Posts tagged with: philosophy

"In the Beginning" artist Mako Fujimura

“In the Beginning”
artist Mako Fujimura

The hubby and I were watching TV when a commercial for Fiji Water came on. The voiceover expounded all the wonderful features of this water, and then said something about it being “untouched by man.”

I turned to my husband and said, “Did I hear that right? ‘Untouched by man?'” He nodded.

Indeed, that’s the selling point for this water:

On a remote Pacific island 1600 miles from the nearest continent, equatorial trade winds purify the clouds that begin FIJI’s Water journey through one of the world’s last virgin ecosystems. As the tropical rains fall on a pristine rain forest, it filters through layers of volcanic rock, slowly gathering the natural minerals and electrolytes that give FIJI Water its soft, smooth taste. The water collects in a natural artesian aquifer,  deep below the earth’s surface, shielded from external elements by confining layers of rock. Natural pressure forces the water towards the earth’s surface, where it’s bottled at the source, untouched by man until you unscrew the cap. [emphasis mine]

First, let’s all agree that this is heavy-handed prose for water. Second, the folks at Fiji seem to think they are doing something not only extraordinary, but revolutionary. Sorry to tell you, folks: you’re doing something people have been doing since, well, as long as people have been around: getting water out of a well.

Now back to the “untouched by man” thing. Why is this a selling point? Why is something touched by a human being bad? (more…)

AOTActon offers a wide range of events and educational opportunities suited to a variety of different tastes and learning styles (and if you haven’t done so already, you should check out, which helps you navigate all the different ways Acton can help you learn). But one of the coolest events we put on has to be Acton On Tap, which is an informal (and FREE) gathering of friends and supporters of the Institute, plus anyone else who wants to drop by for a cold drink and some good conversation.

We kicked off our summer Acton On Tap series for 2015 back on June 2 with a presentation by our institute Librarian, Dan Hugger, on the life and overarching ideas of Acton’s namesake, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, First Baron Acton of Aldenham. Acton was a defender of liberty, of free inquiry, freedom of religion, and the broad liberal tradition, and in his address Hugger suggests that Acton, both in his life and writings, serves as a model for thoughtful and passionate engagement with the modern world.

We’re pleased to present the audio of Dan’s remarks below, and invite you to join us at our next Acton On Tap with Jared Meyer, who will be speaking on July 29th on his latest book, Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young. Information and registration for that event are available at this link. We hope to see you there!

NovakToday’s issue of Public Discourse offers a reflection on the life and work of Michael Novak. It would not be an exaggeration to say Novak is a towering figure in the world of free market economics. Author Nathaniel Peters says that while Novak has had his critics, the question that lies at the heart of all Novak’s work is this: “How do we get people out of poverty?”

What economic systems are most conducive to allowing people to exercise their human dignity, realize their God-given capacities, and provide for themselves and their families? When many people think of capitalism, they imagine factory owners exploiting workers. Novak sees a woman with a micro-loan who can now start a business to support her family, or a community of immigrants who have arrived in America—like Novak’s own Slovak ancestors—who through hard work in their local community can build better lives for themselves and those around them. (more…)

thornburyPresident of  The King’s College in New York City and one of this year’s Acton University plenaries, Greg Thornbury, gives his top 5 book picks for today’s college students.

1. Plato’s Dialogues

Plato’s dialogues are good for virtually everything that ails our society. He takes on relativism, skepticism, materialism, and incivility. Gorgias clarifies the difference between truth-seeking and posturing.


Prof. Harry Veryser stars in a new video from ISI that explores some of the lessons about private property, rights, responsibilities, and stewardship that can be gleaned from the thought of Thomas Aquinas.

For a much more in-depth exposition of the connections between and lessons from Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, check out John Mueller’s Redeeming Economics (ISI, 2010). For more, check out a slate of review essays on Mueller’s book published in Research in the History of Economic Thought & Methodology, including a piece by me, “The Economies of Divine and Human Love.”

discourseYou’ve heard of that mythical place where elephants go to die? Apparently, these giants “know” they are going to die, and they head off to a place known only to them.

