Conclusion on My Posts Responding to Macklemore’s Same Love II: A Necessary Scolding for Catholics for Equality

I am assuming that a lot of people found my argument against the WBC to be, at the very least, adequate. I have sent them a copy of the post and the link if they wish to make a response, but I highly doubt that they will take that into consideration. I find it funny, in addition, that they have a list of times when “God” and “hate” are mentioned in the Bible and the only mention of that in the New Testament is in Romans 9, where St. Paul is quoting from the Old Testament (so, no original mention of “hate” in connection to God in the New Testament) and the point he is making is about the Patriarchs of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) and how Jacob was chosen even though Esau was the oldest brother. Now, if you keep reading Romans 9, the very next thing St. Paul talks about is about how God would be completely justified in unleashing His wrath on humans (because, remember, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God), but He does not, in fact, do that, rather showing His great mercy. In that context, the whole thing WBC is going for is rather awkward at best and, at worst, highly dishonest.

However, this post is not about the WBC (one can only beat a dead horse so much and the WBC’s Theology and Philosophy are as dead as the dry bones in Ezekiel before God brings them back to life). This is about the shadowy “other side” that nearly no one is talking about. Of course, we must incite this group to consider what exactly “love” means, because to love someone is to hate what is the contrary to them and the opposite of being (which comes from God) is non-being (which is the absence of God). This is, of course, nothing more than a restatement of St. Augustine’s point that you should love the sinner but hate the sin. It’s not that this is St. Augustine’s personal preference, or that it is just a “choice” to behave in this manner, or that this is a propensity reserved only for relationships between Catholics. That axiom is the only way to love someone in the way God loves them (agape). It is not an option; it is, unequivocally, a requirement.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though. In any good philosophical enquiry, we should first define our terms, so, without further ado:

1) To be a Christian means, for the purposes of this post to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World, that He truly died on the cross for our salvation and that He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures. In addition, it means that the Bible and only the Bible is the infallible and authoritative Scripture.

2) To be part of one of the Tradition-based (Apostolic) Churches means that you believe that the interpretation of the Bible is not up to the individual, but is interpreted by the living Tradition of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. If you are part of this group, it is most likely that your local bishop can trace, through the chain of ordination, his succession back to the Fathers who approved the Cannon of the New Testament. Though no one Father is infallible, to be part of this group means that you believe that the interpretative Tradition of the Church, as a whole, guided by the Holy Spirit, infallibly explains the Bible (thereby receiving its infallibility from the Bible and not as a competitor to it) and that the decisions of the assembly of the whole Church (also guided by the Holy Spirit) are infallible.

3) To be a Roman Catholic means that you believe (we’ll leave off the other doctrines that don’t pertain to the subject) in the infallibility of the Pope whenever he speaks ex Cathedra or invokes Apostolic authority in addition to the infallibility of the living Tradition (the Pope, in this version, is what gives the Councils, etc. their infallible status). To be a Roman Catholic is to truly believe all the dogmas that have been declared infallible by the Magisterium.

In addition, we must consider what exactly is sinful pertaining to this case.

1) To experience same-sex attraction (most commonly termed “to be gay”) is not sinful, since, according to Aquinas (et al. as well as common sense) feelings, being by definition irrational, do not constitute sin.

2) To, however, make the conscious choice to positively respond to those feelings; to choose to have sex with someone of the same sex is sinful. Of course, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so this sin, too, is forgivable, as long as a person as the good-will to follow the teaching of God and accept the challenge to rise above their sexual attraction.

3) To be “gay” shall be referred to here (and only for the purposes of this post), as fully accepting one’s same sex attraction and believing that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to positively respond to it habitually. In other words, people who are gay are 1) experiencing same-sex attraction and 2) habitually responding to it. This is also sinful.

Lastly, let us consider the position of the Catholics for Equality. Rather than give you my analysis, I’d rather just show you what they stand for through their own material:

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 12.17.31 AMWe can see, from this document that, Catholics for Equality clearly stands in support of the same-sex marriage laws in the US. This, of course, is rather worrying if you are going to argue that you are a Catholic.

But let’s stop for a moment. Some of you, who perhaps see where the argument is going, may, at this point, say something like this:

“Modern Platonist, you old devil. What is it that you actually want? On the one hand you try to lull us with what seemed to be a very liberal doctrine, on the other you seek to institute laws affecting Christians and non-Christians alike which fit your ideology, but not necessarily that of all. What next? ‘Non-Catholics need not apply’?”

Of course, that is not what I am arguing for. As far as I am concerned, I do not see the issue of same-sex marriage as an issue on which my stance is defined by my Christian faith. Nonetheless, I would plead with anyone who on any issue stands with the Church solely through religious reasoning to not try to affect the legal structure of this or any other country, whether it be concerning same-sex marriage, or concerning abortion, or anything else. That means, if you cannot make a secular non revelation-based argument, don’t ask for any law to be changed, on any subject whatsoever. Do not campaign, do not set up rallies and so on. However, be that as it may, being a Christian requires you to believe that same-sex marriage is sinful, as is abortion, as is divorce (unless there is infidelity), etc. This means that you believe that those actions are sinful regardless of who commits them. Something that many Catholics need to understand is that non-Catholics are not, somehow, excluded from sin. When a non-Catholic proceeds to answer their same-sex attractions, they sin as much as a Catholic would. Abortion for a non-Catholic is just as sinful as for a Catholic and so on and so forth. If you are unclear about this, don’t take my non-Catholic word for it, look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the statements of various Popes, the Tradition of the Church, etc (until recently, I’d say ask your diocesan priest, but I have refrained from saying that).

