Friday, August 31, 2012

The Foundation of Love

Per usual, I'm going to show my hand here in the beginning and let you know I'm not a professional on such matters, nor do I intend to portray myself as a knower of all things.

"Sure, you can be a romantic today if you so choose, but it is a little like being a virgin in a whorehouse. It just doesn't fit with the temper of the times and gets no support in the current atmosphere." Bloom, Love and Friendship 

In recent times, it's popular for teens and the "old folks" alike to say, "I'm in a relationship." I was a teen once (I actually enjoyed high school because I stayed away from "long-term relationships"- instead I had many friendships and avoided all the pain and parenthood others experienced from teenage sex), so I remember hearing, "We are talking," or "We are in a relationship - nothing serious though." I would ask what nothing serious meant and the common answer was something like: two people are engaged in some kind of sexual activity (some "all the way" while others "everything, but..."), however the two were not an "official" couple or anything "serious." (both words are considered possessive and too exclusive to their ears - think I'm just an old man screaming from his porch? I wish it were so, but recent studies confirm my high school and college experience that men and women have no idea what courtship/dating is, but have a lot of uncommitted experience sexually with each other) Few people know what an actual date is, but they know a great deal about sex. It seems love has been reduced to sex as well. A casual overview of "romance" novels (50 shaded of gray anyone?) will give you an idea of what love is supposed to be according to authors from the last century or more. What is it? Sex. Not just sex though, but meaningless, cheap, one-night-only, no-strings-attached, gotta-have-you-know sex that is completely void of the rich, romantic essence and philosophical depth of love and not worthy of the human capacity. You wonder if the "romance" authors within the last 100 years have read any of the classical literature on love. Paul? Lewis? Rousseau? Plato? Stendahl? Austen? Shakespeare? Tolstoy? Flaubert? One doesn't even have to be a professional on the works by these authors to learn what real love is from them.

This cheap understanding of love not only damages the individual, it also damages society. Think of the "relationships" you see on a situation comedy show (yes, yes, I know it's a comedy, but there is a high chance a person builds his worldview from such shows). Casual sex with no commitment is common. This kind of thinking and activity is shown to us from all sorts of shows and, like it or not, it does affect people and through time eases a person into that view on love and sex. Now, I'm not saying "Destroy your TV! It's a portal for the devil!" Please understand I'm not advocating such action, but I think it's a interesting thing to think about. If a person doesn't have a strong foundation on love and sex built from the classical understanding, then a person is easily influenced by what he watches on television/internet and what he reads in cheap literature. If one has a strong foundation then she can shrug of the cheap sexual content of the show and enjoy the other elements.

What is love? Put broadly it's a longing for completion. It's not a physical act, instead it's an of the soul as I understand it. For example, a love of wisdom or love of a beloved. In the "Problem of Pain" Lewis wrote, "Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness." Elsewhere, Lewis wrote that love is not a mere feeling, but instead it's a deep unity maintained by the will and strengthened by habit and that, Lewis thought, is the engine running a good marriage. He said that the explosion of the feelings from being "in love" started the engine and the deep unity and will keeps it going. Aristotle wrote that love is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. Plato had this idea that the "madness" of love is one of the greatest blessings sent from the heavens. In the Symposium he wrote, "And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is."

So we can see this idea of "longing" and "completion" of love, that drives you to pursue it. Is it a temporary pursuit? No. It's a committed pursuit. As Austen wrote in Northanger Abbey, "The mere habit of learning to love is the thing." I think this is the problem. It's not that people aren't interested in love and what all of that means; it's the compass, the direction, how they are pursuing love and friendship which is the problem. The longing is there, but it's managed poorly and destructively by postmodern interpretations of the classics and Freudian ideas on love, reducing it to mere biological function and statistics. Understanding the materialistic function of what people "in love" do is easy to understand and document, but that function can be executed by two strangers. Describing the physical action of two people in love does not give us a clear understanding of the processes behind that physical action, which is where the most interesting, penetrating, and captivating part of love is; what's even more interesting is that the deep things of love aren't even stored in that physical action. You see, people are inadvertently told that the physical action is love and so they pursue it. There are great pleasures in that action, of course, but it's fleeting and will not give you what you're pursuing. When the person(s) realizes this there is much remorse. Maybe not that he has committed a sin or that he is thinks he took advantage of her, but maybe it's because he didn't find what he was looking for. He had sex with her and that was it. The senses were on a thrill ride never experienced before. There was a carnival of sensations and it was amazing, maybe the most explosive thing he had ever experienced and then it was over. He saw this girl, wanted to have her, thinking if he could just "have" her then his longing would be complete and he would know what it was like to be "in love." He didn't find it. He could care less about her now that it's over. Did he enjoy the physical action? Yeah, but he's not interested anymore. He might be interested when he wants to "do it" again, but as far as taking her out, buying things for her, doing things for, and most important of all, getting to know her, he doesn't have an interest in any of those things.

