Are you arguing with me? Good. This is the place for it. Steel sharpens steel, so any corrections you offer to the thoughts on these pages is much appreciated.

How to Destroy Your Enemies

 Philosophy  Comments Off on How to Destroy Your Enemies
Oct 202014

Human beings are most mobilized when we have enemies. Just look at novels. Look at the news. No one’s interested in happy, good-feeling cooperative things. What really drives interest and passion is competition and conflict. So the question is, can we actually lessen conflict without having enemies?

Well, I went to the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan and I posed this to, you know, foreign policy people. I said, “So what would you suggest?” It’s fascinating. They all come with data-driven, evidence-based arguments for what’s wrong and what we should do. I sort of said, “Look, guys, that’s not going to work. First of all, outside of the Academy, people are not interested in evidence and data or even truth. People are interested in persuading, in victory, and confirming what they believe in or love. Second, you haven’t addressed any of the emotional aspects of this which really drive people — revenge, revenge and fear. You haven’t even touched on those.

 Posted by at 3:46 pm

“Betterness is not a physical relation”

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Oct 152014

The phrase “objective moral truth” has always puzzled me. Does this mean the same things as “universal moral truth”? The two terms seem quite different to me. Objective truth seems to mean something which is true even in the absence of the “I” of the conscious person (i.e. a “subject”). To speak of objective morality [more …]

 Posted by at 9:43 pm

The Consolation of Philosophy?

 Contemplation, Philosophy  Comments Off on The Consolation of Philosophy?
Jan 292013

As I go over chapter IV more thoroughly, so many avenues of philosophical inquiry open up and I know these would be distractions but I still have to make note of them as I work my way through my “mental furniture.” To mention just one, at the very end of his section on Profession as [more …]

 Posted by at 6:21 pm

Wittgenstein vs. Scientism

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Jan 252013

Wittgenstein’s forgotten lesson   Philosophy, he writes, “is not a theory but an activity.” It strives, not after scientific truth, but after conceptual clarity.   How does one demonstrate an understanding of a piece of music? Well, perhaps by playing it expressively, or by using the right sort of metaphors to describe it. And how [more …]

 Posted by at 4:10 pm

The Questions

 Contemplation, Philosophy, Spirituality  Comments Off on The Questions
Jan 242013

What is it in us that seeks the truth? Why do we seek the truth? How do we find the truth? What is the truth? … According to the Catholic Church, the search for truth – the desire for truth, beauty, justice – is the very presence of God and this desire is what connects man to God and the things of this world to heaven.

 Posted by at 10:50 pm

The Persistence of Philosophy

 Contemplation, Philosophy  Comments Off on The Persistence of Philosophy
Dec 182012

This article (by a biologist) does a good job of rejecting the popular notion (known as scientism) that science can replace philosophy. Scientism wrong on metaphysics: –snip– The main fault of these arguments lies in their failure to distinguish between necessary and contingent being. A contingent being is one that might or might not [more …]

 Posted by at 10:16 am

Absolute Transcendent Mind?

 Contemplation, Philosophy, Spirituality  Comments Off on Absolute Transcendent Mind?
Dec 062012

What JPII was explaining was the basic ways that the modern “paradigm” (to use that word, which he didn’t) is different after Descartes – that instead of ipsum esse subsistens, or the absolute transcendent being, we now think in terms of absolute transcendent knowledge. Thought, rather than existence, has become primary in the modern paradigm. Reason itself, instead of a tool, becomes the very ground from which the tower of babel must be built, as I like to say. “I think therefore I am” reverses the order of things in a way. Existence must be measured and judged against the ultimate ground of thought. And if there is a God, this paradigm suggests, then that God is not absolute transcendent love but absolute transcendent mind.

 Posted by at 8:58 am

Philosophy as the Art of Living

 Books, Philosophy  Comments Off on Philosophy as the Art of Living
Dec 042012

A QUIET REVOLUTION may have taken place over the last three decades in our understanding of the history of Western philosophy. So quiet, in fact, that few have noticed it. Three recent books give us a sense of the significance and extent of this paradigm shift: Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche, by James Miller; How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, by Sarah Bakewell; and The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes.

 Posted by at 8:37 am

Stoic Philosophy

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Nov 272012

Stoic philosophy is less about the nature of reality (metaphysics) or what can or cannot be known (epistemology) but rather, on how to live (ethics). The focus of these philosophers is to pursue what Aristotle called eudaimonia. Offten translated as “happiness” the meaning of the word is closer in meaning to “human flourishing.” Aristotle believed [more …]

 Posted by at 10:28 am

Two types of people

 Math, Philosophy, Spirituality  Comments Off on Two types of people
Nov 182012

There are two types of people. Those who say that the decimal notation 0.999… is not equal to 1, and then there are mathematicians who have proven that 0.999… is equal to 1. The Catholic theologian Bernard Lonergan developed a theory of what it means to understand – a theory of knowledge – much like [more …]

 Posted by at 5:01 pm

Celebrating Faith and Reason

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Nov 062012

I wanted to share a few links this morning to highlight some organizations that seem to be doing a good job of “bridging the gap” so to speak, between cultures. I think John Henry Newman’s mission to bring faith and reason together is something that is well represented in each of these organizations. The first [more …]

 Posted by at 9:25 am

Positivism’s Tower of Babel

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Oct 202012

Logical positivism’s position is that the only thing philosophy can concern itself with is propositions. As such, it cuts itself off from the possibility of any encounter with Christ. This type of philosophy deals with “religion” through a method that reduces religion to propositions such as, “God exists” and “X is immoral.” This is how [more …]

 Posted by at 7:14 pm

Christianity is not an argument

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Oct 112012

Here is the Atom + Eve website, with links to video and transcripts: Dr. Barr also writes for First Things. His article on Hawking (which he discussed in his lecture at the conference) can be found here: In Dr. Barr’s presentation, and in this article, he pointed out that a younger Hawking stands [more …]

 Posted by at 5:28 pm

Mere Philosophy? Hardly.