That said, the question before us is whether it is correct for any Catholic (and by extension any Christian) to say that they support people who experience same-sex attraction to be married under secular law. My analysis finds that it is wrong for Catholics specifically and Christians in general to support same-sex (secular) marriage for two reasons: 1) because (though I said before that Christians should never try to affect secular laws unless the have secular reasons for them) Christians should always believe and uphold the teaching of the Church (or at least the Bible) and 2) because Christians are commanded to love their neighbor.

First, Christians cannot argue for a position contrary to the teaching of the Lord. It is one thing to try and affect law and policy because of your religious beliefs, but it’s another thing to be asked what your stance on an issue is and to assert a view contrary to doctrine. If you are asked to vote, being a Christian, you must vote in accordance to doctrine, not because doctrine can overrule your reasoning, but because being a Christian means precisely that you believe in what Jesus Christ taught. In this case, you are not asserting your Christian views upon others, but having been asked for your own view, you being a Christian, you should show what you truly believe, which is the teaching of Christ. If you do not agree with the teachings of the Magisterium (and more than one Pope and more than one Magisterium has taught about this issue) then cease from calling yourself a Roman Catholic. If you do not agree with the living Tradition of the Church, then stop associating yourself with the tradition-based Churches. If you disagree with what the Bible teaches (and the New Testament is very clear on this matter), then be honest and stop calling yourself a Christian.

Second, and entirely more importantly, Christians have the duty to love their neighbor.  I just cannot emphasize enough how important this is within the Christian understanding. As St. John reminds us, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) It is important to understand that the word used in the Greek, Agape, entails that you love everyone, because the love of God is not a limited love, but a love which encompasses everyone and everything (refer to Matthew 5 if you think this is something that I made up). If, someone, then, does not love all around him (this to be distinct from some abstract love of “humanity”), then they do not know God. However, I think that Catholics for Equality (et al) would argue that they do, in fact, love their brothers and sisters affected by same-sex attraction and it is I (and others like me) who look down upon them, because we don’t want them to be happy.

The truth is just the opposite. St. Irinaeus tells us that the glory of God is a life fully lived. However, we should ask ourselves what that means. What does “a life fully lived” actually mean? It, again, has to do with what sin means. A life fully lived is a life without sin, because to sin is to separate yourself from God, which means you are separating yourself from Life. The Greek word which means sin, hamartia, literally means missing the mark. Of course, if you know that Christ is considered the Perfect Man under Christianity, then it should not be obvious to understand how a fully lived life precisely does not include sin. Sin, then, is not just an offense to God, it is an impediment to ourselves. Sin invites bondage. It is precisely out of the slavery of sin that Christ uses His own precious Blood to rescue us. To call someone out of sin, then, is not to hurt them in any way, but to save them. Those who have argued against same-sex marriage love our brothers and sisters affected by same-sex attraction truly, because we, rather than choosing to instantly please them, hope that they will see the light.

Let’s consider this scenario. You are a doctor and you have a child. Your child is addicted to prescription medication, specifically medication for which you are authorized to fill prescriptions. It is not your job to go and actively pursue to end all abuse of prescription drugs unless you have a particular reason for it (i.e. that’s your job and you have the expertise in the matter), but if your child is asking you to fill out for them a prescription for these drugs and you love your child, it follows that you will not fill out that prescription. Quite the contrary, if you did not love your child, you would most likely give them the prescription, because it would look to them as if you loved them (and they’d probably be much more thankful to you for it), whereas by not giving them what they want, though you know that they might hate you for it, it is more important for you to ensure the well-being of your child (with the hope that, at some point, they will understand your motivation for denying them what they want and understand that you love them).

The issue with same-sex marriage is the same. We Christians, being certain in the truth that Christ preaches, knowing the reality of the Last Judgment and believing that we should pursue for ourselves and help others to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, which is to say to pursue perfection, should, when it is our time to speak, always argue against (in this specific case) same-sex marriage, knowing that homosexual relations are sinful. By doing this, though our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction may see us as their enemies, as hateful, we do all we can to help out in their salvation. Surely, if we persist in our prayers for these our brothers, then hopefully some of them will see that what looked liked opposition and oppression was really love, but tough love.

Of course, perhaps they will never change their minds, however, if we state our views respectfully and nicely and showing that we are, before everything else, whether they are ready to accept the teaching of the Church or not, always ready to be a shoulder for them to cry on. We must be a friend and a sibling for them and they will hopefully not see us as hypocrites or as their enemies, but rather see us as people who, despite having very different opinions, are people with whom they can coexist not just peacefully, but lovingly. Remember that Christ did not stay with the priests and the Pharisees, but made it a point to engage the most ignored members of society. He showed them love and mercy and was always willing to address their questions and concerns. Christ did not use any fancy arguments to change Zacchaeus’ mind by fancy argument, but by coming at his house for dinner. If only we followed Christ’s example.