What is missed in recent writings and ideas in romance is the friendship of two people. Every good, lasting, passionate romance begins with friendship. I like what Lewis wrote on friendship in the Four Loves, "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival," and "Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one." Lewis captures it beautifully. Aristotle, in his Ethics, wrote "Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods." An interesting thing about Aristotle's Ethics is how his writing flowed in the book. When he writes on pleasures he begins writing on the topic then moves to friendship and then finishes writing on pleasure, so friendship is sandwiched by pleasure. I think that is very interesting and very telling of what friendship really is: pleasure. Not a fleeting, cheap, perverse pleasure either, but a good, enjoyable, pure pleasure. In the old order, friendship was the highest point that virtue could reach. The Biblical writers spent much time on friendship in their letters writing on unity, companionship, peace with each other and so on. One of the most important friendships was the friendship, clearly seen, between Paul and Timothy. How many times is Timothy mentioned in the letters of Paul? Often. In Paul's letters he often reminds his readers to pursue unity and enjoy each other's company, loving life and seeing good days. Do you think friendship might be important in the life of a human being? I think so. That is what is missing from today's field of romance. The foundation for romantic love is a good friendship. Without that foundation, I think romance will fail between individuals. I don't want to imply that romance is supposed to be boring because I don't. I think romance when ripe will be fun, exciting, and be, as Lewis wrote, the explosion that starts the engine of romance, but we can't forget what keeps the engine running, what the foundation of love is: friendship. The author Jane Austen develops this idea of the good marriage in her books (Pride and Prejudice and Emma come to mind), where she marries the classical Aristotelian virtuous friendship and romanticism making marriage the highest friendship. In Austen's novels the message is not the sentimental (non-reason) message that oozy love conquers all and it's not the dry (reason only) thinking of reason enslaving love. It's a unity where marriage is the culmination of the search for truth and love (completion). 

Love and friendship are very interesting human experiences. I know very little about it so I plan to further my knowledge by reading the classics. It may be that true love and friendship have always been rare, that this problem is nothing new. Maybe the love and friendship exhibited in the public arena today has plagued humanity for ages. Could it be that real love is a lost world? I don't know, but I want to find out. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Quote of the week - Socrates on the wisdom of men

I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing... as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go on my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and this occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god.

Plato, Apology, 23a-c, 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pie or Pi? Pastry or Constant?

This post is for Tony-Allen. He requested and I delivered. Of course, what is pie? Is it a pudding-like desert resting on a crusty and crumbly foundation? Or is it a mathematical constant? Either way, enjoy this recipe and also this little entry on Pi.

Just in time for fall! A pumpkin pie recipe from Paula Deen

From MathWorld! The best resource on the interwebz for math stuff. Whoo-hoo! The awesomeness that is Pi

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quote of the Week - Glenn Peoples on God and Morality

"Yes God is good in the sense that God is loving, just and so on. But as Craig has noted on a number of occasions, God has no moral obligations and therefore cannot live up to any external standard. This has the implication that God is not morally good. God is good in the sense that he is loving, just, forgiving and so on, and we identify these things as good in the way that, say, hot soup on a cold day is good for us, or an apple is a good one rather than a rotten one. God’s good nature motivates God to command the things that he does, and this in turn gives rise to moral duty – rightness."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coming up...

