Posts tagged with: philosophy

Blog author: jballor
Monday, April 21, 2014
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Karl Marx 001Ross Douthat (a scheduled plenary speaker at this year’s Acton University) has a noteworthy piece this week about the revival of sorts of Karl Marx: “Marxist ideas are having an intellectual moment, and attention must be paid.”

He looks at Marxism among Millennials, who perhaps can be excused for not knowing any better given their relative youth and the education many have received. Thus “the clutch of young intellectuals [Timothy] Shenk dubs the ‘Millennial Marxists,’ whose experience of the financial crisis inspired a new look at Old Karl’s critique of capitalism.” An example of what this might look like among evangelicals is this essay from The Evangelical Outpost, “Capitalism is Not God’s Dream for Humanity.” In this piece, Stormie Knott lists three dangerous things that about capitalism she learned from Marx: alienation, overconsumption, and exploitation.

To say that one might just as well learn those things from the Bible as from Marx, and with perhaps a bit more insight into the anthropological foundations of these problematics, would miss the larger point. Surely there are things one can learn from Marx. It’s just that the truths that Marx communicates are rather often more simplistic and less complex than the realities they purport to explain. But this is, perhaps, the nature of any ideology: to simplify and thus to distort.

Of course if one defines “capitalism” as that which alienates and exploits and so on, then you’ve covered your bases quite nicely, because how could anyone defend that?

This larger point is, as Peter Lawler notes, that Marx is one of the dominant narrators of the modern age, and one who must be reckoned with. His critique of the “conservative reactionaries” who sympathize with Marx is spot-on: “They too readily accept Marx’s description of capitalism as a realistic account of the world in which we live.  They think of themselves as living in a techno-wasteland and of freedom as having become another word, these days, for nothing left to lose.  Identifying capitalism with America, they become anti-American and anti-modern and almost as revolutionary in their intentions as members of Marx’s proletariat.”

Douthat concludes his piece by examining the work of Thomas Piketty, which Douthat says is “the one book this year that everyone in my profession will be required to pretend to have diligently read.” Not being among the intelligentsia, I have nevertheless duly placed my preorder of Capital in the Twenty-First Century on Amazon.

Scholarship, Scholastica I, Scholastica II, Abraham Kuyper“What should be the goal of university study and the goal of living and working in the sacred domain of scholarship?” –Abraham Kuyper

Christian’s Library Press has just released a new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s Scholastica I and II, two convocation addresses delivered to Vrije Universiteit (Free University) during his two years as rector (first in 1889, and then again in 1900).

The addresses are published under the title Scholarship, and demonstrate Kuyper’s core belief that “knowledge (curriculum) and behavior (pedagogy) are embedded in our core beliefs about the nature of God, humanity, and the world,” as summarized by translator Nelson Kloosterman. “In an engaging way, Kuyper shares his view of the divine purpose of scholarship for human culture.”

The addresses were delivered at a time when the Netherlands school system was beginning to foster more religious tolerance, eventually providing equal treatment and funding for all schools, confessional or otherwise, nearly 20 years after Kuyper’s second address.

They were also delivered at a time when the act of scholarship was not nearly as widespread as it is today. As Kuyper explains, we ought to view any such opportunity as an “inestimable privilege”:

To have the opportunity of studying is such an inestimable privilege, and to be allowed to leave the drudgery of society to enter the world of scholarship is such a gracious decree of our God…Now if nature were not so hard and life not so cruel, many more people could have the enjoyment of that sacred calling. But things being what they are, only a few are granted that honor and by far most people are deprived of that privilege.

But you and I have received this great favor from our God. We belong to that specially privileged group. Thus, woe to you and shame on you if you do not hear God’s holy call in the field of scholarship and do not exult with gratitude and never-ending praise that it pleased God out of free grace to choose you as his instrument for this noble, uplifting, inspiring calling. (more…)

Radio Free ActonWhat is the end – the goal – of business anyway? Is it to merely maximize a profit or to do good, or some balance between the two? And what exactly does it mean for a business to “do good”? And if I happen to be a person of deep religious faith, do I have to check my faith at the boardroom door? What influence should my faith have on the exchanges I engage in day to day, and what are the practical implications of ethics on how I conduct myself in business relationships? Andrew Abela is the 2009 recipient of Acton’s Novak Award. He has just co-authored a very important book on the subject of the intersection of ethics and morality with business: A Catechism for Business: Tough Ethical Questions & Insights From Catholic Teaching (The Catholic University of America Press). He speaks with Acton’s Paul Edwards on this edition of Radio Free Acton.

not fairLiberal: not bound by traditional ways or beliefs.”

A “liberal” then, would be a person who is open-minded, ready to listen to another point of view. “I’m not bound to any traditions; I’m open-minded. I am liberal.”

Yet, recently, liberals are showing they are as close-minded as the “conservatives” they claim have it all wrong.

For instance, Mozilla’s Brendan Eich was forced out as the company’s leader (despite the company’s strong stance on tolerance) because he had contributed to a pro-traditional marriage movement in California a few years back.

There’s more. At Swarthmore College (a liberal arts college that prides itself on its “diversity of perspectives“), a student complained about a political debate between Dr. Robert P. George, a conservative, and Dr. Cornel West, a liberal, who also happen to be friends.

In reaction to the debate, one student told the student newspaper that she was “really bothered” with “the whole idea … that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.”

