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Category: philosophy

Why I don’t like philosophy

by Andrea Elizabeth

It’s too powerful. It can uproot tradition. It’s too easy to follow the logic and relate, and then before you know it you’re assassinating a king or czar or your brothers and sisters or even God. It can easily confuse people.

But the Church Fathers and Sts. John and Paul used philosophy. It’s also part of psychology – the study of the soul. And if our minds aren’t meant to understand complex things, aren’t they being wasted? And aren’t the Father’s pronouncements ultimately comforting? Yes, except the anathemas. Some Priests don’t read them because today’s society is so confused and we don’t want to condemn all the unorthodox. When the Church was more united, things were more black and white.

I’ve been reading a little of Nietsche and liking some of his writing, then today’s Random Psalm is 14:

14 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.

Is there no good in Nietzsche? But how does he have songs?

Also, in the above, God does want us to understand.

But Nietzsche does have some points about antisemitism, nationalism, and Master/Slave Morality. But could his uberman have fed Nazism?

I only trust the ultimate pronouncements of the Orthodox Church, but the other truth claims are an interesting and enlightening conversation. They point to parts of reality that you may not have yet thought of. However, f you are not grounded in the Church, you can be convinced these claims are mature gospel truth instead of tiny elements in a bigger picture. Like Uberman. He could be compared to a deified man. But he calls upon God and does not deny him.

Master/Slave Morality is more difficult. From Wikipedia:

In Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche’s genealogical account of the development of modern moral systems occupies central place. For Nietzsche, a fundamental shift took place during human history from thinking in terms of “good” and “bad” toward “good” and “evil”.

The initial form of morality was set by a warrior aristocracy and other ruling castes of ancient civilizations. Aristocratic values of “good” and “bad” coincided with and reflected their relationship to lower castes such as slaves. Nietzsche presents this “master morality” as the original system of morality—perhaps best associated with Homeric Greece. To be “good” was to be happy and to have the things related to happiness: wealth, strength, health, power, etc. To be “bad” was to be like the slaves over which the aristocracy ruled, poor, weak, sick, pathetic—an object of pity or disgust rather than hatred.

“Slave morality” comes about as a reaction to master-morality. Here, value emerges from the contrast between good and evil: good being associated with other-worldliness, charity, piety, restraint, meekness, and submission; and evil seen as worldly, cruel, selfish, wealthy, and aggressive. Nietzsche sees slave morality as pessimistic and fearful, values for them serving only to ease the existence for those who suffer from the very same thing. He associates slave-morality with the Jewish and Christian traditions, in a way that slave-morality is born out of the ressentiment of slaves. Nietzsche argued that the idea of equality allowed slaves to overcome their own condition without hating themselves. And by denying the inherent inequality of people (such as success, strength, beauty or intelligence), slaves acquired a method of escape, namely by generating new values on the basis of rejecting something that was seen as a perceived source of frustration. It was used to overcome the slave’s own sense of inferiority before the (better-off) masters. It does so by making out slave weakness to be a matter of choice, by, e.g., relabeling it as “meekness.” The “good man” of master morality is precisely the “evil man” of slave morality, while the “bad man” is recast as the “good man.”

Nietzsche sees the slave-morality as a source of the nihilism that has overtaken Europe. Modern Europe and Christianity exist in a hypocritical state due to a tension between master and slave morality, both values contradictorily determining, to varying degrees, the values of most Europeans (who are motley). Nietzsche calls for exceptional people to no longer be ashamed of their uniqueness in the face of a supposed morality-for-all, which he deems to be harmful to the flourishing of exceptional people. He cautions, however, that morality, per se, is not bad; it is good for the masses, and should be left to them. Exceptional people, on the other hand, should follow their own “inner law.” A favorite motto of Nietzsche, taken from Pindar, reads: “Become what you are.”

A long standing assumption about Nietzsche is that he preferred master over slave morality. However, the Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann rejected this interpretation, writing that Nietzsche’s analyses of these two types of morality were only used in a descriptive and historic sense, they were not meant for any kind of acceptance or glorifications.[101]

There’s a lot to think about here. Did Christian slaveowners keep the slaves down by this teaching of good Christian meekness? Feminists also criticize doormat wives. Rightly? But with such talk you agitate and incense people to violent revolution. Gandhi advocated passive resistance a la Rosa Parks. That’s better, but in a documentary about the Civil Rights movement I heard that that only got them so far, then they had to get more militant. There is no one answer. I’ve heard that Jewish people are ashamed they took such a meek approach to their captivity and wish they’d been stronger. They couldn’t believe things would go that far, and that God would allow it. It’s probably why there are so many are atheists now.

