Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Quote of the Week - Kierkegaard on doubt and God

"The movement of doubt consisted precisely in this: that at one moment he was supposed to be in the right, the next moment in the wrong, to a degree in the right, to a degree in the wrong, and this was supposed to mark his relationship with God; but such a relationship with God is not relationship, and this was the sustenance of doubt. In his relationship with another person, it certainly was possible that he could be partly in the wrong, partly in the right, to a degree in the wrong, to a degree in the right, because he himself and every human being is finite, and their relationship is a finite relationship that consists in a more or less. Therefore as long as doubt would make the infinite relationship finite, and as long as wisdom would full up the infinite relationship with the finite-just so long he would remain in doubt. Thus every time doubt wants to trouble him about the particular, tell him that he is suffering too much or is being tested beyond his powers, he forget the finite in the infinite, that he is always in the wrong. Every time the cares of doubt want to make him sad, he lifts himself above the finite into the infinite, because this thought, that he is always in the wrong, is the wings upon which he soars over the finite. This is the longing with which he seeks God; this is the love which he finds God."

- Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Part II p. 352-353

Friday, July 27, 2012

All I Have Is Christ

I recently found this band on youtube called "Sovereign Grace Music." I really like their song "All I Have Is Christ."

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God's love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

Words and Music by Jordan Kauflin
© 2009 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

If morality is invented, can we complain about moral wrongs?

I'm reading Plato's Republic (the Bloom translation which is a rich and beautiful literal translation - Bloom's opinion is not thrown onto the original language) and just finished the discussion on justice between Socrates and Thrasymachus and oh, what a discussion it was. Thrasymachus believed justice was the means used to establish law for a city. He didn't hold that justice is actually a virtue, instead he held that man creates justice or invents justice to satisfy his own arbitrary law which then makes justice the "advantage of the stronger" or what makes something "advantageous to the stronger." Socrates, of course, disagrees with Thrasymachus and embarrasses the rhetorician in their conversation that lasts for quite a few pages. In my understanding, Thrasymachus held that man creates values, instead of discovering values which is colossal to our understanding of justice or morality. What's interesting is that Thrasymachus begins his conversation with Socrates on moral grounds. He claims that Socrates is immoral for using conversations with people to Socrates's advantage, i.e., Socrates asks his conversation partner questions and leads the other person to affirm his own position; Thrasymachus finds this immoral and "wrong." He then argues that justice and the like are man-made and are tools for the stronger. If that is the case, then he cannot accuse Socrates of doing wrong to him or to the city because there is clearly nothing inherently "wrong" about it. Using Thrasymachus's view, Socrates is only doing something that isn't preferable to Thrasymachus; why should he care? If you think about it, Socartes is only doing what is "just" to people, i.e., he is doing what is to his own advantage, which would be "just" on Thrasymachus's view. After Socrates points this out, Thrasymachus rolls his eyes, says something sarcastic, picks up his dolly and goes home. What a child. 

Nietzsche philosophized on going "beyond good and evil" and on morality. He wrote the following in Anti-Christ:

"A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defense. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the concept of “virtue,” as Kant would have it, is pernicious. “Virtue,” “duty,” “good for its own sake,” goodness grounded upon impersonality or a notion of universal validity — these are all chimeras, and in them one finds only an expression of the decay, the last collapse of life, the Chinese spirit of Konigsberg. Quite the contrary is demanded by the most profound laws of self-preservation and of growth: to wit, that every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative. A nation goes to pieces when it confounds its duty with the general concept of duty. Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every “impersonal” duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction. — To think that no one has thought of Kant’s categorical imperative as dangerous to life! …" 1 

