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Philosophy

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: The Monster of “We”

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: The Monster of “We”

Welcome to the first installment of Act Three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here. 

In Act One of this series we discovered that as a society we cannot agree on a collectively applicable definition of greed. In Act Two we examined a half dozen answers to the question Why. Starting today we’ll take a deeper dive into the philosophy and theology of greed, with a look at how America’s long-celebrated individualism has evolved.

In his 2005 book Greed, Dr. Julian Edney…

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Resurrection & The Grace Of Doing Nothing

Resurrection & The Grace Of Doing Nothing

Towards the end of his first missive to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul offers a mini tour-de-force in defense of the veracity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. For Paul this conviction is central not just to the future hope of the people of God but also to orient the pilgrim life of the faithful in this present broken age. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( 1 Cor. 15:56-57). Then the argument concludes with something that,…

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An Artful Hell: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

An Artful Hell: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

Hope for forgiveness and the Kingdom of Heaven beyond our human moral bankruptcy has been replaced by progressive Utopian visions where well-adjusted inhabitants are provided for in an earthly paradise. But the knowledge of who we really are and the true state of our predicament surfaces regularly in our cultural history, if we are paying attention. The visual arts especially will occasionally provide a map of the darkness we travel through. It hardly matters where or when we look, but the dark side of 19th century Romanticism is a good place to start, since a current runs from there through…

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Welcome to [Long Philosophical Conversations and Nauseating, Horrible Deaths in] Jurassic Park!

Welcome to [Long Philosophical Conversations and Nauseating, Horrible Deaths in] Jurassic Park!

I’m currently reliving my childhood love of dinosaurs via (a) my son, who asks thrice daily when we can go to our local natural history museum, and (b) Universal Studios’ marketing. I last read Jurassic Park when the movie was released and The Lost World when it first hit the nice mall’s Waldenbooks. I had fond memories of both, so I revisited both books via Audible late last year. I was shocked, amazed, and disgusted throughout both books.

Blah blah blah, the movies aren’t as good as the books, you might say mockingly. The difference, though, is not in missing characters but rather the whole tone…

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PZ’s Podcast: How Do (Men) Get to Heaven?

PZ’s Podcast: How Do (Men) Get to Heaven?

EPISODE 214: How Do (Men) Get to Heaven?

There is this observable difference in the way most men and most women process romantic love affairs. Men tend — with exceptions — to live in the past and in past memories of love, especially as they grow older. Women tend — with exceptions — to desire to live in the present, with openness to the future, in the experience of romantic love.

The song that opens this cast, “How Do I Get To Heaven”, performed by Dave Mason, is a touching instance of the male processing. The lyric lurches, with no warning, from…

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Numbers: The Perfectly Reasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics

Numbers: The Perfectly Reasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics

In honor of Pi Day…

The first time I experienced the deep connection between math and physical reality was in performing a high school chemistry experiment to discover whether the antacid Rolaids really did consume 47 times its weight in excess acid. The experiment involved very precise weighing and an acid-base titration. I grew up in a small rural town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but there was a small NASA facility on the coast about twenty miles away, and since many parents worked there—including my father—my school often borrowed state-of-the-art equipment. Our little chem lab had a high speed centrifuge, a sensitive…

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Even Though I Ought To…I Kant!

There was an interesting article in the Gray Matter column of this past Sunday’s Times. The article, written by philosophy student Paul Henne and social science researcher Vlad Chituc, take a look back at one of central ideas of Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German philosopher who is also considered to be the central figure of “modern philosophy.” He is known for his moral philosophy, and specifically his understanding of the “categorical imperative,” that moral laws–if they exist at all–must exist universally and necessarily. Kant also believed that a prescriptive law, by definition, implies that it can be followed/achieved.

In their article, “The Data…

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Roger Scruton’s First Step

Quoted in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, this is from philosopher Roger Scruton’s 2014 book, The Soul of the World

tumblr_inline_nr6ph882JH1sthg2o_500There is a widespread habit of declaring emergent realities to be “nothing but” the things in which we perceive them. The human person is “nothing but” the human animal; law is “nothing but” relations of social power; sexual love is “nothing but” the urge to procreation; . . . the Mona Lisa is “nothing but” a spread of pigments on a canvas; the Ninth Symphony is “nothing but” a sequence of pitched sounds of varying timbre. And so on. Getting rid of this habit is, to my mind, the true goal of philosophy. And if we get rid of it when dealing with the small things—symphonies, pictures, people—we might get rid of it when dealing with the large things too: notably, when dealing with the world as a whole. And then we might conclude that it is just as absurd to say that the world is nothing but the order of nature, as physics describes it, as to say that the Mona Lisa is nothing but a smear of pigments. Drawing that conclusion is the first step in the search for God.

But Which God?: Revisiting the Law And Gospel Debate

But Which God?: Revisiting the Law And Gospel Debate

A few months ago, I wrote a brief piece entitled “When John Locke Turned Gospel into Law”, one that I considered to be true to the classic Mockingbird message: the unmistakably clear articulation of grace. Trying to connect that message with the philosopher John Locke’s vision of Christianity, I challenged his version of “the covenant of faith” as a false articulation of grace [a kind of afterthought]. Yet to my surprise, the post met with some pushback, and the comments, I must admit, did make a point: Does not Christianity shore up a positive vision of life, and thus an ethic?…

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The “Trigger-Warning” Life

The “Trigger-Warning” Life

Universities have historically always been on the leading edge of American cultural change. The university has, or at least tries to be, the place where new ideas are tested, refined, and put into meaningful action. Today’s college students become tomorrow’s leaders, which is to say that the recent explosion of “trigger warning” policies are not an aberration or fad that can be ignored.

As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt so astutely outline in their cover story for The Atlantic (see DZ’s take here), the muting of “triggers” from pedagogy is an overt form of censorship of anything that might create unwelcome,…

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Prerequisite to Dignity of Purposelessness

Prerequisite to Dignity of Purposelessness

Sometimes I get the willies from vocation conversations, and I think this is why: Whatever the formal definition is, in practice “vocation” seems to be a mash-up between purpose and career—like, two of the most intimidating topics did the dirty and gave birth to this mutant problem child that ill-equipped young adults like myself must adopt wholeheartedly, or else.

I’m not opposing vocation itself, which could theoretically be beautiful, but rather our application of it, from which a few problems arise: the first, covered in more detail by Will, is that we—definitive failures—feel like we aren’t allowed to fail in whatever line of work…

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Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

We live our lives bounded by those two mysteries, birth and death—our beginning and our end—and in between we stumble about in the dark, looking for the light, or at least for a good pair of existential shoes so we will not cut our feet quite so much on the sharp edges of Reality as we head for the Exit. What most of us find is ordinary life. The accidents of history have for now enclosed a space in which a wide swath of humanity—though not all of us, to be sure—experience ordinariness in the prosperity and pleasures of an…

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