Thursday, August 30, 2007

Diving into Worldview Studies

In my odyssey into "worldview studies" I’m finally diving into The Universe Next Door by James Sire.

I have a couple questions for discussion. Some of these questions are specifically about the book, but others are more general. Even if you haven't read the book, I'm interested in your opinion:

1) What is the purpose of studying worldviews? What should I look to get out of it?
2) Sire says, “The gap left by the loss of a center to life is like a chasm in the heart of a child whose father has died. How those who no longer believe in God wish that something could fill the void.” But people who share Sire’s worldview have the same void. In fact, I think it would not be a stretch to say that people who share Sire’s worldview generally have a greater void than atheists and agnostics.
3) Does anybody know what Sire means by saying that man is “self transcendent”?
4) Is it true what Schaeffer and Sire say, that "the world" has no moral absolutes?
5) On the eighth page of Chapter 2 [middle of page 28 in the 3rd edition] Sire says “[W]e participate in part in a transcendence over our environment. Except at the very extremes of existence…a person is not forced to any necessary reaction.” This is a statement against determinism and in support of free will [the question of free will is a “family dispute”]. Even if you believe in free will (which I do), do you think he overstates the point? Are our reactions really so radically free? Aren’t there a number of things that inhibit our free will?
6) Does Sire say that good is good because God says it is good or says it is good because it is good or neither? I’m not real sure how Sire comes down on this. This is something important to answer because it would have a huge impact on one’s worldview. Just reading what he says, it would appear that he thinks good is good because God says so, which is problematic.
7) Is it possible that there may be less of a difference between someone with a Catholic worldview and someone with a materialistic worldview than between a Catholic and one who believes in Sola Fide and predestination?
8) To take another example, it seems clear to me that there will be a greater difference in the way we live between those who do or do not believe in free will and someone who does not than between someone who believes in linear as opposed to cyclical time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Buy Low, Divorce High.

“After home prices rise, unhappy couples realize they can afford to split.” This was the subtitle of one of the two top stories on page 1 of the New York Times “SundayLifestyles” section, the “little-noted side effect of the property boom of the past decade [is the] real-estate-enabled divorce.” According to the article, “A spouse who has not worked…might decide that with a divorce settlement enriched by real estate, it is possible to maintain a comfortable standard of living. Or a breadwinning spouse might recognize that even after dividing community property, it will be possible to live well as a single person.”

Now, you are expecting me to bemoan the banality of America’s views of divorce, after all, this is a vow people have taken, most of them before God almighty. But I’m not. I like this article. It’s down to earth. It’s real. Divorce is expensive. Not only does it increase the number of violent crimes, drug use, unwed mothers (not among former spouses, but their children), it is the numero uno cause of poverty in America (ahead of race, lack of education etc.). The divorce itself is often cheap—under $500 depending on where you live—but the after effects, if not the litigation and settlement, are financially crippling. Next time you hear about how hard it is for a two-income family to make ends meet, double their expenses. That’s what divorce means. Two houses, two electric bills, two of everything instead of one.

And who pays for this when it drives someone below the poverty line? We the taxpayers. Historically, the fact that the Government has to foot the bill for so many things has been an excuse to regulate things closely. I say we model regulation of marriage after our regulation of smoking. The cost of caring for smokers is leading us to a smoking ban. And, we had a “War on Poverty”—or do we still have it? (I can’t keep up with all the wars we declare). But anyway, let’s win the war on poverty. Here’s the plan: we begin with heavy taxes. The tobacco in a pack of cigarettes costs $.25 and then there is about $4.75 in taxes. That takes the cost of the tobacco and multiplies it by 20. We’ll do the same with divorce. $500 times 20 equals $100,000. While, like the tax on tobacco, this bit of regulation will not compensate for the financial burden divorcees will put on society, it will save us millions since it will be a significant deterrent. Then we’ll work our way to a ban.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do We Live What We Think?

Last night my neighbor came over and we decided to start reading How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. One of my sisters may read along too, though she is in about 47 book clubs herself right now.

Anyway, I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't quote his language, but he said that people's lives are driven by their world view and their preconceptions about the world to an extent even they do not realize. He said that we act according to the way we think both personally and collectively ("politically").

