Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"An Altered Eye Alters All Things" Dept.
(Miscellaneous Musings on Integrity)

[A]fter probably engaging him in dialogue more than almost anyone (especially from a traditionalist perspective) I can say Shawn makes great pains to be honest [with] those he fights against. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum quoting Kevin Tierney (circa May 20, 2005)]

As the above subject touches to some extent on what this thread will deal with, it seems appropriate to preface with it before moving onto the meat of this posting.

Having noted that, sometimes the most intriguing points to ponder are those which seem innocuous at first but which take on a greater perception with time and added experience thrown into the mix. Two such points I want to focus on at the moment are an expression and also a term I defined a couple of years ago because they will assist in framing what I want to touch on in this posting and it is the subject of character.

The first of these is a dictum of William Blake which I have referenced a number of times on this weblog in the past three odd years. That dictum -which also was featured in a points to ponder segment from over two years ago- is quite an insightful expression. Here it is for those who do not remember it before I continue these notes:

An altered eye alters all things. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa June 27, 2004)]

The statement itself gets to the heart of what I have often referred to over the years as foundational presuppositions or those elements we do not see but which often unconsciously impact our approach to any issue, circumstance, or situation. In a nutshell: a person whose vision on something is altered inexorably alters all things pertaining to that particular issue, circumstance, situation, etc. Ponder that point when the rest of this post is read but before getting to the meat of the matter, another term needs to be noted which pertains to some extent to the aforementioned Blake dictum. The term is solipsism and its coordinative theory.{1}

[The] epistemological theory of solipsism [is one] whereby the self knows nothing but its own states and their constituent modifications if you will. This is a core philosophical flaw of modern day liberal political views. [Paraphrased Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 30, 2004) and Excerpted from the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG (circa February 7, 2004)]

Somewhat serendipitously one morning in January of 2004, I got it in my mind to discuss the subject of modernism and the philosophical/rational problems of it in various contexts with Apolonio Latar III. While the end result of the posting came out quite good; nonetheless, I in retrospect should not have discussed that matter at that time. Luckily for me my dialogue partner was quite a sharp knife in the drawer so I was able to motivate myself to handle it properly{2} and (in the process) defined another term which I would later refine slightly and post to my Miscellaneous BLOG as a frame of reference{3} for one aspect of how I approach any and all issues (or otherwise view those who approach issues not in rational and logical manners but instead in an illogical and emotionally-driven fashion).

Solipsism basically is the core flaw of all strains of liberal or self-styled "progressivist" attempts to navigate the oceans of reality. It explains why such people cannot be reasoned with -though we should of course make the effort nonetheless{4} at sundry times and in diverse manners within certain boundaries.{5} However, to posit that it infects only those of a so-called "progressivist" or "liberal" operative viewpoint would be far too simplistic. It also can infect those of so-called "conservative" or "traditionalist" as well as any weltanschauung in existence. The reason for this should be obvious; ergo I will not comment on it for now{6} and focus instead on an example or two couple from the sorts of people who would not fit the predominant pseudo-"progressivist" mould where this problem is at its most acute.

To start with, consider if you will someone who views everything as consisting of them versus someone else or them versus a particular worldview. If we add to the equation that this person has a propensity towards grandstanding sometimes in opposite proportion to what they know about a given subject, you have the makings in potentia of someone who would not shirk from acting unethically when interacting with others.

It would be pointless to presume that such a person would necessarily act any better towards friends because to do so would be to misunderstand them -particularly if they consider themselves "specially anointed" in some form or another: a "prophet", "apostle", "defensor fidei", etc. of a particular point of view. Such individuals -particularly if there is potential profit in their endeavours- can fall prey to seeking to advance their agenda through any means be it fair or foul: though they would in doing so project the veneer of moral righteousness in their actions -or as a great religious man noted about three hundred odd years ago (as noted by R P Quadrupani circa about two hundred years ago:

Evil is never done more effectually and with greater security, says St. Francis de Sales, than when one does it believing he is working for the glory of God. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 29, 2002)]

