Friday, March 24, 2017

Personhood


In an article in a national magazine for electrical engineers (IEEE Spectrum) on whether (some) robots should be considered “persons” or have “personhood rights” (really???) such as a corporation has rights, there is a quote from an Australian law professor:
Legal persons must know and be able to claim their rights: They must be able to assert themselves as members of a society, which is why nonhuman animals (and some incapacitated humans), and artifacts like AIs should not be considered legal persons. (my emphasis added.)

Interestingly, it was not my highlighted exception which surprised or had not been previously considered by the author of the article, or even commented on during the rest of the article. Why am I continually surprised?
Obviously, already in today’s society certain humans have been routinely denied the rights of persons – namely the unborn and those considered in comas or “brain dead” (whatever that means – the definition of which is constantly in flux due to convenience and organ donation issues.)
But apparently we haven’t reached the end of the road in denying rights. Throughout history man has denied the humanity of one group or another. Even though we believe we are the "enlightened" generations, it goes on and on.
On this eve of the Feast of the Annunciation .... Oremus pro invicem!
 
 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My view on the Benedict Option ...

... is actually someone else's.

I haven't read a lot of reviews, and I haven't read the book, but from reading about BO from Rod Dreher's blog, the sense I get corresponds pretty well to this review.

If the Benedict Option is just Christianity, it is neither inherently Benedictine nor is it optional. If it is a feeling and an intuition, it needs to be guided by careful thought.
Dreher himself, in an earlier articulation of it, says it is the charge to be distinctly Christian and countercultural in the face of cultural hostility “even if that means some degree of intentional separation from the mainstream” (italics Dreher’s). But that already has a name: Christianity.

Christianity has always called one to be countercultural - the struggle to be in the world but not of the world.

I have no particular plans to read the book, so I probably won't mention it again.
***************
It was my privilege this past weekend to visit with some young men from Florida State U and Rutgers along with a few of the Brothers from the Brotherhood of Hope at a working retreat of sorts in NC.
 
In talking to one of the Brothers, I was again struck by how much going on a mission trip to serve the poor changes the lives (and plans) of so many people.
 
The Brothers work at secular campuses to bring Christ to those who don't know Him.

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Corn, Snow, and "The Benedict Option"

We almost planted corn on Saturday but ran out of time. We woke up to snow and more cold weather on Sunday. Still cold today, but I think I will be planting my sweet corn within a week.
 
Reading a review (review by Collin Hansen) of Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option:
 
Here’s how to get started with the antipolitical politics of the Benedict Option. Secede culturally from the maintream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good. Start a church, or a group within your church. Open a classical Christian school, or join and strengthen one that exists. Plant a garden, and participate in a local farmer’s market. Teach kids how to play music, and start a band. Join the volunteer fire department.

 
Hmmm. Sounds familiar!
 
Personally, I am more interested in reading Out of the Ashes by Anthony
Esolen.
 
I think the so-called Benedict Option is nothing more than living the Faith - being in the world but not of it. This is what Christians have been called to do for 2000 years. But we need resets because we are seduced by the world and need to pull back periodically - Oh, that's called LENT!
 
Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Conversion

Read in the Emergency waiting room (waiting to find out daughter did NOT have appendicitis):

Now, since people tend to prize knowledge above holiness, we must be warned that this enlightening is not an understanding of the Divine Mysteries. It is a call (vocation) to obedience; and it is a mission (apostolate) to love the laws of God: the two Great Commandments. (Conversio by John Meehan 1976)

I think it is true - people love to know things - and we sometimes think because we have all this knowledge, that we are holy. (I know the commandments; I know the catechism; I know the proper rubrics for the Mass; .... etc.) But probably most of us will realize this is false if we think about it.
 
Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

books, peas, and school

The "Closing of the American Mind" is all but closed. Some interesting points including a back-handed compliment on Great Books curriculums. Here we are 30 years later and the holding hostage of colleges is beginning again. The colleges never recovered from the first time.
 
I finished listening to Michael Strogoff by Jules Verne last week. Verne often uses science or writes science fiction (i.e. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) in his stories. This one was devoid of it except near the end on one crucial point. Without giving a spoiler, let me just say that Verne makes use of the Leidenfrost effect (you've seen this when a drop of water skitters across a skillet when the skillet is much hotter than the boiling point of water - or when liquid nitrogen drops skitter across a floor.)
 
Planted peas and broccoli, and carrots, and radishes, and lots of other things the past two weekends. However, it has been so warm, I wonder if I am not a few weeks late.
 
I tilled the patch we will be growing sweet corn this year. I am thinking of planting some this weekend.
 
Teaching is going this spring. I hesitate to say "going well" because I am not sure what that means: everyone getting "A's" for example? Well that's not the case. Mid-term is at the end of this week, and one of my classes is a disaster (grade-wise.) I am hoping the test this week will renew my confidence in today's students!
 
There seems to be two major problems with the students I see. First is a lack of foundational knowledge in math (after all, I teach sciences). It is hard to understand more complex topics if the underlying math (usually high school algebra) is close to a mystery for the student.
 
Secondly (and this may be the cause of the first), there seems to be an expectation of continuous opportunities. That is: do poorly on a test and just retake it and do better.
 
I can see why. Apparently many high schools give almost unlimited chances to complete homework and test assignments. Do the assignment as many times as you want - until you get the grade you are satisfied with (this last is a quote from a teacher). I kid you not. I have recently become quite aware of this. It may be a way to move students along (because failure is bad for self-esteem?).
 
I don't know, but it does not do the students any good when they reach a higher level.
 
Oremus pro invicem!
 
 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Listening to .... Michael Strogoff

by Jules Verne.


I had never heard of it, but have enjoyed a few of Verne's books (most notably The Mysterious Island recommended by son Matthew) so I randomly picked this one from LibriVox.

