Everyman Article on Why You Can’t Just Agree to be Wrong

A new piece is up on ‘The Everyman,’ this one discussing how false logic doesn’t work even if everyone agrees about it:

When I say or write a word, such as “four,” I am attempting to convey an idea that is in my head to yours. Our minds have no direct common communication, so the only way I can do that is to create signs in the environment we share, such as sounds or images. These, by common consent, correspond to particular ideas. That this is by consent rather than by nature can be seen by the fact that the same ideas can be expressed by totally different sounds: ‘four,’ ‘quattuor,’ ‘she,’ and so on all convey the same idea, only in the established ‘styles’ of English, Latin, and Japanese. Likewise, the same sounds can be used to convey different ideas: ‘four’ sounds the same as ‘for’ and ‘fore,’ but they all mean different things.

From there, take a step back from the words to consider the ideas themselves. Ideas are reflections of perceived realities. The idea ‘rock’ is the reflection in my mind of a particular reality that I encounter. It may or may not be a completely accurate reflection; if I see a given rock, I may believe that it is heavy (that is, my idea of it is as something heavy), only to find when I pick it up that it is light, whereupon the idea in my head would change to more closely resemble the actual rock itself. This what we mean by calling our thoughts ‘true’ or ‘false.’ A true thought accurately reflects the reality it corresponds to, as far as it goes, while a false one does not (as we will see, this applies to more abstract concepts as well as to concrete physical reality).

Thus, there are three elements in any given word: the sounds or symbols that make up the word itself (such as ‘four’), the idea that is being conveyed, and the reality that this idea reflects.

Now, we have established that the words used are a matter of convention and consent; that everyone in a particular region agreed to use the sound ‘four’ to convey that particular idea. However, the idea itself is nota matter of convention, because it reflects an objective reality that we encounter in the real world (or at least an objective concept).

Go here to read the rest.

Long-Distance Date Ideas at Catholic Match

My latest Catholic Match post suggests a few different long-distance dating ideas:

4. Video-Game Date

If you can’t meet in real life, set up a multiplayer server just for two and meet in the digital world.

Like the previous entries, this gives you a chance to share something you enjoy with the person you’re interested in, and it has the further advantage of giving you a clear, common goal to work together towards (e.g. “Collect all the stars,” or “Conquer Sweden”).

This is often much more useful for getting to know someone than just talking about nothing in particular, and especially when it comes to creating shared memories and experiences to look back on and laugh over (“Wow, we died horribly that time!”).

What is more, video games, where you have avatars and space to run around in, can allow you to interact much more naturally (ironically enough) than you otherwise would be able to using the phone or computer. It’s easier to be spontaneous and actively involved when you can move about and gesticulate than when you’re more or less tied to sitting in front of your computer.

Read the rest here.

Talking About the Abu Dhabi Document at the Everyman

A little late on this, but the documents says that it hopes to be a long-term object of research, so I suppose this is sort of a way of that coming to pass, though I don’t think the authors would like my take.

In any case, I was asked to give my response to the document and some aspects of it at The Everyman, and today part of that response is up.

Nor does this call for unity and peace amount to anything substantive. Not long after the above passage, the document states that, “Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.”

The trouble is, talk about tolerance, acceptance, and ‘living together peacefully’ doesn’t actually solve anything because it declines the question of what the conflict is actually about. It amounts to simply telling people as a bald-faced assertion that whatever point of contention they have with each other should not lead to conflict, with the ‘acceptance’ and ‘living together peacefully’ points implying that this refers not only to violence but to any kind of contention or disagreement. But that implies that peace and cohesion are to be regarded as more important than any potential points of conflict between Christians and Muslims. Which in turn means that the call for ‘tolerance, acceptance, and living together’ only works for people who already value peace over the points at issue. And, to be clear, the points at issue here are the nature of God and reality and the salvation of souls.

I hope I don’t have to explain why the Pope cannot be telling Christians that they are to value peace and cohesion over their faith, or why this is extremely dubious grounds on which to try to launch a religious renewal.

I am not, of course, saying that there ought to be violence between Christians and Muslims. The point is that the two sides are in fact in conflict. We can and should call for that conflict to be restrained and to be fought with words and ideas rather than weapons (though history gives us little reason to hope for that), but we cannot simply deny that it exists without denying the real content of both religions. Again, this amounts to these two religious leaders trying to promote peace and oppose materialism by saying that religious differences ultimately do not matter. Whether that was their intent or not, that is the actual meaning of their words.

Read the rest here.

Explaining Traditionalism at ‘The Everyman’

When it comes to society and politics, I call myself a Traditionalist, and today at The Everyman, I got to explain a little of what that means: 

Another point where the Traditionalist would reject Liberalism is on the question of freedom. For the Liberal, freedom is the highest good, and he would define freedom along the lines of, “the right to do whatever you like provided you do not interfere with another person’s rights.”

Of course, this requires a clear set of rights, which in turn require a standard for what is and is not a ‘right.’ Because if we take that definition of liberty to be substantially correct, then paradoxically the more ‘rights’ people have, the less freedom any one individual has (again, as we are daily observing in our own culture: if one man claims a right to not be insulted, then another man’s freedom of speech is proportionately limited).

