Saturday, May 19, 2007

MacIntyre on Philosophers and Fundamentalists

A philosopher can stand in two very different types of relationship to the larger society of which he is a part. He can be in certain types of social situation an active participant in the forums of public debate, criticizing the established, socially shared standards of rationality on occasion, but even on these occasions appealing to standards shared by or at least accessible to a generally educated public....But when professionalized academic philosophy makes the rational discussion of questions of fundamental import the prerogative of an academic elite with certified technical skills, using a vocabulary and writing in genres which are unavailable to those outside that elite, the excluded are apt to respond by repudiating the rationality of the philosophers. In the forums of popular life rhetorical effectiveness in persuasion and manipulation prevails against rational argument.

The content of the doctrines propounded by those who place effectiveness in persuasion above rationality of argument is from this point of view less important than their function. That function is to prevent any challenge to the effective rhetorical performer which might make him or her, or seem to make him or her, rationally accountable by appeal to some public standard. So the doctrines of such performers characteristically present some not to be questioned, scrutinized, or argued about fetish or talisman as exempting them from rational accountability.

Alasdair MacIntyre. Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry. Duckworth (London: 1990) p. 168. MacIntyre argues that this has happened before; in the late medieval period, instead of trying to maintain and develop Aquinas's integration of the contending traditions of Augustinianism and Averroist Aristotelianism, there was a dual trend tending to the dissolution of it and anything like it: the fragmentation naturally resulting from the demands of mundane academic life (which quickly began to split up the synthesis into minute manageable units which were treated as virtually independent), which might be represented at its best and most impressive in people like Buridan and Occam; and a populist preaching that, in the name of rhetorical effectiveness, began to ignore the possibility of any external standard, which might be represented at its best and most impressive in someone like Eckhart (MacIntyre doesn't mention him, but Lull comes to mind as well). In the above passage he is arguing that the two actually go together: overspecialized, jargonistic philosophy in the name of knowledge sparks a dismissal, in the name of life, of its standards of rationality and, indeed, of any public standard of reason. This dismissal leads to an attempt to find a sure ground of rhetorical persuasion that will allow the orator or demagogue to avoid being rationally accountable in his arguments to some public standard; which leads to fetishistic appeals to some talisman whose authority is so great that those who associate it with themselves don't have to hold themselves rationally accountable; in one iteration, this leads to fundamentalism. There are many other possible iterations of the theme. Both moments in the movement can have good or even impressive results, of course; but the dangers of both, the blindness of both, remain. It's an interesting argument, worth mulling over.

Notes and Links

* An interesting paper on the question of whether the Assyrian Church of the East (see the Australian/New Zealand diocese website for further information about the ACE) is Nestorian in its Christology. The Church of the East is always associated with Nestorius, so that when, for instance, we talk about Nestorians in China what we really mean are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, not Nestorians in a strict and proper sense at all. There is no doubt that it is highly sympathetic to Nestorius, venerating him and several other prominent Nestorians in its liturgy and refusing to accept the Council of Ephesus. However, the official Christology of the Church, as found in Babai the Great and various synodal pronouncements, while influenced by Nestorius, has generally been more muted; and refusing to accept the Council of Ephesus is not precisely the same as rejecting the substance of its points. Some things the Church of the East has endorsed sound pretty close to Nestorianism; but, of course, 'sounding pretty close' to a heresy is not a mark of heresy when you are dealing with an entire culture of people who use terms in a different way than you do. (This is something that a great many people would do well to remember in discussing theological topics.) Since the paper in question is from the perspective of the Church of the East, and vehemently denies that it holds a Nestorian theology (as, indeed, most theologians in the Assyrian Church of the East do), it makes for interesting reading. See also the Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. While the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East are not in full communion, the Catholic Church allows, under restricted conditions, Chaldaean Catholics -- essentially that part of the Assyrian Church of the East which has entered into full communion with Rome -- to receive communion in the Church of the East, and vice versa. This means less than it might sound, since in emergency situations the Catholic Church allows Catholics to participate in the sacraments of non-Catholic Churches, if they are recognized to have apostolic succession and liturgies that meet certain basic criteria; likewise, in emergency situations it allows members of such Churches to participate in Catholic sacramental life. That's something most people don't know. It is not full communion, but as a sort of quasi-communion manifesting itself under emergency conditions it is a sign that the Catholic Church recognizes the other as a genuine sister Church, even if it has not worked out all the details needed for communion in the regular and proper sense. It's an intimation of a unity in root that remains even when that unity is not expressed as it should be in stem and shoot.