I know you guys who bounce around here occasionally are just anxious, wringing your hands and all of that, in anticipation of what I'll write next. Oh, wait, you're not? Wow, that's embarrassing for me. Well, anyway, just so you know, I have a couple of posts on the way that might interest you all. One is on love versus relationships and the other is probably going to be on man and the effects of feminism. The two will be companion posts in some ways. The topic of man and love has been a interest to me lately and the posts will be quick surveys of the reading in that topic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TARP Opponents are knuckledraggers?

Boehner calling TARP opponents knuckledraggers is one of the reasons I can't rally behind this guy. Yes, obviously, he is better than most of those on the left so I'm not implying that he is a fiscal leftist or anything related to that, but his thinking that TARP "had to happen" is the attitude I hate about some guys in the R party. Van Sustern asked Boehner about Ryan voting for TARP and then becoming a "budget-hawk" and how he could sell that image politically. The following is Boehner's answer. 

BOEHNER: I mean, I think that he's a practical conservative. He's got a very conservative voting record, but he's not a knuckle-dragger, all right? He understood that TARP, while none of us wanted to do it, if we were going to save -- save our economy, save the world economy, it had to happen. I wish we didn't have to do it, either, but he understood that. 1

Did TARP have " save our economy, save the world economy..."? Ron Paul didn't think so. He gave three good reasons. It is immoral--Dumping bad debt on the innocent taxpayers is an act of theft and is wrong. It is unconstitutional--There is no constitutional authority to use government power to serve special interests. It is bad economic policy--By refusing to address the monetary system while continuing to place the burdens of the bailout on the dollar, we can be certain that in time, we will be faced with another, more severe crisis when the market figures out that there is no magic government bailout or regulation that can make a fraudulent monetary system work.

TARP didn't have to happen. TARP was unconstitutional. Federal Government intrusion to "solve" disasters wasn't something that was expected until the 20th century. In fact, 19th century and earlier presidents wouldn't have even dreamed of something like TARP. Why? Because it was unconstitutional. Because it would create this "dependency," cater to special interests, and ruin liberty. Most people like the idea of liberty, but only the benefits of liberty, they don't understand the consequences of liberty. 

Boehner has problems. If following the constitution is "knuckledragging" then I guess I'm, according to Boehner, an knuckledragger. It's not so bad. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quote of the week - Leo Strauss on importance of ultimate principles

"According to our social science, we can be or become wise in all matters of secondary importance, but we have to be resigned to utter ignorance in the most important respect: we cannot have any knowledge regarding the ultimate principles of our choices, i.e. regarding their soundness or unsoundness... We are then in the position of beings who are sane and sober when engaged in trivial business and who gamble like madmen when confronted with serious issues."

- Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, 1953 pg. 4 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

God, Liberals and the Olympics

DISCLAIMER: The following viewpoints are not those of the blogger, but a friend of his. If this point of view upsets you, you may vent, but don’t yell at the person who posted them. Start a discussion, express an opinion, but don’t yell at the person who didn’t write it, that is just senseless… These writings are the intellectual property of me, the Author, with permission granted to the blogger who is positing them. They may not be reposted or used in any form without express written consent by either myself or the blogger of Reformed Seth.
God, Liberals and the Olympics

I have a friend on Facebook, who I will call John. John is a liberal, well, John is a liberal’s liberal, i.e., he is a progressive! Wow, how 18th century of him. John is disappointed in Barack Obama (join the club); he is disappointed because he thinks Barack Obama hasn’t done enough to make America like a third world country. He hasn’t taken from the rich, given to the poor, and then taken from the rich again when the poor piss the money away they were illegally given.

