Saturday, May 20, 2006

Carnivalesque Call for Submissions

This post will be at the top for the whole of this week. For newer posts, see below.

The next Carnivalesque (Ancient/Medieval edition) will be hosted here at Siris. The deadline for submissions is 9 pm (CDT = UTC/GMT-5), May 21st. (This means that, depending on where in the world you are, the carnival will be up either May 21st or the early morning of May 22nd.) If at all possible, please send your nominations and submissions before the deadline.

Send submissions and nominations using the Blog Carnival submission form, or by sending them to one of the following addresses:


with @ for [at] and . for [dot], of course.

The posts should have something to do with ancient or medieval history, and should have been posted since the last Ancient/Medieval Carnivalesque (on March 13). They do not have to be academic posts, nor do they have to be heavyweight scholarship; in fact, this carnival is for anyone who has a genuine interest in ancient or medieval history, whether acadamic or not. Posts may take a wide variety of approaches to the subject matter, but they should exemplify basic standards of factual accuracy. The host reserves the right to restrict or limit the submissions actually chosen for the carnival on the basis of factual accuracy, the number of submissions, fit with the tenor or theme of the carnival, and similar criteria; but if you have doubts, please submit it.

To help make the creation of this edition of the carnival easier, please put "Carnivalesque" somewhere in the title of the email, and when possible provide the following information:

Title of post
Post Permalink
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A brief description of the post (1 or 2 sentences) would also be helpful. Multiple submissions are allowed, and, in fact, encouraged; you may submit your own writing or another's, but please try not to submit more than one post by any individual blogger (unless they are multi-part posts on one topic).

Please pass the word!

Happy Birthday, J.S. Mill

Today is the anniversary of John Stuart Mill's birthday.

Anthony Skelton has a good article at The Globe and Mail, while Roger Scruton reflects critically on Mill's views at the Wall Street Journal.

The SEP article on Mill, by Fred Wilson, is worth reading as well. Much of Mill's work should be contrasted with that of William Whewell, Mill's major philosophical opponent.

Mill was a prolific writer, but an important sample of Mill's works can be found online:

Auguste Comte and Positivism
Considerations on Representative Government
The Contest in America
Essays on Some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy
On Liberty
The Principles of Political Economy (Book 1)
Three Essays on Religion (first two essays)
The Subjection of Women

However, the Online Library of Liberty has done the rather hefty work of putting all 33 volumes of Mill's Collected Works online in PDF.

One of my favorite passages in Mill has to do with my own field of early modern philosophy:

Every tiro in metaphysics is familiar with the name of Berkeley, and thinks himself perfectly well acquainted with the Berkeleian doctrines: but they are known, in most cases, so far as known at all, not from what their author, but from what other people, have said of them, and are consequently, by the majority of those who think they know them, crudely conceived, and their most characteristic features misunderstood. Though he was excelled by none who ever wrote on philosophy in the clear expression of his meaning, and discrimination of it from what he did not mean, scarcely any thinker has been more perseveringly misapprehended, or has been the victim of such persistent ignoratio elenchi; his numerous adversaries having generally occupied themselves in proving what he never denied, and denying what he never asserted.

From here (PDF). Too true, even today. Berkeley is just not properly taught. (But Mill doesn't move us forward much, I'm afraid. For instance, Mill later in the same essay makes the odd claim that Berkeley probably knew no freethinkers or freethinking arguments in writing Alciphron. But Berkeley is very clear that the freethinkers he has in mind are coffeehouse strongheads, and he would have had plenty of opportunity to come across such creatures whiling he was hanging out with Jonathan Swift and Richard Steele. It's a common error: Mill is right that only a handful of people had tried to set out the case for the atheistic side if you are thinking of canonical or near-canonical works. But it does not follow from this that it never came up in coffeehouse arguments; Berkeley says it did, and what he says seems to fit with other things we know about coffeehouse philosophy, as well as fitting with the complicated mix of arguments he sees the need to answer. This, alas, is an error that plagues history of philosophy: we rely so much on standard and semi-standard texts of influential thinkers that we forget that these are only one carefully crafted product of philosophical thinking, and that there was philosophy being done in the period that did not take this form. See also the SEP article on Anthony Collins; Collins was one of the coffeehouse 'minute philosophers' that we know Berkeley had in mind.)


Other posts for the occasion in the blogosphere. Posts added as I find them. If you come across interesting ones not listed, let me know in the comments.

