Philosophy

Josef Pieper Mistrusts Everything That Is Effortless

Taken from the German philosopher’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture, ht BS:

“The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refused to have anything as a gift.”

Cue this past Sunday’s sermon on the Parable of the Worker’s in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16):

These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Albert Camus

Michael W. Nicholson, author of the Tides of God blog and theology Ph.D., contributes this worthy series on his favorite atheists. We start off with Albert Camus:

“Negative space” is a concept in the visual arts, particularly in drawing, painting, and photography. A common example is the well-known Rubin vase, which can alternately be seen as a vase or two profiles of a man in silhouette. This is useful, but a bit misleading, because in fine art negative space is not about ambiguity or optical illusion. Negative space in a picture is where other things are not present; it is the…

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I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

To many students like myself, mid-July feels like this: “I can’t believe school starts in only a month—I haven’t done enough summery things yet.” There’s a nagging sense of regret even in the present that maybe we could do more to optimize our time. Maybe it’s FOMO, the fear of missing out, or, perhaps, the fear of wasting time. Summer is a long-anticipated golden calf in my head, carved deep with endless vacations and immediate suntans and condensating glasses of Kool-Aid. Not a moment of this empyrean season should go to waste.

And so waste becomes the object of frenzied anxiety….

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Myths of Progress and Hopeful Defeatism

Myths of Progress and Hopeful Defeatism

For those interested in human folly and hard truths, look no further than John Gray, a political philosopher whose work On Progress and Other Modern Myths (The Silence of the Animals) debunks many of our species’ self-flattering stories about where we came from and where we’re going. An agnostic himself, Gray realizes the decline of Christianity won’t issue in quite the same unproblematic post-religious paradise that some of his contemporaries might think:

For humanists, denying that humanity can live without myths can only be a type of pessimism. They take for granted that if human beings came to be more like the rational…

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A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians

A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians

Excerpted from Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, Strength to Love:

“I would like to share with you an imaginary letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The postmark reveals that it comes from the port city of Troas. On opening the letter I discovered that it was written in Greek rather than in English. After working assiduously with the translation for several weeks, I think I have now deciphered its true meaning. If the content of this epistle sounds strangely Kingian instead of Paulinian, attribute it to my lack of complete objectivity rather than Paul’s lack of clarity. Here is…

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PZ’s Podcast: Wooden Ships

PZ’s Podcast: Wooden Ships

EPISODE 169: Wooden Ships

What is a person’s duty toward the world? Do we “owe” the world our efforts and our action? If not exactly, then how are we supposed to relate to the world? “How shall we then live?”

This cast talks about Meister Eckhart, who for my money was never wrong about anything. I just never find myself disagreeing with anything he ever said. Or maybe just one thing.

Eckhart preached a sermon in which he said, “What is reaped in contemplation is sown in action.” Gosh, that sounds good.

Yet it’s the only statement he ever made that I can’t get…

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Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

We all know the feeling of being in a rut: repetition temporarily dominates variation, and we’re going in circles, with routine and mundanity showing no signs of breaking. Most recently, Rust Cohle on True Detective comes to mind. His quote that “time is a flat circle” emphasizes repetitiveness, lack of progress, everything repeating and repeating – “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace”, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it. What lent the air of futility to Macbeth’s time? He had a goal, a telos, or end, earlier: to become king. Once his ambition is fulfilled, there is no more movement toward…

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Doubtful Motives and Religious Allurement

Doubtful Motives and Religious Allurement

In general, attention is a tending of the ego toward an intentional object, toward a unity which “appears” continually in the change of the modes of its givenness and which belongs to the essential structure of a specific act of the ego… it is a tending-toward in realization. The realization which is brought into being with the turning-toward, the starting point of the realization of the act, is the beginning of a continuing realizing directedness of the ego toward the object…

The original tendency of the process, along with what has accrued to it from what has been realized hitherto, is…

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“All This an Illusion”: A Reflection on Determinism and Free Choice