Nietzsche was an existentialist. A lot of U.S. lingo arguably came from the man like "personality," "lifestyle," and "charisma," and it's no wonder since Nietzsche wrote on the human experience. When someone says I need to find "myself" you can think of it as an Americanized Nietzschian phrase. Is it butchered Nietzsche philosophy? Perhaps, but it's very easy to see its roots in his philosophy. I mentioned that because, especially if you live in the U.S., you can think of conversations you've had with others that sound like this: "I need to do what's right for me," "I need to find myself" or "This is how I express myself and it's good for me," and there are others you're probably thinking of that touch on personality, lifestyle, etc. that I can't think of at the moment. Keep those conversations in mind and then re-read my excerpt from Nietzsche above. Do you see it? How Nietzsche wrote that man's being is the ground for his own virtue or morality. "Virtue must be our invention..." If virtue is invented then it's not binding on every individual and it has no weight. What does that mean? Well, taken to its logical conclusion it means that nothing and I do mean "no thing" is actually wrong. It's totally preference based, like your taste in skateboards or clothes. If morality is invented then murder, rape, slander, and the like are totally preferences and not binding on all mankind whether we acknowledge it or not.

it must spring out of our personal need and defense I wonder if this is the chaos of Nietzschean philosophy? When Nietzsche declared the death of God he was arguing that man had, to use a phrase of my generation, gotten over God and moved onto something new. Man didn't need God anymore. However, man still wanted to use God's morality or Christian morality, which left Nietzsche in wonderment. He called them "pinheads" and argued that you cannot kill of God and still use his moral standard because you killed the standard. You took out of the foundation of the building and expect the building to not crumble? What a pinhead. So there's this chaos after the realization that morality no longer grounded. What does man do in the chaos? Well, Nietzsche taught that during chaos some of the brightest, most influential, and creative ideas emerge from the creative men. So we must create a new world basically. To use exaggerated language. So we need chaos to create a new world; to create a new morality. One that is man based. This is the heart of existentialism: man before essence. “Virtue,” “duty,” “good for its own sake,” goodness grounded upon impersonality or a notion of universal validity — these are all chimeras, and in them one finds only an expression of the decay, the last collapse of life, You cane hear the heart of the existentialist in this sentence. A morality grounded in universal validity or in an impersonality wreck the human condition and the longing of man. Such a grounding takes away from man's existence. In the next thought Nietzsche clearly expresses his moral relativism: Quite the contrary is demanded by the most profound laws of self-preservation and of growth: to wit, that every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative. Nietzsche argues, seemingly, that you cannot find objective morality in natural selection, instead you find quite the contrary; you find selfishness which is totally opposite of what our moral faculties discover in nature. He then goes on to declare his moral relativism which necessarily flows from a morality built upon naturalism evolution that "...every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative" (a jab at Kant). If you have a naturalistic moral foundation then the logical conclusion is moral relativism. You cannot escape it. You can try, but it fails every time.

If morality is created by man, then we cannot complain about immoral things because moral things would not be facts about life. When you argue that morals are relative then tell someone he is morally wrong you are putting objective morality in the closet when it suits you then grabbing it out of the closet when it suits you, which is completely dishonest; you are being a Thrasymachus, which isn't cool my friends. If you are in the moral relativism camp then stay there. You cannot have it both ways. Nietzsche, Sartre, and others knew this and had the courage to stay in their camp. Do I agree with them? No I don't, but I at least respect them for being honest (I guess on their view honesty is preference based and not a universal good - interesting).

1. Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ § 11

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tony Allen's Calvinist Meme

Check out this awesome Calvinist meme made by blogger Tony Allen

Quote of the week - Bloom on the Women's Movement

"Modernity promised that all human beings would be treated equally. Women took that promise seriously and rebelled against the old order. … Women, now liberated and with equal careers, nevertheless find they still desire to have children, but have no basis for claiming that men should … assume a responsibility for them. So nature weighs more heavily on women. In the old order they were subordinated and dependent on men; in the new order they are isolated, needing men, but not able to count on them."

-Allan Bloom, Closing of the American Mind, 1987 pg. 114

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Collectivist Monster

In a previous post, I attempted an overview of classical liberalism (or individualism) as philosophized by John Locke. In this post I will attempt an overview of collectivism.

website for this image

What is collectivism? It is a philosophy that is the reverse of individualism. Instead of focusing on the individual and his goals, collectivism stresses the importance of group goals and ideas over individual goals and ideas. While collectivism is practiced in the private sphere I want to focus on collectivism as a public or political philosophy because that is the aim of most collectivist philosophers' arguments.