Mill at 200 at "The Elfin Ethicist"
Happy Birthday JS Mill at "Matthew Mullins"
John Stuart Mill at "I Want to be a Muso"

"Catallarchy" is having a Mill-fest for the occasion. You can access it through the introductory post.

Thanks to Matt of "I Want to be a Muso" for pointing out that the BBC (Radio 4) has a special program devoted to Mill, which can be downloaded until May 25 and afterward should be streamed online.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Links for Noting

* Stephen Palmquist has some papers well worth reading on Kant's view of academics as agents for peace:
-> Philosophers in the Public Square: A Religious Resolution of Kant's Conflict of the Faculties
-> Kant's Ideal of the University as a Model for World Peace
-> The Philosopher as a "Secret Agent" for Peace: Taking Seriously Kant's Revival of the "Old Question"

The focus is philosophers, but, of course, 'philosophy' even in Kant's time was a broader term than it is today, and much of what is said can be applied to intellectuals of any type.

* "Non Skeptical Essays" has an interesting four part series on tradition. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. "Towards God is our journey" has a post pointing to other online discussions of tradition from a Muslim perspective.

* An interesting argument about how to interpret the infamous veils and angels passage in 1 Cor. 11, defending the ISV translation.

* Scott McLemee discusses the always interesting Athanasius Kircher at Inside Higher Ed. (HT: Cliopatria)

* The Elfin Ethicist has a great post on Marsilius of Padua.

* "A distinguished symbologist", "an alluring cryptologist" (and how!), "a legendary bloodline", "a secret code": you can see it all in The Norman Rockwell Code. Be sure to view the trailer, if you can; it's good. The best line is "Well, history was one of my favorite subjects. I got a C- in it." I'll definitely be looking out for the full version; the trailer is actually better than any trailers I've seen for that other Code. [I think they're replacing the trailer on the website with the movie itself, so you can watch the trailer at YouTube.]

* Alejandro continues the discussion of NOMA at "Reality Conditions"

* What we have usually been told about lactic acid and muscles -- that it is a waste byproduct that causes fatigue and makes us sore -- appears to be largely wrong. (HT: The Buck Stops Here) Apparently it can cause muscle fatigue if it builds up, but it can also be burned up by the muscle as fuel before it reaches that point (and in athletes it apparently is). Of course, there's more research to be done; but it's interesting how something that has been taught as fact for about eighty years now may turn out to be so wrong, simply because it was never properly investigated in the first place. Brooks, the scientist who has done the most work to overturn the old view, attributes this to the fact that the original experimenters were Nobel laureates and that the experimental ground was never seriously gone over again, using new methods, by those who followed them. So it kept getting taught, it became difficult to get funding or have one's papers published if the research tended in another direction, and it settled in for a long stay.


* An interesting Calvinist discussion of the relation between the image of God and total depravity. (HT: Rebecca Writes) Calvin's own position on this is not very clear. He holds that the image of God was destroyed (which seems like position #1), but holds that obscure lineaments remain (which seems like position #2); but says that it is so obscure that we might as well say it has been destroyed. However, it remains enough that we should consider harming another human being to be next door to harming God (which makes it seem like position #3); to the objection that it has been obliterated, he agrees (like position #1) but says something of it remains (like position #2) and that even if it didn't, we were created for this end, and that fact remains even if the image itself does not. See my post on passages about the imago Dei in Calvin. Perhaps we should regard Calvin's doctrine as being something like this: he does not hold that the image is any one thing -- there are several (related) things that can be called the image of God. But that which is most properly called the image of God was lost at the Fall, and needs to be restored in Christ; what is left is, as it were, a disposition to the image, a sort of negative imprint or seed of the possibility of original righteousness, which is not perfected, or indeed perfectible, without redemption. That is, properly speaking the imago Dei is the rectitude of the whole soul -- which we have lost -- but by metonymy it is our created disposition to this rectitude we no longer have. I don't know if this is actually Calvin's view, but it would allow one to reconcile all the things he says -- and Calvin says these things right after another, so he clearly thinks there is a way to reconcile them all.

* Frank Wilczek's light and readable critique of Popper's falsificationism deserves to be a reading in every introductory philosophy of science class. (HT: Macht@TT)

* Roger Scruton criticizes Mill.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Poem Draft

When My Days are Spent

When my days are spent
may you mourn me thus:
he was the mountain of Tabor,
gently rising,
seeking light and dawn.

The twigs and boughs make tabernacles
that wait for a conversation,
discourse of light and fire,
two witnesses to merciful truth.