I suppose the healthy thing is for the strong to help the weak and not lord it over them. But even Nietzsche believes in ressentiment among lesser ways of being:

“Aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy, especially his ideas of the self and his relation to society, also run through much of late-twentieth and early twenty-first century thought.[250][251] His deepening of the romantic-heroic tradition of the nineteenth century, for example, as expressed in the ideal of the “grand striver” appears in the work of thinkers from Cornelius Castoriadis to Roberto Mangabeira Unger.[252] For Nietzsche this grand striver overcomes obstacles, engages in epic struggles, pursues new goals, embraces recurrent novelty, and transcends existing structures and contexts.”

He denies transcendence to the eternal or otherworldly, but where else can you go beyond “existing structures and contexts”?

And then there’s absurdism

by Andrea Elizabeth

Philosophical absurdism.

My conclusion in the post on absurdist literature was Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. Camus is interesting. He made me think of the stoning of Stephen. Kierkegaard would like that he saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, who deadened the pain? Camus would say that was escapism. I suppose he would prefer, go ahead, make my day. Perhaps he is a masochist.

I’ve wondered at the martyrs who endure horrible torture, are healed, then endure it again. What’s the point of that? Are they protected from the pain? And to say, thy will be done, could possibly not be escapism but absorption in the other. Your God will be my God, your people my people. Kenosis is escaping self absorption for a broader, truer point of view. Is reality a caterpillar or a butterfly? See Corpse Bride for that.

Let them go

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just remembered what I was looking up that lead me to learn about the King of Germany being the Holy Roman Emperor till 1806 and then about Austria. It was Lutheranism. I don’t remember why I was looking that up. But the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article has this statement,

“The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics was made clear and open with the 1521 Edict of Worms:[2] the edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially outlawed citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas, subjecting advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all property, specifying half of any seized property forfeit to the Imperial government and the remaining half forfeit to the party who brought the accusation.”

It was the seizure of property that caught my attention. How did the state have the right to do that unless there was no division between Church and state, which of course there wasn’t so much in those days. But all this leads me to the notion of coercion. Whatever the political or financial motivations, if you believe someone is defying God or the truth, what should you do? Force them through these other means to stop? The problem to me is the indirectness of it.

Property rights should involve trade rules, not religious rules. If someone is convicted of murder, should their property be seized? They may have to make certain restitution to the family, but that should be about damages, not removal of property. It’s the indirectness that is also involved in bribery, which is what the Empire was doing to the people who brought accusations of someone being Lutheran by giving them half the spoils.

So to say I’ll be nice to you and give you favors if you worship as I do, and I’ll be mean and take something of yours unrelated if you don’t is wrong. Do I feel this way because I’m a post-enlightenment American? I just found this on the Wikipedia article on the Separation of Church and State,

“The concept of separating church and state is often credited to the writings of English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704).[8] According to his principle of the social contract, Locke argued that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he argued must therefore remain protected from any government authority. These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with his social contract, became particularly influential in the American colonies and the drafting of the United States Constitution.”

We are used to being able to think, and mostly to say what we think without state consequence. It seems an act of desperation to try to force someone to think and say differently. The Church has the authority to declare what is proper to think and say, with certain ramifications, mostly closed communion for those who declare with the agreement of their conscience the truth about Christ and the Church. She lets those who don’t go. So is it bribery or coercion to send gift-bearing missionaries? I think we have to be careful and examine our conscience. Am I feeding this poor person because I want to add numbers to my Church? We may not be able to help that that may be part of it, and if it is, if we also believe it is wrong to not feed a hungry person, then we should go ahead and pray to be cleansed of our wrong motivations. It’s the difference between schmoozing and ministering.

Speaker for the Dead

by Andrea Elizabeth

is the sequel to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Actually, I think it was explained to me that Ender’s Game is the prequel to Speaker for the Dead even though it was written first.

I’m a little fuzzy on the details because it is not the sort of book I normally read. I gravitate towards psychological/relational type books written by the greats of the 19th Century. This one has enough of that to keep me engaged, but it’s also pretty sciency and politically as well as religiously philosophical.