What kind of evils could such a person undertake under the presumption of a "divine mandate"??? Well, the simple act of violating private correspondence could be noted for starters.{7} If you have a person who feels they simply have to weigh in on anything either out of a flawed understanding of what "apologetics" is (either wholly or in part){8} and further still, if they are driven by financial considerations at the same time, then such an unethical breach is almost predictable{9} unfortunately. Equally predictable is such a person not taking time to assimilate properly the views of others whom they would presume to "educate" on subjects to which they would be better off not talking about.{10} I am reminded in thinking of such people what the late John Henry Newman noted about the problems with such people so I will quote him at this time:

[I]n spite of so much that is good in them, in spite of their sense of duty, their tenderness of conscience on may points, their benevolence, their uprightness, their generosity, they are under the dominion(I must say it) of a proud fiend; they have this stout spirit within them, they determine to be their own masters in matters of thought, about which they know so little; they consider their own reason better than any one's else; they will not admit that any one comes from God who contradicts their own view of truth. What! is none their equal in wisdom anywhere?..is there none to wrest from them their ultimate appeal to themselves? [LINK]

The subject of the writing quoted above was faith and private judgment but the principles apply to anyone who sets themselves up as some kind of "ultimate oracle" on any and all subjects. Such "ultimate oracle" sorts have no need to make any kind of serious effort to interact with someones positions because they presume to know everything without effort anyway. When you add to the mix a martyrs complex, the end result of such people is that they end up pissing off people who see through their facades of "wanting to dialogue" but it is not them who are the problem you see, it is those who expect that such persons (who make pretenses at being "able or willing to dialogue") who are then cast as the "villains."

Another way of saying it is that these kinds of people pontificate dogmatically on subjects that they do not know about and then (when their antics are publicly deplored by those who know of what they speak) they play the "I did nothing wrong...why is everybody always picking on me" Charlie Brown schtick.{11} The end result is that those who (i) do recognize and respect the distinction between private and public discussions{12} and (ii) who demand legitimate respect and amicable discourse handled in a mature fashion{13} as the "villains" in some "conspiracy" contrived by those who feel that everyone is "out to get them", etc.

While more could be noted in the future on this subject (and indeed it may well be), consider what is noted above and how truly twisted the kinds of people I refer to are -how wrapped up in their own little solipsistic world they have to be- to paint persons such as yours truly as "villains" when in reality, the ones who are acting unethical at every step of the way is the very persons who publicly pose as all "righteous" and as the "martyrs" in such endeavours. Talk about an altered eye altering all things my friends!!!

In closing, I do not and never have expected people to accept anything I have to say as some kind of arbitrary out-of-context injunction simply because I say it. When one learns to think in principles, they learn to think logically because principles make thinking a lot easier. All I expect from anyone I dialogue with is to show the most elementary elements of respect for those they converse with -and if they do not, then I get damn angry and will spare no amount of rhetoric in chastising them for their lapses of character.{14} Remember these things the next time certain parties try to paint me or anyone else who disagrees with them as a "polemicist", as "mean-spirited", or any other categorization of a similar sort. Oh and to summarize the Bizarro "logic" such people in a paragraph if I may:

If fidelity to principles and striving to see that anyone who wants to debate me on an issue approaches the subject matter (as well as the participants of the opposite point of view) is "polemical" and viewed as "improper", "unenlightened", "unethical", "unecumenical", etc. --while those who act unethically, violate private correspondence, deliberately misrepresent the views of others, seek to create public controversy for the sake of playing "martyr" for the peanut gallery, etc., is what is considered "proper, "enlightened", "ethical", "ecumenical", etc. than I am glad to be considered "improper", "unenlightened", "unethical", "unecumenical", etc. by such people or those who "reason" like them.

For such persons would obviously have idea what the terms they wield mean when properly understood and their attitudes and actions would make a statement about their commitment to truth, justice, ethics, and integrity far beyond anything they actually say on the matters in writing. And that is the bottom line really.

