Saturday, September 17, 2005

An Interview with Rev. Peter M. J. Stravinskas

Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas used to be the editor of Our Sunday Visitor -a publication for which I have written articles for in the past at the prompting of my ever-persistent friend Pete Vere. Since spring of 2004, Fr. Stravinskas has been working on a new project called The Catholic Response. I am not familiar with this project; however I am sure that with Fr. Peter at the helm, it is well worth reading. For that reason, I will give a very rare "blind approval" if you will of that project.

Oh, in conclusing these brief notes, I would be remiss in not noting that it is nice to see that with his new venture that Fr. Stravinskas has redeemed the TCR moniker...rumour also has it that he is blogging now. Anyone with information on the accuracy of the rumour, please email me on the subject.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

I have made a bunch of minor weblog additions, subtractions, reclassifications, etc. in recent days. And while it would take a longer post than I have time for to detail every change made, I will note here only the additions and deletions made. Those deleted or added are the following ones:


Kevin Miller's weblog De Virtutibus which I discovered is active again.

Kevin Tierney's weblog which I have been slack in adding for too long.

Weblog archives have been extended from 9/10/05 through 10/22/05.


Mary Herboth's old weblog url which has been taken over by someone else.


Jeff Culbreath's Hallowed Ground BLOG in place of his old El Camino Real BLOG.

Reclassified to Active Status:

Mark Shea's weblog

I also originally put The Curmudgeon's long mothballed weblog into haitus status but he decided to notify me and some others that he has reactivated it as of today; ergo it stays in active status by a hairs breadth ;-)

All modifications (either noted above or otherwise) are hereby made in perpetuity all things to the contrary notwithstanding.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On Being a Catholic)

One thing cool about being Catholic is that I am free to believe in a literal six day creation or a God guided evolution. Or if another new and better scientific theory comes out I am also free to accept that too. I was a lot less free and more dogmatic when I was an atheist. Meaningless random evolution was pretty much all I was allowed or allowed myself to believe. As a Catholic I am free to believe in miracles and in certain Church approved apparitions, though I am also free to disbelieve those apparitions. As an atheist I was not free to believe in apparitions or miracles. Yet it is generally Catholic who are called dogmatists. Chesterton said that man is a creature who creates dogmas and that is certainly true since everybody holds to dogmas, they just vary on what are to be held as dogmas. Or they at least hold to the dogma that there are no dogmas. [Jeff Miller (circa July 13, 2005)]


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

As I am in the mood for some poetry today, the following poem from a good friend of mine will be posted to the weblog. Without further ado...

Dress Rehearsals for Our Time in Purgatory

Like lichen boulders
both dead and alive,
her baby teeth
are weighing anchor
in restless gums.
One by one
her howls wean
each pumpkin tooth
from chewing foods
into a wider
gap in her smile
and pillow burial
recasting me
as the tooth fairy out
of my parental
role in the hell
that only our children,
when innocently suffering,
know quite how to
damn us to. [Albert Cipriani]


Monday, September 12, 2005

Points to Ponder:
(On How Historians Should Treat Events and Situations of the Past)

There can be no complaint against the historian who personally and privately has his preferences and antipathies, and who as a human being merely has a fancy to take part in the game that he is describing; it is pleasant to see him give way to his prejudices and take them emotionally, so that they splash into colour as he writes; provided that when he steps in this way into the arena he recognizes that he is stepping into a world of partial judgements and purely personal appreciations and does not imagines that he is speaking ex cathedra. But if the historian can rear himself up like a god and judge, or stand as the official avenger of the crimes of the past, then one can require that he shall be still more godlike and regard himself rather as the reconciler than as the avenger; taking it that his aim is to achieve the understanding of the men and parties and causes of the past, and that in this understanding, if it can be complete, all things will ultimately be reconciled. [Herbert Butterfield -From The Whig Interpretation of History (c. 1931)]


"Exit Stage Left"* Dept.:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

As a proposed dialogue on a very complex and touchy subject matter in recent weeks has resulted in the exact opposite of my initial intentions occurring (i.e. matters non normative, objective, and issues based have been transmuted into normative, subjective, and personal), it seems appropriate at this time to put an end to it from my side of the fence if you will.

Readers who have followed the series of events are aware of these two points if nothing else:

--I have set forth very trenchant arguments covering the spectrum of complexities of the subjects in question.

--I have explained in reasonable detail why the attempts to counter my arguments have failed from a logical and non-normative standpoint.

Those points have not been countered with anything representing rational argument; ergo I have said what I intend to say on them and do not intend to say any more.

Thomas a Kempis once noted something akin to the idea that sometimes for the sake of peace we must give up our opinions. I certainly am not doing that but I am recognizing that I played a role (however reluctantly) in perpetuating what could have been an endless series of "he said-she said" responses. For that I apologize to the readers of this weblog. I also apologize to my friend Dave for my role in said perpetuation and appreciate him setting forth his opinion on the matter for readers to consider along with the arguments I set forth to explain my own. For the sake of peace, I am giving up my role in this situation but wish to note a few things in brief first.

To start with, I am generally quite pleased with myself viz. my strivings to follow the discipline of the dialogue but it is always with all of us a work in progress and perfection in it is ongoing. Recognizing that and that on this matter I in some respects fell short of the ideal myself, I extend to my friend Dave my most sincere apologies for any hurt he may have felt by virtue of the often-vigorous and strident manner whereby I defend my views.

