December 9, 2013
Don’t ever suppose that Bob Dylan wrote or recorded inferior music in the era immediately after the famed mid-60s explosion.
What Dylan wrote in the late 60s and early 70s was more country than rock, more Southern than Yankee, and more happiness or regret than strife or rebellion; for these and other reasons it alienated many in the New York crowd. But it was still excellent songwriting. Both Nashville Skyline and New Morning are very fine albums. That they supply the bookends to Dylan’s season of artistic indifference to anti-Vietnam agitation, social radicalism, and personal narcissism, only demonstrates conclusively that, contrary to representations, his 60s diehards do not believe in “art for art’s sake,” that in other words they cannot separate their principles of life from their estimate of art. This is no strike, mind you, against the 60s diehards. We traditionalists have long insisted that “art for art’s sake” detachment is not possible; that what Richard Weaver called a man’s “metaphysical dreams” have constant and discernible impact on everything he does, including his art. Pure aesthetic detachment is not a power that we mortal men possess.
Were the 60s diehards to just abandon their mandarin pretense that they alone, cast as they are among the proles of America, can attain sufficient artistic detachment to profoundly grasp Bob Dylan, we could get down to the business of proving their politico-artistic judgment of his late 60s/early70s production wrong.
In my rather unusual situation as the wife of a Christian professor and as, myself, the author of a number of articles related to Christianity and the philosophy of religion, I have the opportunity to encounter a lot of wonderful men (and some women as well) who are passionately interested in influencing the world for Jesus Christ. This happens not only (and nowadays not even chiefly) in person but also through the Internet--first e-mail and now social media have opened up a whole world of people eager to "serve the kingdom" and to love God with their minds.
That's absolutely wonderful.
Let me take the opportunity, therefore, to give a couple of opinions that may be unpopular and that may run contrary to what others are saying. These are just my opinions; take 'em or leave 'em. But then again, this is a blog. I'm not publishing this in a journal or giving it as a lecture. So you can take my opinions with a grain of salt. But I have some reason to believe that, if I write this post and promote it on some social media sites, it will reach the type of audience I have in mind. So here goes:
December 2, 2013
For years and years, amounting to decades, social conservatives have been saying that sex education a) should be taught by parents and b) as taught in public schools is not neutral but in fact encourages sexual activity by unmarried kids.
The latter point has been pressed again and again in the following terms: When you present sexual activity to teens as just another option which they should know how to engage in "safely" if they should so choose, that very faux neutrality is not neutral, because it communicates that unmarried sexual activity is normal and expected. Making premarital sex just another part of life throws any stigma surrounding it out the window and even gives the impression that those who are remaining chaste are somehow different or odd. The very premise on which the programs are based--"Kids are going to have sex anyway"--will influence the way the programs are taught. Then, too, the explicitness of many programs, by teaching kids about all manner of sex acts which they do not need to know about, destroys any innocence which parents might have managed to keep for their children up to that point. (And please understand that comments on this post will be closely monitored and that graphic comments will be edited or deleted.)
All in all, the continued liberal pretense that sex education in K-12 schools has not increased sexual activity among minors is in conflict not only with empirical evidence (Thomas Sowell has written well on this topic) but also with common sense psychology.
Social conservatives have been saying all of that since the 70's, at least. And it's all true. But I think at this point we should face up to the fact that sex education in the schools has gone well beyond any mere implication that premarital sex is normal and expected.
November 27, 2013
Friends, though we at WWWtW take note of the many ills of our current state, let it never be said that our focus is negative. For it is not: our true goal is the good, and evil is only that which impedes us and tests us on our way toward the good. To that purpose, then, we should sometimes not only reflect on but also testify to the good things we receive and enjoy from God's hand.
We give thanks to God for these blessings:
Faith. The gift of faith in Jesus Christ, in the Trinity, in all that God reveals to us through His divine revelation.
The heritage of civil society and the rule of law handed down from the Greeks to the Roman, improved upon and passed eventually to the British and on to America.
Football, without which Thanksgiving afternoon would pass as an interminable trial waiting for turkey and trimmings to be ready. :-)
November 23, 2013
I disagree with several points in this post, and I thought I would return to the topic (see my comments in the thread some years ago here) and stir the pot a bit since I haven't commented on the subject in a while.
In general, I think there are some matters on which it is difficult for public policy to be neutral. Adoption is one of them. Policy can encourage it or discourage it, and several of the proposals made by the author of the post would discourage it, which I think would be a shame.
Moreover, it does not seem to me, though many will disagree, that the things she advocates are required by absolute justice. Therefore, they are matters of prudence and of seeking the commonweal, in particular seeking those policies which are likely to be best for children conceived out of wedlock who are most often placed for adoption.
If you haven't been reading W4 for very long or happen to have missed this, full disclosure: I am an adoptee, having been adopted as an infant. It was an old-fashioned closed adoption in the mid-60's when the law was somewhat different than, in many states, it is now. In my early thirties I was able to make contact with my biological mother, but only with her consent, obtained by the adoption agency before giving me any contact information. I will return to the issue of contact with birth parents below.