Notes:

{1} [W]hen one is dealing with a theory, they are dealing with both abstract notions as well as coordinating dynamic principles of action. One of the author's intellectual mentors once defined a theory as "a set of non contradictory abstract ideas (or as philosophers like to call them 'principles') which purports to be either a correct description of reality or a guideline for successful action."...[Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG (circa January 14, 2004)]

{2} Despite working off of autopilot...the post was written at 0500 on about three hours of sleep if memory serves. (Kids, do not try that at home!!!)

{3} That is what the Miscellaneous BLOG developed into over time. Originally I set it up from an older blog template as a kind of place to put stuff that did not seem to fit the main parameters of Rerum Novarum. Eventually, in a somewhat serendipitous fashion, it became a place to either (i) define core terms of dialogue discourse from scratch or (ii) to serve as a place to feature important terms as I utilized them in other places for aiding readers in getting a better grasp at how I approached various subject matters.

{4} After all, you never know when the penny will drop for some people. And yes, even those who to some extent value reason and logic as important tools that separate us from the animals do not always utilize them in a consistent fashion...this gets to the problem of agenda pundits and their problems with objectivity: a subject touched on in a number of ways at this weblog in the past including quite recently in brief.

{5} This is to some extent the only normative element of the equation and indeed it cannot be anything otherwise...however much we may wish it could be confined to non-normative contexts. I should probably revisit some of the blog material where I discuss the distinction between normative and non-normative: it was a subject I dealt with last year prior to dealing with the issue of the atomic bombings and the moral/ethical issues involved there. (Mainly cause I knew critics of my position would argue normatively and they were all as predictable as incoherent drivel from...well...far more places than one will find attempts at rational discourse unfortunately.)

{6} I have discussed this subject before on this weblog and in other mediums -even if I have generally done so in passing.

{7} This is tantamount to violating the confessional in my mind: something I explained in detail earlier this year in a Miscellaneous BLOG posting when this crime was committed again by certain estranged friends and serial grand-standers who shall at this time not be named.

{8} For it is not possible that such people will take the time to learn about the intricacies of complex issues before deigning to discuss them in a public forum. Nor do they have any scruples about making public hay out of private conversations where one or more of the participants has requested that the discussion remain confidential. I do this in all instances where the subject matter is more technical and I have good reason to suspect that some of the parties involved in the discussion do not adequately grasp many of the elements involved. This is done to allow them to retain face and is how someone who respects the discipline of the dialogue conducts themselves. One who seeks to dialogue does not do so with the intention of belittling the other person or to "win" the discussion. Instead:

"The dialogue...supposes that one listens to the other, and in the divine sense of this word listen, as Jesus the child listened to the doctors, or the risen Christ listened to the pilgrims of Emmaus, or the man listens to Revelation, or God listens to man's prayer. Let yourself listen, I say, with the hope that the other's point of view will teach you something new, will complete your thought, or will allow you to expand it, to purify, subliminate, deepen it. An objector, contradictor, critic are unsuspecting aids, for in every objection there is a part of the truth, which allows us to better express what we think, to forestall confusion, to give relief and contour to our opinions. St. Thomas began by presenting what went against his thesis. He leaned on the obstacle, on the apparent negation he built his discreet affirmation, filtered, tested, simple, and sure. And Laecorde, in the same spirit, said: "I do not try to convince my adversary of error, but to join him in a higher truth." [Jean Guitton: Dialogues of Paul VI With Jean Guitton pg. 163 (c. 1967) as quoted in I. Shawn McElhinney's Commentary on the Intricacies of Dialogue (c. 2003) as excerpted from Rerum Novarum (circa May 20, 2005)]

That is the model of proper dialogue and unfortunately it is as rare as hen's teeth amongst those who style themselves "apologists."

{9} Those who wonder why I make this distinction it is because oftentimes when the distinction is recognized, people can feel free to be looser and less confrontational when involved in a private correspondence.

