Friday, May 26, 2006

condoms in Africa

Mr. Liccione has changed his mind. Here is his conclusion:
Such considerations do not demonstrate, apodictically, that condomistic intercourse is not conjugal intercourse. They do, however, show that condomistic intercourse in the sort of case under consideration tends toward the same results as acts that the Church has always and clearly taught are intrinsically evil. Thus, such considerations provide evidence that Gormally's key premise is correct. And I can find no other difficulty with his argument. In conjunction with the argument from authority, that result leaves Catholics no justifiable alternative to concluding that condomistic intercourse is intrinsically evil and thus "grave matter" for sin regardless of further intent. I don't like having to admit that, but the facts on the ground as well as the past teaching of the Church are on the critics' side.
Perhaps I should, too? Much thought will be given to this, I suppose, in the coming weeks, but I'm too busy thinking about monastic spontaneous autoerotism right now to worry about the marital act1. I'll have to be careful, however, not to fall in love with chastity2 while reading Cassian, because Cassian's idea of chastity - at least as described in his Conlationes, which are addressed to a monastic audience and thus perhaps the consideration only accidentally is such - excludes the possibility of any sexual activity. Anyways, my own response will have to be based on the exact nature of the appeals to authority, as I am not Catholic and thus don't necessarily subscribe to the views promoted in those documents4. But, as I said, later!

Also for the future: Foucault. I keep bumping into him while doing Cassian and he intrigues me.

Should I be disturbed that I've been thinking about sex in a philosophical context a lot in the past year? I really had not investigated it thoroughly or been willing to discuss it until rather recently. I can't think of any particular events which may have brought this interest to the surface. I also don't think my investigations into it have changed my opinions much from what I was raised to think5, except to make me believe Anscombe's arguments about contraception rather than continue in the typical Protestant unreflective acceptance of contraception, but this wasn't a particularly recent move on my part. It happened, rather, several years ago.

And that's all the news that's fit to print.

1 That didn't stop me from reading a comprehensive 31pp article about what a Muslim must do if he touches his penis.
2 That is what one does in Cassian.
3 ie, the marital act, and I for one think it would be rather swell to be married. Hence, just say no to Iohannes Cassianus.
4 I may very well do so anyway, but scientific research needs to be done.
5 I don't recall any particular instruction from my parents on the issue, actually, but we all knew what was up. Whether I've always done what I know is right, however, is another question for another day.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

la politesse

Some ramblings after wine and cheese [more cheese than wine, I argue, but my remarks will speak for themselves about the balance]. I am, at least by reputation and web-logging affiliation, a liberalist. Perish the thought. In what sense? Ideology is the province of the deluded, I only believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. The State will only kill, that's what it does, to keep order. The only telos of man is the eschaton, the final restoration to God, and history is only the great boredom before the second coming [hat tip to St. Augustine via Gabriel]. Ideologically, I can only call liberalism [which is broad and encompasses most of modernism, Republicist and Democrist] a satanic rebellion against the authority of God. The only sense in which I can be considered liberal is the practical: in that I think the "liberal" treatment of a variety of social problems - poverty, education, health care - to be more viable than the prevailing conservative ones and that on a variety of social issues - divorce, for one - it is simply not prudent to legislate against the prevailing social norms. CS Lewis is my political model, I suppose: not publicly taking any stand, noting that as long as a Christian supports the ends a Christian may/must support, one can legitimately believe in a variety of different means - Fascism, Democracy, Monarchism, etc - and be a Christian. And that, in, par example, the matter of divorce, it may not be prudent to insist on regulating as a norm the Christian law in a society which cannot accept it.

BUT I AM DISTURBED by the trends of modern liberalists: it seems more and more that Leftivism, even if one agrees economically and can accomodate, to some degree, the marital demands of the Left, is incapable of tolerating the Christian. The Leftivist demands not only civil recognition of marital rights, but approbation of an entire theological interpretation of the purpose of human sexuality - or perhaps anti-theology is the more appropriate word. In the name of pragmatism, "what works" to "prevent AIDS" and "teenage pregnancy" and "promote a realistic worldview" or whatever, one must have limitless approbation for abortion, contraception, pre-marital sex, and all the rest of the treatment of the body as an instrument at the disposal of a mind to do whatever the mind wills with no risk of soiling the mind as such, mens sana in sano corpere [pay no attention to the literal meaning, it's a polemic, it really means reducing the body to an instrument at the command of the mind which is the true self, and this is the siren call of the liberalist, guard yourself well!] is the counterpart of anima sans in corpore morbo, both equally gnostic, both equally satanically deluded, both equally foreign to Christian life, as both deny the sacral nature of the human body which our great God and Savior Jesus Christ did assume and save. Good God if I did it all again I'd major in Gender Studies and look at what it means to have a Christian theology of the body - ain't that a kick in the head to 'em all. And so but like yeah, the moment one dissents in the slightest, suggesting perhaps something is immoral, that perhaps Planned Parenthood is not all lollipops-and-iced-cream, one gets impaled by the Left, and the moment one suggests that perhaps abstinence is possible if not desirable, it'll be a golden stake.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the strawmen the Liberalists erect against "abstinence only" sex-ed are quite right - if one refuses to educate about sex in the way those flammable unreal men indicate, only bad things will happen. But is that what anybody is advocating? Yes, perhaps some idiots are. There's a reason I will never identify with the Right. But my point is that any questioning of the liberalist party line ends in crucifixion: middle ground is impossible, it's either recreational abortion or the hated celibacy for them, it seems.

