women to be vigilant against rapists is not to say that women have any fault in being raped (to say such a thing is a logical absurdity), but that they, knowing that there are crazy, deranged, and genuinely evil people out there, should be aware of what’s going on around them. I do not think that this somehow disrespecting women in any way.

#14: Because it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict.

I’d submit the same logic as #10 for this one.

#15: Because we want women’s bodies to be left alone and not a constant subject for discussion, disrespect, abuse, and objectification.

Once again, I totally agree. However, it is often women that buy magazines that discuss these same problems (I do not think that many men are into gossip magazines, but I may be wrong. That said, it is important to take into consideration that sometimes those pictures are leaked by celebrities themselves, because “no publicity is bad publicity.” I hate the whole culture around celebrities today and find the scrutiny under which these people are placed repugnant, but I cannot deny that there is some people who willingly look for the spotlight as well. This problem, however, has an easy solution, namely that women should boycott gossip magazines and other smut, like Cosmo and media would soon get the message.

#16: Because we need to change the patriarchal picture of men as an aggressive being who cannot control his desires.

I think that this is more of a men’s issue than a women’s issue, to be perfectly honest. I notice that, far and wide, men today have lost the understanding of what is means to be a man is and I’d assign some part of this blame to the fact that many males growing up today to not have a good role-model to teach them how to be a good man. That said, I do not see how this is a patriarchal picture, since most men who would argue that they can’t help it are usually violently opposed to tradition and especially to authority, especially paternal authority.

#17 is a reference to the recent scandal at Steubenville

I think I have mentioned in reference to other points that rape should outrage men and women in the same way and with the same frequency.

#18: Because a woman is raped every 14 seconds in South Africa.

Once again I submit the logic of #10 for this point.

#19: Because sexism in the shape of a joke is not any less offensive or disparaging.

This is still not a women’s only issue (I think this way of thinking has been treated in previous points).

#20: Because victims of rape are too often distrusted. 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the Police.

Once again, I think it is unfair to make rape a women’s-only issue.

#21: Because every 9 seconds a US woman is assaulted or beaten.

Same as the point above.

#22: Because “This is Why Indian Girls Are Raped” on Facebook has 1768 too many likes.

I agree, I think I’ve made my point about this on #6 and #7.

#23: Because approximately 3 million girls are victims of female genital mutilation every year.

Another point that falls under the logic of #10.

#24: Because there are approximately 2 million victims of sex trafficking each year. 85% of them are women.

Sex trafficking is a very serious issue in the modern world. That said, it is most basically a human issue (from the very fact that both men and women are abducted. In fact, yours truly had a very close brush with this issue while abroad). In addition, just saying one is a feminist does not help these women in the least, what we need is concrete action.

#25: To spread awareness and knowledge about what feminism works for. Equality. Everyone who has a mother, sister, daughter, son or a friend would want them to have respect and rights, right?

I definitely agree with much of what this says, however, I have to make a few corrections. First, there are some points made in this very article that are antithetical to womanhood. Second, it is important to understand a premise that much radical feminism shares with male chauvinism, namely that, since men and women are different one must be better than the other. Of course, this is the premise that fuels contemporary feminists to say that women can never be equal to men unless men are castrated (which is male chauvinism, because it says that females are born less-than-equal to men and that men need to be relieved of one of their biological components in order to be equal to women), or even this picture:

The Pill-Woman's source of Strength

The Pill:Woman’s source of Strength

which argues that women are weak without this magical pill, who suddenly makes them worthy of consideration. I could be nice to people who advocate such things, but in the name of Feminism, I cannot. These people are the new male chauvinists and it is quite sad that a lot of times female mouthpieces are used to spread their agenda.

The truth of the matter is that men and women are different, however, that that should not invite a comparison as to who is better. On the other hand, that means that men and women are the same and that there are some things that only men can do and some things which only women can do. Feminism, so defined, is indeed worthy of much more attention, especially in this society.