The 20th century saw collectivism expressed in the "big three" which are: socialism, communism, and fascism. Each of these philosophies have their root in collectivism which places a heavy emphasis of Nation over individual. No one can deny that because socialism, communism, and fascism all want to stress the collective goal over the individual goal usually in expressions like, "providing the greatest outcome for the greatest amount of people," and "public interest" that really pierce the heart of people who genuinely care for other people and don't like to see suffering. It's my opinion that collectivist philosophy (from here on labeled CP) takes advantage of the merciful person; promising that with just enough government involvement unemployment can be next to non-existent, hunger will end, hate will cease, and basically a utopia will be actualized. Now, some will say that is a gross misrepresentation of collectivism. Maybe that's the case, but I have drawn that conclusion from my readings of collectivism and conversations with collectivists. Perhaps that shouldn't be the focus of this post. Instead, what should be the focus is: what is the state of the individual on collectivism? You tell me. The Encyclopedia Britannica succinctly describes collectivism as: "...any of several types of social organization in which the individual is seen as being subordinate to a social collectivity such as a state, a nation, a race, or a social class. Collectivism may be contrasted with individualism, in which the rights and interests of the individual are emphasized." and "...in such movements as socialism, communism, and fascism. The least collectivist of these is social democracy, which seeks to reduce the inequities of unrestrained capitalism by government regulation, redistribution of income, and varying degrees of planning and public ownership. In communist systems collectivism is carried to its furthest extreme, with a minimum of private ownership and a maximum of planned economy." 1 

In a collectivist society, it's hard to imagine that an individual can exercise his natural rights which are life, liberty, and estate. Why is it hard to imagine? Because on collectivism, I think it's fair to say, the individual is coerced to sacrifice his private interests for the interest of the whole or collective or public good (whatever term you prefer - it's the same). The heart of collectivism is to eliminate the individual in favor of a collective unit. The individual is nothing more than a crumb left alone in a filthy house. Collectivism, for all of its praises of bragging of caring about man and true freedom, ignores the essential nature of man which is private interests. Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau had differences yes, but all three recognized, via reason, man's natural inclination, i.e., man's self-preservation. Recognizing this, they also reasoned that man joins with man to create a society and government through a social contract that protects his life, liberty, and estate. Remember Locke called this agreement to join in a society with other men to protect man's natural rights a "duty" to the natural law. Man recognizes his own natural rights and also recognizes his duty to respect the natural rights of his fellow man.

Without even touching on the economic damage of collectivism, it's fair to say that collectivism has at least two problems: it destroys individuality and it is the catalyst to Statism or totalitarianism. Even looking at the least collective according to EB, Social Democracy, what do we find? A government that "seeks to reduce the inequities of unrestrained capitalism by government regulation, redistribution of income, and varying degrees of planning and public ownership." Then you have the furthest extreme, communism, that minimizes private ownership and maximizes planned economy. Both destroy individualism in my book. It's arguable that both are forms of totalitarianism. The least is totalitarianism in its infancy while the other is mature (and probably not even fully mature!). Both also argue that they're treating the individual "fair" by leveling the playing ground: cutting down the trees that stand tall above the rest; mowing down flowers that are prettier than others; blowing up mountains that are grander than the others; setting ablaze everything; when it's over the field is level and "equal", but the result is a desert. What once was a beautiful scene of diversity is now a scene of sameness, but hey, everything in the scene is fair and equal. Nothing is different. No one feels "left out" or "lost" or "not as talented" or "not as successful." Everything is fair. Something is missing though: individuality. The individual finding his own talent(s) will create, with other individuals, a beautiful scene of diversity. One is excellent at basketball. Another is excellent at business. Another at art. Another at organization. Another at technology; you get the point. No we aren't all equal in talents and abilities, but we all have some kind of individual talent and ability to add to the scene. We can't find our talents and abilities when we are horse-fed an artificial equality or when we have the field of individuals leveled for safety and security from the State. Collectivism destroys the individual and diversity.