The main character is agnostic, but likes to surprise religious people by his goodness. This sort of reminds me of a recent Walking Dead episode where the gay girl is “surprisingly” self-sacrificial. It’s as if the religious right has tarred and feathered these alternative, shall we say, life-styled people in a way that has totally vilified them. If one weren’t Calvinist, one could say they have been categorized as sub-human. One statement in Speaker for the Dead is that it takes Calvinists a long time to get over that flawed viewpoint.

 

Theological pros and cons to the quantum theory of multi universes

by Andrea Elizabeth

1, Con. If all possibilities are actualized, whose spouse will you be in heaven? Even if people will be like the angels and not married, wont they have memories of their past life? Too many memories?

2, Pro. It could explain how people can possibly know everything and be everywhere in heaven, provided the alternate selves will be integrated.

3, Pro. It could explain how someone is guilty of murder or adultery for just thinking it.

4, Con. It dilutes the importance of this set of actualities, such as the Fall, the Incarnation, and every day decision-making.

5, Pro. It supports being credited for your intentions.

6. Pro. It is a way to see fiction as the gateway to knowing what some of the other worlds are like, thus making fiction real or true, and those who get caught up in it not crazy or delusional.

7. Con. It is an excuse for these people to think they are not crazy or delusional.

8. Con. It makes truth too relativistic, unless certain foundational truths about human, divine, and created natures remain constant.

The pros and cons are equal, therefore I have determined that multi universes both exist and do not exist.  (see related posts on Schrodinger’s cat in the February archives of Sine Nomine, starting with “Quantum Cats”.)

Pronouns

by Andrea Elizabeth

Are there just 2 choices, one right and one wrong? You or me, left or right? This may be the perception. It is more difficult to consider multiple valid options, such as up, down, front and back, with right and left, so maybe that’s why we don’t. Does that mean Hegel was lazy? Or narcissistic?

Is reality one, as Hegel suggests – a single synthesis of me and the other,

or is it one in that it is the relationship between me and the other,

or just me,

or just the other,

or is it dual as the other and how it changed me,

or multiple as all the independent others, including me,

or all the instances of relationships between each of the others, also allowing for independence and exclusiveness,

or all the relationships being mutually dependent,

or all independent beings, with their relationships being another entity, and is the nature of the independent being changed by the relationship(s)?

The above imply that reality is equal to one’s consciousness of it. Reality can also be viewed as an ontologically unchangeable thing regardless of one’s consciousness of it. But one has to leave oneself behind, as Carly learns in “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”, to perceive this ontology that exists whether I realize it or not. 

Or is there room to believe that one’s consciousness of things also changes reality such that reality includes the dynamic of enlightenment. Enlightenment and ignorance change things. This is a common theme in literature. Pride and Prejudice is all about how ignorance leads to a set of actions that make a certain reality, and enlightenment leads to another set for a different reality. Both experienced and actualized. Ignorance and misunderstanding lead to the distance between good people with the union of not so good people, and enlightenment leads to the union of the good people. This leads to the belief  that good as a reality, is obtained through the quest for truth, which seems to be who has good character and who has bad so that I know who to unite myself to. Therefore the goal of the knowledge of reality is relationship. This is not exactly dualistic, but interpretation through a sliding scale of the worst, worse, bad, good, better and best. Dualism can still be noted in that there are still two ingredients, the good, which is to be united to, and the bad, which is to be avoided as much as possible.

Does the amount of enlightenment and the nature of the relationship change the nature of the individual? My understanding of human nature through what I’ve studied in Orthodox teaching, is that it is one and unchangeable. But a person’s participation with true humanity is on a sliding scale. It is negatively affected by sin and unconsciousness. Is a person less human who is of bad character and unconscious of goodness? I don’t think they are less in that they become something else, but I think they are smaller, as when Lewis’ Tragedian in The Great Divorce gets bigger and the man gets smaller the more he listens to him and accepts him. The man doesn’t become the Tragedian, he just disappears.

So if one person disappears, how are others affected? Is it an independent occurrence, or do the ones he is related to suffer as well? Or is it just the relationship as a separate entity that suffers? And are our multiple relationships with things compartmentalized within ourselves? I lean towards domino effects, so that one’s relationship with a small person affects one’s other relationships, but do they affect you as a person other than your perceptions and therefore future decisions? They probably do contribute to one’s personal size, or attainment of humanity. One has to decide to get caught up in the other’s dysfunction, or reject it, and how it is allowed to affect one’s view of others. This implies one needs to be more conscious of reality. One needs to be enlightened to become more human.