See Tabor in her rising;
she remembers glory,
two far-seers meeting their hope;
she trembles, lamb-like, for return.

Even so was he:
lamb trembling for the light,
hesychast of mind,
meditation in human form,
hoping for transfiguration.

Kant on the World's Beginning, and Alphabet Soup

There are, I think, five possible positions on the beginning of the world (novitas mundi).

(1) The world necessarily had a beginning.

(2) The world necessarily lacked a beginning.

(3) The world is such that it could have a beginning or lack a beginning; but as a matter of fact it did have a beginning.

(4) The world is such that it could have a beginning or lack a beginning; but as a matter of fact it did not have a beginning.

(5) The world is not such that it could have a beginning, and it is not such that it could lack a beginning.

(1) is the sort of view one finds in Philoponus, the Kalam theologians, Saadia Gaon, al-Ghazali, and Bonaventure. The usual arguments for this are arguments for the impossibility of the relevant type of actual infinite, although there are a few others. (2) is usually associated with strong Aristotelians, e.g., Aristotle, Averroes, for reasons due to their analysis of motion; it is also Newton's view, for theological reasons (God exists necessarily; and constitutes space and time by necessarily existing always and everywhere). (3) is the view of Aquinas and probably Maimonides before him. I don't know of anyone who holds (4), although it's a possible opinion. (5) may seem self-contradictory, but it's actually a bit more clever than that. We find the position in Kant.

As I see it, this is Kant's argument. We can apparently refute both the conclusion that the world has a beginning and the conclusion that the world has no beginning. (Kant argues this at length.) Now, if this were a straightforward contradiction, reason would be in trouble; but in fact it is not. The reason the dilemma can be made to seem so serious, Kant argues, is that we tend to misread it. In particular, we tend to read

A) The world has a beginning.

as the contradictory of

B) The world does not have a beginning.

But we need not accept this assumption. Kant uses the analogy of good-smelling. We might tend to read

A') This body is good-smelling.

as the contradictory of

B') This body is not good-smelling.

But another way to read it is to read it as:

C') This body is such that it has a smell that is good.


D') This body is such that it has a smell that is not good.

These are not contradictories. They are contraries, which means that while they cannot both be true, they can both be false. In particular, they will both be false if this is true:

F') This body is not such that it has any smell at all.

So, Kant says, we need to distinguish the following three sets of claims:

A) The world is such that it has a beginning
B) The world is not such that it has a beginning.

C) The world is such that it has a beginning.
D) The world is such that it does not have a beginning.

E) The world is such that it either has a beginning or does not.
F) The word is not such that it either has a beginning or does not.

(A) and (B) are contradictories; but if we affirm (B), we aren't claiming that the world has no beginning (D), because (B) is also consistent with (F). Only if (E) is true will (B) imply (D); because only if (E) is true will (C) and (D) be contradictories. Kant famously claims that (E) is false, arguing instead for its contradictory (F): The appearances of the world are reason's synthesis in space and time; therefore, 'the world' as a total synthesis of appearances is not available to reason as an object but is presented to it as a task -- a task of continually regressing in time, as each prior moment requires another prior moment. Therefore, since 'the world' in this sense is not an actually existing object, but a task set for reason (i.e., is not a thing in itself but a representation), it is not the sort of thing that properly speaking has a beginning or lacks one. As Kant says, in this regress there can be no lack of conditions; but the synthesis never exists without regress (and further regress, ad infinitum). As he sums it up (A507/B535):

If the world is a whole existing in itself, it is either finite or infinite. But both alternatives are false (as shown in the proofs of the antithesis and thesis respectively). It is therefore also false that the world (the sum of all appearances) is a whole existing in itself. From this it then follows that appearances in general are nothing outside our representations--which is just what is meant by their transcendental ideality.

(Kemp Smith translation.) This is Kant's famous transcendental idealism.

There are whole worlds of problems with this approach, I think; but it must be admitted that it is quite clever. The ingenuity of it is typical of Kant, and enough to show why he's often considered a great philosophical mind.

[LATER NOTE: Rewrote a few sentences for clarity and to eliminate typos and revision-residue.]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jotting on the Catholic Philosophy of Sex

An interesting article by John Corvino criticizing the Catholic view of natural law and sexuality (HT: Positive Liberty). In it he says:

But there's one implication of the "openness to procreation" premise that the Church refuses to acknowledge. If sex must be open to procreation, then it should be wrong for sterile (or postmenopausal) heterosexual married partners to have sex. Imagine a woman whose ovaries and uterus have been removed for medical reasons. Clearly, her sexual acts will never be "open to the transmission of life" in any morally meaningful way. But the Church declines to condemn such acts.