* Colleen Keating has an interesting post on Pascal Boyer's theory of religion and what it suggests with regard to Unitarian Universalism.

* Insight Scoop has an summary of the life of Gianna Beretta Molla, the first married laywoman (and the first female physician) to be canonized a saint in the Catholic Church. Her process moved very quickly, and because of the circumstances of her death it's pretty clear she's going to be a controversial one, since she died in childbirth because she refused to abort.

* Tertium Quid of "From Burke to Kirk and Beyond" argues that Maria Montessori's view of education was heavily influenced by her Catholicism.

* Those of you with an interest in Russian Orthodoxy probably already know that this week was a very big week for the Russian Orthodox, because on Ascension Thursday there was a major reunification within the Russian Orthodox Church. Many members of the Church fled Russia to escape the Bolsheviks; they then broke from the Church in Russia when it was seen to be falling too far under the dominance of the Communist regime, forming ROCOR (also more rarely called ROCA), the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (sometimes called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad), which now represents about a quarter of the Russian Orthodox outside of Russia. It was reconciled, so as to re-establish canonical fullness of communion, with the Church in Russia. This is big news -- Hallelujah-level news. So here are some links:

St. John Maximovich discusses the history of ROCOR
The ROCOR webpage has kept up with the news on the event. Note especially this summary of events.
Fr. John Whiteford, who will be in Russia for the occasion, has a set of links for further information.

* Justin Holcomb discusses what sort of thing counts as a metanarrative in Lyotard's sense.

* Darren at "Historical Theology" has for some time been posting on Protestant theology of the Lord's Supper. Some of his recent posts discuss Calvin's Short Treatise on the Lord's Supper, Garrish's discussion of Calvin's Eucharistic theology, and Torrance's view on the content of the eucharistic event.

* Rob Koons's A Lutheran's Case for Catholicism (PDF). (Ht: MP)

* In the Anglican calendar, today is the Feast of St. Dunstan, one of those saints whose tireless work astonishes more than any miracle attributed to them.

* A nice post on the chiastic structure of Augustine's Confessions at "Per caritatem".

Poem Draft


The luster of these lustral waters
leads me ever onward;
they are flaming gold with glory
like the splendor of the sunrise sea
as light leaps from wave to wave.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Polemical Tactics

The recent posts on the 'two-step' and its occurrence in polemics (at The Weblog, here, and The Little Professor) has set me thinking about the various argumentative tactics used in polemics. They fall into various more-or-less clear groupings. Obviously the most straightforward such type of tactic is the refutation tactic: you answer a position with an objection, or an objection with a response, or evidence with contrary evidence, or what have you. There are other tactics, however.

Another kind of tactic, for instance, is the distraction tactic. I use the term 'distraction' expansively and non-pejoratively; for instance, if your opponent is talking about something irrelevant to the argument you might in this sense 'distract' them back to the point. In a distraction tactic you don't refute but put forward something not directly relevant to the immediate issue in order to change the character of the argument as a whole.