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Aug 242012

I believe that scientists like Sagan, Feynman, Hawking and others who have adopted a positivist outlook on the world make a mistake when they reduce Christianity to a mere philosophy and analyze it purely in that way – which is to say, from the outside (as an idea, merely) – from the position of having [more …]

 Posted by at 6:35 pm

The Dilemma of the Empty Test Tubes

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Aug 242012

And so in her uncertainties, she decided that she would go with science. In this way, her opinions would be based on facts, on knowledge, and not superstition. And so, with a thorough skepticism, she searched her heart for its existing superstitions so she could root them out and replace them with knowledge. She compiled [more …]

 Posted by at 6:34 pm

Greed is not Good

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Aug 242012

This debate actually happened to me. It went on for a long time, but here is the heart of it… Me: Some people mistake desire for greed, arguing that desire is bad; others mistake greed for desire and argue that greed is good. Both groups of people make the same mistake in the inverse direction. [more …]

 Posted by at 6:32 pm

Notes on Rousseau

 Philosophy  Comments Off on Notes on Rousseau
Jun 192012

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques His first major philosophical work, A Discourse on the Sciences and Arts… Rousseau argues that the progression of the sciences and arts has caused the corruption of virtue and morality. The Academy of Dijon posed the question, “Has the restoration of the sciences and arts tended to purify morals?” Rousseau’s answer to this [more …]

 Posted by at 2:26 pm

The Logic of Is

 Logic, Philosophy  Comments Off on The Logic of Is
Apr 042012

Bertrand Russell adopted Frege’s predicate logic as his primary philosophical method, a method he thought could expose the underlying structure of philosophical problems. For example, the English word “is” has three distinct meanings by predicate logic: For the sentence ‘the cat is asleep’, the is of predication means that “x is P” (denoted as P(x)) For the sentence ‘there is a cat’, [more …]

 Posted by at 4:44 am

Zen and Heidegger’s Being

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Mar 282012

Heidegger, of all the Existentialist philosophers, stands apart in his philosophy of Being, which turns out to be the Western Mind’s analogue of the Eastern Mind’s Zen. Zen is the practice of, or experience of, or awareness of, Heidegger’s Being. Like Zen, it is difficult to think of or state what Being is. For one, [more …]

 Posted by at 7:02 pm

On Naturalism

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Oct 142011

Worldview Naturalism in a Nutshell If you don’t believe in anything supernatural – gods, ghosts, immaterial souls and spirits – then you subscribe to naturalism, the idea that nature is all there is. The reason you’re a naturalist is likely that, wanting not to be deceived, you put stock in empirical, evidence-based ways of justifying [more …]

 Posted by at 11:41 pm

Clang Clang Went the Trolley

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Oct 052011

“What we have in this thought-experiment is a place to start thinking about our instinctive moral responses (what philosophers call our ‘moral intuitions’) and the way that these intuitions may or may not cohere together or be capable of any kind of rational justification.”

Quick to Blame – The Knobe Effect

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Oct 052011

In many ways, Knobe is the closest thing experimental philosophy has to a rock star. Since last year, he’s been an essay contributor to the New York Times. An admirer from Australia maintains a Joshua Knobe fan page on Facebook. And a phenomenon bears his name: The Knobe Effect, derived from an experiment of his, [more …]

 Posted by at 10:18 am

Who’s Asking

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Jun 282011

Philosophy student to professor: Can you prove that I exist? Professor to philosophy student: Who’s asking? I heard Rev. Kevin O’Neil of the Washington Theological Union gave a talk titled, “What am I Free For? Moral Theology in the Catholic Tradition.” The second point of his talk was in identifying “three questions to encompass the [more …]

The Beauty of the Ethical

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Jun 282011

They judge their moral success always by the fate of the world and never by the fate of their marriage.

Secular Critique of the New Atheists

 Philosophy, Spirituality  Comments Off on Secular Critique of the New Atheists
Jun 282011

A secular-relativists Critique of the New Atheists ala Sam Harris “More a habit of mind than a rigorous philosophy, positivism depends on the reductionist belief that the entire universe, including all human conduct, can be explained with reference to precisely measurable, deterministic physical processes. (This strain of positivism is not to be confused with [more …]


 Philosophy, Spirituality  Comments Off on Ich-Du
Jun 282011

Martin Buber was a Jewish theologian. He famously distinguishes between what he calls the Ich-Du (I-Thou or I-You) relationship and the Ich-Es (I-It) relationship, and ultimately uses this as a way of describing authentic and non-authentic encounters with God. From wikipedia: Ich-Du is a relationship that stresses the mutual, holistic existence of two beings. It [more …]

 Posted by at 5:01 am