Iowa Man Found With Scruples; Wife “Unconcerned”

Davenport

An Iowa man has been found with Scruples, a dangerous meme known to infect whole communities. Estes Meridian, the unidentified man’s wife, expressed her support while he deals with the implications of his new meme.

“I had the Scruples too when I was young,” Aunt E. (as she is known locally) reflected. “In a word, I’m truly unconcerned.”

Local officials have agreed not to intervene at this point, but E. Greg Farce, head of the community organization Volunteers United for a Better Way made it clear that they would not stand idly by.

“We have known far too many conflicts and tension at the hands of people who claim to discover scruples and then infect others. That’s why we created Volunteers United for a Better Way. Because we believe in a world of individual volunteers, freely united in one great volunteer body to represent the single united will of all people everywhere who know a better way. Such a world has no room for the dangers of people infected with the highly unpredictable Scruple Virus.”

The International Academy of Scientific Investigation of Phantastic Memes, a United Nations body that has come out strongly against the free expression of the Scruple Meme, provided a balanced scientific perspective.

“We are in profound appreciation of the sentiments of this man’s wife and hold out great hope that her support will be a source of strength and of reaching across the train wreck in which this Iowa Man is of a high likelihood to participate.

“But we have to state clearly and without equivocation or complication that there is not the slightest biological, chemical, anatomical, psychological, or any other truly scientific evidence to support the continued existence, generation, presence, or possibility of any entity that remotely resembles a Scruple Meme.

“Superstitious minds,” he continued, “especially in backwards, non-urban areas where we have been unable to adequately inform people of our latest research, meme up such dreams in order to take power over the naive and the weak, something our agency cannot tolerate or share as we exist precisely to protect people from such oppressive regimes.”

Local Davenport officials hope the international sensation will last only long enough to increase revenues for local businesses, such as McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Target, Wal-Mart, and other foundations of the local economy.

“We all appreciate the publicity this man has brought to Davenport,” said Wily Trust, marketing manager of the newest addition to the Davenport Community, Chinese Garden, the international restaurant and laundry conglomerate. “But even bad publicity can be overdone sometimes.”

The wife of the Iowa Man, whose name has been withheld due to government privacy codes, has assured reporters that she will keep a close eye on her husband and will take him in for health care in the event his meme threatens a breakout into the local community.

Greek Paideia and the Bible

From Werner Jaeger’s Early Christianity and Greek Paideia

As the Greek paideia consisted of the entire corpus of Greek literature, so the Christian paideia is the Bible. Literature is paideia, in so far as it contains the highest norms of human life, which in it have taken on their lasting and most impressive form. It is the ideal picture of man, the great paradigm.

 

Postmodern Metaphysics and Evolution

Christos Yannaras is a fascinating Greek philosopher of whom I know too little to say anything more than that what I have read has been mind-expanding, explanatory, and beyond my grasp.

In his book Postmodern Metaphysics, he includes what he calls two “parentheses,” the first on “the logical place of chance” and the second on “the logical place of evolution.”

Under the second parenthesis, he lists 35 points, which I’ll call propositions, each of which is intended to explore “the place of evolution” with great precision. Before beginning, he footnotes Wittgenstein from his Tractatus, where the great mystical philosopher said this:

Darwin’s theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other hypothesis in natural science.”

And:

“Philosophy sets limits to the much disputed sphere of natural science.”

I agree with his second point, but I don’t see how the first can be true. I don’t mean to say that Darwin’s theory controls philosophy or overthrows it. That can’t be done for the simple reason that humans will always think about what is and what is knowable and the natural sciences will never be able to answer either of those questions.

However, I don’t see how either 1. every hypothesis of natural science can have nothing to say about philosophy and yet philosophy can set limits to the sphere of natural science or 2. all the hypotheses of natural science can be equally related to philosophy.

Regarding the first option, I understand philosophy to be a different activity to natural science; a more inclusive activity, but one that certainly includes the discoveries of the natural sciences and is informed by them. That is why, until the 18th century, the natural sciences were called “natural philosophy.”

Does philosophy have nothing to learn from the natural sciences?

Regarding the second option, if any hypotheses of the natural sciences have any impact at all on philosophy, it’s hard for me to see how all of these hypotheses would have the same impact on philosophy.

For example, Newton’s theories about gravity and all that had an unbelievable impact on the historical development of philosophy (and education) in England. Is Wittgenstein suggesting that the very fact that Newton’s theories impacted the development of philosophy demonstrates that the philosophers were in error (pardon the long subject)? Should philosophy remain impervious to what the natural sciences develop?