However, “Let him without sin cast the first stone” is not completely unless you add the infinitely less popular “Go your way and from now on do not sin again.” Let us not confuse preaching the Gospel with our whole selves as opposed to simply our mouths with enjoying ourselves. Christ, for all his love and mercy, got a crucifixion as his reward. In fact, not just most of his followers, but eleven of the twelve Apostles He chose left Him. One among them betrayed Him, another one denied Him. The other nine forgot all He said and went back home as He was being tortured. The one who remained, St. John, did so because, being the youngest of the Apostles, he probably did not understand how close he came to his own execution. Picking up your cross and following Christ is not a move that will gain you popularity. Most likely, it will gain you opposition, ridicule and hatred, but Christ already warned us of this. He said, “if they have hated Me, they will hate you; if they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you.” If any Christian is not prepared to endure ridicule and opposition and much worse for his faith, then let him repent, because whoever is ashamed of Christ, Christ will be ashamed of in the Judgment.

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Conclusion on My Posts Responding to Macklemore’s Same Love I: Differences with WBC

For quite some time now, since I wrote my two (people often forget the second) posts on Macklemore’s “Same Love” and the underlying issue of same-sex marriage both as a Christian and as a Platonist, the first post has been one of my more popular ones. However, I think, from the broader trends of our society (I was once told by a friend of mine that anyone who had an argument against same-sex marriage was hateful; she changed that position afterward) and out of the rather long comment that I answered in the first post, the author of which called my arguments “hateful” I need to explain a few things further. Of course, arguments, if they are valid, cannot be hateful. In fact, even if they are invalid, it does not follow that necessarily the person putting forth the arguments was doing so out of a desire to hurt the interlocutors and, as so, cannot be deemed hateful without additional information.

I think, however, that a very big part of why it is that most people today think that all who oppose same-sex marriage do so out of hatred for gay people is the Westboro Baptist Church and other similar pseudo-Churches. In this post, I will seek to conclusively disprove, based on the Bible alone (so as to satisfy their Protestant leanings) their position on issues such as salvation, whether God hates the US, etc., do not correspond with Scripture. Because I have heard that in some of their videos they complain about erroneous translations of the Bible, I will not use any translation, but will cite the original Greek (except I will give the quotations in English, because I am bamboozled by the Greek numbering system and suspect that the WBC may be just as lost as me in trying to decipher it).

1) Whether God wants all people to be saved.

This is an easy argument to make. I will give out the argument in syllogism  form and provide a short explanation afterward.

P1: God is perfect. (Basic premise of Christian theism)

P2: God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

1 Timothy 2:4–ος παντας ανθρωπους θελει σωθηναι και εις επιγνωσιν αληθειας ελθειν; “… who wants all humans to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth.”

P3: The believer must be perfect as God is perfect(Matt. 5:48)/The believer can truthfuly quote Galatians 2:20 about himself/herself.

Matthew 5:48–εσεσθε ουν υμεις τελειοι ωσπερ ο πατηρ υμων ο εν τοις ουρανοις τελειος εστιν; “Be ye perfect as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect.” (note the difference between the usage of τελειος as opposed to ἄριστος)

Galatians 2:20–ζω δε ουκετι εγω ζη δε εν εμοι χριστος; “I, then, do not live at all, but Christ lives in me.” This is to say that the will of the believer and the will of Christ have no distinction. (which is to say the the believer is τελειος–finished, complete, perfect)

—————————–

C: Therefore, the believer must want that all humans be saved.

This does not mean that God will save all humans (presumably some against their desire) or that it is the job of people to save all humans, but that the believer, like God, should will that all men be saved. That is to say, the believer must do everything they can in order to make it as easy as possible for the people around them to be saved. We see this logic in Acts, in the Council of Jerusalem, where St. James says that the Gentiles need not adhere to Jewish dietary laws et al (except for some things, such as eating meat sacrificed to the idols) so that they may not make is unnecessarily hard for the people of God to be saved. As to how the WBC fails this standard will be discussed after all the points are made.

2) Whether it is necessary that the believer should love his neighbor (i.e. whoever he is engaging in any way).

Luke 10:27,  cf. Matthew 22:37-39– … αγαπησεις τον πλησιον σου ως σεαυτον; “love your neighbor (the person close to you) as your own self.” The parable that ensues explains this axiom. However, if some people claim to be confused about what this means, let us look at another point in which Christ explains whom to love.

Matthew 5: 43-47

ηκουσατε οτι ερρεθη αγαπησεις τον πλησιον σου και μισησεις τον εχθρον σου

 εγω δε λεγω υμιν αγαπατε τους εχθρους υμων ευλογειτε τους καταρωμενους υμας καλως ποιειτε τους μισουντας υμας και προσευχεσθε υπερ των επηρεαζοντων υμας και διωκοντων υμας

οπως γενησθε υιοι του πατρος υμων του εν ουρανοις οτι τον ηλιον αυτου ανατελλει επι πονηρους και αγαθους και βρεχει επι δικαιους και αδικους

εαν γαρ αγαπησητε τους αγαπωντας υμας τινα μισθον εχετε ουχι και οι τελωναι το αυτο ποιουσιν

και εαν ασπασησθε τους αδελφους υμων μονον τι περισσον ποιειτε ουχι και οι τελωναι ουτως ποιουσιν.