There is at least one more kind of tactic, for which we have no clear name. For lack of a better term, I will call these kind of tactics dissociation tactics. Whereas distraction tactics are a move into non-relevance in order to change the argument, dissociation tactics are an attempt to frame the dispute in such a way that the opponent's arguments are seen to be irrelevant. The most extreme example of such a tactic would be poisoning the wells. It's pretty clear that the 'two-step' approaches that have been discussed are dissociation tactics. In their strongest forms they are instances of poisoning the well; some of the instances Miriam points out are such cases. (In fact, we get the term 'poisoning the wells' from the same general sort controversial context she notes.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hume's View of Religion

From a recent New Yorker article:

Voltaire, like many others before and after him, was awed by the order and the beauty of the universe, which he thought pointed to a supreme designer, just as a watch points to a watchmaker. In 1779, a year after Voltaire died, that idea was attacked by David Hume, a cheerful Scottish historian and philosopher, whose way of undermining religion was as arresting for its strategy as it was for its detail. Hume couldn’t have been more different from today’s militant atheists.

In his “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,” which was published posthumously, and reports imaginary discussions among three men, Hume prized apart the supposed analogy between the natural world and a designed artifact. Even if the analogy were apt, he pointed out, the most one could infer from it would be a superior craftsman, not an omnipotent and perfect deity. And, he argued, if it is necessary to ask who made the world it must also be necessary to ask who, or what, made that maker. In other words, God is merely the answer that you get if you do not ask enough questions. From the accounts of his friends, his letters, and some posthumous essays, it is clear that Hume had no trace of religion, did not believe in an afterlife, and was particularly disdainful of Christianity. He had a horror of zealotry. Yet his many writings on religion have a genial and even superficially pious tone. He wanted to convince his religious readers, and recognized that only gentle and reassuring persuasion would work. In a telling passage in the “Dialogues,” Hume has one of his characters remark that a person who openly proclaimed atheism, being guilty of “indiscretion and imprudence,” would not be very formidable.

It's a bit more complicated than this. We do know that Hume did not believe in an afterlife; and that he was disdainful of Christianity as an institution, particularly Scottish Presbyterianism. Near the end of his life he joked about not being able to complete his great work of ending the Christian superstition in Britain. But we also know that he represented himself to others as a theist and once said he didn't believe atheists existed because he had never met one (we know he said that because he said it at a dinner party full of atheists hosted by d'Holbach and Diderot noted it for posterity). He regularly contrasts true religion (good) with false religion (bad, if you hadn't guessed), and criticizes atheists not merely for "indiscretion and imprudence" (which phrase is actually attributed to Bacon, although the skeptic in the Dialogues explicitly claims to agree with it); but also has the same character remark that atheists can only be nominally so "and can never possibly be in earnest." We don't, in fact, know Hume's precise view of the matter; judgment of that point requires making guesses about how far his irony extends, and elaborate suppositions about the end he has in view in saying such things. All the limited evidence we have points to Hume's classifying himself as a theist (and none whatsoever to his classifying himself as an atheist); but all the evidence we have is scattered and difficult to place in a larger context, leaving obscure precisely what he took that to mean.

Likewise, the attack on the design argument, mentioned in the first paragraph, is considerably more ambiguous than it sounds; the last Part of the Dialogues contains a definite -- albeit convoluted, ambiguous, and difficult to interpret precisely -- affirmation of the design argument. Hume very explicitly and deliberately has the design argument survive, in some form, the attack made on it, even going so far as to have the skeptic deny that atheists can seriously reject its basic point. I have my own interpretation of this move, which will come out in the series of posts I'm doing on the subject. But there are quite a few complications in understanding Hume on this point, and no completely adequate interpretation has ever been found. (Good news for us Hume scholars, since it means there's plenty to uncover yet!)

UPDATE: Expanded a few overly concise points and corrected some of the more obscure phrasing.

Atheist Two-Step

I loved this bit from Adam Kotsko's post (ht: Ralph Luker) on Hitchens's recent book on religion:

I'm starting to think that writers of polemical doctrinaire atheism actually put in the errors on purpose. The goal is to produce a dynamic in conversation about the book that I'd call the Atheist Two-Step:

1. Someone points out that the particular religious belief disproven by the doctrinaire atheist is not really held by anyone as stated.