One of the things Corvino misses is that sex from the Catholic perspective has three purposes and any of these are sufficient to make sex OK if they are pursued in a way that doesn't involve deliberately interfering with the other two. The three purposes are (roughly) procreation, due remedy (what is sometimes called by the very uninspiring and somewhat misleading name of 'marital debt'), and union. The case of a sterile woman clearly can fall under due remedy (which has to do with one's partner's needs) and union (which has to do with preserving the marital bond); and ex hypothesi the fact that any particular sexual act is unable to lead to procreation is both out of the couple's hands and an incidental feature of the persons involved. If the sexual act is performed for either due remedy or marital union, in a way consistent with both, and with an attitude toward the sexual act that would welcome children if they were possible, there is no reason on the Catholic view that it should be condemned.

This is all very basic. Nonetheless, I find the argument interesting in that Corvino incidentally brushes up a genuine flaw in common attempts to build a sexual ethics out of natural law. The moral ends of sex are noticeably versions of another set of moral ends, namely, the moral ends of marriage. And it seems clear that any attempt to discuss sexual ethics can't move anywhere unless it faces squarely and clearly the moral status and nature of the marital bond. It's very clear, I think, that Catholics often think they can skip this step; and it's just not possible to do so without distortion. In particular, it's silly to assume you can pull a natural law argument against homosexual acts out of the purpose of procreation like a rabbit out of a magician's hat, without examining how procreation relates to the conjugal bond. That's not the way it works; natural law is by definition much more systematic and rational than that, and doesn't allow shortcuts. The case of sterility, for instance, shows that the issue cannot be inability to procreate as such, as many people seem to assume.

Dummy's Guide to Christianity

For all of you who are confused by Christian views, "Holy Office" has conveniently provided a useful cheat sheet. Some of the more important highlights:

The Bible
The Bible was written by God as a merchandising tie-in to His blockbuster film "The Ten Commandments." Each book of the Bible is named after a person who features prominently in it, for example, the Book of Numbers, which is named after Herschel Numbers, who invented numerals. The Bible was so successful that God wrote a sequel, "Bible II: On to Rome," now generally called "The New Testament." Protestants believe the Bible is literal and exactly true in every detail except the description of the Eucharist, while Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible.

Catholics are the New York Yankees of Christianity. They are the biggest and wealthiest team, and their owner is intensely controversial (this makes St. Francis of Assisi the Derek Jeter of Catholicism: discuss). Catholics all wear matching uniforms, and are divided into "parishes," or "squadrons," to make choosing softball teams easier. Catholics are rigidly controlled by a hidebound hierarchy that starts with priests and ends with priests' housekeepers. Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible, eat meat, or refrain from worshipping statues.

The Protestant Reformation
This is the name historians give to a major labor dispute that erupted in Germany in 1517 when a group of monks hammered a proposed union contract to the door of the pope's house, requesting a 95 percent pay raise. The pope refused to negotiate with the monks union until it agreed to pay to have the door fixed, and the result was the world's longest-running strike. For nearly 500 years, a huge portion of Christians have been on strike from being Catholic, saying they are "justified" in their work stoppage because the pope won't expand the number of indulgences they get per year. Currently, the matter is in arbitration.

This theory was worked out by the French theologian and fashion designer John Calvin Klein, who argued that some people are predestined to be glamorous while others are doomed to be plain. America was founded by Calvinists, who sought to establish a country where they could pursue their belief that buckled hats were fashionable.

The Nicene Creed
This statement of faith is the Christian Pledge of Allegiance, recited every Sunday in squadron meetings by Christians all over the globe. Adopted in the 4th century at the behest of Emperor Constantinople, it was designed to counter the influence of the Aryans, who argued that Jesus was German.

Heaven is a term referring to the ultimate destiny of a certain number of souls. Depending on who you listen to, heaven is either: where all of us will end up (Origen); where many of us will end up (St. Gregory of Nyssa); where some of us will end up (John Calvin); where a small portion of us have, in some sense, already ended up (John of Leyden); where precisely 144,000 of us will end up (Charles Taze Russell); or where Jack Chick will end up (Jack Chick). Theologian Belinda Carlisle once posited that "Ooh, baby, heaven is a place on earth," but explorers combing the globe have yet to confirm this.

