Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Notes and Links

* Brett Salkeld has an interview with theologian James Alison.

* A post on reading Jane Austen as a moral philosopher at "The Philosopher's Beard". I do think that the claim that Ian McEwan's characterization is more 'psychologically real' than Austen's is both absurd and belied by the degree to which Austen's readers see themselves in her characters. McEwan's character's never strike me as very real, but rather as highly stylized and unnatural; he's just pretty decent at making them seem plausible. Austen's characters, on the other hand, are entirely natural. Similarly with the characterization of her plots, which I think overlooks the fact that they are the kinds of plots that depict events that actually happen to lots of people -- anyone who has extensive family connections knows what I mean. But a good deal of the argument is quite right.

* Tolkien's famous letter to the German publishing house that demanded to know if he was Aryan.

* Christopher Graney on Tycho Brahe's good science at "The Renaissance Mathematicus".

* Supplementary matter for Holy Transfiguration Monastery's new edition of the Ascetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian (the edition itself is quite good, by the way). I especially recommend the 'Epilogue' (from the original edition, I believe) on the history of the Church of Persia. It's interesting to see the world from the perspective of a Church to which the Eastern Orthodox Churches are all regarded as part of western Christendom. It also deals with the important question of how Nestorian the Church of Persia actually was. (The answer is complicated but is, more or less: not very, although terminological differences across the language divide and greater problems with Monophysites made them more sympathetic to Nestorius's writings when translated into their terms -- which, of course, were not the terms in which Nestorius himself wrote, due to the language divide again.)

* An interesting IEP article on Ramanuja

* A petition asking that the canonization inquiry be opened for Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani minister who was assassinated last year.

* A Kickstarter project for a Simone Weil documentary -- the documentary is actually already done; they are building up money to get it distributed; and while they are pretty much to their goal already, more donations can make possible more openings in more places.

* The religious liberty issue on the other side of the water: The United Kingdom is arguing before the European Court of Human Rights that because cross-wearing is not a requirement, employers can ban it and fire workers who insist upon wearing it.

I find it interesting. Every term I have an Ethics courses, one of the class periods is given over to the Game of Summit, in which students have to come up with formulations of human rights. And almost every term one of the delegations proposes some religious liberty right so weak as to be useless -- this term, for instance, the religious liberty right that was advocated was that everyone should have the right to practice their religion as long as it harmed no one else and it was not contrary to any other law. I'm afraid I teased them the rest of the period about their vigorous affirmation of everyone's right to practice their religion as long as no one made it illegal to do so. But I see it a lot. And I think, actually, that my students keep hitting on what is, in fact, the actual assumption about religious liberty in modern culture: that you should have it until someone else says you can't have it. Sometimes we get a grudging concession that you can engage in a religious practice if it's absolutely a requirement of your religion -- this was Boudway's argument a while back, and it's the UK's argument here. This is a very great dimunition of the concept of religious liberty rights; it is such a weak formulation that it's hardly anything at all.

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