2. The doctrinaire atheist then says that religion is so obviously stupid and pernicious that one can't be held accountable for detailed knowledge of it.

This two-step, which really does occur and which I have had people do to me more than once, has indeed been a puzzling feature of the 'New Atheism' movement, at least to me. But I also wonder if the two-step is not so much intended to be directed against religion as it is against other atheists who hold that intelligent criticisms of religion do, indeed, require detailed knowledge of it. After all, the 'New Atheists' have no distinctive features as far as their critique of religion goes; it's difficult to find any feature of their approach that is not old and answered, and their approach is not very sophisticated -- the primary reason why other atheists keep criticizing them. What primarily distinguishes them as new is not that they've come up with a new or clever critical approach but that they go around loudly bashing atheists they think are too mild (namely, the atheists who are criticizing them for not being sufficiently sophisticated). So perhaps the two-step is less a response to religious critics and more a platform for mocking atheists who take religious topics seriously.

UPDATE: Miriam Burstein makes a good argument that this is a common polemical pattern, and neither particularly new or atheistic. The passage by Newman on the Prejudiced Man made for especially interesting reading.

UPDATE 2: In all fairness, as well, I was struck by this passage by Ophelia Benson (commenting on a claim by Smith that theists don't take atheism seriously enough to examine its arguments):

That would explain the way theists fail to engage with the arguments that atheists actually make, and it would explain the way they pretend atheists make silly futile claims that they don't actually make. That would be because theists aren't paying attention to what atheists say at all, they're just ignoring all of it and proceeding on their own pre-ordained track, like a runaway train ignoring all signals because the engineer has stepped outside for a sandwich.

It's noteworthy how easy it is to interchange 'theist' and 'atheist' here; indeed, I can even point to atheists who make much the same point with the two interchanged (i.e. atheists fail to engage with the arguments theists actually make), so you don't even have to take a theist's word for it. (To give just one example.) So perhaps, as well, what we are seeing is just a general feature of polemics (in whatever field) where emphasizing the wrongness of the opposing position becomes more important than knowing what that position is -- ultimately a self-defeating move, and, for that matter, poor polemical strategy, but one that the human mind apparently finds very tempting.

UPDATE 2: Ophelia Benson suggests a theist four-step; one which, I take it, is not a polemical tactic but a justificatory one, and certainly, where it is found, as dangerous as she suggests. [UPDATE 3: She clarifies here.]

Monday, May 14, 2007

OPC2 and PC

The second annual Online Philosophy Conference has begun.

The newest Philosophers' Carnival, on the subject of practical philosophy, is also up.

Elephants and Babies

Cristina Odone on an ethical dilemma posed to her:

You are on a deserted beach with a rifle, an elephant and a baby. This is the last elephant on earth and it is charging the baby. Do you shoot the elephant, knowing the species would become extinct?

This was the dilemma Richard Dawkins put to me during a weekend in the country. Our host, publisher Anthony Cheetham, had mischievously placed us next to each other at table. I thought the dilemma was a no-brainer - my only doubt was whether I would shoot straight enough to kill the beast.

He was outraged by my answer: man, beast, they were all the same to him and the priority must be to protect the endangered species. He berated me for my foolish belief in the specialness of humanity for its soul.

But, of course, it has nothing to do with 'the specialness of humanity' or souls. Let's reason the matter through, and do it on purely naturalistic principles.

First, look at the matter in terms of reputational concern or social approval. Since we are human beings living in a human society, social approval is determined by the stable normal sentiments of human beings. Now, it's very probable that most people would have Odone's reaction to the situation; first, because many people do, in fact, believe in the specialness of humanity, and second, because even those who don't are going to feel greater kinship or fellow-feeling with a human baby than an elephant, however important. We tend to give babies of any sort an ethical privilege anyway; I've no doubt that given the choice between saving the elephant or saving a puppy many people would choose the puppy, and, likewise, if the choice were saving the last African elephant or a baby Asian elephant, even if there were many Asian elephants left, there's reason to think that most people would save the Asian. While social approval tends to allow a good deal of leeway, at the very least it sets up the social expectation that people will feel likewise, even if they decide on good reason not to go along with the feeling. To put it in other words, people who don't have pity for the baby, who (however highly they rate the elephant in importance) aren't at least inclined to kill the elephant, who being human nevertheless feel no kinship with the human, are the sort of people who tend to be condemned as callous and morally dangerous.