Go and read the rest. So now you know!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Functional Subordination in the Trinity (Again)

There has been a lot of discussion on the Calvinist blogs about functional subordination accounts of the Trinity in the context of the dispute between complementarians and egalitarians. The complementarian/egalitarian dispute, for those who don't know, is the dispute over whether men and women (usually, although not always, only husbands and wives) have different significant roles qua man and woman (or more usually husband and wife) in Christian life, or whether the differences between men and women are incidental to some key aspect of Christian living (usually Christian marriage). Complementarians hold that there are different significant roles; egalitarians hold that any differences are not significant. If you are curious about what the Trinity has to do with this, the answer is not much: the Trinity was dragged into the discussion because a certain brand of complementarian (the kind that holds that not only is there a significant difference, but it is a difference in authority) wanted to argue that Christians are committed to saying that it is possible for two people to be equal but one to be 'functionally subordinate'. The argument is that the Trinity involves such a relation of functional subordination among equal persons. So it's a long, long way about to get an argument that something of the general sort is possible. Jeremy has a list of posts on this argument; in addition there are the posts of Rebecca that I mentioned earlier (here and here).

The complementarian/egalitarian dispute does not really interest me; I think both sides tend to misread the relevant texts and usually miss the whole point, which in every relevant passage is that Christians are not to act in worldly ways like the nations but to show forth the love of Christ. But this question of functional subordination does interest me. With some exceptions that can be set aside here, everyone in the dispute wants to avoid the heresy of subordinationism, which is the claim that Son and Spirit are not equal to the Father but subordinate to him. Now, orthodox Calvinists who accept the functional subordination account, like Jeremy and Rebecca, want to deny subordinationism, but hold that this denial is consistent with a subordination of roles. I agree that most people who hold functional subordination accounts deny subordinationism. I tend to think of functional subordinationists as in some ways parallel to Miaphysites: Miaphysitism is a vague set of claims that can be taken in ways that are Monophysite (and thus heretical) or that are consistent with, albeit unclearly so, with Chalcedonianism (orthodoxy). Likewise, I don't think people like Jeremy and Rebecca have slipped into heresy. I do think that they have slipped into an unedifying discourse that tends in a heretical direction, although they clearly take it in an orthodox way. Functional subordinationism is a set of vague claims that can be taken as Arian (and thus heretical) or as a misleading way of being Cappadocian (and thus orthodox).

In other words, it's an unfortunately confused way of saying things that can be better said in other ways. I think part of the confusion is that functional subordinationism is clearly an inconsistent terminology. Functional subordinationists like to say that the roles of Father, Son, and Spirit are just different, the one not being superior or inferior to the other. Then, however, they say that the Father has a role of authority over Son and Holy Spirit; a relation of authority, however, is a paradigmatic instance of superiority over another.

Further, functional subordinationists like to claim that their position is just traditional orthodoxy. However, it's not as obvious as they usually claim. Traditional orthodoxy is not put in terms of roles. And traditional orthodoxy eschews claims of subordination like the plague. The Father isn't said to have a role of authority over the Son and the Holy Spirit; he is said to be the Principle or Origin of the Godhead. This is an authority-neutral term; the Church Fathers are very explicit about that. Every person of the Trinity has every God-befitting dignity in common -- they share one will, one intellect, one goodness, etc. -- with the only distinction being that the Father possesses it as beign without Principle; the Son possesses it as being from the Principle; and the Spirit possesses it as being from the Principle with the Son. Basil, in his classic work on the Holy Spirit, is very clear that this relation involves no subordination, subnumeration, or any other 'sub'; the Persons of the Trinity are ordinate to each other, not subordinate to each other. It is legitimate to call the Father the First Person of the Trinity only if you do not mean by this that the Father is superior to the others in any way. The only sense in which the Father is First is that He is the Principle of the Godhead. In every other aspect, the Persons are equal, because they share all God-befitting dignities as one. And authority is very clearly a God-befitting dignity.

Sometimes functional subordinationists make it sound as if this were all that were meant. If this were all that were meant, there would be no need to talk about functional subordination: the doctrine is called the monarchy, where 'monarchy' doesn't mean monarchy in our sense but 'single-principle-ness'. But this does not seem to be the point of the functional subordination account.