I made a post about an American runner who won a medal in running, and the controversy surrounded by him carrying an American flag, and a Mexican flag, as he was brought into the country by his parents when he was four. So, he wanted to show he is both North American, and South American. A lot of people were upset because he was trained with American money, and it was those who are Mexican American, or American of Mexican descent, that were more upset. I started to realize, with all the athletes who have given glory to God for their abilities: their chances to run, jump, to compete, and for America to be the best country on earth; where was the liberal backlash? Where is the ACLU standing up saying they have to stop because America isn’t a Christian country? Where are the liberals and progressive saying, "They didn’t do that. God didn’t help them! America did the training, gave the money, the encouragement to do all they have done", (most in a spectacular manner.) And then it dawned on me. With this being an election year, the left (the liberals, the homosexuals, even the ACLU) have to keep their mouths shut, or they will be seen for what they are: people who are ashamed of America. They are letting people give glory to God because to say something against it, with all the American pride, would sink Barack Obama and his election. Then they will scream that they are going to be put to death by the dark ages, because only Barack and his sycophants truly understand the struggle they are going through, because look at all the mean white guys who are picking on the black president who is only trying to do what is right. What is right to them? Free health care, free money, and the right to scream at those who don’t agree with them, and then claim hate crimes for those who scream back, or try to stand up for what they feel, or think is right. Chick-fil-A anybody?

But back to ‘John’, here is his comment when I asked people to share how they felt about the Mexican American using both flags, (this is why I think I am right as to their collective silence) John:My thoughts: I might be able to tolerate the Olympics were it not for all the nationalistic  jingoism and bullshit

So, let’s ask ourselves, do we really want a congress, a president, anybody who actually doesn’t find pride in our country and what we do, every four years? We get to show that as a country, we compete, we care, we do what we can, in sports, and in being a good citizen of the world. I for one say NO!

At least, that is how Mark C's it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Did Hawking and "Science" Kill Philosophy?

From Philosophy Now magazine. 

All the same he (Hawking) is compelled by the ‘abstract logic’ of his own doctrinaire science-first approach to push that evidence temporarily out of sight when declaring the total irrelevance of philosophy for anyone possessed of an adequate (i.e., scientifically informed) worldview. Indeed it may be good for philosophers occasionally to remind scientists how their most productive thinking very often involves a complex interplay of empirical data, theories, working hypotheses, testable conjectures and even (sometimes) speculative fictions. Likewise absent from Hawking’s account is philosophy’s gatekeeper role in spotting those instances where science strays over without due acknowledgement from one to another mode, or – as frequently happens nowadays – where certain evidential constraints are lifted and empirically informed rational conjecture gives way to pure fabulation.

Besides this, there are supposedly cutting-edge theories which turn out, on closer inspection, to unwittingly replicate bygone notions from the history of thought that have been criticised and eventually laid to rest. Hawking’s book puts forward two such theories. One is his linchpin ‘M-theory’ having to do with the multiple dimensions – eleven at the latest count – that are taken to constitute the ultimate reality beyond appearances despite our sensory perception being limited to the three-plus-one of our familiar spatio-temporal world. On this account there cannot be a single, comprehensive ‘Theory of Everything’ of the kind favoured by sanguine types like Steven Weinberg but we can hope to get a whole range of specially tailored, region-specific theories which between them point toward the nature and structure of ultimate reality. The other, closely related to that, is Hawking’s idea of ‘model-dependent realism’ as an approach that makes allowance (as per orthodox quantum mechanics) for the effect of observation on the item observed but which nonetheless retains an adequate respect for the objectivity of scientific truth.

Here Hawking’s argument shows all the signs of a rudderless drifting between various positions adopted by different philosophers from Kant to the present. He spends a lot of time on what seems to be a largely unwitting rehash of episodes in the history of idealist or crypto-idealist thought, episodes which have cast a long shadow over post-Kantian philosophy of science. That shadow still lies heavy on Hawking’s two central ideas of M-theory and model-dependent realism. They both look set to re-open the old Kantian split between a ‘noumenal’ ultimate reality forever beyond human knowledge and a realm of ‘phenomenal’ appearances to which we are confined by the fact of our perceptual and cognitive limits. So if Hawking is right to charge some philosophers with a culpable ignorance of science then there is room for a polite but firm tu quoque, whether phrased in terms of pots calling kettles black or boots on other feet. For it is equally the case that hostility or indifference toward philosophy can sometimes lead scientists, especially those with a strong speculative bent, not only to reinvent the wheel but to produce wheels that don’t track straight and consequently tend to upset the vehicle.