Turns out, according to Wikipedia, "Critics consider it one of Verne's best books."

The full title is Michael Strogoff, The Courier of the Czar.

I am almost 1/2 way through, and it is very good so far.

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Got the latest issue of Grit Magazine in the mail this weekend. I don't subscribe, but a received a complimentary copy because an article of mine was included in the magazine. It is not available online, but if you look at the table of contents in the link, it is the one about pigs - who'd have guessed?
 
I wish I had the time to write and publish more. I used to write articles (and get them published) pretty regularly, but mostly in Catholic online magazines - and those don't pay anything! These days I really can't afford to work for free even if I had the time.
 
I have continued in my journey through The Closing of the American Mind. The chapter on music has a devastating indictment of rock and roll. I don't have the text available to me as I write today, but if I can come up with a representative quote later, I may update this post.
 
Energy and hope still linger from my visit to Aquinas College in Nashville this past weekend.
 
Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Aquinas College, Nashville, TN

My daughter was scheduled to attend scholarship day at Aquinas College in Nashville, TN this weekend. Mrs. Curley was going to take her, leaving the homestead early Friday morning.

Somehow at 6:00 AM on Friday morning, the responsibility changed, and I was taking her. I am glad I did.
 
I have visited Northeast Catholic, Wyoming Catholic, Christendom College, and University of Dallas (or more accurately Holy Trinity Seminary at UD). I have come away from each re-energized in my Faith and renewed in hope for the coming generation.
 
For some reason, even though Aquinas is a Newman Guide school, I didn't expect the same, but I got the same renewal none-the-less.
 
From the president of Aquinas, Sister Mary Sarah, O.P., to the professors, to the students, I found a college that knows what(who) it is, and what its purpose is.
 
I spent 15-20 minutes speaking with Sister Mary Sarah, O.P. and didn't know until later who she was. These Dominicans know what they are doing - they want to bring people to Christ.
 
The scholarship candidates and their parents split into groups based on their intended majors and met with the dean of that college. We met with Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk, dean of the college of arts and sciences. I loved his presentation on the purpose of education and of the value of the liberal arts. (My daughter says, "Of course you did. He says the same things you say!")
 
As to Nashville .... bigger than I thought. We stayed in a cabin at a KOA. We ate well, but fairly inexpensively. Live bluegrass music while eating a $12 supper - not bad at all! The Cathedral was beautiful, but not breathtaking. They had confession, which we took advantage of. We assisted at Mass at St. Edward Sunday morning. Great homily from the pastor.
 
Glad to be home, but glad I went.
 
Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, February 06, 2017

the family

Written in 1986, from the Closing of the American Mind:

The dreariness of the family's spiritual landscape passes belief. .....People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life. Educational TV marks the high tide for family intellectual life. ...fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise - as priests, prophets, or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all they can imagine.

I think this is an inevitable consequence of the breaking apart of the family (everyone leaves everyday.) Our real lives are at work and school, not at home. Home is just the hotel and periodically the vacation. Some of what he says is not even true now - families don't sup together and play together on a regular basis.
 
********************
 
In my previous posts I asked questions about the long-term viability of a democratic republic. I am not a monarchist (never thought much about it either way.) Just asking questions.
 
Charlie makes the comment: The problem we have today is not a problem of government but a problem of morality. There can be no liberty among the immoral.
 
The founding fathers believed that Constitution would only work for a moral people.
 
Regarding the best government, a truly moral and benevolent monarch with good judgment, would perhaps be the best form of government, but who is to vouch for his successors? I guess that any government made up of moral people with good judgment would be the "best" government.
 
Many make the case that since this is unlikely to happen, the democratic republic is the best compromise ....
 
Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Can a democratic republic work?


As noted in my last post, it was proposed (from the Introduction to The Closing of the American Mind) that the Founding Fathers believed:

From the earliest beginnings of liberal thought there was a tendency in the direction of indiscriminate freedom. Hobbes and Locke, and the American founders following them, intended to palliate extreme beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, which lead to civil strife. The members of sects had to obey the laws and be loyal to the Constitution; if they did so, others had to leave them alone, however distasteful their beliefs might be. In order to make this arrangement work, there was a conscious, if covert, effort to weaken religious beliefs, partly by assigning ... religion to the realm of opinion as opposed to knowledge.

Going forward, it seems that Mr. Bloom is proposing (at least in the introduction) that the current problem of relativism can be traced to minority groups wanting to remain distinguishable from a conforming mass of people under the Constitution as designed in the quote above.

Granted, I haven’t finished the book (or even the introduction), but there seems to be an inherent problem here. It is turned on its head. Relativism would be the result of “assigning ... religion to the realm of opinion as opposed to knowledge”, not the other way around.

The result of core sets of beliefs being converted into simple opinions of equal value would then give rise to every minority group (defining minority not by race, but by any belief whim) wanting their agendas to be given equal value.

Because there may be real resistance, eventually, this want becomes a demand, causing chaos - such as we are witnessing today – to the extent of again turning things on their heads: unorthodox beliefs being demanding acceptance as knowledge/fact, and traditional beliefs being regulated to the dustbin at best and outlawed at worst. (It is clear that in the current climate the simple acceptance of a coexistence of the homosexual/transgender/etc. agenda is not enough. Beliefs opposed to these agendas, even if held privately or by a church, will not be tolerated in any form.)

Is the constitutional republic as we know it inherently unworkable in the long term, or is it a function of other influences at this particular time in history? Would returning things to a previous order of beliefs under the same constitutional system simply repeat the process?
More on this later, including possibly some thoughts (by Russell Shaw) peculiar to Catholicism in American from the book American Church.
Oremus pro invicem!