Here is my thorny question: if this is true, why is it that people's actions so often do not match their words? I'm inclined to think that the author is correct. The book of Proverbs says "As a man thinks in his heart so is he." But why is there such a disconnect between words and actions if this is true? Are the things we say just a bunch of empty platitudes that we don't really mean? It seems we say things, and we mean them, but then we often do not act accordingly. Could it be that we often are unaware of our own preconceptions/world views? To quote another scripture that might appear to contradict the proverb, St. Paul talked about the war within his flesh etc. and said "what I want to do I do not do, and what I do not want to do I do."

Are the contradictions only in my head? Am I confusing things? Have I missed the author's true intent?

This is the book:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Quote of the Day

"All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke

Okay, book switch. Confero, Qualitas and myself decided Imperial Hubris would be a better book to read. So as soon as they get their copies we'll start.

A response to Aquila is forthcoming.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Penny for Your Thoughts


Below is an excerpt from a Speech by John C. Calhoun. Based on the following argument, he draws a conclusion that I would disagree with (and have edited out), but I think the speech could make for an interesting conversation:

If he should possess a philosophical turn of mind, and be disposed to look to more remote and recondite causes, he will trace it to a proposition which originated in a hypothetical truism, but which, as now expressed and now understood, is the most false and dangerous of all political errors. The proposition to which I allude, has become an axiom in the minds of a vast majority on both sides of the Atlantic, and is repeated daily from tongue to tongue, as an established and incontrovertible truth; it is that "all men are born free and equal." [Quoted from the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.—TGW] I am not afraid to attack error, however deeply it may be entrenched, or however widely extended, whenever it becomes my duty to do so, as I believe it to be on this subject and occasion.

Taking the proposition literally (it is in that sense it is understood), there is not a word of truth in it. It begins with "all men are born," which is utterly untrue. Men are not born. Infants are born. They grow to be men. And concludes with asserting that they are born "free and equal," which is not less false. They are not born free. While infants they are incapable of freedom, being destitute alike of the capacity of thinking and acting, without which there can be no freedom. Besides, they are necessarily born subject to their parents and remain so among all people, savage and civilized until the development of their intellect and physical capacity enables them to take care of themselves. They grow to all the freedom of which the condition in which they were born permits, by growing to be men. Nor is it less false that they are born "equal." They are not so in any sense in which it can be regarded; and thus, as I have asserted, there is not a word of truth in the whole proposition, as expressed and generally understood.

If we trace it back, we shall find the proposition (that "all men are born free and equal") differently expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That asserts that "all men are created equal." The form of expression, though less dangerous, is not less erroneous. All men are not created. According to the Bible, only two, a man and a woman, ever were, and of these one was pronounced subordinate to the other. All others have come into the world by being born, and in no sense, as I have shown, either free or equal. But this form of expression being less striking and popular has given way to the present, and under the authority of a document put forth on so great an occasion, and leading to such important consequences, has spread far and wide, and fixed itself deeply in the public mind. It was inserted in our Declaration of Independence without any necessity. It made no necessary part of our justification in separating from the parent country, and declaring ourselves independent. Breach of our chartered privileges, and lawless encroachment on our acknowledged and well-established rights by the parent country, were the real causes, and of themselves sufficient, without resorting to any other, to justify the step. Nor had it any weight in constructing the governments which were substituted in the place of the colonial. They were formed of the old materials and on practical and well-established principles, borrowed for the most part from our own experience and that of the country from which we sprang.

If the proposition be traced still further back it will be found to have been adopted from certain writers in government who had attained much celebrity in the early settlement of these States, and with whose writings all the prominent actors in our revolution were familiar. Among these, Locke and [Algernon] Sidney were prominent. But they expressed it very differently. According to their expression, "all men in the state of nature were free and equal." From this the others were derived; and it was this to which I referred when I called it a hypothetical truism. To understand why, will require some explanation.

Man, for the purpose of reasoning, may be regarded in three different states: in a state of individuality; that is, living by himself apart from the rest of his species. In the social; that is, living in society, associated with others of his species. And in the political; that is, being under government. We may reason as to what would be his rights and duties in either, without taking into consideration whether he could exist in it or not. It is certain, that in the first, the very supposition that he lived apart and separated from all others, would make him free and equal. No one in such a state could have the right to command or control another. Every man would be his own master, and might do just as he pleased. But it is equally clear, that man cannot exist in such a state; that he is by nature social, and that society is necessary, not only to the proper development of all his faculties, moral and intellectual, but to the very existence of his race. Such being the case, the state is a purely hypothetical one; and when we say all men are free and equal in it, we announce a mere hypothetical truism; that is, a truism resting on a mere supposition that cannot exist, and of course one of little or no practical value….