“All This an Illusion”: A Reflection on Determinism and Free Choice

This humdinger comes from Jim McNeely:

I recently listened to episode 93 of the Partially Examined Life podcast (you can listen to it or read about it here). It is a fascinating listen; these are not rabid militant “New Atheism” people, just fun and thoughtful agnostic/atheists who love philosophy. I have found that it is where I go to get the current conversation “on the street” about important philosophical issues. In this particular episode they grapple with a problem that we have been looking at from a theological perspective for millennia — free will vs. predestination (in some ways similar to…

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Wheeling and Dealing with the Devil: Kierkegaard on the Intolerable Self

Wheeling and Dealing with the Devil: Kierkegaard on the Intolerable Self

If there is a band that has been a bit overplayed lately, Bastille would be it. But while you’ve probably heard their song “Pompeii”, you probably haven’t heard “Icarus”. The song, of course, is based on that famous Greek myth about a man named Daedalus who makes wings out of wax for his son, Icarus. Tragically, though Daedalus warned Icarus to avoid flying near the sun, Icarus just couldn’t help himself; so his wings melted, and he fell to the sea where he drowned. The story is a little on the not-so-happily-ever-after side, as the chorus reminds us: “Icarus is…

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Jean-Luc Marion Needs Assurance

In the wonderful French philosopher’s reflections on The Erotic Phenomenon, he points out the poverty of a Cartesian ego which operates by certainty – certitude of objects and of itself. Why does Descartes undertake his project of doubt and demonstration in the first place? We desire to know, and this word – “desire” – indicates an intention toward something far greater than knowledge or certainty: an assurance beyond the self. This happens in his “erotic reduction”, in which we are “led back” to the human as lover:

trapped

(via XKCD)

Thus in the erotic reduction, nothing and no one assures me – the lover that I have become under the erotic reduction – except myself, who by definition cannot do so. By agreeing to hear the question “Does anyone love me?” it is as if I have opened beneath my feet an abyss that I can neither fill, nor cross, nor perhaps even sound – an abyss that I risk enlarging even more by developing the logic of the question “Does anyone out there love me?” For the question “Does anyone love me?” will in effect only be able to receive a response (if it ever could) by coming upon me from elsewhere than myself; it thus assigns me an irreversible dependency upon that which I can neither master, nor provoke, nor even envisage – an other than myself, eventually someone other for me (alter ego), in any case a foreign instance, coming from I know not where – in any case, not from me. So, while the search for certainty (“Of what am I certain?”) may still hope to lead me back to myself, by certifying to me that at the least I am, even if I am still deceived, the request for an assurance (“Does anyone out there love me?”) exiles me definitively outside of myself: even if it eventually winds up reassuring me against the threat of vanity (“What’s the use?”) by assuring me that someone loves me, it would assign me all the more to this “someone” (whosoever he or she may be) that I will never be, and whose foreignness nevertheless will always remain more inward to me than my most inward part. The very one who could assure me must estrange me. In short, certainty can lead me back to myself, because I acquire it by subtraction, like a poor phenomenon, while assurance separates me from myself, because it opens within me the separation of an elsewhere. Whether it remains an empty request or, instead, fills me with its excess, it always marks me with a lack that is my own. By opening the very question of assurance, I become a lack to myself.

What’s Oppressive about My Opinion? Millennial Paralysis in the Post-Critical Age

What’s Oppressive about My Opinion? Millennial Paralysis in the Post-Critical Age

Over at the New York Times‘ Opinionator, Zachary Fine ponders the millennial predicament of pluralism, and the pressure all 20- and 30-somethings face to inherit opinions that can most easily fit into the “new orthodoxy of multiculturalism.” Fine notes that pluralism is often gracefully self-described as ” faithfully disinterested” or “energetically engaged with diversity,” but that its impact has created a kind of analysis paralysis. What can one say, we wonder, without wakening the beehive of multicultural non-violence? How can one have an opinion, when having one means being a bigot? The generosity of pluralism, in theory, seems to create…

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