What would survival-optimized Catholicism look like?

Tradition will not save us.  We must save tradition.  We do this by attaching it to a more adaptive social technology.  This is the truth behind Vatican II.

We need cameras on priests recording every second of their lives.  The discipline of celibacy can never be relaxed, because a family must be afforded some privacy.

Current Catholic myth and hagiography are counterproductive; they must be scrapped and rewritten.  All saint stories are about one guy who’s holy and starts nagging all the other Catholics about their laxity.  Or about fertile-aged women refusing to marry.  Is there a single story about a band of heroic Catholic men standing together and prevailing or heroically falling?  That’s what we need, to give people aspirations that don’t involve peacocking virtue at the expense of the tribe.

Most devotions and ascetic practices are too individualistic, encourage Catholics to imagine that they have some private account with God independent of the Church, making the latter disposable.  If Catholics want to punish themselves, they should do it in a productive way, like the Protestants do, by throwing themselves into career advancement or charity, thus enhancing their social status and accruing glory to the Catholic Church.

We should each ask ourselves at the end of each week, “What have I done this week to enhance the power and glory of the Catholic Church?”

Am I an asset to the Church or a liability?  Avoiding sin is not enough (not that any of us manage even that).  I may still be confirming infidels in their belief that Catholics are lazy and stupid.  Because I am an embarrassment to the Church, I should keep a low profile.

One should make sure that whenever possible the Church gets credit for our charitable donations.

We must be like all other peoples and devote the indoctrination of our young primarily toward belief in the superiority of Catholics to non-Catholics, and hatred of the latter, and only secondarily to theological concerns.

This is not hard.  The secular world truly is despicable–a cesspool of murder, debauchery, and hypocrisy.  Our superiority is obvious.

Always remember:  when they attack the Church, attack the clergy, they are attacking you (rather, the part of you that is more important than your individual self).

The clergy are stationary targets, “sitting ducks”.  We need a complementary elite, intellectual rather than sacerdotal, trained to attack.  An analog of the secular world’s journalists and public intellectuals.

A Jew who loses his faith often retains his loyalty to his people.  A Catholic who loses his faith immediately makes himself an enemy of the Church.  Why do you think this is?  Are our people so much less lovable than theirs?

We need some kind of derogatory attitude for unbelievers, something like “infidel” except that this word often connotes a formidable, worthy adversary.  We need something that invokes distaste, contempt.  A number of ethnic slurs provide good models.

Ours is an incarnate God.  He puts His fortunes in our hands.  God = Christ = Christ’s body = the Catholic Church.

Saint Paul regards it as shameful for Christians to sue each other in secular court.  He was right.

There is a bright side to the tendency of Catholics to become de facto universalists.  If everyone goes to heaven, then the personal afterlife is not worth thinking about.  The future survival of the tribe is the afterlife we must earnestly seek.

Anti-clericalism is worse than pornography.  I have deleted my blogroll.

Book review: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
by Ludwig Wittegnstein, 1922

This book is not easy to understand.  I have consulted several secondary sources during my reading and found The Philosophy of Wittegnstein by George Pitcher particularly helpful.  My interpretation of “early” Wittgenstein’s thought does not precisely match any of my sources.  However, there is such a diversity of opinion among scholars on every aspect of the Tractatus that whatever error I can be accused of will be found in more extreme form among some or other of these learned men.