I agree with Ayn Rand who wrote "collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group...throughout history, no tyrant ever rose to power except on the claim of representing the common good...horrors which no man would dare consider for his own selfish sake are perpetrated with a clear conscience by altruists who justify themselves by the common good." 2 


1. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/125584/collectivism
2. Rand, Ayn. The Only Path to Tomorrow, Readers Digest, January 1944, pp. 88–90

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quote of the week - Locke on natural law

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 2, sec. 6

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Anchor of our Freedom

Classical liberalism is the view that individuals are prior to the State. On this view, individuals have three natural rights which are: life, liberty, and estate. The individual has a natural right to live once he begins to live; he has a right to do anything he wants as long as he doesn't violate the first right; and he has a right to to own all he creates or gains through gift or trade as long as these things don't conflict with the first two rights. The State is instituted to make laws protecting the individual's three natural rights. So, first we have the individual, then the State. The State (or government) is formed by the individuals to protect the natural rights of the individuals. This view was formulated by a 17th century political philosopher known as John Locke.

There are critics of natural rights. One such critic, J. Bentham, writes in his book Anarchical Fallacies that natural right theory “is from beginning to end so much flat assertion: it lays down as a fundamental and inviolable principle whatever is in dispute.” 1 Marx criticized natural rights for its focus on the individual instead of the community or "collective." He loathed the idea of man being isolated from others, pursuing self-interest rather than the interest of the whole. Marx thought of the individual as an, “isolated monad… withdrawn behind his private interests and whims and separated from the community.” (Marx 1844, 146) 2 Marx was not fond of natural rights or individualism. He thought natural rights philosophy made man selfish, that it divides people (the differences in talent will emerge - showing we aren't equal in talent), and that it engineers a capitalist machine. Many others deride the natural rights theory for not having a proper anchor and then go on to say that we should throw away this idea that man is an individual with inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and estate; opting instead for a society or state based political philosophy that places the individual after the State and makes him sacrifice his private interests for the public good. The latter levels everything causing people to be "equal," i.e. making everyone equal on the lowest common denominator (I'm not going to dive very deep into this position in this post - I'll wait until another post), which isn't equality at all.

So, how are natural rights anchored? Natural rights are anchored in natural law, so natural law is over natural rights. This is a big deal here. Some argue for natural rights, but not natural law (Hobbes) while others argue for both working together (Locke). The difference between Hobbes and Locke is that Hobbes argued for the freedom of the individual to do as he wishes without limitation, whereas Locke argued for the freedom of the individual to do as he wishes within the bounds of the law of nature. Hobbes's position that man is free to do as he wishes without restraint left man with no duty to respect the rights of others, which leads to a state of war. Who or what stops Hobbes's state of war? The Leviathan or as we know it today Big Government. On Locke's view there is a natural law that is binding on man to respect the natural rights of other men.Locke traces this duty to natural law.3

Locke speaks of this law of nature that is binding on us, but where is it? How do we know it? I don't see it anywhere. It's not hanging on the back of car bumper. I don't see it getting on the bus at the bus stop or eating in a restaurant somewhere. How can I access this natural law? With reason. We are born, those of us who aren't seriously mentally handicapped, with rational faculties enabling us to "access" natural law. Two things to remember about this view: The precepts of the natural law are binding by nature and the precepts of the natural law are also knowable by nature or reason. We know the truths of life, liberty, and estate innately; these truths are stamped on our minds and we know these things are ours by natural right. So natural rights are anchored in man's nature. We know these things naturally. We don't learn of natural rights through sense experience, we know of our natural rights before experience.  This gets into rationalism and foundationalism, e.g. we know some truths prior to experience like there is a past and that there are foundational principles to knowledge (law of non-contradiction, excluded middle, etc.) which we use to know more truths. 4

Life, liberty, and estate are natural rights of man. "We know these truths to be self-evident..." Freedom rests on these natural rights. They are ours. We are born with these rights, but they can be given away or taken away. Locke believed that if these rights are no longer protected by the government, the very government the people created to protect their rights, then the people have the natural right to revolution against the government. He wrote, "Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society." 5