Free speech in the United States goes off to die as well, but there is no myth surrounding this. Free speech dies in our colleges and universities. Just ask American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Sommers. Sommers is a former philosophy professor and AEI scholar who recently spoke at Oberlin College. Her speech was excellent, but it apparently frightened the pants off a bunch of students (oh, I probably can’t say that. It likely makes someone feel violated.) They paraded outside the room where Sommers spoke, holding signs invoking “trigger warnings” and announcing a “safe room” where those who found Sommers’ talk too much to handle. Her topic? “What’s Right (And Wrong) With Feminism.” She was harassed and harangued both in-person and online for daring to speak such words. (more…)

mum_baby_reading“One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

“Why are families a good thing exactly?”

“We should accept that lots of stuff that goes on in healthy families—and that our theory defends—will confer unfair advantage.”

One of my co-workers thought he was reading an article from the satirical website The Onion. Alas, that is not the case. No, these are quotes from philosopher Adam Swift, who believes we must acknowledge the “fact” that children growing up in an intact, mom-and-pop family have an “unfair advantage” to those children who don’t. Even worse, he thinks we should set things aright. (more…)

Human-Male-White-Newborn-Baby-CryingBirthrates across the globe are going down even as life expectancy increases. The former trend is marked particularly in developed nations.

There are lots of reasons for people to have kids or not have kids. Some of these reasons are economic. As I’ve argued previously, “One of the common concerns that drives prospective parents to put off having children is economic, specifically that they won’t have the financial resources to support a growing family. This is a worry that’s been around as long as there have been families.”

Perhaps it really is more difficult in America today to make the economic sacrifice (or perhaps better understood as investment) required for having kids.

But often these kinds of economic reasons end up being used as rationalizations. More honest, at least, is this characterization of a ‘rational’ approach to procreation:

Not having children isn’t selfish. Not having children is a perfectly rational and reasonable response given that humans are essentially parasites on the face of a perfectly lovely and well-balanced planet, ploughing through its natural resources, eradicating its endangered species, and ruining its most wonderful landscapes. This might sound misanthropic, and it is, but it is also true.


school-choice-justiceSocial justice is a term and concept frequently associated with the political Left, and too often used to champion views that are destructive for society and antithetical to justice. Yet for Christians the term is too valuable to be abandoned. Conservatives need to rescue it from the Left and restore it’s true meaning. True social justice is obtained, as my colleague Dylan Pahman has helpfully explained, “when each member, group, and sphere of society gives to every other what is due.”

A key sphere of society in which social justice is in desperate need of restoration is education. The poor deserve the same freedom to obtain a quality education that is too often reserved for those wealthy enough to rescue their children from failing schools. For this reason school choice should be considered a matter of social justice.

As Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says, lack of a quality education is a common thread among persons in severe poverty. And once stuck in deep poverty it’s very hard for anyone to escape due to the lack of skills needed to secure and hold employment:

economic decisionIf there’s one area of the faith-work conversation that’s lacking in exploration and introspection, it’s the role of spiritual discernment in the day-to-day decisions of economic life.

It’s one thing to orient one’s heart and mind around the big picture of vocation and stewardship — no small feat, to be sure — but if economics is about the intersection of knowledge and human action, what does it mean to serve a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts? Before and beyond our questions about ethics and meaning and vocation (“is my work moral?”; “does it have meaning?”; “what am I called to do?”) remains the basic question of obedience.

How does the Gospel transform our hearts and minds and how does that process transform our economic action? How do we make sure we’re putting obedience before sacrifice in all that we do? How do we hear the Holy Spirit minute-by-minute, day-by-day, and how does that impact the ideas we have, the products we conceive, the prices we set, the relationships we build, and the trades and investments we make?

I was reminded of this recently upon reading an essay on discernment by Peter Kreeft. Although he doesn’t speak directly to economic matters, Kreeft does a nice job of connecting the earthly with the transcendent, cautioning us against “emphasizing Christ’s divinity at the expense of his humanity or his humanity at the expense of his divinity,” or likewise, “his divine sovereignty at the expense of free will or free will at the expense of divine sovereignty.” Spiritual discernment ought not descend into some kind of peculiar escapism, but rather, it must engage with the natural world, leverage the gifts and the resources God has given us, and ultimately bear fruit for the good of the city and for the life of the world. (more…)