“You have heard that it has been said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you: love your enemies, speak well of those who curse you, do good to your enemies, and pray for those who threaten and persecute you (this is a longer version, the standard version is: αγαπατε τους εχθρους υμων και προσευχεσθε υπερ των διωκοντων υμας; “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”), so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven who makes His sun rise upon the base and upon the good and [causes it to] rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous. For, if you love those who love you, you do not have any reward[.] Even the tax-collectors do this. Also, if you welcome your brothers only you do nothing that is remarkable[.] Even the tax-collectors do this to them [i.e. their brothers].”

In this passage, therefore, Christ clearly erases the “and hate your enemy,” part and instructs His believers that they should always love whomever they interact with (i.e. the person close to them), regardless of whether they are good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, just as God, it seems, treats the good and the base, the righteous and the unrighteous the same. Christ clearly states that if they love only the people who love them and behave in a welcoming way only to those whom they perceive as their brothers, they do no more than the tax-collectors and should, therefore, not expect any reward for it.

As if this point needed any more fleshing out, I will also add another verse.

1 John 4:8–ο μη αγαπων ουκ εγνω τον θεον οτι ο θεος αγαπη εστιν; “The one who has not loved (from the word agape) does not know God, because God is love (agape).”

This, taken in connection with the other two passages above connotes that unless a believer love all people (i.e. everyone with whom he/she has ever come to contact with), they do not know God. Please consider the fact that one can only love by God’s love, agape, if one loves all people, as instructed in Matthew 5, in a perfect manner. To subtract anyone from this kind of love would be to depart from the manner which God loves and, therefore, to not love according to agape.

3) Whether God is merciful toward His creation.

I feel sad that I should bring this into contention. The evidence that Christ came to this world so that the sins of all those who believe in Him are forgiven (as long as they are repentant of said sins) should itself seal the deal (because Christ did not need to come to our world to die, except that, because He loves all humans and desires that all humans should be saved, He gave His life so that we may have new life, or as  St. Athanasios said, God became man so that man may share into the Divine Life). However, some people miss this point, so let us try to show, by means of events in the Bible, that this principle is true.

(I will paraphrase here because this story is quite long) When Jonah came to Nineveh to deliver to them the message that, if they did not change their ways, God would destroy them, they did not repent. Jonah, therefore, left the city and sat on a hill to witness the city’s destruction. As he was sitting on the hill, God made a tree grow, so as to provide Jonah with shade (and, allegedly, welcomed-for back support). However, God did not destroy the city, so Jonah became angry onto death, because God did not destroy the “keep his word.” God, then, caused the tree that was providing Jonah with shade to wither. Seeing this, Jonah was angry onto death with God, because He destroyed the tree that was providing him with shade. God, then, pointed out to Jonah that that tree, which God had made appear in one single night and with which Jonah had been  for one single day, was dear to the prophet, even though he had not created it, nor labored in order to shape it. Nonetheless, he expected God to destroy the city, each of whose people God had created and labored in shaping.

Of course, Jonah forgot here that God was merciful with him when he disobeyed God and that He did not kill him for disobedience when he was thrown into the sea, but saved him.

God, is, therefore, merciful to his people, because they are His creatures, the works of His hands. Also, we ourselves must not forget that we have been forgiven of our sins, so we should never be hypocritical about demanding God to punish other sinners even though He has shown mercy and forgiven us (regardless of the fact that most of us go on to sin again).

The combination of these three points clearly shows that the WBC falls short of the standard of Christianity.

1-2) The Christian must want all humans to be saved and act out according to that act of the will (that is, by definition, what an act of the will is). In other words, the Christian must make it as easy as possible for other people to be saved, not put stumbling blocks in front of them. It is quite clear that, through their pickets, the WBC does nothing more than polarize people and make it harder for those who struggle with same-sex attraction to listen to the Christians who want to show them the truth of Christ and, at any rate, be a shoulder for them to cry on when they are in need. Of course, some may say that I, in my posts where I argue against same-sex marriage, am doing the same as these people, but I would call, in my defense, the fact that I am offering arguments, not publicly blaspheming God (which is what saying “God hates f*gs” is, because hatred is the correct response to sin, not people). I for one, believe that gay people are not defined by their sexual preference and, though I hope that they will come to the truth and choose to be brave and resist their attraction (which does not mean that they need to marry someone of the opposite sex or behave as if they are not attracted to the same sex. They simply need to not give into the temptation to have sex with someone of their same gender), but whether they ever reach that point or not, I am perfectly willing to love them and be a shoulder for them to cry on whenever they need it, though I disagree with a part of their decisions. I do this not because I am a particularly good person, but because it is my duty to do it. I have no say-so in the matter. Christ said, “if you love me, obey my commandments” and He was very clear that the Christian should love his neighbor always, be he a Samaritan or a gay person.