A firmer grasp of these issues as discussed by philosophers during the past few decades might have moderated Hawking’s scorn and also sharpened his critical focus on certain aspects of current theoretical physics. My point is not so much that a strong dose of philosophic realism might have clipped those speculative wings but rather that philosophers are well practised in steering a course through such choppy waters, or in managing to navigate despite all the swirls induced by a confluence of science, metaphysics, and far-out conjecture. After all, physics has increasingly come to rely on just the kind of disciplined speculative thinking that philosophers have typically invented, developed, and then criticised when they overstepped the limits of rationally accountable conjecture. Such are those ‘armchair’ thought-experiments that claim to establish some substantive, i.e., non-trivial thesis concerning the nature of the physical world by means of a rigorous thinking-through that establishes the truth (or, just as often, the demonstrable falsehood) of any statement affirming or denying it.

No doubt there is room to debate whether these are really (and remarkably) instances of scientific discovery achieved through an exercise of a priori reasoning or whether they amount, as sceptics would have it, to a species of disguised tautology. However there are just too many impressive examples in the history of science – from Galileo’s marvellous thought-experiment showing that Aristotle must have been wrong about falling bodies to a number of crucial quantum-related results – for anyone to argue convincingly that results obtained in the ‘laboratory of the mind’ can only impress philosophers keen to defend their patch. Indeed, there is a sense in which the scientific enterprise stands or falls on the validity of counterfactual-conditional reasoning, that is to say, reasoning from what necessarily would be the case should certain conditions obtain or certain hypotheses hold. In its negative guise, this kind of thinking involves reasoning to what would have been the outcome if certain causally or materially relevant factors had not been operative in some given instance. Hawking constantly relies on such philosophical principles in order to present and justify his claims about the current and likely future course of developments in physics. Of course he is very welcome to them but he might do better to acknowledge their source in ways of thinking and protocols of valid argumentation that involve distinctly philosophical as well as scientific grounds.

This brings us back to the point likely to provoke the most resistance from those scientists – chiefly theoretical physicists – who actually have the most to gain from any assertion of philosophy’s claim to a hearing in such matters. It is that scientists tend to go astray when they start to speculate on issues that exceed not only the current-best observational evidence but even the scope of what is presently conceivable in terms of testability. To speak plainly: one useful job for the philosopher of science is to sort out the errors and confusions that scientists – especially theoretical physicists – sometimes fall into when they give free rein to a speculative turn of mind. My book Quantum Theory and the Flight from Realism found numerous cases to illustrate the point in the statements of quantum theorists all the way from Niels Bohr – a pioneering figure but a leading source of metaphysical mystification – to the current advocates (Hawking among them) of a many-worlds or ‘multiverse’ theory. To adapt the economist Keynes’ famous saying: those scientists who claim to have no use for philosophy are most likely in the grip of a bad old philosophy or an insufficiently thought-out new one that they don’t fully acknowledge.

There is a large supply of present-day (quasi-)scientific thinking at the more – let us say – creative or imaginative end of the scale that falls into just this hybrid category of high-flown metaphysical conjecture tenuously linked to certain puzzling, contested, or at any rate far from decisive empirical results. Nor is it mere hubris for philosophers to claim a special competence in judging when thought has crossed that line from the realm of rational, scientifically informed but so far unproven conjecture to the realm of unanchored speculation or outright science fiction fantasy. One has only to pick up a copy of New Scientist or Scientific American to see how much of the latest thinking inhabits that shadowy border-zone where the three intermingle in ways that a suitably trained philosopher would be best equipped to point out. Nowhere is this more evident than in the past hundred years of debate on and around the seemingly paradoxical implications of quantum mechanics. Those paradoxes include wave/particle dualism, the so-called ‘collapse of the wave-packet’, the observer’s role in causing or inducing said collapse, and – above all since it appears the only way of reconciling these phenomena within anything like a coherent ontology – faster-than-light interaction between widely separated particles.

