Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Timeless words speak for themselves.

"Therefore the kingdom of God is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!' The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
"But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!'
"So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you!' He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him in, and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?' His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him." Matthew 18:23-34, World English Bible

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A 13-Point Platform to Restore America

We are the 1% (and their adulators)!
The American right finds itself in a difficult situation. Although they clearly represent the true spirit of America—love of liberty, God, and free enterprise—they are forced to contend with the degenerate half of the American populace that wants only handouts, free abortion on demand, and godless Nanny State welfarism in general. With the other half of America hopelessly dependent on Obama-style socialism, what can the God-fearing American conservative movement do?

I propose the following solution: A boycott of Big Government in all its forms. Although the practice carries the stigma of association with socialist peaceniks like MLK and other so-called social activists, it is high time for the right-wing to fight fire with fire. The following steps would allow conservatives to get government off their backs once and for all.

  1. Stop paying all federal, state, and municipal taxes (duh).
  2. Opt out of all public services—including firemen, public roads, public utilities, public schools, Social Security, and Medicare, to name a few. (Police are okay, because they like guns and protect private property. But they definitely don't need cushy public-sector pensions!)
  3. Do not patronize any company or business that has received any form of government funding. Department of Defense-related projects may be permitted, because they may help to kill psychopaths who hate us for our freedom.
  4. Do not work for or invest in any business that has taken or plans to take any kind of government funding.
  5. Divest from all FDIC-insured banks, and refuse to participate in government-regulated securities exchanges.
  6. Do not attend or allow your children to attend any institution that receives federal funding. If you have already received a degree from such an institution, make penance by refusing to acknowledge that you have that degree.
  7. Do not accept any federally-subsidized student loans.
  8. Do not use telecommunications services that have benefitted from Nanny State largesse.
  9. Refuse to report or hinder activity related to the sale and distribution of illegal drugs. It is a lucrative, free enterprise industry that generally supports the Second Amendment and "Stand Your Ground" rights and refuses government subsidies.
  10. Refuse to live in areas with needless environmental regulations. Encourage so-called "polluters" to do business in your neighborhood where they will be free of meddlesome government oversight.
  11. Refuse to recognize Marxist-inspired labor laws. Tell your employer you are okay with working less than minimum wage if he sees fit, because the market should determine your pay, not the government. Refuse government-mandated employee benefits and ignore innovation-killing OSHA regulations.
  12. Do not hire illegals, or patronize businesses where they are employed.
  13. Do not buy from companies that corrupt themselves by abiding by FDA regulations.
This solution kills two birds with one stone: it cuts off the hardworking conservative's support to the country's moochers and frees the right from the moral stain of participation in socialist society. Promulgate these suggestions to members of your business, country club, and church; their response will tell you whether they are true freedom-lovers, or spineless liberal Kool-Aid(R) drinkers. Those who hesitate to implement these steps should be ostracized.

Only when American conservatives unite behind a principled rejection of Big Government will they be free of the political machinations of socialists, Communists, liberal elites, Muslims, atheists, Unitarians, beatniks, hippies, welfare queens, illegal immigrants, and the rest of the sorry bunch that keeps Democrats and RINOs in office.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Foucault on Sartre, Authenticity & Self-Creation

From Dreyfus' and Rabinow's sessions with Foucault—I just found this passage to be a clear and striking statement of his views on the self, in contrast with Sartre's existentialism:

"I think that from the theoretical point of view, Sartre avoids the idea of the self as something which is given to us, but through the moral notion of authenticity, he turns back to the idea that we have to be ourselves—to be truly our true self. I think that the only acceptable practical consequence of what Sartre has said is to link his theoretical insight to the practice of creativity—and not of authenticity. From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art. In his analyses of Baudelaire, Flaubert, etc., it is interesting to see that Sartre refers the work of creation to a certain relation to oneself—the author to himself—which has the form of authenticity and inauthenticity. I would like to say exactly the contrary: we should not have to refer the creative activity of somebody to the kind of relation he has to himself, but should relate the kind of relation one has to oneself to a creative activity."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Toward Letting It Be: A Playful Satire (Heidegger Meets the Beatles)

The poet says,
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
We ask, what is letting be? And what is the "it" that we must let be? We take as our point of departure the dictates of common sense. Common sense says that letting it be is leaving alone, as when the boy in the schoolyard tells his bullies, "Let me be." Letting be in this sense is letting it alone, leaving to oneself, even turning one's back. This definition is no doubt correct—but is it true? By no means.

For we have yet to hit upon the essence of letting be.

There is yet a grain of truth in the common sense of notion of letting be, in that it suggests leaving a thing to its own nature, to its own essence. But this is by no means implies an neglectful turning away, or passive surrender in the face of "the times of trouble." For doesn't this most perilous of times call for action rather than passivity? Is not a return to Catholic doctrines a dangerous retreat into fatalism?

The answers to these questions remain unclear, for we have not yet thought the essence of "Let It Be" decisively enough.

We ask again, what is letting be? The poet tells us it involves "speaking words of wisdom." But this speaking is also a listening. To what does man listen? The words of wisdom, spoken to us by the Mother of the divinity. But by the Mother of the divinity we do not refer to an entity. To think such is to remain in the realm of ontotheology and the oblivion of being, which is in truth man's "hour of darkness."

Man, in this time of trouble, busies himself with activity, in trying to relieve the plight of the poor and halt the destruction of the world's forests. But so long as he seeks his saving in a further manipulation and ordering of his environment, he remains blind to the gods who stand right in front of him.