3) God is ever-merciful. God does not hate people or countries. As the Psalmist says, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities…” Though in the Old Testament, in preparing the people of God for the coming of the Messiah, God is often seen ordering violence and death both from the Israelites to other peoples and from other peoples to the Israelites (just like a father may spank his young child), upon the coming of Christ, who, in the words of St. Paul, is the unveiling of the veil, the full icon of the Father, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, and the perfection of the covenant between God and His people (the New Israel, those who are children of Abraham through faith) clearly shows that God, in His totality, is merciful and does not want any of His creatures to perish. In fact, those humans who go to Hell do not go the the place prepared for them; Christ, time and time again, says that Hell is the place prepared for the devil and his angles, not for men. Indeed, God shows His mercy even through the fact that people can go to Hell, for, as C. S. Lewis put it, He allows in those who bow to Him and say, “Your will be done,” or He bows to those who do not and says, “your will be done,” which is to be away from God, so they go to the only place where God is not.

The question as to whether Hell is a permanent place is a question to which there is no answer. Some notable Fathers, St. Gregory Nazarenes for example, have believed that all souls, eventually, understand their mistakes and come to Heaven. Of course, that is a matter of speculation and, if I may say so, one that we should not spend much time speculating, lest it take precedent over our job in this world, which is to be perfect. Perfection entails that we have proper reactions to all things, which means that we should hate what is supposed to be hated, which is sin (that is to say, un-being, but one should never hate being, which is the creation of God).

Therefore, for my part, I beg forgiveness of my gay brothers and sisters if my posts come off as offensive to them. I do not mean to offend them, but I do hope that they will consider what I am saying and, at least, ponder on whether (assuming that their sexual attraction and sex life is the second most important thing in their life) anything finite is a very small sacrifice for the most important thing in life, which is the love of and relationship with God (which is infinite).

That said, it is objectively true (I do not say this, God says this), that WBC commits a greater and graver sin by being, first, hateful toward people, and, second, by making it harder for people who are gay to find the courage and warm embrace of the Church and the knowledge that God and His mystical body on earth, the Church, will always be there to support them and love them regardless of how many times they fall short. God and those who love God, the Church, will be there to extend to them a hand with nothing other than love whenever they fall, never giving up on them. Because the WBC performs actions completely antithetical to this, their sin is greater than the one they seem to be so concerned with. Of course, Christ predicted this, because not for naught did He caution us to ever remove the plank out of our own eye before seeking to remove the speck in our brother’s eye.

I for one, however, love even the people of the WBC, though I hate the philosophy and theology of the WBC and hope that they will go back to the Word of God and discover for themselves the richness and beauty of truth and the healing of the true faith in Christ and let go of their false teachings. Of course, while I say this, I realize that I am a greater sinner even than them, because they, though with false teaching and spreading false messages, do much more (though what they do is wrong) than I do, who, by no other accident than being born into the “right” family, have come to know the truth faith and the fulness of the teaching of Christ, so, for my part, I beg the forgiveness of all humans, even the people of the WBC, for not doing more to spread the truth of Christ.

A Short Point About the News on Casey Anthony

Apparently, Casey Anthony is pregnant with twins. I do not see how this is such big news, but I digress.

The point of this post, however, is the reaction that people seem to be having (not to speak of the connection between her and Zimmerman, which I also think is unwarranted, because there’s levels of scum).

Consider this tweet:

Ouch!

Ouch!

Of course, you may see the irony in what is meant to be a reaction to someone who walked away after “allegedly” committing murder (not any kind of murder at that, she killed her own child), but that is completely beyond the issue. What I want to focus on is the outrage that many people are feeling about Anthony being pregnant again.

What frustrates me is that, while it is understandable that this young woman is upset that Casey Anthony (at least in her mind) killed a child and is now about to have custody over another one, is that this kind of predisposition is not present more often. For example, when the trial of Kermit Gosnell was going on, I do not think @charlottetruth bothered much to speak on how hundreds of babies were killed. When Planned Parenthood announced that even if a baby could survive outside the womb and the procedure to terminate it (i.e. kill it) was botched, it would not try to save the baby, all was quiet on the Western front.

Despite the fact that sex-selective abortions is something that everyone is going against in China, the ACLU said it would file a suit against the law in AZ and there was no noise on that. Of course, that’s to not speak of the elephant in the room, Planned Parenthood itself, who kills a baby every 94 seconds (going by the 2011 stats) and yet many women see it as an institution that protects them (from what I don’t know).

I ask you, if abortion is not wrong, why is Anthony’s alleged infanticide wrong? Is there some magical meaning to passing through the birth canal that makes not-a-baby a baby? I quite agree that there’s something rotten about Casey Anthony having a baby (and even saying that she wanted to name one of them after her first daughter), since she seems completely unrepentant about what she did (regardless whether the law finds her guilty), but let’s be consistent with our principles, shall we?

A Short Meditation on Philosophy

So, I started doing a graduate school application and ended up writing a short philosophy paper instead.

Any proper philosophical enquiry into any theme should start with an adequate definition of the terms in question, to avoid ambiguity. In the question at hand, namely why I, indeed why anyone, would desire to continue his or her studies in philosophy, defining this term is crucial to the whole question. From the word itself, philosophy is, as the Greek φιλοσοφία suggests, the love and subsequent pursuit of wisdom. It is, in other words, the search for the Logos in human existence, that overarching and underlying reason and structure which outlines the truths that are beneficial to the person. This definition commits one to certain other concepts, specifically the idea that, first of all, that truth exists. Those who seek wisdom had better believe that wisdom actually exists. Second, it commits the person to the Principle of Intelligibility, i.e. that we can know this truth.

