Friday, December 31, 2004

Why Cal Didn't Belong in the Rose Bowl

The final numbers: Texas Tech 45, Cal 31. Of course, I might eat these words tomorrow if Michigan plays like they did in last year's Rose Bowl.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Muhammed is not your friend

One of the blackest holes in my knowledge of the history of the world's religions is Islam. Excessively ignorant, but at least I am self-aware. Given that Islam played a major role in Byzantine History, however, I realized that this is a situation that demands more swift rectification than, say, my interest in Ancient Chinese History. Over this Christmas break, then, I have been trying to get a bit of a foundation for Islam, reading the Koran and the Sirat (Life of the Prophet).

I'll be frank, it has not been either uplifting, encouraging, or inspiring and it has not helped me to at all appreciate statements by President Bush about "good muslims" and their compatability with America and her goals and values. Aside: it is perhaps unfair to label our President with this, since he is probably simply taking the word of a trusted advisor, which I don't have a problem with in and of itself--he is the last in a long chain of education and thought. However, our President vocalizes the --almost unquestioned-- majority opinion among intellectuals, and the implications and extensive consensus of that majority opinion, and so I think I am justified as using him as a current figurehead. Enough.

I still have a significant portion of both texts to read, but thus far I have been extremely unimpressed with the person of Muhammed. In fact, downright disgusted. I will perhaps explain myself more when I have finished my little reading list (which includes a few other texts) and provide a plethora of examples, but for now my opinion on the subject is similar to that expressed in a quote by Alexis de Tocqueville that I happened upon:

"I studied the Koran a great deal ... I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammed. As far as I can see, it is the principle cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world, and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion infinitely more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself."

Here's the thing (and it will take me a little bit to get back round to my main point, but bear with). There ARE the people within the folds of both Christianity and of Islam who fall into the (actually useless) labels of "fundamentalist" that the MSM likes to continually use. There is the potential person, somewhere in Christianity, who still actually thinks and would vocalize that we need to fight a holy war against the Infidel and take back the holy land and that such an enterprise is explicitely blessed/commanded by God. I am willing to say this person exists somewhere because I have met people who exemplify tendencies or parts of this vision, but not the whole. So, all right, let us grant that this Christian exists somewhere.

However, in all my years being raised in a (warning you may be offended by me after I use these labels) fundamentalist evangelical family, Church and frequently schools, I have yet to meet this person. There are an infinite number of reasons to support the state of Israel that have nothing to do with the so-called "Zionism" that is supposedly the characteristic mark of Evangelical Fundamentalists: it is gross error to attribute America's allegiance with Israel as only upheld by foamy-mouthed "Zionists" (wherever they may be). The point here is that the "fundamentalism" in Christianity (as characterized by MSM) is truly on the fringe. There are those ideas within the Christian fold, but they're strange, they're not standard, they're not explicit, and they are certainely not required by either Holy Bible nor by Holy Tradition.

MSM, and their liberal intellectual chums attempt to parallel the fundamentalism of Islam with the "fundamentalism" of Christianity. What they do have right is that "fundamentalism" as methodology is basically a return to the literal strictures of the Book. As presented it is simple, populist and on the surface: anyone can pick up the book, read, and say, yep, I see where you get that. The problem is that it is not the methodology that is the problem here, though that is what is always blamed and used as the label. Rather, it is difference in the content of the respective books. Do any of the people who throw around these labels actually read the Bible and the Koran? Notice any [?!slight!?] differences?

Christian fundamentalists are not required to be "Zionist Crusaders". As I said above, the great majority are not. On the other hand, a Muslim fundamentalist is, by definition, a jihadist. 100% of Muslim fundamentalists believe the jihad (the physical one) is divinely ordained. Why? Because its in their texts, it is explicit, it is obvious.

A Christian reading the Bible has to jump through major interpretative hoops to get to Zionism.
A Muslim reading the Koran has to jump through major interprative hoops to get out of Jihad.
This is a major difference, my friends, and no one is acknowledging it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Friday, December 10, 2004

Help Me, Philosophic Types

I want to make an argument that there is a fundamental difference between "Critical" and "Dialectic" methods of thought. I do not think that my arguement is stretching anything. However, I have attempted to make this argument to others and been questioned on this basic distinction. I am seeking confirmation of my sanity.

I understand the Modern Critical Method as taking nothing for granted: its goal is to show that X is not the case, to question the very nature, existence and truth claim of X, and in some cases to go on to explain how the idea or belief in X came about. Classical Dialectic, on the other hand, while its method is necessarily negative, starts from the existence of X. Socrates in the dialogues of Plato, does not ever question that X is. Where is the discussion on whether or not there is "good"? Whether or not X or Y or Z is good is discussed throughout, but the existence of the Good is not in doubt; the same could be said for the Beautiful or the Just. I think this is so basic that it is the fundamental basis of the Dialogues. The "Elenchus" is useless unless there is a point of Catholic Truth (not in the religious sense). There is a difference between Plato and Descartes (to use him as representative).

I see a parallel between this (Dialectic) and Apophaticism. Negation is the method, but at the heart of it there is unquestioned reality. Imperfect language can only be used negatively to refer to the real being/notbeing. The Being/Notbeing is not questioned.