RE: LA POLITESSE. RSVP veut dire répondre s'il vous plaît. If one says one will come, one must come. And after one comes, one sends a "thank you" note the next day. In these last days, some do not send the "thank you", and this is a portent of the end. We do not speak of those who say they will come and do not, or those who do not respond to say they are not coming, for that is beyond the scope of la politesse even in these last days.

neal stephenson is a hack

Today I picked up vols. three and four of an old edition of Harrap's New Standard French and English Dictionary for free. Unfortunately, it is only the English-French half, but I'm not going to complain. It's big. When I returned to give away a pile of my own books for free [do not worry, Gentle Reader, they were abominable books which I had picked up for free ages ago], I noticed a trade paperback of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver there, free for the taking. I pondered: should I? On the one hand, it is free. On the other, I only have so much room for books and every additional one would be that much more hassle. Besides, I would probably give up reading it in frustration. I finally decided not to pick it up, the reasons are many.

  • He does not know how to end a book. One need not even cite examples.
  • He does not know how to edit his books to make them readable. I don't mind verbose writers. Dickens usually deserved to be paid by the word. Neal Stephenson is not Dickens. His prose is not beautiful. It is not particularly interesting. Those are forgivable sins if the story is good, and Mr. Stephenson often makes the story good, but he also makes the story long. Long in a way which does not add to the art. Cryptonomicon was barely worth reading on that account. If one had read the ending [see above] before finishing the book, it would have been a wash.
  • Slashbots and other g**ks dig him. A lot.
And but like so I did not pick the book up. I'm considering putting my Spong on the pile, but who would pick it up? I don't want it, but it's safe in my hands. So, I think I will only lose four books. Even that broke my heart. Farewell, Shipping News! Adieu, Thousand Acres! We hardly knew ye, Elmore Leonard books! Now you know why I got rid of them.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

on dr. arnold

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
When I shave off my beard of justice out of shame, I do it in stages lest I catch my death of cold. At those times, I have muttonchops of death and destruction, death on the left, destruction on the right, but a delightful chap of jolly good-will has informed me that I look like Dr. Arnold when I am forced to take such measures. Most people would not enjoy a comparison to that eminent Victorian, preferring, perhaps, one of his children [see above] or further descendants, but, for all his faults, Dr. Arnold knew what education was for: turning boys into men. Specifically, turning a boy into a "brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a Christian." To do so by being to the boys what God was in the Old Testament to Israel may, perhaps, be a bit unhealthy, but it is a sight better than what passes for education in today's public schools. Further, his thought that there is no distinction between Church and State was revolutionary in his time and needs to be revisited. The rest of his religious ideas, however, were dangerous and misguided, perhaps even naïve. I should prefer Tom Arnold the Younger to either him or Matthew on that account, but that's for another day.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

on worrying

At times, I run across people with frivolous and silly worries, the sorts which should have been resolved easily years ago and which, if they weren't presented with the sort of angst and heavy-dread usually reserved for high-school crushes, could be treated out of a children's catechism. It is fine for an adult who has never considered such questions to come to them innocently, but from some it is somewhat of a wonder that it never came up. What is the proper way to deal with such people? Is it the case that the root of their despair is not in the questions themselves?

For those needing something concrete, a few examples. A Bible college student who suddenly discovers the Gospels may not have been written by the people everybody says they're written by. All those damned nervous convert Orthodox types who plotz whenever they learn something or think about Protestants. A pious fellow who should know better wondering what good prayer is if God can't change His mind. A seminarian who encounters materialistic determinism for the first time and balks. A soldier who, three years into a war, wonders whether it's fine to shoot people. A pro-life advocate with an "unwanted pregnancy" considering an abortion. I suppose one must think about it sooner or later, but, you know, one would expect somebody in their position to have hit on it already. These things are trivial, stupid, small.

Perhaps I'm like Hume in his moral system, painting a grand picture but unable to articulate or care about the fine details that make all the difference. Perhaps I'm waving off, as trivialities, those things which truly do matter. I hope I'm not. The questions are important, and I'll be sure to disseminate my propaganda for future generations, but the difference is these people should know better by now. Perhaps if the tone in which the question were phrased were a little less anxious, I'd say less here. Simple education would do. I'm ignorant of several things, and if I'd never thought about prayer before, asking why one should pray at all if God doesn't change his mind is a fine question to ask. If I were quite knowledgeable, it would also be reasonable to ask in order to clarify what exactly one should say, why certain responses are wrong [ie, sounding like Job's comforters], how one could address the existential concerns of those sidelined by such doubts, etc.

And I don't care enough to conclude these thoughts, so I'll just say Discuss.