As far as I am aware, this is a standard that Liberals have never been able to establish: there is no clear and objective way for a Liberal to determine what does and does not qualify as a ‘right.’ In fact, the Liberal principle that freedom is the highest good means that there can be no standard by which to judge of rights or freedoms (what can the highest or most basic of goods be judged against?).

Traditionalists, following classical philosophy, would say that rights, rather than being ‘self-evident’ foundations of freedom, are derived from moral duties and observable facts. That is, where a Liberal would say that natural rights determine moral duties, the Traditionalist would say that rationally discerned moral duties require certain rights. For instance, the fact that a man is a father imposes on him duties to provide for his family. This, in turn, requires the right of private property, since it would only be out of his own property that a man could be said to be providing (otherwise whoever owns that property—e.g. the State—would, in fact, be doing the providing). Now, that is not necessarily the only traditional justification for property, the point is that it is a justification, and one that is entirely logical.

Read the rest.

AMDG

The Nuances of How Superpowered Characters Are Received at Home

The irreplaceable Caroline Furlong has another insightful essay in her series on writing superpowered characters; this one is on how they should be viewed in their own world. In it, she hits several points of nuance that the vast majority of modern writers (especially those working in Hollywood or in the comics industry) seem incapable of comprehending: such as that maybe, just maybe, ordinary people have reasons apart from unthinking prejudice and bigotry for fearing a man who can destroy a city single-handedly:

The main reason they must not do this is simple: power of any kind will, if used for selfish motives, corrupt the wielder and lead him/her to the Dark Side. The mild illustration of a teenage couple breaking up due to the machinations of jealous peers should make this clear. Let us say that the girl in this relationship hears a false rumor about her boyfriend making fun of her with his friends, while he is lied to and told that she is cheating on him with another boy. In many situations like this, after breaking up, the two do all sorts of petty things to avenge themselves on one another for the “betrayal” they experienced.

Even without the addition of extraordinary powers, we can see that the odds of this scenario having a happy finale are not good. But take a step back and ask yourself this, future writers: “What happens if the girl discovers she is a pyrokinetc (a fire manipulator and/or generator)? What happens if the boy realizes he can move things with his mind, hear the thoughts of others, and/or compel them to do something? What does their desire to gain vengeance on one another for these perceived betrayals look like then?”

The probable answers to these inquiries are unpleasant, to say the least. If the girl has pyrokinetic powers, she might decide to use her gift to cause bodily or financial harm to her ex-boyfriend. If the boy is telepathic and telekinetic, then he could force his ex-girlfriend to walk off a bridge downtown as “punishment” for her infidelity. These are horrific uses for paranormal gifts, but they illustrate the temptations that these one or two enhanced characters will face in such a situation.

She then goes on to explore ways different stories have explored that mistrust and uncertainty in clever and creative ways. Definitely read the whole thing! 

For my own part, I would make it a rule to never play the ‘unthinking bigotry’ card, much less the ‘they fear what they don’t understand’ one. For one thing, it doesn’t ring true to me (even the most absurd bigotries have some rational basis), and for another, I think it is a very dangerous mindset to encourage; if people adopt it, it leads them to shut their ears to what others actually have to say and to slap the ‘bigot’ label on anyone who says anything they don’t like. Thus, ironically, this mode of attacking prejudice only encourages it. Far better to give the justification a fair hearing and show why and how it is wrong, or at least how it isn’t the whole story, then to dumb things down to pure, unthinking resentment. Besides, exploring ideas and settling true from false makes for a much better story than just “these people are good and innocent; these are evil and ignorant, and that’s terrible. Be grateful we are not like them.”

 

Do the Powers Make the Hero?

The Irreplaceable Caroline Furlong writes an excellent piece about whether the superhuman powers of a hero is what makes him a hero worth rooting for, or not:

Due to the numerous ways extraordinary faculties can be introduced into a tale, there are several conditions that an author must consider when creating powered protagonists. In today’s post, we are focusing on the most important one: whether or not strange abilities make the lead character a hero. Is it his special powers that make the sci-fi/fantasy protagonist a champion? Or are the forces that he wields less important than the character himself?

The answer to the first question should be no, because a protagonist who is only memorable for his special talents or whizz-bang gadgets is not a character. He is, rather, a prop; a device that demonstrates the author’s cool ideas in a series of happy (or unhappy) accidents. No one enjoys watching a prop being moved around the stage by the play’s director, even if he is honestly trying to save the show. They will feel sympathy for him, but nothing else. In the same manner, no one will respect or admire a writer who cannot create characters who are alive.

In order to illustrate this fact, let us compare Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Thor: The Dark World, which each have Rey and Thor as the respective lead characters. In the sequel Star Wars films Rey commands nearly cosmic Force powers; she can use the Force with almost no training whatsoever. Thor, on the other hand, is – well, the god of thunder. He can raise storms at will, he is the strongest Asgardian still living, he can survive explosive decompression and hard vacuum, and he is relatively indestructible.

Read the whole thing!

As a side note, I really love this poster of Thor: the Dark World. It really captures the sense of the heroism and adventure that Thor ought to be about.

Related image