I need to learn to write with fewer qualifying clauses. I've been reading too much Thucydides.

Famous Atheist Now Believes in God

Antony Flew, one of the leading atheists of this century, has converted to theism. Philosophia Christi has an interview between Flew and his friend, Gary Habermas of Liberty University.

There is also an AP news story about Flew's decision.

Flew says he is a theist but not a Christian. From the interview:

HABERMAS: C. S. Lewis explained in his autobiography that he moved first from atheism to theism and only later from theism to Christianity. Given your great respect for Christianity, do you think that there is any chance that you might in the end move from theism to Christianity?

FLEW: I think it’s very unlikely, due to the problem of evil. But, if it did happen, I think it would be in some eccentric fit and doubtfully orthodox form: regular religious practice perhaps but without belief. If I wanted any sort of future life I should become a Jehovah’s Witness. But some things I am completely confident about. I would never regard Islam with anything but horror and fear because it is fundamentally committed to conquering the world for Islam. . . .

HABERMAS: I ask this last question with a smile, Tony. But just think what would happen if one day you were pleasantly disposed toward Christianity and all of a sudden the resurrection of Jesus looked pretty good to you?

FLEW: Well, one thing I’ll say in this comparison is that, for goodness sake, Jesus is an enormously attractive charismatic figure, which the Prophet of Islam most emphatically is not.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Books I Wished I Owned

Michael Gilleland has a post on books he wished he owned. I'll copy his first one, J. D. Denniston, The Greek Particles, but here's the rest of my list.

Plato, Platonis Opera, vols. 1-5.
James Adam, The Republic of Plato, vols. 1-2.
John Burnet, Essays and Addresses.
Renford Bambrough, New Essays on Plato and Aristotle.
A. E. Taylor, Commentary on Plato's Timaeus.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, vols. 1-5.
Charles Williams, Taliessin through Logres.

And since I don't want to be ungrateful, here's some books I'm thankful to own.

Charles Williams, Figure of Beatrice.
Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed (trans. Pines), vols. 1-2.
Richard Purtill, Logic for Philosophers.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, vols. 1-5.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Wayne Says Sources Say Pope Says Bush is Antichrist

Who is Wayne Madsen, and why does he have any credibility with the Catholic Times?

(Yes, it's true; I should be writing a paper now.)

Excellent Article on Art Criticism

A friend of mine pointed this article out to me a while back. I was reading it over recently and was reminded of how good it is. A quotation: "As a critic, lately I've begun to feel that something more than explaining and advocacy is called for, that qualitative choices must be made -- and articulated." Read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Lucky for Cal

Thorgerson laments that there will be no Michigan-Cal showdown in the Rose Bowl this year. Thorgerson should thank his lucky stars that he won't have to see Michigan humiliate Cal on national television. His lachrymosity should be joyful, not sad.

Republic 328d2-4

"For you should know that, for me, as the other pleasures, those of the body, wither away, the desires and pleasures concerning speeches grow the more."

[There's a question here about translating "emoige," i.e., "for me." I followed Shorey in translating it as a dative proper, whereas Bloom puts it in the locative dative. I didn't like Bloom's decision since emoige appears outside the relative phrase containing its purported object, "pleasures."

This is the first contrast in the Republic of bodily pleasures with something else. Shorey says that "Plato characteristically contrasts the transitory pleasures of the body with the enduring joys of the mind," but here we have not a mind/body contrast but a contrast between the pleasures of the body and the pleasures "connected with" (to use Bloom's translation) tous logous. Does Cephalus realize that the pleasures of speeches are pleasures of the highest part of the soul? Plato certainly seems to make that connection later in the dialogue, but does Cephalus know about the tripartite soul?]

Sad Sad Day

There will be no justice at the Rose Bowl this year. Neither will there be the great Burglar showdown that I was anticipating. No potential for a blow by blow blog-o-rama in which Cal wiped the grass with Michigan and I got to let the Burglar know all about it. I weep.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Bothered by Target

This is frustrating. Why is it so frustrating? Should I be more worked up over Iraq, the Goningen Protocol, Theo Van Gogh, North Korea and Iran? Maybe, and I probably am, but America [and by America I mean final bastion of Western Culture] will stand or fall by the charitas of the homeland.

(Audio piece)

(Opinion piece, facts are at the end of the second page)

Will this ultimately matter? In terms of tangibles, not as much as the Salvation Army figure of $9M, because they will find other places to ring a ling, but it is shameful. But it is the principle of the thing. NO ONE in their right mind considers the Salvation Army solicitors. I wish solicitors were half as uninvasive. The Salvation army is not those kids who ask you if you want them to go to college, and would you please buy this subscription for $50, ten of which will go towards them going to Magic Mountain for a day, and two of which will be put in a scholarship fund which they will never see because they can't go to college if they're not sitting at home doing their homework NOW.

The day we start BANNING the Salvation Army is not the end of the world, but it is corporate entities seeing the world from the top down. We, the corpus, need the salvation army at the door of Target to redeem (if by only a little) our wantonness inside the doors, and to remind us of the greater corpus when we leave with our credit card receipt.