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DSPTcolloquiumGraphicI am looking forward to presenting a paper at an upcoming colloquium in Berekely on July 16-20: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem: Dialogue between Philosophy and Theology in the 21st Century.”

From the colloquium press release:

The Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Western U.S.A.) and its center of studies, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, will host a colloquium to discuss the intersection of philosophy and theology, titled: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? Dialogue between Philosophy and Theology in the 21st Century.” Scheduled for July 16-20, 2014, in Berkeley, California, the event will gather scholars from academia and from the Dominican Order throughout the world. Philosophers and theologians will explore the theological implications of current work in philosophy, as well as philosophical questions that arise in theology today. This is to be the first of a triennial series on the intersection between philosophy and theology.

Plenary session presenters include John Searle from the University of California at Berkeley and Michael Dodds, OP, from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, as well as many others from around the world, including Edward Feser (Pasadena City College, Pasadena, California), Alfred Freddoso (University of Notre Dame), John O’Callaghan (University of Notre Dame), Michał Paluch, OP (Dominican House of Studies, Krakow, Poland), Robert Sokolowski (Catholic University of America), and Linda Zagzebski (University of Oklahoma). Details, including registration information, may be found at www.dspt.edu/conversation2014. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 13, 2014
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liberty-wordcloud“It’s important to talk about liberty, but not in isolation,” says Samuel Gregg, Research Director for the Acton Institute. “Our language should reflect the truth that reason, justice, equality, and virtue make freedom possible.”

At some point, for instance, those in the business of promoting freedom need to engage more precisely what they mean by liberty. After all, modern liberals never stop talking about the subject. Moreover, if the default understanding of freedom in America is reduced to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s mystery clause (“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”), then liberty’s meaning will be very difficult to integrate with any substantive commitment to reason. That should worry freedom-lovers, because in the absence of reason we can have no principled objection—as opposed to mere emotional unease—to unjust suppressions of freedom by the sophistical, powerful, or ruthless.

Read more . . .

truthiness_largeThe Supreme Courts is hearing a case that involves a First Amendment challenge to an Ohio law that makes it a crime to “disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false.”

During the 2010 elections, the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy group, published ads in Ohio claiming that then-Rep. Steven Driehaus supported taxpayer-funded abortions (because he had voted for the Affordable Care Act). Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission over the ads. The SBA List challenged the constitutionality of the law, which is now before the Supreme Court.

In support of the SBA List, P.J. O’Rourke, humorist and national treasure, contributed to an amicus brief defending our constitutional right to “truthiness”:
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Radio Free ActonAre you special? Do you have intrinsic dignity? Are “human rights” something that you have by virtue of the fact that you’re a human being, or are you no different from any other creature on the planet? These are all vitally important questions, the answers to which will shape the way you view yourself and other people, and deeply impact the sort of society that you attempt to build.

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards talks with Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism and author of National Review Online’s Human Exceptionalism blog. Smith is a powerful voice in defense of the intrinsic dignity and value of human life in the face of growing threats to those ideas from supporters of assisted suicide and population control, as well as from the environmentalist and animal rights movements, both of which have trended toward more radical anti-human sentiment over the past few decades.

Smith has recently released an e-book and a documentary called “The War on Humans” – both of which are available at waronhumans.com – detailing the very real and very current threats to human dignity that exist in the world today. You can view the documentary after the jump, and we’d encourage you to download and read the e-book as well. The Radio Free Acton podcast is available via the player below.

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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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All Saints church - C19 stained glass - geograph.org.uk - 1638069Kierkegaard once wrote, “The majority of men are subjective toward themselves and objective toward all others, terribly objective sometimes–but the real task is in fact to be objective toward one’s self and subjective toward all others.”

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Discounting the Unseen,” I explore our responsibility to presume the best of others, particularly with regards to what remains unknown or assumed about them. This is a significant task given our natural propensity to excuse ourselves and to condemn others. We might consider this to be a salutary if mundane exercise in moral imagination, described by Russell Kirk as “the power of ethical perception which strides beyond the barriers of private experience and events of the moment.”

To put it in economic terms, there should be a negative discount rate for the unseen actions and experiences of others. To put it in moral terms, we should have compassion on others, and moreover we should realize that the Christian is called “to defend and promote my neighbour’s honour and reputation.”

Blog author: johnteevan
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
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Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis (5042178398)When we think of our freedoms and how they are basic to our society yet freedoms seem to be out of control in so many ways since the 1960s, we probably need to pull back and consider those freedoms from a new perspective. So let’s consider playing the piano. I am free to play the piano in that pianos are available, piano teachers are available, and there is no regulation or social stigma that prevents me from acquiring or learning the piano.

I have liberty when it comes to pianos. However, I am not currently free to play the piano well nor can I demonstrate any such ability nor can I know the joys of learning, memorizing, and playing a piece such as I heard at a Second Sunday concert this month. I have two liberties here: the freedom to acquire a piano and the freedom to do the hard work of learning to play it well. I must not confuse the two liberties.

As for American freedoms I must not think that because I have the liberty to get a job I should be paid as if I were already trained and experienced or just because I have endless freedoms in moral areas that I can choose any path and still have satisfying relationships at home, with friends, or at work.

By the way: almost 80% of 493,000 pianos made in 2012 were low-end Chinese ones. Chopin and Debussy’s pianos were made by Pleyel a French company that is going out of business this month.