Jeremy argues in his post that the opponents of the functional subordination account are confusing the economic and the ontological Trinity -- i.e., the Trinity as it is in itself, and the Trinity as manifested in the economy of salvation. He refers readers to a Wikipedia article on it. Unfortunately the article seems confused. For instance, it says:

Economical subordination is implied by the genitive of terms like "Father of", "Son of", and "Spirit of". While orthodox trinitarianism rejects ontological subordination, it affirms that the Father, being the source of all that is, created and uncreated, has a monarchical relation to the Son and the Spirit. Or, in other terms, it is from the Father that the mission of the Breath and Word originate: whatever God does, it is the Father that does it, and always through the Son, by the Spirit. The Father is seen as the "source" or "fountainhead" from which the Son is born and the Spirit proceeds, much as one might observe water bubbling out of a spring without worrying about when it began doing so. However, this language is hemmed in with qualifications so severe that the analogy in view is easily lost, and is a source of perpetual controversy.

The problem with this is that there are not only qualifications of the claim that 'subordination is implied by the genitive of terms like 'Father of', etc.', but Basil and the other Cappadocians seem very clearly to deny it. Basil, for instance, seems to go so far as to say that this whole type of argument is heathen and unbefitting those who take Scripture seriously; and I do not think he is alone in this view. 'Father', 'Son', and 'Spirit', whether with a genitive or not, do not ever imply subordination of any kind, but only equality by relation to the Principle.

The Wikipedia article, however, does make the right distinction between ontological and economic Trinity later. The ontological Trinity is the Trinity understood entirely in its eternal intrapersonal relations. The economic Trinity is the ontological Trinity as manifested in the dispensations of providence: creation, redemption, glorification. The Church Fathers are very clear that the ontological Trinity involves no subordination at all; they are also very clear (pace the article and many functional subordinationists) that the names 'Father', 'Son', and 'Holy Spirit' in themselves describe the relations of the ontological Trinity, which is the Trinity as eternal. The Eternal Trinity involves no subordination at all.

Now, the general background of the economic Trinity is ruled by three basic points that are important to Christian doctrine.

(1) Every operation or act of the Trinity toward creation is a unitary operation shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It's not the Father alone who creates; when God creates, every person of the Trinity shares the one act of creation.

(2) But they share it as distinct Persons. For instance, this one act of creation is possessed by the Father as being the Origin; it is possessed by the Son as being of the Father; and it is possessed by the Spirit as being of the Father through the Son. If by 'different roles' one means this, then it is perfectly true that orthodox Trinitarianism holds that the Trinity are equal but have different roles. It's just that the roles are not divided up by operation -- the Father doesn't do one thing and the Son another -- but by Person -- every single operation is a unified expression of the role of the Father, the role of the Son, and the role of the Spirit. This is the Cappadocian point that the roles, if you wish to call them that, can be distinguished but not pried apart. The Persons act in an ordered way; but, because their acts are all perfectly unified, there is no room for subordination because the acts are one and the same, as are the goals, and among the persons there is order, not subordination.

(3) However, one of the things God wills is that God be manifested as a Trinity in the scheme of salvation. Thus, although every part of the scheme of the salvation is willed by one indissolubly unified will by the Persons together, what is willed -- the scheme of salvation -- is that the Word (the Son) be made flesh for our sins, and that the Spirit be our Comforter sent from the Son, and that the Son and the Spirit both be sent from the Father. (Thus manifesting the Trinity in the divine works.) At this point subordination does enter in, and if you look at the more plausible functional subordinationist arguments (you can see a number of them in Rebecca's posts), you can see why I'm inclined to say that at least some functional subordinationists, although confused, are entirely orthodox. For if by 'functional subordination' you mean that Christ is subordinate to the Father, you are right. The reason, however, is not that He is subordinate in His eternal role, but that He took the form of a servant -- He made Himself subordinate by becoming an inferior to the Father (namely, a human being). Insofar as He has the form of a servant, human nature, He is subordinate to the Father not merely functionally but naturally. Of course, He is functionally subordinate, too; but He is functionally subordinate because He is naturally subordinate as man.