#26: Because this is a real commercial for American Apparel. (the picture shows the male version of the shirt being modeled on a fully dressed man, whereas the female version is modeled on a woman who is only wearing a bikini bottom and the buttons of the shirt are opened)

I agree, a lot of clothing stores seek to make unwarranted sexual connections in order to ween their customers into buying their products. Our society needs to be cleansed from such advertisements. That said, similar advertisements with over-exposed men can be easily found as well.

#27: Because domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings, and rape combined.

This is not a women’s-only issue (much like rape).

#28: Because in 31 states if a woman has a child as a result of rape, her rapist can sue for custody and visitation rights.

I find this absurd and wonder if the rapist’s ability to sue for custody is only there as a case of legal thoroughness. I’d find it uncanny if any court, anywhere in the US, would ever consider giving any custodial benefits to someone who played a role in the life of a child through rape, but I digress. Either way, it is not enough to call one’s self a Feminist to solve this issue, rather, concrete steps so that this loophole is closed should be taken.

#29: Because we need to be aware of the sexism that surrounds us and saw no to it.

Agreed, if only we change “sexism” into “sexualism.” The sex-appeal that many vendors for a myriad of products embrace for both sexes is absolutely disgusting.

#30: Because we need to change the way women are being portrayed in computer games, etc.

I’d submit the logic of the point above for this one, too.

#31: Because female fetuses are being aborted in China, because girls are not wanted.

First, I think that this point, too, applies to #10.

That said, I think it comes into direct contradiction with #2, unless abortion is, actually, the killing of a human being, because often times, in China, women are themselves deciding to abort little girls in hopes of having a son in the future. Either abortion kills babies and little baby girls are being killed in China, or abortion is a woman deciding about her own bodies and all that’s going on in China is women exercising their right to their bodies, but not both.

#32: Because women who are seen, who stand up for their rights and express their opinions often get threatened and hated.

This one is very true. One of my best friends, upon publicly showing her pro-life convictions, has received more than a few threats and has had her posters and displays vandalized continuously. Yet, while the two of us were designing a new poster (because people who marginalize her are in the administration as well as in the student body), she had absolutely no qualms about putting her personal email contact on it, knowing that the hate-mail would flow like rivers onto her inbox (luckily we found a different solution in the end, but it makes her conviction no different). Sadly, it is often women who do not share the same beliefs that threaten and hate other women. Of course, this does not let men off the hook. There are many that I have dealt with who understand just how much they need to own up to and how much they’d need to man up without things like abortion, so they’re rightly upset because their niche is being taken away. Well, so be it.

#33: Because three men in Sweden walked free after raping a girl with a glass bottle until she started to bleed.

Don’t even get me started about the legal system of Scandinavian countries. That said, I think multiple points I’ve made before apply to this point, too.

In conclusion, Feminism is often misconstrued and misunderstood in today’s world. I find myself rather inadequate to speak on the issue, so I would encourage anyone who wants to find out more to visit sites like Feminists for Life, etc. and decide for themselves.

Caitlin Moran Proves You Don’t Need Any Education to Be a Philosopher

Well, just when you though you’d seen it all. I randomly came across a quote from one Caitlin Moran about death (more about that to follow) and it upsets me that anyone thinks they can throw the word “philosophy” around like it’s just a meaningless term. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people that thinks you should have a PhD after your name in order to be considered to have the right to speak about philosophy, but when it is obvious that they either have no clue what they are talking about or they are dishonest.

Now, before I continue, I should say that I write things in this blog about people whom the intellectual tradition does not touch one, for good reason. Partly, I must admit, it is because it is quite easy to point out their mistakes and, as so, they’re a nice exercise in logic. That said, I find it very scary that there is a multitude of people who believe these people and follow their advice. If you want an example (other than the one below), just look in the comments on my homepage, where Mystic Tiger Ashram accused me of attacking “alternate philosophies” (as if such a thing existed and as if it is a bad thing to knock erroneous ideas down).