So social approval, if it is factored in, sets up a presumption in favor of the human baby. It's a defeasible presumption, but at least prima facie it inclines to Odone. Even if we feel we can ignore the moral approval and disapproval of society, however, we still can get a similar result. Much of the reason social disapproval tends the way it does is that human sentiments tend that way. If we consider moral sentiments, then, we get similar results, because other-directed moral sentiments like pity tend to be stronger the closer our apparent kinship with the other. So, for instance, we tend as a rule to pity close friends more strongly than casual acquaintances, and causal acquaintances more than complete strangers. This is not to say that pity can't be operative with regard to the elephant (for many people it certainly would); but only that, on balance, it tends to favor people and things that fall more clearly within, or come closest to being in, our basic everyday circle of concern. Thus people will go out of their way to save their pets, but even tenderhearted people usually hold themselves a bit more distant with other animals. If we take moral sentiments as a factor, then, our reasoning will tend to favor the human baby over the elephant; only people with very strong emotional ties to elephants in particular will be at all likely to have the reverse preference.

Alternatively, one might consider the matter in terms of public utility. One problem with this is that analysis of public utility depends on what the public is. However, we can make the public here very inclusive -- e.g., all animals capable of feeling pain and pleasure -- and still make reasonable arguments in favor of the baby. If we understand public utility to be greatest happiness for the greatest number, even if the public includes all creatures capable of feeling pain or pleasure, the principle will favor the preferences of human beings, not because we have any intrinsic specialness, but because we are experiencers with very extensive sympathetic scope. Precisely because of this, someone who reasons through the matter on the basis of public good will have to take under serious consideration the points already raised about social approval and moral sentiment. Because of human social networks, making a difference to human lives has a powerful compounding effect. Moreover, being human, we have a better insight into human happiness than into the happiness of other animals, and therefore find it more tractable for utilitarian reasoning; that is, it's easier to think through elaborate consequences to human beings than to other animals, simply because we have more background to work with when thinking about human beings.

Now, it's possible that setting the scene on the deserted beach is supposed to remove both social approval and consequences to human society entirely from the mix. We would need not only to be on a deserted beach, but be in circumstances in which it would never, ever get out. Even that would not be enough, however. As David Hume and Adam Smith pointed out, one of the important ways human beings reason morally is by putting themselves imaginatively in the position of an impartial spectator, where 'impartial' means a normal, reasonable human being with normal, reasonable sentiments and background, and determining what such an impartial spectator would find admirable or repugnant. This is not something that simply stops, or, indeed, that we have a rational basis in human nature for stopping, when alone. The concerns of normal human society, however hypothetical, are of moral interest even to the solitary human individual.

If, on the other hand, we take ourselves to be prevented by an obligation of reason from harming the elephant, this obligation has to rise to some pretty serious standards. For, however obligations of reason may be determined, the reasonable protection of babies is bound to be a pretty significant one. This is in part because obligations of reason tend, for purely practical reasons, to exhibit the same gradation according to circles of concern that sentiments do, although perhaps they allow more room for emergency cases. Perhaps there is an obligation to the environment or some such that would trump our obligation to the baby in this particular case, which, if so, would need to be defended rationally. This is difficult to do not knowing anything more about the situation than that the baby is human and the elephant on the verge of extinction.