Continue reading

Book review: Our Knowledge of the External World

Our Knowledge of the External World
by Bertrand Russell, 1929

I quite enjoyed this book.  It’s easy to read and communicates quite vividly Russell’s idea of what philosophy should be.  For Russell, philosophy properly done is coterminous with logic, the study of the forms of propositions and rules of inference.  In his telling, the logicians are one of three competing factions in philosophy, the others being the “classical tradition” (idealism) associated with Francis Bradley and the evolutionists associated with Henri Bergson.  This is the one way that the book is amusingly dated, that these two minor, largely-forgotten movements are considered the budding analytic tradition’s most serious competition.  Russell’s true enemy, though, is the Parmenidean mystic of many ages advancing specious reasons why the material, sensible world is illusory.  He traces their errors to an inadequacy of classical, Aristotelian logic.  This logic only recognized subject — predicate propositions, so it could not do justice to relations.  Since relations are an obvious part of the sensible world, this world was declared illusory, and only an unrelated Absolute could be real.  Now, with Frege’s advance in logic, we see that predication is only one type of proposition (a propositional function of one variable), and with our broadened view, we see that the reality of the everyday world presents no problems.  The new philosophy, Russell says, will not be able to narrow the range of possibilities for how the world is, as the old philosophy thought to do by ruling out superficially plausible possibilities.  Rather, it will expand the range of possibilities we can conceive.

This is all very intriguing, and probably the old logic did not handle relations as easily as the new one, but I think Russell exaggerates how common it was for previous philosophers to deny the reality of the phenomenal world (especially among those influenced by Aristotle!), and even among the few that did, I’m not sure that Aristotelian logic played so large a role.  It is also interesting that Russell sees logical atomism as a liberation, allowing us to accept more propositions as meaningful than before.  It will not be long before his student, Ludwig Wittgenstein, will start using logical atomism to tell us that all of our philosophical propositions are senseless.

Those who worry that philosophy never makes progress will want to consider Russell’s claim that two longstanding philosophical problems have been solved in recent times:  the meaning of numbers and the supposed paradoxes regarding “actual” infinities.  I admit that Zeno’s paradoxes have never made sense to me; they seem to be obvious mathematical blunders.  Russell renders a great service spending some time trying to get inside Zeno’s head to figure out how Zeno could have thought he was making any sense.  There are the obvious errors in how Zeno takes limits, but Russell points to a more subtle and fundamental error.  Before Cantor, everyone who got themselves confused thinking about infinity imagined that one can construct any set by enumeration (even if an infinite enumeration), so that there must always be a “next point over” or a “next time”, no matter how close it is to the previous.  For the real numbers, this is not true.  But it doesn’t matter; the set is given all at once by its condition for inclusion.  There is nothing odd, for example, in the fact that there are “as many points” in one line segment as in another of different length, or that adding one doesn’t change the cardinality of an infinite number.  There is a one-to-one mapping, and that’s all we need.

Russell spends a couple of chapters pondering the gap between bare sense data and the objects which from it we infer populate the external world.  He attempts to close the gap by redefining objects, locations, and times out of the sense data for a bunch of perspectives.  Of course, no two perspectives see quite the same world of sense data, but some are quite similar (for viewpoints that are “close to each other”), and there will be correlations between perspectives (e.g. the appearance of a table as seen from various distances and angles) which we can identify as objects.  This level of epistemological scrupulousness seems a bit perverse to me, but I suppose the value of it is that Russell is able to defend common sense statements such as “there are tables” from the danger of being refuted by future scientific discoveries that show material objects to be not what we now imagine.  If what we mean by tables are those things we can all see and sit at, then there’s no question that they exist, whatever science may someday tell us about their hidden nature.

The book ends with a discussion of causality and free will.  For the most part, it’s the standard compatibilist case.  Russell’s one interesting move is to ask us to consider a world where people know the future as they do the past.  Surely such knowledge would not make them less free.

Congratulations to the EHT team!

Book review: The Great Chain of Being

The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea
by Arthur O. Lovejoy, 1936

The author proposes to trace the career of an idea from its invention by Plato to the early Romantics at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  To sum up, the “great chain of being” is a proposed reason God had for creating the universe.  Although perfect and self-sufficient, He is prompted by His very goodness to share His being and have it reflected in various partial ways through finite creatures.  Although some creatures are more excellent than others, none perfectly manifests the perfection of its Creator, so a fuller, better universe that more adequately glorifies its Creator will have a diversity of creatures all along the scale of being, from the highest angels to the lowest inert matter.

Continue reading