{10} Another advantage of distinguishing between public and private statements is that it can be easier to navigate more complicated subjects in private with those who may not want to publicly comment on something that they recognize they may need to learn more about. And (of course) it is an excellent way to gain the confidence of one's positional adversaries if they understand that nothing they say in such a setting will later be used against them publicly in a cheap attempt to "score points" as is the practice of those who prefer grandstanding and manufactured conflict to an honest dialogue on ideas.

{11} Among the examples of this I could note is the following one from a recent weblog posting:

[XXXX] is also quite good at casting himself as the martyr. There will always be a certain large segment of humanity that is drawn to that sort of thing -even if only out of curiosity. And that is really all one needs to do to manufacture "hits" to a site. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 16, 2006)]

{12} See footnote ten of this posting as well as the following thread:

Clarifying My Policy Viz. Private Correspondence--A Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG Post (circa January 27, 2006)

{13} See the contents of footnote twelve as well as these threads (just a few of which could be culled from the archives of this humble weblog in the past few years):

Some Principles For Authentic Dialogue and the Proper Use of Sources in Papers (circa February 9, 2006)

Miscellaneous Musings on Dialogue--An Audio Post (circa October 6, 2005)

On the Subject of Foundational Presuppositions - Following Up a Previous Prelude (circa May 20, 2005)

{14} The intention is medicinal: to essentially shame them into acting honourable if amicable attempts to do so fail.

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I always seem to forget that August 22nd is the anniversary of the weblog, not August 23rd. Anyway, yesterday was our fourth anniversary. Four years and 2,100 plus posts and we are not out of ideas for discussion yet my friends...not by a long shot. We are not the most well-read of the blogs out there but I have long believed that our reading audience is among the most intelligent. I say this based on the emails received and the topics they raise or request clarifications on. (Only a few of which I actually end up blogging.) Anyway, for those who have been there from the beginning or those who have over time found their way here, thanks for your readership. Now that the event has been noted, onto more stuff that will (hopefully) provoke thought from you readers.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Points to Ponder:

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. [Mark Twain]

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"One From the Vault" Dept.
(And Other Tidbits)

The post I referred to on integrity in Sunday's audiopost of miscellaneous notes is finished but I have to review it and make last minute adjustments before it is posted to this weblog. There is also the rest of the "miscellaneous threads" installment which has been delayed for weeks and which will be gotten to before the end of the week time-willing. And while I envision another installment in the "tracking the elusive so-called 'neo-con'" series being published in the next monthly cycle of blogging (August 22nd-September 21st), at the moment, it seems appropriate to respond to a public criticism of the weblog postings from August 5th of this year...this dip into the vault is of recent vintage albeit I have retouched slightly my original response in spots (including excerpting some of the text to put into footnotes). My interlocuter's words will be in black font.

Rewrite. Rephrase. Cut. Cut. Cut.

Five pages by my standards is a cut XX. I was told by some friends that I needed to lengthen what I wrote because there was too much subject matter touched on.

Shawn and Greg are trying to say something,

No, we actually do say stuff XX.

but their horrible, pompous prose makes their essays impenetrable.

It would be better for you to say that what we wrote is impenetrable to youbut do not presume that what you cannot comprehend is therefore objectively impenetrable.{1}

As Greg can speak for himself, I will confine these comments to my own writing except to note that the reason for the formatting is because there were multiple persons whose words were used.

Frankly, what I wrote is not a rubix cube. It is a theory properly understood and is intended to provoke logical thought and reasoned analysis. And as logical thought and reasoned analysis is quite rare in most circles (including "apologetics" ones), a degree of condescention is required to outline certain elementary factors that are required for that.

It is indeed unfortunate but after over seven years of observing this phenomenon of "Catholic apologetics" and seeing this problem manifest itself not only amongst the neophytes but to a larger extent the seasoned apologists, I am not about to stand by and pretend that the ship is not sinking when indeed it is. On making a positive contribution to the arena of ideas and influencing culture for the good, Catholic apologists are (as a whole) miserable failures!!! A key reason for this is that they presume a competence in certain issues{2} which they do not have.

