Tag: Philosophy

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Limited, Local, Lawful Government

 

I have been an active poster and commenter on Ricochet since the beginning; way back when Peter came down the mountain with the Code of Conduct and Rob was still scribbling graffiti on the side of NRO cruise ships.

The concept and the membership really haven’t changed much. Contributors come and go. Ever more podcasts elbow each other for a place in the spotlight. We have more options on the site now, like groups and private messages. We have more meetups. Ne’er-do-wells are still sacrificed to the PIT.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. On Empathy

 

If I were a drinking man, I’d play a drinking game: Open a dating app, the comments section of a Washington Post article, a feminist blog, or any other place where people of a left-wing persuasion congregate, and take a shot every time someone writes a paean to empathy.

Whatever your neighbor’s teenage daughter may say, empathy is not a virtue. Empathy is a useful and morally neutral psychological phenomenon, one which might underlie certain virtues, but one which is not itself sufficient as the basis for any coherent ethical system.* The world would not ipso facto become a better place if “everyone had more empathy.” On the contrary, it might degenerate into some version of what we see now: quivering masses of emotional gelatin demanding therapeutic self-affirmation in the form of safe spaces and coloring books; a people paralyzed in unending anguish merely because somewhere, someone is suffering. As a moral principle, empathy is self-defeating. Too often, appealing to the “capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference” is akin to saying, “Every action or belief is legitimate from the point of view of the person who experiences it, and therefore every action or belief is legitimate.” Empathy easily descends into excuse-making. (Take the canonical example of an abused girlfriend: Is she really better off for “showing empathy” to her abuser?) Once empathy is removed from the psychological realm and introduced to the ethical one, it negates the very purpose of ethics, which is to establish a series of principles by which actions can be judged.

Why would a loving God permit something like COVID-19 to afflict people He ostensibly loves? It’s the sort of question people have wrestled with for thousands of years. Our own Dave Carter sits down with Father Ben Bradshaw, Pastor of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Memphis, TN, to discuss this question and a great many others in a wide ranging conversation that touches on the metaphysical insights of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Socrates and Aristotle, the physical challenges of ministering in a world of social distancing, and even the world of faith and food (Father Bradshaw is also a classically trained chef).

Ricochet Member Seawriter also joins Dave in a discussion of a his latest book, “Vanished Houston Landmarks.” (He’s also authored 31 other books on a huge variety of interesting historical topics.)

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Unselfing, Marys and Marthas: Winter of Discontent, or Mind of Winter?

 

“One must have a mind of winter… And have been cold a long time… not to think / Of any misery in the sound of the wind,” the January wind. So says Wallace Stevens in his poem, The Snow Man. Misery and discontent aren’t identical, but a series of small miseries — unrelated to wintry weather — means February snuck up on me this year, almost as if January never happened, so misery must do for my “winter of discontent”. To “the listener, who listens in the snow,” hearing the sound of the wind, the poem promises if he becomes “nothing himself” he’ll “behold[] / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” People “cold a long time” can go numb, of course, and numbness is a kind of “nothing” obliterating misery. But numbness seems insufficient for a “mind of winter”.

For our own survival, we see winter’s cold as hostile. Our success as biological beings depends on our sensing discomfort, in order to mitigate risk before it’s too late. Concern for our own comfort is a form of self-regard that isn’t optional, if we care to live. Nonetheless, necessary self-regard is still self-regard. A mind of winter leaves self-regard behind. And so, it sees wintry beauty — the snowy, frozen world lit with “the distant glitter / Of the January sun” — simply because it is there to see, irrespective of what it might mean to the self. Winter in itself isn’t hostile, just indifferent: self-regard makes the indifference seem hostile. A mind of winter is “unselfed”.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Basia and the Squirrel: Scruton’s Tale of Eros Transubstantiated

 

“The apostolic church is a church of the heart. When you steal from it you steal the heart. Hence the theft is easy, and amends are long and hard.” A strange way to sum up a story of erotic love. Nonetheless, it was Scruton’s way, as he described, in the second half of his essay, Stealing from Churches, the thwarted love affair that taught him a “narrative of transubstantiation” transmuting body into soul. In truth, the love affair wasn’t thwarted at all, but one that fulfilled its purpose, a purpose his stubborn young beloved, Basia (pronounced “Basha”), saw more clearly than he did.

Scruton had organized a subversive summer school for the Catholic University in Poland, bringing together Polish and English philosophy students to resist communism. Under the codename “Squirrel” (in Polish “Wiewiorka”, for his red hair) and tailed by at least one jug-eared agent, Scruton had stumbled into more James-Bond mystique than most ginger-haired philosophy dons could hope for. It would be almost cliche, then, for an exotic young thing to throw herself at him. Wry-smiling, stunning Basia was no cliche, though. Or rather, if she were, it would be the cliche in a kind of story too little told these days to count as cliche anymore.

