Saturday, June 29, 2013


We have our subject. We modify it by means of the predicate. One subject; one predicate, cut off from the rest of the world by means of a period. In this we must note the inherent humanity of language: the world is what it is, messy, overlapping, and without sharp distinctions; language on the other hand is always clean, neat, segregated, and clearly stated.

Language, therefore, always represents the world falsely.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reason, Order, and the Universe

Reason consists in perceiving relations. Order consists of ensuring that a power is not turned on itself, but instead works toward something-anything-efficiently. We use reason to form theories about how appearances relate to one another, and we order ourselves in such a way that we are not our own enemies; so that we do not pursue our Will-to-This and then undercut it by pursuing our Will-to-That.

We picture our universe operating according to immutable laws: the laws of logic, the laws of reason. Perhaps this is an error, or if not an error, perhaps it is excessive. Maybe we do not need to picture a rational universe. Instead we need simply see that the universe is working, and then we will see that an irrational universe would be a universe working against itself. In such a universe, there would be no one to comment on its rationality or irrationality.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Theory as Picture

Sometimes in the course of a discussion, you are able to see through the particular vocabularies that two different theories use, and you see how they can be cast in a common language so that the difference between the two theories becomes plain and clear. Take the following two sentences as an example.

"I must work to strengthen my willpower so that I can resist temptation."


"I want to do X, but I just can't get past my need to Y."

In the first sentence, a man is trying to improve himself so that he can combat something outside of himself. Perhaps we can imagine him trying to stave off whispering devils, or perhaps we can imagine him averting his eyes whenever something tempting comes into view to ensure that it has no power over him. In the second sentence, the man is divided against himself. There is nothing external, he makes a distinction between 'want' and 'need,' but both of these are a part of who he is.

Suppose we asked both of these men why they have not exercised today. The first man might say that he doesn't have the willpower to resist the temptation to spend all day on the couch watching TV. The second man might say that he doesn't want to exercise more than he wants to spend all day on the couch watching TV. In the end, the behavior is the same, but we have two different theories explaining the behavior. And if we put them into a common vocabulary to draw out their differences, we get something like this:

"I want to work out, but something other than me derailed me."


"I want to work out, but not as much as I want to not work out."

This is a simplistic example, but I see no reason why this could not be applied in other cases.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Substantial Problem of Pain

The Problem of Pain has never been an intellectual obstacle to theism for me. There has never really been a time that I can recall that I simply could not reconcile the concept of God to the concept of pain in the same worldview. Naturally there are many who would disagree with this. It seems to me, though, that while there is an intellectual Problem of Pain/Problem of Evil, it exists primarily as something for budding theistic thinkers to cut their teeth on and a persistent question for different intellectual methods and different schools of thought to be measured by. On the other hand when it comes to factors that determine whether or not a person will be a theist, there is a more substantial Problem of Pain, one that is not as easily wiped away by reasoning, language, and argument.

Whatever we say, whatever we hold true, if we mean it, we live with it. We live - and feel - according to whatever we honestly believe. Now, it is a comfort and a joy to imagine that God is on our side in life and wants us to feel well. If our lives are pleasant, it is a joy to believe that God made our lives pleasant. If our lives have little struggles and problems, it is a joy to believe that God is actively educating us and that he will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able (1 Cor. 10:13). On the other hand, if someone experiences a depth of despair, where their will and the world are completely at odds with one another, what joy does God bring?

Suppose we say that God works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28). What does this mean? Perhaps we take it to mean that God will eventually turn that despair into something beneficial. This can bring joy to a person, but, I think that this idea is not robust. That is, the idea seems to be there to bring joy and does not seem adequate for the phenomena it is supposed to have grown out of. This is because God is said to be all-powerful and is said to have created the world, and even if we allow for devils and free wills, it is hard to escape that God created the conditions necessary for the despair to emerge in the first place.

So God works all things for the good of those who love him? But did God not create the despair in the first place? The seemingly gratuitous, seemingly pointless pain and misery? Isn't that the logical consequence of the idea of God?

Of course we can avoid this conclusion several times over. We can say that it is not God's fault, it is free will. We can say that it's not God's fault, it's the devils. These are not robust, it is rare that our minds naturally lend themselves to these explanations, one must stretch and condition oneself to give these answers. Then we have more novel explanations: perhaps God is on our side but he is not all-powerful? Well, in that case some of us would naturally be inclined to worship him, but for most of us I think we would view God the way we might view Superman if he lived in the real world: helpful, powerful, but nothing transcendental.

Keeping God as God, and seeking a robust idea, most of us will come to the conclusion that God is the author of our pain. That the single most fundamental force - capable of moving the universe itself as well as any of its contents - decided to make you suffer. And you're told that good will come of it, but good from what point of view? After all, if human suffering is the means, human flourishing might not be the end. Is it good from your point of view, or good from some transcendental point of view that you have to climb up to? And how could you live a life with that notion? How can you live and try to escape your despair while also believing that God approves of your despair?

This is the substantial problem of pain. In such a situation, it is oftentimes easier to remove God from the worldview.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Self/Other Gamut

Cast Self and Other as a finite gamut. What would be some of the touchstones of this gamut? What are the two extremes? I conceive of it in this way:

Extreme: Perception
Sensory Data
Our Body
The Room
The City [Other Bodies]
The Planet
The Universe
Other Minds
Extreme: Mystery

Perception is the extreme of Self; all perception has a first-person quality to it. Following that, our thoughts are more our Selves in that they are more particular to us as individuals than, say, sensory data that people are generally all able to cast in the same way. Still, sensory data is the data received by our senses, whereas our bodies are something that we perceive via our senses even as our senses are bound up with our bodies; that is we look down and see ourselves, we smell our own odors, we hear our own bones crack.

The air in our lungs, the food in our stomachs, passing into our bodies and passing out of it. Our bodies are distinct from our environment, but the distinction is sometimes fuzzy. When we are in a room, the room's temperature changes in response, the smell changes, certainly the sound waves, and our bodies likewise change in response to the conditions of the room.

The City I use here more as a world for community. We know what our bodies are like, we see other bodies, we influence them. I speak and they listen, they speak and I listen. We collaborate and, with sufficient understanding, it might appear to an outside observer that we live the same life to such an extent that we are almost no longer distinct from one another.

The Planet is our global environment. Here it is easy to find things that seem almost entirely alien to us. Things that have left no mark on us in our lives up to the point that we encounter them for the first time.

The Universe is the totality of known existence. It is mysterious. We struggle to make sense of it. We will never encounter more than a fraction of a fraction in our lifetime.

While the Universe is practically separate from us, Other Minds are fundamentally separate from us. We can never experience another person's perceptions, we can only look at our own perceptions and wonder if they see and feel as we do.

The extreme of Other is Mystery. That which is not perceived. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Breed of Cowardice? Sensible Position?

Regarding my previous post.

Is this a breed of cowardice? It certainly could be called that. For indeed you could say that I am afraid of living in a blind and chaotic world and consequently I cast the world as an act of God to impose the appearance of order, intention, and art on the cold, indifferent universe.

On the other hand, is it a sensible position? I too believe it could certainly be called that. After all, it is no less an imposition to call the universe cold and indifferent. If we can impose that image, why can we not impose this image? It does no good to say do away with all image, without image we could not even use the word "universe" let alone "universe as act of God" or "universe as cold and indifferent."

You can tell me that this image, this interpretation, this worldview, this construct, smacks of weakness and cowardice. I will not say that you are wrong. I will however say that it is more than weakness and cowardice, and that there is more to be considered than the degree to which a soul is willing to force itself to breathe thin air.