This interpretive key in considering philosophy in the following manner immediately makes one aware to the fact that, going by the definition of those who coined the words, much of today’s philosophy is not, in fact, philosophy. Not only is there the question of objectivity and objective knowledge to consider, but the question of perspective. The ancient philosophers saw truth as the correspondence to ultimate reality, the objective judge to our own subjective thoughts and experiences, in accordance with which a thought is either correct and, therefore, true, or otherwise doomed to be incorrect and antithetical to the pursuit of wisdom.

Due to shifts in modern philosophy, of which Descartes seems to be the ultimate culprit, this definition has shifted. Whereas Plato and Aristotle judged themselves by the objective reality of the world, Descartes judged the whole world on the basis of his own experience in his famous cogito ergo sum in his Discourse on Method. Though seemingly unproblematic and in accordance to the teachings of Socrates, who instructed all his students to judge all things by reason, this idea departs its follower from the true pursuit of wisdom. After all, Socrates did also council to first have that same hermeneutic of suspicion toward the thinker himself. In the Meno, Plato reminds us to always question, before everything else, our own knowledge. Meno tells Socrates that he has mesmerized him and Socrates shows, through teaching his slave some basic geometry, that unless that first reaction of being lost is present, anyone would go on making speeches about how doubling the sides of a square makes its area double in size.

Under this frame lies a debate which has not much been explored, the question about which of the following two statements better describes one’s attitude toward philosophy and, perhaps, all things in life; Socrates’ γνώθι σαυτόν or Descartes’ cogito ergo sum. One asks for an initial introspection into the thinker, before one’s thoughts can be trusted. The other takes the existence of his thoughts as the hinge upon which all reality is hung.

Descartes teaches that all have privileged mental access to their own minds, saying that there could never be a thought that is hidden from the thinker. Socrates, on the other hand, presents a picture of the human soul that is shrouded in mystery. He goes so far as to say that all learning is, in fact, remembering. In short, he tells us that we are, deep inside, gifted with great wisdom, but that we have forgotten it and have sold ourselves short. This fits perfectly with the imagery of the cave in the Republic, where all men are brought into the world inside the cave, looking at shadows cast by puppets in front of a fireplace, not even able to see themselves.

Luckily, there is a way out of that initial darkness. When the prisoners realize that there must be more behind them, casting the shadows on the wall of the cave, there are able to see a way out, though it is long and difficult and, through the entrance to the cave, as a singe dart, pierce the pure rays of the Sun. Philosophy, then, requires the person to first climb out of the cave and into the plain which is illumined by that Sun, so the person may know first who he is and who the Sun is and then to go back into the cave and bring the others into the Sun as well.

However, this process comes with great risks, because one does not know what is outside the cave. Suppose, for example, that there are terrifying wild beasts roaming through the plain. Even worse, imagine if, upon coming out of the cave, the person discovers that they are themselves the terrifying beast. In yet another worst-case scenario, what if, upon coming out of the cave, they become the wild beast and seek to bring all that is out there under their own dominion. The aforementioned three worst-case scenarios are three attitudes that are antithetical to philosophy. The first is timidity and comfort, the view that what one has now is enough and that there is probably nothing more to discover. The second is the outlook of Machiavelli, who invites us to throw off the idea that our standard should be the God made Man of Christianity or even the half-man who has overcome the half-beast of Classical wisdom in Chiron, but the lion and the fox. The third is the outlook of Francis Bacon, Nietzsche, Sartre, et al., who invite us to bring nature and all that is in it under our dominion.

It is easy to accept that we must throw off the third view in order to develop philosophy, but the other two seem to be less relenting. What if there really are beasts roaming all but the cave? The answer to this view is love. Socrates first loves wisdom, then he can know it and his reward for this courageous jump is death. Yet, he is willing to continue in his path no matter what the consequences are, accepting as a lesser evil to die rather than to not keep onto the true path. However, what if we really are a beast, capable of nothing more than devouring? The answer to this view is self-control. For better or for worse, humankind can, always, though some times the struggle is of Herculean proportions, stop itself. Unless one exercises self-control, then they will never make it out of the cave. If they seek to voraciously charge into the unknown, they will probably bash themselves on the rocks or fall into a precipice.

All three attitudes can be refuted by one word, ethics. This is the one area of philosophy that no one can escape and, surprisingly, the one area of philosophy that, with the combined ideology of Machiavelli’s beastly teaching and Descartes’ internalistic picture of the world is most at peril in our culture. Nietzsche and Sartre strike at this very heart of philosophy and discover that, once it has been removed, philosophy itself becomes little more than mockery. Nietzsche advises his reader to go beyond good and evil into a new existence, which renders him limitless, but every attempt to put his work into practice has ended in horrific failure, even his own. Bacon invites his reader to put nature under the rack until she spits our all her secrets, but nature, that ever-cunning mistress, retreats only to entice him to pursue her further, ultimately ending in a horrific double-envelopment on her part which, on the contrary of forcing her to tell all her secrets, brings out the monstrosity of “men-without-chests.”

Instead, the Medieval Scholastic tradition of the West and the Eastern Patristic writings, in one breath, invite the person to have a sacramental and reverential view of the whole world. Some might be shocked to find out that this is also a Platonic teaching, to be found in the Symposium, in Eryximachus’ speech, who says that love occurs everywhere in the universe. It follows from that idea that love is the correct attitude toward all things. Ethics, therefore, maps out how that love is to be exhibited toward each thing. Only through this view can anyone ever reach true wisdom.