There is much more I could write about in this post like those who hate the natural freedom of man; that man must, by force of the State, eradicate his selfish interests for the common good of others, i.e. the State. I think it's for those reasons previously mentioned that some people don't think natural rights are actually anchored in anything at all and instead we are just selfish brutes who don't want to help anybody except ourselves (totally untrue). Natural rights and law are properly anchored in nature. If one is theist, one could even go one more step and reason that God has made us in His image; He is a free being; therefore we are naturally free. Even if you're not a theist, natural right and law are properly anchored in nature and it's a self-evident truth.

Check out my overview of collectivist philosophy here.

1. Bentham, J., 1796, Anarchical Fallacies, in Waldron 1987a, pg. 66
2. Marx, K., 1844, “On the Jewish Question”; reprint in Waldron 1987a, pg. 146 
3. These arguments are found in paragraphs 6 and 7, Chapter Two of the Second Treatise of Government, and Chapter 5.
4. While I understand foundationalism and rationalism, I think if I attempted a detailed explanation I would butcher both. For foundationalism click here and for rationalism click here.
5. John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government, Ch. 19, pg. 222

Thursday, July 12, 2012

For those wondering...

For those who noticed and are wondering, I removed the Technology blogs from the "Must Read Blogs" section. I did this because I realized this blog was trying to cover too much: philosophy, theology, politics, and technology, which wasn't following the purpose of the blog (quick thoughts on philosophy). So, I started a new blog for my technology outlet. I won't name it here because I don't want the two connected just for personal reasons. Anyway, in case you my readers were wondering why those blogs were gone well, that's why. :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

R.C. Sproul on miracles

"...if miracles are expectable—there’s nothing miraculous about them. If they’re ordinary then they carry no certifiable weight. It’s by their extraordinary character that they have sign power: sign-ificance." - Sproul 

The above quote is from today's blog post over at Ligonier. Sproul clearly explains the definition of miracle and if we can expect miracles today.


"Now of course when people ask me, do I believe in miracles, they’re asking one question and I’m answering a different one. If they’re saying to me, “Do you believe that God is still working in the world supernaturally?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God answers prayers?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God heals people in response to prayer?” Of course I do. All miracles are supernatural, but not all supernatural acts are miracles. Theologians get real tight in their making of distinctions, and when I say I don’t believe in miracles today, I don’t believe in the tight kind of miracle in the very narrow sense where a miracle is defined as a work that occurs in the external perceivable world; an extraordinary work in the external perceivable world against the laws of nature, by the immediate power of God. A work that only God can do, such as bringing life out of death, such as, restoring a limb that has been cut off—by command—such as, walking on the water, such as, turning water into wine. 


Now God’s still alive, He’s still working; He’s still answering prayers in an amazing way. I’ve seen marvelous answers to prayers, I’ve seen people healed of so called terminal illnesses, I just have never seen anybody raised out of the cemetery, or an arm that is severed grow back, or a preacher walk on the water, or water turned into wine. But in any case, the Lord Jesus did these miracles not only in the broad sense, but also in the narrow sense. It’s the miracles of the New Testament that are so important to us, because they are God’s attestation of Jesus’ and of the Apostles, before whose authority we submit."

Read the full post here.

Here is Sproul on the goal of Christian living

Here is a video on suffering as a Christian by Sproul

Monday, July 9, 2012

Quote of the week - Ayn Rand on Economic Power and Political Power

"Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear." 

- Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Monday, July 2, 2012

Quote of the week - Bill Craig on the Moral Argument for God

"You can be mistaken about what the good and right is. Certainly this is not an argument that our moral perceptions are infallible. We make mistakes all the time, but the very fact of moral error points to the objectivity of these values. If they are not objective, you can’t err or fail to do the right or good thing because it is all subjective anyway. So the very fact of moral error and moral disagreement and moral failure actually presuppose the objectivity of moral values and duties"
-William Lane Craig, Defenders Class Transcript
Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-19#ixzz1zTFQ9mzm