This is where I think the attempt to use functional subordination in the economic Trinity as an anlogy for the complementarian (at least the one who wants to say that A can be subordinate to B even though A and B are equal) fails utterly. Because the whole point of the analogy was supposed to be that you can have subordination without inequality; but the functional subordination in the economy is a subordination that is created by kenosis (to use Paul's term), a deliberate assuming of inequality for a certain purpose. Nothing in the complementarian position requires that the analogy to the Trinity hold; the only purpose of the analogy is for the subordinationist-complementarian to show that there is an agreed-upon case in which you get something like what the subordinationist-complementarian wants. You can be a complementarian without accepting the notion of functional subordination -- such a complementarian would just hold that men and women have some different significant roles, but not hold that any of these roles are in any proper sense subordinate. (Most people who call themselves complementarians, however, are subordinationist-complementarians.) And you can be a subordinationist-complementarian, i.e., a complementarian who accepts the notion of functional subordination, without holding that the Trinity is a good example of purely functional subordination. But the position that the Trinity is a good example of purely functional subordination seems untenable: As Incarnate, the Son is subordinate because He is inferior -- anything of flesh is inferior to Godhead. (Of course, this is only half the doctrine, since we are all Chalcedonians here; but it is a genuine half of the doctrine.)

So if, like Jeremy and Rebecca, the functional subordinationists hold that the functional subordination is one of the economic Trinity, I think they are orthodox; but I think they are orthodox in a confused [or perhaps it would be better to say 'confusing'--ed.] way. In particularly, they are overlooking the fact that the economic Trinity has equality of Persons, but, due to the human nature of Christ, one inequality of natures. And this is why more traditional orthodox are completely thrown off by their manner of talking. Because it is true that Christ is subordinate to the Father; but this subordination is not something found in the eternal intra-personal relations of the Trinity, as they seem to imply, but is due to the Incarnation, which introduces a complication they seem to be glossing over.

Two Redrafted Poems

A re-working of an older poem draft and another. They each have to do with a famous conversion.

Loyola at Llobregar

I sit on the river-bank;
the water runs past,
the mind runs past,
a path ever-moving.
It courses over stones,
overflowing matter,
dividing as a unity,
drawn in one direction
(its natural place beckons),
rushing like music
to divine consummation;
the mind now prepared
by ten thousand disciplines
flows with the river
to the ocean of God.

Lull upon the Mountain

Like lightning in the storm
where the bolts of God rain down
was the conversion of the wheels,
the wheels within the wheels,
the Principles of All
in never-ceasing orbit!

The lights were strangely shining
in the fallen mountain-darkness
when Raymond saw the wheels,
the wheels within the wheels,
the glory of the signs
in ever-turning circles!

Peace pours out like oceans,
tumbling in the darkness;
Ophanim move in glory,
the wheels within the wheels,
the throne of God descending
as a chariot of fire!


Jason Kuznicki's Science and Religion post at "Positive Liberty" criticizes NOMA.

I'm no fan of NOMA myself. For one thing, NOMA is an utterly vague claim about an utterly vague supposed distinction between two vague fields of human endeavor -- although it's often a little vague whether these fields are primarily practices or bodies of belief. But I don't think Kuznicki's argument is the way to go. For instance, the notion that there was ever a "western religious synthesis" (as he puts it later in the post) of which the design argument was an "integral part" is absurd. (And which design argument? As Darwin himself points out in one of his letters, he himself could think of three completely different design arguments that were biological in one way or another. He wasn't persuaded by any of the three, but only one was affected by the theory of natural selection.) For one thing, it's absurd to say that there has ever been a "western religious synthesis"; for another, it is absurd to say that the past century-and-a-half has seen its consolidation. Design arguments for God's existence played very little role in Christian thought for 1700 years; for even longer [most of Islam's history --ed. (sorry about the slip)] it played virtually no role in Islamic thought; the argument shows up sporadically in Jewish philosophy, but I see no evidence that it ever was a significant feature. For that is really what is at issue on this point, whether it is a significant feature on which much depends.

Further, I don't think Kuznicki's post ends up being very consistent in the end. His original point is that NOMA is wrong because religion rests on empirical foundations; and then undermines this argument by denying that it does if it uses cosmological arguments, moral arguments, and fideism. (I note, incidentally, that Kuznicki assumes that 'religion' and 'theism' are coextensive. I'm OK with this assumption, since I think it's a useful way to use the term 'religion' without being vague, but it's not one most people would accept.)