But, let’s not get sidetracked. Onto that passage I was talking about:

“Death is not a release, but an incentive. The more focused you are on your death, the more righteously you live your life. My traditional closing time rant is that humans still believe in an afterlife. I genuinely think it’s the biggest philosophical problem the earth faces. Even avowedly nonreligious people think they’ll be meeting up with nana and their dead dog, Crackers, when they finally keel over. Everyone thinks they’re getting a harp.          But believing in an afterlife totally negates your current existence. It’s like an insidious and destabilizing mental illness. Underneath every day-every action, every word- you think it doesn’t really  matter if you screw up this time around because you can just sort it all out in paradise.”

-Caitlin Moran, How to be a Woman

So, in my preemptive defense for those who will think that I am doing this out of “support for repressing women” and for being evil and all that other crap, I have bolded the part of quote which, according to Moran, makes this a philosophical issue, so I have the right to judge its veracity, whatever the rest of the content is. Since we are on this theme, I’d also like to remind everyone that Plato, though being about 24 centuries away from women’s rights movements supported equal rights and equal education for women (in the Kaliopolis this is explicit).

A lot of philosophical discussions end in frustration and have no overall value because even philosophers forget the extreme importance of defining their terms. So, in order to be productive in this case, let’s do that.

Moran talks about death, about death we shall talk about. There are two basic understandings of the end of life, but current philosophy says that there are three, so let us examine them. They are the naturalist physical theory, the naturalist mental theory, and the eternalist theory. The physical (also biological) theory maintains that death, i.e. the end of life, comes whenever your heart stops beating and your brain stops working. The “mental” theory, also a materialist theory, says that whenever basic mental functions are stopped (go figure what that means), the end of life has occurred. This is a very popular idea today with the debate about euthanasia, because this theory holds than a person in PVS has, basically, already died. Of course, this theory completely ignores Aristotle’s point about first and second actualization, but that’s a different matter. On the whole, it is a materialist theory as much as the first one, which is why I say that it would be correct to say that there are two basic theories at play. The physical theory fits together much better with the reductive materialist side (type identity theory, eliminativism) and the “mental” with the non-reductive materialist side (functionalism), which is currently the orthodoxy of philosophy of mind, but Kim’s problem will probably change that.

The third theory maintains that the end of life is not necessarily the end of existence. It maintains that there is “something else” that preserves the identity of the person when their physical functions cease. That “something else” is commonly seen as the soul, the life principle of the body (i.e. you got life when you have this, at the end of life it goes away). Part of this theory are both Plato and Aristotle (yeah, despite what your teacher may have taught you, go read Aristotle’s De Anima), Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and probably every other religion out there. Clearly, this is an important issue, because so many people have believed in it for so long and, if this is wrong and so wrong that someone who has no experience in philosophy can figure it out, philosophy and theology students across the globe are doing a terrible injustice to their parents, their country, and themselves by pursuing an education which includes these disciplines. Of course, my own life is at stake here, because if Plato and Aristotle and all the Christian thinkers are proved wrong, I’ve just wasted all my college career and a lot of money learning about these people and, on top of that, am no longer relevant to the intellectual community and to the world.

In order to make things as clear as possible, let us divide the eternalist group into two sub-groups, namely pantheist religions and theistic religions. Why so, you may say? Well, the issue is that Pantheism seems to entail Monism (i.e. there is really only one being and everything is that being), so what the theistic groups are arguing is the eternal part which does not get destroyed when the body ceases to work (i.e. the soul) is quite different from what these groups claim is the eternal part (a part of the being that is everything).

First,let us consider Pantheism, the groups that entail Monism. This group includes the Hindu religion(s) (many people are confused when they find in the Vedas that both “only Brahman reincarnates” and “all who do not go to Nirvana reincarnate.”), Buddhism (even though it does not believe that the eternal part is actually a being), Hegel (the Absolute), and many others. To these belief systems, the above quote does apply. They would receive it with happiness. Hegel would insert it into a triad, the Hindus and the Buddhists would at the same time assert its veracity and, at the same time, argue for its polar opposite to be equally as valid (everything is part of god, remember?). That said, enlightened Buddhists and Hindus are not expecting for a harp or anything like that, Nirvana is simply ending the cycle of reincarnation. There is, therefore, no way to “sort it all out in paradise.” Being in Nirvana basically proves that there is nothing left to sort out, both Samsara and Karma are completed.