And with those words, I bid the subject of the bombings, the moral and ethical matrixes involved, etc. adieu and do so in perpetuity all things to the contrary notwithstanding. I also wish to thank my friend Dave for (i) his time and the energies he expended on the matter and (ii) his generally underappreciated role in the covering of a plethora of subjects as he so often does while seeking to do so from an orthodox and Catholic perspective: a perspective which I remind the readers is often broader than most people (even most Catholics) would casually presume.

* With apologies to the music group Rush:

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

On Making a Valid Argument and Avoiding Argumentation Fallacies:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

It seems that a certain very confused friend of this writer has sought to respond to a recent "points to ponder" thread by taking issue with the person whose words were posted. As the confused friend in question recently was on the receiving end of a pretty thorough drubbing by yours truly viz. some "arguments" they sought to propound on a subject which they were by their own admission not well informed in{1}, it seems that they presume that they can avoid admitting to being taken to the cleaners in their attempted "arguments" by going after the person of Glen Whitman. Those who can figure out what fallacy this involves are ahead of the curve but I will explain it briefly for those who are still reading and for whom the penny has not dropped yet. Nonetheless, before I do that, I will briefly make a defense for the person of someone I have never met or corresponded with.

According to his page, the following information pertains to one Glen Whitman:

Glen Whitman is an assistant professor of economics at California State University, Northridge. He has also been an instructor of economics at New York University, where he received his Ph.D. in economics in May, 2000. He specializes in applied microeconomics, economic analysis of law, and game theory.

As one who has taken classes in economics, business law, international political economy, international business models, and various other subjects along those lines, I can vouch for the fact that they are all subjects which involve a fairly competent ability to argue and argue persuasively. Furthermore, there is this bit of information which also is helpful:

Professor Whitman has also been involved in various forms of public speaking and debate ever since high school. He was the coach of the NYU Parliamentary Debaters' Union for two years, and he is now a trustee of the American Parliamentary Debate Association.

In other words, the person being cited can be recognized as an expert in the area of debate by virtue of their experience in the area. Whatever one wants to say about NYU in general, their parlimentary debate team (of which Mr. Whitman was the coach for three years) has had a remarkable trackrecord of beating other college debate teams in recent years. He has even written on the subject of debating as well as how to run a good debate tournament. If the critic can posit even similar bona fides, then we can consider them similarly qualified but do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen my friends. But enough on that and let us get to the crux of what was actually said.

Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority). This fallacy occurs when someone tries to demonstrate the truth of a proposition by citing some person who agrees, even though that person may have no expertise in the given area. For instance, some people like to quote Einstein's opinions about politics (he tended to have fairly left-wing views), as though Einstein were a political philosopher rather than a physicist. Of course, it is not a fallacy at all to rely on authorities whose expertise relates to the question at hand, especially with regard to questions of fact that could not easily be answered by a layman -- for instance, it makes perfect sense to quote Stephen Hawking on the subject of black holes.

If we want to argue does Mr. Whitman have expertise in being able to be cited as an authority on argumentation fallacies, I believe what is noted above is more than adequate. But that is not why I cited Mr. Whitman my friends. No, I cited him because he agrees with a position I myself have made and of which I have made my own arguments on: something my confused friend cannot claim for the lions share of their own recent statements. It is obvious that my reluctant pointing of this out publicly has angered them but they brought this on themselves with their recent public actions and statements. Moving on...

At least in some forms of debate, quoting various sources to support one's position is not just acceptable but mandatory. In general, there is nothing wrong with doing so. Even if the person quoted has no particular expertise in the area, he may have had a particularly eloquent way of saying something that makes for a more persuasive speech. In general, debaters should be called down for committing argumentum ad verecundiam only when (a) they rely on an unqualified source for information about facts without other (qualified) sources of verification, or (b) they imply that some policy must be right simply because so-and-so thought so.

Though it was not necessary to do, we have established Mr. Whitman as an expert on debating. Nonetheless, what interests me is what he notes are the conditions which someone should be called down for committing argumentum ad verecundiam and they were the following ones:

---Relying on an unqualified source for information about facts without other qualified sources of verification.

---Claiming something is right because someone else has said so.

Those who followed the recent events know that none of those points can be imputed to me but that my confused friend has violated both of them repeatedly. In closing, there is another fallacy they have fallen into which I will note upon wrapping this posting up and it is this: argumentum ad hominem.

The latter fallacy is to argue to the man rather than the man's arguments. This has clearly been the case with my confused friend by going after Mr. Whitman rather than considering if what Mr. Whitman says is or is not true. There is a reason my confused friend did this and it is this: what Mr. Whitman says about argumentum ad verecundiam is so commonly accepted as to be general knowledge on the matter. But then again, it is always easier to make accusations than to produce any arguments. If your host has had one weakness in this whole endeavour it has been making too many arguments. Unfortunately, my confused friend's weakness has been the converse of that which any unbiased reader of both sides can easily verify for themselves.

In short, by attempting to once again avoid the arguments and focusing instead on the person making them, my confused friend has committed yet another argumentation fallacy. But why do I sense that pride will be their downfall in refusing to face up to and admit to these errors as publicly as they have made them???


{1} I must concede that on one subject at the very least (the one on double effect) they did actually make some arguments of their own. The rest were basically a hodgepodge of "I disagree and [fill in the list of people you want] agree with me" - the textbook example of argumentum ad vericundium as was noted in the aforementioned points to ponder thread in support of my own arguments advanced on this very subject matter in at least three previous postings of recent vintage.

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