So is the enlightened person only concerned with the other, regardless of consciousness of relationship or of how the relationship affects him personally? The enlighten person should read his, or his actions’, affect on the other person. That is, the other person’s relationship with him. Perhaps how one is affected by another person or their actions is dependent on how big or small they are. Impassibility entails being unaffected. Loving indiscriminately. But there is the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. There are those he considered his friends. Maybe this was his human nature. But Enoch walked with God and was no more. And Moses and David were more intimate with Him. Their relationships were results of their character, their bigness.

How conscious of ones self should one be? Carly, in “You’re So Vain”, chides you for thinking the song is about you, but isn’t it also about her? Is it ok to have it be about yourself (Narcissism), but not think that others’ songs are about you? In a certain introduction to the Psalms, in these songs, it is ok to think they are about you, sins (not other people as enemies), and Christ (who I’ll add, includes the least of the brethren). Multiple.

Impressions

by Andrea Elizabeth

We really enjoyed hiking, wading and swimming in the river, cooking out, and playing games at the cabin on the mountain. It was very secluded and peaceful.

Then to Carlsbad. It was the second time most of us had been to the Caverns, the first was 8 years ago. It was weird to see every cactus and tree on the park charred and dead. Apparently there was a fire during the heatwave last summer that is still being investigated.

It seems a non separation of Church and State for a national park to display the name “Rock of Ages” on one of their formations, and to make a big deal about how the Big Room is in the shape of a cross. Maybe the symbols are cryptic enough to get around the atheists.

I was able to do a little cross stitching at the cabin. I am on the second to last repetition of pattern on the top border. It is a bit tedious, but I like that there are times I don’t have to count, so I can think about other things. Like how the pattern coming onto a blank page, so to speak, takes shape identically each time. It’s like cutting and pasting, but by counting instead. I started comparing it to forms, where the idea pre-exists the materialization. But the idea is exact, not more basic or pure.

Which brings us back to work. One of my daughter’s ABeka memory verses today is Romans 2:10,For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” I am thinking that these good works are more about the repetition of a specific pattern, even though individual manifestations may appear different. The pattern is invisible, as love and relational connections are. I’m thinking these individual connections are the good works. Bad connections are passionate, sinful ones; good connections are loving and unselfish. The material objects themselves may be the same or different, but are a vital part of the connection.

Quotables from Chapter 2 of Atlas Shrugged

by Andrea Elizabeth

“The red glow of the mills breathed in the sky, a sight as life-giving as a sunrise.” There she goes again. As if smelter’s fire can cause photosynthesis and prevent rickets!

“words were a lens to focus one’s mind”

“His motive in the relationship seemed to resemble the need of an anemic person who receives a kind of living transfusion from the mere sight of a savagely overabundant vitality.”

This last after another motivated by money person, Henry Reardon, feels alienated in his own home by his socially minded family. He has retreated to a distant chair where a friend, Paul Larkin, has approached him and is described above. The reactions are very fluid in this book. Like when Dagny Taggert is listening to music. First you think it’s peaceful, then she describes the same piece as violent. Reardon, in approaching his home, wanted affirmation for the success of his new, extremely ascetically accomplished, metal alloy. He was needy at that point, not savagely vital. When his family only offered him criticism for missing dinner, he turned off towards them. He wasn’t concerned about their priorities either. So if you don’t care about what others care about, and think they are wrong in caring about them, what are you supposed to do? Indeed, the way the mother guilted him about the “parish school, and about the classes in metal craftsmanship, and about the beautiful wrought-iron doorknobs that the little slum children are making all by themselves” sounded exaggeratedly self-aggrandizing.

But his shutting down with them was self-protective. “Did he like them? No, he thought; he had wanted to like them, which was not the same. He had wanted it in the name of some unstated potentiality which he had once expected to see in any human being. He felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference, not even the regret of a loss. Did he need any person as part of his life? Did he miss the feeling he had wanted to feel? No, he thought. Had he ever missed it? Yes, he thought, in his youth, not any longer.”