It's peculiar, though, that if we are dealing with the very last elephant in existence that we should be so worried about the species going extinct, since obviously the time to worry about that has long since passed. As a matter of purely practical reasoning one could well argue that we should just shoot the elephant because there's nothing we can do to prevent its going extinct anyway, whereas human beings certainly stand the chance of being benefitted by saving the baby. At the very least, even if there were no other human beings on the face of the earth, there would then be the baby and the person with the gun.

What I find most interesting is that, despiting railing against the assumption of human specialness Dawkins feels he has to rig the dilemma so much in order to bring it out as a dilemma. It won't do to make it just any elephant; he knows quite well that even people with no belief in human 'souls' will tend to favor a human being over an elephant because they themselves are human. No, the elephant has to be made extra-special -- so extra-special, in fact, as to be the Last Great Hope of All Elephants. Otherwise it sounds like no dilemma at all. Thus the very construction of the dilemma presupposes that ethical choices between elephants and human beings will tend to favor the latter. Is it really so surprising, then, that people will tend to prefer the baby anyway? I presume that Dawkins has no particular belief in human specialness; so if preferring the baby has only to do with a foolish belief in human specialness, why does his own dilemma suggest that unless the elephant is made very special, the scenario will favor the ordinary human baby?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Guide to the Argument of Hume's Dialogues, Parts IV&V

Previous Post

I ended the previous post with the confounding of Philo. When he tries a particular tactic in order to criticize Cleanthes's design argument, Cleanthes tangles him in his own commitments. The argument cannot, on Philo's own terms, be criticized simply for being analogical, and Philo's skeptical preference for inferences with natural force gives the advantage wholly to Cleanthes.

Demea, however, has very little interest in all this, and claims that Cleanthes's argument leads us dangerously close to presumptuousness about God. Cleanthes makes an analogy to a book, but when we read a book, we in some sense enter into the mind of the author. Demea is adamant, however, that we cannot do this with God; and, moreover, the volume of nature "contains a great and inexplicable riddle." Cleanthes can only get the result he wants by making God in our own image.

Cleanthes opens Part IV by criticizing Demea's claim that God is utterly incomprehensible and that there is no likeness between God and human creatures. No doubt God has many attributes surpassing human comprehension, but we must be able to give content to our claims about God. Otherwise claims of the mystics that God is unknown and incomprehensible is no different form the atheist's claim that God is unknown and incomprehensible.

Demea reacts rather poorly to being called a mystic, and, sharply criticizing Cleanthes for name-calling, and, in any case, anthropomorphite is as bad a name as atheist. Human minds are changeable and consist of diverse faculties; this is not consistent with divine immutability and simplicity.

Cleanthes is unmoved, and replies that people who hold divine simplicity in such a sense are simply mystics, or, in other words, "Atheists, without knowing it." The attribute we can most certainly ascribe to God is intelligence, and we should not ascribe anything to him that is inconsistent with that. Total simplicity and immutability, Cleanthes insists, would require us to say that God is " mind which has no thought, no reason, no will, no sentiment, no love, no hatred; or, in a word, is no mind at all."

Philo jumps in to joke that Cleanthes is effectively calling atheists generations of orthodox theologians, and that at this rate Cleanthes will be the only theist in the world. And so he begins to argue on the basis of Demea's charge of anthropomorphism, proposing to show "that there is no ground to suppose a plan of the world to be formed in the Divine mind, consisting of distinct ideas, differently arranged, in the same manner as an architect forms in his head the plan of a house which he intends to execute."

The argument he goes on to give is that, whether you try to defend the supposition of the Architect of nature on the basis of reason or experience, i.e., a priori or a posteriori, you have no basis for treating mind and matter differently. If you propose an ideal world (distinct ideas, differently arranged, in the divine mind) to explain the material world, you can ask the same question of the ideal world as the material world. As a matter of simplicity it would be much easier simply to suppose that the material world is its own principle of order, as the pantheists do:

If the material world rests upon a similar ideal world, this ideal world must rest upon some other; and so on, without end. It were better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world. By supposing it to contain the principle of its order within itself, we really assert it to be God; and the sooner we arrive at that Divine Being, so much the better. When you go one step beyond the mundane system, you only excite an inquisitive humour which it is impossible ever to satisfy.