I shall risk the charge of shameless self-advertisement and suggest that readers take a look at my book for the case that these are pseudo-dilemmas brought about by a mixture of shaky evidence, dubious reasoning on it, fanciful extrapolation, and a flat refusal to entertain alternative theories (such as that of the physicist David Bohm) which considerably lighten the burden of unresolved paradox. At any rate we are better off trusting to the kinds of advice supplied by scientifically-informed philosophers with a well-developed sense of how speculative thinking can sometimes go off the rails than the kinds – including the advice ‘let’s put a stop to philosophy’ – issued by philosophically under-informed scientists."

Read the entire free article written by philosopher Christopher Norris by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What about those Old Testament laws on physical relations between adults?

I saw a meme the other day about the bible and marriage referencing OT passages on physical relations between men and women. The meme gave the message that the bible promotes traditional marriage (nuclear family), marriage via death of your brother (husband dies and has a brother then the wife marries the bro-in-law), polygamy, slave marriage, stoning a woman who wasn't truly a virgin, etc. First off, I would argue that everything that is in the OT wasn't condoned by God. Second, we also have to, have to, have to, (did I mention "have to") have to remember Israel was under a theocracy and not a democracy. Israel wasn't a constitutional republic, pure democratic government, or any man-centered government; they were under God's government. This point is a good point to remember even if God didn't/doesn't exist and Israel was mistaken about their God because they were operating a totally different society than what many of us live in today regardless of whether God exists or not. I'm not a professional theologian or bible scholar, but the previous two points seem like good points to keep in mind when we come across these OT passages that hit us pretty hard in the gut.

What about the following for traditional marriage between a man and a woman? According to the meme the bible has the following regulations for the nuclear family: interfaith marriages forbidden, wives subordinate to husbands, arranged marriages, and this is added just for fun I'm sure: a bride who couldn't prove her virginity was stoned to death.

Interfaith marriages forbidden 

Interfaith marriages were forbidden for Israel because they were under a theocracy so what obviously follows from that is those under the theocratic rule were not allowed to marry those who didn't worship Jehovah God. I understand that God's purpose with Israel was to set them apart from surrounding societies of the time to show their external difference from the surrounding societies. Such a structure required a lot of external challenges for the Israeli of that time. It required sacrifice like not marrying those outside of the religion. If Israel had established a democratic society then yes they would have been able to legally marry those who weren't of the same religion. Theocracies don't give you the options democracies do.

Wives subordinate to husbands

Israel isn't the only religion or society guilty of this one. People take this to the extreme like the husband drags the wife around by her hair (maybe a husband has done that - it's possible). I think Paul explained this the best by saying the husband is to love his wife selflessly and the woman is to submit to the husband. The husband is the representative of the marriage before God. If the husband loves his wife selflessly then the woman will gladly submit because the husband is loving his wife in a selfless way, i.e. protecting her, cherishing her and taking care of her better than he takes care of himself. This doesn't mean the husband is to be a pushover, but I think this is another way of establishing the husband and wife as a team and promotes healthy selfless love.

Arranged marriages

This wasn't uncommon back then or even today. An arranged marriage, arguably, wasn't a unique idea that Israel originated, nor is this surprising given that Israel was a theocracy and not a democracy. In a democracy the individual is free to choose his own life whereas in a theocracy the individual is part of a collective under the rule of their god(s) who charts their life for them. Some theocracies, maybe Israel, probably extend the authority of arranging marriages to the parent(s) and/or elders of the society.

 A bride who couldn't prove her virginity was stoned to death

This is a passage that I, as a classical liberal, am not at all comfortable with accepting or promoting this law. Please don't think I will try to explain this verse away (Deut. 22:21). When we come across verses like this one (there are a few like it in Deuteronomy) we have to remember that Israel was treated differently than NT Christians. OT Israel was under a theocracy, more specifically, they were ruled by a perfectly righteous God who wanted his people to be different from the surrounding societies who practiced free sex. Israelites were only to have sex within heterosexual marriages. Fornication, multiple sex partners, and the like were not tolerated by God as actions for his people to make. The consequence of breaking his law was not just a slap on the wrist. He wanted his people to be different from other societies.