Or might the fact that Newton’s theories impacted philosophy prove that his theories were wrong?

Is Wittgenstein placing philosophy outside the reach of natural science? Then how can philosophy set limits for the natural sciences? Doesn’t something have to step down from its glory to limit something below it?

I don’t mean to speculate idly. If Wittgenstein is right and I am understanding him correctly, then we have built a society on the natural sciences, unlimited by philosophy, and it can’t work because it won’t correspond to reality.

Furthermore, if he is right, then Darwin’s theory is just a play thing. But it’s hard to imagine that. Everywhere I look I see evidence of Darwinism’s reach into ethics, politics, theology, ontology, pedagogy, etc.

Is this because the people in those fields are perfectly wrong in their application of Darwinism?

So we begin this “parenthesis” on the logical place of evolution by noting how confusing it is to try to find a logical place in the first place. I don’t know if Yannaras is referring to Wittgenstein as the starting point and foundation for his argument, to illustrate something, or to challenge him. We’ll see.

As I said, there are 35 propositions described by Yannaras, and I’m not going to copy them all here. But I hope to think through them with you over the next little while (along with I Corinthians and maybe even Julius Caesar and Pelikan’s Christianity and Classical Culture and maybe even Pagan Christianity).

The point of this post is, first, to let you know I’m going to be discussing this text and the idea of evolution vis postmodern philosophy, and second, to give some hints about the difficulties that we’re going to be confronted by.

Please note that my immediate experiment is philosophical, not strictly theological. I believe that theology settles a lot of these questions, but I still want to look at them from the philosophical perspective to see what it has to show us.

So here’s the first proposition, which I’ll discuss in a later post:

Parenthesis 2
The “logical place” of the theory of Evolution

If the sense of the world exists it must lie “outside” the world. If the world has no sense, then even the question concerning the existence or nonexistence of meaning must make its appearance under severely endocosmic presuppositions. The theory of evolution is a proposition that interprets these presuppositions. 

Classical Education in Corinth (I)

The Corinthian church of the first century has rather a bad reputation, but I wonder if people thought about her the same way back then.

Don’t get me wrong; they were a mess. In fact, the first Christian text we have from the Christian era that is not included in the Bible is a letter from Clement, the bishop of Rome, who wrote to them in something like 95 or 96 AD for the same sort of divisiveness Paul wrote to them about in something like 55 AD.

But those are epistles written by very holy people who occupy significant leadership positions in the church. I wonder what the popular opinions about them would have been. I suspect they were different from Paul’s.

I develop that hypothesis because of the type of city Corinth was and because of the problems Paul has to deal with.

We say, of course, that Corinth was an immoral city, and so it was. That’s our primary focus. In a way, I would compare it to a modern Las Vegas or New York.

But it wasn’t only known for its immorality. Corinth had been a very ancient Greek city. Oedipus, of Oedipus Rex fame, had been brought up there. The city sat on the cross roads of Hellene (what we call Greece). To the north was Macedonia and northern Greece. To the south, Athens, Sparta, and the Peloponnesian Peninsula.

But Corinth sat on an Isthmus, which meant 1. that to pass between northern and southern Greece, you had to go past Corinth, and 2. that it sat on the shortest route between east (Asia Minor and the Aegean or even Athens) and west (Italy).

The Greeks irritated the Romans, so in 146 a Roman general, Mummius, sacked Corinth, virtually completely destroying it and bringing its treasures to Rome.

Then sometime around 65 BC, Julius Caesar both rebuilt the city and had a canal cut through from west to east. Little time was wasted rebuilding Corinth into a trade center and a leader in Hellenistic culture, especially under its Roman expression.

It’s pretty obvious from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians that the leaders of Corinth, or at least a significant portion of them, had been classically educated. So given that they were rich, an Imperial city, founded by Julius Caesar, ruled by people with a fine education, a cultural center of sorts, I conclude that most people probably thought very highly of this successful Corinthian church.

I know we would today if such a church were in the news.

To repeat, at least some of the church leaders were classically educated. For one things, virtually everybody in leadership was so educated in those days. But Paul also indicates as much a number of different ways, some direct and some more oblique.

The whole passage from 1:17-2:5 is an extended critique of the confidence the Corinthians place in the “wisdom of words.”