Now, the juicy part, the second group seems much more affected by this assertion and promises for much more heated debate. Plato (read the Phaedo), Aristotle, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. all belong to this side, the theistic side. This second side believes that there is a God or gods that have created an afterlife of some sort for righteous people as a means of providing justice (i.e. if you’re good and you suffer unjustly in this world, this is the compensation plan). Of course, it seems, just from the sentence above that Moran does not even have a clue about what the Platonic, or Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim understanding of “paradise” entails, because, by its very definition, a person who has “things to sort out” does not go to paradise. The whole point is that if you do screw up on this side, you don’t get to go to paradise. It is the people who believe that there is something after death that look out for what they are doing not the opposite. Incidentally, it just so happens that all these belief systems happen to each have a very extensive and well-defined moral code. I do not know much about Islam, but if you want to see how close Platonism and Christianity are, check out John 11-14 and compare it to Socrates’ final speech to his friends before drinking the poison, where he basically says, “If you love me, obey my teachings.” In addition, it is usually the opposite world view, the idea that (physical) death is the ultimate end that fuels an absolute carelessness about ethics. 

Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov highlights this idea extensively, “if no God, no immortality. If no immortality, everything is permissible,” says Ivan Karamazov. Of course, the strict validity of his own logic smacks him in the face toward the end of the book as the homeless man sings, “Vanka [diminutive of Ivan] went away…” (boom, and I didn’t spoil the book) Within the realm of philosophy, one need look no further than Jean-Paul Sartre to highlight this point. While, seemingly, a lot of people jump with excitement at coming to accept that there is no Divine being and, therefore, no meaning of life and, therefore, that all things are permissible, Sartre understood the true connotations of that acceptance. That is the reason why he lived with the utter assurance that the only thing meaningful was to put as many things as possible (things and people) under one’s dominion and why he was a sexual sadist. He argued that “love” was illogical and that there was a word in every single language that had absolutely no meaning, namely “we.” This is the logical conclusion of believing that there is nothing beyond death. Of course, if there is nothing beyond death and no objective morality, then if you can commit a crime with the absolute assurance that you will not get punished for doing it, there’s nothing wrong with doing it. In fact, even if you do get punished, if you really want to do it, go ahead anyway. In other words, we have stumbled into Book II of the Kaliopolis. Whereas these evil belief systems like Platonism teach that, even if someone had the ring of Gyges, it would not be permissible for them to commit evil and that people should not even be frightened by death when it comes to doing what’s right (both Platonism and Christianity hold fast to both), Moran’s proposed safety net against complacency is to introduce atheism, which says, “it’s not wrong if no one saw it.” I don’t know about you, but, if we are looking for ethical expediency and a war against complacency, it is the first, not Moran’s choice that does the job.

Elsewhere, she says that we should use the understanding that we are dying at every moment to live our lives. Of course, this begs one to ask what she means. If by that she means that the time to do the right courageous thing is now, then it is the understanding that our life begins its expiration process from the moment of birth taken together with the idea that, at the end of this life, one will have to face a Perfect Judge who will consider their actions in this world which would get one ready to do the right thing.

If, on the other hand, Moran means by living our lives a more subtle formulation of “YOLO,” then it is simply cliche, except stated with a little more whit and a British accent. It is, however, on the whole, unworthy of any consideration, since Hedonism has dropped out of the mainstream philosophical arena for a very long time now. If Moran wants to protect this, the view that, since we’re dying we should go out there and “enjoy” (the Platonist maintains that the momentary thrill does not provide enough good consequences for the destruction of the soul that results because of it) ourselves, then why does she talk about “setting things straight,” etc. in Heaven, as if she know what she was talking about?

Of course, it could be that this is simply another attack on traditional metaphysics and ethics, but a particularly dimwitted one, so it deserves not consideration on that regard.