The meme mentions polygamy, which as I understand wasn't specifically endorsed by God as something he wanted Israel to practice. There are five (6) things to consider when reading the OT (this is an excerpt from the Apologetics Study Bible.)
Narratives describe what happened, not what was necessarily approved.
  1. We assume wrongly that if a story is in scripture, it must be "what God wanted."
  2. Biblical narrators dealt with the real world, with all its corrupt and fallen ambiguity.
  3. Shouldn't mistake realism for ethical approval.
  4. OT stories challenge us to wonder at God's amazing grace and to patience in continually working out His purposes through such morally compromised people.
  5.  OT stories challenge us to be discerning in evaluating their conduct according to standards the OT itself provides
These are excellent points to remember when reading the OT narratives. Every verse in the OT is not a divine command from God, most are describing an account of an event that happened. My continual use of the theocratic government reason for these shocking laws in the OT is not in any way an attempt at approving these laws or an attempt to act like atrocities didn't happen under that government; what I want to do is to treat the OT like any historical document understanding the dating, historical context and what the society was like, i.e., put my self in the time and setting of the author of the historical documents instead of trying to read and understand the documents through the lenses of my society and time. If we keep the above points in mind and also the form of government that Israel was under when reading the OT, it will be a huge benefit for our understanding of the OT. 

Related posts

Is God a Moral Monster? This audio deals with OT stuff.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quote of the Week - Ayn Rand on Contradictions

“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”  

 -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Friday, August 3, 2012

Can current gen women blame men for not being responsible?

Since this blog is dedicated to "quick thoughts" I thought I would write a quick blog post on gender roles, marriage, and love which all are things I'm not professionally qualified to write about nor am I an authority on such matters, but internet freedom and a mind interested in such matters gives me the ability to share my thoughts, however unprofessional they may be, with all of you who happen to read this post. Enjoy and share at your own risk. 

From my readings in philosophy, history and the current headlines on social issues and "injustices" against women and how men need to "man up," I find that the current headlines are at odds with philosophical and historical understanding of just who and what a man is. Let me explain. Current professionals on men and women and social crusaders want to make man an effeminate creature getting him in touch with his feelings and make him more caring which in itself is not a bad thing, but we must look at the bigger picture of such a task. Is man a caring-only creature? No, he's not. The classical understanding of man is that he is protective, ambitious, and possessive. Allan Bloom wrote, "Machismo --the polemical description of maleness or spiritedness, which was the central natural passion in men's souls in the psychology of the ancients, the passion of attachment and loyalty..." 1 Is this a bad understanding of man? It's not politically correct for sure, but is this a bad understanding of what a man is? Notice that in this classical description of the man's soul, you don't find "uncaring," "unforgiving," or "unloving," so the ancients didn't understand man to be a warlike giant plundering and looting everywhere he went, instead they understood man to be strong, protective, and chivalrous which are all traits despised by leftist people today. The old order used virtues to govern man's possessive nature. He was rewarded for protecting and raising a good family for the society. He had a reason to invest his time and soul into a wife and children. They were his property according to the state and the he was the property of the woman and child(ren). Today, such a thought is gross and antiquated to the leftist mind. So, we have this classical view of man in place. Now why, in the mid 20th century to the present, is it popular to try and replace machismo with caring and sensitive attributes in man? It has to do with marriage and politics to be frank.

Here is the Bloom quote in full: "And here is where the whole business turns nasty. The souls of men --their ambitious, warlike, protective, possessive character-- must be dismantled in order to liberate women from their domination. Machismo --the polemical description of maleness or spiritedness, which was the central natural passion in men's souls in the psychology of the ancients, the passion of attachment and loyalty-- was the villain, the source of the difference between the sexes. The feminists were only completing the job done by Hobbes in his project of taming the harsh elements in the soul. With machismo discredited, the positive task is to make men caring, sensitive, even nurturing, to fit the restructured family. Thus once again men must be re-educated according to an abstract project. They must accept the "feminine elements" in their nature. A host of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep types invade the schools, popular psychology, TV and the movies, making the project respectable. Men tend to undergo this re-education somewhat sullenly but studiously, in order to avoid the opprobrium of the sexist label and to keep peace with their wives and girlfriends. And it is indeed possible to soften men. But to make them "care" is another thing and the project must inevitably fail." 2

