Friday, February 03, 2012

Notable Links

* An interesting news article on the White House garden, which is a working garden.

* Richard Beck recently finished a series of posts entitled, "Meditations on the Little Way," about St. Thérèse of Lisieux:
(1) Thérese of Lisieux and the Democratization of Holiness
(2) Story of a Soul
(3) "My Vocation is Love"
(4) The Elevator to Jesus: Practice of the Little Way
(5) Epilogue: The Dark Night of Faith and Love

* Thomas Storck has a good discussion of whether usury is still a sin.

* The SEP has an article on Hasdai Crescas. Hasdai Crescas was one of the truly great medieval Jewish philosophers, and the most important of the anti-Aristotelian Jewish philosophers after Maimonides, just as Gersonides was the most important Jewish philosopher in the Aristotelian camp after Maimonides.

* The IEP has an article on the complications of Lucas-Penrose anti-mechanism arguments.

* Udacity looks like an interesting new educational endeavor (devoted to computer science); I'm thinking about taking a course or two at some point myself.

* Jourdon Anderson was an emancipated slave who receive a letter from his former master asking him to come back to work for him. Anderson's letter in response is a perfect expression of wit and intelligence.

* History Carnival 106 is up at "Frog in a Well".

* An interesting discussion by John Meyendorff of Byzantine wedding customs (PDF).

* Jeremy Pierce has a really good post using the TV series Once Upon a Time as an example for explaining the distinction between externalism and internalism.


  1. I'm surprised you have no mention of either the Komen fiasco, or the uproar brewing over the President's health care decisions regarding contraception and the Catholic Church.

  2. branemrys10:19 AM

    I suppose it's a mix of the fact that I think it's in reality largely business as usual and of the fact that several blogs I read have already been discussing such issues pretty thoroughly (nd thus have participated in some of their discussions). I usually only get involved in political discussions if there's something that I think is missing from the conversation at large.

  3. Brian5:43 PM

    This may seem obvious, and so its probably addressed somewhere, but Usury seems outdated and unable to appreciate the modern practice of credit.  Loans are not simply given for a "general purpose" (usually) but to buy a house or car or start a business.  So, the lender can be better seen as selling an opportunity at a cost, which is payed back incrementally over a number of years.  Banks sell the chance to buy a house right now, and is therefore selling an opportunity at a specified price to the "borrower."

    Decided to post it here because I wondered what you thought, Brandon.

  4. branemrys5:58 PM

    Hi, Brian,

    Lending at interest one is entitled to ask for on the basis of risk, loss, or service is different from usury, which is lending at interest without title to interest or lending at interest as if the mere fact of lending gave title to interest. Many forms of modern lending at interest are almost certainly in fact non-usurious in the technical sense; and the major difficulty in saying that they are definitely non-usurious is simply that lenders are very sloppy about giving clear justifications of interest to borrowers. Other forms of lending at interest are certainly usurious, however, and yet others need to be examined more closely than they have been.

    I should say, however, that it's not possible for ethical principles to be outdated simply because the economic system doesn't respect them. If we switched to an economic system based on slave labor, it would be silly for us to say that now objections to slavery were outdated and unable to appreciate the modern labor system; precisely what they would be rejecting would be the modern labor system, and precisely what they would be proposing would be making the labor system itself outdated. Usury is not so obviously serious a matter, although it often does involve taking unjust advantage of people in need, but the same principle would apply: whether it is wrong or not does not depend on whether we practice it or not.

  5. Brian7:38 PM

    Very interesting reply!  And of course, ethics doesn't change over time.  My comment that it was "outdated" was founded on the thought that the sin, as described in the post linked, didn't have much bearing on my life.  But your comments in the first paragraph give some reason for pause on that regard.

    BTW, are you Catholic? (and the word "Catholic" is not a pejorative here)

  6. branemrys8:34 PM

    Hi, Brian,

    I am.

    I thought your use of the word 'outdated' probably meant something along those lines; but sometimes it's hard to tell in comments thread.


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