A Basic Theory of the Origin of Cults
Sunday, December 04, 2011
A Basic Theory of the Origin of Cults
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Here's an odd piece to kick off a new blogging season. Here I'm imitating Gurtrude Stein's (depicted in the Picasso above) modernist poetry (If it's rightly called poetry) for a writing assignment in my "Dirty Thirties" American Literature course. I find myself reading it and wondering about psychology. For instance, psychoanalysts would probably say that you can find things out about yourself--your subconscious motives and whatnot--through this kind of free-styling expression.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Here's a research paper I wrote last semester, again, in English Comp I. It's about a Revolutionary War heroine and frontierswoman whose arguments, delivered in the heat of a siege in volunteering to dash 40 yards beyond the safety of the fort to fetch vital gunpowder, portray great courage, both in the face of danger and in the universal struggle of women to preserve their distinct feminine identity in a man's world.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Far away on the other side of the world is a marvelous land named Balnibarbi. As you may have learned from Guliver's Travels, its capital is the great city of Lagado, and in this place is an even greater Academy, filled with the most brilliant people in the world. Unfortunately, Mr. Gulliver was able to stay at Lagado Academy for only a short while, and there were many interesting things about the Academy that he did not have a chance to discover. Having recently taken the opportunity for a longer visit, I offer my findings to you.
The oldest and most honorable department in the entire Academy of Lagado is devoted to the study of color. Indeed, the philosophy of color has been studied in Balnibarbi for something like twenty-four centuries. It was the Balnibarbian scholars, for instance, who discovered that all of the colors in the universe come from just three primaries-yellow, red, and blue. The details are well known even in our part of the world: orange is derived from red and yellow, green from blue and yellow, purple from blue and red, and so on. Of course the primary colors themselves are not derived from anything.
Unfortunately, over the last few hundred years the great tradition of Balnibarbian color philosophy has degenerated, as wave upon wave of intellectual revolution has swept the Lagado Academy. Those few scholars who still believe in the doctrine of primary colors are now considered reactionary, retrograde, regressive--in a word, uncool. The three main parties of reform are the Monochromes, the Antichromes, and the Neochromes.
The Monochromes object to the theory of primary colors because they do not think it goes far enough. In their view, it's all well and good to say that orange comes from the primary colors red and yellow, purple from the primary colors red and blue, and so on-- but what, they ask, is the ultimate basis of color? They reason that there must be an even more primary color than yellow, red or blue--a fundamental color from which even the primary colors are derived. For instance, some of the Monochromes think the color from which all colors come is chartreuse. Others think it puce. The latest Monochromes identify it as plaid. Although these theories have disappointing consequences for interior decorating, they are bold and original, and to be bold and original is of course the goal of scholarship.
The Antichromes are the next party. Although they too reject the theory of primary colors, with their keener rods and cones they see right through the Monochromes. Chartreuse couldn't be the fundamental color, they observe, because all one can derive from it is various shades of greenish-yellow. Likewise puce couldn't be the fundamental color, because all one can derive from it is various shades of purplish-brown. Finally, plaid couldn't be the fundamental color because it isn't a color at all.
The truth, say the Antichromes, is that there is no fundamental color from which even the primary colors can be derived. This is the crux. For if there is no fundamental color, then color has no Ultimate Basis; and if color has no Ultimate Basis, then color isn't real. This logic is so far beyond previous semblances of reason that it might almost be considered a new logic altogether. Its conclusions are equally breathtaking: everything that we call a color is just a figment of our imagination, a projection of some desperate human desire onto a universe of cold and unvarying gray. For discovering the tragic truth, expressed in their motto, "Color is Dead," the Antichromes are rightly praised as pioneers. They eat only burnt toast and milk, and watch only black-and-white television.
Finally we come to the Neochromes, the most avant-garde party of all. They agree with the Antichromes that color has no Ultimate Basis; they agree that the universe is gray, the experiences of hue and tint existing only in our imaginations; they agree that we create the blue of the night and the blush of the rose in our minds, rather than somehow discovering them in the order of things. But what, they ask, is so tragic about that? Is it not liberating? Smash the palettes! Pulverize the prisms! Away with the tyranny of yellow, red, and blue! The creator of color is MAN!