Cleanthes is unimpressed by the argument. In response he points out that it is irrelevant to the status of the causal questions whether we can identify the cause of the cause in question, whether in common life or science.

Philo concedes that this is so, but claims that there is a difference: natural philosophers or scientists do not explain particular effects by particular causes, but by general causes; and that this is how their explanations render the particular effects more intelligible. If we try to explain particular effects by particular causes, however, the explanans is as obscure as (or more obscure than) the explanandum.

Philo opens Part V by retracing Cleanthes' argument. It is analogical and 'experimental', i.e., experience-based (like effects prove like causes), and Cleanthes has insisted that it is the sole theological argument. Given these two points, however, "liker the effects are which are seen, and the liker the causes which are inferred, the stronger is the argument." A way of criticizing the argument immediately opens up. For the strength of the arguments depends on similarity. One might hold that all the new astronomical discoveries would be new evidence for the existence of God. But if Cleanthes is right, they are really objections, because they reduce the similarity to the human case. (It is noteworthy at this point that Philo quotes Cicero's De natura deorum, which is arguably Hume's major influence in this work.) The same may be said when we extend our acquaintance with the world in the opposite direction and look at the discoveries made possible by microscopes.

Cleanthes responds that these are not contradictions, but simply new instances of art and contrivance, and thus more reflections of a mind -- a mind like the human mind, since we know of no other mind.

Philo, "with an air of alacrity and triumph," begs Cleanthes to note the consequences of this. If Cleanthes is right, then, first, God cannot have any infinite attributes; second, God cannot be perfect or, at least, cannot be known to be so; third, we have no way of knowing whether there is only one God or not; fourth, the human minds we know are produced by generation, so the analogy suggests a theogony like that of the ancients; and, fifth, the human minds we know have corporeal bodies, so the analogical inference Cleanthes is defending could lead us to the Anthropomorphite heresy in the strict and proper sense.

The point here, of course, is not that Cleanthes is committed to these last three, but that the one and only argument he allows cannot rule any of them out. So Cleanthes was perhaps right in showing that Philo had no basis for rejecting the argument insofar as it suggests the existence of something like design as a cause for the cosmos; but on his own terms he cannot proceed a step further to indicate any characteristic of this cause.

Cleanthes does indeed deny that he accepts these extreme consequences; but he notes that, however extravagant Philo may get, he still has to concede that the world is caused by something like design. And that, he says, is a sufficient foundation for religion.

An audacious claim, that. It will be put to the test starting with Part VI.

Fulton Sheen on Three-Dimensional Politics

I plead with you to sweep away slogans that mean nothing and begin to be among the thinking elite who want to build a very different and happier world than the one we live in now. You have been told that the only choice possible is to be a reactionary or a liberal; that you must go either right or left.

That would be true if you lived in a two-dimensional plane and this world were all; but you have a soul as well as a body. You need therefore a three-dimensional universe, one [with] height where you can stretch not your necks but your hearts.

A mule can travel only in two directions: either right or left. He must be either a reactionary or a liberal. But because you have a soul there is another direction open to you, toward God for whom you were made.

Fulton Sheen, quoted here.

Mother's Day Proclamation

In 1870, the Unitarian Julia Ward Howe, most famous for having written the Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote a call to the celebration of Mother's Day in the U.S. Howe saw the holiday, borrowed from England, as a way of opposing the carnage of war. The idea didn't take immediately, but due to the work of Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis and Anna Marie Jarvis, a Mother's Day was eventually proclaimed to honor the mothers of sons who had died in World War I. Howe's manifesto for Mother's Day can still be found in Unitarian Universalist hymn books (a remnant of a time when Unitarians actually wrote good hymns), and has begun to be more popular in recent years, as a way of opposing the frivolous commercialism that has attached itself to the day. Here it is:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.