November 20, 2013
Over the years, this website and its Contributors have been regularly raked over the coals for supposed sins of the American Right, or of the Grand Old Party. Some of it is fair enough, as Internet sniping goes. But most of it amounts to some variety of concern-trolling, projection, or bigotry.
Chief among these regular arraignments are those handed down from the Court of the Environment. You see, since the writers at What’s Wrong with the World are clearly Right-wingers, they must be unforgivably skeptical of, among other things: (a) catastrophic man-made climate change; (b) green tech subsidies and encouragements; (c) the necessity to reduce the human population of world; (d) the projected peak oil calamity. Since they generally oppose high minded and well-intentioned efforts to use government to alleviate these problems, they must be guilty of the most awful compromise or even connivance with Big Business, in its design to deplete and contaminate the earth for profit.
As a matter of fact we are all skeptical of these things, but it is only unforgivable if being cognizant of fact and reality is an unforgivable sin. Because fact and reality cut hard against the Court of the Environment's premises.
November 14, 2013
"I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further."
"This 'deal' is getting worse all the time."
Ho hum, another day, another preachy, arrogant, self-important op-ed, from a millennial telling churches how to avoid scaring off the sensitive snowflakes born around the turn of the century.
Up front I admit that I agree with her about "love on" (a hideous phrase) and even to some extent about "God will never give you more than you can handle." But as for the other three, if she doesn't like them, she needs to get over it. And most of all, get over herself.
In particular, she has a heck of a lot of gall, which simply makes her look childish, when discussing the phrase "The Bible clearly says..." That's supposed to be a no-no? Here's young Addie, telling us why:
November 12, 2013
Recently I was involved in a small Facebook dust-up, mercifully short. In the course thereof, a philosopher who shall remain nameless made a would-be-sly negative reference, with the air of one who brings up a dirty secret but is unwilling to come out and mention it openly, to my having advocated ending Muslim immigration several years ago. The allusion was made apropos of no philosophical idea being discussed but was clearly intended to tar me as some sort of trigger-happy nut.
Readers may or may not know that a rather infamous philosophical bully whose initials are B.L. chose to draw attention to that post (I refuse to link to his doing so) later in 2009. At that time he had something of a minor feud going on with this blog, and B.L. thought the mention of my shocking, shocking views on Muslim immigration would be a good way to try to get anyone related to me or even connected to anyone related to me into some kind of unspecified trouble in the philosophical community. Nothing came of that, but it was a low attempt nonetheless and was doubtless the means by which this philosopher interacting with me on Facebook knew of my otherwise rather inconspicuous blogging activities.
I present that long introduction only as the lead-in to this: I still hold the same position on Muslim immigration. I did a series with Jeff Culbreath called "Disinviting Islam." My posts in that series are here and here, and I have no qualms about re-linking them.
Tony, below, referred to the general difficulty of assimilating immigrants, whether legal or illegal. That's a wise point. I add to that the point that there is no general right to immigrate to the United States. I would go farther and assert that the burden of proof lies on anyone who would try to apply a generic principle of "no group discrimination" to immigration. I doubt that such a principle works well even when it comes to hiring people who already live in the United States, but a fortiori it doesn't apply to immigration. There are millions of people who want to come to this country. Examining each and every one of them for individual beliefs, associations, and propensities is the task of Sisyphus, and it simply is not evident by the natural light that the government of the United States is obligated to undertake that task rather than lightening it (somewhat) by making rough designations of countries and other rough-cut groups that are to be regarded as more and less desirable as immigrants. Will such designations result in individual cases in less-than-perfect outcomes? To be sure, they will. But there simply does not seem to be any good argument against starting with some group distinctions, and if we do start there, there are plenty of arguments that Islam as a religion is a disruptive force that is at odds with the ideals that America should be attempting to retain. See, again, this post.
November 9, 2013
In my diocesan newspaper, 2 local priests take on the immigration issue, with an attempt to teach about it from "Catholic principles." And "not to take sides on policy questions such as how or even whether to make a path to citizenship for the undocumented," either. So they say.
What's notable about this particular foray into supposedly Catholic teaching is that it is the first time I have EVER seen an explicit attempt to justify the media-drenching meme "it isn't a crime," and thus to defuse the theory that we have to "punish them."
What would be even better would be for the authors to get the argument right, to teach Catholic principles correctly and without an admixture of grievous error. For, alas, even though a lot in the article is true in some sense, it is presented in service to an erroneous basic stance.
November 5, 2013
As the effects of the Obamacare rollout hit and thousands, which may well in the end be millions (by official estimate) lose the insurance coverage they like and are forced to buy coverage they don't want, sometimes at higher prices, I find myself a little puzzled.