For the essence of activity is not a hustling to and fro, a mere technological manipulation of the resources that man has mastered. The essence of activity is a listening to language, the mother that shelters and cultivates the god—but also the earth, and the sky, and the mortals.

For language is the house of being, where the gods are born. And to be born means to become present.

We initially took offense at the poet, who appeared to suggest a retreat to an outmoded religion. But we are now in a position to see the true essence of letting be. For letting be is no mere passivity, but is rather the essence of activity, where we allow things to reside and blossom in their essence. And the essence of things is their gathering of the fourfold, of earth, sky, mortals, and the divinity. 

The fourfold is revealed in its essence when we let the thing be by listening to language, to the "words of wisdom" that miraculously give birth to the world. For even in the hour of darkness, the gods speak.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Timely Note: Adorno on Class, Culture, and Brutality

Theodor Adorno
I can't believe it's been over a year since I've posted on here! Anyway I was reading Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life for one of my classes, which is insightful and at times frustrating, but a really fun read (I'm aware there's a lot of irony involved in calling Adorno "fun" in any way). I stumbled upon the following quote, which seems appropriate in light of recent incidents of police brutality:
"The mindless tasks imposed by authoritarian culture on the subject classes can be performed only at the cost of permanent regression...The barbarians engendered by culture have, however, always been used by it to keep alive its own barbaric nature. Domination delegates the physical violence on which it rests to the dominated. In being allowed the satisfaction of exercising their distorted instincts in collectively approved and proper ways, they learn to do those things which the noble need for the continued indulgence of their nobility. The self-education of the ruling clique, with all its concomitant discipline, stifling of spontaneous impulses, cynical scepticism and blind lust to command, would not be possible if the oppressors did not themselves submit, through hirelings among the oppressed, to a part of the oppression they inflict on others. . . Domination is propagated by the dominated." (117, "Il servo padrone.")

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Values: Subjective or Objective?

One of my favorite questions to think about...

Are there such things as 'objective' moral values?  That is, can we say anything is 'good' or 'bad' without making reference to some subjective opinion?  Can a thing or action be called 'good' in the same way that an apple can be called 'red'?  If so, what is the source of this 'goodness' or 'badness'?  Are they natural properties, like shape or color, or do they derive from some supernatural source (i.e., God)?  How do we gain knowledge of these 'moral' properties?

Suppose, for argument's sake, that moral properties are not supernatural—thus, properties like 'goodness' and 'badness' must either arise from natural facts about the world, such as (for example) pleasure or pain, or they must be no more than expressions of our subjective opinions.  That is, saying "Murder is wrong" is  equivalent to saying something "I don't like murder" or "You should not commit murder".  Obviously, these interpretations don't correspond with what we think we mean when we make moral judgments.  Furthermore, if we say that values are simply subjective preferences, there is no way for us to make moral judgments—even a despicable act like the Holocaust would be one we merely find distasteful:  we would have no grounds for calling it evil.

Presumably, we want to be able to make moral judgments against those things we find abhorrent, and in favor of those we value.  So how can we derive moral facts from so-called natural facts?  We could adopt the hedonist thesis, that the 'Good' is simply whatever gives us the most pleasure—although, as I noted in an earlier post about the Experience Machine, that's probably false, and we usually don't think of 'pleasure' and 'good' as simple synonyms.  The question remains:  What objective basis is there for defining 'good' and 'bad'?

Must we find this basis in the supernatural—in, say, God's moral laws, or something like the Platonic forms?  Or must we concede that 'good' and 'bad' simply reflect contingent historical, cultural, and/or personal preferences?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Fall, Consciousness, and Freedom: An Existentialist Perspective

I read an article recently (can't remember where) that read the Biblical story of Adam and Eve as an allegory for man's development of consciousness, and consequently our acquisition of freedom.  On a literal level, this does not make much sense—after all, Adam and Eve had to be free before the Fall in order to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit.  But, technicalities of plot aside, I really like this interpretation.  Man develops self-consciousness (evolutionarily or otherwise), finds himself separated from God/the Universe/Nature, and faced with the painful responsibility of choice.  As a result, he longs to be reabsorbed into the primal Unity of Paradise.

That is to say, man longs to negate his freedom, a perennial theme of the existentialists from Kierkegaard to Sartre.  This negation of freedom underlies our search for 'eternal truths,' for our attribution of our actions to forces outside our control, for our desire for Unity with the One (be it God, Brahman, what have you).  But, because we are conscious—because we are free—we can never be rid of the burden of responsibility.

Sartre claimed that all of our goals were based on this desire to merge our consciousness with what he called 'Being-in-itself'—the self-sufficient, undifferentiated material mass of the unconscious universe.  The rough idea is that we try to identify with an idea of ourselves, of a certain 'role' or self-sufficient identity, so as to no longer have to choose for ourselves.  But we always transcend these fixed ideas in which we try to fit ourselves, and thus we always bear the responsibility of choice.

A friend of mine recently suggested that the development of self-consciousness was a mistake.  From an ecological perspective, this might be true—man, as the "self-conscious animal", to paraphrase Aristotle, has definitely been the most environmentally destructive.  But for consciousness to negate itself is absurd:  we are conscious, and there is no way back into the Garden of Eden.  This means that we must celebrate our freedom, rather than denounce it—we should celebrate the 'Fall' as rather the Rise of Man.  This freedom bears both joyous and terrible consequences, but if we are to affirm (earthly) life over death, then we must learn cherish the bad along with the good.

More to come...