Thursday, February 12, 2009

Notes and Links

* Michael Flynn's excellent little short story, Quaestiones Super Caelo et Mundo, has been made available online by Analog (because it was nominated for a Nebula). It's an alternative history science fiction story in which the great fourteenth-century medieval philosophers, working together rather than apart, manage to combine real fourteenth-century philosophy in a way that initiates the Scientific Revolution considerably earlier than it actually did begin.

* At "Logismoi" there's an interesting post on the Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs; I hadn't realized how Trinitarian the Feast is.

* H. E. Baber, Feminism and Christian Ethics (PDF)
Michelle Mason, Contempt as a Moral Attitude (PDF)

* If Rodney Dangerfield had been Catholic.

* An excerpt from David Novak's In Defense of Religious Liberty

* A new Philosophy of Sport blog. For an example of the sort of thing studied in philosophy of sport, you might try reading the post on whether blowouts are sporting.

* It's Only a Theory is a new philosophy of science blog.

* A huge scandal has erupted around Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, who, it turns out has fathered illegitimate children, squandered the order's money, and possibly more. American Papist is keeping track of things. The natural solution is for the Church to conduct an investigation into how far the problems went, then dissolve the order entirely, as it did with the Templars. The Templars are actually an interesting precedent: their dissolution established that religious orders exist only insofar as they are useful to the mission of the Church, and when scandal -- and in the Templar case the scandal wasn't based on much more than rumor with some scattered and dubious evidence gathered by people everyone recognized to be out to get the order -- or, indeed, anything else, clearly interferes with its ability to do so, it no longer has any purpose for existing. I think it's time that religious orders and institutes start taking seriously the fact that they are instruments of the Church to teach and further the work of charity, and have no value outside of that. I think the reasonable order here would be: investigate the matter to know how far the corruption actually extended, tear it down, let its members enter other orders and societies, distribute its property. In any case, an interesting point has been made that it is difficult to pin down what the Legion was supposed to do. Religious orders and societies exist to be schools and research institutions for charity; but because charity is in a sense as vast as God's love, it is impossible for them to devote themselves to charity in general. That would be as absurd as saying that what we should teach in schools is knowledge, leaving it at that; any school that can't get more specific and practical about its curriculum than saying it is for conveying 'knowledge' is a sham and a mockery. Rather, healthy religious orders and societies are set up to do very particular, very practical things in the pursuit of charity: preach to the heretics, help the sick, protect pilgrims, aid the poor, teach children, pray in solitude, and so forth and so on. Pursuit of these very particular things may branch out into other things -- e.g., the Hospitallers set out to help the sick, and that led to protecting the sick, and that led in certain cases to protection of pilgrims, and so forth. But when a religious order forgets its particular, practical mission in charity, it has lost its way and needs to be dissolved. Religious orders with only vague aims are worse than useless.

* I have, for various reasons, recently been reading Chester Alan Arthur's State of the Union addresses; they make interesting reading, not least because in them he actually informs Congress of the state of things in these United States. If you want to read what a real State of the Union address is (and none of the fluff that we've had in recent decades meets that description), read Arthur's (at the very least, read the first, where he discusses foreign policy, lays out government revenues, summarizes some notable events, recommends topics to Congress's attention, and asks them to deliberate on specific Constitutional questions):
First Annual Message
Second Annual Message
Third Annual Message
Fourth Annual Message
I think I've noted before that it is easy to identify the culprit that has led to such a deterioration in quality of the State of the Union address: the fact that the President gives the address in person, a cause of deterioration that has become massively aggravated once the practice began of televising it. While Washington and Adams gave their addresses in person, Jefferson concluded that it was too monarchical, and therefore in 1801 simply sent his address to Congress to be read in session by the clerks. From that point on everyone followed the Jefferson practice until Wilson revived the personal address in 1913. The Jeffersonian practice is better; there will, no doubt, be times and occasions where a personal address would be reasonable, but the State of the Union address fulfills its function more adequately when it is not tailored to a propagandistic television extravaganza. It would be nice if Obama would return us to the Jeffersonian practice of real State of the Union addresses after almost a century of mere advertising; but I confess that I have no great hopes of this.

* James Chastek on how we know the principle of noncontradiction.

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