- Edward Feser on “modern nervousness” and contemporary academic style:
The “modern nervousness” of which Stove speaks is a purported reluctance of contemporary thinkers to be too confident in asserting the truth of their opinions, in light of the overthrow of scientific theories once thought to be unchallengeable. Hence the tentativeness and modesty that is – again, purportedly – the hallmark of contemporary academic writing, and which one generally does not find in philosophers of the past. An Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, or Kant just tells you straightforwardly what he thinks is true, and why he thinks it. So too did the lesser lights -- Stove's discussion [in The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies] concerns the matter-of-fact confidence of tone that was standard in the Victorian era. Contemporary philosophers like to pretend that no serious member of their guild would ever be so rash as that – that we must hedge every claim, that all we can ever say responsibly is that such-and-such appears very plausible and worthy of consideration and further investigation, that so-and-so seems at least defensible while the opposite view seems hard to defend but hey, who the hell knows for sure, etc. etc.
- Bentham on Law and Morality, by Hunter Baker (First Things' "First Thoughts" March 31, 2010):
Let a student announce that law and morality are separate things and that morality can’t be legislated. Many heads will dutifully bob up and down expressing agreement. Bumper sticker philosophy rules.
Normally, one would resort to some great Christian master or other purveyor of natural law arguments to dispel the haze.
But I came across something from Jeremy Bentham, the utilitarian and opponent of natural law, that caught my attention. ...
- Donald Goodman on "the earbud" (Distributist Review March 31, 2010):
The earbud. The final solution to that obnoxious, unpardonable peace and quiet that man has sought for so many generations. Where our forefathers spoke with one another, sang, drank, and enjoyed one another's fellowship, we are more connected with men at distant places than with those who are right beside us. This is sad. This is the sort of person who goes to a bar so he can sit in silence and drink his beer and watch a football game. He might even cheer or boo the game, and he may, conceivably, do it with someone else (if his earbud is silent, that is). But one thing that he will not, under any circumstances, do is turn away from the game and relate with the people around him. No; it's much more fulfilling to relate to people he doesn't know, playing a game he doesn't play, in a city he's never been to, through a screen that's posted on the wall.
Thus does technology kill culture. This sort of technology, the kind that makes blogs and emails possible, is one thing. It's really just an accelerated postal service and publishing industry, when you think about it. And there's certainly nothing wrong with football games, or even telephones; I'm no Luddite. But it's downright creepy when technology and the obsession with it reaches the point that one's more inclined to talk on the phone than to tip one's hat and greet the passers-by. When men are more aware of what's going on hundreds of miles away than of what's going on right next to them, something's gone horribly wrong.
- Were the Church Fathers pacifists? asks Matthew Lee Anderson (First Things' "First Thoughts" April 28, 2010):
f you ask noted pacifist John Howard Yoder, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” [...] That judgment has been repeated often, even by those who are sympathetic to just-war theory as a legitimate development of Christian doctrine.
But the pre-Constantinian church’s understanding of the relationship between Christians and the police functions of the state may be more complex than Yoder and others indicate.
So argues J. Daryl Charles in the latest issue of Logos. Contra Yoder and others, Charles contends that the early church fathers are not as unified on the issue of pacifism as is often thought. ...
- What David Frum Has in Common with Tiger Woods (And Why It Matters) - Good analysis of why pundit and former speechwriter David Frum was ousted from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
- Nathan O'Halloran, SJ (Whosoever Desires) offers some cautions while watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
- (Via Edward Feser): Roger Scruton’s series of Gifford lectures on “The Face of God” are available for listening online. Two of the six lectures have been presented so far. Listeners may leave comments and a recording session is planned in which Scruton can respond to some of them.
- Tocqueville on environmentalism.
- The Age of Untruth: Five Lies We Live With, by Victor Davis Hanson has a few words to say on "civility", "diversity", "stimulus", and a rampant denial of the very notion that there could be illegal immigration. "We live in an age of untruth in which millions privately shrug and nod at the daily lies of our elites."
- Thomas Merton on one's daily immersion in "reality", as noted by Jason Goroncy (Per Crucem ad Lucem).
- Joseph Bottum on "The permanent scandal of the Vatican" (Weekly Standard May 3, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 31):
For almost 500 years now, Catholicism has been an available answer, a mystical key, to that deep, childish, and existentially compelling question: Why aren’t we there yet? Why is progress still unfinished? Why is promise still unfulfilled? Why aren’t we perfect? Why aren’t we changed?
Despite our rejection of the past, the future still hasn’t arrived. Despite our advances, corruption continues. It needs an explanation. It requires a response. And in every modernizing movement—from Protestant Reformers to French Revolutionaries, Communists to Freudians, Temperance Leaguers and suffragettes to biotechnologists and science-fiction futurists—someone in despair eventually stumbles on the answer: We have been thwarted by the Catholic Church.
- From Robert P. George, news that the philosopher and constitutional theorist Hadley Arkes has been received into the Catholic Church. His sponsor was Michael Novak of First Things.
- "Here it is in a nutshell, folks" - Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reminds us of the facts of life.