The Christian classical school has to take this critique very seriously. After all, we teach our students logic and debate (i.e. to become “the disputer of this age”) and rhetoric (i.e. the wisdom of words), while preparing them for leadership (even though “not many mighty, not many noble, are called”).

You can’t just dismiss these words and say, “Oh, that doesn’t apply to us. That was pagan Corinth.”

No, these verses apply very explicitly to the Christian school – more, I think, to us, than to anybody else today.

For this reason, I have been meditating on these verses, indeed, on the whole book, off and on for years. Over the past couple weeks, some important matters have become very clear to me, so I plan on writing as often as I am able about it.

My reflections revolve around that ancient question of Tertullian (and every other Christian who has ever lived and thought): What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem, and Jerusalem with Athens?

In other words, what is the relationship between the things taught us by the Holy Spirit within the Christian tradition and the things discovered by people outside the church? What should we read and study? Should we read and study at all? Why?

One thing I will do my best to avoid, and that is to argue this very practical matter in the abstract. In other words, I’m not going to put an idea about Christian thought up against an idea about classical or secular (or whatever) thought.

I don’t think we’d learn much that way, because this isn’t a theoretical matter. It’s got everything to do with specific decisions by specific people about specific questions and decisions.

So by looking at I Corinthians in this light (and I believe Paul wrote this epistle with this question very much in mind, as I hope to demonstrate while I write), we can examine it not as a theoretical proposition, but as a practical matter we need to understand, apply, and internalize.

I haven’t worked out the details of my strategy yet, but my intent is to

  1. Take this very seriously
  2. Pursue wisdom with an eager and an open heart
  3. Approach the text synthetically (as a whole) instead of analytically. In other words, I want to see how the whole text deals with these questions, not exegete verses grammatically. I don’t have as much confidence in grammatical approaches to the scriptures as I used to, so while I will gladly submit to what grammar demands of me, I won’t expect it to reveal the hidden wisdom of God.
  4. Listen to what others have to contribute.

I have no idea whatsoever about the timeline for this pursuit. I have no specific goal except to ponder the question in the pages of Corinth. The less I have to worry about peripheral matters, the more I’ll be able to focus on this.

In any case, I do hope you’ll join me!

What do you know?

For some time I have been saying that all teaching and all knowledge begins with the senses. Now I don’t know why I ever said that because I realize I don’t and never really did believe it.

I think I simply didn’t realize what I was saying.

This notion is probably rationally absurd and certainly not Biblical.

For one thing, the Bible makes it clear that we know God’s law from the day we are born. That is why when I teach Aesop’s Fables (and I never tell the moral), I never hear anybody make an immoral application. Children get the morals more rapidly than adults do, and that point in itself bears great reflection.

There are things we know “by necessity.” But there are other things we know even before necessity presents itself. We know them by nature, in the sense that they are woven into our nature. We know, for example, that different things are similar and that similar things are different. We know that events occur in sequence.

We also know things that cannot be defended by words or even necessarily put into words, things that may not even be comprehensible, and yet things that precede all knowledge. We know that we are souls, for example. We just might not know what souls are. We also know there is a God, though we cannot know what God is.

This being so, it is dangerous to try to build a philosophical argument to defend the existence of these things, not because we seek to be irrational, but because two errors follow from the attempt:

  1. We misdefine the thing we are talking about
  2. We reduce the thing we are talking about to what we can understand.

As a result, a third error follows, namely that if someone doesn’t want to believe in what we are talking about, they can 1. point to our inadequate idea and disregard that and 2. attack our argument and think that doing so shows that the thing we are talking about does not exist.

If I were debating a “new atheist” or a french man, when they snickered at me, smirking, “ah, so you believe in god, do you?” I would answer, “Probably not. What do you mean?” If they could attach meaning to the word, I would know that whatever meaning they have attached would not refer to the true God, so I would say, “No, I don’t believe in that God either.”

Probably.

Music and Toxins

Very thoughtful post about responding to the cultural effluence that we call music. It’s called Toxic Shock, dated 7/30/9 and you can get there through this link.

He quotes a brain researcher who points out that after 25 years of work he still can’t affect a mind the way one simple song can. You need to read this.

Cato reviews health care

You can’t get a detailed discussion through the media, but if you are taking this health care debate seriously (and God help America if you aren’t), this ABC news bit does a nice job of framing some of the key points. I found 2:35-3:16 particularly important.

As one who is gravely concerned about both the present state of health care and the direction the Obama administration seems to be taking us, I welcome any discussion on this matter. I know this is an education blog, but one goal of education is to produce good citizens.