Finally, a word about How to Be a Woman. I have not read any other words other than the ones I have quoted above from it, but if the aforementioned excerpt is a marker for the rest of the book, the prospects are not very high. Of course, one must consider the title and its proportionality to the thickness of the book. Whenever I go to bookstores, I often find it very amusing to see books with titles like, “History of the world: Babylon to the Fall of the Roman Empire” that are about 150 pages long. I may be mistaken, but if you were to write the book in micro print there would not be enough pages there to examine that extensive period of time for the whole world. No one except for the most intellectually doomed members of our society would buy a 200 page book titled, How to Be a Doctor, for the simple reason that there is simply no way that the complexities of being a doctor are examined in 200 pages. If that is true, then why would anyone think that the complexities of femininity and womanhood can be sufficiently treated in 200 pages? Of course, I could be wrong, How to Be a Woman could be a multi-volume work of high psychological and philosophical worth, but somehow I don’t think that is the most likely scenario. I wonder why it is that there are people who buy such a book and there are two choices, either people are extremely slow to understand that womanhood as a whole cannot be treated in 200 pages, or they believe that anything said by a woman about womanhood is valid, no matter what it said. If you are one of these people, you are probably very annoyed at this point, but wait, there’s more. If it is true that what any woman and only what a woman says about womanhood is true, then it is also true that all things that men and only the things that men say are true about manhood are also true. However, there are and have been in the past many women who have had many correct critiques of manhood and masculinity and many who have had incorrect ones. Their views were, thank God, considered and we are a better planet for it. If, however, the second option is true for Moran’s supporters, then it means that if a man were to write that men are vastly superior to women and throw around phrases like, “Are you meeting a woman? Don’t forget your whip…” he would be right. “What an outrage!” cry out radical feminists and I agree with them. Who, then, is this SOB?  None other than Friedrich Nietzsche, who incidentally happens to be the idol and teacher of many radical feminists, Mary Daly for once, who is able to reconcile her feminism with Nietzsche because she utterly rejects the idea of femininity as such. In so doing, she should lose the title of “feminist” in a blink, because she has betrayed the very idea that she says she is promoting and much of the jeering that pro-life women and especially young women get when they stand up for their beliefs (if you don’t believe me, go on YouTube or go down to Washington D.C. for March for Life and see for yourself) deserves to go to her instead of them.

In short, I am up to my nose with people who believe that I and many people much brighter than me just so happened to waste much of their lives (4+ years so far in my case, much more for many others) and an insane amount of money (college and graduate school tuition together is enough to buy a spacious house) in order to study this philosophy thing, when seeming Divine inspiration of Ion’s kind would have done the job just as nicely. Good thing we got them looking after society, otherwise the actual experts would have to speak on the issues and the world would be in a better place.

A Completely Platonic and Atheistic Response to Christopher Hitchens

As it is quite obvious at this point, I am a Christian in addition to being a Platonist. As a Christian, I believe God exists (my powers of observation are unprecedented, I know). However, I most radically do not need to use my Christian knowledge in order to conclusively refute Christopher Hitchens’ argument against God.

I am usually a little candid to people I am writing against, but I cannot be candid to a person like Christopher Hitchens, because he fails not only at arguing against the existence of God, but he fails at being an atheist. On these grounds, he seems to be only a caricature of wiser men that are and have been atheists who, though freezing my blood with what they say, demand more respect for their courage to follow their argument to its logical end and for saying what they believe, though it would turn a lot of people against them.

Let me explain, first of all, why C. H. fails to argue against the existence of God. I have recently watched a debate of his on Youtube and all I saw is arguments, machine gun apologetics at that, about how different religions are unreasonable and, even more of a wonder, immoral.  I do not see how this proves that God does not exist. The classic definition of the Being that philosophers argue about (and C. H. is no philosopher) is an All-Good, All-Poweful, All-Knowing Being. Obviously, a religion which professes that it is divinely revealed may seem illogical at times, especially if you pick and choose what parts to speak about and what to leave off. All that proves is that this or that religion is wrong, if his arguments are true, but I will not choose to address that. The problem is that God can exist without any religion being true. His argument, therefore, makes two jumps. The first is that, if no religion gets God right, God does not exist, which is not only silly, but presupposes that God can only exist if there are people who worship Him. The second is that believers always act in accordance to their religion, which is also preposterous and false. It stands, therefore, that he has made no argument that disproves the existence of God, he has simply jeered and sneered about different religions and their believes. However, beyond all rules of logic, this man claims that religion is immoral.

