Ambiguity at the Everyman

My latest piece is up at The Everyman discussing the common trick of arguing from ambiguity: you know, you say “a man isn’t a woman,” and they answer “who gets to decide the definition of ‘a woman’?” Turning obvious and object concepts into mush in order to win an argument:

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress where the hero has been imprisoned by a giant called the Spirit of the Age, whose glance turns everything transparent so that one can “see through” it. The jailor who works for the giant furthers this process by debunking ‘social constructs’ with graphically brutal descriptions of the food he provides to the prisoners. One day he offers the prisoners milk while making a sneering comment about how they might as well be drinking the cow’s “other excretions.”

At this point the hero exclaims “Thank goodness! Now I know you don’t really believe what you’re saying!” and then proceeds to point out that there is an obvious, objective difference between milk, which is given to feed the young, and, say, urine, which isn’t. It’s not a question of convention or habit or mythology or belief; it’s a question of what in fact happens.

Our own zeitgeist hasn’t lost the taste for this particular game, which indeed is a very old one. It might be called the argument from ambiguity, and how it works is that, rather than trying to establish a given position, one instead claims that the relative concepts and categories cannot be clearly defined and thus cannot be objectively applied. This often manifests in terms like “shades of grey” or “who’s to say?” or “spectrums,” and it has a superficial credibility in that hard cases can be found in most subjects, and bringing these up can lend the speaker an air of intellectual sophistication.  

Read the rest here.

Giving to the Poor in Spirit at ‘The Everyman’

Today at ‘The Everyman,’ I talk about the issue of beauty, modern churches, and who these hideous, spare edifices are actually built for:

The beatitude runs “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” But one of the marks of the poor and meek is that they love wealth and glamor. The very celebrity gossip magazines and reality TV shows understand this. The quality of beauty, glamor, and majesty is that they inspire admiration and can only be enjoyed from a position of comparative inferiority, or at least self-forgetfulness, which is why the poor in spirit (those who don’t put on airs or try to see through the world to prove how clever they are) love these things. There is no merit in enjoying a beautiful painting or a beautiful church, which is precisely the point—there shouldn’t be. It’s a pleasure not designed for those who think overmuch of their own merits.

And this, at bottom, is the practical principle of what modernism actually does; take from the poor to feed the rich. When art becomes more about the glory of the artist than the enjoyment of the audience, then it loses all appeal to the humble. ‘Avant-garde’ means, in the end, ‘for the rich and rich at heart.’ When a large part of the population can say, “I don’t get art,” or poetry or literature, that means that these things have been stolen from them.

Read the rest here.

“Games as a Service”

I’ve been following this fellow’s work for a long time: he’s a very entertaining game critic and comedian (he has a great style of saying outrageously odd things in a perfectly normal tone), but he also draws attention to a major issue in the gaming world. I’ll let him explain it, since he lays it out better than I could. Though I’m not a big gamer, I care about all forms of creative art and the issue he discusses is disturbing (light language warning, I think: he sometimes swears, but doesn’t do it non-stop or anything). It’s kind of a long video, and a bit of a niche issue, but I think it’s something that ought to be better known and understood.

Cultivating a Heroic Imagination at Catholic Match

My latest ‘Catholic Match’ piece is up; this one about the benefits of cultivating a heroic imagination. Or, in other words, I’m writing in praise of fantasizing:

It has been said that, “as a man thinketh, so he is,” but perhaps it would be equally accurate to say, “as a man imagineth, so he becomes.” Not because, in Napoleon Hill fashion, he imagines himself becoming a certain way and becomes so, but because through imagination he is able to feel the value of becoming a certain kind of man and consequently able to desire it.

That is why I say it is good for men to fantasize about heroic deeds; charging into the breech of a battle line, standing up for the truth against the ridicule of the world, and, of course, rescuing the damsel in distress. The imagination allows us to see heroism and self-sacrifice as valuable things, and thus to desire them for their own sake.

This heroic imagination is very helpful in relationships.

It should be clear now why I say this is a very useful practice, especially for a relationship. A man who regularly daydreams of slogging through the swamp to rescue the girl from the villain’s alligator farm has already created a mental habit of self-sacrifice and devotion in spite of hardship; the idea that ‘it is desirable to endure hardship for her sake; to protect her, comfort her, and provide for her.’

Read the rest here.

Captain Marvel gets MauLered

I’ve been waiting for this ever since the film came out. My favorite YouTube critic, MauLer, takes his trademark logical approach to the diseased tumor of a film known as ‘Captain Marvel.’ I’m glad to see that he shares most of my objections (which we’ll get to in turn), while reminding me of many that I’d forgotten or didn’t notice and going into full detail of just how awfully constructed this plot really is.

Sample: “…Meaning that this is a power limiter that only limits the subject’s power if they believe their power is limited. Who. Wrote. This?”

His evisceration of Fury losing his eye to the cat is particularly good, as are his compare and contrasts with the other MCU characters.

Oh, and he swears a good deal, so language warning.


Equality at the Everyman

At the Everyman today, I discuss why holding ‘equality’ up as an ideal is a terrible, terrible idea:

Which raises a more fundamental issue. Before you can say any two things are equal, you first have to have a common and objective standard of measurement between them. I can say that two people are of equal height because ‘height’ is an empirical measurement. But honesty, virtue, intelligence, wisdom, kindness, talent, beauty, and all the other factors by which we judge men are not empirically measurable (an IQ score is not an objective measure of intelligence, so that a man with an IQ of 100 is exactly twenty points smarter than a man with 80. It only serves, at best, to give a general idea of relative intelligence).

Thus, ‘equality’ cannot really apply to human beings in any meaningful sense. You cannot measure, say, wisdom and create a scale by which one man can be compared to another. We can identify these things to a greater or lesser degree, but we cannot empirically measure them. Moreover, these qualities are incommensurable: they cannot be compared one to another (how does talent measure up against wisdom? how many ‘units’ of beauty are equal to a single unit of virtue?). Moreover, even if we could, anyone can see that we would not, in fact, find ‘equality’ even between any two given individuals, let alone across the entire human race.

What this all amounts to is that ‘equality’ is simply meaningless when applied to human beings. Law is ‘equal’ in the sense of applying indiscriminately among the population (‘indiscriminate’ would probably would be a better term in the first place), but to say that all men are ‘equal’ in any other sense is simply a misuse of language, like saying that painting is on a level with music. The point is that there is no ‘level’ by which the two can be compared.

Read the rest here.