Third Man Argument Response: The Better Version

Hey guys, I know I posted something on this already, but this is the better, more scholarly essay that I had to write on it. As always, plagiarism is not cool.

What has come to be known as the Third Man Argument (TMA) has brought scholars of Plato and philosophers at large many headaches, due to the seeming end that it brings to the Platonic Theory of Forms. The most puzzling part is that it is included in the Platonic corpus itself, so it seems that there must be a solution to it, that it is a challenge from Plato beyond the grave to his philosophical successors. This paper will outline that one of the premises of the argument is not faithful to the Platonic corpus  and that there are at least two ways to solve the argument, thereby dissolving the infinite regress and keeping Plato’s theory of Forms intact.

The TMA (Parmenides 132a1-b2), relies on two basic principles. First, the Principle of Abstraction, i.e. that for every property F there must be a Form, F-ness, through which all objects with F get that property[1]. There are multiple places in the Platonic corpus where this is affirmed. The second principle, hereby to be referred as the Feedback Principle, asserts that the idea of F-ness and all the objects that it substantiates form a new class of things with the property F[2]. The Feedback Principle is drawn out of two hidden axioms, namely Non-Identity, which follows directly from Separation, and Self-Predication.

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy cites four instances[3] in the Platonic corpus from which this principle can be concluded, however, in analysing them, the issue of pulling out the Principle of Separation is problematic. The first speaks about the doctrine of recollection, the central idea in the Meno, by which we have knowledge of the Forms, with the mention of “the Beautiful itself, the Good itself…[4]” The second quotation, also from the Phaedo makes the same mention, but its content does not relate to Separation. The third and fourth quotations are thematically very close, with the fourth one pointing out that there is a difference between those who love “beautiful sounds and colours” and those who love “the beautiful itself[5].” None of the four give sufficient evidence to postulate Separation. Rather, they indicate that there is a difference between an instance of a Form being substantiated in a sensible object and the Form itself. The last quotation makes the additional point that, even though, on the Metaphysical level, the Form is the first principle used to understand objects that instantiate it, on the Epistemic level, the formulation of it itself is the last step[6].

As if that were not enough to damn Separation (and with it Non-Identity[7]), there is the additional difficulty that, when taken together with the Principle of Self-Predication, they are mutually exclusive. If F-ness is an F, and yet is not one of the objects that begets F through F-ness, then it is obvious that there is an infinite regress, but to state the argument in such terms is to beg the question, because the strongest claim one can make about Separation, while still remaining faithful to the Platonic corpus is that “The F is itself by itself, at least in the sense of being separate from, and hence not identical with, the things that partake of it.[8]” It is obvious that F-ness is not identical with the (other) things it instantiates, but that does not mean that it is not an instance of instantiation itself. This points to the idea of degrees in instantiation, by which the Form is not perfectly instantiated in every object that has that property, but is instantiated perfectly in itself[9]. To deal with this concept at length would be to stray from the TMA, therefore, one must come back to it.

Be the issue with Separation as it may, there is an additional problem with the TMA, namely, the issue of the property of the ‘new Form’ formulated by the Feedback Principle. The expanded set with every object that has the property F and F-ness itself bring forth a ‘new Form’, F-ness1. However, it follows from this principle that F-ness is not an F, but rather an F1 and so on and so forth ad infinitum. In this case, if F-ness is, in fact, not an F but and F1, it cannot be included in the expanded set, because it is not one of the things which has the property F. To simply assume that F-ness gets the property of being F from F1 etc., would be to assume that one needs more than one Form for each property, but this is the conclusion of the TMA in proving that the Uniqueness Principle, i.e. that there is only one Form corresponding to each property F[10], is wrong. If so, to include it as an enthymic premise makes the argument invalid[11]. If the property which F-ness1 represents is any different than property of F-ness, then the argument makes no sense, if it is the same, then the argument is circular, because it assumes what it is trying to prove.

That being said, the reading that Self-Predication necessitates Self-Participation means that the Forms have to be understood (in terms of instilling the property F) as being a non-well-founded set. Though under Russell’s theory a set of the kind Ω={Ω}, would be an absurdity[12], Aczel introduces a variation of the Zermelo-Fraenkel plus the axiom of choice theory with the anti-foundation axiom[13] by using which one can keep the theory of the Forms consistent. Schweizer explains the contribution of this theory as follows:

This object induces an infinite descending chain of membership, but it is nonetheless hereditarily finite, since each member of the chain has only one element. ZFC, with the axiom of foundation replaced by the AFA, is provably consistent relative to the original system. Thus circularity is formally absolved … and the world of ‘hypersets’ is rendered just as axiomatically secure as the cumulative hierarchy[14].

By implementing this method, therefore, there is a consistent way to understand the Theory of Forms in terms of Self-Predication and Self-Participation, which leaves no room for the TMA.