Now, here’s a problem that I have as someone who likes people like Nietzsche and Sartre. Obviously, I disagree with their undoubted premise, if you will, that God does not exist(Nietzsche argues: “If God does exist, how could I ever bear to not be God!”). However, I think that their logical process after said premise is sound. Because of this, I am dumbfounded at C. H.’s argument that any number of religions which he mentions are immoral. Objectively immoral? How did you figure that out, if I may ask? As far as I know from Nietzsche and Sartre (et al), there is no such thing as objective truth, because humans cannot create objective truth (obviously this does not include physical laws). How one proceeds to create an objective code of morals without a Divine being is beyond me and, as far as I can tell, beyond logic.

Due to this, I argue that his argument can be disproved conclusively by Platonism. Either morality is objective or not. If it is not objective, then there is no foothold for C. H. to stand on, because what is good for me is good, so if I choose to paint my cell into a sunny green field and then proceed to behave as if I was in a field, then well and good, if I choose to pain everything with blood, which I got by killing everyone around me, well and good; there is no objective basis to tell me I am wrong in killing people or in wearing rosy-colored glasses. If, however, morality is objective, then, pray tell, where did it come from? It could not have come from man, otherwise it would not be objective. Humans can discover objective truth, but they cannot create it. There is no way in which I can make it objectively true that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream, no matter what I do. There is no way it could come from any being less than human, for obvious reasons. There is no way that it could have grown out of nothing, whatever one’s beliefs about the origin of the world are, because non-physical things don’t work that way. You can’t “grow” an ethical system. Therefore, the question stands, where do we get objective morality other than a Divine Being. That is, incidentally, why in the Timaeus Plato found it necessary to posit the Demiurge, an All-Good, All-Powerfull, All-Knowing Being that created the Universe according to the Forms. I challenge anyone to make an argument for how an objective system of morality can be made to work without positing a Divine Being. I, for one, am all ears.

Lastly, C. H. said there are two questions which no one has been able to answer to his satisfaction concerning religion. They are: 1) name one action of a believer that cannot have been done by a non-believer and 2) name one evil action that a non-believer could not have done which a believer has done. In one debate that I saw he argued that the best response he ever got from the first was “exorcisms,” which he found funny. His brother (Peter Hitchens, a theist) gave him a very good specific example when he mentioned that when a newspaper he wrote for was bought by a man whose primary occupation was pornography, he quit, whereas C. H. later accepted a job from the very same man. However, that won’t do, I want to answer the questions objectively and generally and in a way which turns these two questions into a philosophical enquiry, not into what C. H. wants them to be, which is a vague question (he has asked for a “believer” while knowing that there are differences between different religions and will probably use that into the response to ridicule it) for non-philosophical childish banter. I won’t even talk about the fact that arguing for theism does not have to include arguing for a specific religion or for religion in general, but I digress. Anyway, back to the answers:

1) Have and potentially fulfill his meaning of life. An atheist cannot have a final cause and, therefore, cannot fulfill it.

2) In the mind of the non-believer, he cannot sin. The believer, on the other hand, can sin. Whenever a believer knowingly sins, that is an act (on top of whether the action is evil) which the non-believer cannot commit. (That said, within that evil action is also the root of a good action, i.e. that the believer (knowing that he has sinned) can work to fix his sin, whereas a non-believer cannot fix his sin, because he does not believe that he has ever sinned.

In short, concerning C. H. and others like him, who have no philosophical training and who do not even keep to the topics they say they will debate, but rather use any opportunity to badmouth religion in general and Christianity in particular, I say just ignore them. I can’t do much about the other religions he ridicules, but I could defend Christianity against him. I, however, choose not to. I sincerely do hope, however, that he and others like him will eventually fly away and allow the real philosophical debate to continue.