Furthermore, as many of them evince either ignorance of (or an unwillingness to differentiate) between what is an authoritative Church pronouncement and what is not, they inevitably{3} throw everything into the same kettle and this is erroneous. It is also disingenuous to no small degree.

I am beyond tired of seeing illogical fideism and warmed over neo-ultramontanism by these self-anointed "experts." All they do is provide fuel for the anti-Catholic caricatures of Catholics as intellectual infants who cannot think and blindly accept anything that is said by a curial representative -no matter how illogical and opposed to sound reasoning it happens to be. As Catholics we recognize that magisterial teachings require religious submission. This is a tall order and it should not be casually presumed without adequate warrant. I refuse to stand by, even by proxy, and watch a bunch of ignorant self-anointed "experts" lump every curial utterance into that category as a cheap expedient to shut off legitimate and necessary debate on various issues. This kind of crap has gone on for too long and it needed to be stopped yesterday.

My contribution of sorts{4} was to set forth a thesis to support an overarching theory properly-so-called --which is more than a mere hypothesis{5} I might add-- on why apologetics has gone the way it has and why more and more high profile apologists are falling by the wayside. Greg's piece (which my writing was intended to supplement) pointed out a flawed double standard in the way Catholics defend Catholics for antics that they condemn in non-Catholics. If you have a problem with these positions, by all means propose a counter-theory of your own. But to do that, it helps to know what we have said if you have any hope of doing justice to the discipline of the dialogue.

If this were apologetics writing, it would be a bad witness.

But presumably the arrogant drivel of Dale Vree (which is defended by a panopoly of prominent Catholic apologists either explicitly or by implication) is not a bad witness right??? Presumably the horrendous lack of sound logical thought and the deliberate obfuscation of what is magisterial and what is not by many of these "apologists" is not a bad witness right??? If much of what passes for apologetics writings on non-doctrinal issues is your definition of "good witness", then I will take the "bad witness" classification any day of the week as presumably would Greg.

Also, they should fire whoever told them to use color-coding as a way to distinguish quotations from multiple authors. Did these two never learn how to indent in HTML?

How does that work when you have about a dozen different people XX??? By all means, enlighten me on this. Seriously.


Notes:

{1} Such an assessment is the dictionary definition for the very kind of "pomposity" that you improperly ascribe to Greg and myself.

{2} Including geopolitical ones where there are often complex moral and ethical strands interconnected to one another.

{3} Either altogether or on certain pet subjects of theirs.

{4} To bringing this situation into the public for proper discussion.

{5} Hypothesis: An explanation of a subject, circumstance, or event which is advanced on tentative grounds by a proposed thesis or series of theses and is open to further examination or being potentially disproved before it reaches the stature of a viable theory. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG (circa August 22, 2006)]

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The Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG has been updated!!!

Once again, in the interest of facilitating rational thought and the proper utilization of logic, I have decided to define a term that I have used in the past and will in the future use with probably a greater frequency. It really bothers me that I have to be this elementary but as I get older, I find that a lot of things I take for granted in these areas are not well understood by a lot of people...including some who boast of "3.5 GPAs in college", various degrees, and all that jazz.

Anyway, the above link finishes a triptych of sorts of terms outlining the stages that go into formulating a potentially valid viewpoint of a particular event, circumstance, situation, etc. Furthermore, as with yesterday's posting, the above thread will now be utilized whenever I make reference to the term so defined in future postings to Rerum Novarum in perpetuity all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

The Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG has been updated!!!

The terms of discourse dealt with in that thread are important ones which I have utilized often on this weblog but had not given concise definitions to. The above thread intends to do that and will now be utilized whenever I make reference to the terms so defined in future postings to Rerum Novarum in perpetuity all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Miscellaneous Notes and Some Prayer Requests

this is an audio post - click to play

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