The goal is to restructure the family unit. In the old order, the woman and child were dependent on the man as husband and father of the household. The man would work outside the house to supply the family with food and shelter and he was also the protector of the family from malicious people who would do harm to the family. During modern times, women grew tired of being a wife and mother (who can blame them?) and wanted to have a career like the man did, which is understandable, but this left a hole in the family unit. With both parents gone during the day and maybe even at night, who will raise the child? That isn't an issue just for a private family, it's an issue for the society as a whole. The family produces the next generation. At least with the father gone part of the time, the mother was still there to teach the child and when the father came home from work both parents were there for the child. Today, the child is getting only half attention from both parents (if the child even has the privilege of knowing both parents). Was the old order the better method? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but the new order definitely hasn't produced a better option for replacing the old order. 

Part of the blame has to do with the sexual revolution as well. Call me old fashioned if you want, it's ok I have a thick skin, but women handing out the goods without the man having to work for the goods was a bad idea and has only birthed social destruction. Love is no longer "love," instead teens and young adults have "hookups" or "relationships" that amount to basically "let's go to the movies/club/restaurant then do it afterward." Where is the longing? Where is the groaning of the soul for the other person? Where is the wanting to know the person for who he or she is? It's shattered by a lust for instant pleasure. No longing, no passion, no goal for longevity with the other person, no concern for love. Oh they use the word love to describe the hook-up or the emotional trauma the woman goes through from putting out then having this on-again/off-again "relationship" with the guy who only comes around when he wants to get pleasure from her. That's not love. While I hate the apathy of current men toward marriage I can't help but understand their apathy toward it given the way society has dismantled the classical understanding of man and family. The role of man is uncertain in the family and in society today. Does he act chivalrous? Does he act feminine? Each question is a yes and no for different situations. It's politically correct for the man to cower and not speak up regarding family issues, business and social issues, but when he does the same thing in a family crisis or social crisis or business crisis he is suddenly lazy, incompetent, and weak (isn't that what he's supposed to be today?). It's so confusing. When he takes the pleasure the woman gives him quite easily then doesn't call, doesn't show up for the next date, or is apathetic toward a long-lasting committed life with her, he is viewed as a "bad man" or an "immature man," but I have to ask why would a man have any desire for such things? If he joins the union with the woman his role is so uncertain. What does the man do as the father? Does he get to have a say on anything? Or is his role only to be the comic relief guy for the child and wife, a guy who contributes somewhat financially to the family unit and is maybe just a pal to the kid and an object of pleasure for when the wife needs a "release" from the hectic day at the office? We know the father isn't necessary. We know the man can't be the provider, protector, and have a say on how to raise the child. All the intelligent people know that only the wife/mom, daycare, public schools, and psychologists can raise your child effectively; the parents of the child are only there for limited support at night and the middle-men between the child and the real parents at the public schools. This new approach to parenting has not replaced the effectiveness of the old order. Again, I'm not saying the old order was perfect, but it has not been replaced by anything the new order has dished out.

It's no wonder some man acts irresponsible these days. His actions are blameworthy, of course, but given the whole picture of the situation you can't blame him for not wanting a long-lasting, monogamous life with a woman (Japan is a good example of what easy access to porn and easy access to sex does to men and the future of a society). Not all women are like the popular view of woman so the landscape is not a bleak one for every man, but not every man has the opportunity to find a woman who understands the old order and is worth pursuing. Like I said, I'm not a professional on such matters, but this is how I understand this problem at the moment. Easy access to sex, porn, and an uncertain role in the family and society produces weak, irresponsible, and apathetic men in my opinion given the philosophical and historical evidence and the current headlines I read. 

To read up on feminist philosophy on the family and "justice" read the Feminist Perspectives on Reproduction and the Family essay at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

The following posts are excellent, backed up by stats and such and have a great amount of links for further reading: What Happens When Government Pays People to Have Babies out-of-wedlock and this one on should men marry?

1. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, p.129
2. ibid.