How hard would it be, really, for supporters of Obamacare to admit that they were wrong, that the package their leaders came up with was a dud, that it's harming people, and that it needs to be changed? Look, I'm not talking about their being converted to free market economics! But how about just admitting that the Obamcare requirements for so-called "minimal coverage," which include maternity coverage for 60-year-olds, are overly stringent and are causing unnecessary hardship? If catastrophic only plans could be included in the exchanges and allowed for employers to satisfy government requirements, that change alone would mitigate some of the insane effects we are seeing here.
Why should this be a matter of die-hard ideology on the left at all? Surely, it seems, this ought to be a pragmatic matter, one of those prudential things that government used to tinker with before politics got so polarized. It isn't in itself one of those allegedly divisive social issues (is it?). Sure, we constitutional die-hards are going to say that the federal government is far exceeding its constitutional authority, but we can treat that as a separate issue for purposes of asking the question: Why are supporters of Obamacare so intransigent, so utterly and absolutely determined not to admit that it is bad policy and is hurting many of the people it was intended to help? Why, when one brings up all the companies that are cutting worker hours below thirty (google it and see the enormous confirmation that this is happening) to avoid the Obamacare mandate of insuring these workers, do supporters either a) ignore the point altogether, b) deny that this is really happening, which gives a whole new meaning to "being in denial" or c) claim that the fault lies with the evil employers rather than with the policy makers who ignored this obvious effect of their law?
Why do we not find bipartisan support for scrapping Obamacare and seeking something better, less drastic, with fewer bad effects?
November 2, 2013
A common censure of Adam Smith may be summed up hastily as follows. He, first and above all thinkers, effected a kind of narrowing of the lens of philosophy, to the exclusion of all those metaphysical and moral speculations by which the nature and destiny of man was once, under the tutelage of the ancients, apprehended and refined. Smith undertook, in a word, to resolve philosophy into economics, to replace what ought to be with what is, and fix the minds of thinking men upon an empirical rather than a teleological principle.
More sophisticated students of the great Scotsman (who, I was astonished on a recent occasion to learn, was kidnapped by gypsies as a young child) are familiar with what is called the Adam Smith Problem: briefly, the problem of reconciling the cool empiricism that dominates his Wealth of Nations with the subtle and ingenious system of moralism that emerges in his Theory of Moral Sentiments.
October 29, 2013
One of my Facebook acquaintances, I don't remember who, recently put up a link to this video.
I would like to think that all of my readers are men of sense and will see that this bright child is being educationally tormented by being taught a faddish baloney way of doing what should be simple addition. And by the way, it's universally acknowledged that the children are counted wrong if they don't use these new-new-math methods, even if they get the answer right. Sweet. The mother is to be praised for bringing it to the attention of the world at large. It's also good that she taught her daughter the so-called "standard algorithm," aka normal addition, which will actually allow her to extrapolate the concepts of addition to numbers of any size she encounters. Now the mother needs to take the next step and get her child the dickens out of a school system that is trying so hard to mis-educate her.
The video makes an excellent point at the end, to wit, that the curriculum in question deliberately does not teach children to work with numbers larger than the thousands' place because the "array" method is so cumbersome that it cannot be applied to such numbers. Of course it can't. If you're already using a three-dimensional cube drawing to represent the thousands' place, what are you going to make the poor child draw for the ten thousands'? N-dimensional shapes? I shudder to think what they'll try to do to teach decimals... Hence, as the video points out, children taught in this way actually get the misconception (so much for "conceptual understanding") that addition problems using larger numbers are essentially more difficult to solve than those using smaller numbers. Congratulations, "professional educators." You've just ditched one of the the great beauties and virtues of the Arabic numeral system--its ability to be easily extrapolated, both in representation and in manipulation. Maybe you should just go back to using Roman numerals now.
October 26, 2013
The spiritual crisis engulfing the West entails not only revisionist academics’ skepticism concerning the Resurrection as an historical fact, or of the doctrine of the Trinity. So decadent and thoroughgoing is the skepticism of modern man that a willful embrace of ugliness, a worship of personal power for its own sake, and an unrestrained exaltation of the self are the most obvious features of our culture and our public life. A rejection of form as such is implicated here. There is a calamitous discordancy in all our public rituals. Our national anthem is seldom performed with reverence and beauty, being reduced to wild and extravagant displays of “range” on the part of the performer. The confused Novus Ordo Catholic liturgy celebrated in virtually every contemporary parish lurches from the sudden, crashing onset of noise, to awkward silence, is afflicted by incessant contradiction in the movement of the unconsecrated to and from the altar, and suffers from a near-complete absence of coherent form that is the necessary picture frame of ritual. Disorientation is our preferred orientation.
October 25, 2013
A new publication called The Federalist (though not yet editorializing under the byline Publius) has already in just a few weeks supplied some brilliant and noteworthy writing. I know many readers feel as I do, that there is enough good stuff to read already, some of it quite formidable indeed, with damnably few hours to read it; and why should I add some new outfit to my list? I have no answer to this other than to sigh and whisper, longer groweth the list.