Nor do I think Kuznicki's line of argument even has the potential of having a serious effect on NOMA views, for the simple reason that he doesn't address the core claim of NOMA. The core claim is not that no one ever confuses religious and scientific claims, but that science and religion each have a legitimate 'magisterium'; each has a rationally legitimate function -- science deals with facts, and religion with values. Thus, if a NOMA proponent says that the Bridgewater Treatises are an illegitimate expression of religion (or science), he is not engaging (as Kuznicki suggests) in True-Scotsmanship, because he is not re-defining the term 'religion' but diagnosing a mistake. The point is not that the term 'religion' needs to be redefined to exclude the Bridgewater Treatises, but that the Bridgewater Treatises commit a category mistake by conflating two different rational functions and bodies of thought. It is as if one were to confuse trigonometry with romance. If someone did, or even if it were common, it would not be unreasonable for someone to say that there are two rational functions being confused here that need to be distinguished. (One could, perhaps, argue that the growth of astronomy out of astrology, or chemistry out of alchemy, involved precisely this sort of diagnosis and distinction, e.g., alchemy confuses the rational functions pertaining to fact and value, and so tries to be both a chemical explanation of the world and a spiritual quest in one.)

Now, I think it's fairly clear that NOMA is just not a tenable position for discussing the relation between science and religion, however one conceives those. As I said above, it's really a vague mush. And, however it might seem on first impression, it's not irenic at all, but guaranteed to annoy everyone all around. NOMA would, strictly speaking, require scientists to defer on all points of ethics -- not a minor issue given the importance of keeping research ethical -- to religious experts; it would require religious experts never to talk about facts within their field. There has never been a good argument for either of these. If you are genuinely tempted by NOMA, you should be a Kantian instead; the Kantian view is probably the closest serious view to a NOMA view, and is much more rigorously argued than anything NOMA advocates have.

Monday, May 15, 2006


* Since May 15 is the feast day of St. Isidore the Farmer, it seems fitting to link to the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and perhaps to link to Calvinist poet Sietze Buning's poem, Barnyard Miracle.

* The Online Philosophy Conference continues into Week Three. The paper by Levy on Frankfurt-style cases is interesting. It is being vigorously discussed at the OPC blog.

* recently had a discussion group for Tim Powers's short story, Through and Through.

* The History Carnival is up at "Airminded".

* A set of webpages discussing Lewis Carroll's Logic Game . If you've never done so, you should read Carroll's classic in the philosophy of logic, What the Tortoise Said to Achilles, and study a selection of problems and the Introduction from his logic textbook, Symbolic Logic.

* I've been participating a bit in this post at Intellectuelle, on functional subordination accounts of the Trinity. Rebecca has put up her thoughts here [UPDATE: and here as well].

* Don't forget to send me your Carnivalesque nominations.

* UPDATE: A nice meditation on poverty in the Third World . (HT: Magic Statistics)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Carnivalesque Bleg

[moved to top]

I'll be hosting the May edition of Carnivalesque, the pre-modern history carnival (which takes an Ancient/Medieval theme this month). I'll put up the finer details later, but as it will be coming up very quickly, I wanted to get a headstart with asking all my readers to think back over what they've read in the blogosphere over the past two months (since the last A/M Carnivalesque on March 13), and start collecting interesting posts on various issues relevant to ancient and medieval history -- the more diverse the pool of candidate posts I have to choose from, the better. So start thinking about it, and keep an eye out for any you come across. I'll probably put up an email address you can send nominations to Monday.

UPDATE: As Sharon notes in the comments, if you already have something, you can submit it via the Blog Carnival Submission Form.

UPDATE 2: See call for submissions here.

Jaroslav Pelikan

I see that the great Jaroslav Pelikan has died (HT: EE & Cliopatria). Online, you can read his thoughts on The Predicament of the Christian Historian, an interview about his book Mary Through the Ages, an excerpt from his book Jesus Through the Ages, and his essay The Heritage of Heraclitus and the Itch to Speculate. His book, What has Athens to Do with Jerusalem? is very good.

Conjunctions and Implicatures

We have to be very careful in interpreting the 'and' of natural language. Take the following two sentences:

(1) Sarah is a university professor.
(2) Sarah is a university professor and is a feminist.

Now, the temptation is to assume that the probability of (2) should be represented as (p & q); i.e., to represent 'Linda is a university professor' and 'Linda is a feminist' as distinct events considered distinctly. But in ordinary conversation this is not the implicature of (2) at all. We tend to assume, for purposes of maximizing the value of our interactions, that whatever is expicitly stated is somehow relevant to whatever else is explicitly stated; and so the proper way to represent the probability of (2) as it would often be understood in ordinary conversation is as (p/q). That is, (2) would usually be understood in ordinary conversation as meaning 'Sarah is a university professor, given that she is a feminist' (or vice versa, depending on whether the context puts emphasis on the professorship or the feminism). The difference is quite significant.