Friday, July 29, 2005

Linkable Legibles

* Timothy Sandefar at "Positive Liberty" discusses the politics of Adama's arrest of President Roslin on Battlestar Galactica. For the background see the links at the Unofficial Battlestar Galactica Blog.

* Ben Witherington has a good post on conscience and 1 John. The analysis of conscience that comes out of it actually sounds rather Thomistic. Also worth reading: a post on the Johannine Epistles and the criteria to be used in evaluating religious experience.

* Shieva Kleinschmidt at "Emiratio" has a post on the proper analysis of hope -- a great topic, and one that has recently come to interest me a great deal. (I have come to think, for instance, that Kant's rational hope is actually not hope but what Shieva calls desire -- that is, it is a rational wish, and what makes it rational is that (a) you have some rational need to think that something like it is true; and (b) you have no reason to think it impossible. This is a bit different from hope in a more proper sense, which, as I say in the comments to Shieva's post, I think involves the following two elements: (a) concession that the hoped-for might not, or need not, happen; (b) acceptance that the hoped-for at least might have a real chance of happening despite that.)

* Orin Kerr at "The Volokh Conspiracy" has a summary of the events of the Scopes trial. Most of it I already knew, but I hadn't known some of the more technical legal points, and I hadn't realized that Darrow pushed the ACLU off to the side.

* William Vallicella at "The Maverick Philosopher" has a good post on a difficulty with hacceity properties. For the philosophical background to this issue, see Richard Cross's useful article on Medieval Theories of Haecceity in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

* At "Melbourne Philosopher," Josh considers the question, Can literature present an argument? I think it depends on what you mean by an argument. I'm a rationalist about poetics, in the sense that I think that a major part of what is going on in literature is the presentation of a particular type of inference. This is a medieval view, which sees literature as a form of moral logic. The medievals (in particular the Muslim medievals, who developed the point rather extensively) divided logic,a s the study of inference, into a number of fields, each of which was intended to evoke a distinctive kind of psychological result. Thus demonstrative inference concludes in knowledge (scientia); dialectical inference concludes in probable assent (belief); rhetorical inference concludes in persuaded opinion; and poetic inference concludes in an imaginative representation. What a work of literature is doing, in effect, is guiding your reasoning-process as you imaginatively represent something to yourself. And this guidance (unlike that of sophistry) is truth-relevant, because the similitude created can be a good one. (This isn't all there is to it; I haven't discussed what makes it a moral, i.e., ethico-political, logic, namely, positive and negative evaluation. And there is the further issue of Aquinas's view that poetics is an inventive logic, i.e., it involves discovery.) So, if one takes 'argument' simply in the sense of 'guide for inference' or even 'inference' itself, literature not only presents argument, it is an argument. But if one restricts 'argument' to the sort of thing one finds in demonstration, dialectics, and sophistry, then it clearly doesn't; if it's an argument, it is a distinctive kind of argument. Josh's point that literature can lead up to the formulation of a premise for these kinds of argument is a good one, though (and would be, I think, the way in which literature is an inventive logic).

* I like Irshad Manji quite a bit, but she's certainly wrong here (HT: B&W):

To blow yourself up, you need conviction. Secular society doesn't compete well on this score. Who gets deathly passionate over tuition subsidies and a summer job?

Well, I hope no one gets deathly passionate over tuition subsidies and a summer job, since Canada would then be set to become the most violent place on earth; but secular society does have a good (or, rather, bad) track record when it comes to generating deathly passion. People need to remember that there have been terrorists before, and they have been of all stripes. Some have been atheists (and I know some people have difficulty accepting it, but it is true), some have been slightly religious. It's difficult judgment call to make to determine whether others are very religious or merely slightly religious people who have become desperate (most Islamists seem to me to be the latter: they have despaired of waiting for Allah to do what they demand that he do, so they've decided they need to help the Almighty out). But I'm willing to accept that very religious terrorists exist. A more plausible common link among these cases than religion is politics. Groups that stay out of politics ipso facto stay out of terrorism; likewise, groups that are involved in politics but see themselves as involved in a system they can work (even if they are very critical of it) have no incentive to be terrorists. When people see their participation in a political system as pointless and futile and valueless, then they begin to become dangerous. Out of the sense of futility arising in a system that seems immoral comes the acceptance of extreme measures, and the covering of them with moral rhetoric.

It's also very odd to consider Spong, the converted fundamentalist who is now a fundamentalist in reverse, a religious moderate.

-> This has nothing to do with either links or weblogs, but if you are ever in Toronto the best place to get a burrito is Burrito Boyz (120 Peter Street, between Adelaide and Richmond). I had my first today, and thought, "Holy Moly! Why didn't anyone tell me?" Top-notch, and surprisingly inexpensive. The service isn't all that great, though -- they are far too busy for their resources, and some of the poor girls behind the counter looked in danger of falling down dead from exhaustion. From what I understand, they have been looking to expand for some time, but they're still in this tiny lower-level place (I almost missed it the first time I walked by it because I was looking at the upper level).

UPDATE: An interesting post on Man as the image of God in Islam, with special reference to Ibn 'Arabi, at "A Visionary's Reflections".

UPDATE 2: John Cottingham reviews Erik J. Wielenberg's Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe at NDPR. (HT: Ektopos).

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