But his wife’s defense of him was patronizing. She started treating him like a child. ‘Thanks for the ugly bracelet, dear.’ As if he meant it to be an ornament. It was a symbol that she didn’t get or care about. Patronizing isn’t the answer either. It’s too fake and condescending. Withdrawing in prayer seems the most genuine thing to do when one feels helpless in relationship. Or some may say he should have been honest and used feeling words. “I feel undervalued by your criticism.” Part of me says Oh Brother to that approach. But the other says it’s incarnational and non-gnostic to go ahead and say it, instead of maintaining the strong, silent approach. Even though some seem to teach said approach.

And a word about the bracelet. If Henry Reardon was only interested in money, then he should have agreed with the criticism that his present should have been a diamond bracelet, instead of a crude, sample piece. It seems that instead of money, Dagny and Henry are really concerned with quality. Diamonds are said to have quality, but the kind Dagny and Henry appreciate is the efficient capability of steel, not the aesthetic beauty of diamonds, which is ironically stronger than steel.

Ayn’s objectivism

by Andrea Elizabeth

This statement in the Wikipedia article is most intriguing:

Rand argues that consciousness, “the faculty of perceiving that which exists,” is an inherently relational phenomenon. As she puts it, “to be conscious is to be conscious of something”, that is consciousness itself cannot be distinguished or grasped except in relation to an independent reality.[10] “It cannot be aware only of itself—there is no ‘itself’ until it is aware of something.”[11] Thus, Objectivism holds that the mind does not create reality, but rather, it is a means of discovering reality.[12] Expressed differently, existence has “primacy” over consciousness, which must conform to it. Any other approach Rand termed “the primacy of consciousness”, including any variant of metaphysical subjectivism or theism.[13]

Before, objectivism is described as the ability to perceive reality. Now it is saying that it is the relationship with the observed that must be cultivated, or rather, discovered. For this relationship not to be subjective, it seems to me that everyone’s relationship would have to be the same, thereby negating any individualist interpretation of the nature of reality, such as is described in the “Introduction” to Atlas Shrugged: “Ayn Rand held that art is a ‘recreation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments.'”

“Recreation” could be different than objective observation, but “relationship” implies less emphasis on individual existence as a defining state, too. Unless reality is defined by “others”. That may be what binding and loosing is about. I believe this intercession will come to play on judgment day as well.

What is extroversion, anyway?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Needing a break from isolationist romantic introversion, I browsed through Netflix documentaries and came across Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas. I’ve never read her and know very little about her, but have had a long-standing rebellious curiosity about her. Rebellious, because of her atheism and love of the industrial revolution. Curious, because of her intellectual respectability and how compelling the title, Atlas Shrugged, is.

The documentary makes its best case for reading the book. It does a decent job of explaining some of the concepts. Lastly, it sort of makes a case for how her doomsday warnings are coming true.

The most surprising thing to me about it is that she criticizes altruism based on guilt. I have sort of explained this same opinion in some of my posts. It also shows how she was demonized for promoting selfishness, though it defends her meaning of that term with qualifications. To keep from also sounding like an atheist, I suppose I’ll have to defend the Bible and what traditional Christianity says that Jesus was about, which the documentary does not do.

But first I’ll say that the opposite of (selfish) individuality is collectivism or statism. I do not comprehend nor believe in the state. I only believe in individuals. The picture I have in my head is of judgment day, where each person has to give an account of himself, and the Jesus prayer, where the person enters his own heart and says “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. And I believe that giving should be voluntary and not coerced. Becoming Orthodox, however, has given me exposure to a more communal point of view. I’ll admit that I do not really understand how we can be called one body, nor how this body can be said to be Christ’s. Yet even in thinking about that, I see the importance of each individual part of the body. Yet I do believe it all works together, despite my being mostly unconscious of it.

The documentary also describes excessive governmental regulation, which seems based on a belief in total depravity. That we cannot trust the common person to make good decisions. Support for this can be made by citing slavery, the extermination of the American Indian, and sweat shops. I wonder, however, if the remedy for that swing of the pendulum can be in a better application of the laws that were already in place, instead of making tons of new laws and agencies based on fear, and with the intention to control the future.

Back to defending Christianity. Actually the more primitive concept is, is there such thing as an unselfish motive. It can be argued that Christ of obtained a better life by dying for others, if you believe in the resurrection. I already mentioned voluntary versus coerced giving above. I’ll let the documentary make a better case for that.

Maybe I’ll tackle objectivism and her belief in rationality if I read the book.

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