But to call it a state of nature was a great misnomer, and has led to dangerous errors; for that cannot justly be called a state of nature which is so opposed to the constitution of man as to be inconsistent with the existence of his race and the development of the high faculties, mental and moral, with which he is endowed by his Creator.

Nor is the social state of itself his natural state; for society can no more exist without government, in one form or another, than man without society. It is the political, then, which includes the social, that is his natural state. It is the one for which his Creator formed him, into which he is impelled irresistibly, and in which only his race can exist and all its faculties be fully developed.

Such being the case, it follows that any, the worst form of government, is better than anarchy; and that individual liberty, or freedom, must be subordinate to whatever power may be necessary to protect society against anarchy within or destruction from without; for the safety and well-being of society is as paramount to individual liberty, as the safety and well-being of the race is to that of individuals; and in the same proportion, the power necessary for the safety of society is paramount to individual liberty. On the contrary, government has no right to control individual liberty beyond what is necessary to the safety and well-being of society. Such is the boundary which separates the power of government and the liberty of the citizen or subject in the political state, which, as I have shown, is the natural state of man—the only one in which his race can exist, and the one in which he is born, lives, and dies.

It follows from this that all the quantum of power on the part of the government, and of liberty on that of individuals, instead of being equal in all cases, must necessarily be very unequal among different people, according to their different conditions. For just in proportion as a people are ignorant, stupid, debased, corrupt, exposed to violence within and danger from without, the power necessary for government to possess, in order to preserve society against anarchy and destruction becomes greater and greater, and individual liberty less and less, until the lowest condition is reached, when absolute and despotic power becomes necessary on the part of government, and individual liberty extinct. So, on the contrary, just as a people rise in the scale of intelligence, virtue, and patriotism, and the more perfectly they become acquainted with the nature of government, the ends for which it was ordered, and how it ought to be administered, and the less the tendency to violence and disorder within, and danger from abroad, the power necessary for government becomes less and less, and individual liberty greater and greater. Instead, then, of all men having the same right to liberty and equality, as is claimed by those who hold that they are all born free and equal, liberty is the noble and highest reward bestowed on mental and moral development, combined with favorable circumstances. Instead, then, of liberty and equality being born with man; instead of all men and all classes and descriptions being equally entitled to them, they are prizes to be won, and are in their most perfect state, not only the highest reward that can be bestowed on our race, but the most difficult to be won—and when won, the most difficult to be preserved.

They have been made vastly more so by the dangerous error I have attempted to expose, that all men are born free and equal, as if those high qualities belonged to man without effort to acquire them, and to all equally alike, regardless of their intellectual and moral condition. The attempt to carry into practice this, the most dangerous of all political error, and to bestow on all, without regard to their fitness either to acquire or maintain liberty, that unbounded and individual liberty supposed to belong to man in the hypothetical and misnamed state of nature, has done more to retard the cause of liberty and civilization, and is doing more at present, than all other causes combined. While it is powerful to pull down governments, it is still more powerful to prevent their construction on proper principles. It is the leading cause among those…which have been overthrown, threatening thereby the quarter of the globe most advanced in progress and civilization with hopeless anarchy, to be followed by military despotism. Nor are we exempt from its disorganizing effects. We now begin to experience the danger of admitting so great an error to have a place in the declaration of our independence. For a long time it lay dormant; but in the process of time it began to germinate, and produce its poisonous fruits. It had strong hold on the mind of Mr. Jefferson, the author of that document.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Prologue to Blowback

An interesting bio covering Mr. Johnson's career studying "Far East" countries. His comment on Japan's unique form of democracy-military, industrial, university complex is very interesting and hopefully he will go into depth about this topic.

On a down note, his information jumped back and forth between China and Japan unexpectedly and without reason. Secondly, he makes statements without justification. For example, on pg. xiv he states he was "appalled by our government's policy of 'sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem.'" His basis is his research in "guerrilla war, revolutionary politics, and foreign armies." Is his knowledge based on Vietnam or just China and Japan given they have different histories than Vietnam. Another confusing statement is his suggestion that research is not as accurrate as the Vietnam War protestors intuition about our government(same page). How can he undermind his own credibility and then present himself as an authoritarian on the subject? (NOTE: He cites himself which is a bit of a problem for me.)

I look forward to reading his book about the Far East's government, culture, and economics.