That being said, it seems that Parmenides’ argument rests on one other shaky premise, namely the idea that being able to think about a scenario is suitable grounding for positing that such a thing exists. Even if the TMA were logically consistent, simply the fact that one can think of an infinite regression of Forms in not sufficient reasoning to postulate that this regress exists. However, to introduce this principle is to open the door to Nominalist criticism, because to implement a weak limit for the sets that correspond to Universals necessitates that it be defended from the stronger claim that no sets correspond to Universals as well as the idea that all sets do. The answer to both sides is functionality.

First, it is quite clear that Universals are necessary as a means of language. Let us take ‘red’ as an example. The Nominalist would argue that there is no such one thing as ‘red’ that one can pick out. We can talk about a chair being ‘red,’ but that definition of ‘red’ would have to be loose, because even a chair seemingly identical to it would be a slightly different kind of red. This, however, is explained within the Platonic corpus as Impurity-S, namely that, “sensible things are impure inasmuch as they can (and, in fact, often do) have contrary properties.[15]” The reason why most of the red things witnessed on Earth are different from most others is because their pigment is some mixture between red and other colours. In trying to produce colours digitally, the RGB model uses red, blue, and green in varying degrees in order to represent all colours. One has to abstract, out of the idea that there are many things that one would classify as red (that is, colours made up mostly by red), that there is a perfect or pure red that is not mixed with any other colour. Unless there is such a kind of red, it would not make sense to posit that we can mix red with other colours to produce mixtures. In fact, in recreating images in television or computers, one would have to otherwise log an infinity of colours as primitive, whereas this ‘flowing’ chart is simpler and works better.

In addition, there are cases where one can only speak in abstractions, thereby necessitating that there be Forms in order to be able to communicate about a scenario. The scenario B proposes in Max Black’s “The Identity of Indiscernibles” goes a long way in illustrating this case. In this possible world, there are two spheres, both made of chemical iron, both the same temperature and colour, both having one mile diameters, etc.[16] There would be no way to talk about them except by abstractions, which is to say, except by appealing to the Forms. As Black illustrates, one cannot pick one sphere and name it, because there is no reference to which sphere the name applies as opposed to the other. Nonetheless, one can say that they are both spheres, that they are both made out of iron, etc. However, in order for those statements to bear any meaning, there needs to be a Form of the sphere, the perfect sphere, by which one can discern that these two objects are spheres. Therefore, if the Nominalist wants to keep intact his ideology that there are no Universals, he would either have to say that the postulation of such a world is impossible, because the string of words “there are two spheres” has no meaning, or otherwise accept that words such as ‘sphere’ are necessary out of the convention of language, but that they have no intrinsic meaning, at which point we would be back to square one. Because the Forms have a function, i.e. of picking out the perfect or pure red that is mixed in order to make colours in nature, or the perfect sphere from which one can discern spheres, they have a function, whereas the expanded sets of the Universals do not derive any function and are, therefore, unnecessary. If they are unnecessary, one need not postulate them.

In conclusion, the TMA breaks down because the Principle of Non-Identity is drawn from a Principle of Separation that does not faithfully follow the Platonic corpus, which allows and indeed requires for the Forms to be Self-Participating if they have are instances of Self-Predicament. If this is so, the expanded sets, and with them the infinite regression of Forms, are dissolved. Forms, then, are instances of non-well-founded sets as defined by Aczel. Nonetheless, Parmenides’ argument against the Forms is problematic in that simply being able to think of the expanded sets does not give sufficient reason to believe they exist, since the expanded sets have no function. In saying this, it may seem to open the road for a Nominalist criticism, but the Forms are necessary as reference points to reality, therefore, one cannot extract them without damaging both language and philosophy.

Works Cited

Aczel, P., Non-Well-Founded Sets, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University, Lecture Notes Number 14, 1988.

Black, Max. “The Identity of Indiscernibles.” Mind 61.242 (1952): 153-64. JSTOR. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2252291&gt;.

McInerny, Ralph.  “Are There Moral Truths that Everyone Knows?” in E. McLean (Ed.),  Common Truths. (Wilmington: Intercollegiate Studies Institute Books, 1999), pp. 1-15.

Plato. Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hacket, 1997. Print.

Rickless, Samuel, “Plato’s Parmenides“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/plato-parmenides/&gt;.

Schweizer, Peter. “Self-Predication and the Third Man.” Erkenntnis 40.1 (1994): 21-42. JSTOR. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20012526&gt;.


[1] P. Schweizer, “Self-Predication and the Third Man”, pg. 23

[2] ibid.

[3] Phaedo 75c11–d2, 100b6–7; Republic 476b10, 480a11

[4] Phaedo, 75c11-d2

[5] Republic, 480a11

[6] R. McInerny,, “Are there Moral Truths That Everyone Knows?” pg. 14. The article has no relation to TMA, however, it outlines why it must be that, though the principle has to come first and be used to distinguish instances of it, the formulation of the principle, abstracted from particular instances, comes last.

[7] SEP, Parmenides

[8] Ibid.

[9] P. Schweizer, “Self-Predication and the Third Man”, pg. 34

[10] SEP, Parmenides

11 P. Schweizer, “Self-Predication and the Third Man”, pp. 27-28

[12] Ibid. pg. 38

[13]P. Aczel, Non-Well-Founded Sets, Lecture Notes Nr. 14

[14]P. Schweizer, “Self-Predication and the Third Man”, pg. 38

[15] SEP, Parmenides

[16] M. Black, “The Identity of Indiscernibles” pg. 156

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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