Filled with revolutionary passion, the Neochromes, like the Monochromes, divide into factions. Some Neochromes say that every human being is entitled to his own primary colors. Other Neochromes object that permitting every human being his own primary colors would lead to difficulty with traffic signals and things of that sort; although every country is entitled to its own primary colors, they say, individuals must toe the line. In the end, however, communitarianism comes to pretty much the same thing as individualism because no two communitarians can ever agree upon the spectrum their country should use. In a sort of compromise, they usually wind up mixing all the colors together and painting everything a tepid shade of brown. Even so they quarrel over whether it should be sepia, beige, or taupe.
We too have a great tradition. Just as the Balnibarbians learned long ago that all color in the universe is derived from just a few primary colors, so we learned long ago that all moral law in the universe is derived from just a few primary moral laws. Just as the primary colors are the same for everyone, so these moral laws are the same for everyone. Just as the primary colors are recognized by all who hear of them, so these laws are recognized by all who hear of them. Just as the primary colors do not have to be derived from anything because they are the source of the other colors, so the natural laws do not have to be derived from anything because they are the source of the other moral laws. And just as the Balnibarbians have lost their ancient wisdom about color, so we have lost our ancient wisdom about morality. The colorblind lead the colorblind.
In the first place we have thinkers who treat moral law as the Monochromes treat color. They insist on some ultimate value which they rank as even more fundamental than the natural law. As to what this ultimate value is, they divide, some naming pleasure, some naming liberty, some naming another value, such as privacy. Despite all their disagreement, these thinkers have one thing in common: any moral law that cannot be traced to their ultimate value they simply ignore. In this way they manage to ignore quite a bit.
In the second place some of our thinkers treat moral law as the Antichromes treat color. They insist that there is no real good and evil, no real right and wrong, and that the universe is merely an enormous screen onto which we project our desires and call them moral laws. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, the mentor of this dementia, God is dead, therefore everything is permitted.
Finally we have thinkers who treat moral law as the Neochromes treat color. Just as Neochromes think that human beings can create new primary colors, so these thinkers insist that human beings can create new and different moralities. Of course, this is absurd. If someone claimed to have created new primary colors, you could be sure that he had merely made a new blend of the old ones, and the same is true for the primary principles of good and evil.
For instance, you can make up a new rule that killing infants is right instead of wrong. Nobody can stop you. But if you want to get pregnant young women to believe it, the only way to do so is to confuse them about the moral laws they already know--to tell them, for instance, that it isn't really killing but that it is somehow compassionate and prudent. Is it clear how this works? It is just like a painter who likes to primary colors, dislikes the third and, after a little mixing, claims to have invented a new one.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
1. Sex’s telos, the purpose for which sex was designed.
Let’s get cracking! The following are three uses of sex which are fundamental to the doctrine of the law of love; these are some of the ways that the law of love uses sex…
I believe that this argument is the most important that the law of love offers. If sex has the capacity to be used charitably then not only is it easy to see how sex is an important social tool, but also how the law of love really is a Christian doctrine.
1. Christians ought to be charitable: giving what is in their power to give to those who are in need of it.
power to do so, to people who need sex.
If the argument was valid before, it certainly isn’t now. That is, the conclusion doesn’t follow necessarily from the premises. It may be possible to make a more modest argument which argues for the possibility of sexual charity as a concept--although much more eminently important forms of charity abound which do satisfy unmet biological requirements. But this argument which argues for the existence of a moral responsibility to satisfy the needs of the undersexed is logically unsound.
Sex as a remedy for loneness
I know that I’m no expert when it comes to matters of the heart, but premise 4 seems very dubious to me. I doubt that sex is really what a lonely heart desires; clearly what a lonely person needs is companionship. But maybe someone will argue, “Do you deny that a person can experience companionship while having sex?” Well no, I agree that a person is more likely to experience companionship while having sex than he would while spending time alone, but this fact isn’t only true for sexual acts. This same argument can be made for any activity that involves two or more people: “Christians ought to play checkers, when possible, with people who suffer from loneliness”.
The Evolutionary Argument
This is an argument that I have heard with surprising frequency and has usually been articulated by young men.