Basia, at 26, the oldest, most academically-advanced of the bright young things attending Scruton’s summer lectures and their unofficial leader, was an uppity young woman with a checkered past. She wasted little time with Scruton: after his second day in Kazimierz, she waylaid him in the woods to announce she noticed no ring on his finger. Such a frank admission of desire seems likely to end in embarrassment all round whether the desire is reciprocated or not, and perhaps it would have if it weren’t accompanied by her equally frank admission that consummating desire was not her aim:

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Dialogue on Faith and Reason

 

Phil and Sophy–that’s Phil and Sophy–are talking about faith and reason in this ongoing YouTube playlist. They’re leaving out a lot of Aquinas and some other guys. But they’re doing a great job covering topics like empiricism, the Verification Criterion of Meaning, Hume, Kant, William James, Augustine, Alvin Plantinga, C. S. Lewis, and more. Here’s the first bit:

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Nothing is new under the sun. This week’s Kavanaugh smear is just the latest manifestation of Trump-Derangement Syndrome (*broken record scratch*). It’s funny when it drives odd people to start screaming at the sky; it’s concerning when it drives deep state leaks and expensive, fruitless investigations; and it’s depressing and pathetic when it drives the […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. It’s Not True that Empiricism and Religion Are Never the Same Thing

 

I’ve been mostly just lurking around Ricochet lately, a consequence of traveling. Two weeks ago travel and allergens wore me out enough to allow for (probably) a flu, which was followed by the usual sinus infection, which was followed by the usual prednisone and antibiotics. But I felt pretty good about the flu because I felt I had something to show for being completely exhausted: My article “William James and Allama Iqbal on Empirical Faith” was accepted for publication around the time the headache started, with the nicest words I’ve ever received from a blind reviewer. As of this morning, the article is now up at the Heythrop Journal website.

My recommended one-sentence takeaway is: Don’t trust the popular theory that empiricism and religion are never the same thing. And here’s some of the gist of my analysis of two empirical religious philosophers:

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Elon Musk announced his Neuralink project this week. As this video explains, the goal of enabling communication and control through thought alone is arguably given some credibility by medical solutions already in use. Preview Open

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Weeks ago, Ricochet members discussed talents and aptitudes. It is generally acknowledged that some people are better than others at particular skills and trades. But there was debate about nature versus nurture; if excellence is available to any practicioner with enough hard work and training. Today, let’s change the focus slightly. Can anyone be trained […]

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Many people find semantics boring. But I never did. An ongoing discussion in Ricochet’s Gamers and Geeks group about the definition of roleplaying games (RPGs) reminds me of my philosophy professor’s lesson on semantics. When trying to clearly identify what a thing is, identifying what it is not can be helpful. Our teacher challenged us […]

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I am back after a short hiatus because I finished my Master’s! I am very excited, and I wanted to share an excerpt of one of my major research papers that I thought was relevant. Thank you so much for reading! Today’s sociopolitical landscape has increasingly become more mainstream for the public to learn about, […]

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I haven’t posted on here in ages. Lots has been going on. In any case for those who do not regularly follow my various comings and goings we have had @markhemingway on the AK47 podcast twice this season already! So that’s pretty sweet. Also one of our own ricochetti the illustrious @saintaugustine gave almost two hours […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

[This quotation speaks to the differences between the British (1640) and American Revolutions, compared to the French (1789) and Russian (1917) Revolutions] The difference was that the British and American revolutions, led by the Puritans, were inspired by the Hebrew Bible. The French and Russian revolutions were inspired by philosophy. Rousseau’s in the first, Karl […]

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When I’m in the mood for political comedy, I often turn to the American Philosophical Association’s blog — a collection of claptrap so crazy that it must be curated by The Onion‘s editorial staff . . . or no editorial staff at all, since its pages are rife with misspellings and grammatical errors. As for its political […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Zeal Without Knowledge

 

The translators of Proverbs 19:2 are in agreement: Zeal without knowledge is dangerous. I’m a little hesitant on the accuracy of this as a translation, since the word zeal apparently does not appear in the Hebrew. (Even the ancient Greek translations lack the word zelos–along with, apparently, the whole verse!)

But I’m not hesitant at all about the idea. It’s a correct idea. Zeal is lauded in the Bible in any number of places, like Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17, Romans 12:11, and Psalm 119:139. But zeal doesn’t create righteousness or wisdom out of nothing. Zeal is meant to be a righteous stand for a truth coming from elsewhere. Zeal is to be built on knowledge; see also Romans 10:2.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

I owe Unsk an apology. Many moons ago, in March, I wrote a piece about the clash between classical liberalism and historic preservation. It occasioned about a dozen comments, all thoughtful. Unsk, an architect, shared a story about his (her? . . . some names are ambiguous) experience with the Secretary of the Interior’s preservation guidelines. According […]

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